Menopausal mom to 2 young adult sons (one with ASD, ADHD, tic/seizure disorders and the other with attitude).

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Riley's Social Success Puzzle (Part 1)

At the beginning of December last year, I received an e-mail from a local parent advocacy group Moms on the Move (MOMS) forwarding an article entitled "Trained Peers Better at Aiding Autistic Kids with Social Skills".  Included in the article was a link to this YouTube interview with Dr. Connie Kasari, Center for Autism Research and Treatment at UCLA: 

Ever since reading the article and watching the interview I have wanted to write about our experiences with Riley with regards to this same topic.  Three and a half months later…I have finally put something down in writing. 

When Riley was in grade 2, together with the school and our Behaviour Interventionist (BI), a program “How to be a Great Friend” was introduced. As we all felt Riley would learn best from his peers, the program focused on teaching R’s peers methods of supporting and communicating with him. The program was voluntary and I have to admit I was very nervous as to whether or not we would get many, if any, participants. I had been forewarned that on average there may be anywhere from 4 to a dozen volunteers. The response was overwhelming with over 50% of the grade (not just class…grade) participating. I know…WOW!!! The program was again offered in grade three, thanks to our wonderful FG (Fairy Godmother) who took on the full responsibility of running the program, with even more students participating.

Around that same time (2002) we started receiving some afterschool support.  Up until then neither G nor I was ready to let Riley go out in the community with anybody but us.  His communication skills were limited; what if they couldn’t figure out what he wanted or was trying to tell them or even worse…what if he had a meltdown!  Of course in our minds if we had trouble knowing what R wanted at times how would anybody else be able to figure it out?!?!?  Am I right???  Looking back now, having someone take R out into the community was the best thing EVER for all of us!  It allowed us some time to do things alone with J2 or just to have some down time at home and it gave Riley the opportunity to have some freedom from our tendency to "over-parent". 

One of the things that I think worked very well for Riley was arranging “play dates” once or twice a week after school with the kids that were involved in the program.  This usually consisted of a quick snack and a short play (~1/2 hour) at home before R’s child care worker would come and take both kids on an outing (swimming, bowling, Aquarium, going to the beach/park, etc).  It gave R’s peers an opportunity to practice the skills they learnt while at the same time getting to know Riley outside of the classroom and on a one-to-one basis.  There are so many positive things to say about the benefits of this program and all the extra curricular activities organized for Riley in and out of school that I will write about them in a separate post and I promise it won’t take another 3-1/2 months.            

I truly believe no one program/therapy works by itself or has all the answers and that all skills taught and learned need to be reinforced across all environments as often and whenever possible.  So my next post will be all about the Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society and their piece in what I’d like to think of as Riley’s social success puzzle.  :) 

Hope you’ll come back to read all about it.        


  1. What a fabulous story. Riley was certainly fortunate to have such a supportive situation at school. I cannot wait to read your next post!

    1. Yes we have been very fortunate working with such supportive school personnel (especially his SEA's - they have all been very dedicated) both in elementary and now high school. Definitely a team effort always keeping in mind what would work best for Riley.