Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

The Road Trip

I just returned from Radical Authenticity at The Option Institute (expansive beyond my expectations), and Kiki is working on a virtual road trip via Google maps from our home to the institute at Sheffield, MA . I’m loving the project and finding a number of learning opportunities and differences for him to perceive.

6-year-old boy smiling next to a laptop, an atlas, and a globe

I got him an atlas from the library, so we have detailed maps of the route. He’s driving the whole distance (completely refused my idea to skip some spots to make the trip shorter, though he just confessed he’s cheated a little). He is understanding the meaning and purpose of road signs (an old and “ismy” interest), as we look for gas stations, restaurants and hotels on the road for him to rest. We’re calculating his speed at different intervals, estimating time and distances to cities and towns, discovering county borders, noticing the changing landscape, listening to classical music on the radio of an old tape recorder, and today I introduced the walkie-talkies Joey and I used years ago on our drive from Dallas to Salt Lake.

This is a new more sophisticated flavor of an old loved activity for him and I’m assigning meaning to the impact that these differences he’s perceiving may be having on him. For instance, on the first day of the trip he commented for the first time ever the house is so messy right now! (perceiving clutter for the first time). This week, on two different days, he sat quietly and without disruptions for 30 mins while I talked with our music teacher (another first).

boy in a playroom traveling virtually across the country on Google Maps

This September we’re planning to try a Sudbury school for one or two weeks and see what we learn. This kind of thing is what he would be allowed to do in that environment. It’s a great experiment and a step towards the alternative education I’m starting to see for him more along the lines of unschooling. There is also a big social skill I’m focusing on right now to pursue along with everything else, but I think we’re doing great.

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