Rachel has Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism. In a nutshell, her brain is wired differently than a neurotypical brain. She likes routine. She gets upset if something is out of balance in her life. Surprises worry her. Noises like the vacuum cleaner and hairdryers make her ears hurt. She has fine motor and gross motor delays, which basically means she has trouble writing and isn't very coordinated. She has many other challenges in life, but none as big as her lack of social skills.
Rachel does not pick up on social cues. She has no idea how to tell if a person is interested in what she is saying. She doesn't know how to go up to someone and ask "Can I play?" and then what to do if they say "yes" or "no." She has to be taught what to do in social situations. We have to teach her and then keep reinforcing what she has been taught. It can be very frustrating; not only for us and her sisters. But especially for her.
I have been seeing her struggle in just the couple weeks that she has been out of school. She's already on edge because her normal routine is *poof* gone. She wants to know everyday where we are going, what we are doing, what are we having for dinner. Then she wants to play with her sisters and they don't always want to play with her. That upsets her. To a child with autism, a friend saying "no" to playing can mean that friend doesn't like him or her anymore. And since she does not have any social capabilities whatsoever, she doesn't know how to react. We have to teach her. And, when you think about it, "teaching" someone how to react to something isn't very easy.
My biggest fear is that she won't fit in. Kids will make fun of her. That she will be lonely. And that would be a shame because I think everyone who comes across Rachel needs to really get to know her. She's a wonderful person!