Does my special needs daughter really eat lunch alone every day? #Offbeat Papas#Tough Stuff#big kids#disability#friendships#special-needs February 21 2012 | Guest post by Robert Rummel-Hudson Rob Rummel-Hudson has written for us before about his perspectives on special needs parenting. While this post from his blog especially relevant to parents of children with disabilities, we think parents of neurotypical need to read it, too… Photo by Robert Rummel-Hudson. It began with a simple question at the grocery store last night. We were choosing all the pieces for Schuyler's lunch and were trying to change things up a little. We wanted to get her some new drinks but were unsure if she would be able to open the bottles. Schuyler's polymicrogyria has some big features and some small ones, and one of its less frightening but still annoying impairments involves her fine motor skills. We asked her if she thought she would be able to open the bottle. She said she thought so, but still seemed a little unsure. "Well, if you have trouble, you can ask one of your lunch friends to help out, right?" I asked, remembering that one of her teachers had mentioned how she thought Schuyler ate lunch with some friends. Schuyler sighed and simply said, "No." "Why not?" I asked. "Because I always eat lunch by myself." Related Post Broken Phantoms: understanding visually identifiable and invisible disabilities If there is any one particularly great experiential divide in the vast disability community, it may be that between the visually identifiable and the invisible... Read more And there it was. We told her that we'd heard that she had friends that she ate with, but she shook her head. "I eat by myself every day," she said. "No one will eat lunch with me." …it never occurred to me to imagine her sitting at the lunch table all by herself while the mass of chattering classmates swirled around her, past her, without her. It was an emotional ambush, this conversation, and it took the wind right out of our sails. I don't know why we were surprised by this variation on a sadly familiar theme in Schuyler's complicated middle school life, but of course we were. It's happened before, that thing where someone told us a Maybe Thing ("I think she eats with a little group of friends…" or "She could go on to live independently one day…") and our desperate parent brains translated it into a Definite Thing. We can't stand to think of her being alone, so we allow ourselves to believe that of course she's not alone. I've written about how Schuyler's relationships at school are different, but it never occurred to me to imagine her sitting at the lunch table all by herself while the mass of chattering classmates swirled around her, past her, without her. I didn't know how she would react to the offer (I could only think of how I would have responded to a similar proposal in my youth), but I asked her if she would like for Julie or myself to come to school and eat with her. She surprised me a little by saying yes immediately. As we continued our trip through the store, she asked me again a few times. "Are you going to come eat lunch with me?" Later, as we unloaded the groceries from the car, Schuyler looked at me and simply asked, "Why doesn't anyone want to be my friend?" Because there were some pieces of my heart still intact from her earlier confession about her solitary lunches. They needed breaking, too. I wish I could say that Schuyler's situation is unusual, but any time I've mentioned this on Facebook or Twitter, I hear from other special needs parents and grown persons with disabilities about how yes, their kids had no real friends, certainly no neurotypical ones, or how they themselves had grown up thusly. Some writers with disabilities told me that as adults, they still struggled to find friends, or had given up altogether. A recent study by Dr. Anne Snowdon shocked exactly none of us when it revealed that more than half of the Canadian children with disabilities that she studied had either only one friend or no friends at all. Only one percent of the kids she studied spent an hour a day with a friend. By the time they turn ten, social pressures diminish most of whatever efforts neurotypical kids may be making to connect with their disabled classmates. The window closes, and rarely opens again. My reaction to that study was the same as many of the parents I heard from. I was mildly surprised that the number of special needs children who DO have friends was as high as it was, frankly. But then, these are polite Canadian kids who haven't been taught their whole lives that their value and that of their friends and social groups is measured by how very very exceptional they are. In the Lord of the Flies world of middle school, they are all trying to keep up, and their world is one of communication, fast and fluid. With all the loving adults whom she loves and who love her back so intensely, and with so many people on the Internet pulling for her, it's hard to imagine a kid like Schuyler having difficulty making age-appropriate friends. It's also unfair of me to blame her classmates, even though I guess I just did. These are twelve year-olds, they have so little experience with concepts like inclusion and compassion and intrinsic self-worth. In the Lord of the Flies world of middle school, they are all trying to keep up, and their world is one of communication, fast and fluid. They may simply lack the ability to slow down and connect with someone like Schuyler. I get that. It's not easy for her, like it's not easy for most special needs kids. And while Schuyler seems happy enough, it is becoming clear that this matters to her more than she generally lets on. I feel like she's waiting on a solution from us. As she should. We're exploring some mentoring programs that might be able to help, such as Best Buddies Texas. There aren't any middle school chapters in Texas at this point. Well, there ought to be. Maybe it's time there was one, and who better to lead that than Schuyler? When Schuyler asked me why no one wants to be her friend last night, we brought in the groceries and sat on the couch. While she leaned against me, her head on my shoulder, I tried to explain the best I could that it can be hard for people to make friends with someone who is different like she is. It's not always that they don't want to, I said, but sometimes they're just not sure how. She seemed to understand why that might be, even before I said more. "They talk so fast," she said. 'I can't talk like they do." I didn't have any great answers for Schuyler, and I didn't pretend like I did. I could only tell her that yeah, this is hard, but we'd think of something and we'd find a way to make things better. As has been the case many times before, she didn't seem disappointed by that sad, shitty answer. We could fight that particular monster another time. I think mostly she just needed to put it out there. Rob wrote a follow-up post about eating lunch with Schuyler at her school. You can read it at his blog. Reporter Name * Reporter Email * Original text Enter the original text here. Edited text* Enter your suggested copyedit here. Notes You can add a note for the editor here. * Required information. Fix Typo Guest post written by Robert Rummel-Hudson Robert Rummel-Hudson is the author of Schuyler's Monster: A Father's Journey with His Wordless Daughter (St. Martin's Press, 2008). He blogs at Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords. http://www.schuylersmonsterblog.com PREVIOUS Not your auntie's boring curtains: how about a glittery/retro window dressing solution? NEXT One super sweet monster/ugly doll/rainbow-themed kid's birthday party Show/Hide comments [ 66 ] I want to go to school with not so typical Kindergartner everyday … I feel actual pain thinking about our kids all alone. Thank you for sharing ~ Peace to you Reply oh my heart hurts reading this. i am so sorry that people are cruel and do not understand that everyone is different. Reply I don't think that it's just because people are cruel- at least, I don't think that was the author's intent. It certainly seems that way, though, doesn't it? We hear so many stories about schoolage bullying these days… I think the real problem is that kids have very little exposure to those who are different, and that's not really their fault. It's the parents' job to introduce their children to diversity of all kinds, and to teach them and show them how to embrace it. Not to be merely "accepting" (like the other children in Schuyler's class are about her being present), but engaging in questions, conversations (inviting Schuyler to eat with them and asking her why she does ___ a certain way, etc). Even popular kids who visibly seem to have many friends can feel isolated, feel like they have no one sometimes. It's unfortunately just the nature of being a child in this day and age; dealing with insecurities and questions about one's self worth. (We all need work on being inclusive, hm? This community is a great start to that!) edit: I don't mean to make this comment as a targeted response to you at all. I just want to believe that we're all just a little socially misguided, not cruel. 🙂 Reply Is there any way you can homeschool her? I was bullied relentlessly in Middle School. I wish my Mom had pulled me out. I'm 39 now and I still may as well wear an, 'I'm a Loser' t-shirt, from my days as the kicking can. Reply I don't know if homeschooling would be the answer. My daughter is Autistic and she goes to a pre-K special program within our school system. We thought about homeschooling, but that would involve trying to get her IEP team at the house and more expense for us. Plus both her dad and I work. I do not think this is a bullying situation. It's more or less that kids are kids and they do not know how to handle the situation. We are lucky that the school our daughter helps kids understand that kids who have some disability are the same, but move or learn in a different manner. As I read the follow up on the blog to this story, it seems that the kids who do not have a disability may not know how to deal or build a relationship. If anything else this may develop into something at her school to bridge a relationship between the world of those who have a disability and those who do not have one. Reply I agree. I was raised in a house where we were indirectly taught to ignore and run from our problems. Because my mother did not know how to teach us some basic skills to cope with social situations she pulled us out of school to homeschool when some minor problems arose. I feel that homeschool should not be used as a crutch for kids with social barriers. Reply wow, thank you for sharing this story even tho it made my heart a little sad 🙁 I taught at severe learning difficulties schools in England and loved watching and helping our students build friendships and relationships that I knew that they would not otherwise have had the opportunity to make had they been intergrated into mainstream classrooms. people often make the argument that children should be intergrated for "social benefit" but as this Dads story proves, but pre-teen age socialisation doesn't usually happen Thanks for including the link to the follow up blog post from the Dad sharing the experience of sharing lunch with his daughter Reply As an argument for integrated classrooms, I work in a preschool (The Rise School, there are a few scattered throughout the U.S.) that is 50% special needs and 50% typically developing. It's wonderful for the special needs kids to have a model, but it's just as great for the typically developing kids to have a chance to develop that empathy for kids who are different. I hope that that empathy lasts throughout middle school (and beyond!) for them. Reply Both my children's classrooms are integrated within our public school system. While they have no special needs, this situation has proven to be a wonderful experience for them both. In fact, at the last parent teacher conference, my son's teacher broke into tears when she was telling me how he helps other students that are struggling with patience and empathy that most 7 year old boys do not have. Reply Wow, that's an amazing idea; I can't believe I'd never heard of it before! I think a large part of the problem is that there are only a few, if any, special needs students in any given group of students, so there's little chance nor incentive for the neurotypical/typically-abled students to get to know the kids they might see as "weird". Of course, being as the atypical kids are statistically exactly that, it might be hard to ensure that most students get those opportunities for those interactions. Reply I also teach an inclusion program. I teach about half and half typically and non-typically developing 3-5 year olds in a Texas public school pre-k class. One of my biggest hopes for my program is that exposing children at this age to an inclusive setting and helping them learn to interact with each other will give them social and life skills to carry with them through their future. Programs like this are becoming much more predominant. Although they come a little late for your sweet girl, I can foresee a future where kids are more informed and exposed. Reply That's rough. I work with kids ages 4 to 21 with emotional issues and some kids with autism that run the gambit on that spectrum. Some are verbal and aware of being left out while others are nonverbal and it's harder to determine how they see the world, but they still know when things are not as they should be. I'm always glad to see parents that are advocates for their children because you are the ones that know your kid best and what's going on in their lives. I wish I had a solution for you and Schuyler, but there is no easy fix it answer. You definitely handled it in the best way by being honest. I currently am the proud mama of a Kindergartner and there is a nonverbal special needs little girl with behavioral concerns in her class. My daughter has come home and told me "Janie" did this or that in class and they were told to ignore her. I tried to explain to my 6 year old that when when she is having these behaviors that she probably should ignore her if it is during work time in class, but when they have what little free time they get at school theses days to at least just say Hi. You never know what a little greeting or act of kindness could do to help this little girl and you never know one day she may just say hi back. Good luck! I know this was a long post, but I wish more people would try and teach their kids at a younger age when they are more open to things that this is the way it should be. My daughter still talks about "Janie" sometimes and I don't know if she has taken my cue or not, but at least it has been put out there for her to absorb. Reply This makes my heart weep. It also makes me angry that society has deemed that everyone that is different should be ostracized. Some of the sweetest people I've had the pleasure of meeting and calling my friend (at one or another in my life) have been those with special needs. They always have so much love in their hearts that they just want to share. I hope that one day soon Schulyer's classmates will see this. Reply Hey guys: I've just emailed Rob and asked if he wants to address your questions, especially those about why Schuyler is in public school. While he's been blogging about this for years, I know it's not feasible for everyone to go through years and years of his blog to find the answers to the questions you're asking. Basically: let's please hold off on the "Why is she in public school in the first place/socialization doesn't happen" questions and comments until he addresses them. I think it will be best to hear from him about a decision that's already been made than to speculate or generalize. Thanks. 🙂 Reply thanks Stephanie I wasn't meaning my comment to come across as a "why is she in public school, it isn't the right place for her" but reading it back I guess it could have been taken that way. Each childs circumstances and needs due to their disabilities are as individualised as the children themselves. I would love to hear more about her condition and her education tho 🙂 Reply No worries! I didn't think you or anyone was being out of line.. I mostly just didn't want similar comments about the topic to pile up before he can respond. Rob's awesome at responding. 😉 Reply I was just reading this at my desk, first thing in the morning and it was so hard not to let the tears fall. It just breaks my heart to think of her sitting alone. My daughter is nearly 2 and hasn't shown any sign of having special needs and the idea that someone one day will not want to be her friend already breaks my heart – let alone what your beautiful girl goes through. How lucky she is to have parents who love her so intensely. Thank you for sharing your story. Reply My heart aches for the pain your daughter is going through. But its so wonderful that she has such caring parents. Reply Rob I think you are a super dad! My nephew is autistic and I know how hard it is for him to socialize. After reading your blog it is an inspiration to see how much of an advocate you are for her! I hope next time she wants something from the American Doll store it goes better. That place is crazy and by my house! Best of luck and I look forward to reading more of your adventures 🙂 Reply Thank you, Rob, for sharing. This just makes my heart ache. My two year old is not showing signs of special needs, but I have another on in the oven right now and who knows what the future holds. In any case, I agree with Stephanie that this is good not just for parents of children with special needs to read, but also parents of typical children, so that we can encourage our children to look for opportunities to be social and friendly – and also to help them understand how to act around somebody "different." I also wonder if your daughter's school has some kind of peer counseling program or something like that which could be of assistance. When I was in high school, I was a peer counselor and our teacher asked us one day if somebody could volunteer to eat lunch with a girl who was not only always alone, but who also turned around to face her locker while she ate. I volunteered, and I was very nervous the first time that I approached her and asked if I could join her, and she did not really converse with me, but I ate with her once a week for a few months. YEARS later, she wrote me a letter to thank me. I am mortified and embarrassed to say that I was busy when I received the letter and I never responded and then I lost it. I have tried to find her online to no avail. I so wish I had responded to her effort to reach out to me. I feel very terrible about it, and I often wonder about her and her story and how her life is going for her now. In any case, my main point was that there might be teachers or a group at the school who would have some ideas. You and your wife sound like wonderful parents — an d I cannot imagine how heartbreaking this realization must have been for you — and I look forward to reading your follow up blog posting and other parts of your blog when I am home and have more time. Reply I just wanted to say that I just read your follow up blog and found it very interesting, and I think Best Buddies sounds like a great program! It sounds so much better than the ad hoc thing my school did back in 1990. I am eager to bookmark your blog and read more about your family. Thanks for sharing. Reply THIS! THIS!!! You have to read Rob's next post about what he found when he went and had lunch with Schuyler!!! http://www.schuylersmonsterblog.com/2012/02/not-alone-although-not-entirely-not.html Reply Thank you for writing this. I'm in tears for your daughter. I didn't have a disability but grew up at times, for grades, eating lunch by myself so I know the loneliness. I vowed to raise my children to be nice and friendly to all and do one unexpeted thing nice for someone everyday and this has reaffirmed that. While my daughter is only 8mo old I will instill in her that she should get to know everyone. Reply I'm the advisor of the Best Buddies chapter at the high school I teach at. I started the chapter last year and got a ton of support from Best Buddies Illinois to get things going. Best Buddies has been absolutely awesome for the students with and without special needs! It is one of the most popular clubs at my school. I would strongly suggest reaching out to the teachers at your daughter's school and Best Buddies Texas to see about starting a chapter! Reply thank you, rob for sharing. this makes my heart ache. i have no words of wisdom, but send love + light… what a courageous amazing daughter you are raising, she's so blessed to have you. Reply i can relate to this so much. my son is 12 and has autism. he often says he doesn't have any friends. he says he eats alone every day at lunch and during break he sits by himself. kids often tell him he is gross or say ewwww, go away to him. no one engages him to talk to him or plays with him. he hasn't really experienced anyone bullying him yet but i am sure as he gets older, that will come. it breaks my heart every time he says he is lonely and sad. his teacher puts on a social group for kids with special needs. they meet two times a month and do fun things like bowling or going to a movie. it has helped a little, but not a lot. i also have one of his classmates that has autism come to our house a few times a month so he has someone he can play with. that has seemed to help too. i put my son in public school because there are no other schools here. i think he needs the socialization. i also think his special education teacher works with him in a way that i can't. Reply I just died a little inside. This is terribly sad. She is lucky to have you guys. Reply Thank you so much for this post. My son is just 4 years old and has Childhood Apraxia of Speech, which greatly affects his ability to socialize with other children. He has started to realize he is different from other children at his preschool and often has a hard time socializing. We currently have his special educator meet with him at lunch time to help him converse with the other kids, but I know this isn't something that can continue as he gets older. I totally understand the heartache, knowing your child is isolated because of something you have no control of. I will keep Schuyler in my thoughts and look forward to reading your blog. Reply crap situation. she sounds like a very strong young woman. glad she has you as an ally and parent, rob. i went through school with mental illness, and ate lunch alone a lot. i didn't have parental support, and it really could have made so much difference for me. best. Reply I think a huge part of the lesson in this is teaching our children the importance of kindness and befriending everyone. My 4 year old has a friend with a sister that has Treacher Collins Syndrome and my son ADORES her he wants us to name our unborn daughter after her. And I am soooo proud and pray with all of my heart that this compassion and acceptance he has in his soul continues all his life. Reply How am I going to get any work done when Rob's blog archives are available? What an amazing family. Reply As someone who's been reading Rob's blog for over a decade, I gotta say: have fun trying to leave the house this week! 🙂 Reply First of all, how brave of you to post this. Having a sister with a disability it was always hard for me to understand why people wouldn't fall in love with her or want to be friends with her? As I'm sure you see in Schuyler, I see some of the best and purest things in my sister. I became a special education teacher I think in part because I want to spend more time with this population. I will hold Schuyler and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Reply Thanks, everyone, for your comments. They really do mean the world to me. It's really nice to be back at Offbeat Mama. To quickly respond to the statements about why we have Schuyler in the public schools instead of homeschooling or private school, the simplest answer is that federal law provides a lot of protection for kids with disabilities, and guarantees (at least in theory) a level of education that is actually pretty extensive. Private schools aren't bound by these laws, and while many provide excellent services and environments for kids with disabilities, none are actually required to do so. Living in Texas and being agnostics, we would have quite a search ahead of us for a private school that could provide a good secular education for her. Public education at the very least provides avenues to address problems, although we've seen how daunting that process can be in a bad school. Fortunately, Schuyler's current school district is excellent for special education. That's no accident; it's actually the whole reason we moved here. As for homeschooling, well, even if we didn't need to work, which we do, I value high quality teachers enough to know that I am NOT one. In the same way that I wouldn't try to do surgery on anyone in my family (well, not my immediate family, anyway), I will leave teaching to the professionals. But we'll continue to watch them closely. Reply ah, sounds like the education system is quite different between the UK and the USA then. We have special schools which are funded by the government and have to meet standards and are inspected by OFSTED Thanks for taking the time to share your reasonings. p.s. I LOVE your daughters fashion sense 🙂 Reply This story hurts my heart a little, but when I read his follow-up blog it made me feel better. It is sad that anyone is made to feel lonely or excluded. I would like to point out, however, that many people, even neurotypical people, experience some time in middle and high school in which they have no friends or are left out of social groups. It's really because adolecents are not people at the peak of their inclusiveness and empathy. While we should be doing all we can to guide them in the right direction, it is a reality that we need to acknowlage when discussing this issue, both for kids with special needs and neurotypical kids. The Best Buddies program is one great tool in guiding kids into a more inclusive place. Also, I jsut wanted to tell a little story to maybe give you some hope. One of my best friends has autism. I didn't actually realize until after knowing her for a few months. She also described a relatively lonely childhood, but as an adult she has an active social life, goes on dates, and generally lives a "normal" life. At some point, those adolescents grow up into mature adults who are capable of forming true friendships with people who are different from them. Reply Oof. My heart hurts. Thank you for sharing, and for the reminder that our kids need excellent role models to learn how to live their lives embracing diversity and inclusion. Reply I'm sad. I'm sad for your daughter, for my son, for all the kids who go through this needlessly. I'm sad for us, as parents, who want to fix it and can't. Hugs and love to you, and to all of us, compassion. Reply Thanks for writing this. Too often children with disabilities and their families suffer in silence. My brother has cerebral palsy, while I have ADHD and a Learning Disability that affects my social skills so I strongly identify with this article. One resource I would strongly recommend is the book and/or DVD "It's So Much Work to be Your Friend: Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Success" by Rick Lavoie. Rick Lavoie is an educator who has spent many years working with children with learning disabilities and ADHD. A trailer for the DVD is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ys_t-LpxnQw Rick is probably best known in educator circles for his groundbreaking Video F.A.T. City (Frustation, Anxiety Tension) or How Difficult Can this Be? that he made in the 80's. The video takes a group of neurotypical people and puts them into a situation where they feel what it is like to be learning disabled. It's powerful stuff. Here's an excerpt from youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhzh9kt8z7c I especially *love* what he has to say about fairness: Reply I love this article, and I went to your blog and read the update… also insightful and moving. Your realization that your daughter, too, has trouble relating to other kids at her table with special needs (who she DOES sit with but doesn't identify as friends) is fascinating, and I really commend you for having the humility to notice that and ponder how to work with it. It's thought-provoking that special needs kids aren't actually that good at interacting with each OTHER and they might have an easier time forming friendships with kids without special needs. Good luck forming your chapter of the mentoring org! Reply I was a neurotypical (but from a dysfunctional family) child who didn't have any friends. At my school all the students had to sit together at lunch, but I only remember a handful of times where anyone sat with me by choice. My school years vacillated between periods of being ignored or being bullied, or occasionally, having some sort of mutual attempts at friendship with another kid at school, which usually ended badly because at this point I was so socially isolated that I didn't really know how friendships worked. From my own perspective, I often didn't really feel that bad about it. It was just kind of how things were. But it definitely sucked, and I'm sorry that your child is going through a similar experience. My parents had no idea this was going on with me, so in that regard I think you're fortunate–it might be difficult to have your illusions about your child's school life dissolved, but in the long run it's so much better if you're able to support her through this, and advocate for her. I obviously don't know your child's full school situation, but if you think it might help, you should talk to her teachers and the other school's staff about it. At my school my teachers often spent time with me during recess or lunch so that I wouldn't feel alone. Reply This story kills me. My little sister is special needs, and middle school was so hard for her. It was like a switch flipped, she's always so happy-go-lucky and LOVES school but the first half of 7th grade she started hiding homework and stopped talking almost completely. Her whole face broke out in cold sores from stress, which I'm sure made it worse. Then she came home and sat down and was like, "Mom, am I retarded?" I had to leave the room, I still don't understand how anyone could be cruel to one of the kindest, most amazing people I know. I heard from a friend's daughter later that people were really rough on her. She ended up testing into a program at another local school for special needs and it's been amazing. She won't "really" graduate but she has lots of friends and the general school population is a lot better because they've all grown up with a huge portion of their school being special needs, and they offer training for jobs after high school and take them out 6-8 times a month to do things like buy clothes, groceries, etc. The school is saying now that she's testing just a bit too high to stay in the program and wants to put her back in special ed in her old school district, but as she's halfway through high school with no credits my mom is trying to fight it. Reply My sister is on the spectrum. She recently graduated from high school, but I know that this was her life in middle and high school. I know how much she realizes her limitations and aches for a normal life; she cries for joy practically every time she sees my son but knows she will never have children. It breaks my heart, how she recognizes all the things she can't have. Reply Middle school is the worst for pretty much everyone, I'm convinced. I'm pretty sure I (neurotypical as far as I know) sat alone a lot of the time in 6th grade, and the times I didn't I definitely sat at the "misfit" table. And to be honest? I didn't even like the other misfits. It's like what you describe in your follow-up (which I love, by the way). So it may be heartbreaking, but know you're daughter is definitely not alone, and that despite the stress of her life right now, she probably has a great future ahead of her. Good luck! Reply Single Dad here. Hope I'm not intruding on the offbeatmomma theme. My son has ADHD and Aspergers. He has had the same experience regarding no friends and even preferring to eat lunch by himself in the classroom (he is in an emotional support class). It's heartbreaking but what can you do besides force inclusion. Which is only risks alienating the kid even more. Happy to say, he has made great progress and does eat lunch with the other kids now and even brought home a kid's phone # yesterday. So lesson learned is love and support them while being patient. Reply Just wanted to say you're definitely not intruding — we welcome all kinds of parenting voices! 🙂 Reply I don't mean to diminish what you and your daughter are experiencing, but I do think most parents and kids experience situations like this at some point in middle or high school. My niece, who is neurotypical (wasn't familiar with that term until this thread, so I hope I'm using it right!), had a fourth grade teacher who really focused on the kids' relationships and problem-solving, and the difference in the class from the start of the year to the end was really striking. Unfortunately, her fifth grade teacher doesn't seem to care about this aspect, and I've seen my niece regress. Even though we're a social species, a lot of how we relate to each other is cultural, and culture has to be learned. I understand that your daughter's situation may make this process more challenging, but please know you're not alone! And I give you mad props for recognizing the problem and being proactive about it! It's scary to think of the number of kids learning to relate to each other by watching television. Reply This is off topic… kind of…but have you considered taking the new drink for her and putting it in a Shuyler friendly container? Reply I recommend that people who read this article please read his follow up article when he goes to lunch with his daughter at school. This article is the one that made me bawl my eyes out, the next one is the one that gave me hope that there are answers for her. Reply Thank you for introducing me to Rob & Schuyler. What a moving blog. Reply This broke a piece of my heart that never really recovered from how absolutely horrific middle school girls can be. You are an amazing dad. Reply This just about broke my heart. I was not special needs, yet I too ate lunch alone, every day. By the time I was a sophmore in high school, I begged my counselor to let me overload my school schedule so I would not have to take a lunch. What you are describing happens to neurotypical children as well. I recommend you read Please Stop Laughing at Me… and Please Stop Laughing at Us… by Jodee Blanco. I'm not sure how true the second book is (I believe and hope it is), but if it is all true you may want to see if you can get her into your child's school. If only I had had that type of help when I was in school! Reply I went to a small, private elementry school where I didn't have any friends. When I went to a larger middle school I had a few and when I got to highschool I gained a bunch. The conection was the larger the class size the more oppertunities for friends. Reply I have no disabilities but as a child had severe post traumatic stress and anxiety disorders that meant I didn't handle much very well, and school was an impossible trial. I didn't have anyone to have lunch with until I was 16- I had forgotten about it but I remember when I was in middle school my Dad offered to come and eat lunch with me every so often, and though other kids thought I was even weirder for it, it made me feel better about school because my Dad was my friend. I think you made a great choice going to eat with her, school is a tough road for many but it will get better with time. Reply Ugh, stories like this break my heart. I think a big problem is that young children don't have enough interaction with a-typical children and don't know how to act around them. Where we live there is an amazing pre-school that purposely mixes children of all levels of need. I think that if children are exposed to all types of people, it makes them a lot more comfortable around different children when they get older. Happiness and friends for all! Reply this made me tear up a little. I sure hope you find a solution. xx Reply Oh this makes my heart ache so much. I had a horrible time in Junior High to the point where I was pulled out and homeschooled for the last semester of it. I went back to regular HS and that went much better. I think it allowed everyone some time to mature and forget about the crap they put me through. Now, I have a daughter who is currently in 2nd grade, and I am so happy to hear from her teacher that she is best friends with a little girl in her class who has severe cerebral palsy and is nonverbal, in a wheelchair, has "helpers" in the class to assist with her daily needs, etc. According to her teacher, she's taken her under her wing and has decided to be her friend. I hope this trait continues, and I hope that the other students in her class continue to be friends with this little girl who already has a rough enough time as it is, I'm sure. It makes me sad to think it could all change in a couple years. Reply Tears are still rolling down my face. That middle school pain never quite disapates completely… But things do change, Goddess Bless! Reply I think part of the problem is that kids don't know. When I was in kindergarten, there was this kid who was special needs, but no one ever talked about it. So we just knew him as "that kid who talks funny and throws fits and doesn't play right." The deaf kids, we got along with: we all knew WHY they didn't talk. But raoul? Nope. It was the same later in fifth grade, with the Learning-disabled kids. We didn't know what dyslexia was, or ADHD, or autism. We thought they were being weird on purpose, until one of our teachers had the idea to TELL US what those disorders were. Once we were allowed to talk about it, things got better. And by the way, best buddies is fantastic. I'm in it at my high school, and the one thing I've really noticed is how much the club means to a lot of these guys. On both sides, I've seen kids pestering out Director to find out where their buddy is. I think a lot of the differnce comes My buddy and I are sort of an odd couple: I talk/think/everything to fast for most people, while most people go too fast her. But we've been buddies for four years, and I'll honestly miss seeing her when I go to college. That's more than I can say for a lot of people in my "normal" social circle. (note: I'd like to clarify: I'm not a teen mom. My friend from Best Buddies linked this on her Facebook.) Reply Well, first of all this is the first offbeat post to ever make me cry. So I offer advice both as the kid who sat alone and one with some background in education. What worked for me was small groups outside of school but with the same kids from school. Much easier to tackle 10 kids, who didn't have 100 kids judging them, to form some bonds. Some were just deep/shallow enough to keep me from being thrown off of gym teams, others led to invites to join drama club and choir. Which led to a broader high school experience. But I still feel very "me" alone in the woods, with my best friend nature. Reply This kills me. When I was in 2nd grade, there was a blind girl, Amber, who also had some sort of mental disability. Super sweet and outgoing, but she flailed a little, and spoke a little slowly with a slightly misshapen cranium. She was maintreamed in my class that year. I was the 'smart girl' and my teacher paired her with me. She was so nice and funny, just not as fast as the rest of us. I took her to eat lunch with my friends and no one had any issues with her being around. She was only with us that year, but reading about your Schuyler reminded me of her. It makes me sad, I hope she was able to make friends down the road. BTW…her hat kicks ass! Reply I can relate to the other side of the spectrum. Not now, as an adult (I have actually worked a lot with special needs-children) but I was very unsure of these "other kids" when I was little. There was a factory near by parents house while growing up where people with Down Syndrom were making doorknobs and stuff. I was really scared, because (in my eyes), you could never know what they would do. I had a man run after me once, because he wanted to stroke my long white hair. For a 3 year old, that can be scary and sparked my childhood insecurity with special-need people. I think it is terrible sad when children are lonely, whatever the reason, but there is a difference between being friends and being accepting. I am a teacher in a class (teenagers) where we have a girl with Downs. The other children is incredibly accepting, but because of the intellectual difference, they are not friends, but "helpers". It can be easier when a child has physical disabilities, but can still mentally relate to his classmates. There is no final answer here, but a child with mental dissabilities may find equal friends in a special class, or special after-school activity. A child with physical disabilities may show the other kids something he is really good at. Maybe he can't run, but he is a hell of a Mario-cart-driver. And also, friendliness, acceptance and saying "hi" goes both ways. I hope for the best for your daughter. Reply i think the school and the teacher should make what ur daugther has into a subject in class. i started crying reading your story. i dont feel like no child should be treated different just because they are different. maybe if they knew more about ur daugther and what does make her different they might have a different point of veiw on how to inter act with her, asked the school to set up a conference maybe you can host it and remind them everyone is different. Reply I've noticed in the past few years that asking questions has become more acceptable. I know when I was younger, a lot of kids didn't know the right pc terms for certain disorders or disabilities. Often just asking a question results in being harrassed over word choice or percieved insensitivity. It can be hard for young kids like that to word questions without fear of offending. There's also the possibility that it has nothing to do with disability. Does she reach out to them? Are they intentionally rude or mean to her, ir is she just quiet and forgotten? Reply I feel for you and your family. My own son is going through this as well. He's only seven now but it's already wearing on him being isolated and bullied just because he's made a bit different. He's autistic and in a mainstream class. Everyday he comes home and says they abandoned me again it breaks my heart because it means they ignored him in the playground or won't eat lunch with him. I feel badly for all the kids dealing with all this crap Reply Join the conversation Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Subscribe me to your mailing list No-drama comment policy Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.