Simon's Activity

I guess this isn't a fully true statement, but I like it anyway. Simon has started piano lessons. Following an email from a friend from the MOMS Club I'm involved with, I contacted a school called The Academy of Fine Arts (about 8 miles from my house, per GPS). They have a class called "Music and Me". Given the books that they use for the class, it's not just this one location, but it's the spot we found. It's designed (it seems) to be the first stage in a long sequence of beginning piano lessons. The class started in September, but kids join in throughout the semester, and it goes until the end of January. We've been looking for a good class, ideally with neurotypical kids, for Simon to join. In the past, he's taken gymnastics with his sister (but he's never enjoyed it) and this term we were giving him a break from that. But he needs SOMETHING. We've been looking at music classes. But all the ones I can find meet in the mornings during the week, when he's in school. That won't work for us. But this one meets on Saturday mornings, at the same time as Rachel's gymnastics class. Daniel's done with baseball until mid-spring so Kevin is free to take one twin to an activity while I take the other to a second. So, we decided to try it out. I took Simon to the music class and Kevin took Rachel to gymnastics. Because we were unfamiliar with the music school, we chose to take Daniel to Rachel's gym, which meant that Kevin had 2 kids and I had one. Translation -- Kevin took my car (with 3 car seats permanently installed across the middle row) and we transferred the "extra" car seat to Kevin's car and I took Simon. Simon almost NEVER travels in "the car" -- he always comes with me in "the truck". He DIDN'T want to get into that car. I won the fight and managed to get him strapped in. His hands went over his ears and he screamed. But the screaming was different. It was interspersed with singing (in an odd way, but I can't really describe how). But the hands remained covering his ears. Getting there was a bit of challenge -- the school is kind of hidden away. That didn't improve Simon's mood at all. But we did arrive with a few minutes to spare. The screaming started again as we get out of the car and start walking into the building. People are staring, and I'm ignoring them. I'm used to this by now. This is a music class and I'm convinced that Simon will enjoy it if I can just get him in there and force him to hear what's happening around him. I introduce myself to the teacher while holding Simon and explain that I know he'll be fine once he allows himself to experience the class. We walk into the classroom and I try to find us a seat (at a piano) towards the back of the room (to minimize the distrubance), but the two pianos were already occupied. So, we sat at one piano closer to the front. I explained to the mother sitting next to me (at the piano furthest towards the back) that Simon was autistic and this was a new experience -- I honestly believed that once the class got going, he'd settle down and shouldn't be a disturbance. Fortunately, as soon as I mentioned he was autistic, she seemed to understand -- her older son is also on the spectrum and she understood what I was going through and why this class was so important. One worry eliminated. The teacher started the class and pulled out the bells for the kids to sing their "Hello" song. Oh No!!!!! This is what starts Simon running to the corner at his gym class. I keep him at the piano and we don't get bells. I tell the teacher that we're holding off on that activity for right now, and she just continues on -- she understands that we're taking it slow. The kids start to play the bells. I'm thrilled that, despite him keeping those hands over his ears, the intensity of the screaming doesn't change. He's still not happy, but the bells aren't making it worse. Then we start playing the piano. When Simon realized what we were doing, he started to relax. One hand left his ear (not both, just the one). We were playing "Do Re Mi" and (Rest). I took advantage of the uncovered ear and really hammed up the "Rest". He started to giggle. Good. He's settling down. But the other hand won't move. We keep going. "Do Re Mi and REST!!!" (with his one available hand held over his head). The giggle is becoming a laugh. Again. And again. And again. Then the class starts to demonstrate. We're waiting our turn. The second arm is no longer tight. Because we're new, Simon is the last one called. When it's his turn, "Do Re Mi and REST!!!!" he puts both hands over his head. I sit there and hold my breath, but give him a big HUG! It's now time to leave the piano for circle time. Simon is running over to join the group (but making sure I'm coming with him). He participates completely with the activities they are doing at the white board (including some rhythm work and writing music notes on the board). He's really starting to get into it. The rest of the class goes well! I was right -- once he finally allowed himself to relax and be receptive to the new material, he really loves music. So, we finally found our activity for Simon. I signed him up for the rest of the semester and we'll be going until late January. At that point, we'll sit down and figure out the best option for the spring. But once we start, we won't stop. Simon needs this. And it's just as important as Rachel's gymnastics, and Daniel's baseball and gymnastics. We'll figure out how to make it work.

For my full blog, please see http://myfamilysexperiencewithautism.blogspot.com/

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