With Riley’s communication challenges much of his IEP (Individual Education Plan) goals have always been focused around social and self-help skills as opposed to academic goals. We have never wanted to set limits to what Riley might be able to accomplish yet we also had to be realistic in our expectations for the future as hard as that sometimes was. First and foremost we wanted to ensure R had a happy, positive and successful school experience.
Another piece of what I like to call “Riley’s Social Success Puzzle” was Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society’s Autism Demystification programs. The Friend 2 Friend programs offers "a first step" towards fostering friendships for children on the autism spectrum (McCracken). Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society is a local not-for-profit organization that was established in 2002. Heather McCracken, the creator of the F2F model and programs, just happened to be a parent at the boys’ school. Her son Iain and J2 are the same age and were classmates.
Shortly after Friend 2 Friend (F2F) presented their first puppet presentation to Riley’s grade, I went out with the F2F team to observe one of their presentations. That was it. I was hooked. I am almost certain I would not have believed the impact of the puppet presentation or simulation game had I not seen it for myself. The way the children were engaged throughout both presentations and picked up on ALL the key learning points amazed me. I volunteered my time on the spot and started a new “career” as a puppeteer/presenter. :D Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that however it turned out to be one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve had to date.
|Riley's class participating in the F2F Simulation Game|
The F2F Simulation Game presentation (pictured) helps participants understand "what it feels like" to have autism. Visit the Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society website for more information about all their programs and services.
Yes there are still the times that I beat myself up about whether or not we have done all that we could have. There are always the “what if’s”. But when I look at Riley today, he is a happy go-lucky teenager (which is more than I can say for some *wink*) and even though there is still a lot of work ahead of us, isn’t their happiness what we all really want for our kids?
Part 3 will be focussed on the positive benefits of both programs and some of the extra curricular activities that were organized for Riley. I welcome any comments/questions you might have.