Often, I talk about struggles and difficulty within groups. After all, working in groups is difficult for the socially challenged.
And, like group work, playing games with peers is fraught with difficulty. After all, it is a kind of group activity; therefore, a lot of group skills – and challenges – carry over.
Playing a game requires good sportsmanship. Ouch. Playing a game requires some amount of compromise (who goes first, which color/pieces to select, rules, etc). Ouch again. Playing a game also requires some social graces, so as not to offend the partner/opponent. Offending people – intentionally or not – quickly results in isolation and ostracism.
In short, playing games – for our Asperger kids – is a bit like crossing shark-infested waters in a small canoe with only one paddle.
Now, my son is good at chess. For a child, he’s an exceptional chess player. Which means he wins. Against the other kids, he always wins.
Playing against someone who always wins is inherently Not So Fun.
Therefore, we’ve been working on strategies to help our son deal with this. That is, in addition to other group skills, like compromise, sensitivity to feelings, and good sportsmanship.
You know, it’s nice to be able to write about success. It’s even nicer to see it in action. I’m sure a great big grin was plastered across my face for the rest of that day, as well as the next.
In short, our son put his new skills to work. And saw instant results.
When another player made a good move, he complimented that move. Told his opponent – honestly – how smart the move was, even when it meant he (my son) lost a piece. He was the picture of amiability, smiling, speaking kindly to his opponent, and enjoying the game.
Soon, a group of kids gathered around the game.
He didn’t let that throw him. He continued in the same vein, and all of the kids had a good time. Everyone was laughing and talking about various moves. His opponents basked in the praise and took their losses well.
A group of kids laughing with my son. A group of kids accepting him, and enjoying his good sportsmanship and gracious behavior. And this went on for another game, against another opponent (who asked to play against my son).
It was the stuff of dreams.
It won’t always play out this way. I know that. Life is just not that simple, and different group compositions, mood swings, tiredness; all of it can add up to a different result. We’ve all seen those other results, again and again.
But for one day my son was the center of attention in a positive way. For one day, he was accepted and praised, and liked.
And he deserved it.
Note: You’d better believe we praised him, and gave him that parental support and reinforcement for good behavior! He was all smiles and full of pride for the next few days, and can’t wait for next Thursday to come around. For that matter, neither can I.