Posts Tagged ‘job’

Teaching kids with autism is not only rewarding, but also tons of fun

September 10, 2010

Helping children with autism learn social skills is fun for everybody involved.

I just wrote an column on about how people often react to what I do for a living with a strange mixture of pity and admiration. They patronize me by telling me what I do is great, but they don’t understand that it’s more than that — it’s simply a lot of fun.

I work with kids with autism, to improve their skills in academics, social skills, and sports.  As I point out in the article, it’s not without challenges.  I’ve been hit, scratched, and had my shirt grabbed so hard it tore in half.  But the great moments outweigh all that, and I’ve got enough memories to last a lifetime, and at least enough for a book.

The main point of the article is that it’s a lot more than rewarding to work with these kids.  It’s a huge amount of fun and I look forward to every session.

How could you not like teaching kids how to read, do math, make friends, play sports, and have fun?  How could you not love jumping on the trampoline, taking them swimming, or taking them sledding?  How could you not like running a play date for kids whose social skills don’t come naturally?

If I seem a little bitter in the article, it’s because there are a lot of women out there who seem to value someone who works in a boring but successful career over someone who would be a great father (not to mention a great husband).  But not everyone has their values upside down.

In “Authentic Happiness,” Martin Seligman writes that when we do things that are both kind and fun, when actions are meaningful, those acts result in true happiness.


Fathers’ Daze

January 22, 2010

Looking back again at my blog from last year, “Lessons Learned from Autism Therapy,” I found a paragraph that I want to reprint.

Dads:  some of you have graduate degrees from Ivy League universities.  That’s nice.  Now could you possibly consider making some suggestions about your children’s programs?  You can’t even make any suggestions or any input about your child’s program?  Let me get this straight – you’re intimidated by someone half your age who has a couple years experience with kids?  You’d rather just hand over the money and not even know what is going on?

The fathers of kids who I currently work with are great.  In fact, one of them is very involved with the child’s home program despite the fact that he has a very important job.

But to be honest, most – definitely more than half – of all the children who I’ve worked with, have fathers who were virtually invisible when it came to helping out with their home program (the afterschool and weekend program in which kids get additional support in doing schoolwork, learning social skills, and preferably also sports and coordination).

We’re talking about guys who, for the most part, went to Ivy League universities or very good ones, usually have graduate degrees, and make huge salaries because of their competency on the job.  At these jobs, they surely have to work hard and pay attention to detail, and maybe even use creative thinking to solve problems.  They must have to work with people.  So why can’t these guys pay any attention whatsoever to their children’s educations?

It’s as if we’re living back in the 1950s.  The mother does 100% of the work for the child.  The father goes out to his job.

The mothers make the schedule, do the hiring, make suggestions, and are basically involved.  Sometimes they have regular jobs too.

I know that you guys pore through lots of detail at work, and you are also part of many meetings there.  Couldn’t you attend a meeting about your child and maybe contribute something – anything?  Try to put just one tenth of the effort into your child’s education – not just giving money but giving time and ideas – that you give to your job.

Separation of Duties may be a good concept for computer security, but in raising kids there will be overlap between functions.  Maybe you do some behind the scenes stuff with your kids and that’s great.  And I’m not trying to minimize the importance of performing well at a job to earn a good salary.  That’s extremely important and it results in a major contribution to the child’s success because without that, many services wouldn’t be available.

But make an appearance, show that you care — start by pretending to care — and put in some kind of minimal effort at helping your child be successful.  Review what is going on.  Say, “I want more of this and less of this.”  Ask questions.  Give your opinion.

I don’t know if you’re afraid, or if you lack confidence, or if you don’t care, but you need to make a contribution other than just working and writing checks.  Maybe you don’t have the social skills and the autism is partly genetic, but at least you could try.  Think about the number of hours you put into your job.  Now think of the number of hours you put into reviewing the content and curriculum of your child’s home program as well as the progress that he has made.  I’m guessing the ratio is about 40 to 1, and that’s only for the exceptional fathers who put in an effort.  Think of how much you could accomplish if you contributed.  Not a sermon, just a thought.

So as they say on ESPN’s NFL Countdown, C’MON, MAN!


A day after I wrote this, I now have reread it just to make sure I still stand by everything.  It does need one change.  I’m adding an apostrophe in the title.