I forgot my phone charger last night at work. This gave me a chance to show my son my classroom at Lawndale High. My son’s eyes immediately widened when he saw a classroom full of Mac Computers.
He loves computers, and we spent some time looking at pictures from my blog. He likes seeing the places we’ve been and describing what’s happening in each picture: “That’s me with my best friend Zeppelin.”
One of the things I noticed is how often my son is smiling in pictures. This photo was taken at his occupation therapy session at Kids in Motion in Torrance. Swinging from the trapeze is designed to improve his fine motor skills by improving his hand strength.
During his therapy session, he also went through an obstacle course to improve his executive planning, the ability to organize one’s mind and body to sequence multiple-step actions.
Yesterday, I was off work. It was a Saturday and I’d spent the past five weeks teaching a CAHSEE boot camp. That’s the California High School Exit Exam, the test all students must pass to earn a high school diploma.
My curriculum consisted of playing five weeks of Trash Ball. Answer a question correctly, you get two points and a chance to shoot a waded-up paper ball into a trash can for more points.
It was boys vs. girls. Winner gets donuts. Still, while playing Trash Ball made the four hours go by faster, I was excited to get back to enjoying some father-son time on my Saturdays.
Like watching my son inhale his bowl of oatmeal in seven successive bites.
Like snuggling up on the sofa and watching some cartoons with my son.
Like going to his My Gym class and hearing a mother yell, “Get your foot out of your mouth.”
My son picked the routine back up at his class, and after hearing the mother yell at her daughter to get her foot out of her mouth, I felt like my son fit right in with his classmates.
That’s the great thing about other kids’ gaffes. They make you feel like you’re part of a larger parent community with the same struggles and issues.
My son especially liked the part where the kids run around the big red circle, and while he had trouble processing and executing directions a year ago, I noticed today he completed approximately 90 percent of the activities.
So I am proud of my son.
In the afternoon we met a new friend S___ and his two kids, P___ and K___, and their grandmother at a park. Both our sons are five (his daughter is seven), so I was excited to see how they would interact.
When we first got to the park, S__’s kids were feeding the ducks at the pond. We introduced our kids and his kids shared their bread and popcorn with my son. I thought this would be a good starting point for interaction.
However, after feeding the ducks for a little while, my son sprinted off towards the playground. Oh, well…so much for Play Date etiquette–not that we called it that–when meeting new friends.
At the playground, my son played with other kids for short durations rather than his two new friends. Greeting kids, for instance, as they emergered at the bottom of the twisting, 15-foot, enclosed tube slide.
As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, I pay attention to how my son’s social skills are developing. I think he is progressing well, but I find it is difficult to access his social development.
My wife and I closely observe his social and language development. His communication isn’t as fluid as a typical kid, but it is not that far off and he expresses himself more every day in spontaneous ways.
And while I want my son develop as a social being, what if my son talks less at this stage in his development? Or he is a less talkative kid? I was a quiet kid during my entire childhood, so I question whether my expectations are realistic.
Still, I encouraged my son while at the park to look for his new friend P__. He went up to several kids and asked, “Are you P__?” With so many kids around, he had forgotten what his new playmate looked like.
Then, when he finally found him, he wasn’t quite sure what to do next.
He seemed ready to plunge into the world of collaborative play, but some invisible threads kept him bound from crossing the threshold.
Yet, his pretend play has been increasing at home. He just seem to need more opportunity to play with kids his age to develop his social skills–and I am committing to providing these opportunities.
Our first visit to Sky Zone went exactly how I expected it to go.
My son is a sensory-seeker whose body is neurologically wired to move, and Sky Zone is an indoor trampoline park in a large warehouse, so I wasn’t exactly surprised by how much he loved this place.
Non-stop movement is a biological necessity for my son. Everywhere we go, every sidewalk we encounter, he’s looking for sensory input: Shredding leaves, flicking dirt, squeezing stuffed animals.
So I knew Sky Zone and my son would go together like chips and salsa, champagne and bubbles, a burger and fries.
And…I was right.
The main trampoline is broken into around 40 individual square sections, and since it was a weekend afternoon, jumpers of all ages were scattered throughout the trampoline.
An employee supervising the trampoline explained the one rule to us (one person jumping per square) and advised me to keep my son in the area designated for younger kids.
Just one rule should be easy to follow, right?
After the employee explained the rule, I watched as my son jumped and ran (it was a combination of the two) across several squares, narrowly missing a few jumpers, before crashing.
Hence, I discovered the reason for the liability waiver…my son.
He apparently was too excited to contain himself to one square, and once his adrenaline got stirred up, he lost all concept of the one rule.
I reviewed the one rule and reasons for it with him. Nevertheless, less than a minute later, he took off running and jumping and came to a crashing stop again.
When I reached him, he was breathing rapidly with a giddy smile across his face.
I felt my son was going down this road without some intervention. He was either going to hyperventilate or crash into someone. That’s how revved up he was in our first five minutes.
I imagine parenting is like editing a movie. You have to know when to cut a scene short, how to skillfully blend one scene into the next (to coherently tell your story), and how to get the best out of every actor.
So, mindful of these ideas, I gently directed my son to another section where you jump across three trampolines and into a pit filled with blue foam squares.
This was a better fit. He had to wait in line, and since he liked laying in the foam pit, this gave him additional rest. He was still excited, but “under control” excited.
My son has been learning how to slow down his body. Most young kids are active. But as a child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), my son senses the world more intensely than other children.
The Wife and I have been teaching him that he needs to recognize when his “engine” is going “too fast” and slow his body down to get it feeling “just right.”
This is an OT (occupational therapy) strategy, and for a body neurologically wired for non-stop movement, this is easier said than done, yet my son is making progress managing his “engine.”
The bottom line: our first visit to Sky Zone went exactly how I expected it to go.
He looked up at the building on the way back to our car. He wanted to make sure he knew the name of the place he’d spent the last hour jumping.