FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Up and Away

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 28•15

kite

I bought him a kite a few years ago, but he never wanted to fly it. It stayed on my bedroom floor.

Fast forward two years, a sunny afternoon at the park with the Buddy Club, and he loved flying a kite.

The wind picked up at just the right moment, and he was off running with Arthur the Kite.

He was running fast. I know because I was running like crazy in front of him trying to get a picture.

This picture was plan B or C.

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Indoor Basketball

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 27•15

basketball

He’s been practicing dribbling the basketball in the kitchen, so the Wife tells me.

So we, my son and I, take turns dribbling and playing defense, trying to steal the ball from each other.

I dribble between my legs, around my back, trying to keep the ball away from my son’s feisty defense.

He steals the ball from me, and I can see how far he’s come in his dribbling and his defense.

He would drop the ball, let it bounce twice and catch it in his “Break It Down” Total Sports class.

That’s what his instructors (ABA therapists) told him to get the mechanics of dribbling down.

However, he kept dropping the ball, letting it bounce twice and catching it for the next few weeks.

A lighter red playground ball helped him get the fingertips and wrist actions of dribbling down.

Then, he switched back to the basketball. He got dribbling down and now he’s practicing.

Now, comes my part: encouraging him and taking his interest to the next level.

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McDonald’s Reflection

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 15•15

mcdeesThe past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.

Knock knock!

Who’s there?

To.

To who?

To whom?

When I was in high school, my English teacher looked at me and said, “name two pronouns.”

“Who? Me?” I said.

This is what I imagine social interaction is like for my son as a child on the autism spectrum.

It’s like understanding the subtle distinctions of English grammar. Verbs. Nouns. Adjectives.

Adverbs. Pronouns. Prepositions. Conjunctions. Interjections.

I didn’t begin to really understand and care about grammar until I was well into my twenties.

Until then, grammar didn’t make much sense or I was not old enough to appreciate it.

Grammar was like fine wine.

So, it may take time, as it did with me to grasp grammar, for my son to develop his social competence.

The main thing is, he and other kids on the spectrum need to have as many social interactions as possible.

No one learns anything without practice.

He is comfortable talking with mom and dad. We know most of his animated tv show references.

We can fill in the gaps in a conversation.

However, talking with his peers is more unpredictable, and it can vary from one context to another.

Then, there is the difficulty of finding kids, matching schedules, and organizing time for them to play.

It’s not like the old days when the kids lived on the same street and went outside and played all day.

But I imagine a conversation is like “improv” acting. One person says a thing, another person responds.

Each person continues to say a new thing, the other person responds, and a chain develops into a scene.

Just like a conversation.

Maybe I need to enroll him in an “improv” acting class. Not a bad idea.

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A Question of Style

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 15•15

dom tie

His mom laid out a fresh t-shirt, pants and underwear on the sofa and then went out to volunteer.

He went to his room and returned with a new shirt. A white, buttoned down, long-sleeve dress shirt.

“I want to go to Daiso to get a tie,” he told me, referring to a Japanese discount store.

I assented…well, I didn’t say no…to the tie and trip to Daiso, even though I had only a vague idea where it is.

“Do you know what style is,” I asked, broaching new territory.

tie

“No.”

“Style is when you have your own unique way of dressing,” I said, whose style is decidedly informal.

He went to his room and returned with black sweat pants to go with the white dress shirt.

So we took a five-mile round trip by foot to Daiso (with a stop for lunch at Denny’s) and ended up buying a bow tie and music triangle.

The Wife wasn’t happy, and I can understand her view to a point. It was hot — in the 90’s — outside.

But the bow tie, white dress shirt and sweats was his inimitable style. I thought he looked great.

He got several compliments on his style at the Pet Store and Toy Store.

Amazingly, the Wife let him wear the bow tie with a red sweatshirt to church the next day.

She must have thought he had style, too.

A few days later, she told me about a twelve-year-old boy who designed and sold his own bow ties.

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My Gym

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 15•15

my gym balanceAutism is a social communication disorder, and kids struggle with social relationships.

But don’t tell me they lack an interest in friends or having relationships.

Kids on the spectrum may have difficulty in social situations, yet this doesn’t mean they don’t want friends.

Case in point: my son asked me in the car on the way to his My Gym class, “Is it day time or night time?”

It wasn’t a random question.

He wanted to know if Kevin, one of his instructors, was going to be teaching his class at My Gym.

my gym group

“Kevin might be there or he might not,” I told him last week. “He may be working in the day time instead of at night time.”

“Can we hurry up before it’s night time?” he asked.

So he was calculating the time of day by the hue of the sky to determine if it was day or night time, so he could see Kevin. 

When we got to My Gym, he ran to the window to see if Kevin was there, wanting him to be there.

No Kevin. 

So, yes, kids on the spectrum want to have social relationships with adults and their peers.

At least my son does, and so do most of the kids I’ve met on the spectrum.

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Buddy Club

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 14•15

dom golf

D was waiting in line with his Buddy Club friends to ride a kid’s go-cart, and his body was extra bouncy.

The leaders probably thought he was having trouble regulating his body from being overly excited.

That’s what I thought, too.

At first.

Yet, his jerky movements in line and playing mini-golf were not from being overstimulated.

He just needed to take a pee.

So we, father and son, sprinted to the bathroom and got back just in time for him to ride with his friends.

buddy club

The last time we came here he was too excited to focus on motor planning to ride a go-cart by himself.

A teen worker sat on the edge of his go-cart and helped him to navigate his go-cart around the track.

This time was different.

He was hot dogging it, pulling the steering wheel left and right. Smiling to the crowd rounding curves.

Radiating joy.

In the video arcade, he played air hockey and shot attacking pirates with one of his buddies.

He was jumping up and down playing air hockey, but managed to hit the puck when it came his way.

In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t ask him if he had to go to the bathroom on the mini-golf course.

Yes, it would have helped, but he just turned seven and needs to tell others when he has to use the restroom.

go cart

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Ahhhhhh

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 12•15

ahhhhOur vestibular system, situated in our inner ear, helps us maintain our balance and posture. It gives us an understanding where and how fast our bodies are moving.

Kids on the spectrum often have a hypo-reactive vestibular system. This is one of the reasons many seek active sensory experiences such as jumping, spinning or swinging.

The vestibular system give us our awareness of our body in space, and kids with sensory issues can often have not feel their body in space.

They can put their shoes on the wrong feet like my son does and not feel that their shoes are on the wrong feet.

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Play Date

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 01•15

bri

(Note: The picture taken for this post was taken at D’s birthday party, not at the actual play date.)

“You ruined his play date.” This is what the Wife told me immediately after our son’s last play date on the car ride home.

We were at the park, and by all intents and purposes, it had been a successful play date. The moms talked. I played with the kids.

End of story. Not quite.

It is now two weeks later. Sometimes, it takes me time to filter my thoughts and feelings before forming a proper perspective.

Trust me, this would have been a very different post if I wrote it a day, a couple of days, or even a week after the play date.

But the wife is right: my son needed space to play with his friend without me being at the center of his play date.

Point taken.

Yes, I agree our son needs to develop his social skills by learning to initiate and respond to social cues from his friends on his own.

Now, if I can help the Wife to understand how her loud tone makes it difficult to hear anything she says to me.

We’ve been married fifteen years, and as I’ve told her a thousand times: it’s not what she says, but how she says it.

That’s what bothers me.

When what she says is so supercharged with excessive emotion, it makes it hard for me to hear what she says.

All I hear is the loud tone.

It’s hard for me to separate her point from the emotion, and her perceptions are often distorted by emotion.

No, I didn’t “ruin” the play date. D and his friend still had fun playing together with me at the center of the play date.

However, I agree with the Wife: my son needs space to play with his friends and have back and forth exchanges on his own.

So, yes, I plan to take a back seat at his next play date.

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“Let’s Go Lakers!”

Written By: Scot Butwell - Feb• 28•15

lakers

Los Angles Lakers, 101. Milwaukee Bucks, 93.

It was my son’s first NBA game, but the biggest surprise came when we got home.

“I may never tell you this,” the Wife said. “But you are an awesome guy. You take our son on adventures. You are always positive.”

As the photo with his mom shows, D was a little overwhelmed by the sights and sounds for the first three quarters.

He mostly kept his hands over his ears. That changed in the fourth quarter when the Lakers began to rally.

lakers ticket

He moved to sit next to a friend and joined him in cheering, “Let’s go Lakers! Let’s go Lakers! Let’s go Lakers! Let’s go!”

He was a fan like the thousands of spectators at Staples Center and, mostly, it had to do with cheering with his friend.

Sometimes, it takes us parents some time to figure things out. Put the kids together and just let them do their thing.

Of course it’s not that simple.

He was overwhelmed by seeing his two friends in a different setting as much as by the loud cheering in the arena.

We encouraged him to sit next to his friends when we arrived, but he refused because he was too overwhelmed.

Mental note: arrive thirty minutes early to every new environment to allow him time to get acclimated.

That had been the plan. But we did not stick to the plan and made it there right before the tip-off.

This adventure was courtesy of the Lakers who donated tickets to “Break it Down” Total Sports.

lisa

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Valentine’s Day

Written By: Scot Butwell - Feb• 25•15

vtines

Valentine’s Day wasn’t a bust after all. Not like I thought when D and I came home from his Saturday morning basketball class.

The Wife liked the card D picked out for her: a big mamma cat giving a hug to her smaller baby cat.

She read the words inside the card: my mom is the best mom ever…I like having you for a Valentine.

Then, they hugged and kissed.

“I love you, mom,” he said.

My card was a venture of faith. I’ll spare the details except to say we both needed time alone the night before.

And we were on a date.

I watched her open my card, and as she began reading, a skeptical look came across her face.

 I want to tell you

 How much my heart fills with joy

 Every time I see you smile

 And how much I enjoy

 All the special moments

 That we share.

“What special moments?” she said.

It’s true. We are lacking in special moments. Tense moments? We have plenty of those.

And then there was this:

 I want to tell you

 That I’m a better man

 Because of you

 “How are you a better man because of me?” she asked.

I explained how her faults have made me stronger, her anger and resentment making me learn to forgive.

I know this isn’t typically what people mean when they say their spouse has made them a better person.

But it’s the truth.

As for the rest of the day, D suggested we get a pizza–even though he doesn’t even eat pizza–because he knows I like pizza.

That was cool.

So we had a picnic on the living room floor, the Wife and I shared a glutten-free pizza, and we played games together.

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