This evening was a really big deal! Lucas (13) was invited to a “Munch and Bowl” session with a local play session by the Borough of Poole Short Breaks play scheme. It’s part of a government initiative to offer play opportunities for Disabled Children and their siblings. You get a brochure offering lots of events (Trampolining, sailing, drumming sessions for example), all at really reduced prices (approx £4 a session), and register for those you think your child will enjoy. Then allocation happens and you get to fill spaces in your calendar so the long summer holidays don’t look so daunting! I’m not sure every borough runs the scheme, but it is definitely worth a look to see!
So- he’s hit the magic age of 13, so tonight went to Tower Park Bowlplex for his first teenage session from 6-8pm. This is a really big deal for Lucas, who previously panicked when 8pm bedtime struck- having to rush to bed to be on schedule.
He and I discussed beforehand that the other parents wouldn’t be hanging around helping, as this was about ‘teenage fun’, so he would need to really push himself to be sociable and independent. He looked terrified, but I could see he was working hard to summon the bravery. His blindness and autism combined mean that social situations are tricky for him, yet he truly craves conversation and acceptance.
We met with the organisers, I had a quiet word with them about what support he needed (help getting the frame and ball sorted), what he didn’t need (guiding, touching), then told him there were two nice girls stood either side of him and basically shoved him towards them and told him to talk to them! We had practised some conversation openers in the car- hobbies, music, but to be honest I wasn’t sure how he’d get on.
The group got settled into two lanes, then I walked away so I could see him (he has complex medical needs) but he wouldn’t be able to ask for reassurance and check in with me constantly, which he will do if I’m nearby.
The result was truly staggering. He was the smallest in a group of 5 teens with differing needs (predominantly ASD I would guess), but the group settled into an awesome routine of chatting, cheering each other, and three of them instantly just helped Lucas with the frame/ball/cane situation with no intervention from the sessional workers at all. It was just beautiful!
Lucas is keen to email one of the children as he’s decided she could be a good local friend, and the girl seemed keen too, as she has some difficulties making friends.
Lucas was truly excellent- he demonstrated to me that he is in fact really able and competent to manage himself and make friends in an age-appropriate setting.
We also realised that he needs some independence in getting contact details to meet up with other teens. He has an iPad, so we are going to suggest he carries it with him to collect email addresses or phone numbers. We need to practise this next skill set with him- how to gauge level of interest from other kids, and how to progress the friendships. His Autism means that he struggles in recognising these cues, and his blindness means getting contact details in a social setting is tricky, but he has truly demonstrated that he can more than hold his own, and actually he needs this level of interaction from his peers now.
So- his teenage years have truly begun, and I honestly couldn’t be prouder, more excited, or more nervous for him than ever! Watch this space!!