Our Journey Raising Two Children with Special Needs

This blog chronicles our life raising two children, Nicholas 15, diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome and Weston 18, diagnosed with Autism/Asperger's/ADHD. It's the ups, the downs, the joys, the sorrows and most importantly, the beauty of living a life less perfect, a life more meaningful.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A High School Mentor for Weston

As I mentioned in previous posts, I have been working very hard with the school to put more supports in place for Weston since he had a very rough transition into the middle school.

I wanted to share some good news with my readers about a new program we created which could benefit many other students who also struggle with hyperactivity, anxiety and poor social skills.

I noticed that my son gravitates almost instinctively toward male energy. He enjoys spending "man time" with my husband and my brothers. And is calmed by activities enjoyed mostly by men. He loves working outside, riding vehicles of any sort and "throwing the ball around". I encourage this male bonding since Weston seems to be naturally calmed by it.

I asked the school if it would be possible to pair Weston with an older high school boy. This boy could help Weston do his homework, assist him in class and teach him those precious social skills. I figured since high school students now need to perform community service in order to graduate, this might be something an older student might enjoy. Thankfully for me (and Weston) the school agreed and provided Weston with a mentor named Matt.

The program has worked beautifully. Matt is a kind, bright, upstanding young man with wonderful social skills. Weston adores him. He comes to Weston's class and easily motivates Weston to do his work (something none of us have been successful at). When Weston's work is complete, he and Matt get to spend time together. Lately, they have been "shooting hoops" and visiting the weight room. Weston's self-esteem has sky rocketed. Matt feels good about himself too, since he knows how much of a difference he has made in Weston's life.

The other children in Weston's class, see him spending time with a very "cool" high school student, and suddenly Weston's "coolness" is also increased. This is something even more valuable to Weston than ABC's and 123's and will no doubt give him the skills he will use for the rest of his life.

We have documented this mentor program on Weston's IEP, so that it will continue for as long as he needs it. It is my hope that when Weston is a senior, he will be able to give back to another 6th grade boy who may need him too.

I encourage any parent with a child with special needs to discuss this option with their school. It has had an amazing effect on my son.

Is there anything more important that we can teach to our children than the importance of helping others?

 p.s. Since this program has worked so well for Weston, I have spoken with my Mom's assisted living facility to see if perhaps they can also establish a program with the local school to have some students come spend some time at the Village. They could play games and talk with many of the more social dementia patients. Anxiety that accompanies dementia seems to subside when these patients spend time with others. It could be a good way for high school student's to earn some community service. Once again, it is surprising to me, how much caring for children is a lot like caring for an elderly parent!

1 comment:

Laurie said...

What great ideas. I'm impressed that the school requires community service to graduate. Is it a public school? Was there any opposition to putting that in place?

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