I’m not sure how to handle this. These days, when a 15-year-old boy gets a call from a girl who wants to go out with him, it’s not considered unusual. But my son is not a usual 15-year-old boy. This is a kid who’s at about a 12-year-old level in terms of physical development.
He’s 4-foot-8 and just starting to go through puberty. Socially and emotionally, he’s much younger. He plays with elementary school kids as though he’s a peer, not a babysitter. He gets food all over his face and clothing when he eats, and he doesn’t care. So long as his clothes aren’t wet, they don’t bother him. Mom and Dad need to remind him to put on clean clothes and to brush his teeth and shower.
Normally, teenagers get together to hang out with friends without parental supervision. Supervised “play dates” were for when they were 6 years old. My son still needs supervision. He’s in Boy Scouts and is the only scout who has to have a parent along at all meetings and outings.
Otherwise, he is likely to get “bored” and do disruptive things like running up to a group of boys and swinging his fists around or banging incessantly on the furniture. Without a parent to curb this behavior it would get out of control. Some other parents in the troop are concerned that my son is a danger and might hurt their child.
How can a boy like this possibly be ready to date? He says he’s ready, but I don’t think he really understands.
One day after school he tells me that a new girl at his school has a crush on him and that they exchanged phone numbers. I see the grin on his face that reveals that he has a crush on this girl, too.
So then after dinner the girl calls and asks to talk to him. He actually breaks away from Roller Coaster Tycoon to take the phone as soon as I tell him the call’s for him. I stay in the room – a typical teen would want and deserve privacy, but in this case that doesn’t seem like a good idea. They’re trying to make plans to get together, but it sounds like the schedules aren’t working out. After awhile, Dylan hands me the phone.
The girls asks me if I know what a relationship is. She says she and my son like each other that way and she wants a relationship with him. She’s 16, “only a year older.” I tell her that I’m all for my son making friends, but he hasn’t had a girlfriend before and that I don’t know if he’s ready. She says he wants to go out with her.
I should explain that in the spring of last school year my son moved out of public school to a special program that caters to kids on the autistic spectrum. It’s not a perfect match, but it was the only school that would take him, the only place that could handle elementary school-like behavior from a high school student.
And although he doesn’t present the way most autistic kids do, he can benefit from the daily social skills training that’s built into the curriculum. Some people says that ADHD is part of the spectrum anyway.
So this girl is probably high-functioning autistic, with social skills well below her chronological age. Maybe it could be a good match. After all, just a few days ago I arranged a get together with my friend and her 17-year-old daughter. Her daughter is also socially way behind and unable to relate to girls her age.
My friend and I watched as our immature teenagers played together in the pool. They were both delighted to find someone who wanted to join them in a splash fight. She found my son’s antics, like pretending to pie her in the face, hilarious.
What I’ve observed so far is that my son’s new friend calls our house every day. He is happy to talk to her. This is different – usually he can’t be pulled away from what he’s doing to talk on the phone. They haven’t been able to get together in person outside of school, but they want to. I don’t know if this is wise.