Last year at this time, I had just started writing for the Dallas Moms Blog and was excited by some social progress Ethan was making with his peers at school (thanks to two very busy Italian plumbers). As I refect on Ethan’s progress (and work on a new post about Ethan’s progress regarding social awareness this year for AutismSpot.com to be posted tomorrow) I wanted to re-share this post from February 10th last year!
With Valentine’s Day this Sunday, relationship-talk is abundant. Everyone seems to have something important to share about creating lasting relationships–and I’m all ears. Since my son (Ethan, 7 years old) lives with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), an Autism Spectrum Disorder, he often has difficulty with forming and maintaining friendships. The truth is most kids and adults with AS have deficits related to social skills and communication. In our house, we are almost continuously immersed in friendship discussions in one form or another to help Ethan acquire skills which develop organically in the majority of his peers.
Don’t get me wrong, my guy is one heck of a talker, he’s highly verbal and loves a good chat. His “communication deficits” have more to do with understanding non-spoken elements of communication like body language, facial expressions and utilizing fundamental pragmatics of language.
He tends to have difficulty realizing when friends are tired of hearing him talk about certain topics or when a friend wants him to stop doing something bothersome or irritating. We work to understand and embrace these difficulties in our house and try to find inventive ways to role play or use daily situations as conversational springboards to help Ethan learn more about successfully communicating with those around him.
Thankfully, Ethan also attends a phenomenal Social Thinking Group (based on the Social Thinking Curriculum developed by Michelle Garcia Winner) with other kids and several very dedicated therapists at Help, Hope, Solutions in Plano. In this way, Ethan is constantly learning new social thinking skills at home, in therapy and at school. It is the school part that is hard on all of us, simply because my husband and I can’t control anything that happens or help Ethan problem solve on the playground, in the lunch room or during any of the other social times built into the school day.
Imagine my delight when I recently discovered that by giving Ethan his own hand-held Nintendo DS game player for Christmas, we have actually facilitated conversations with “neurotypical” peers at school (appropriate conversations at that!) Over the past month, since Ethan received the Super Mario Bros. game as a gift from his Aunt and Uncle, he has been forming bonds with friends at school and creating opportunities to interact with new kids at lunch and during recess.
He has shared with us that two classmates share his love for the 25+ year-old-video game. I personally witnessed him utilizing the characters, the game levels and winning strategies with one of the boys when I dropped in at lunchtime while I was volunteering for the school’s Scholastic Book Fair. Who would have ever guessed that I would love two miniature, super-human, Italian-American plumbers so much? This Valentine’s Day, I unashamedly admit–I ♥ Mario and Luigi!
Do you have any unexpected loves you would like to share this week leading up to Valentine’s Day? Have you ever stumbled across something unexpected but ever-so-appreciated nonetheless? I’d love to hear about your startling discoveries and surprising loves.
Update: As of 2011, Ethan still loves playing Super Mario Bros. and has actually begun playing on a Nintendo Wii purchased with his birthday money last fall. For a post about our decision To Wii or Not To Wii, please click through to see my post for AutismSpot written last November!