Once upon a time, I heard Em described as both a social butterfly and a shy little girl. In a way both were true. I watched her try so hard to figure herself out. Throughout those struggles, there was never quite a dominant character when it came to those two descriptions. It’s only been in more recent times that she’s found that balance.
Emelie didn’t always have a clear understanding in how to interact with others. It was the hardest struggle for her when it came to friendship. She was so confused on perceptions and expectations. There was a perplexing nature that both intrigued her and challenged all she was. She didn’t understand how to read people’s body language or facial expressions.
There were and still are times that she misinterprets how things are meant or what someone is saying. Communication is so complicated yet everyday she makes the effort to try and understand more of how it works. She prefers written dialog and artwork because she can pause and consider every aspect of what she is saying or what is being said. She is learning how to read people through body language and expressions. Reading between what is being said and how someone acts is still very foreign to her, but she does make an effort.
So friendships for Emelie have always been a challenge. Young children tend to be open to others around them but when a new person comes into a cohesive group sometimes they accept them with open arms and other times it takes awhile to fit in. However as kids get older they tend to be more apprehensive to new individuals and if you don’t “fit in” or what they see as “different” sometimes it makes those transitions difficult and isolating.
Em struggled to make connections. However, early on there was a girl, prior to Em’s autism diagnosis, who got her and could pull her out and into a world that was confusing and daunting to Em. As long as M had her hand though, Emelie was brave and while cautious still stepped out of her comfort zone. It may not have stopped the tears or struggles but it gave her the strength to push on. She was making progress. Then we both moved.
In this place she’s always had people that reached out to her but she didn’t know what to do or how to respond. She was unsure of herself and the expectations of what friendships entailed. She felt awkward and overwhelmed. Yet, the kids were always there. She may not have gotten invited to do things outside of school but they were there. They also seemed unsure how to approach her or how to “help” her.
Friendships are confusing for Emelie. That’s it in a nutshell but she’s better than she used to be. She has a group she now hangs out with at school; a core group who gets her quirks and understands her. Tater started her down that path last year. She encouraged these connections and friendships. She fostered that dialog of how friendships worked and how Em worked.
She gets Em. That was evident when Tater took a girl that felt overwhelmed and lonely and gave her the courage to stick with it and not give up on people. She coaxed Em to come out of that shell and let people see the “real” Emelie. She wanted Em to let them get to know her and be her friend. She took one year to get that ball rolling and did what no one else had been able to since M.
While Tater no longer goes to school with Em, she is still that friend that can go without seeing Em for a long time and pick right up where they left off when they get together. She still is reaching out and is holding Em’s hand from a short distance. She encourages Em. She defends Em. She protects Em. She’s fiercely loyal. We all need those friends.
We sometimes even get to be those friends. You see, now Em is that friend. She’s loyal to begin with. And she is very protective of those she cares about. She learnt what being a friend is through examples, patience, and most of all through kindness. In the process, friendship became a little less confusing and more inviting and welcoming.