Last week, I highlighted some helpful emails from educators, as well as a reader who “suffered in silence” at the lunch table as a kid. Below are more perspectives from readers who sat alone in the cafeteria—but they didn’t suffer. My assumption that all kids enjoy company of some sort—even if they don’t feel like making conversation—elicited passionate responses from these readers. Here’s one:
I had my son, an autistic high school student, read this article. He typically sits alone too. I asked him what he thought, and basically his answer was that lunch is the only time he gets a break from the huge stress of having to socialize. He did think the football player was very kind, but he would not want a companion at lunchtime everyday. Not all children with autism will feel that way, but the point is, don’t assume sitting alone is always a tragedy.
Another reader strongly opposes the idea of a school initiative that would encourage social interactions at lunchtime:
That is the thing that bugged me about your article. It implies that autistic kids want to be part of some kind of lunch party, and pushing them into it is a saving act. I’m high-functioning autistic, and even as a kid, I have been alone by choice. I’d rather pursue the weird and thrilling thought patterns in my own mind.
However, other readers agree with Mike Hugman—the reader who “suffered in silence”—that social isolation in school was miserable for them. Rachel Helie writes:
A large part of my childhood was spent alone in one way or another. We moved frequently, and that did not facilitate the “making of friends” for someone already shy to the point of paralysis.