On Joining Groups

I started writing this post with a simple lesson in mind, ” Don’t give up after the first failure.”  Robert’s first encounter with a day care was a disaster.  So I gave up. Later, I learned that trying again and easing Robert’s way into new places and new situations could bring positive outcomes. But as I was writing I discovered another, more important, connection between our experiences with Robert, and the possible effects of one on one aide at school on Robert’s delayed (if not missing entirely) understanding of  belonging to a group of his peers. 

 

July 31, 2014

When Robert was 2 years old, I left him once, on a trail basis, in a day care.  I picked him up two or three hours later only to learn that he had extremely hard time and so did everybody else.  He cried without even short break during the whole time he was there.   So I have never signed him again.  It was long before Robert got his diagnosis, but I had already known that the serious diagnosis was imminent.

A few month later, Robert had equally hard time separating from me during three hours a week of his early intervention program followed by equally hard time in his special preschool.  He did not have problems with separation when he joined private ABA school.  I believe that it was because he knew some of his teachers as they had already worked with him during home program.

Nineteen years later,  I brought Robert to a new program – a cooking class.  He knew the place, he knew the person in charge and yet, he didn’t want to stay.  He did not want me to leave.  So I stayed.  I stayed the whole two hours.  Robert was tense.  Although he followed directions and did a fair amount of work, he watched my every move.

The next week, he found his way to the kitchen and joined the group not even checking if I was still there.  I was there.  At least for the next five or ten minutes.  Then, not really sure if that was a right decision, I left. Somehow,Robert understood (or felt) that my presence was unnecessary or even unwelcome.

This pattern of requesting the presence of a parent during the first encounter with a new place or a new activity, repeated itself when Robert joined Walking Club at local ARC.  The first time, he attended it, he requested his dad’s company. “Requested”  is an understatement.  It was clear that Robert would not make one step without his dad and that he wouldn’t let  his dad take one step without him either. So dad accompanied him during that walk.  The next Saturday, however, Robert joined the group without even looking at his dad.  He understood, yet again, social rule about this group.  It excluded parents.  And for a good reason. It is harder to connect with peers when the parent is present.  Even if the word “connect” means only “observe” and “follow” .  Parent (be it me, be it Jan) was like a magnetic charge which although invisible, was  pulling Robert away from the group and thus it was making the identification with other member of the walking club much more difficult.

 

 

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