Our kiddos on the autism spectrum need practice with social skills. I tend to let The Boy relax when he gets home because I know he’s worked hard all day, staying quiet when all he wants to do is make silly tuba noises, paying attention when all he wants to do is draw, and doing his best to get his work done all damn day.
But, neither does he get a free pass. We still have homework to complete and projects to do at home. And summer is not a free pass in this house, either. Especially if there is no camp.
I have always taken summer as a wonderful opportunity to target areas in my own learning, or develop new ways of doing because we run out of time during the school year. This is so ingrained in me, that I’ve been planning with The Boy for all of the areas we can practice skills because we just don’t have time, and The Boy does not have the energy or patience after a long day of school. I was reading a blog post on Momastery.com I found through Pinterest that looked like an activity that had potential not only for social skills and conversation practice, but could also provide an opportunity for me to get inside The Boy’s head a bit. The Holy Grail for autism parents. But as I read, I realized it wouldn’t quite work for us, because open-ended questions often do not get answers from The Boy. There are just too many possible answers, and he freezes. He needs selections to choose from – multiple choice, if you will. And then I remembered this other game of question and answer, a get-to-know-you game where possible answers are provided…
Whenever the ex re-enters The Boy’s life, I feel like he needs a new instruction manual. He doesn’t communicate all that regularly with him, and even then asks open-ended questions, which are difficult for those in the spectrum. I had to interrupt, get on the phone and remind him that yes or no questions work better and to keep trying when he spoke to The Boy this weekend, because I could hear the frustration in his voice, and could tell he was getting ready to quit trying to engage him in conversation.
When he goes to visit him in April, what will they talk about? He has no idea what The Boy’s interests are, or his friend’s names, or how he likes to spend his time.
Does he remember that he needs time for transitions? Does he remember that raising your voice is risky? Does he have any idea what he likes to eat?
No, he doesn’t. Because that’s what happens when you don’t see your kid for an entire year, and only attempt to talk to him every six weeks or so. That is what happens when you don’t have a relationship with someone on the spectrum.
I worry, but there’s not much I can do. There’s no instruction manual for any of us. Much of parenting is figuring it all out as you go along. Some of us have figured out that building a strong relationship with our kiddos makes things so much easier. Others of us haven’t figured that out yet.
Most teachers aren’t very fond of field day. In fact, in my district it was even the source of a fierce battle about prep time awhile back. But I love it. At least I love it when my kid has it.
His field day was last week. I think he even chose a special “athletic-themed” outfit for that day, choosing to wear his T-shirt from the special needs baseball camp he has been to the past two summers. It doesn’t hurt that he loves his gym teacher, and wants to be one when he grows up.
His school gives each kid a long ticket-type thing that lists the various activities, that get punched as they visit the stations, and they can also be recognized on the ticket for showing good sportsmanship (or having an “oops!” moment, but The Boy has never earned an “oops!” he is proud to tell me).
Here’s why I love it so much: I often have no clue about what happens at school, because he just chooses not to tell me (thank goodness his ASD teacher sends home a daily communication log to let me know about highlights, or I’d be completely in the dark!). But on field day, we have a nice long conversation. When I pick The Boy up from Kids Club, and with the ticket in hand, I ask him about each one with a punch next to it. I ask him to explain how it works, and whether or not he liked it (he always likes them all). And he does tell me — at length! I have a guide that tells me what to ask him about his day, and I do, and he responds. That’s a big thing for us. And I enjoy it a great deal.