Friday, March 27, 2009

On the Playground: Another Day

Not one to waste a decent afternoon, I took the boys to the park after Joey got off the bus today. We've been spending a good bit of time at the park whenever we can, because it is good for the boys and Andy begs to go. He likes it best when there are lots of other kids there. It likes it even better when Joey is also there, because he is guaranteed a playmate.

However, we have been increasingly running into issues at the park. Joey has a very set way of dealing with large spaces, with other people, and with play. He cannot see a couple of kids playing and just jump into the game; he has to be told very specifically what the other children are playing, and what his role can be. This has left him open to some very unfortunate situations when children are not so nice, and there are some children at the park, and even in his classes at school, who are, to be frank, mean. They don't just casually exclude Joey, or fail to include him; they actively go out of their way to make it clear that they are shutting him out and casting him off, so that he knows it. Honestly, it takes a good deal of going out of your way to make it painful enough to Joey that he actually says something about it and knows you are doing it on purpose. Little jerks.

Joey and Andy kind of help each other on the playground, as many siblings do. Andy often gives Joey a few extra cues to catch on to a game, some extra repetition to pull him into play. Also, nobody messes with his Joey. When he sees those mean kids taunting him, he has been known to walk right up to them and say, "You weave my Joey awone!"

However, this propping of his older brother sometimes gets on Andy's nerves. He wants to run and be in the game. Also, often Joey wants to play with Andy, but not always the game Andy wants to play. The natural result is that Andy wants to go play the game he wants to play, not the game Joey wants to play with Andy. The result is frustration, and often a few rounds of "I don't want to play with you!" and someone's feelings being hurt- usually Joey's.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of time, the playground chorus is, "Come on, Joey! Come play!" from Andy. Or after a few minutes, Joey's offers of, "Andy! I want to play with you!" is often met with unreserved enthusiasm. But a touch here and there, Andy gets tired of Joey, and wants to play with someone else and do his own thing; and Joey has a very difficult time playing with anyone else, because he and Andy know each other very well, and so Andy automatically and efficiently compensates for Joey's needs. Andy knows how to talk to Joey, how to play with Joey, how to draw Joey into a game and include him. Because of Joey's difficulties with language and social cues, other children have a harder time even when they are trying to be inclusive.

We were in the middle of a "I don't want to play with you!" mood. Joey gave up and started playing alone on the slides (I offered to push him on the swing, but I guess playing with Mom isn't always cool when you are feeling uncool). Andy headed over to the merry-go-round. Not too long ago, the idea of Andy getting on the merry-go-round was ludicrous. He still doesn't care to get on it, he prefers to push, or kick slowly and control the speed. But this time, he was with some new friends, a boy about his age, another older, and a third probably between the other two. They were playing pirates, and they all piled onto the merry-go-round to go "sailing." The bigger boy started pushing, faster, faster. I moved closer, because I knew the breakpoint was nearing. It was crossed. Andy hates feeling like he is going to fall off, and the merry-go-round was going too fast. He started to wail.

Suddenly, Joey darted in from my left. He must have heard Andy and slid down fast to get there so quick. He was calling to the bigger boy, "Stop! Stop! Andy doesn't like to go fast!" and he grabbed the merry-go-round and dug in his heels to slow it down. The other boys were voicing their displeasure, but Andy hopped off, Joey let go.

"Can I play with you, Andy?" Joey asked.

"Sure, come on, Joey!" was the happy reply, and they both ran off to the climbing platforms, leaving the new "friends" behind to spin at their own pace. Because, after all, they're brothers. That's what brothers do.


kristi said...

Awww.......this made me sad, then happy.

little.birdy said...

I wonder if you could isolate some of the things Andy does to compensate for Joey, and then sort of teach them to some of the nicer kids in Joey's class to help him be included in play at school. It sounds like Andy really has it down! I'm glad they have each other though; it was always fun when Andy came to play with us during ABA sessions. :)

Joeymom said...

I think Joey does have an easier time at school than at the playpark, because there is a pushed attitude at school to include folks, he has several kids in the classes who know him well enough to include him, and the teachers are also aware of who the little jerks are and keep them separated from Joey. I probably ought to put together a blog about the in-school campaigns for getting Joey to play, including changing his recess from an inclusion room to a regular room (Joey's math class is not an "inclusion" room, but a "regular" room; ie, the only special ed staff in the room come specifically with Joey, as he is one of the very few in there with an IEP. In fact, I think he might be only one).

Maddy said...

Yes it's much tougher in the park or any other public forum where there's a mixed bag of people and children who haven't benefited from the training and encouragement adopted by many schools. Glad to hear that at least that time they pulled together. I feel for you, I really do. I wish there were some easy answers but of course there never are.
Best wishes

Stimey said...

Thank god for brothers. They're not always perfect, but they're the next best thing.