Away We Go!

Karen met Alexis for the first time on Thursday. As expected, they hit it off and a plan was developed. Where was I? Off on Cooperstown business, but I arrived towards the tail end to hear what was decided.

When Nate was younger and fairly uncommunicative, Karen and I were on his case all the time, through written directions, scripted conversation, non-stop correction of incorrect language and so on. As he got older, we laid off a bit. Nate was doing pretty well in school and that was more than good enough for us. But we knew he still needed to work on his social skills, to have more pressure put on him to converse, to stop growling when unhappy, to simply conduct himself in a more acceptable manner.

Alexis is coming at the right time, when our focus has switched from college to life. Since she’s Nate’s age, they have similar likes – Spongebob, Finding Nemo – and that’s a big plus. Alexis has some serious ideas on pulling the most out of Nate and she started right away. Nate took her to Pizza Hut, for the buffet lunch he likes. Usually Nate sits with his iPad and eats, answering us rather than having a dialogue.  Making him converse is a chore for him and us. The post-prandial report was that Nate did well, that Alexis never eased up on him and forced him to talk with her. She was in his face the whole time and he needs that.

Next week Nate will hang out with Alexis on multiple days. “Hang out” is the right term. Nate sees her, as he did Elise, not so much as an aide, a worker, but a pal who spends some time with him. But Nate doesn’t know what being a friend really is; he doesn’t have the skills. He’ll learn them though, now that that’s our primary goal.

I was telling Alexis that it took years to get Nate to answer the phone, which he does now rather well. I’ve shown him on his cell how to call out and text, but he’s not too interested. He needs to be.  Alexis thought it would be a great idea for Nate to call her, just to check in and tell her what he’ s up to, like friends do.

“I want him to know he has someone he’s able to call, someone he can just talk to,” she said.

With that Karen got weepy. Nate ringing someone up to say hi, how’s your day been, here’s what I’ve been up to lately? It’s hard to believe, but it’ll come. That’s always been Nate’s story.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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