Sings my littlest garden girlie, "Good is better than evil! Good is better than evil!" She's got her counting bears lined up on the floor beside my chair, all 40 plus (it was a set of 50 but some have gone missing). She's got them whispering "Evil, pass on" down the line of them now. It's an operatic play she's engaged in, one of her favorite activities. So far, at six, she's not had to deal with the harsh realities of the world; when she plays by herself on the edge of a group, she's happily engaged and has no sense of being excluded. She still doesn't approach kids, but she'll play if a child comes up to her. Again, she's not feeling excluded, has no awareness of aloneness or separateness nor any sense that this is an undesirable state. She is happy playing by herself.
My bigger garden girlie is more aware, happy to play by herself, but wanting to join in as well. Figuring out how to approach, what to do, how to navigate that incredibly complicated girl world is rough, as we women can all attest, no matter whether we are neurotypical or on the spectrum. I suspect she'll follow my path; she's already begun to do so: gravitate towards boys who are easier to approach and adults who were inherently more interesting.
Either way, they both have to put their big girl panties on each and every day, and navigate this world with all its traps, pitfalls, and potentials. It's a heady, often frightening experience, and I empathize with each and every step they take. It's my job to arm them with the tools to stand up for themselves, advocate for themselves, and figure out how to get what they want from life. Yes, they have issues, issues that make navigating this social environment more difficult for them than for those for whom social surfing is a breeze in comparison. However, I believe that armed with the tools for rational thinking and problem solving, it is possible to manipulate one's way around those issues successfully. It doesn't mean they'll be recovered; it doesn't mean they'll look, fit or blend in with neurotypical females. I'm supposedly NT, and I never fit. I preferred adults and books, and I found my niche. They, too, will find theirs.
We need to work harder as parents to all children to help them find their niches, where they will thrive rather than trying to make them fit in some yuppy mold. We need to teach them to rationally evaluate social situations, give them guidelines on what behaviors by others constitute true friendship, what is manipulative behavior, what is hurtful behavior. We need to teach them how to identify bullying behavior and what behavior by others is a legitimate criticism. We need to innoculate them so that they can stand up to bullies and say no, when to remove themselves from a situation when the bullying continues, how to navigate around the people in their lives who will take a dislike to them for whatever reason.
We need to arm them with the emotional strength to handle peer rejection and to accept that just as they may not like every person they meet, they will run into people who do not like them. And when they take their place, as adults in the community, and engage in activism on their own behalf and the behalf of others, to take accountability for their actions, to own their words, to recognize that just as one gives criticism, one is sure to receive it, and to be willing to consider that one can be mistaken and be able to own and correct those mistakes. In other words, we need to help our daughters learn how to put their big girl panties on each and every day (the same of course can be said for our sons and their underoos).
It would also behoove us as parents to teach our children that once they've ascertained someone as being not quite rational, they are better served by no longer engaging that person in dialogue. Unless they personally like the feel of pissing in the wind, as that's what it amounts to. Whether the need to address said person's actions or words is necessary is up for grabs. How big is the audience the person is reaching? How dangerous is the rhetoric? If the person with the inaccurate ideas is reaching a limited audience, then identifying the person and moving along is all that's needed. Continuing to pay that person any attention only inflates his or her readership and provides an audience that would not otherwise be there. I am well aware it can be irresistible, like rubbernecking. If on the other hand, the reach is greater, the woo dangerous, well, then it seems clear that this should be actively combated.
For additional perspectives on parenting, take the time to read Kathleen's post Myths Motherhood and "More Than" and Jeanette's High Expectations.