Under Armour and Making New Friends

One of the recommendations from the OT at our last visit to the Fragile X clinic was to consider Under Armour for Monkey. Since he benefits so much from deep pressure we thought it had a chance of being really good for him. Of course, if there is one thing we’ve learned, it’s that Monkey often doesn’t much care what we think so it was really a total cwap shoot but we decided to give it a try.

We found an Under Armour outlet in Kittery and stocked up. We bought short-sleeved shirts, shorts and one pair of pants. We thought the shorts had a better chance of success but we wanted to try the pants too.

Two weeks into the trial, one of his teachers commented how much better he was doing at circle time. Instead of needing constant reminders to stay seated he was able to stay on his own! Circle time has always been a challenge for him because of the need to stay still and the fact that it’s always language based activities…not his strength.

A month and a half month into the Under Armour experiment and Monkey was so relaxed during story time that he began laying down and even staying there for a few minutes once the other kids get up. I don’t think you can explain this huge change in such a short period of time by saying it was just him maturing.

So, what does this have to do with making new friends? The result of a more relaxed Monkey is that he’s better able to make social connections. He is more tolerant of the busy, busy boys so he’s spending more time with the boys rather than his previous preference for the girls and their quieter play. In spending more time with the boys, relationships are developing. He talks more about the boys at home and on the way to school. He goes out of his way to be sure that his friends have what they need in the classroom (gathering lunch bags or other items before they leave the classroom) and he even has requested a play date with a classmate.

This morning we saw evidence of how much this friendship is being reciprocated. We were running late ((How do ALL the alarms in the house fail on the same morning?!?)) so we met two of his friends in the hallway as they took the attendance sheet to the office. They greeted him with big smiles and he returned the greetings. Everyone had moved to “morning meeting” so we had to rush to get Monkey set up to join them. Monkey had a hard time with this change and was really struggling. When it came time to “check in” by moving his name tag onto the wall with all the other kids who were in class, he missed the velcro. The tag fluttered to the floor and Monkey ran into the coat closet. He was stressed out and we knew we had to stop with the verbal prompts.

Just then the boys returned from their errand and one of them took a look at Monkey, stressed out and hiding in the closet, and then he noticed Monkey’s name tag on the floor. He didn’t ask what was wrong. He didn’t seem concerned at all. He just decided to help. He picked up the tag and put it on the last open spot on the check-in board, smiled at Monkey and moved on giving Monkey the space he needed to join the class. Just then, from the circle, we heard the teacher ask if the class had any questions they’d like to ask about a classmate. One of the boys raised their hands and said he had a question about Monkey.

I turned to look at the group, prepared for the obvious questions about what was wrong with Monkey, why was he upset, why was he in the closet, etc. I was preparing myself mentally to step in and explain how changes in the routine were very hard for him and why, when the question popped out. It was from a little boy in the class who is fairly significantly affected by autism so the question was a little garbled but the teacher was able to get the question out of him. He wanted to know…what Monkey had done yesterday.

That’s it. He didn’t particularly care that Monkey was making a very small scene not 10 feet away. He just wanted to know how his weekend was. I’d tell you how much it means to me to know that these kids just accept Monkey, quirks and all, but I think you all already know.

FWIW, Monkey’s weekend was *great.* It was no big deal, we just went on a successful play date in a new house with all new kids and all new adults. It’s not like that was THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER or anything *SQUEE*

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