The dreaded first play date of an autistic child

Today is a very stressful day.

Today is my daughter's first play date in years. She's eight years old, and she hasn't played with someone other than her little brother since preschool.

 Since preschool.

The last time she saw Hannah, they were both five. Born within days of each other, they were bosom buddies for the first two years of their lives. They played together almost on a daily basis. If toddlers were capable of such a thing, they were best friends.

When Natalie was four, Hannah family moved away, and the two wouldn't see each other for the next two years. When the reconnected, things didn't go well. Natalie was different. She was withdrawn into her world, completely unsure of what to say to other children, or how to say it.

It wasn't something Hannah was prepared for, or understood. "Get away from me" she finally shouted at Natalie, and that was how it ended. Those were the last words she said to my daughter.

Two years later, they're now back in town to stay, and she's going on a play date arranged by the mothers. I don't know how it's going to go, but it's a very significant moment.

On her last play date, Natalie was far less aware of how different she was. Now she knows it. And she hates it. She wants more than anything to learn how to communicate, to learn how to fit in.

Consequently, I'm terrified. This could be an iceberg moment in her life. She could withdraw into herself, and we won't be able to pry her out for years after.

She could, on the other, blossom. She could possibly see the possibilities before her, and desperately want to be part of that world. Seeing that, she will resolve to work harder, to try harder.

And maybe that's all we really need to work with. Maybe that's all that it takes to fix the mind: the mind's resolve to fix itself.

I'm told that the play date was Hannah's idea. That gives me some hope.

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