Caregivers Community

Autism Awareness Story: Benny Makes Friends

Gina Flores
Caregiver Advocate | Shield HealthCare
04/08/16  2:01 PM PST
autism awareness

Autism Awareness Story: Benny Makes Friends

Our Autism Awareness Month featured caregiver story was written by Daren S., who shares his experience with Benny on the playground making friends:

Benny doesn’t say more than one or two words at a time. He prefers instead to hum long consonants and sing vowels to fill the room he shares with his sister, mom and/or dad–depending on the evening. Benny has autism, a not-uncommon disorder whose name means “condition of the self,” where one is essentially detached from the surrounding world, quarantined within his or her mind. And though he contains many of the often-alienating hallmarks of his diagnosis–i.e., sparse eye contact, ignoring his name–Benny has found his own way to both friendship and charisma.

When I became Benny’s home and community aide, we began a routine of walking to the playground where he would climb the jungle gym to the slide and glide down backwards—always backwards. At first, the other children would keep their distance, because Benny was much bigger and seldom spoke words. They would ask why and what he sang as his slid and I would say that Benny knew.

As we kept our routine, Benny’s unique style became like a secret handshake to the other kids. They wanted in on it. I suggested they try talking to Benny. And when Benny finally said ‘hi’, they boiled over with delight. “Hi Benny! Hi Benny!” They hollered back. When he gave one of them a high five, they immediately wanted high ten and handshakes. For them, it was like getting an email back from a celebrity they were sure wouldn’t respond.

Holding Benny’s hand and marching along the playground became a common sight. And when the children rode their little bikes with training wheels, Benny would gesture to try it himself—always forgetting his size compared to theirs. Sometimes I would bring a beach towel, and Benny would touch his hands to his neck, asking for it to be made into a cape. And so the other kids would want capes as well, clamoring to be Benny’s sidekicks, fighting injustices on the jungle gym.

And in this way—his way, Benny became the cool kid around the playground. It wasn’t accomplished in spite of his diagnosis. It was just that Benny’s diagnosis was simply an interesting part of who he is—existing next to the all the other endlessly interesting parts of who he is.

Click here to learn more about autism on the Shield HealthCare Community site.