We were at the cabin when I was beginning this post in the small town park… under a tree: trusting to sketchy internet access and the short lifespan of my computer battery. I was writing off-line – a disconnect of sorts. I spent a few minutes attempting to access the free wireless of a local business – unsuccessfully – until I realized I was losing the opportunity to write.
We swung by the park to check if there were any kids that looked around the same age as H (I’m never one to lose/miss an opportunity for social interaction and connection if the kid is keen). As we pulled in I queried, “Hey – Looks like there are some kids your age – do you want to hang out here for a while?”
“Sure!” was the enthusiastic response which my boy somehow turns into a word with two syllables.
Quick, I thought… fit in a social cognition rehearsal about what to say when you join and how you need to observe and figure out what is going on before you approach.
“What will you say to the other kids?”
“Well that is an option – but you might try saying “Hi” as well.” It seems reasonable to try to steer my kid away from the Sly Stallone impersonation… H is a big fan of retro pop culture, which is pretty cool with adults and older teens – but seems somehow lost on other kids his age. It is frequently received with a raised eyebrow …or less subtle bewilderment …or, sadly, even disdain.
“OK Mom” – rushing to go, holding the car door handle, rapidly unbuckling… This kid is keen.
“An important thing is to observe for a few minutes – and to check out what is already going on before you join in…”
“Oh – I – did – not – know – that…” The words in the reply were separated in this, H’s commonly used phrase, which I have come to accept as the stamp of truth and accuracy.
“Yes that is a part of social stuff…”
H finally escaped my attempt at micro-coaching and raced to the playground.
For a few minutes he hung out on the climbing equipment with some little kids. He dangled from the monkey bars and tried a few other things. I could see that H was eyeing the swings – being used by the kids his age – but all were occupied.
When a couple of the kids finally departed, H approached the remaining 2 boys on the swings. I couldn’t hear his intro – but I did catch snatches of their conversation. It was all about topics that make me quite uncomfortable – but that are seemingly appropriate for 12-13 year old boys. I heard snatches of talk about horror movies, fireworks, explosions, guns, etc. It was reciprocal and the engagement both ways was evident.
Afterward – in the car I asked H about how that had gone.
“Great!” H responded – Again with two syllables!
“So I am curious… what did you say when you approached the other kids.”
“’Yo!’ Mom – they thought it was cool…”
And then H proceeded to elaborate upon his little lesson in social thinking. Here it is:
“Mom – when you are 4 years old – you say ‘Hello’ to kids…
When you are 8 you say ‘Hi…’
But when you are 12 or 13 you say ‘Yo or ‘sup’!!” (abbreviation for what’s up)
WOW! I – did – not – know – that!! Needless to say this was a proud moment! Yay! I just can’t help but wonder: What will this young man of mine teach me next!?! I am also thinking that perhaps my days at micro-coaching the playground are numbered… next steps…
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2011)