Tag Archives: friends

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.

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Watching their hair blow in the wind and their small bodies bounce with the waves, I stare at them instead of the beautiful desert mountains surrounding the lake.  I am caught up in emotion watching Ryan sit close to his best friend, William at the front of the boat.  There has never been a different answer to the question, “who is your best friend?”  Since he could answer it, it was William.  They met in pre-school and quickly showed interest in each other.  I have learned the life lesson that you can count real friends on one hand, but for someone who has trouble with social skills, even one friend is an oasis in the desert.  So, I clung like a life preserver to William and his mom, and did all I could to foster Ryan’s first and only friend.

William doesn’t suffer from autism; he has a chromosomal issue that is very rare and has caused him some developmental delays.  I honestly don’t see the delays, and I think he is the cutest thing I have ever seen, next to my own.  William is gregarious and silly and outrageously funny.  When I met his mom, Jess,  I decided instantly we were going to be friends.

Jess, and Rich have invited us to their lake house for a few days.  We have spent many evenings at their house, poolside, celebrating the boys respective birthdays or just family barbeques.  It’s tough to meet another couple and like both of them, plus meet a family who can handle Ryan’s issues—even welcome him.  And even though they don’t have the same set of issues, being under the umbrella of a family with a special needs child is comforting.   So we happily accepted the invite.

“Can I jump in, Dad?” William asks Rich as he slows down the boat.

“Sure!” Rich says with enthusiasm.  Jenna and William’s older brother, Tyler, quickly jump up to the side of the boat and leap in the gleaming water.

“Come on Ryan.” Williams turns to Ryan, who is standing back looking cautiously at the water.

“It’s okay. Watch me.” William says and leaps off the side.  Ryan watches as William comes up and laughs happily.

“Go on bud, jump in.” I say to him.  He hesitates for another second and then climbs up to the seat and bounds off.   His head doesn’t go under as he lands in the water, keeping his hair dry.

“Hey! How did you do that?” Tyler asks in amazement.  Ryan doesn’t answer him, he is swimming after William with a huge smile on his face.

“Mom, did you see that?” Tyler yells from the water.

“Yes! Wasn’t that cool? Ryan, that was awesome!” Jess says smiling.  She turns to me, “how did he do that?”

“He always does that.  I don’t know how…” I turn to watch them playing. I feel a swell of pride at something that Ryan can do that the others can’t.  “His swim coach said that is a life-saving technique she learned, to keep your eye on your victim.  It’s supposed to be really hard to do.”  I am smiling so hard, the back of my head starts to hurt.

“I think he is kicking his feet before he hits the water.” I trail off my thought as I realize I should stop gushing about Ryan’s silly “ trick”,  but the look in Jess’ eyes reminds me she knows how to appreciate all the things our kids can do.

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