Last night The Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC) at Central Michigan University (CMU) held their first game night for families who have a child or children with autism. About twenty students and their advisor were on hand to help children play games, make puppets out of paper bags, color, and just have a good time in general.
The students were well organized, enthusiastic and very willing to help out with bathroom breaks and behavior difficulties. Game night was held in a large room in a student residence hall. There were plenty of tables for activities and also plenty of space to roam around.
The bad news was only three families showed up. The good news was that the six boys (four on the spectrum and two siblings) in attendance had a generous amount of attention. There were three to four helpers for every child and most of the boys loved being the center of attention of their own little groups.
My oldest son (the one on the spectrum) soaked it all up. He sang his favorite song about froggys two different times to small groups of students gathered around him. He also made a frog puppet and decorated a life-sized version of himself after a student drew an outline around him.
My son did become overwhelmed with the amount of activity choices at one point and zoomed back and forth across the room a few times. But he was OK after a few minutes and settled down for the rest of the time. He even cried a little bit because he did not want to leave and insisted on coloring a picture as a last activity. The sympathetic student participants allowed him to do so even though it was time to clean up the room.
My youngest boy also had a great time and did similar activities. He really liked the crafts and playing the Junior Monopoly game with his brother for a short time. My husband and I were there, but we didn't have to do much other than chat with the other parents, the college students and their advisor.
I had two students come to me to ask out if they could help out with field trips I am coordinating for a group of children on the spectrum that are involved in an arts camp for social and emotional growth. I gladly took their email addresses and am now thinking of ways they can help me out. I know that they are sincere and I am hoping to get them successfully involved.
Most if not all members of the SCEC are future special education teachers who want to learn more about autism. Thanks to the efforts of two other energetic moms in my parent group, the SCEC members are getting opportunities to learn. The relationship began with a chance meeting between a parent and a SCEC member. Another parent, who is also a student, attended a meeting of SCEC. AS a result of these interactions, a small panel of parents and children were invited to speak to the group. Game night was the next step.
The relationship between the parent group and the SCEC members is mutually beneficial. Parents get some enthusiastic help and the students get a chance to interact with our children with Autism Spectrum disorder. Further, the children on the spectrum will get extra opportunities to develop various sorts of skills(social, motor skills, etc.)
Despite the low attendance, the event last night was successful because all participants seemed to enjoy the event. SCEC is hoping to hold more game nights in the future. Now all we have to do is figure out how to attract more families to this wonderful event.