This guest post is by Melina Chavarria, M.S. a Mother, Autism Advocate, Leader, and Coach. You can read more of her blogs at www.ausomelife.com.
With the gift giving season over, I think about all of the things I was not able to give my boys, and I remind myself that the best gifts are expansive. Although the solar system toy that my son asked for will make him happy for a moment, the investment I make in who he is will give him unlimited happiness for a lifetime. Instead of buying toys, I invested in an astro-physics course that they both took at a science academy.
My oldest has been dreaming about going to outer space since he was 3. He is now 7 years old, and it is never too early to start helping him build the skills he needs to be successful now and in the future. The class he is attending is covering some pretty basic material about the solar system that he already knows. As much as he may know about the solar system, there are other important fundamental skills he is learning during our time there.
This is our first attempt at participating in a program that is not specifically for kids on the spectrum. Even though I am always a bit nervous about what will transpire, it is important that my children start to integrate into general programs with the general public. I go into these situations with an open mind. I know that we may face some challenges, but if we never try, we will never know what we are capable of.
Even though we are only a few weeks into the program, I am starting to see his natural skills and abilities unfold. He is always very excited to talk about the planets, and to participate in class. He is also great at following visual directions and cues. He understands what to do next by looking at the white dry erase board that the instructor uses to draw examples and write instructions.
Along with being aware of his strengths, I am also aware of where he still has challenges. One of his greatest challenges is impulse control. He has a difficult time with waiting for direction, and at times following auditory instructions. Sometimes it seems that he does not hear the instructor at all. For example, if the instructor has asked them to wait to do something, he does not wait. He is in a hurry to move on to the next thing.
As we continue to help him prepare for space, it is important to continue to leverage his strengths and balance that with improving the areas in which he struggles. I don't expect him to come out of this class being ready to BLAST OFF. For now, my main focus is on increasing his knowledge about science and the solar system. I also want to continue to teach him the material in ways that he learns best. His ability to process auditory information is limited, so how can we get him to understand the material through the other means and methods used in the class? Fortunately there are a lot of hands on projects that they work on which is perfect for his Kinesthetic learning style. Although it is always best to teach how he learns; we also have to help him learn other techniques that will help him succeed when the material is not being tailored to his style. One technique I have been working with him on, is asking him where he should look for clues, and remembering what the teacher said he should do first. This has helped him regain his focus and get back on track when he seems to get lost in his own world.
The journey to space is a long one. I know this class alone is not going to get him to where he wants to go tomorrow. However, I am confident that we are building on something slowly but surely that is going to help him achieve his dreams in the long run. Whenever I feel discouraged that we still have a lot of work ahead of us, I remind myself how far he has come, and this keeps me hopeful on days when the journey seems long or out of reach.