As I look to the fresh start a new year brings in, I find myself taking a moment to consider how I, as a parent blessed with a child with special needs, can better ensure a year of growth and productivity for my son, Abram. I’ve found that anything I can do that causes Abram to be proud of his accomplishments is when his growth and productivity increase.
In 2019, it’s my aim to continue providing Abram with these types of opportunities, by incorporating new forms of active play into his daily routine that empower and allow him to take pride in himself. While no two children on the autism spectrum are the same, below are three forms of active play that we’re looking forward to in the new year:
1 – Music/Music Therapy
Abram’s music lessons allow him to be in control in a form of active play that he wants and chooses. His music therapist works through his obstinance, making him voice his needs through music and musical games and allowing him some sense of control in choosing which activity to do next.
Private music therapy is a great option for those children who struggle more in a group or classroom setting. Abram learns and works best in a one-on-one setting with an adult. I think he knows that adults are more understanding and accepting of his differences, which in turn comforts and relaxes him.
2 -Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Abram struggles with being a wallflower around other kids. He dislikes being put in a special needs class, but he doesn’t know how to interact with ‘typical’ kids. In Abram’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class, the instructor calls out the move, demonstrates it and then has the class practice with each other, while she monitors and corrects their technique. This structured social environment allows Abram to interact with other kids in a way that allows him to feel like part of the group.
Our local high school created a Best Buddies class for students who would like to work with children with special needs. The high school’s wrestling coach, who is also a special education teacher, paired his varsity team members with special needs middle school students.
It’s been the best of both worlds for Abram: he is able to engage with other students in a setting that has the comfort of one-on-one interactions. Recently, he participated in a real wrestling meet, where he wrestled with his big buddy. I’ve never seen Abram so proud of his accomplishments or engaged in active play. I was one proud mama too, seeing my typically shy wallflower actually engaging with other kids.
We’ve been extremely fortunate in finding people who understand and are willing to work with Abram. I highly recommend talking with other parents, therapists and professionals to learn more about the different opportunities for active play in your respective community. It’s different for every child, but finding a form of active play that makes them feel a sense of pride and accomplishment is always a positive. At the start of this new year, I encourage you to be open to what that looks like for you and explore the various ways you can encourage active play for your loved one on the spectrum!