Tate’s play date went about as expected yesterday. We got there first, and all three of my boys bee-lined for the swings. Jake helped Cole, and Tate managed to scramble up on his own. Our ABA therapist pushed Tate once, and then told him he had to do the rest. We were there for about five minutes before Tate’s friend arrived. Upon his friend’s arrival, our therapist stopped Tate’s swing and coached him on a greeting.
Tate got off of his swing, walked up to his friend, and said, “Hey ___, want to go on the swings?” Tate’s friend looked a little groggy–like he’d fallen asleep in the car. He was very shy, and was hiding behind his mom. He shrugged, and with a little prodding from his mom, he joined Tate by the swings. The boys started to swing, and the therapist and I prompted Tate to start a conversation. Tate followed our prompts and initiated the talking. His friend, who was still acting a little shy, was giving one word answers. (While a part of me was relieved that my children aren’t the only ones who struggle with “forced” conversation, the other part was like, “Oh, come on now! Say something to get Tate involved!!”)
The boys moved about the park. Tate’s friend initiated two interactions of play, just two, in the entire 65 minutes that they “played”. We prompted Tate to initiate some others. Most of the choices allowed for back-and-forth and good interaction. There was one, though, that backfired. The boys made a decision to climb atop a structure. Jake had just done the same thing. So did another boy about Jake’s age. Tate went first and got stuck. He managed to get himself to the top, looked down, panicked, and couldn’t motor plan the descent. His therapist and I talked him through it. The therapist tried to get his friend to give Tate a few directions, but Tate’s friend was too shy. His mom tried to help him engage, but it was clear that it was very difficult. So, the therapist and I got Tate down after about 5 minutes.
Exhausted from that experience, Tate tried to get his friend to chase him. That worked for a bit, and then morphed into a game of hide and seek among the structures. Tate hid in a slide. His friend hid in a tube. They giggled and chased each other. That interaction gave me a lot of hope. It showed me that Tate has the interest. He has the ability to initiate and interact and play with his peers. He just needs a little push.
Tate asked his friend if he wanted to kick around the soccer ball, with a little prompting from our therapist. Tate handed his friend the ball. His friend said he didn’t want to play soccer because he was wearing flip-flops. Tate stared at his friend for a few moments, processing the information. His friend waited for him to process, which was nice to see. Tate then, on his own, asked if he wanted to go back on the swings. So back they went, swinging to and fro.
The play date wasn’t perfect. It was choppy, heavily prompted, and stressful for both boys. However, it went well enough, and Tate was enjoying himself. He didn’t mind that his friend wasn’t overly chatty yesterday. He just liked that his friend came to the park to play with him. He was very excited about that. I have to put that one in the win column. Tate even asked if he could go to the park to see his friend last night at dinner. (Luckily, we have a play date with a different peer set up for next week!)
Tate had fun. And that’s what is important. And I can breathe easily again…until Monday, when our next play date is scheduled!!