Monday, March 20, 2006

B's class play...

At B's school, late winter is play time. All of the classes participate in theatrical productions chosen, adapted, & performed by the kids in each class. The school's director has referred to the emphasis on theatre as their equivalent of team sports- all of the benefits of teamwork without the drawback of heavy, sometimes toxic, competition. I really like this analogy. B is not a sports-oriented kid & considering his difficulties with hypotonia, motor-planning, & sensory integration we don't expect him to be (although we try to find ways for him to be active on his own terms, for the long-term health benefits). In fact I am somewhat relieved that he's not desperate to play team sports. My brother went through hell in his pre-adolescent years because our parents forced him to participate in Little League baseball. He was never a team player & hated baseball. He actually ended-up making a name for himself (in our state at least) in his late teen years as a frisbee freestyler, which was really more his style. The great irony was that I was the more athletic of the two of us & would have really enjoyed Little League, but girls weren't allowed to play back in the late 60's... I learned a lot from my brother's experience, & was ready to support my kid in any sports endeavor, but was also daunted by what I have seen my friends' children go through when participating in heavily competitive team sports. I was not enthusiastic about the idea of dealing with other hyper-competitive parents & all of the politics, & have to decide when to step in if things got too intense... You can see I've thought about it a lot :) In light of my worries, it's fortunate that I married into a sailing family. We bought our own boat when B was 9 weeks old, & joined a racing fleet at the same time. We had B in swimming lessons when he was 18 months old, in anticipation of his first sail with us when he was three, & we bought him his own kid-sized sailboat a few years ago, although he much prefers to sail with dad in our Snipe, which is fine because he can crew for dad when he's older :) There is a great deal of competition in sailing, too, but we have found a wonderfully friendly fleet to race with, & many of the members are like surrogate grandparents to B, so there is absolutely none of the "Little League" feeling about the experience :)

Hmm... seemed to have wandered a bit... back to the play! Although B has participated in each class play since he arrived at Cobblestone in first grade, he didn't really blossom into the "ham" he has become until last year's play. His class adapted a Vietnamese folk tale & he played a "councillor", with a fair number of lines to memorise. Not only did he memorise his own lines in record time, but memorised the whole play & became the official prompter. He played his role so that he never left character when on stage, & didn't seem get distracted or have trouble with tics until the end of the play. It was an eye-opening experience for us, not being "theatre" types ourselves. We had, however, heard from many sources that acting can be a wonderful outlet for a kid with Aspergers, because working with scripts can allow them to try unfamiliar emotional/social situations safely & comfortably. This seems to be the case for B & he is turning into a talented actor. B also seems to have no problem with stage fright. As long as he has a script to follow or song to sing, he is perfectly comfortable getting up in from of hundreds of people & performing- usually with a big grin on his face.

This year his class adapted a musical play about pioneers, since they had just finished a unit on the Oregon Trail, & B was asked to take one of the lead roles, as the "Father" (although he really wanted to play the turkey... :). Since work on the play began B has had a much easier time coping at school, or at least recovers better when the OCD thoughts intrude. His teachers report that he doesn't tic during play time, nor do his usual OCD triggers bother him. It's such a joy to find an activity that brings out the best in B. He enjoys working together with the other kids & helping them, too. He has put a lot of personal touches on his role, & his teacher told me that he does such a good job as the father that it makes her want to go to him for fatherly advice :) From a day-to-day perspective, I just love watching my kid shine, & enjoy something so thoroughly. From a more over-arching perspective, I feel a deep sense of gratitude that my son goes to a school that values him for who he is, not what they expect him to be. He & the other "special needs" kids are not "allowed" to participate, but are integral parts of the school, & it is understood that the school is enriched by their presence. I worry sometimes about finding an equally wonderful place for B when he hits high-school age (his school goes through 8th grade), but fortunately it's not relevant for a few years.

The play is this Saturday afternoon & we are psyched. We have decided to see if we can get B into theatre camp this summer with a friend from his class, too, to keep him active in this activity that allows him to blossom so much. I am anticipating a bit of a let-down for all of us after the play is over, although his birthday is the following week, so that should help keep his spirits up. Hopefully the preparations for the all-school Music Night in May will be enough to fill the gap afterward the play- I hear Rufus will be singing again this year :)


At 10:44 PM, Blogger Zilari said...

Your kid's school sounds seriously wonderful. And I think it's great that B is getting to make use of his having a really good memory! Being able to do something well is a great confidence-booster.


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