So, every December in our community there is something called the Winter Fling. It's basically a special needs children's Christmas party where there are girl scout volunteers that are paired with a child. They have a gym filled with activities and rooms for Arts and Crafts, Music Therapy, and Santa and Mrs. Claus is available to see. This is a bittersweet day for me every year. First of all, I love the girl scouts for doing this, they are adorable, sweet, and questioning girls but when Chandler was paired up and they handed him the "gathering your crafts, prizes and treats" bag he promptly dropped it at her feet and covered his ears. She looked at me with huge eyes and asked "Why is he covering his ears?" Oh my dear girl, meet autism. Autism means he won't respond to you when you say "Chandler, lets make a Christmas card!" My friend Kate, and her daughter Emily were being paired up too and I heard her girl say,"Emily, first we can decorate cookies, and then we will make a pipe cleaner candy cane." (I must say when we were finished and Kate told her husband that story, I'm not sure which one of us was giggling harder). Their intentions are wonderful and my heart breaks because they are unprepared and the experience is dulled for both the volunteer and the recipient. She looked nervous when Chandler used a third of the green sparkles to decorate his cookie, and made only dots on his Christmas card by smashing the red marker tip into the paper with vigor. We move on to music therapy time (a favorite for so many children there). Chandler has two favorite instruments that he will ONLY play, and Emily is assuring that all children have their appropriate mallet. Something angers her, and one drum goes flying across the room. "Emily's here!" I see the therapist say with a big smile. She is familiar with many of our children. The girls kept deflecting to us with unsure smiles and sweeping attempts to keep the interest of their charge. I pulled out my camera to keep Emily from her excited, full bore running scan of the room, and I wrapped Chandler in my arms to play Tom-tom drum on the floor while he admonished me with an angry noise for holding his hands. It is a beautiful and amusing moment for me. Kate looks stressed, but is laughing at Emily announcing "Attention, attention" to the room from a podium at the back. Our quirky, loving, gorgeous children are having fun THEIR way, and its just fine.
Time for Santa! This year my eyes fill with tears as Chandler actually sits on Santas lap. I help drag out the words I...Waa (want)...and I wait...(we practiced saying video game). He said ...Pop Tarts. Santa looks up and me and says with a grin "Pop Tarts! Okay!" (Thank you Santa) and he hands Chandler a gift bag. Chandler frowns. (This is not a pop tart). And we gather our things to leave. I give him an extra hug for being brave today, and walk out into the snow piles and try to keep them from plowing through them on the way to the car. Dear Girl Scouts, I have made it a promise to come visit you and explain what I can to help you understand so that this can be the experience for you that it should be. May it be half as beautiful and inspiring as it is for me. Mom to Chandler, Autism Educator