July 15, 2011
The idea for this summer has been to set up Chef with various volunteer positions. This continues Chef's understanding of the importance of building community, allows more people in Chef's community to get to know him, and provides work experience for Chef.
Our local library, thrift shop, and arts center all have volunteer opportunities. Chef already has some volunteer experience in visiting with seniors, helping out at local community events for newcomers through the local Immigration Services program, and helping out with events for adults living with disabilities. So far, Chef has always had me alongside supporting him while volunteering. I am partially hopeful that perhaps we'll be able to find a volunteer opportunity where Chef can be on his own amongst other volunteers/staff, at least for part of a day.
This past week we've been volunteering at the local arts center. They run a day camp for young children. Chef attended the day camp when he was younger, but never actually made it through an entire week. This past week, he spent over 5 hours preparing crafts one day and helped with crafts, games, various arts activities, and supervision for 2 full days plus one afternoon. With me by his side, Chef was very helpful with cleaning up, took direction well from the day camp coordinator, and needed frequent reminders that he wasn't there as a camper to play. Without me there at his side, Chef very much seemed to view himself as a camper and even had a moment or two when he disrupted activities by engaging other kids in playing something other than what they needed to be doing at the time. By his last volunteer day there this week, Chef's leadership skills had shifted to pointing at a child followed by, "Hey! Hey hey hey! Nuh-uh! I said no!" Maybe time will bring a sense of balance.
Next week, we're planning to spend only one or two afternoons at the arts center - this past week took a bit more energy than I could afford, and left little for what was still required for evenings at home. Tomorrow we're planning to ask at the thrift shop about volunteer opportunities, and next week we'll look into what's available at the library.
Chef has also been working on figuring out what he can create to sell online, and has been spending time with a few books(autism and history) as well as one of the guitars. In fact, until we get the window issue dealt with, Chef has been singing and/or playing guitar in his room at bedtime until he is too tired to stay awake. (Now we just need to figure out the mornings.) This evening he made supper (ground chicken mini-burgers, mashed sweet potato, steamed asparagus), asked if he could please do chores tonight so he could spend time playing with one of his nieces this weekend, and asked if we could watch a movie together. Very cool.
**Umm - Chef just brought my laundry upstairs (on hangers even!) because he wants to get his clothes into the dryer and mine were done. Nothing like this has happened before. Ever. "Wow!" seems like a drastic understatement.
This blog was initially set up as a means of communicating with my son's team. Since then, I've heard from other parents with similar stories. If you are living with challenges or journeying alongside someone who is, you are not alone. There are many of us. I'm a single adoptive Mom (http://richesofsimplicity.blogspot.com/) of a young man who lives with many abilities and many diagnoses. We have journeyed together through many challenges and a few adventures over the years as my son has tried to find space in this world that makes him feel more comfortable, an attempt made especially difficult when living with Attachment Disorder, PDD-NOS (Autism), Developmental Coordination Disorder, ADHD, prenatal substance exposure, etc. Some of the strongest elements used in this journey have been music, visual arts, therapeutic parenting, team-connection, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, communication skills, community-building, continual lifeskills training, and elements of Theraplay. (Click here for some written resources.) On this journey, there is laughter and tears and growth and hope. The greatest of these is hope.