Thursday, October 8, 2015

Autism Educational Series—Social Issues—"My Get-Along Button is Broken"

Cate Luther is a former elementary school teacher with 20+ years of teaching experience. She is now a SAHM caring for her eleven-year-old special needs daughter who has the main diagnoses of bipolar and autism. Along the way she learned about educational advocacy, and is now an educational advocate. She and her husband have been married for 17 years. When she is not blogging, she enjoys reading, shopping, and dining out with friends and family. You can find her on Facebook, Raising a Drama Queen: Musings and Insights in Bipolar Landor her blog, She also has a Facebook business page, Educational Advocacy Solutions.

I have an 11-year-old daughter, who from the time she was very little, has had trouble making and keeping friends. I often say that her “get along” button is broken. I do wish that I could fix it. I think it is permanently broken, however.  Let me explain.

When my child was around three or four we started hearing from her preschool teachers that she was having difficulty showing kindness to her classmates. She was the one who wanted to be in charge. At the time, I just thought she had strong leadership skills. Then in kindergarten my husband and I saw many of the same problems. We again shrugged it off. She seemed to attract the same kinds of kids. They all had a broken button and sort of bonded together.

At the time I called an SST meeting at the school to discuss what was going on. The school psychologist recommended that we seek out family therapy. We found an amazing therapist who felt our child had ADHD. Shortly afterwards, we saw a clinical psychologist who felt our daughter may have bipolar disorder. A few years later she was given the official bipolar diagnosis from a child psychiatrist. Then a couple of years later, through a series of events, this same doctor added PDD-NOS (a mild form of autism).  Currently we are still seeking answers to the mystery that is our daughter, but it does seem to make sense that autism is a part of all of it.

The inability to get along with other children has made many social situations challenging and some impossible. She is that child who is not invited to birthday parties. She finds it difficult to participate in extracurricular activities like organized dance or play productions. We never even attempted organized sports because we felt they would not understand our child. We’d heard some other parents' horror stories. We did not want to add that to the list of things we tried and failed at.

To this day, I still don’t know exactly what  is wrong with my child’s “get along” button, but with lots of coaching at school and at home, my daughter is able to get along with some children for limited periods of time. She has been taught to ask others what games they’d like to play. She has learned that she cannot always be in charge.  Through daily social skills classes my girl has learned how to follow the rules of a game and not make up her own rules. We still have a long way to go, but I am so proud of the strides my daughter has made.

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