Staying Friends Through Autism

My best friend and I had so much in common until my son was diagnosed.

leigh and I met in eighth grade. We survived high school together, stayed in touch through college, and eventually ended up in our hometown, married, with careers, and pregnant at exactly the same time. We binged on Dairy Queen after our daily walk, complained to each other about our swollen feet and huge belly, and waited impatiently for D-day as we dreamed and schemed about all that our children would do together.

In April 2008, Ashleigh gave birth to her son Loki, and four days later, I had Liam. They were perfect little boys and we were feeling radiant as new moms. But as our children got older, I noticed differences between them. Ashleigh’s son slept peacefully, but mine never settled into a sleep routine. Loki was happy to stay with other people, while Liam screeched for hours if I left him with anyone.

At the park, Loki ran, slid, babbled, and listened to Ashleigh. I found myself hovering over Liam, worried because he didn’t climb, jump, or slide on his own. Playdates, parties, and get-togethers were traumatic for me, and I spent most of them chasing Liam.

Sadly, our friendship suffered because of these differences. “There was a lot of tension between us then,” Ashleigh admitted when I told her I was writing this essay. “I worried about you and Liam, but I didn’t say anything because it seemed like you always had an excuse for why he wasn’t doing what other kids his age were doing.”

I see that now. I remember telling people Liam was tired, hungry, or sick, as a way of explaining why he wouldn’t interact with them at all. I never came out and said his behavior was strange, and neither did Ashleigh, and the stress between us escalated as our children grew older.

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