We had to make a deal or two with Kaitlyn, but in the end, everyone came home happy.
It all started with one of the kids in her class giving her an invitation for dinner and a movie. Not what you might think…the whole class got one. Anyway, the invitation was a “class bonding” kind of thing where students and their parents would get together at Chick-fil-A and then head off to see a movie. We opted to partake in the dinner portion of the evening.
Kaitlyn was happy to see her classmates (about 12 showed up), and the parents were pleasant for the most part. I looked at the encounter as an opportunity to observe how Kaitlyn interacts with her classmates. After they all were finished eating, all of the kids headed into the play area. I watched as Kaitlyn navigated her way to the top of the apparatus and back down the slide, and also took the opportunity to watch the other kids. While Kaitlyn was content to do her thing, almost oblivious to the other kids, her classmates interacted with each other just about how one would expect kindergarten kids to interact. The other kids seemed to flow easily from one interaction to the other. Kaitlyn had significant difficulty. It was a little heartbreaking.
As heartbreaking as it was, it was also a picture of the reality that Kaitlyn faces. When she is with friends of hers that are deliberately and constantly engaging her, she plays better. When left to her own devices, she could really almost care less that the other kids are even there. At the same time, however, she feels that attachment to them that almost defies logic; when we were going to leave, she was in tears telling us how much she would miss her friends…the same friends she sees five days a week and that she paid almost no attention to five minutes before.
For all of the moments of wonder and pride that Kaitlyn provides us, there are those moments that just sadden us deeply. Asperger’s can be a tremendous asset for a lot of things (school work, etc.), but can be extremely frustrating when the social deficits show themselves so blatantly.