Monday, November 1, 2010
Seasons Come and Seasons Go
It is difficult to describe the feeling I had just then, and have had time and time again over the years as I endeavor to open my child's linear mind and expand his interests...it's just not a fun feeling. It is an uncomfortable place to be as a parent. That place where you watch your child and yourself time and time again, try and give up, try and give up, try and give up, try and fail, and finally, in the end just not try at all. No resilience. This is the hallmark of an autism spectrum child. They simply cannot handle the slightest pressure, failure, or demand. It is a downward spiralling pattern that I caught a glimpse of at the bowling alley as my husband and I repeatedly watched our son throw the bowling ball over his head down the lane in defiance. This because we had tried to coach him to use the great 5 finger hole training ball that the coach had brought over for him at our request. He was in effect saying "f - u, I will not be bossed around or coached, I am doing this on my terms." Sigh.
The previous weekend, which was the first time he bowled in the league, he had done a fabulous job, scoring over 100 and taking turns nicely with an older boy he shared the lane with. He had been high fiving his coach and doing a bit too shamelessly his victory dance with each strike or spare that he bowled. I thought, wow, what a great confidence builder, hooray, perhaps we have found his niche. As I chatted away with the League organiser, a mom whose daughter competes and wins scholarship money in bowling, I pictured our family travelling to Los Angeles and Vegas for meets with Finney. I thought about buying him his own bowling ball for his upcoming birthday. I pictured him hanging out with other junior leaguers like the 14 yr olds that were competing a few lanes over. I thought, this ain't all that bad, this bowling thing. At least if I can't hang out with the soccer moms on Saturdays, I can have a beer and slice of pizza while I watch. And they won't ask me to volunteer coach or referee :)
Then today. Oh well, I thought. Seasons come and seasons go. First there was the Gymboree class at age 9 months. Why won't he stay in the circle and listen to the clown singing and telling stories? I thought. Instead he would just crawl away and roll balls around the room incessantly.
Then there was My Gym. Why is he freaking out whenever another child touches him? Why does he hate the ballpit? Why won't he clap his hands along wiht everyone else? When I realized that I could no longer take him there, shortly thereafter his pediatrician mentioned the "A" word.
So, eventually we try Kindermusik. Probably our best run at an enrichment activity, thanks to the very easygoing teacher and the free environment. I recommend Kindermusik for any child with special needs. It is structured, but there is a lot of freedom within that if your child is not a rule follower. Sadly, it was at the point where Finbar could most benefit from this program, that is, when he went to the classes on his own, that his behavior was not conducive to a productive learning session at Kindermusik. So Kindermusik too came and went.
After another failed stint at My Gym, I gave up on extracurriculars for about a year. Finally earlier this year we tried Karate. The coach was so so so very understanding and just a great coach. But Karate is no nonsense. The Sensei has the authority. After Finbar's first lesson the coach, who had forgotten that Finbar had autism, said to me, "Is he in Kindergarten yet?" "No" I replied. "Good", he said, "because he needs to learn how to listen to authority before he goes to Kindergarten. This will be really helpful for him in that way." "Great", I thought, "can't wait for you to teach him to do THAT." 4 weeks later he sent my first month's tuition check back with a note in the memo line "we tried". Yes, we tried. And failed. AGAIN. Perhaps if I sell his uniform and karate DVD on ebay for a few bucks I will feel better.
After Karate, we lucked out a bit. After the book "Horse Boy" came out, I decided to get Finbar into riding lessons. A therapist's mother agreed to give Finbar lessons. He stuck with this for about 6 months, but did take a break at one point. We had to quit after his lesson horse died. I am currently looking for a therapeutic program for him to join. He has asked to do lessons again. Fingers crossed.
In spring, I tried to coax Finbar into doing an adaptive baseball little league. It is a fabulously run non-competitive program. They get uniforms too. He would have nothing to do with it. "I don't want to try it, I can't hit a baseball." He, like many other nerdy kids is not sporty and coordinated.
I signed him up for one art camp over the summer. Taking a big risk to have him go it alone. It was just 3 hours a day for a week and the theme was outerspace and planets, so I figure he would be motivated. He did fine apparently. I continue to try and find an art program that would suit him, one that has an understanding teacher and less than 10 kids.
It is soccer season now. Well, let's just say "fugghedaboudid".
Another program he started last winter was a Wilderness Youth Program. 3 hours a week of outdoor exploration at local beaches, deltas, reservoirs, parks and such. At first he LOVED it. I thought Eureka, this is IT. He thrives in the outdoors. Fast forward 6 months and he is being teased and bullied and quits. I can't blame him for wanting to quit. Guess that wasn't IT.
Last week, I found a new program in town that was offered an Engineering with Legos camp. The owner has a son with Aspergers and was very very encouraging. She offered to be at the class while the teacher led it. Even said there was no need to have Finbar go with an aide. I hung tight, bit my tongue, crossed my fingers, said Hail Mary's, "Please God, please please please let him enjoy this and do well." I was not hopeful as I left Finbar in the class, hurling insults at a boy who had started playing with a Lego thing that he wanted. But I left and had my husband pick him up, so unable was I to take the bad news. Yes, Bill confirmed. Not good. Pushing and shoving other kids. General rude behavior. I am still waiting for the owner to call me back and let me know if he can return. I am not sure he should. Seasons come and go. Sigh.
And so here we are. Zodo's Bowling and Beyond Youth League. We survived the second day and will go back for a third round. I did learn one thing. I cannot coach my son (yikes, I AM bossy). I am OK with that. I think he is MORE than OK with that. If bowling doesn't stick, I am not sure what to do....I suppose there is violin, piano, gymnastics....I try to tell myself that Bill Gates and Michael Dell probably did not have many other interests outside of computers. Wish I could find him a web design class...