How many of us have the skills to effortlessly navigate social situations? To read non-verbal clues? To take turns listening, and to really focus on what the other person is saying and respond appropriately?
Making friends, keeping friends, being a good friend - these are the challenges all of us face at all walks of life. Children on the autism spectrum especially can struggle to decipher and to understand the fundamental building blocks of human interaction, and Diego, at times, needs a lot of help to get the clues that he needs to help him successfully navigate any group activity or one-on-one play with his peers.
This weekend he went to his very first social skills class, a kind of Emily Post's Rules of Etiquette for kids with special needs. It was pretty much a disaster, but in a good way, as every journey begins with a first step, and it really put into focus some of the areas we want to focus on as parents, and with his team of therapists and caregivers.
The greatest part for us was how, later, he was able to reflect back on and process the experience, and how it bubbled up in this amazingly expressive drawing he made - let's call it a mash-up portrait of the various children that were in the social skills group with him, combined with his current obsession of watching commercials for Trix cereal on YouTube!
You can see the Rabbit and the fruit shaped cereal floating up and out of the bowl, and one kid in line singing the Trix jingle, and at the same time he was able to recreate from memory the constellation of new kids he had met in class.
As always, we look forward to learning as much from Diego and this experience as we do watching him learn.
With his artistic skills, he will always find a creative way to communicate what he feels about the unfolding, mysterious process of mastering his social skills.