by Marcia Hinds – Megan and Ryan’s Mom
When your kid has autism, the social skills are the last to come and the hardest to teach. Every behavior and every social skill had to be directly taught to Ryan. This was one of the hardest part of autism for me. We had to directly teach my son how to do things other kids just knew. Every behavior had to be broken down into step-by-step directions.
Sometimes I had to break things down for myself too, so I wouldn’t become overwhelmed by all the things Ryan still needed to learn. It was one behavior at a time. It was difficult to cope on the days when that didn’t work. At times, all I could do was put one foot in front of the other. I concentrated on the current behavior we needed to master and how to accomplish that. Looking too far ahead was not helpful in the least, if I was to survive the daily torment that was part of helping Ryan.
Helping Ryan was all I did. I was a mom on a mission. I couldn’t give up. I was the only one who signed up for the job of being Ryan’s mother. Parents seem to be the only ones equipped with the stamina to do this awful job. And I didn’t have much else but my gut to guide me. It seems like I shouldn’t have felt so alone when I had such a warm and supportive husband and family. But I felt alone and stranded on Autism Island.
I started my quest for Ryan to be social and have friendships by borrowing kids from my friends in our neighborhood. I had to force Ryan to interact because he didn’t know how. And at first he didn’t want to. I told him having friends over is mandatory, and either he could pick who was coming for a play date, or I would.
When I first began this mandatory human interaction, I was the one who played with the other kids, while Ryan hid in the back of the house. When he finally did venture out, he quickly proved that playing with him was not fun. To compensate, I made my house the place every kid wanted to be. I had the best toys and the best snacks. We even built a Gucci playhouse, got a trampoline, video games, and anything else that would be a kid attractor. These children who came to my house liked the one-on-one attention they got from me. I used anything and everything to make them want to come back.
At first, play dates did not last long, because I wanted Ryan to experience success. Another reason they were short was so the kids we invited would not witness one of Ryan’s inevitable meltdowns. We increased the playtime only after Ryan became more comfortable with a particular friend. As Ryan became more comfortable and knew what to expect, his inappropriate behaviors diminished somewhat.
Ryan loved to cook and do science experiments. So we used what he loved to help him learn social skills. His interests helped to teach following directions, cooperation, and how to wait your turn. We started with activities that Ryan enjoyed like video games, doing puzzles, and later board games where the rules were clear. We chose activities that didn’t require much conversation.
We practiced these activities and roll played what might happen before attempting them with a friend. Everything was pretaught and had a script so Ryan knew exactly what to expect and play dates were predictable in the beginning. As his social skills increased, I made the play dates more challenging and varied our script. When he was ready, we’d add another child to the mix. It took a long time before we attempted small groups of children. The social was the hardest to teach and the last to come. But was also the most important thing my son needed to learn!
NOTE FROM MARCIA HINDS – Megan and Ryan’s mom:
Ryan became an aerospace engineer, because he received proper medical treatment combined with behavioral, and educational interventions. To preview my book, “I Know You’re In There – winning our war against autism”go to Amazon or my website www.autism-and-treatment.com
Contact info for Marcia: