Wednesday Afternoon

0831l_l3special On Wednesday afternoons, I drop off Jonah at my folks' house with his backpack of homework. Then Ian and I go to the middle school gym for a recreation program for kids with special needs.

We signed up for the class, because Ian needed an afterschool program where he could socialize and get exercise. He doesn't have the attention span or the upper body strength for a traditional sports program, so we had to go the special ed route. Besides, boys' sports programs are dominated by the Crazy Sports Dads Who Think Their Kids Are Going To Play For The Mets. Those dads wouldn't be able to deal with my spacy boy.

However, this recreation class isn't quite right for Ian. Most of the kids are very low functioning, so there are no opportunities for socialization. Also, there are too many random noises and shouts going on. Ian can't sort through all those noises to find out what he's supposed to do. He clings to me nervously and I whisper in his ear what to do. 

We haven't dropped out of the class yet, though. The teachers, parents and nannies are the sweetest people. The kids are awesome. Each kid is kind of randomly doing their own thing. It chaotic and crazy and that amuses me. Adding to the craziness yesterday were twin five year old boys with Down Syndrome. They just ran around in circles and hugged people. The teacher has some general ideas of how the class should go, but with all those kids doing random things, you just can't expect to keep to a plan.

I should probably look for a different class for Ian, but I like it. It's a relief from the world of the perfect and the straight and the order.

Related, Michael Bérubé unleashes his fury at those who try to cure people with disabilities.

Read about this sweet hotel manager, also in my parents' town, who has a room just for families with an autistic child.


15 thoughts on “Wednesday Afternoon

  1. There are several children with autism in my children’s Aikido class, and it seems to work quite well. The teacher is very focused and strict (keeping the room quiet and in control). She also has experience as a special needs worker (in her work life). Aikido (unlike sports like soccer or basketball) and even other martial arts, seems to be less crazy, to me, as well.
    This particular class also seems to work because of the teacher’s experience in special needs (outside of the Aikido class), but I’ve been generally impressed with the needs it’s serving (across a fairly large spectrum of ability).


  2. Soph’s dance studio has a girl who seems to have some kind of ASD. I’m not sure if she’s in one of the companies (competition groups) though.
    I’m in a brief lull in the middle of a tough week. E has Cub Scouts later (have you considered that for Ian?) and tomorrow we have our first meeting of the Lego Club, which I am running as part of the school’s After-School program. I have no idea what I’m doing other than that I wanted E to be in a Lego Club, and it looked like I was the only one to do it. However, it has been wildly popular and everyone is totally surprised and caught off-guard. I think it’s hilarious, because who doesn’t love Legos? I mean, besides me? Oh, irony of ironies. 🙂


  3. “I have no idea what I’m doing other than that I wanted E to be in a Lego Club, and it looked like I was the only one to do it. However, it has been wildly popular and everyone is totally surprised and caught off-guard. I think it’s hilarious, because who doesn’t love Legos? I mean, besides me? Oh, irony of ironies. :)”
    I’m actually similar about board games. I like the fact that C likes board games, I like the fact that her dad plays them with her, but part of the reason that I started a board game club at her school was to avoid playing board games myself.


  4. I was going to suggest martial arts–but I don’t know how much interaction there is. And the second suggestion would be a children’s bowling league (I don’t know about the noise level, which sometimes is problematic at bowling alleys); it would be good for upper body strength.


  5. “I was going to suggest martial arts–but I don’t know how much interaction there is. ”
    Well, according to my son’s teacher, a little bit too much :-). My son was getting a short lecture on modeling good behavior (i.e. what is good “leadership”) for the other boys and not talking too much when I last picked him up.
    We explored a few different martial arts studios, and the others were too violent and loud for me (not so much for my kids, who kind of liked them). This environment, though I quite recommend,for both my neurotypical kids (one of which is more coordinated than the other) and what I’ve seen of the other kids in the class, including the children with special needs.


  6. The son of a friend of mine is rather seriously autistic. I’ve taken care of him a lot, sometimes regularly, over the years. I suspect he’s rather more serious a case than is Ian, but he really likes bowling (though he does get frustrated if he gets too many gutter balls) and swimming. He also likes riding an exercise bike while watching movies and has lost something like 40 pounds by doing that and changing his diet. I have no idea if any of those would be plausible, but I thought I’d suggest them.


  7. The darling daughter (neurotypical)is a 2nd degree black belt in a particular martial arts discipline, and therefore is required to teach as…well I suppose an unpaid intern (part of the black belt requirements). Her dojo/studio/place of study has programs for the preschool set & the elementary school set.
    There are a number of kiddos both in the preschool classes & the elementary-age classes who appear to have issues. For example, at least one kid in a class she co-teaches wears hearing protectors (earmuffs) for part of the class.
    I don’t think there’s a given martial arts discipline that is appropriate — the deciding factor is the tenor of the individual school, and the willingness of the school director to meet the individual kid’s needs to be successful in the program.
    One of the reasons I endorse endorse martial arts for kids with physical & cognitive issues is that it is quadrilateral — meaning the child has to use all four limbs equally, and the forms require a slow development of co-ordination. But it isn’t physical therapy or occupational therapy — the kid is progressing along with his classmates.
    What I’d suggest is that in your (hah!) copious spare time, you visit some of the martial arts studios, look to see if there are any quirky kids in the program, and proceed as you see fit.


  8. Thanks for the suggestions, everyone.
    I’m not entirely sure that Ian would enjoy martial arts. Jonah found it really boring. Both kids just want to run around and kick balls and stuff. I’ve signed up Ian for another special ed basketball class on Saturdays, which I think will be more his speed. When that’s done, we might do private swim classes for the exercise and art classes for the socialization. We’re also thinking about sending him to a regular camp with an aide/shadow this year, instead of special ed summer school. He certainly doesn’t need any help with academics. I just want him to play in the sun with other kids. It’s going to cost us a fortune, but I don’t care. I just hope the old car lasts another year.


  9. Looking forward to what you find — I worry about this issue in a different way as a non-athlete who wants to make sure that her daughter (who shows now propensities to being athletic herself) still gets the benefits that organized sports activities provide.
    As you mention, the sports world can become crazy pretty quickly, so finding opportunities for the non-superstars (including some children with special needs) requires thoughtful planning. I’m guessing that what you’re looking for for Ian is a kind of laid back sports league, which is what I’m also looking for for my kid. The problem is that sports seems to become bifurcated, providing no opportunities for the average among us.


  10. Soph told me that though R, the girl who seems to have an ASD, is in her class and will perform at the recital, she does not plan to be in competition. So she is getting the opportunity and the socialization.
    Btw, though there is a competition element to my daughter’s dance studio, that doesn’t mean they’re very good. I say that with love. 🙂 It’s a laid-back studio atmosphere.


  11. Laura, will he not run around if he’s just on the playground? L went to a regular daycare-run summer program with a loose structure this last summer and did pretty well, even made some friends. It was mixed ages of school-age kids up to maybe 6th grade. She didn’t have an aide.


  12. Yeah, he loves just running around on a playground. I think we found a great place for him this summer, which has more arts than organized sports. Jonah’s camp would be too sports-intense for him. We might only need an aide for the first week or so, until he learned the ropes. He might not hear instructions given to a big group or might have trouble telling a counselor what he needed at first.


  13. You might not want to get them exercising too much. I was watching a documentary about New Jersey and apparently if you get your abs in really good shape, you have to give them a nickname.


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