Just recently I received a catalog for the fall recreational activities available at a local organization for children with special needs. Adapted swim, music therapy and a kids' clay/pottery class piqued my interest. Swimming and clay were my two picks, since each of these activities provide the best sensory input/experience. Music therapy may be a bit too much for my little one's sensitive ears but we're looking into it! The little man's school is concerned that he is not involved in more small group activities with other kids his age. They are also concerned that school is the only time he is away from his family, which may be negatively influencing his behaviors at school due to separation anxiety. Well, I actually don't know of very many other 3-year-olds who spend extensive periods of time away from their family other than when they are in school or daycare...but that may just be me digressing again! We are trying to find more supervised group activities for the little guy to do. Guess what, though? For his age group, all the available activities require... yup, you guessed it: PARENT OR FAMILY PARTICIPATION. Talk about frustrating! We DO want to find more opportunities for the little man to swim and/or play in the water because he loves it so much and it is excellent physical and sensory exercise. We're working on it...
The clay class sounds interesting. Had I not taken pottery/clay classes before I would think it was a terrible safety hazard to offer this as an option for kids on the autism spectrum. When I look back and remember my high school clay pottery class... I LOVED IT!!! To this day I still have the hiddeously clunky and heavy creations I so lovingly put together. I loved the class so much I just kept making more and more pieces. My poor family was bombarded with my "works of art." I do have to say some of my pieces were quite nice and quite practical...the others ended up becoming colorful paper weights. Anyway, the wonderful thing about clay is that it is an extremely "forgiving" medium to work with. If you don't like your first creation, you just re-mold it into something new! For kids who have difficulties "committing" their artwork onto paper because of the anxiety of its permanence, clay is the way to go!
One thing about clay: it is hard! Not difficult, but hard in consistency. You have to knead it for long periods of time in order to get it warm enough and make it softer. For kids on the spectrum all that squeezing offers great sensory input! Pulling and ripping the clay apart can also be extremely therapeutic, not just sensory-wise but also to relieve stress, anxiety, anger and frustration! Most therapeutic is the initial process of preparing the clay. You have to throw the clay really hard onto the table or surface you are working on. You MUST do this over and over before you can even begin to work with the clay. All that banging squeezes any air bubbles out before you start creating your piece. Those tiny little air bubbles can wreak havoc in the kiln (oven) when the clay is baking. Even the tiniest of air bubbles can cause your piece to explode, shattering not only your work but every other project that is baking in the kiln along with it.
Hmm... that got me thinking... I've frequently referenced the "hits" our family has taken on this journey. Even way back when we were waiting to have a child we took some pretty hard hits. At the beginning I always asked myself (and God) "WHY?!?!?" Yet after every one of those occasions I've looked back and seen why. I can truthfully and honestly say that more often than not I ended up feeling thankful for those hits, because when things got really, really bad and even bigger trials came, I felt I had the resources I needed to make it through. I'd like to think it's like that lump of clay. Each of the hits are just preparing it to be molded and to withstand the heat in the oven before it can become a beautiful and useful vessel. Our lives are just like that lump of clay! Whatever the "hits" don't work the bubbles out of our systems can cause us to explode under pressure... and cause damage not only to ourselves but to those around us as well!
The Bible has so many references to clay using the imagery of God being the potter and us being the clay. In Isaiah 64:8 the prophet writes, "But now, Oh Lord, You [are] our Father; we [are] the clay and You our potter; and all we [are] the work of Your hand" (NKJV). In Jeremiah 18:4 we read, "And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make" (NKJV). Most poignant to me is the passage in Isaiah 29:16 which adds, "Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; for shall the thing made say of him who made it 'He did not make me'? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, 'He has no understanding'?" (NKJV). This is why I refuse to see my little guy as "missing a piece." I truly believe he was made just like God intended him to be. God makes no mistakes! All those hits we took early on as a family just prepared us for what was to come and to help us be the best parents possible to this amazing little boy!
BUT... before I could become a useful vessel to honor my Lord, I had to surrender my "lump of clay" and let Him make me into who I am and who He wanted me to be. "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor," 2 Titus 2:20 (NKJV). I choose to hand my life, my lump of clay, over to the Master Potter for Him to make me into a useful vessel that will bring Him honor. I will also keep in mind that surrendering to Him is for my good, but also for the good of those around me (remember the air bubbles in the kiln?). On those especially tough days with the little man, I will remember that he, too, is a small lump of clay who is in the process of being molded. He has been entrusted to us for a while to make sure his "clay" is kept moist and malleable, not dry, brittle and useless. It is our job as his parents to do everything in our power to get him ready so when his time comes to take the hits of life he won't shatter but hopefully give himself to the Lord to become a useful vessel to His honor as valuable as gold.