Alexandra Neighbourhood House.

South Surrey event planned for kids lacking social skills

A Semiahmoo Peninsula mother is hosting a free party next week for children who are unable to participate in regular holiday events.

A Semiahmoo Peninsula mother is hosting a free Christmas party next week for children who are unable to participate in regular holiday events.

Maura Majano, mother of two boys – age 11 and 14 – with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), says being a parent of a child with a neurodevelopmental disorder can be “very isolating” at times.

“I found at Christmastime, and I still find, we cannot participate in everything because my kids – it just doesn’t work for them. They don’t have the patience that other kids have. A lot of the time the noise and stuff, I don’t know how they’re going to be,” she told Peace Arch News Wednesday morning.

Majano, a trained teacher, owns a private tutoring business and believes that developing social skills is more important than academic success.

“Like my eldest son, he’s incredibly smart, but he doesn’t like dealing with teachers. He’s really shy. He has trouble making friends and joining conversations. If you think about a job interview, you need to be social. You need to promote yourself and talk about yourself and do all of those things. It goes beyond friendship,” Majano said.

Majano said she’s had counsellors say to her that some children with developmental disabilities do not want friends.

“I think that’s totally, and completely false. I think that they don’t know how to make friends. I think everybody needs a friend. And when you talk about reducing anxiety, preventing suicide, all of these (are) really important things.”

From talking to other parents with children with developmental disabilities, Majano said one of the hardest parts they face is judgmental people in the community.

“I know a lot of parents that just don’t do play-dates, don’t go out, it’s very isolating. A lot of parents try, and I think it’s good they try, but they get stares and they get comments, but they’re doing the best they can. It’s really hard,” she said.

She says doctors she’s talked to don’t quite understand what’s going on.

“I’ve had doctors tell me, ‘Oh, you’re just not firm enough,’” she said. “Yeah, no, there’s something more going on here. I’ve tried being firm, I’ve tried everything. I think the judgment is hard and the unpredictability. You don’t know how the kid is going to be, you cannot always set them up for success.”

The event, which is being paid for out-of-pocket by Majano, will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. at Alexandra Neighbourhood House (2916 McBride Ave.) on Saturday, Dec. 17. She would like parents to commit to either an earlier or later arrival to avoid having too much going on at once.

Her husband, Paulo Majano, is a photographer and offered to attend the event to take family portraits.

Family members of the children are encouraged to come.

“I know when we first went through the process you kind of go through a stage where you don’t really know who to share with. Like, who’s a safe person to talk to. It’s hard sometimes to find resources, I found it really difficult, and still find it difficult, to find helpers and resources for my kids. If you get together with other kids you can share resources. You can talk about some of the challenges you’re facing.”

Majano intends to set up a craft area and a quiet area for relaxation.

She would like people to register for the event on Facebook, and to note how many people from their family will be attending.

To RSVP, visit www.facebook.com/socialskillssurrey

She’s asking for food and/or craft-related donations for the event. If you’re interested in helping, email mmajano@live.com

The event is intended for children with anxiety or autism spectrum disorder.

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