The school year is coming to a close and we had our final session of “Circle of Friends”. The group came together for a final shaved ice party. “D” was excited to have a party and asked about members that hadn’t arrived yet. He wanted to make sure everyone was there. He seemed really comfortable with the group and they were comfortable with him. To see them interacting with each other made this venture all worthwhile for me. There has been a lot of growth for everyone involved. Its amazing to me what can be accomplished in 16 sessions. “D” has really benefited from their caring and accepting attitude. They have benefited from knowing they can make a difference in another individuals life and not to be afraid of other people who may seem quite different from themselves.
This group is going to middle school so there is a lot of reflecting and reviewing as we remembering their elementary years. The students want to know if the group will continue in our building next year and in middle school as well. We’ve let the staff at the next building know it was a worthwhile group and worth continuing. Hopefully some of the group will still have interaction with “D” in middle school. We took a picture of the group that we will hand out to them later.
The speech pathologist in this district, and a lot of places, have been hit hard with budget cuts for next year. In the giant scheme of things, administrators and school boards are not always aware of what role speech pathologist play in a school building or how our jobs are managed. Many people still have the idea we take children into small little rooms and drill for articulation. Over the years, this has expanded greatly into classroom supports, consultation for the teachers, and working with increased numbers of children with autism. We often see these students when they need help and a place to go when the classroom is too overwhelming. The fact of the matter is, it is hard to continue programs like this when the speech pathologist is scheduling therapy for children in multiple buildings and programs. Also, it often means giving up a lunch break for the adults involved. Although I feel it is a worthwhile program it may not be possible to continue it next year. However, I hope people have enjoyed reading about the possibilities and if you are not an SLP have had a glimpse of what we do in an elementary building.
This is a crazy time of year filled with extra meetings for children moving on to middle school and incoming early childhood children for the next kindergarten class. It doesn’t allow for as much preparation time. So this session is a good contrast of what can go wrong when there isn’t time to think the details through.
The Circle Friends came together as usual for lunch. You may remember that originally we allowed the circle friends to have an early lunch time so they could have more time to meet after eating their lunch. Their classmates actually had recess first and then came in for lunch. This had worked well up until this point. This becomes an important detail the adults forgot.
The friends asked “Dee” if he would like to play jump rope or 4 square. He chose jump rope. Today we had a sunny day, which we hadn’t seen for a while.
The friends decided it would be great to go outside. “D” didn’t like this idea. He told them that you jump rope in the gym. Apparently this was something new and we hadn’t prepared him for. He was uneasy about going outside to jump rope. He played outside regularly on non circle days so you wouldn’t have thought this would be a problem. This is a persuasive group, and they got him to say he would go outside. Leaving the room, he decided to head for the gym doors. However the group managed to go out the side doors on the way and just sorta carried him along with them. He was still reluctant telling us we needed to use the gym, but he went with the group to the playground. He made it to the playground and the group got the jump rope going. He decided he would twirl. It looked like he would settle in and everything would be all right. Then within 10 minutes of being there it happened. The whistle blew for his classmates to come in for lunch. Well routine took over reason and “D” decided he needed to line up too. He didn’t buy into the idea he already ate his lunch and could stay outside. I did get a bit of a video tape showing him twirling outside. Maybe the tape will make him see he is able to jump rope outside as well. I think this session is a reminder not to lose sight of the details and details matter to a child with autism. Prior preparation can make a big difference.
This is our 14th Friday of Circle of Friends. The weather isn’t cooperating. It turned out to be a day of drizzle so I managed to tape off a 4 square in the gym and grab a rubber ball before it was taken. On wet days the students all try to fit under a covered area outdoors and about the only thing they can do is play wall ball. It becomes a bit chaotic. The gym is a better controlled area.
I met with “D” earlier in the morning for his speech class and asked if he wanted to come to meet with his friends at lunch and then play 4 square.. He said “sure” without hesitation. Then when leaving he told me he would see me for lunch in my room, so I knew I was on his schedule. His educational assistant told me later that he also informed her he was eating with his friends. She had forgotten to write it on his schedule, so it was good he had taken the initiative.
As the year is progressing, the group of friends is becoming a lot less formal. It’s becoming a natural gathering with everyone chattering as 10 yr. old students do. “D” has become the roll call taker and asks about anyone who is missing. After that, he becomes very absorbed with eating so does not make much comment unless asked direct questions. He did appear to be listening and answered questions, so I do believe he is benefiting by watching. The topic was sports and what they like to play. They talked about playing basketball and the rules for the game of “HORSE”. They decided that “D” could play that because he does make baskets.
We have some fast eaters in this group. “D” is one of the slower eaters so he struggles to keep up. He also has a plan to take a bite of everything. The poor apple only gets about 3 bites. He does manage to get the burger down.
The taped 4 square worked out fine. The students needed reminding to break the task down when giving directions and relate it back to what we had taught “D” last time. He caught on and before you know it they were playing 4 square. They needed to alert him when the ball was being bounced his way, but he was able to return it without problem. They were kind in not making him go out, but toward the end I suggested this might be a good thing, because it is part of the game. He took it in stride and decided he would take a break. This meant he went spinning down the middle of the gym. Everyone was impressed and thought he should try out for gymnastics.
Just a note to let you know I added antonym sentence cards in the listening comprehension section.
I didn’t get a chance to post last week although we did meet. We have approximately a chance for 5 more meetings before the end of the year. Adult meeting schedules are starting to interfere at this time of year. Thankfully things are going so well that less planning and structure is needed.
At the last meeting the students decided to attempt to teach 4 square. We really didn’t know how well “D” bounced a ball. On the playground, he was prone to throwing it at head level. We decide that we would start by seeing how well he could bounce a ball between students. He was now familiar with the group and the gym so we didn’t make a preview video tape.
The adults of course have a plan beyond the student wishes. We want to be able to step back with less adult prompting. One of the main goals was to get ‘D” interacting with peers without adult directions. Hopefully, he will become comfortable interacting with this group as he moves up to middle school next school year.
For the 13 circle, everyone was present , including “D”. He listened to the discussion at the lunch table but didn’t join in. He knew we had a plan to go to the gym, so was busy eating. Unfortunately he is a slow eater compared to the other students so we didn’t push conversation. He also gets concerned if he hasn’t finished his lunch.
Amazingly we were able to round up a rubber ball and make it to the gym. We formed a circle and practiced passing the ball with a bounce through the middle of the circle. “D” started out with head shots, but soon realized everyone was bouncing the ball first. Soon he was into the activity like everyone else. We then went to fast passing which meant you really had to keep your attention or get hit with the ball. This led to some natural silliness as they tried to get the ball passed to an unsuspecting student. “D” stayed with the group through it all. It was good to see he was flexible even if the rules changed a bit. He added his own exclamations to the group and was interactive. We decided the ball passing was a success and we could move on to using the actual 4 square next time. We had a few minutes left s ended the group by bringing out the jump ropes.
Today was the eleventh meeting for the “Circle of Friends”. “D” participated in the session. It was two weeks since the last session because of teacher grading day last Friday. You may remember, the group made a video at the last meeting demonstrating how to jump rope. “D” watched the video and decided he would be willing to try it.
It’s remarkable how much his interaction with the group has changed. He now seems to look forward to meeting with them and doesn’t hesitate about saying “Lets try it”.
The adult vision for an event does not always correspond to what actually happens. As it turned out, “D” was not that interested in the jumping part of jump rope. We convinced him to give it a try once and that lasted for only one jump. He was more interested in being a twirler and took up one end of the rope. In his self-appointed position, he directed changes of the other end so everyone got a turn. He also took responsibility for counting the number of jumps completed.
I realized, this position was actually a good place for him to be. He had to be aware of his position to the jumper and other twirlers so the rope didn’t go slack . He had to know when to stop. He had to correspond his arm movement to the other twirler. This forced him to remain engaged with the other students. I have never seen him so animated with an infectious laugh. He really seemed to enjoy himself.
The game continued to evolve, with increasing the number of jumpers who tried to jump at once. It didn’t bother “D” and he continued to twirl. The group enjoyed his enthusiasm and appeared more comfortable knowing his reactions weren’t unpredictable. I could see where this activity may carry over to the playground. There is always a need for a good twirler and now they know his capability.