Saturday, June 9, 2007

In Praise of Peers

In the world of autism, we often look to a small army of people with titles and training for assistance-SLP's, PT's, OT's, social workers, psychiatrists, teachers, autism specialists, aides, etc. All of these people are great, and I'm glad that they exist. They all have helped Buddy Boy at one time or another.

But something that happened today reminded me of a whole other group of people that are often overlooked, but no less important. Peers. Sometimes just as much assistance (if not more) is provided by occasional individuals with no training, no title, and no pay.

We had a great day today. I was off work. The whole family went to a local cave where noted outlaw Jesse James once holed up. The kids loved walking thru the cave and looking at the stalagtites, stalagmites, and the underground river (although Sweet Pea complained the 40 minutes or so tour was "too long"). Both kids got a souvenir (Sweet Pea got a little unicorn, and Buddy Boy got a flashlight that could project pictures of dinosaurs on the walls). After going out to lunch we still had some time left, so I dropped Liz off and took the kids to our local park.

Who should we run into but Anna, who dedicated readers may remember as the blond girl from Kindergarten who befriended Buddy Boy almost two years ago now. When Buddy Boy was on the fringes and not participating at all, she would approach him and try to talk him into joining the group. She was low key, patient, and persistent. When other typical kids in his class were turned off by his either seeming to ignore them or shrieking at them, she continued to interact with him. And she ended up being one of the better things to happen to Buddy Boy during an otherwise difficult year.

Buddy Boy never got together with Anna outside of school, and when he went to two different schools this past year during first grade, one of our regrets was the loss of Anna as a friendly face for him to see in school.

When we got to the park today Buddy Boy first attempted to climb a crabapple tree that he sometimes likes to climb. Then he ran over to the playground equipment. I was assisting Sweet Pea climb the tree (if Buddy Boy does something, she just has to follow suit). It was then that I noticed the two of them talking. I thought it was Anna from across the playground, but I had only seen her a couple of times, and none recently. They were talking at the top of one of the slides, and I heard Buddy Boy shrieking, which he sometimes does when he gets excited. Usually this is somewhat frightening to most kids, but when this girl didn't run off it confirmed to me that it must have been her.

He followed her and they played on a couple of pieces of equipment. Then Sweet Pea insisted that she wanted to go over and play with them. Sweet Pea went over and quickly convinced them to play "Troll". Playing "Troll" at the playground involves yours truly being the troll who chases the other players and tries to catch and eat them. The troll chases but usually doesn't catch them, except maybe to tag them. Twenty minutes of this left me fairly worn out, but of course the kids could have gone on all afternoon. The kids continued to play a little more after that, then we had to get going.

It was great that Anna remembered Buddy Boy, and even better that she still accepted him as he was. There was a part of me that was afraid that she would have "matured" and been socialized in the last year and a half to reject those who are out of the ordinary. I'm not sure what it was that made her reach out to Buddy Boy when they were in school together, but I'm really happy she did. Sometimes I think it's the non-structured, spontaneous interactions that help Buddy Boy the most.

Here's hoping this is the start of a great Summer.


Random funny thing overheard today (during minor spat between Buddy Boy and Sweet Pea):

"You're lucky that I'm not the kind of brother that would throw his sister into an active volcano that was still filling up with magma."


Ms. Clark said...

Oh, yah! Sweet Pea is one lucky sister... I'm not sure all sister's have a brother who can say what Buddy Boy did re: volcanoes.

I'd say Anna was lucky to have Buddy Boy for a friend, as much as Buddy Boy is. Thank you for sharing the story.

mcewen said...

Typical peers - we love them. My older son discovered 'them' and is motivated to 'fit in' but we're still waiting for Junior. Have a great summer.

Suzanne said...

Hooray for Anna! and others like her.

Daisy said...

I'm not sure which part of the post was my favorite: the wonderful friendship, the volcano image (snicker), or the "No Grils" poster on buddy Boy's door!

Mom without a manual said...

I love that some of the best interactions for our kids are those that we can't plan and script out for them! Thank God for the Annas in the world!

One cynical question: would he throw her in a volcano that wasn't active and not currently filling up with magma? It might by him some alone time while she had to climb out???

bigwhitehat said...


Anonymous said...

You are so right about the peers! I don't know what it is, but TJ has had a number of little girls smitten with him over the last 4 years. Seriously! Either he takes after his dad (hubby has more female than male friends), or it's the attraction to the handsome, non-communicative type that some women develop starting already.

Was Anna at the park with a parent? Did you get her phone number? She would make a perfect playdate prospect for Buddy Boy.

Anonymous said...

...of course, he'd probably want to take down the "No Grils" sign while she was over!

Club 166 said...

Anna was at the park with her Au Pair.

If I recall correctly, her family didn't seem all that interested in a playdate a year and a half ago. If I see the parents again, perhaps we'll broach the subject again.

I'm not sure how Buddy Boy would do with a play date, to tell the truth. He's usually much happier by himself at home, unless you want to do exactly what he wants to do. Spontaneous interactions like this one are hit or miss. I think the familiarity of past association helped.

For now, I'll enjoy these times when they happen.


Ange said...

So glad Buddy Boy had fun! We would never make it out of that cave alive nowadays (we went a few years back, but Bubba has since developed a fear of the dark). Bubba's favorite part at the time was the toy cork gun he got (and quickly 'lost' once we returned home).

We are not having luck with the neighborhood kids, but every so often we hit the jackpot when we're at the park, and there's another child that brings out the best in Bubba (and in me since I am not anticipating someone getting hurt).

kristina said...

That's so lovely (Anna, not exactly the "kind of brother" who doesn't throw his sister into a volcano, but then again).

The unexpected works the best magic!

KC's Blog said...

Hooray Buddy Boy and Anna!