These days I don’t feel so empowered, at least not on a macro-scale. I feel good about what I can do, what I am doing, for Martin. I am pleased to see other biomed moms banding together and trying to provoke change—see, e.g., The Thinking Moms Revolution or The Canary Party. I am grateful that other biomed moms create on-line forums and Facebook groups in which I can participate. As for me, my own engagement in collective action is on hold, not really in the realm of “what I think I can handle right now.” I need to recover Martin. Then I’ll change the world.
That all being said, recently I have joined together with two local special-needs moms (not biomed) to get something done. Actually get something done! Last summer, we were lamenting that our kids don’t have much way to make friends, and practice keeping them, here in our small town. When we make play dates for our kids, they engage in parallel play more than interactive play. There are professional resources available, like the play program that Martin attends (and adores) in the City. Unfortunately, those programs draw participants from a wide geographic swath, making after-school or casual get-togethers impracticable for the kids, and the cost excludes many families.
We three moms decided that what our town needs are facilitated social-skills playgroups for special-education students. And then we decided that, if the need is to be filled—we’re on deck. We formed a playgroup of six kids, grades kindergarten-through-second (ours kids plus three more, none in the same school class); hired a facilitator (a master’s student in elementary special education); found a time that works (late Friday afternoon); and got started, rotating each week among the participants’ homes. The facilitator comes prepared with games and exercises designed to foster social skills like sharing, taking turns, greeting, and getting to know each other.
By the fourth meeting Martin had fallen in love with his new playgroup. He calls his fellow participants “my friends from town.” All week he looks forward to Friday. He talks about whose home we’ll be visiting that week; one morning, he even created his own “Friday play date” schedule, listing out each child and checking off the retrospective house. He asks questions about what his “friends from town” do on the other afternoons. He wants to join them.
When the other moms reported similar enthusiasm from their kids, we knew we were onto something. We put together a formal proposal to bring the social-skills playgroup under the auspices of the local special-education parent-teacher association, which would both help defray the facilitator’s fees and also publicize to other parents who might be interested. Then we coordinated with a local Girl Scouts troop whose young women are interested in working with special-needs kids. As part of seeking their Silver Awards, several Scouts are going to come each week and assist our playgroup facilitator with keeping the kids focused.
Getting this project up and running, when so much else is on our shoulders, feels like a big achievement. We were correct that our town needs social-skills playgroups. As of this writing, enough parents have contacted us that we will be able to fill two additional six-member playgroups when we start our spring term next February.
Yay for moms, making stuff happen.