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Dad Called Out After His Son Asks To Not Be Forced To Play With Autistic New Neighbor Boy

Two young boys playing together
Flashpop/Getty Images

Making friends who stick around can be hard for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for a child who doesn’t share the same interests as other kids, or if they have a disability.

But other kids aren’t required to be their friend, just to make their situation “easier,” agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

When his son voiced his concern about playing with one of their neighbor’s sons, who was also Autistic, Redditor Normal-Plastic-7514 agreed to not make him play with him anymore.

But when the mother found out about the new boundary they’d set, the Original Poster (OP) was surprised that she demanded he be her son’s friend because of his diagnosis.

He asked the sub:

“AITA for letting my son avoid a special needs child?”

The OP had a weekly get-together with some parents and children.

“Myself (43 Male) and my wife (41 Female) have lived on our street for years with our two boys, James (12 Male) and Sam (6 Male).”

“Every Saturday morning, Sam and I have a ritual, he calls them our ‘dude walks.’ We look for spiders, dig in the mud, and stop at our neighborhood park to play.”

“It’s sort of a standing meetup for a bunch of parents in the area.”

“Recently a new family moved in the next block over. The mother mentioned that she had two boys too, Kyle (13 Male) and Aiden (7 Male). I told her about the Saturday morning park group in case she wanted to meet some neighbors.”

A new addition started meeting with the group each Saturday.

“When she showed up with Aiden, it was clear he has special needs. The mom was friendly, she sat with all the parents while the kids played.”

“Aiden is an enthusiastic player, with loud noises, banging on things, and getting up in the other kids’ faces. The mom was good about correcting him, and he wasn’t aggressive, just excited.”

“The other kids are wary when he flails, but they include him in play still.”

But then things weren’t going so well anymore.

“One Saturday, he was having an especially tough day. I called Sam over for a snack.”

“He said, ‘I don’t want to play with Aiden, can we go home?'”

“So we left.”

“The next day Aiden’s mom came to my door. She told me that I should have talked to him about ‘differently-abled people’ instead of just abandoning her son. We agreed to talk to Sam.”

“The next weekend, Sam said hi to Aiden, and they played together a bit, but when Aiden got loud again, Sam retreated to the highest platform where Aiden was scared to go.”

“When Aiden asked him to be his partner for a game, Sam said, ‘No, thank you.'”

“I felt that was fine. My wife still felt bad, so she invited them over.”

“Aiden had one meltdown, but other than that, it went fine. Afterward, Sam asked if Aiden could please not come over again.”

“I asked James what he thought of Kyle, and he said that the kid was obnoxious and didn’t smell great.”

“The next weekend, Aiden destroyed my son’s favorite toy. He snapped the arms and legs off.”

“Sam yelled, ‘YOU ARE A VERY MEAN LITTLE BOY!’ I did not make him apologize, we just left.”

The OP and his son changed their Dude Walk schedule instead.

“Now instead of going out in the morning, we go on Saturday afternoon after Aiden has left the park.”

“After a few weeks, some others started joining us. We didn’t discuss why. But I suspect that they didn’t all shift their weekend routine around solely because they missed my sparkling personality.”

“Aiden’s mom eventually got wind of it. I don’t know how.”

“She wrote us a long heartfelt letter. She felt I had not done enough to discourage Sam from ostracizing Aiden and that my ‘pull’ in the neighborhood was influencing others to avoid her son now too.”

The OP felt he had done everything he already needed to do.

“Sam has tried his best. He’s verbalized his need for boundaries from Aiden to us three times now.”

“James has also been clear that he doesn’t like Aiden’s brother, Kyle.”

“As long as both of my kids treat them with respect, I’m satisfied.”

“I can’t control what the other parents choose to do. We’ll continue to be friendly and be good neighbors if they need a hand, but not play with them.”


Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some pointed out that the OP was respecting his sons’ boundaries.

“NTA. Your job is to make sure your kid treats Aiden with respect, not to force him to be Aiden’s friend. You did just fine.” – helsabot

“Can you imagine if OP DID force their kid to be ‘friends’ with Aiden? Not only would he not be caring for his own child’s needs properly, but would you feel like your child was safe, then, in Aiden’s situation, with someone who obviously isn’t ready to handle the challenges? I would be terrified the reluctant child would take their frustration out on my kid!”

“And no way Aiden is going to make any social progress if this keeps up!”

“I’m gobsmacked, really. OP is definitely NTA.” – AnonymousTruths1979

“NTA. Don’t force your kid to accept anyone who disrespects them.”

“My mother did that when a cousin punched me and attacked me. I remember it until today and I have problems with boundaries. I can’t explain how much it affected my entire life.”

“Please respect what your son wants.” – badperson-1399

“Sam retreated to a space to get away from Aidan because he wasn’t comfortable being around Aidan based on Aidan’s behavior.”

“Just because Sam doesn’t have special needs doesn’t mean his need to set boundaries doesn’t matter.”

“Sam removed himself from a situation that made him uncomfortable and expressed that discomfort to you, so you acted on it.”

“It really doesn’t serve anyone other than Aidan’s mom for you to force Sam to interact with him.” – swarleyknope

“My child isn’t special needs, but he’s not popular. He has few kids that even interact with him.”

“It breaks my heart that his peer group doesn’t welcome him. He is always gentle, doesn’t destroy things, and really wants more friends. We’ve held awesome birthday parties for him, but he has never been invited to attend one himself. They just don’t click.”

“Is it the kids’ fault? No. Is it their parents’ fault? No. It’s just the way things go sometimes. My son hasn’t found his clan yet.”

“Adults always comment on how engaging, creative, and fun he is. He’s sweet and kind, but he’s also awkward and very narrow in his interests, so it’s harder for him to make a connection.”

“You know what I don’t do? Write letters to other parents about how their kids owe him their friendship or something.”

“All I expect from his peer group is civility.”

“I’ll tell you what though, the few kids who are his friends are all kind, intelligent, and sweet.”

“Someday, I think the kids will see what the adults see. That day isn’t today, though. He made a new friend this year, and we’re very pleased.”

“Aiden needs help learning social skills, and it’s not your kids’ job to teach him. You have all tried already, which is commendable.”

“NTA.” – cleaningmama

Others agreed and felt Aiden’s mother wasn’t doing her son any favors.

“I understand the mother’s frustration but she can’t demand everyone make their children play with hers if they aren’t comfortable doing so.”

“You’re only responsible for your own actions, not everyone else’s. NAH.” – Aunty_Fascist

“Aiden’s mother is for sure an a**hole. 100% an a**hole. I say this as the mother of an autistic child, it is NEVER okay to use your child’s disability as an excuse for them overriding everyone else’s boundaries and being destructive and mean.”

“Is being a special needs parent tough? D**n right, it is. But it does NOT give you the right to put your child on a pedestal and make everyone else suffer just because you refuse to teach your child boundaries.”

“This mother is failing their child immensely by acting as if he can do no wrong and others should just accept him because he’s different.”

“My son gets loud at times, and there are times other kids want to avoid him. I 100% respect the other kids and gently explain to my son why others need space in a way he can understand.”

“Autistic kids can have trouble with socialization and learning social cues but it is our JOB as their parent to HELP THEM learn these cues and how to interact with others in a safe and polite way, NOT help them railroad everyone else’s kid.” – Significant_Rule_855

“I’m a SPED (Special Education for learning disabilities) teacher, and this parent is not doing their kid any favors.”

“Wanting to be included during group activities (like whole class parties) is one thing, but you can’t expect other kids to be okay with broken toys and ignored boundaries. Kids grow up, and people are understanding of these behaviors in kids, but the bigger they get, the less okay with it they will be.”

“He needs to be learning social skills, not expecting everyone else to change.” – IamDoozer

“Aiden’s mother is the a**hole. Her child has violent outbursts and destroys others’ belongings and rather than replace them or stop her son, she expects others to lecture THEIR children and punish them until they accept her child. Seriously, how much more of an a**hole can you be?” – i_am_the_ginger

“If her son destroyed OP’s son’s toy, does she REALLY expect a six-year-old to want to play with the child again? Her role as a mother is to teach. She needs to replace the toy, have her son give it to Sam, and have him apologize.”

“Kids are remarkably forgiving BUT they also have VERY keen senses of justice, and no kid wants to feel like they are being walked all over.”

“I made my oldest daughter be friends with everyone in elementary school. The only thing it accomplished was her not trusting me and not knowing how to establish healthy boundaries. She’s doing better now, but it is essential that we teach kids to set healthy boundaries and not allow bully parents to push through those boundaries out of their own misguided senses of justice.”

“OP, Hard NTA. And, it would be worthwhile telling Aiden’s Mom this:”

“‘I’m sorry you feel that way. I don’t know about the other kids, but Sam does not want to play with Aiden because you have not taught Aiden how to treat other people and their things kindly. He has not apologized for destroying Sam’s toy and you have not replaced it.'”

“It will be a difficult conversation, but it likely will be the first time anyone has ever pointed out her own role in all of this.” – sometimesblessed

While it would be wonderful for all kids to get along and for everyone to always feel included, the subReddit was willing to point out how that isn’t the case all the time.

And as much as we might like to see all kids have lots of friends, it wouldn’t be right for us to demand other children be friends with them, just to increase their total number of friends.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan has been a part of the George Takei family since 2019 when she wrote some of her favorite early pieces: Sesame Street introducing its first character who lived in foster care and Bruce Willis delivering a not-so-Die-Hard opening pitch at a Phillies game. She's gone on to write nearly 3,000 viral and trending stories for George Takei, Comic Sands, Percolately, and ÜberFacts. With an unstoppable love for the written word, she's also an avid reader, poet, and indie novelist.