I vented in my first blog. For my sophomore effort, I’d try to be positive but you gotta stick with it.
It is well known that social skills are not a strength of kids with autism. My teenage son does not hangout Uptown with friends or even text for that matter. I have to find social opportunities for him. It is not easy. At first I tried the Park District. When Henry was in single digits, he could participate in some typical programs with an aide but the gap between him and his same age peers quickly expanded, especially when it came to sports. I also tried a few field trips and athletic programs through the North Suburban Special Recreation Association catalog. Even though the staff was always outstanding, the ability level in the programs’ participants varied so greatly that Henry didn’t make any social connections. Since there were such extreme functioning levels, Henry wasn’t always challenged.
Ok, still venting but I am getting to the uplifting part. Other special needs families who were faced with the same frustration have done something about it. I would like to highlight a couple programs that have the Henry Seal of Approval.
Jordan’s Corner is the creation of Walter Parenti and Daniel Falcon of Warehouse Gym in Highland Park. Inspired by the positive effects boxing and fitness have had on Dan’s brother, Jordan, they knew other special needs kids could improve their coordination, socialization and overall well-being at their gym. Joined by other Warehouse Gym team members, they put together a Saturday class that besides being free (yes, free) stresses confidence building, socialization, health and wellness. I’d swear they are all natural-born physical therapists. Their interactions are incredibly intuitive. Not to mention that the Warehouse instructors are all over the top nice and reality-show beautiful. They are their own best advertisement. Mary Parthe at the gym coordinates the program. Her email is Mary Parthe firstname.lastname@example.org
Slammers Sports is a modified basketball and baseball sports program. According to their website, “Slammers was started in the summer of 2003 by two fathers who loved their kids, loved sports, and were frustrated by the lack of sports programming for kids with cognitive disabilities”. What I love about the program is they teach the kids actual sports skills. The first half of class is devoted to drills and the second half they play a game. There are accommodations during play but more importantly they keep score. This is unusual in the special needs world. Not all special needs kids are too fragile to learn about winning and losing. Since it is run by volunteers and many expenses are offset by in-kind donations, Slammers Sports passes the savings onto the already strapped parents. The cost is minimal (less than $100 per season) and they offer scholarships. For more info, http://www.slammerssports.org/
A small program new to me is The Friendship Circle. Unlike the previous programs, Henry has not participated in this one. I recently signed him up for it and hope he will have a chance to try it out. I am optimistic about the program simply by its description at fcil.org.
If there are other programs that you’d like to share, please post them. I have found the best extracurricular activities for Henry through word-of-mouth communication. In fact, I’ve been known to eavesdrop once I overhear the key word “autism”. I will interrupt another party at a restaurant if they happen to be talking about a good social play experience, therapist or special needs teacher that I think will help Henry.
I did not forget about other larger programs dear to my heart such as Keshet’s Buddy Baseball and Special Gifts Theater but decided to save them for another time. Stay tuned.