This piece was originally posted on The Mighty and is re-posted here with permission.
As I look to the fresh start a new year brings in, I find myself taking a moment to consider how I, as a parent blessed with a child with disabilities, can better ensure a year of growth and productivity for my son, Abram. I’ve found that anything I can do that causes Abram to be proud of his accomplishments helps his growth and productivity increase.
In 2019, it’s my aim to continue providing Abram with these types of opportunities by incorporating new forms of active play into his daily routine that empower and allow him to take pride in himself. While no two children on the autism spectrum are the same, below are three forms of active play we’re looking forward to in the new year:
1. Music/Music therapy
Abram’s music lessons allow him to be in control in a form of active play that he wants and chooses. His music therapist works through his stubbornness, helping him voice his needs through music and musical games and allowing him some sense of control in choosing which activity to do next.
Private music therapy is a great option for those children who struggle more in a group or classroom setting. Abram learns and works best in a one-on-one setting with an adult. I think he knows adults are more understanding and accepting of his differences, which in turn comforts and relaxes him.
2. Brazilian jiu jitsu
Abram struggles with being a wallflower around other kids. He dislikes being put in a special education class, but he doesn’t know how to interact with “typical” kids. In Abram’s Brazilian jiu jitsu class, the instructor calls out the move, demonstrates it, and then has the class practice with each other, while she monitors and corrects their technique. This structured social environment allows Abram to interact with other kids in a way that allows him to feel like part of the group.
Our local high school created a Best Buddies class for students who would like to work with children with disabilities. The high school’s wrestling coach, who is also a special education teacher, paired his varsity team members with middle school students who have disabilities.
It’s been the best of both worlds for Abram: he is able to engage with other students in a setting that has the comfort of one-on-one interactions. Recently he participated in a real wrestling meet, where he wrestled with his big buddy. I’ve never seen Abram so proud of his accomplishments or engaged in active play. I was one proud mama too, seeing my typically shy wallflower actually engaging with other kids.
We’ve been extremely fortunate in finding people who understand and are willing to work with Abram. I highly recommend talking with other parents, therapists and professionals to learn more about the different opportunities for active play in your respective community. It’s different for every child, but finding a form of active play that makes them feel a sense of pride and accomplishment is always a positive. At the start of this new year, I encourage you to be open to what that looks like for you and explore the various ways you can encourage active play for your loved one on the spectrum!
About the Author
Rose Morris, founder and president of Abram’s Nation, is a mother who was driven by the relentless pursuit to keep her son, Abram, who is on the autism spectrum, safe at night. When she could not find a suitable solution, Rose designed and developed The Safety Sleeper™, the first and only enclosed bed system of its kind. Recognizing many others deserved the same freedom to sleep without fear for the safety of their loved ones, Rose began her mission to make meaningful impact on others through Abram’s Nation. She has since taken her product innovations worldwide, being named 2017 Exporter of the Year by U.S. Small Business Administration and accepting a 2018 appointment to the Western Pennsylvania District Export Council. From the flagship Safety Sleeper introduced in 2009, Rose has led the growth of Abram’s Nation into the premier manufacturer of durable medical-grade equipment, sensory products including Fidget Folder and Fidget Mat, and the Abram’s Wearables line of adaptive clothing.