Birthday Parties, Play dates, and Life Skills

Image The other day, another autism page that I follow, wrote a post about their kiddo’s upcoming play date.  She was nervous because her son had not had many of them and she asked, “How do your ASD kids do on a play date? Where do you like to have play dates?” And I thought to myself, “Debbie doesn’t have play dates.  Nobody has ever asked her for one and I am actually hesitant doing it on my own.” Sure, when Deb was younger she was invited to birthday parties.  But those were the days of preschool when you invited the entire class to come. And in those days she would lose her mind over singing “Happy Birthday” and the clapping that followed and she was unable to join in the games because she didn’t know and understand how to participate. As she grew older, we had birthday parties for her and we would invite several kids from her class at school.  But, those parties that Debbie was invited to, became fewer and farther between, and eventually, because it was sensory overload for her, we stopped having them. Don’t get me wrong. We celebrate Debbie, just in a way that is better for her! Now, she is invited to one friend’s birthday party every year, not because this little girl has to, but because she truly wants Debbie there!! And, Debbie has done better and better each year so it’s totally worth it. But play dates? Well, they just don’t happen.

Debbie goes to her neighborhood school.  The kids love her.  They are excited when she participates with them.  They take care of her.  They help her.  They mother her.  But, they don’t play with her and she doesn’t play with them. She doesn’t understand how. There’s a language gap and, because of the language gap, Debbie’s social skills are light years behind theirs.  So what am I, as her warrior momma, to do?

We wrote social skills goals into Debbie’s IEP.  Trying to work on them at recess or with another kid in the motor room has not been working.  Debbie needs explicit social and life skill instruction.  Does it suck?  Yup!  Is it necessary?  Absolutely!  Is it another step towards independence?  Of course!  Is this the ultimate goal?  For sure! 

You know, I took Debbie grocery shopping today.  It has been awhile since we’ve gone together.  For a long time I was spending as much time chasing her as I was shopping.  So I stopped taking her.  But today I wanted her to get out of the house.  I wanted her to be a part of the community and she was.  We weighed items together.  We counted and added yogurt.  She put twisties on plastic bags.  We ran into cousins and spoke to them for a short time.  She bagged applesauce packs for me!  Debbie was motivated and engaged during the entire trip.  It was an amazing learning opportunity for both of us.  She was learning the basics of grocery shopping and I was learning how to help her become more social and independent. My eyes were opened and I was enlightened.

If being on the certificate track means she will gain the necessary social and life skills to become an independent adult, then I accept the challenge.  She may not have play dates now but my gut tells me in the next few years it will become likely that she will.  And, before I know it, she will be grocery shopping on her own! xoxo ~ Julie



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