Earlier this week at “Life on the Road Less Traveled,” I wrote about our recent drama concerning a child’s repeated requests to come home from school. Honestly, if I picked her up as often as she called home, she’d be out of school more than she was in.
Which would be just fine with her. For her teachers, and for us, not so much.
After some careful deduction, tracking the time of day these requests tend to arrive, it seems that lunchtime is particularly stressful for her. Like many schools in this area, Penn works on an alternate day schedule, and she has an extremely small circle of friends … so every other day she sits alone in the cafeteria. I can see why that would be upsetting. But I just don’t know what to do about it.
She won’t join a club, or choir. (Though she has a spectacular voice.) So it’s kind of tough to expand her social circle.
She refuses to go up and introduce herself to someone else sitting alone. (She thinks they will laugh at her. Which they might, but they might not.)
She doesn’t want to role play. “MOM! I’m not STUPID!” (Okay, then.)
She actually thinks she has a friend who has the same lunch, but the cafeteria is so big she is overwhelmed and can’t find her. (Penn has 2000 students, so it would be tough.)
Her teacher of record and I are trying to find a way to help her stay in school … yet I feel so bad for her, that this is such an anxiety producing situation that she feels physically sick at the prospect of eating lunch. When I was her age, I remember sitting by myself a lot … but I didn’t mind. I’d go to the library or some other favorite haunt with my book, and be happy. That’s not a solution for my daughter, though, who is “allergic” to books.
Social isolation can be one of the hardest parts of raising special needs kids, I think. We want them to feel happy, accepted, and safe … and yet so often the world feels like a big, scary place to them. We try to coach them from the sidelines … but ultimately what they need most is an understanding friend.
Lord, please send her an understanding friend. And have her stand behind Sarah in the lunch line, so she doesn’t have to go looking for her.
Have you ever experienced this with your kids? What solutions have you found that worked for you?