Yesterday, my brother and I threw a surprise birthday party for my Dad. He will be 80 in a few days. We brought in his family he hasn’t seen in several years. We contacted friends they had lost track of, the whole bit.
On top of all that, a mom of a child with autism doesn’t have the luxury to only think about that. I also had to prime Steve. There were going to be a lot of people in that room (almost 50). The sound Is going to get loud at times. The bathroom is in the main restaurant next door so you need to ask me before you go (there is a door to the outside world in between). The food is going to have burners under them so don’t go near the food.
I decided at almost 9, this is a perfect social skills training ground and learning environment (well what ISN’T actually but that’s a whole other post).
About a week before we talked about pausing video games to meet new people. I taught him how to shake hands. This is big because this room was filled with family. Family I was always made to hug as a child. Hugging grown people was a way of showing respect. I wasn’t sure if Steve could hug strange people he’s never met before. Even though they are “family” they are strangers to him. Do I undo all the years of “stranger danger” training. That was so hard to explain that you can not trust every adult just because they are adults. And what about all the “personal space” training we had done with Steve to get him to just stop crashing into people whenever HE wanted to.
Oh Lord, if he starts crashing into people all the older folks will go down like bowling pins! No, no we can not have that. Ok… Hand shaking. Introducing ones self which preps each person that a physical interaction is about to happen the bam, hold out your hand and if they feel comfortable too, they will shake your hand! YES, that is perfect!
We practiced. I showed him pictures of people he was going to meet. We practiced. And practiced and practiced.
I am proud to report, every single time, Steve paused his tablet every time he was asked too. He looked at each person to the best of his ability, held out his hand and said, “Hi, my name is Steve, it is nice to meet you.”
Oh he also never left the room without asking, never went near the “burning food”, never yelled at another kid, didn’t eat the chocolates set out around the tables just to name a few things.
As Steve would say… “MIND BLOWN!”
My work here is done! What more could a mom ask for?!?!
Photo of Steve and his cousin (whom I forgot to get permission to post so I have covered his face. )