Last night the middle school Daniel will attend next year had an "Activity Night" for 6th graders. I appreciate the opportunity for Daniel to spend any time with his peers while acclimating himself to what will be his new surroundings. I did not volunteer to "chaperon" even though I knew I'd be staying, just in case a quick exit was needed. Most parents just drop their kids off and peel away from the curb, thankful for an hour and a half of time knowing their tweens are in a school building being watched by other parents. I don't blame them. When it's Zachary's turn, I'll be doing the same thing. This time around though, I'll be "chaperon" in my own way. I discussed this in a post several months ago when Daniel attended a birthday party.
I had emailed the middle school social worker last Tuesday asking for a run down of what would be happening at "activity night" so that I could prep Daniel of what to expect. He had just had a fairly negative experience at his current school with a party that was supposed to be a reward for him and his fellow students who received a 3 or a 4 for citizenship on their report cards. I'll digress and explain that.
The kids who earned this reward had elected to have a party at school, watching a movie, having snacks, music etc. I had for this also, asked for information over and over only to keep getting told it was because of his excellent citizenship. I KNOW THAT! BUT WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING EXACTLY? HOW WILL YOU PREP HIM? I was very distracted that week as I was at a seminar for two full days and my 9 year old had decided that it was a perfect time to put on a magic show for our entire neighborhood, (yes really) needless to say, I was busy prepping for THAT. (and no I was not the assistant dressed in a sparkly onesie!) My husband went to pick Daniel up at "The citizenship party" at the appointed time only to find him in the hallway, red in the face and blotchy (his sure sign of being upset). I was not a happy mama. I emailed the teachers to ask what happened, "it was loud", "desks were moved out of the way, which upset him" etc etc. When my response was that if someone would have answered me and wrote out a quick social story to prep him for what was to be expected it may have alleviated the things that were upsetting him, and maybe we should keep that in mind for the end of the year craziness. I got a "good point". These teachers really know their business but in this case, they dropped the ball, probably for some of the reasons that I did. We all see the finish line of the year and just want to get through it.
I didn't want that ball to be dropped again so once I also refocused I sent out the questions to the middle school about activity night. Days went by with NO ANSWER. Finally at 3:30 on Friday (it started at 6:30) I got a phone call. I asked if there was swimming (nope) we went over several other things and I could at least tell Daniel about it.
We arrived closer to 7:00 and the first thing we saw as we paid to get in was the door open to the pool filled with kids. . . swimming. Strike one. Daniel says,"I don't have my bathing suit?" very longingly. If there is something you need to be prepared for it's swimming, right? Using Tanya's (from Teen autism) attitude I decided that it was probably better that I "forgot" to bring Daniel's suit, because he is wheezy and generally miserable from the pollen and springtime beauty and it now seems to have turned into an infection. We looked in the gym, thanks but no thanks, that's no place for a child on the spectrum. As we were walking the sounds of music were pulling us down the hall to the lunch room. There was a DJ and kids were dancing and having fun. This is where we spent the rest of our time. I know a lot of kids on the autism spectrum would have sat there with their hands over their ears, but not Daniel. That kid LOVES music and like a lot of tweens, the louder the better.
Daniel had a piece of pizza, I chatted with some of the moms who were on actual chaperon duty. One of these parents is a teacher in an AI room (autistic impaired) in a neighboring school district. Not surprisingly her daughter is a huge advocate for Daniel and always has been. When this parent saw Daniel out on the dance floor with his peers having FUN her excitement was undeniable. Between the two of us the ideas started flying for what the Elfs group (East Lansing friends of something?? I can't remember what the acronym stands for, these schools have so many darn acronyms!!) but it is a group of kids that are like a Links program (again!) they do activities with kids on the spectrum and Link them to their peers with social activities and in the classroom. We talked of the kids teaching dances like the Electric slide so that they can all do it together at activity nights. Wouldn't that be fun for everyone? I told her of my suggestion to the social worker last year that the kids talk about what's on their IPod in his friends group so he could bring a list home. Then we listened to the songs and put the ones Daniel wanted on his Ipod. It's about bringing them together so they have things in common. Bridging the gap. We both got so excited she wanted to start emailing people right then. It was awesome. During this conversation Daniel was dancing and having fun, which today he says was his favorite part of the night. And ya know what? None of it would have happened if he'd gotten in that pool to do what he always does and swam the whole time. Things do happen for a reason. It's about taking a situation, making the best out of it. If everything went perfect we'd never learn anything.
When we were leaving the school Daniel said, "I can't wait to go to MacDonald middle school next year". Now that's what it's all about.
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