Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fall Fun Night

Envision the scene.  Friday night at the public middle school.  Lines of cars dropping off boys and girls, some still with remnants of sweet baby chub, others as tall as adults with the swagger of ruling the school.  Girls running to one another giving hugs and excited greetings and boys in groups ready to check out the games.  This is Philip's first big social event at school.  I accompany Philip as his chaperone.  The event is billed as a family night so there are a handful of us parents bringing younger kids, and I bring Philip's fourth grade sister Lia too who fits in well with the confidence of the kids there.  She finds a friend she knows from church and off she goes.  Philip and I enter the gym.  Around the perimeter are all sorts of games like ring toss, darts, and bowling, set up and run by teachers and older students.  Loud party music plays.  The kids play, mingle, and run about.  The younger ones enjoy volleying balloons around.  It is a happy and festive time.

In years past, Philip would have run from this scene.  Any one of the combination of factors there- the crowd, the echoey gymnasium, music from loud speakers, or a frenzy of motion, would give Philip an extreme fight or flight reaction.  I would have given a valiant effort to drag him in while he screamed and cried, eventually giving up in deep frustration.

However, this night was different.  Philip actually confidently walked into the gym.  He saw a teacher he knew and greeted her.  I tried to back off, standing by a wall, just keeping an eye on him.  The music got him going so he walked around in pace with the music.  At times, he bounced a balloon.  From afar, he looked like any other kid there.  About 6 different girls and one boy tried to engage Philip in interaction.  They greeted him with hugs or high fives.  I knew Philip liked it, but he was having a hard time reciprocating.  He would continue to walk off as they talked to him.  The kids were so nice though and didn't seem at all offended.  One girl in particular gave such a persistent effort, trying to dance with Philip and get him to play one of the games she was running, but he would not follow her lead.  At times, I'd introduce myself to Philip's friends and try to explain that the environment was probably very difficult on his senses.  He was actually doing really well, for him.  We ended up staying the whole time.

Philip was pretty tired when he got home, so the next day I asked his impressions of Fun Night.  He decided he would write it as a letter to his friends.

Dear Friends, 
I liked Fall Fun Night.  I surprised myself by not fighting accosting stimuli.  Accosting stimuli are crowds, loud noise, sound bouncing off the walls, and racing motion.  I am proud of myself for going.  I decided to withstand it to dive into the world, daring to try not drowning in bitterness about being autistic.  I am sorry I seemed to ignore all of you.  I had to keep moving to save myself from going into sensory overload.  That means I practically tantrum to get out of an overwhelming area.  Listening to you talk to me is a delight to me.  Healing talk is needed to help me begin to heal from my years of being treated like I don't matter. Please don't give up on me.  A tap on my shoulder can help get my attention.  We can ask Mr. B to help me type with you.  I am glad to have you as friends.  I am hoping to not ignore you next time.
From, Philip

Philip's 6th grade school picture.  Unfortunately I forgot to bring my phone/camera to Fun Night! 


  1. Wonderful! What a great feeling and a great story!

  2. I can see you there! What a great team you make! And Philip, I am so happy for you! It is wonderful to hear of all these new experiences and of your dedication to finding your own unique way in this world!! All the best to you! I'm looking forward to meeting you and your family again sometime when we're lucky enough to have our paths cross!