I sent the following letter out on Thursday before Easter. I know casually most of the mothers I sent it to. They are good people. PTA moms, etc. We've one definite "yes" so far. I gave it to the girls after school, in sealed envelopes, to deliver to their mothers, and found one little girl reading it in the hall as she was leaving to get on the bus. Another girl was draped over her shoulder, reading it too, put out that she didn't get one. Good sign.
It is agonizing for me to ask for help. The service dog was the first thing we ever enlisted anyone else's help with. Other than that, we've had zero outside support, ever, for anything. It has kept me up at night, scrambling about the activities we will do, and questioning whether this is the right thing to do.
But her eyes. You didn't see her eyes last week on the playground, as she sobbed, and told me how lonely she was. How un-included she felt. I have to do something.
The possibility of rejection is there too. I have more than one friend with kids the same ages as mine, who know how much she struggles, but still can't find time to get our kids together once in a while. How can I expect virtual strangers to get on board? But we already have one yes. And I believe in this community.
So, here we go. I love my girl.
I am writing to you because your daughter has been kind to Riley and I would like to include _______in a group we are starting. As you know, Riley has Asperger’s. One of the traits of Asperger’s is social awkwardness and though Riley desperately wants friends, she doesn’t always understand social nuances or how to navigate the complicated social scene of little girls. She is terrified of asking others to play, or of joining in groups, because she is afraid of being rejected. This year she has become painfully aware of her social isolation, noticing other kids going on play dates after school. As of yet, Riley has never been invited to a friend’s house to play. We have had many tearful afternoons because of this.
I am looking to start a neighborhood Circle of Friends program for Riley. It will be a small peer group (five or six girls)that will help Riley learn about social skills, and provide her with friendship and social interaction. We would meet in our home once a month, do a team building/self esteem type group activity, and then rotate through with weekly play dates. Initially the play dates would be at our house, and after that, perhaps occasionally at yours. It would work out to one play date every five or six weeks if you choose for your child to participate, and if she is willing.
By knowing Riley better, your child will have the opportunity to understand a peer with differences, but who fundamentally wants the same things they do; to feel liked and good about herself. Riley is more like your daughter than unalike.
I know families are busy, and I promise we won’t be trying to force BFF status onto your child. We’re just looking for a series of successful play dates, and for better community understanding of our sweet girl, who is always trying her best.
If you are interested and if your daughter is willing, please let me know. I’m looking to start this in May (Wednesday the 13th) and carry it through the summer if possible.
Thanks so much! It takes a village, especially for a child with special needs.
Riley’s mom (phone) (e-mail)