Best Advice -- Get Active in a Church
It's the summer, and we've had lots of activities going on -- swim lessons, parties, movies, etc. The other day I decided to not take Will to his social skills class so that he could attend a swim party with a church youth group. This was probably the best decision I have made in years, because Will was at this party for three hours, and for the entire time socialized like any other 10 year old would have -- jumping off the diving board, playing football and baseball in the pool, interacting with almost all the kids that were there -- ranging from toddler age up to 15 years.
My best advice to anyone out there who may be reading this blog -- if you are not already active in a church, do so. It may be the one thing that provides constant social activities for your son or daughter on the spectrum. I'll admit, in the beginning after the diagnosis of your child, these activities can be painful. It is really hard watching your child either not socialize at all, or socialize in such a way that it is viewed as inappropriate and some kids may not befriend your child. This is hurtful to your child, AND to you as the parent. I hated those early years of trying to socialize -- it was so hard to watch Will not fit in.
But, after 10 years of trying and trying, this week I finally saw it paying off. Will is still Will, and he still talks too much about bands or video games, but he is doing just fine with socializing in large groups. He is finally at the point where he is just as good socially as many kids his age. I attribute that completely to the constant socialization required from our church -- he attends for three or more hours on Sundays, and then has cub scouts (through our church) for an hour once a week. There is almost always one more activity that requires a couple of hours once a week, so that adds up to 6 hours of socialization each week just through our church. The people at church have known Will since he was a baby, and so they love him and help joke with him and kid with him, and make him feel secure. Since he is with so many other boys at church on a regular basis, he also gets asked periodically to go do something, or come over to someone's house to play, etc. This does not occur so often with the kids at school, so I think that the nurturing aspect of church activity plays out with these opportunities.
If you are currently active in a church, get MORE active. If you are not currently active, try to join a church of your liking. The social opportunities that are inherently available are invaluable.