Sunday, 1 July 2012

Social Skills

In an effort to get Jack into more social situations and work on his listening skills I enrolled him in a little soccer camp that meets once a week for 6 weeks.  It's held at a local center that caters to kids with special needs.  It's called the Cisco Center and here are all of the services it offers:  speech therapy, soccer camp, day camp, art camp, music camp, social skill groups, parent support groups, parent education groups, and parents' nights out.  Oh and um.....special needs centered day care.  How far is it from our house?  Here is when you know that God is looking out for you----- less than a mile!!!!  Seriously.  I had heard of it in the past, but didn't know what it was, and it burned down several years ago.  I knew that there had been many fundraisers to rebuild, I even contributed, but until one of our providers mentioned that we should look into it, I had no idea that this amazing resource was literally at our doorstep.  When Nathan turns three, he will go to a more local program for half a day, and will take a bus.  Jack will be in full day kindergarten.  Guess what?  Because Cisco Center is state certified, the bus will drop Nathan off there when he is done with his other program.  And he will be able to receive care from people with expertise while mommy is working.  This is beyond huge for us....both emotionally and financially.  The center is run by a special education teacher and his wife who is a speech pathologist.  He taught early intervention at the school where Nathan will go next spring for 30 years.  He retired and he and his wife opened this center.  The provider to child ratio is 1:2.  Sigh of relief.

I took the boys over to the center several Saturdays ago just to look around.  About 5 minutes after we arrived, I couldn't find Jack.  He was outside with Cisco's wife, and they were playing a game.  For Jack, that is amazing.  When they met him, knowing he has Asperger's, they asked him "what do you like".  They had to know what a loaded question this was right?  But they endured the 20 minute soliloquy on airplanes like champs, and seemed to know quite a bit about fighter planes.  IE, I have the feeling this is not the first time they met a kid with this much knowledge about airplanes.  They understood Nate's movements, his preferences, and his needs.  Needless to say, it was a very pleasant visit.  Kind of felt like coming home in some ways.  It feels so nice for me when the boys are understood, so I can't imagine how good it must make them feel.

I plan to send Jack to pretty much all of the camps there this summer, as well as the social skills group.  He needs it desperately.  He doesn't avoid people at's more like he doesn't know when to stop, can't sense when someone doesn't want to talk about something, doesn't get personal space, etc.  That's fine around friends and family (well, daddy and I get overwhelmed occasionally, not gonna lie), but when he is meeting new people and doesn't know that there is a different "standard" of behavior it can be a real problem.  For instance, it's all well and good for him to touch his infant brother or cousin's face, but when he goes up to a baby he has never met and expects to be able to do the same thing, it's an issue.  And telling him once, twice, a thousand times is not enough.  So we need some guidance on this issue.

I took Jack to his first soccer camp today (once again, lucky to work from home and be able to take my lunch break for this).  I had no idea what to expect.  It's not like they have a soccer field there, it's more like a back yard.  But they had a coach from soccer tots there, and apparently he runs these "clinics" for kids with special needs at multiple different locations.  There were about 5 kids in the class, and at first glance Jack was definitely the most highly functioning.  In fact, I found myself second guessing bringing him....maybe regular soccer camp would be ok.....the children had needs that varied from mild cerebral palsy to genetic issues, and then I would say the other two kids were on the spectrum.  One of them kept running away, the whole time.  And the other child was continuously throwing things (reminded me of Nate a bit).  Jack asked me to stay, and I was fine with that, was kind of curious to see what the plan was.  Jack immediately became Wall-E (one of his other subjects of interest) and would respond to nothing else but that for the entire day.  I think that most people who met him today think that is his real name.  I have to be honest, no matter how experienced the individual, it always gives me a kind of wicked pleasure to watch a new professional try to adapt to Jack's dialogue and hyperfocus.  This coach was great....but he could not refer to Jack's feet as feet, he had to call them caterpillars.  Not once, but every single time he told him to kick the ball.  Freaking hilarious.  He made the mistake of doing a Barney impression for the kids at the beginning, and now Jack insists he speak in that voice ALL THE TIME (just shoot me). So when we finally got started I was shocked at Jack's lack of attention to the whole situation.  He really had a hard time listening, I literally had to take his foot and move it to the ball to get him to kick it.  Don't get me wrong, he knows how to kick a ball, this is just another example of him freezing in an unfamiliar situation.  Instead of going after the ball, he went up to each kid and did his Wall-E impression.  Luckily, this was not viewed as odd in this scenario.  Although.....Coach Ed was definitely full up on this after awhile, as evidenced by his insistence that Jack try to "swallow a bubble" and hold it in his mouth (ie, not talk).  Haha.  Then coach Ed shot himself in the foot again....referred to the round portable soccer goals as blueberries and the soccer balls as marshmallows.  He will NEVER be able to call them anything else ever again in Jack's presence.  Hope he knows that.  Probably my favorite part of the "camp" was when my son told everyone that he would show them how Wall-E compacts trash and proceeded to put soccer balls under his shirt and "bear down" in order to "compact" them.  Hilarious! So next week, daddy is taking him.....hoping that this was just an adjustment thing and he will have his "game face" on.  


  1. Social skills is definitely important for individuals on the autism spectrum to work on. I got an intense dose of it through my journey of being an OT. I came to OT school with so-so social skills at best. But since then, I have seen results- through the fact that I was motivated to improve on the areas I am weak at and with support from my classmates and peers I have been meeting out of state. If you challenge him a little bit each time (but not losing his motivation or enthusiasm for the social activity), you are doing good.

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