"Autism & Memoirs of an Old Maid"…C'hele's Story

December 3, 2007

Autism: Creating Connections

Filed under: Aspberger Syndrome, Autism, Special Needs — C'hele @ 21:12

Last Friday I attended a full-day workshop on “Creating Connections With Students To Build Resiliency Using The 40 Developmental Assets.” It was an interesting workshop, one intended to instruct teachers how make connections with their adolescent students between the ages of 12-18. It wasn’t a workshop that addressed any specific special needs issues, but it was just as informative and I found that some of it could be adapted towards some of our kids. The workshop covered topics such as: The Levels Of Social Responsibility, The 40 Developmental Assets (broken down into two categories: Internal and External Assets), A Checklist for kids on “How Many Assets Do I Have?, and the Roles of Teachers as supporters for their students. It was all very common-sense information broken down to help teachers identify and how to build upon the relationships with students that end up falling through the cracks within the school system.

One part of the workshop that I found interesting was the concept of “The Power of Five.” The speaker made mention that “change in a students perception (towards success in school and later in life) occurs only when there is change in what they experience.” And, the only way to successfully do this, is to have in place for each child, five people in their lives that act as mentors or anchors. Some of these people could be family members, teachers, a neighbour, a coach, a religious or spiritual figure and so on. However, it was interesting how the speaker made it quite clear that in order for each child to be successful that there “had to be” five positive mentors- especially for high risk children who have a smaller number of assets and fewer supports in their lives.

I thought to myself, this could work with higher functioning autistic kids or Aspergers kids too. Then I thought of my daughter. This thought led me to another thought of how my daughter does not go out in the community with a life-skill worker due to her separation anxiety issues with me. I’ve decided that I must look into this further. How can I apply the “Power of Five” into my daughters life meaningfully and not just hire any Joe-Blow to work with her?

My daughter adores my father and hangs onto every word he says. He can get her to do almost anything and all he has to do is ask. Hmnn. Definitely Mentor #1.

Mentor #2: My mother is the second-runner up from my father.

Mentor #3: Believe it or not, I fit in somewhere between 2nd and 3rd. (My daughter says I’m first, but when I observe my daughter and father interact, I don’t know if I believe her!).

Mentor #4: 0

Mentor #5: 0

Hmmm. I need two more. Thinking about it further, Michaela has for five years, been taken formal Equestrian riding lessons with a stable well known for also providing Therapeutic Riding Lessons for special needs kids. Due to Michaela’s natural passion and talent with horses, she does not take therapeutic riding lessons but regular formal lessons. Her trainer has known her for a very long time and upon my asking Michaela if she considers her trainer to be a mentor or someone she can speak to comfortably with, Michaela immediately replied “no.”

I learned this weekend that her trainer has a tendency to snap at her especially when Michaela asks for help and has to interrupt her whilst in another lesson. For someone who is a professional trainer and has been specifically trained to work with special needs kids, this is surprising. She of all people should know, that when special needs kids are hanging around in the stables that this is bound to happen. Upon finding this out, this really disappointed me. Michaela’s father now escorts Michaela to and from her riding lessons and has done so for about three years and he hasn’t spoken to me about this.

I was also reminded by Michaela that she has yet to make any friendships with any of the other riders in her group. For years, Michaela has been attending their annual Christmas parties, fund raisers and auctions. And still, she has made no close friendships there. After speaking with Michaela about this, she amazed me and appears to have a good handle on things. “Mom, I care more about being with the horses than to bother about being with those snobs,” was her reply. I was happy with how she is handling things but saddened that she has not developed a closer relationship with her trainer. No inclusion as a possible mentor #4 unfortunately.

So, this weekend, I have been reminded of the importance of having people outside of our family included in Michaela’s life. This is, I was reminded, is another important step towards building independence for Michaela‘s future. She may have separation anxiety issues regarding me however, I need to work around it and bite the bullet and stop being somewhat over-protective. My parents are not going to be around forever so building a new web of connections for my daughter is the next goal that I need to address soon.



  1. We share similar ‘goals’ but then I thought we would!

    Comment by mcewen — December 3, 2007 @ 21:28

  2. There is just so much to do! I have so much listed on my list of goals to accomplish for Michaela its unbelievable. First things first……Hugs 🙂

    Comment by cheles — December 3, 2007 @ 21:33

  3. You know … I was really struck by the “Power of Five” concept — I think it’s valid for everyone. I think we take friends and positive influences in our lives too much for granted, and don’t give enough thought to building good, solid, loving relationships for ourselves, and making sure that our children have those as well, and know how to build them.

    It seems to me that in our current culture, we regard friendships in much the same casual and inappropriate way that we regard dating …we’re attracted to people as friends on a “surface” level, without considering what true friendship and suppport are.

    But friendship is a serious thing. Thanks for the reminder, C’hele.

    Comment by davidrochester — December 3, 2007 @ 22:15

  4. I so agree with you David. 🙂

    Comment by cheles — December 5, 2007 @ 08:34

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