Do You Want to Be My Friend?

IMG_9340As Caleb walked into the waiting room at the dentist office this afternoon he didn’t waste anytime. He walked right up to an older woman, looked her straight in the eyes and stuck out his hand for a handshake.

“Hi!” Caleb said.

The woman looked up at him and said, “Hello. Do I know you?”

Caleb moved on to the next person, a middle-aged man.

“Hi!” Caleb said

The man looked up and then kept reading his magazine.

“Hi!” Caleb said again, getting closer to the man and trying to get him to look up and return the greeting. He bent down, trying to see the man’s eyes – Caleb is fascinated with eyes!

“I’m sorry.” I apologized to the man, “He’s just really friendly.”

Caleb continued to work the waiting room and most of the people were very friendly. Those who weren’t, eventually realized that Caleb wasn’t going to stop saying “Hi” until they responded with a handshake or at least a greeting of “Hi” or “Hello”.

Eventually, Caleb settled down into a seat but as soon as anyone new entered into the dentist office he would jump out of his seat and bounce over to greet them. Those of you who know Caleb know what I mean by bounce … he “bounces” when he gets really excited. Caleb had a great time while waiting for his siblings to get done with their appointment.

As I watched Caleb, and sometimes had to intervene when he got a little too friendly, I thought about how much he has changed in the past few years. When Caleb was first diagnosed with autism around age three, he was very withdrawn and didn’t want to interact with other people. He had to be prompted to greet others and often even rewarded with a reinforcer, such as goldfish crackers, in order to be motivated enough to participate.

I first noticed a change about three or four years ago when Caleb became interested in eyes. This is interesting for a child with autism since making eye contact is something they usually are uncomfortable doing. Caleb wanted to look at people’s eyes, study them, and watch them move. Then about a year ago Caleb started participating in our “meet & greet” time at church. He would walk around with me and shake hands. More recently he has become even more interested in this social time at church and he will now even venture out on his own initiating the greeting with church members by looking at their eyes, shaking hands and loudly saying “Hi!”.

The more I thought about this, the more I regretted apologizing for his behavior and intervening to interrupt his overzealous greetings. I don’t want to ever discourage Caleb for these interactions, even though they may be uncomfortable for others. I know that Caleb has stepped way out of his comfort zone to overcome his social anxieties and learn to greet and interact with those around him. Making eye contact, shaking hands and verbally greeting others (especially new, unfamiliar people) is an answer to many years of prayers. I imagine that God is looking down and smiling every time he sees Caleb bouncing up to shake hands and greet a new friend!

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Fred and Ethel Visit the Dentist | Playdough in the Parsonage
  2. Sara McKeefer
    Jan 12, 2016 @ 10:13:48

    Love this, Lori! You are such a good mom! Sharing this on FB. 🙂

    Reply

  3. autismchronicle
    Jan 12, 2016 @ 10:19:20

    lol Your Caleb sounds just like my son! Except my son was never shy. They are beautiful spirits that are so pure. I stopped apologizing a long time ago.. if people can’t be friendly sod them. Oh ok, I did apologize to the guy at the swimming pool last week when my son crawled into some strangers lap for a hug and scared the guy. :} Caleb sounds awesome. xx

    Reply

  4. David R. Brock
    Jan 12, 2016 @ 16:44:05

    Great story of answered prayer! Who would have thought that you would ever have to consider apologizing because Caleb was too friendly. I am sure many of those people were encouraged for the day by his open and friendly greeting – especially at the dentist office! Most people are not very friendly there because they don’t want to be there.

    Reply

  5. Teena Dale
    Jan 16, 2016 @ 13:33:25

    I was there for the beginning of Caleb’s journey… and I KNOW that God is smiling…I am smiling from EAR TO EAR…. and if it effects me that way… Imagine the Joy it brings to The Father… Thanks sooo much for sharing these stories. The eyes are a window to our soul… Caleb is just getting to know people from the inside out… 🙂 A good lesson for us all….

    Reply

  6. Linda Brock
    Jan 16, 2016 @ 14:05:50

    Love this kid so much. He brings such joy wherever he goes!! So proud of him !!!

    Reply

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