My wife and I belong to more than a few support groups, at this point.
Besides the “Guys Talk” group that I go to monthly, she attends the Autism Society of America local chapter meetings as well. This group does a social event every so often, giving our children with autism an opportunity to be out and about and work on social skills, and we’ve had the ability to attend a few over the last couple of months.
I used to bowl quite a bit as a child, but I grew up outside of the area – to me, bowling is those big balls with the three holes in it that you (try) to throw down the alley. Here, in Maryland, there’s also duckpin bowling, which uses a smaller ball and gives you an additional one each frame, which does make it easier. Add in the automated bumpers for the gutters, and you have something that’s easy for a child with developmental difficulties to have a good time with.
There’s other issues, though, when you’re talking about a child with autism going to a bowling alley. There’s a lot of loud noises – bowling pins being knocked down, balls hitting the wooden floors, other people talking over the constant din. There’s plenty of visual distractions – balloons, balls rolling, pins flying, the overhead electronic scoreboards, the crowd of people. It’s an unfamiliar place, and very large, with weird furniture. And they make you wear shoes that are unfamiliar (and frankly, neither stylish nor comfortable).
The Monster, thankfully, isn’t stimulation adverse. He doesn’t mind loud noises, or crowds, or all of the myriad things that go on in a bowling alley to draw your attention. He’s only mildly stimulation seeking, which manifests mostly in the occasional bout of turning in circles or flapping his hands, and the fact of the matter is that the noises he can make with the duckpin bowling ball are quite enough. (Well, that and shrieking with delight at the loud sound it makes when he pitches it from his hands.)
On the other hand, his physical delays are a bit of a problem when it comes to bowling. He’s never quite learned to throw or roll with enough real force to send the ball down the alley – despite all of our best coaching and trying to ‘help’, it still was the slow, slow roll after a toss that sent the ball down the alley, and more than a few times, it reached the end of the gutter-guard and slipped into the gutter, only to get stuck down there. Not that he particularly cared, because I don’t get the impression he quite grasped what the goal of the operation was, but he seemed to enjoy throwing the ball over and over and over.
I’m inclined to say that we’ll do it again and see if we can’t teach him how to play properly. It’s definitely a good form of physical therapy….