Posts Tagged ‘impaired’

A circle of friends

Because we have three children who need a great deal of attention and we both exhibit serious introverted/ hermit proclivities, the Cabana Boy and I are probably terrible examples of one of the skills our children need to learn: how to make close friends.

Now that Captain Oblivious is off to junior high, we are of course probably uber-focused on his social life, trying to ward off an assortment of bad things. Junior high is all about social, you know? The one thing he likes–musicals–is not something that young men are usually focused on at that age. At least not the kind that go to his school.

So the MIL suggests a program called Circle of Friends, where the guidance counselor can actually create people who the Captain can depend on at school. The Intro explains:

The Circle of Friends is not a mere social skills group; it goes beyond that to a more specific focus, developing friendships and providing a quality education for a child with special needs, one that includes learning about social skills through peer relationships and direct instruction. A regularly scheduled Circle of Friends group will help a child in need of social skills develop an idea of what friendship can be about.

But somehow this sounds familiar…why is that?  Oh yeah. This is the reason that the school system wouldn’t transfer the Captain to his home school for sixth grade when we wanted him to be out of his “special” school for a year before junior high so he was better prepared. They said that if he stayed at the school where he’d been for four years, that these people would be friends that would help him transition into the junior high. They specially invited these kids to have lunch with the Captain each week one-on-one to get to know him. This was supposed to create those wonderful bonds.

Well, we saw a number of these ‘friends’ over the summer and at school orientation. The Captain would greet them with enthusiasm and they’d roll their eyes, or worse just walk by and make a comment to whoever they were with. Some friends. He’s even come clean now with reports that some of these ‘friends’ have threatened him if he speaks to them in front of anyone else.

Maybe the concept of peer mentors isn’t a bad one.  This story using the program has kids fighting over themselves to be the child’s friends.  Wouldn’t that be great?  But I can’t see it as realistic.

So we consider home school at the same time we acknowledge it will likely damage his social abilities even farther not to be forced to deal with other children his age for five days a week. It’s so ironic that Little Miss was always more severely impaired, with her dx of classic autism, but she’s come so much farther on the social scale than the Aspie.  We’re open to suggestions. Fire away…

On the other hand…

Little Miss remembered all week it was her birthday today; anticipating it, as well as the activities that might happen. (First time.)

She remembered and could articulate the story of her birthday last year, when we went to Perkins and they brought her a brownie with a candle and sang to her– the first year she could tolerate that kind of noise. She remembers her brother’s birthday is next week, and reminded him; two years ago she couldn’t follow a calendar.

At the ripe old age of 9, she decided after reading a magazine ad, that she would like to go to Build-a-Bear; she wanted the High School Musical bear that just came out. (How age-appropriate is that?!) She reminded me that after you buy the bear you can go to and play games. She even cut out the coupon in the magazine to save five bucks.

We went to the mall and got exactly what she wanted. She waited patiently in line and chatted amiably with some toddlers while waiting, even with the noise of the fluffer fan right in her ear. She chose exactly the outfit she wanted and didn’t make a spectacle in the store, running here and there. She spoke up and answered the sales people’s questions and typed the information for her own bear’s birth certificate. (It was all new to me–never did the Build A Bear thing).

After we left there, we went to see if Burlington had school clothes on clearance yet–they didn’t– but she prowled through the jewelry, calling my attention to pretty pieces and then helped me search through the purses to see if they had an organizer style. We found her a little halter dress and sequined sandals marked down, and she looked fabulous! She walked up and down the terrazzo like the models we’d watched on Project Runway last week.

When we found out the restaurant we went to had discontinued the birthday dessert surprise they had last year, there were no tears, no meltdown, and she patiently waited for us to pick up a cake on the way home. As her brothers each picked out a book at Borders, she accepted my explanation that she already had a whole load of new things and didn’t need a book too. No tears.

All the way home she chattered about assorted topics, this girl who doesn’t talk. We learned about the phases of the moon, the songs on the CD player, all about her bear…and even how they make chocolate milk. “They take the cows, and give them chocolate syrup. Then the cows shake themselves all up, and then everyone is happy, like chocolate milk.”

So it was an evening, other than a few language hitches, that she could have passed for neurotypical. Her emotional development seems to be in an expansive period. She had a great birthday, the more so because she remembers her past and can anticipate her future at last. She has a bear to cuddle and more memories to cherish. All I have to do is dwell less on the negative and more on the positive– and we’re all happy…like chocolate milk.