Human emotions are interesting things. I’ve noticed the social gap between Joseph and his 7th grade classmates since school started, but still! — still! — part of me hoped I was just perceiving it inaccurately. However, I met with Joseph’s Resource Teacher last week, and she expressed the same observation: The divide between Joseph and his peers has taken a huge leap.

Joseph’s noticed. He wonders aloud why his former inclusive classmates no longer invite him to play ball with them or to go see the latest Star Wars movie with the gang. Ugh. Stab me in the heart and twist the knife around, why don’t you.

Here’s what the research says about it:
Due to increased complexity of social communication that accompanies aging- social deficits become more prominent in adolescence (Tantam, 2003; Klin & Volkmar, 2003).
Adolescents with ASD report higher levels of loneliness and lower peer relationship quality than same aged peers (Capps et al., 1996; Bauminger & Kasari,2000)
Bullying dramatically increases in adolescence (Tse et al., 2007)

And here’s what the research offers as a solution:
Adolescents involved in experiential training groups demonstrate:
* Reduction in school-related “problem behaviors” (Graham & Elliot, 1990)
* Enhanced knowledge of social skills
* Increased frequency of get-togethers with friends
* Improved global social skill- as rated by blind researchers (Barry et al., 2003)
*Increased perception of peer social support (Tse et al., 2007)

Ok, social skills groups. We could do that. I got on the phone, called school psychologists in our small town. Plates already too full, though they definitely see the need. They checked in with their Speech and Language therapists. Plates already too full, though they definitely see the need. I went to Joseph’s school, pleaded our case. Thus the meeting last week with the Resource Teacher who said, in essence: Plates already too full, though they definitely see the need.

Then there’s me. My college degree is in Business Economics. But I have a bit of spare time and I’ve spent a lot of years studying autism – and, of course, learning about it firsthand. Said Resource Teacher agrees that it should be me, says they’ll give me a room and any help they can give.

Spoke with Blue Eyes about it yesterday. I said that a room at the school is great for a start, but I want to get these kids into actual social situations, like going out to a restaurant or to do pottery or to see a movie together. I want to get local merchants involved, helping to foster some situations. And while we’re at it, what about their futures? These kids will probably need colleges or work training programs that offer special support – programs that can be costly. How about later on, when they want to live independently? Perhaps there is the need for small group homes, where an adult or two lives with them or checks in daily. For years now, we’ve felt the need to form a non-profit to help out the local autistic community — but now it’s obvious that it needs to happen. And, since everyone’s plates are so dang full, it’s also obvious that I get to do it.

Holding out the need for help. While I have taught a lot and therefore have some confidence about leading a social skills group, I have no idea how to form a non-profit. And I have low tolerance for paperwork and bureaucracy. Staying open to the angel/s who are going to show up and help me with this.

My normal pattern would be to resist all of this. I have, in fact, spent years resisting forming a non-profit,  even while seeing the need. But now I am unlearning those ego patterns and realizing that it’s easier to point the train in the direction it’s already going. This train is gaining speed and power, and you know what? I’m going to let God, life, whoever express through me what S/He/it wants to express.

All aboard! Here we go…