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When My Son With ADHD Asked a Schoolmate With Autism to Play

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I sat across from his teacher.

I was anxious about what she was going to tell me.

He had been in trouble over the past few months: disrupting class, messing around on the playground — nothing too serious, but enough to make me anxious at his latest parent teacher meeting.

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“J is doing well in class,” she smiled. My husband David and I exchanged a confused look. “Really?” The surprise was obvious in my voice.

She smiled and nodded. “He has really turned a corner. He is sitting still, which is a huge achievement, and he is participating in class discussion.”

“That’s such a relief to hear,” I confessed.

“The school is aware of the situation at home with all you do for Ethan.” (My eldest son Ethan has Hunter syndrome.) J seems to really understand his own actions and the reasons for them. He is able to articulate what ADHD is and how it affects him. We believe this is down to you guys, obviously, and the therapy you have him in currently,” she smiled.

I watched as she paused, almost debating whether or not to say the next sentence. Then I saw it.

Her eyes were damp as she opened her mouth and began to speak. “J has made a new friend here in the class.”

David quickly answered saying the child’s name. I laughed, telling him I didn’t think the teacher was testing us.

She smiled. “Yes, so you are both aware of this. What you are probably not aware of is that, for the first time since this boy started school here, he played with another boy on the school yard. He engaged. He laughed and played. The other boy was your J. Your son brought him out and included him,” she was definitely fighting back tears now.

“His parents asked me to thank you for raising a caring child like J.” She paused to gather herself, and I felt my own eyes dampen. “He has autism and was never social, never had a friend and was never included until now,” she wiped under her eye.

“Wow,” David smiled. I nodded, afraid if I spoke at that point no words would come out. We sat in silence for a few moments.

“So, J is doing really, really well. But…” she tapped her watch. We both sighed. We were both in trouble.

“Okay, we know,” David held his hands up. “We sometimes — okay, we often get up late or are preoccupied with getting Ethan ready, and we leave too late, get caught in traffic and well, yeah, J ends up being late.”

“Sorry,” I offered.

“OK, I know it is hard for you, and I do appreciate that. I do, guys,” she titled her head. “But J has to be on time. You have to get up earlier and get him here on time. It is so very important.”

We both nodded, and like scolded schoolchildren we promised the teacher we would try harder.

We left the meeting feeling in awe of our middle son J. We weren’t expecting to hear how much compassion he had shown to another little boy and how much that had helped that little boy, which really warmed our hearts.

We got home and reported how well he was doing in school.

We asked about his friend and why J asked him to play. “He is just a boy, Mommy, he is different from all the other boys, I like that about him.” He paused, “Mommy, he can be a little like Ethan sometimes, and then I think maybe Ethan would be like him if Ethan could play with me.” I kissed his forehead as I felt the pain hit me right in my heart.

“You’re a good, kind boy,” I whispered trying not to let my emotions show.

“Mom, wouldn’t the world be boring if we were all the same! You’re always saying that, and you’re right!” He laughed as he skipped away.

Our time-keeping has improved.

boy kissing his brother on the cheek
Ger’s sons.

A version of this originally appeared on

Originally published: February 17, 2016
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