And Pinocchio arrives

Yesterday we had a first: Little Miss invited a friend to come play for the day.

For those of you out there with the average 10-year-old girl, this is probably not a big thing. For those of us with a language-inhibited autistic child, it’s monumental. We watched over every part of the day like scientists at The Great Experiment, ready to tweak and readjust as necessary.

Some hands-on moments were necessary, as Little Miss’s friend is in her AS class, and neither of them really have the social skills just yet to handle a full one-on-one day. The friend, bless her, is on the Aspie end of the spectrum and talks almost non-stop. So between the two, that worked out fairly well.  Note to self: some structure and planning go a long way toward improving these visits.

With occasional prompts about being kind to your guest, and reminding the friend to ask Little Miss if she needed help with some of the projects, they went along fine; a mid-day visit to the playground and McDonald’s helped break it up. They even squealed over getting the KidsBop music CD in their lunches and had to listen and sing along on the way home– surprising to me because Little Miss had previously had her heart set on a mini Build-a-Bear. Wow.

By day’s end, the friend was ready to come back tomorrow again and stay. Little Miss was just about overwhelmed and left the dinner table to go spin for twenty minutes. An epsom salts and lavender bath went a long way toward restoring her equilibrium. I asked whether she had a good time and wanted her friend to come another time, or if it was too much. She thought about it a minute, and said she wanted her to come another time.

All in all, a wonderful experiment, and another step toward making Little Miss into a “real girl.”  Not that we’re unhappy with the girl we have–far from it–but every once in awhile we do wish that all our kids could be a little more like their peers, able to experience what other kids do.

On the other hand, for two ten-year-old girls to spend a whole day without a mention of boys, clothes brands or not saying one snippy thing about anyone or anything? Priceless.

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…

Running out of time

How does it happen, every year? Summer starts when the kids get out of school and you have this huge vista before you, all the things you’re going to accomplish, both educational and just-for-fun, and the next day comes, and the next–and suddenly it’s August already and almost back to school! How does that happen?!

Not that we haven’t done anything. All three kids have dutifully gone off to camp daily since the second week in June (with its three-hour round trip driving), until the annual visit to Memaw’s house. We’ve had picnics, and put up the inflatable pool (okay, so it’s a little green at the moment from disuse, but it’ll get better next week after camp. And some algae stuff.). We’ve visited family and friends within a reasonable radius (Hey, Jen and Seb!), had a blast at motel pools on the way, hit the Erie zoo, we’ve seen movies and plays.

So now we hit the stretch and all those things we were going to do this summer to get everyone ready for school are sitting at the top of the downhill slide. Little Miss has a stack of papers her teacher sent home, as well as learning a typing program so she doesn’t have to face so much handwriting as she enters fourth grade. Ditto Boy is going to spend days with his dad learning how to do household things–hanging drywall, repairing broken items, changing the car’s oil–all designed to help with his self-esteem and self-confidence.

The Captain — well. Seventh grade. The Cabana Boy has a program of computer learning ready for him, and we’ve finally decided to put a computer in his room with Internet access (appropriately limited) so his thirst for trivia can be fed and maybe he’ll just learn something. Plus, he’ll have access to online communities of peers who may be easier to communicate with, less ready to judge. Over the last ten years, my closest friends have been those I’ve met online, not in real life; maybe that’s not such a bad way to go.

There are still movies we want to see, places to visit. Our museum membership in Pittsburgh gets us into half a dozen places free, and we want to take the kids downtown to gaze up in awe at the crystal palaces of the business world. Two major Irish festivals remain, featuring Gaelic Storm, who delights us all. We’re not quite ready for Cedar Point or King’s Island, but we might try Waldameer. Still haven’t made it to the beach. Or the park. Or the library. But we’re gonna! Sometime! Maybe about midnight on a Wednesday in a couple of weeks! Hurry up! Time’s a-wastin!

***

If you have any time left this summer, come visit the Parents Helping Parents Carnival, where there’s a lot of good advice and funny stories about the parenting life, and gain some perspective at the Carnival of Work-Life Balance.

Can I buy a clue, Alex?

I always find the posts fascinating where people analyze how folks wandering the InterWebs find their blog. Like my friend over at Odd One Out, , with her somewhat unfortunate but benificent discussion of slug genitals, it’s hard to believe what gets people to this page.

Most voyages are fairly explicable. Many people ended up here searching the name of Ann DeWalt, my sweet little old lady who kicked the obnoxious Iraq vet in the kiester. ‘Peas and carrots,’ too is popular, though I’m not sure people have my post on children and disaster in mind when they look for it. “The real meaning of success,” too, as well as a multitude of varieties of “tattoo.”

The one today, though, really took me aback: “i’m a tss how do i deal with aspergers?”

Oh man. Some family is in serious trouble.

Having worked through several different agencies since we first got a diagnosis, I surely know that different agencies provide different levels of training for their staff. Our first didn’t have much. This latest one is more of a specialist agency in autism. But if new TSS are getting their training by a google search on the ‘Net? Whoo boy.

On the other hand, I have to admit, us moms and adult Aspie types are sharing a lot of information about what works and what doesn’t. Maybe that’s what a TSS needs to hear. Each of these kids is so different that training that’s a one size fits all may not cut it. I hope so anyway. I hope he or she found somethng that will help them help their assigned child.

I hope it’s not my kid’s TSS. Because I don’t have much more clue than that myself.

It’s how you play the game

Saturday night, our family went bowling.

Unremarkable, I’m sure in hundreds of towns across the country. Heck, maybe even around the world. We did go after 9:00, which is normally bedtime, so it was unusual for us. At that time of day, the bowling alley hosts “extreme bowling,” a sensual feast of rock music, flashing disco lights in the dark, with horrendous bright day-glo planets pasted everywhere. Probably 200 men, women and children were in the building, laughing, yelling, drinking, smoking and bowling.

I explained to the harried woman at the desk that we had special children and convinced her to put up the gutter barriers. (I was hoping at least that way I could break 100. The kids are fine.) Everyone got their shoes and proceeded into the madness.

Little Miss got to be first. I’m observing her carefully this whole time, because three years ago in a scene like this, she would have been under the chairs in a fetal position, hands tight on her ears. I know, because she did this at the Disney race car special effects show. Other parents stared. She peeked out every once in awhile to check the action, but she was fine there. No meltdown, no tears, just pained tolerance for her silly NT family.

Saturday, though, she thrilled to toss her ball down the lane, jumped up and down when she scored, came back, smiling, to high-five everyone, and insisted between turns that both Papa and I dance to the music with her. She paid attention to her brothers’ efforts and applauded them, high-fived them as well. When I tried to sneak in a math lesson, asking her who had the biggest score, she just gave me a look like “It’s so not a school day.”

Captain O., of course was strutting his Aspielicious self, interrupting most attempts by others to bowl with, “Did you see MY score?” But he had a good time. I tried to show him the somewhat proper form for walking to release the ball–he preferred a stutter step to the edge of the lane and the dropped bomb that crashes onto the wood. Oddly he scored higher like that. Good enough for me.

Ditto Boy is such a drama queen! He would get his ball, back up to the edge and run some 20 baby steps to the edge of the lane to fling the ball with enough force, I swear he should have been propelled halfway down the lane with it. I could see my husband wincing as he thought the same thing. After releasing the ball, D.B. would skitter back and watch, then prostrate himself in agony or spring up and down in glee, depending. Where’s those ABC Sports guys when you need them?

But he did roll three strikes in a row. Awesome. We’ve got to keep an eye on that boy.

All in all, a satisfying outing, followed with ice cream sundaes at Perkins. Watching them interacting like any other batch of siblings in the place, I considered my pathetic bowling score, still lower than everyone else’s. But, somehow, I feel like I won.

***

Writers, don’t forget to head over to the Rhythm of Write blog carnival for advice on a number of topics!