Recess Woes — The Bump
Special Needs

Recess Woes

I have a 6 y.o. son with AS. He started Kindergarten (M,W and rotating F for full days) this year and for the most part has been doing pretty well.  His biggest struggles are in the areas of social communication, transitions, emotional regulation and sensory. 

Anyhow... At the start of the school year, when we would talk about recess time, he said he was playing with rocks and sticks.   I encouraged him to ask to join other children in play or to play on the playground equipment.  A few weeks into the year, he started playing with the "crew", a group of boys from his class.  They were playing every day on one of those glider things were you hold onto a bar and slide across a rail.

For the past few days, when I have asked about recess he said he has been playing alone. I asked him why and he told me that the crew is playing on all different things now and making new crews.  I suggested that he could ask one of his friends if they would like to play something else and he is totally stuck on the fact the whole crew has to play together on the glider, or they can't play together at all.

He attends a social skills group on Tuesday nights at a private facility.  When I was picking him up last night, I asked the MHP's that run the group what their thoughts were.  They asked him all the same questions that I did (yay! made me feel like I responded well to the situation!) and reminded him that if he wanted to play with friends on the playground, he might have to play what they want to play, not on the glider.  Again, he got totally stuck. 

His social skills MHPs are going to help me write a social story for him.  I also have a call into his SLP at the school district.   All of his speech goals are based upon his social communication.  I am going to ask her if we can have someone help facilitate play at recess time for him.  I really think it would be as easy as having a para give him the prompts to ask another friend or two to play together and having them decide what to play (not just the glider) just prior to go out.  He is a very quick learner, so I don't think it would take too long for him to practice this skill and begin using it on his own.

In the meantime, it just breaks my heart.  He is such a little social being, but just doesn't get how to play with others.  I have a very strong suspicion that all his time spent with the crew was probably him engaging in parallel play.  The other boys my like him just fine, but I doubt that he has made any connections.  :( 

Does anyone have any other wonderful suggestions for how to help him work through this? In the research that I have done, it is my understanding that building these social connections is so important at this age.  I just so badly don't want to see him getting left behind on the playground because he doesn't have the skills to ask another kid to play. :(

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Re: Recess Woes

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    Telling him to ask if they would like to play another game is sort of pointless. He either doesn't know how or he believes he doesn't know how. He needs to be taught this, in a rote manner, with lots of pratice to cement the skill and then even more practice IRL until he's mastered it. This should/could be addressed by a social skills goal in his IEP and eventually pushed into the playground setting after practice.

    I talked to his SLP yesterday and she is going to observe him at recess.  Right now he only gets indirect minutes, but she feels it might be appropriate to add some direct minutes to his IEP.  Directly before recess, his case manager is in the room, so we are going to have her facilitate and give him prompts to ask some playmates to play at recess time.  We are also in the process of getting him in a social skills group during the school day.  In addition to that, we are going to work with his private social skills MHPs to create a social story that he can have a school and at recess to work on that skill.

    Just curious, does he know the names of the "crew"?

    He did not at first, but I practiced with him every single day how to ask until he was able to come home and tell me who was in the crew.  I think he knows all of their names now.

    For getting stuck on an idea, the ever popular Social Story about novelty in play is useful. Deliberate sabotage in other parts of his life would be useful to teach him to be less rigid in his thinking.

    We do lots of deliberate sabotage in our everyday life, but it is proving to be a hard one for him to work through.  I think the playground is proving especially hard since this is his first year navigating this and they really are on their own to make their own choice they are out there. 

    Talking isn't enough. He needs almost hand over hand level coaching to get past this IRL. If you could arrange some playdates, one on one, with nice kids from the crew he could practice this. Floortime is terrific for teaching functional playskills around noveltry and away from scripted control. I did an hour nightly of Floortime with DS around this age.

    I am volunteering in B's room next week, one just because I want to see him in action, but a big part of it is to meet the kids he is playing with and try to get a feel for which would the best match to try to arrange play dates with.  I have done some reading on Floortime, but having taken the initiative to really get it in place and practice it.  We are 18 months out from B's diagnosis and 10 months out from A's, so it has been a crazy year and a half.  I guess I need to get on Floortime, any suggestions of where the best place to start?

    This is all good stuff. But I'd rather see the SLP push her social communication services onto the playground at first. Not a huge para fan. They can easily become a barrier for school aged kids.

    His SLP is going to observe him, and we will hopefully be adding some direct minutes to his IEP. 

    It's great that he's social. The lack of desire to interact, a more autistic than Asperger trait, is the hardest piece to remediate. Weekly playdates would be a great idea.

    I am so thankful he has the desire to be social.  I also found out, in talking to his SLP, that there was a huge influx of kids with ASD this year in K.  She mentioned it was possible that it isn't just him and there are others in the crew that may have the same struggle.

    Playdates. Playdates. Floortime. Deliberate Sabotage. Playdates. Floortime. Playdates.

    Thanks for you help, I always appreciate your knowledge.

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