Sigh…the life of a mom of an Autistic Rock Star can be a lonely one. Case in point: finding organized activities for my son to do.
So I was perusing the Columbia Association activities winter/spring catalog yesterday looking for something for that will lure my introverted, extremely shy daughter out of the house. She’s a tough nut to crack because she doesn’t have many interests except reading, dolls, playing in my make up and annoying her father and I to death (I say that in love. Don’t gasp.) Anyway, I started looking for some activities that maybe I can get my son into as well. He is 9-years-old, loveable, very active and moderately Autistic (PDD-NOS with speech issues). He needs something to do. I looked for some activities for kids with Special Needs in their catalog and found nothing. Zero. Goose egg. Zilch. This stinks but it doesn’t surprise me.
I love all the choices that CA members have for sports, exercise, birthday parties, classes and the like but what about the kids that don’t exactly fit the norm. What is available for them? YES, I know that Howard County Autism Society is here but they are more of a gateway to service or advocacy group. YES I know about The Arc of Howard County but again we’re talking gateway to services. I need someone to actually provide the service for my kid in Howard County. There is MarTar for swimming (crazy expensive. They must charge like $200 for every 5 minutes of swimming. JEEZ!) Also, there is Howard County Parks and Recreation. Great but very limited on what they offer for young kids (swimming is basically what you get from them). We had Sports Plus coming out to do soccer and track. They were a God sent. An organization that has sports activities for special needs children only and ran by a wonderful coach with the assistance of local teens who needed volunteer hours. AWESOME!!! But without proper promotion not enough families enrolled in the classes so they have stopped fooling with us this fall. (Rumor has it that Ho Co Autism Society refused to help promote Sports Plus. If that’s true, for shame on you Ho Co Autism Society.) Now I would have to drive to Gaithersburg to get my son into soccer. What a mess!
So here’s where I would hope Columbia Association would step in and say ‘Hey! We’ve got you covered’. Yeah…not really. They have nothing for the Special Needs child. I’m not picking a fight here. I just desperately want some help. Why not put him in a “regular” class and see what happens? Umm…no. It’s called Special Needs for a reason. These kids need more time and sometimes additional instruction. You have to provide for that. They need patient instructors who understand their disability and are willing to work with them. You have to provide for that. They need friendly teammates that are not focused on winning so much as they are participating. You have to provide for that. Yeah I get the whole inclusion thing but to be perfectly honest I don’t trust the inclusion model during recreation. Sports can raise a lot of angst and tension and I don’t want my kid being punished by a mainstream child for being too slow or whatever.
So here’s my very short wish list of what I would love to see from the CA (it’s the holiday season. It’s time for wishes, right?)
- Sensory friendly birthday parties. They can be themed just like the ones you already offer.
- Sports, marital arts, and yoga for the special needs kid ages 4-18.
- Mom’s day out. BOY would I love to get a break. I can’t trust many people with my kid so my husband and I play babysitting tag. It’s very, very, very, stressful and extremely tiring.
- Structured play dates for kids with Autism– now Ho Co Autism Society does offer something like this once a month but it never hurts to have more chances to meet and greet. Call it a Friday Night Hang Suite or something and get someone in there who can plan and execute some activities to teach social and communication skills (that’s a common thread among kids with Autism; lack of communication skills). Don’t worry. Moms and Dads can be right outside the door if anything pops off.
And here’s an extra cherry for this sundae. When looking for instructors and facilitators, go to the local universities and colleges and recruit. There are hundreds of students studying to be teachers, speech language pathologists, social workers, child psychologists, and so on. Don’t you think they could benefit from a part-time job like this on multiple levels? You can even recruit some of Howard County’s finest high school students looking for volunteer hours. Collaborate with Ho Co Autism Society or The Arc if you need help with training. OH Columbia Association!! It’s a win-win if you do it right. I promise you.
Well, that’s my daydream out loud for now. Please feel free to share this post with every single member of the CA Board and anyone else who has a heart for kids with special needs. We need all the support we can muster and if this post can help get us some cheerleaders in our corner, so be it. Got a question, comment, or concern for me? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org