There is such a difference between the Teghan we see at home, and the Teghan everyone else sees when we go out. I suppose it’s true of all kids. All people, actually. We are all a little truer when you find us in our home environment, surrounded by the people who know us best.
But when we go out and see others, even though there are walls to break through before you really know someone, there is also a social game that is played out to get there. You get some sense of the person through conversation and body language. And that is where it starts.
Because of this, people seldom get to know Teghan. She doesn’t conform to any social rules, and a new environment seems to trigger something in her. She is on a mission of exploration- and that exploration has nothing to do with any of the people standing around. People are not very high on her agenda, and she is much more interested in understanding the layout of her surroundings. Or maybe if there are any books that come in a group she might like to tap on.
Really, the only way to get to know Teghan is to spend time with her in an environment that is comfortable for her. At home you can see the way she plays without the distraction of new surroundings. You get a better sense of what she is capable of- how she can get things on command and follow instruction. How she stubbornly tries to do things herself, or how excited she gets while she is waiting for a favorite food. How she tries to play the drums just like Dave. You see her personality; her silliness and sweetness.
I think we as a society hear a lot of lessons about taking time to know those who are different. But to be honest, it’s not an easy task. No one is going to spend an afternoon with Teghan and feel as if they have a clue about her. Those of us outside the spectrum are running blind here. We need conversation and social cues to make decisions that further a relationship. We can spend time with someone, and attempt to fulfill a need we suspect they have. It may even feel rewarding. But it’s not a relationship as we typically know a relationship with another human being to be.
There will be very few true friendships for Teghan, and that isn’t a bad thing. Most of us only count a very few select people as true friends anyway. But it is sad sometimes to know just how little of Teghan’s wonderful qualities anyone will ever see. Most people just see the Teghan that runs in her loops and pretends people do not exist. They never know there is a whole other side to her.
She tries so hard these days to put more words together. I know she understands how to make a sentence for what she wants now, and for the first time I believe that basic verbal communication is in her future. I don’t know if she will ever be able to express her thoughts and feelings, but it’s all possible. I wish I could say that would make getting to know Teghan better, but I also know that in some ways it will be an even bigger challenge for her.
Being able to express thoughts and feelings will throw her into a world of social interaction- and there are few things in life more complicated than human social rituals. Mostly because the whole organization is led by a bunch of neurotypicals, who unlike those on the spectrum, have little understanding of social development or why we say and react the way we do. We just do, because that’s how it has always been. We never had to think about it.
Navigating that world will not be easy, and yet I still desire it for her. I just want to know her better. I don’t know if she desires being part of it, though. There is certainly no indication that she does. She definitely wants to be able to talk, and she knows that talking can get her more things that she wants quicker; but I also suspect that a lot of the conversation she hears throughout the day probably has no meaning to her at all. Maybe I’m wrong- but again, that’s another thing I could know with a little more language. Who knows, maybe she finds my work talk more fascinating than Dave does. Right now it appears to be a tie.
I don’t know what the future has in store for us, so I will try my best to not worry about it until it gets here. I like to remain hopeful. But in the meantime, I feel like a lot of people are missing out on a pretty charming little girl- and that’s too bad.