It’s hard to outdo someone else, sometimes it’s even harder to outdo yourself. I battle each month how to thank a class of 5th graders.
In Ryan’s class, the school allows (and thank god they do) our aides to host a “recess club”. This club is set up to ensure Ryan has a peer to hang out with at most (if not all) recess’ and lunches. It is completely voluntary, and is always stressed that the children only fill in their name if they want to.
Part of being in the club is attending a monthly “meeting” where Ryan’s aide spends a few minutes devoted to any questions about playing with Ryan. She may give them a small piece of advice like “don’t let him always choose the game” or “you can include him with your other friends too”. When we first started the club in first grade, I would have been happy if five or six kids signed up for most of the days; but it has always been a huge majority, if not all, of the children in the class who sign up. And so far, a play period has never been left empty.
So, back to me, out doing me. When Ryan’s aide approached me about doing the recess club, she mentioned giving the participants small tokens of reinforcement for being part of it. I was all over that.
In the beginning it was easy to find “oriental trading” type give aways: pencils, erasers, note pads, even the occasional homemade baked treat (brownies go over huge). But as the years have progressed and the children have matured, I’ve had to challenge myself to find something new and pertains to what Ryan likes. Since I’ve run the gamut on school supplies and have repeated the chocolate treats, I now have to rack my brain harder. There are few that stand out over the years: the fortune-cookie-shaped eraser with a hand made “fortune” inside that read “You are a good friend” was well received. Last month the chocolate cake mini-loaf with a sticker that said “good friends deserve chocolate cake” was a huge hit. Except for the end of the year pizza party, which is the coup de gras, I’m afraid I have reached a pinnacle. This month’s treat is simple: A small glass jar (Dan is worried this might pose a problem) with a gummy pumpkin or witch filled with m & m’s (Ryan’s favorite) and little note that says ‘Happy Halloween’. If I must say so for myself, they are super cute (I was going to include a picture, but I think you can get the idea.). But I feel I’m at a pinnacle…what will I do next…
What I haven’t extrapolated on is why I try to out do myself each month. It is because, Ryan’s classmates add so much to his life. If they could hear how he talks about each of them every day. How he gets out his yearbook and talks to the faces on the pages and “shows” them his toys. How some mornings he practically jumps out of the car so he can go see them. If they knew how much he has them in his dreams–yes this is new for him to talk to me about a dream, but he does and almost always his friends are part of it. Not only does he believe they are his friends, they actually are. And thanks to years of “training” and learning, they know how to play with him and don’t get too frustrated when he doesn’t reciprocate something. If it wasn’t for the fabulous work of Dr. Hunter and her aides, I believe his social skills would be very different. He wouldn’t really care about having friends. But the recess club has taught him that when it’s time to play, there is someone there for him.
That’s why I believe they need to be rewarded. I don’t believe for a second these tokens entice them to play with him, I think they feel they are a nice perk. These young girls and boys are true, genuine friends to him and for that I am grateful. Indebted to them in ways my words can’t express. So, how next do I out do what I’ve done before to show these wonderful little people the light they have brought to Ryan’s life? That is next month’s battle…for now I can’t wait to hear what they think of this month’s treat.