The Power of Friendship

My son started going to school at the age of 4. And he loves school. I will wake him up early to prepare for school, but he never complains or give tantrums. He will not cry because I need to leave him inside the classroom. He was an honor in his pre-school years. But whenever I asked him, “Who is your best friend at school?” he would not mention any names. I learned from the other parents that my son’s classmates will not talk to him because he speaks in English. I just presumed that that’s the reason why he doesn’t have friends at school.

Then we transferred him to a bigger school in Grade 1. Still, I observed quietly. He’s quite good at school. The teachers loved him. He’s a quiet and reserved boy, unlike the boys of his age. The feedback of his adviser was he’s always staying at the faculty whenever it’s break time. My son finds it interesting to talk to teachers than playing with his schoolmates. Grade 2 and Grade 3, he was still the same. He knew the names of all his classmates, but he preferred to eat alone at lunch.

By the end of Grade 3, I asked him again, “Who is your best friend at school?”. And still, he doesn’t give me a name. Entering his school year in Grade 4, I was getting worried. I don’t have problems with him academically, but I wished he would socialize more and make friends with his age. Then one day, he told me there was a transferee at school, and his adviser tasked him to be the buddy of the new student who came from Italy. Months passed, and that boy became his best friend! I was so happy because finally, my son opened his world to others! He started talking about his other friends too. The teachers were joyful to witness the change in my son. They told me that having his best friend gave him more focus on his study. Grade 5, he told his Dad the name of his very first crush. He even requested to buy a birthday gift for her. When my son started in Grade 6, he said he wanted to graduate with honor. That was his goal, he told me. I lovingly replied to him that he needs to study harder. And he did it. He graduated with honor, but sadly, there were no graduation rites because of the pandemic.

I am fervently hoping he would not return to being a loner when he starts his high school journey, even if his best friend is not in the same school. I am aware of his difficulty in socialization. That’s because my son has mild or high-functioning autism or what they called the Asperger’s Syndrome. Kids with Asperger’s syndrome have normal to above-average intelligence but typically have difficulties with social skills and often have interests in special topics. My son specifically loves anything about outer space. He was very sensitive to loud sounds when he was little. Flapping his hands were his way of showing his excitement. He loves routine, and I need to make an effort to explain to him if there will be a sudden change because he will be stressed out. He was not into imaginative or pretend-play with other kids. He was contented with his puzzles and building blocks. But thankfully, his social skills have developed over the years because of his best friend. That chance opened his door to new possibilities. And now, whenever I asked him if he’s excited going to a new school.. he would confidently say, “Yeah, I might meet new friends.”

Mabel Malolos

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