For the past 3 years H has been involved in a 6-8 week Art/Science program held at the nearby Blue Heron Reserve. This is a wonderful hands-on enrichment opportunity that is offered annually by his DL school, and for a child who is enrolled in a distance education program, it is also an important chance to socialize and interact with other children.
As wonderful as this program is… it is not without its bumps and difficulties for a child like H. Sometimes his seasonal allergies have bothered him, or a sudden hatch of insects (ie: mosquitoes) has provided the perfect scenario for a sensory-overwhelm, and sometimes H finds it difficult just being around the other children, their parents, and the teachers as the social expectations, etc. can create anxiety.
What has been important for me to understand is that when a child like H is overwhelmed by the new/unknown social expectations, or sensory issues, or anxiety – the behaviours need to be read in such a way that we are responsive to the need of the child. It has been essential for me to be able to step back from my own judgement and response to the behaviour. This enables me to be mindful of the underlying message, and then to respond to H is a way that provides him the opportunity to gain understanding, develop skill, or just step out of the fray to regroup and then have the resources to give it another go.
I am learning that resiliency isn’t built by trying to be like everyone else; it is the acceptance of who we are in the moment, and the understanding that sometimes the pace chooses us, that gives us strength.
When H was finding the program too much, we made a lateral move to a few moments of quiet and mindful reflection. This poem was written during one of those times:
Blue Heron Reserve
Written by H (Spring 2010)
I smell the sweet grass
I hear the birds singing a song of winter’s passing
I hear the water rushing
And the rustling of the grass
And the songs of the birds
The swaying of the tree branches against the wind
There are little splashes in the water
I feel the wind on my face
I feel the cool breeze underneath my shirt
This place is wonderful
It is such a paradise
It is one of my best dreams come true
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2012)