Moving Through Molasses

(**REPOSTED from AUG 20,2010**)

I don’t know why there are some things that prove to be so difficult when others just fly on past, but moving through molasses is what seems to be the case when it comes to such things as getting a scheduling mistake worked out for my son at school. Or finding him a mentoring program. Or asking for help in any way with his social understanding deficit.Slogging through. An uphill battle. Exhausting.

The schools do a good job with his academics. Don’t get me wrong.  They make small adjustments in the classroom to increase his chances of success – sitting closer to the teacher, allowing him to type any handwritten work, sending a copy of assignments via email.  Little things that add up to honor roll and advanced placement class success. And we really do appreciate it!

But academia was never really his main problem.

It is staying engaged in his day. It’s knowing how to ask for assistance in class. Its about not understanding subjective thoughts that are grey instead of black and white. Its not being able to empathize.

Its about not having anyone to sit with at lunch. Or to talk to in between classes. Or having a clue as to how to carry on conversations.Its about not understanding innuendo. Or not recognizing sarcasm. Or not knowing when the laughter is at his expense, but feeling the burn of ridicule. Its not being able to read facial expressions or body language or voice inflection as part of communication. Its recognizing not being a “part of” and feeling “apart from”, but not knowing how to make it different and being utterly frustrated and defeated by it.

Its about believing other kids when they tell him they’re his friend and doing what they tell him to, without understanding its not a good thing to do – until it hurts him. Its about bullying. Its about how to act in social situations – like football games and pep rallys and concerts – how to act like all these other kids his age who must have been given the instruction manual, because they all seem to know how to act.

That’s a pretty significant gap that I, as a parent, can only do so much about. I can’t go with him throughout his day. And realistically the best time to work on these things is now, while he’s still in school. Because once he leaves high school in another 2 years, the opportunities for social development drop off alarmingly. College is much less structured, relying instead on the kid to initiate social interactions. But what if he doesn’t really KNOW how to initiate? What happens to him then?

So I’ve been searching for some sort of program – one that can pair him up with a mentor or peer buddy. To help him navigate some of these unfamiliar places while he still has an entire population of kids who have structured activities to attend and socialize in. This article echos much of what I’ve been looking at and trying to find a solution for.

And it makes me wonder.

We live in an area lovingly dubbed “Dilbertville” for all of the engineer, rocket scientists, physicists, and other geeky types of that ilk who are concentrated here. And many of them have children who fall in the high functioning autistic/Asperger’s Disorder spectrum. The schools are inundated with a variety of these kids, but the one common thread among them is lack of social skills. So wouldn’t it make sense for the area schools to recognize that to fully educate these kids, the social aspect of their lives needs to addressed? Particularly in the school setting, where so much of their waking hours are spent? Imagine if, in all those situations there was a kid with him who could suggest what to say, how to approach a group, what not to do and how not to act…one to sit with him at lunch and go to the fall football games and winter basketball games… to hang out with him after school and include him in the activities that kids their age do on weekends. Probably a pipe-dream, but it happens in other cities and other schools all the time. Why not here?

I’m just saying.




2 Responses

  1. There are a few college programs that will do exactly what you are looking for–spread the word. However, they are expensive and if you are lucky enough to already be on your state’s waiver program that won’t cover it either.

    Look at Marshall (yea, “We are Marshall!”), CLE the College Living Experience in Austin, Texas which supports students at a few colleges in Austin, and UCLA (exclusive and long wait list.

    There are other universities claiming to model after these set up programs but not sure if the support is as thorough or if it’s worth the risk…Texas Tech and Univ of Alabama.

    Thank you so much, Debby!! We’ve heard of the University of Alabama’s model and found out a little more about that one – such as the waiting list for it and the cost! I will definitely give a look at the others though – I really appreciate the information!! :)

  2. I just wanted to say how much this post resonated with me. Wow – it sounds exactly like you’re describing my son and how his days are at school. I recently found out that I could request that things be written into my son’s IEP, such as social skills teaching, and the school district created a weekly social skills class for him (as well as other students who would benefit from it) at his school. It’s been so helpful. Since I unfortunately haven’t read your blog before, I don’t know if you’ve attempted that in the past, but I thought I’d mention it. Best wishes!

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