Reflections of and on a probably Asperger's parent parenting an Asperger's kid (or 2)!

dragon pups

dragon pups

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Community in the past?

So, I am a Challenge Course Facilitator - that means that I have the job of that guy in the dreaded "team building" activity to mediate the trust fall and then blow sunshine up your butt about it no matter what.

Actually, I am NOT that kind of facilitator.  I make it a point to never ram sunshine anywhere, though I have learned to be more tactful and less critical in my expression of my observations... ;)  I seek to connect information, and I have yet to pretend a group is nicer to each other than they actually are...

So there are many aspects to this that I need to to continue to explore, to grow, and that are VERY VERY relevant to how I raise my Aspie, including my insights about teaching by "front loading" and then "processing" experiences to milk them with reflection.  It is how we deal with Autism EVERY DAY...

But I am thinking tonight about a specific event that occurred this summer.  We have an element (that is like a "station", a specific activity/ obstacle that we have on our "low ropes" course - and no, there are not any real ropes at most of them) called the Trust Fall.  It is a platform about 4 feet off the ground, upon which a person stands, their feet on the edge, facing the center of the platform, and then they fall as a plank into a group of people (peers).... so it is exactly what the name implies.  A person participating in this activity must fall in a trusting way, with complete trust (if you don't trust and you sit, you will hurt the holy snot out of yourself and the people trying to "catch" you).

I have recently done this activity with a group of high school students.  They did well, with each other, with me, supporting each other physically and emotionally so that everyone had the chance to physically feel their team supporting them in a moment of ultimate vulnerability.  While it was awesome, that is NOT the interesting thing that occurred...

There was a teacher with the group, a man who had enough years on him to be well-versed, a man with previous military experience, probably old enough to be a grandfather... and what he said to his students was AMAZING  to me!:

"This was a difficult task for you all, but 15 years ago it would not have been.  15 years ago, before the schools were so competitive, youngsters like you would have had complete faith that other people would be there to catch them."

The man had told me that his wife was a classroom teacher as well.  And the students had talked about how they could totally have done this activity into the pool, where they knew the water would catch them, but that they could not do it with peers underneath them, they just weren't "sure" they'd be safe...

There are some of you reading this thinking that the kids on the platform are RIGHT - how WOULD you KNOW someone is there to catch you?  but I think I see the teacher bringing up an interesting point.  Those students would rather put all their trust into an inanimate object than a thinking, sentient human being.  It's like trusting the ATM more than the teller at the bank, or seeking the do-it-your-self check out line at the grocery.  There comes a place where we isolate ourselves in an effort to ensure rote behavior rather than go through the painful process of unpredictable human interaction.  

Boy! Does THAT sound like Asperger's?!  

And it is not just something that comes up with public interactions, but within our most intimate relationships - seeking the "traditional" /"romantic" interactions rather than truthfully considering exactly who and what our partners and family members need or prefer.  "We will just get your sister something pink for her birthday" or "Let's go to dinner and a movie" or "Daddy wants us all to spend time with him for Father's day, but Mm wants us to give her space".  Stereotypes - that are NOT absolute Truths...

I mentioned this teacher's insight to my mentor, and her response was, " I wonder what else was different 15 years ago..."  Well, even in the movie E.T. the kids could get on their bikes and ride away from home without anyone assuming they were runaways or hoodlums.  When I was little, my mom would ask my brother to "run around the block" 5 times before coming inside to help control his energy - as in he was trusted to go out of her immediate sight and no one thought she was delinquent.  I have twice been "reminded" of the "safe child policy" at our local library (which is only a 30 by 30 foot space) because each of my 2 children wished to go to different sections and I couldn't be in their immediate line of sight at the same time.  15 years ago the Girl Scout program was based on 5 Worlds and exploring them, now it is down to 3 themes, with less than 1/3 the available badges - you know - kids just can't "handle it" these days.  If my dog accidentally gets off leash and takes a "walk about" (from which he will of course be home in less than 2 hours) We get nasty calls from the neighbors instead of them encouraging him to "go home".  What would they do with Lassie?!  My Sensory Kiddo/ Autistic son has real issues wearing clothes, but if he is in HIS OWN YARD naked (aged 3) my husband is worried that the neighbors will call Social Services on us [if you have EVER been through potty training with a kid like that, you understand why he just needed to be naked to get it!]  When I slap my child's hand, I am formally reprimanded by the school principal.  When we were trying to figure out how to deal with transitions and make a universally "safe" place for my autistic son - he took ownership over the car - it was his, and he could stay in that protected place.   To get him out of the car to go in the store used to involve long and arduous amounts of prying and cajoling and threatening, often pulling him out the car only to have to plaster his body between me and the car to be sure he didn't run away - and all that is caught on the store's security camera and we lived in literal fear that we would be turned in for abuse - but to let him stay in the car is to be turned in for neglect.  How the hell was I supposed to get groceries?  The only solution was to go in the middle of the night, slinking around like a social derelict (or drunk college student) while the other parent (hopefully) had him sleeping at home.  Would I feel like my neighbors were "out to get me" for bad parenting 15 years ago?  Or would they have offered to help shoulder the load (instead of just criticize)?  I have asked every high school aged kid on our street to babysit in the last 5 years - and for every one of them the parents have discouraged me, saying they would not trust their own kids to babysit.

We, of the parents-of-spectrum-kids community OFTEN say that we find those who identify with us in far away places - SELDOM in our geographically local communities.  Would it have been like that 15 years ago?

Did the schools respect an informed involved parent 15 years ago?  Did the teachers listen to what worked at home and explain what happened at school?  Were parents welcome as volunteers to observe and participate in their child's education?  Did we villainize people who needed assistance? or did we actually just help them out?

have we REALLY lost that much Community in 15 years?


  1. You make good points. YOu might like this blog called free range kids.

    1. that IS a good site! I didn't get through ALL of it, but what i read made SENSE. THANK YOU for the suggestion!


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