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Miss Lisha's rules to adventuring

My recipe for starting an adventure...

 

1.)    No therapy!  Adventure Club is not about therapy—it is about having fun and exploring the community as a group.  Do NOT introduce therapy into your adventures!  Adventure Club in and of itself may be therapeutic but it is in no way THERAPY.  These kids have enough therapy in their lives, it’s time to allow them to let their proverbial hair down and be themselves. 

 

2.)    Make fun your only goal.  Because this isn’t therapy, please don’t find yourself in a situation where therapists (or future therapists) run your adventure.  Lord knows I think therapists practically walk on water and thank heaven for them every single day—BUT, you must remember therapists (the good ones anyway) always see the goals, the problems, the difficulties.  They simply cannot turn it off.  I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the greatest therapists to walk this earth and I can tell you that it is intuitive for them (the good ones anyway).  They are constantly seeing the problem, finding the solution, and working in 15 goals along the way.  And therapists know how to make therapy fun (the good ones anyway), however, at the end of the day, it is still therapy.  If a therapist moves your adventure forward, your adventure just became therapy and you can refer back to rule number one…  Therapists  (and teachers as well!) can be of help to you though and give you ideas or help you recruit other families but keep the ONLY goal of the adventure as F-U-N.

 

3.)    Make it a family affair.  Siblings and parents should be involved in the adventure.  Adventure Club is NOT ONLY about the child with autism.  The child with autism may have brought you to this adventure but don’t let that be the only thing that keeps you together.  Siblings need support too, siblings need relationships too, and siblings sure as heck need to have just as much fun as everyone else!  Parents need to be a part of the adventure in order to see just HOW much fun being together and trying something new can be.  If parents drop off children and pick them up later, you have missed the boat as to what an Adventure Club can really be.  I am a family oriented person and I think we need MORE family activities and LESS drop your kiddo off and go run errands kinds of activities. 

 

4.)    Use and expand the obsessions.  I love the autistic obsession.  Why?  Because it gives me a place to start.  Every kid I’ve ever met on the spectrum has one and it gives you a way to connect with him or her.  So stop forcing square pegs into round holes and embrace the obsession.  If you have future scientists on your hands, do science.  If you have future artists on your hands, incorporate art.  If you have future musicians on your hands, turn up the volume and jam on.  Don’t think about what YOU as an adult or parent wants to do or what YOU find interesting—do what the children love—because if you don’t the fun just got sucked out of the adventure.  And you need to refer back to Rule #2 about F-U-N.

 

5.)    Expose your children and yourselves to something NEW.  In some cases, a child may not show a preference for one thing or another and it seems difficult to engage the child.  Continue to expose the child to new activities like science, art, music, drama, yoga, games, and all the other parts to childhood so every other kid gets to experience in life.  Learn to think about the world as a series of concepts—light, shadow, absorption, carbonation, flight, gravity, and so on.  Take the concept and start simple and get more and more complex.  Learn to see the whole world as an adventure waiting to happen.  Don’t be afraid to try something new because of sensory issues or language demands or cognitive concerns.  Don’t be afraid to fail.  Often it’s only through our failures that we see and fully understand our successes.

 

6.)    Get OUTSIDE.  How many outdoor classrooms do these children have?  How many therapy cubicles have grass under feet and wind in your hair?  Not many.  All children, but certainly those with autism, are spending TOO much time inside the house, inside the school, and inside the clinic.  Too much time sitting at a table or a desk working, working, working.  If it’s cold, wear a coat.  If it’s raining, grab a poncho.  If it’s hot, hydrate often.  Whatever the weather get outside and enjoy what I refer to as Nature’s Playground—you’ll never find a sensory clinic that can even remotely compare to the natural environment.  Being outside will also push you to think faster, more creatively, and pushes you to be more flexible. 

 

7.)    Throw your checklist out.  Some of us are checklist people and some of us want to hurl when we see a checklist.  I’m more of the hurling variety.  Checklists and goals and ‘must do’ objectives have NO place in an adventure.  Checklists smack of therapy.  If we want to encourage the development of play, TRUE play, in our children then we cannot expect such spontaneity when we gleefully check off the time together minute by minute.  These children are exposed to constant routine and predictability—which is a good thing that is often taken too far.  Spontaneity has a role in the autistic person’s life.  Life is not a checklist, life is not a Boardmaker schedule.  Life happens and it happens in ways you can rarely predict.  Always bring a variety of toys / activities to the adventure because you never know when a beach ball tournament will break out and change your schedule.  Live in the moment and I guarantee that you'll be rewarded with an unprompted hug and smile.  Let these children explore HOW to use the executive functioning muscles in that frontal lobe.  You have to learn to deal with the unexpected, you have to learn how to fail in order to succeed.

 

8.)    Embrace creativity.  Let the creative juices flow and if your rocket day has turned into water day, so be it.  Encourage and foster creativity by being creative yourself.  Learn to say, “I wonder what would happen if…”  Creativity and spontaneity often go hand in hand and when the checklist is thrown out, you’ll see creativity explode tenfold. 

 

9.)    Acceptance rules.  Don’t find yourself segregating the children with Asperger’s Syndrome from the children more profoundly affected.  For the sake of these adventures, autism is autism no matter what the form it comes in.  Embrace the differences—each child will have his own strengths to share with the group and we all learn from each other.  Don’t allow yourself to criticize or judge how others handle situations—we’ve all been judged before and not one of us has ever liked that feeling.  These adventures will create friendships you never thought possible and will open doors to compassion and understanding among us all.

 

10.)   Get help.  Find an army of volunteers to help your adventures along.  High school students, college students, friends and neighbors can all have a place in your adventure.  Provide certificates of volunteerism to those who participate.  All high school students need volunteer time / community service to get into college and most college students need the very same thing to graduate.  Extra hands mean an extra minute or two for the parents who so desperately need that time to develop relationships with other parents (or to even catch a chance to just BREATHE!).

 

When in doubt remember the definition of adventure:

 

A.) To venture upon, undertake, or try

B.) To take a risk, dare.

 

 

Dare to start an adventure today!