Moving Through Molasses

Update (January 19, 2012):

Since the time that I posted this back in August 2010, and the subsequent REpost of it recently, a few changes have occurred:

  • He is now a senior with less than 4 months until graduation
  • He was evaluated and approved for a specified number of “social skills training”  hours via a professional consultant with AASCG through Voc Rehab.

We were so excited about the prospect of help! While we know its not a “fix” for all the issues he has, it was at least a step in the right direction!

I’ve been working with them to set up a solid schedule for him to begin since November of last year, but I got a phone call this morning from his ADRS case manager that she had made a mistake and that he “wouldn’t be eligible until after graduation” for the approved hours.

SERIOUSLY?!

I don’t know whether to laugh at the absurdity of that proclamation, or cry because of it! I’m thinking maybe both.

By the time he graduates, all the opportunities for social skills work in a structured, social peer-driven environment will be lost to him forever. College cannot afford him such a fertile ground for laying the groundwork to better relating with the rest of the world. In high school, he can emulate what he sees happening around him. He can try, with some guidance, to learn HOW to carry on a conversation with kids his own age. He can attempt to develop and maintain relationships both inside and outside of the classroom with the same kids he sees every day. He may even be able to find a date for Prom!

If he had some guidance and instructions from a professional qualified to teach him how, he could be practicing on a daily basis the art of building new relationships, giving voice to his uncertainties and asking for help, learning what is appropriate and inappropriate in casual conversation and how to recognize when he has stepped on the toes of his friends. He possibly could find some relief from the anxiety he experiences every single day from knowing that he’s “not getting it” – that all of these people he’s grown up with since grade school are dating, getting  jobs, hanging out, and having fun together as they prepare to scatter in all different directions – and he gets so frustrated trying to figure out how to do what he sees everyone else doing with ease. How do they get the job after school or how do you ask the girl if she wants to go out this weekend or how to become part of the conversation about upcoming plans, graduation, or college?

To know that for a brief few weeks there was the possibility of some training, only to have it yanked out from under him this morning, disappoints me immensely. I am so not looking forward to this afternoon after school! When he comes in and pours out all the frustrations and anxieties of the day, like he does every school day, I get to be the one who breaks it to him that the training he was counting on as part of the solution is no longer going to be happening. “One more thing wrong”, is what he’s going to say.

::SIGH:: …

(**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.

Namaste,

~me