A family's story

Posts tagged ‘Social Skills’

That was…hard.

We woke up to a dreary, damp day. Considering that a significant portion of our spring and summer have bestowed upon us above-average sunshine, this is an anomaly for us.  Jake woke up “on the wrong side of the bed”. The weather was mirroring his mood. He was much more quiet and subdued this morning. He kept pestering Hubz about leaving for work. He kept asking me what our plan was for the day. He didn’t like my answer: first, breakfast, then Tate has therapy, then L and his brother are coming for a play date, then chill time, then tutoring with Ms. Tutor. Are you sure that’s what we’re doing today?! Yes, I was sure.

Jake avoided me for much of the  morning. When he would talk to me, he’d ask, again, what I had planned for the day. I reiterated our plans. He wasn’t impressed. Our play date was scheduled for 10 am. I scheduled this play date with L, and his brother, E, a while back. L and Jake were in the same class for second grade. L has some developmental delays, and he and Jake went to speech together last year. They had a few play dates..and keep up well with each other. E is typically developing. He went to a different school for kindergarten, but will be new to the school this year for first grade. I figured that we could have Tate’s therapist facilitate the play date with Tate and E, and L and Jake could play. I had been telling the boys about the play date since last week, to get them prepared.

10:00 arrived, as did our play mates. Jake refused, REFUSED to move off of the couch. Tate was in the basement with his therapist. I came to the door to greet our guests. L and E bounced into the house. L immediately asked where Jake was. I told him, and off he went. E followed his brother. I called downstairs to Tate and his therapist, and they came up, too. This is where things went to crap.

Jake came into the kitchen and asked to play with my phone. I said no. He slunk back into the family room and watched tv while L and E and Tate played with Legos. Cole bounced between all of the older boys. I invited Jake to play Legos. He refused, rolling over on the couch to hide his face. I turned off the tv. Jake ran into the living room and began to have a complete, no-holds-barred tantrum. I was momentarily gobsmacked. (I threw that into this post as a homage to the conclusion of the Olympics…London, we’ll miss thee…)

I gathered myself and asked Jake to explain what the issue was. He couldn’t. He just kept tearing up and then shutting down. He was flailing, on the couch, and throwing things. I told him it was time to go to his room for some quiet time, mainly because I didn’t think he needed to be having his meltdown publicly. He stomped up the stairs. L made his way up to Jake’s room and was talking to him. Jake just laid on the bed, face down, and pounded the mattress, without even addressing his friend. I was mortified. I told Jake he had to at least acknowledge his friend. He muttered, “L, please leave me alone.” and rolled over. I asked L to come back downstairs to play.

So, E, L, and Tate played with Legos and shared our Nintendo DS while Jake calmed down upstairs. It took Jake about 7 more minutes to come back to us. Even then, he would momentarily disappear to other rooms. Thankfully, L & E’s mom is accustomed to social deficits and meltdowns. She didn’t take offense. Neither did her children, for which I am ever grateful. I am just absolutely beside myself. Jake has difficulty in social situations, I get that, but I had prepped him for this. I had talked about it. I gave some suggestions for activities. He has played with L before. He knows L. None of my usual prep worked, though, as Jake clearly was unable to handle this routine change today.

I imagine that the anxiety of back to school isn’t helping. I know that the reality of the tensions and social frustrations and difficulties with subject matter are surfacing. I know Jake wants this unstructured, I-can-escape-in-my-game-and/or-tv-show to continue forever.  It’s all perception, I guess. To me, this was supposed to be enjoyable. An opportunity to have some fun with a friend. Instead, it caused Jake an incredible amount of stress and angst.

In the end, Jake and L bonded over a game on our tablet. Jake allowed L to “drive” and preferred to just watch and narrate…but they were connecting and interacting. L’s mom and I sighed in relief…we both want the boys to connect. To have another friend. To know they aren’t alone on that first day of third grade.

Sometimes it is so hard…because wishing it so doesn’t mean it will be so. For some of us with neurodiverse families, there is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears behind those moments of friendship, connection and play time.

A Little Push

Yesterday was rough. Like throwing-in-the-towel-on-parenting rough. Cole had tested me all. Day. Long. He ran into parking lots. He didn’t listen. He laughed at me. He lost privileges. He sat in time out. I wanted to cry.

My nerves were shot. My patience gone. It all came to an ugly head at the park last night… where an entire U9 team of boys and some of their parents saw me lose it. Not pretty. Not pretty at all.

I am ever grateful to Hubz, who swooped in, grabbed the offender (Cole), and while chuckling a bit, told me to go play with Tate while he took Cole home for insubordination. (Hubz reminded me, using logical arguments was not going to work with a 2 year-old. Which I knew, but I was not in a happy place.)

So, they left, and Tate asked to be pushed on the swing. I obliged, trying to clear my head of the ridiculousness that had just occurred. We were chatting a bit when a boy about his size came over and sat on the swing next to him. He actually asked Tate if he could swing there. Without looking at the boy, Tate said sure.

I pushed Tate again, and then stepped away to watch Jake. In those moments, something amazing happened. Tate interacted with the boy on the swing. Awkwardly, but appropriately.
“What’s your name?”
“I, Tate.”
“Tate, pump like this….out, in, out, in…”
“Yeah. I need a push, Mom.”

I walked back. I asked the little boy his name. “Z” I told Tate he could have one push, but then he should pump (he can do it) like Z.
“Can I have underdog underwear push, please?”
“You got it.”
“Wheeeeeee!”
“Um, Tate’s mom, I wish I could have an underdog push.”

I gave Z a big underdog, and then watched as he encouraged Tate to pump. And then it happened…..upon Z’s urging, Tate started pumping! Ohmygoshitwassofreaking awesome!!

From there, Z and Tate climbed on the play structure. Together. Z would make a statement, and Tate would respond. For serious!!

“Mom. Mommy! Come push us, here!” Tate shouted from the merry-go-round.

I pushed them and these boys laughed together. They interacted. They were having fun.

From the merry-go-round they went to the slides and monkey bars. Z asked Tate if he wanted to play. Tate said yes. To Z. While establishing eye contact. 
The boys chased each other over the bridge and down slides. They played on the monkey bars. Z initiated monkey sounds–‘cuz they were monkeys. Tate followed. He then made a monkey sound and directed it at Z. Z made one back.

“Look at us here, Mommy, We’re monkeys. Ooh-ooh, aah, aah.”
Z chimed in with his own monkey sound.

I felt a lump in my throat. Tears welled in my eyes. I took a deep breath. Cleared my throat.

“Yes, yes you are, Tater Tot.”

They played for about 5 more minutes. It was all kinds of wonderful. Eventually, Hubz and Cole came back…and a few neighbors were with them. They joined Tate and Z. Tate, exhausted from the social interaction, quietly retreated to the swings again.

Hubz pushed him, and I excitedly told him about the playtime. We high fived each other…and Tate. Tate ran back to join the other children. He was a little more on the periphery this time, but still in the mix.

He actually tried a part of the apparatus that had caused great anxiety in the past. Our neighbor’s daughter helped him by talking him through it. When he finished, she was the first to praise him. More high-fives!

For a neurotypical child that was just another day at the park. For Tate, though, that was a milestone. A big one. Weeks of working with therapists at the park, of us playing with him and his brothers there all came down to this… and what seemed like such a little push from me was a huge leap for him.

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