For our socially challenged Asperger children, attending activities and giving them a chance to interact is important.
For a few years now, we’ve had difficulty finding a place to fit in. Our quest for an appropriate club/activity/sport has gone unfulfilled since we left Cub Scouts (which was great for a while). Social demands are often above my son’s – and many AS children’s – abilities, and so we’ve made a few tries, only to hastily back out.
This summer, our family discovered chess.
Finally, we found an area in which my son could both excel and enjoy. The rules are always the same. Social interaction is present, but not excessive or demanding. Everyone knows exactly what to expect each and every time. There are no surprises in chess.
So, when our summer library chess club came to an end, I was motivated to form a chess club at our new middle school.
I’d never formed a club before. Never even attended the school before. Didn’t know who to talk to, how to manage money and supplies, how to make things happen period.
Last night, we had our first chess club meeting. And it was a success, with 13 kids and 4 adults attending. We had exactly the right amount of supplies, and everything went off without a hitch. I’m still smiling, and half floating as I write this. 🙂
This is how we made it happen:
- We spoke with someone who had experience with clubs. She told us we needed a sponsor within the school (teacher, administrator, or staffer).
- I applied to be a Dividend. Warned ahead of time that this can be a lengthy process (although easy – you just fill out a form), I took care of it the first week of school.
- Next, we asked the only person I knew at the school – our autism coordinator – if she could recommend a sponsor. She found one for us (for which I am grateful). We could also have sent out emails – which I had planned to do – or contacted the school via their website.
- Our sponsor arranged for a time and meeting place within the school.
- Our sponsor handled the advertising within the school. Options for us were: announcements, school tv announcement (once a month here), and fliers. I’m hoping to make the next school newsletter, and also obtain a place on the official list of clubs on the school website.
- Our sponsor gave me the school bookkeeper’s email address, so we could find out monetary information, like who checks need to be written to, whether we could ask for a small fee from the students (like$1 or $2) to cover expenses, and such things.
- My family found a company – in our case, The UPS Store – that was willing to donate boards and pieces. In return, the backs of our boards now say “Donated by The UPS Store.” Free advertising for them, supplies for us, everyone wins.
- We kept in touch with the library chess club manager (Mary Acken), who volunteered to come out and teach our first chess class. She ended up also donating her book to our club, and continues to give valuable advice and contact information.
This may sound like a lot of time and trouble. But for us, club options are limited. Grab-bag activities, team sports, and complex social interactions just won’t work for my son.
But chess will. And yes, I’m willing to put in the extra time to make it work (although really it’s only an hour a week – no activities to plan! Haha! Chess is so easy to manage). If anyone else out there is wondering how to make something work for their child, from starting a Robotics Club to Chess Club to Scrabble Club and anything in between, hopefully this list will make it a little easier to get started.