Should Aspie kids be made to join in?

Does your child join in? Do you have to make them take part or do they go willingly?

My son is 12 and over the years we’ve been to drama (until the teacher moved), Beavers and Cubs (some reluctance), Scouts (until he refused point-blank), swimming (happily), yoga (happy at first), and one our two other short- lived attempts at ‘activities’.

But mostly I get the feeling my boy would happily sit at home and build things out of Lego our play a game. Should I be coaxing and cajoling him out of the house – or is there little point?

This week I was at a coffee morning organised by the Renfrewshire autism outreach support team – both of them. They had asked a mum whose son is now 15 to tell her story and answer questions.

Her son was diagnosed at seven with Asperger’s and dyspraxia. To help him physically she took him to a special needs gym classes in Glasgow. She took him, with much nagging and persuading for the first few years until he started to enjoy himself. Now he is in the national squad and himself volunteers in the running of the club.

Marvellous. His mum told how she spent long hours talking him to the club, helping him train as he sobbed, forcing him to take part when he was desperate not to. She, unsurprisingly, is evangelical and thinks all kids should be make to take part. She tell the tale of how her boy was drilled, in tears, on his bike until he could ride.

I felt guilty that my efforts are puny in comparison. My boy doesn’t do bikes and I don’t make him. He doesn’t like sport and I really don’t think I’ve the stomach for insisting in the face of real distress. I also don’t think the lack of a cycling proficiency test certificate will hold him back in life.

In some respects I have sympathy, I can ride a bike but until very recently I didn’t. I’m hated sport at school. Hockey was horrible. 

Another mum told how she drove her son to scout camps, took him home to his own bed then brought him back in the morning over several days.

My boy goes cheerfully to youth club once a month, he took part in the school’s historic film club for the few weeks it ran. He did say he might like to join a drama group again so I’m going to try to find him one. Is it enough? Should I be trying harder? Does it matter?

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  1. says

    This subject is a nightmare and one that I am constantly thinking about. After 6 years of primary school and doing no after school activities because no one had an ounce of patience for our guy, we moved to a city and involved him in as much as we could. We ended primary school doing 7 activities. While it has been great for him to experience these things, it has brought a whole heep of problems with it.
    While the leaders were nonplussed about an autistic kid joining in, my attempts to get them to make the class understand why my sons behaviour can be odd at times have fallen on deaf ears and as a consequence, he is pushed out to ther periphery and has made no friends in any of these activities. Now they've moved on to low level bullying. This has severely damaged his confidence. I've tried to introduce him to other stuff but unlike most other teens, is showing no signs of waning interest! One of the activities has even become one of his new obsessions.

    My boy is Dyspraxic too and can't ride a bike. Yes, you could push him but the Lego playing probably is his down time after a majorly stressful school day. I've found that my guy needs even more down time after these activities too.

    The small print involves way more effort than a parent of a NT kid. I am the only mother who takes their kid to these activities, I accompany him everywhere
    and that makes him stand out! Now he is in high school, there is no way he can go on a trip, especially abroad, if I'm not there. I have no idea how I will find the time to do this.

  2. says

    It is a nightmare. Even when leaders have been happy to include my boy, it's not fair on the other kids if the leader has to take time off from them to deal with my boy. Esp where it's an activity run by volunteers.
    Seven activities is somewhat full-on. I keep hoping we'll get an out-of-the-house obsession, but not yet.
    They do need down time, especially after the effort that is high school – and the fact they are hitting hormones as well. I cut my boy quite a lot of slack.

    I struggle with taking A to activities partly because when I'm there he clings to me which makes him stand out more and defeats the point of him being there to join in.

    My boy did do the end of P7 trip successfully. His school was very supportive and I was delighted, but without lots of prep trips would be v difficult.

  3. says

    As we all know, every child on the spectrum is very different, even though many have the same traits. Only parents with special needs children will truly understand what I say there. I think it should be a very individual thing and parents should never be made to feel by anyone, including themselves, guilty or as though they aren't pushing their child enough. What works for one, doesn't for another. That mother is lucky that her persistence paid off, but that might not happen for the next child.

    I think we do have a responsibility to encourage our children to take part but if putting them under stress when they have enough to deal with anyway is the only way they will take part, then I believe it's time to back off.

    I remember all the kids in Amy's class at mainstream doing the cycling proficiency test whilst Amy wasn't able to. She can ride a bike beautifully but just isn't capable to take the actual test. But who cares? What will that achieve anyway? We have very different needs for our children and they should be addressed as a one-to-one issue rather than a “one-size-fits-all”.

    CJ xx

  4. says

    Thanks for your comment. It is quite a complex issue. As you know, our kids have to want to do something in order for it to happen. In the end, learning to respond to a parental push isn't really going to help in grown-up life.

  5. says

    Forcing kids with AS to participate in activities that they don't like will do them no favours. I had undiagnosed AS back in the 80s and ended up being sent to an unsuitable (and quite violent) SEN boarding school in order to force me to interact with other children in sports and popular teenage activities. I did me no justice and probably harmed me more than helped me.

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