Monthly Archives: January 2016

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Lesson from a boy with Autism

On Sunday I took our three children to our local soft play. We always go towards the end of the day when it is less busy.


They started to play a game, which involved taking a soft play ‘letter’ from the toddler area and hiding it.


After a while Darcy (our four year old) came to me and said that a boy had taken her letter. We watched as a boy emerged cuddling the letter. He took it back to the toddler area where it belonged. As I watched the boy go back into soft play I held Darcy close and kept telling her quietly to “wait”. When the boy was out of sight I said she could go get the letter, but not to worry too much if he came and took it again. He wasn’t being mean. He was returning the letter to where it should be. I could see where the boy was coming from. I could also see from the familiar mannerisms, quietisms and desire to categorise that the boy had autism.


It was getting near closing time and I saw the boys Mum go get his attention and calmly, tell him he had five more minutes, holding up her hand preparing the visual count down. Her son went off on his way. As she walked back I commented about how her son loved the letters.


“Yes. He doesn’t know how to play like other children. He has autism and loves the letters and numbers…” she explained.


I said that I was teacher at a school for children with learning difficulties and autism and admired the way he had coped with our children upsetting the correct order of his letters and numbers with their game.


Her son (being clever) took this opportunity to disappear.


I found him at the top of the slide (a favoured hiding place of some of my own class on our soft play outings). I called to his Mum to let her know.


My own children reluctantly responded to the count downs and were putting their shoes on.


I went and got the softplay letter from the toddler area and took it to the bottom of the slide. His Mum was already at the top explaining ‘Soft play is finished” I held up the letter. The boy clocked it instantly. I left it at the bottom of the slide, knowing he would have to come down to file it in the correct place. A minute later he was making his way to the toddler area to put the letter where it should be.


On our way home I said to Darcy, “You know the boy who wanted to tidy the letters?” She looked up and nodded. “You were right to wait. That boy has autism.”


“Ahh…” said Darcy knowingly.


Our children have grown up with parents who make autism software and a Mum who teaches and writes books about teaching children with autism. It is not a foreign word. But it was lovely to have another example our little girl could relate to and build upon her own understanding of these wonderful children who often play in their own unique way.


I hope Darcy will continue to be tolerant, interested and think about how others see the world. I hope she will continue to ‘wait quietly’ when waiting is the right thing to do.


I also hope that another Mum will read this and know that not all strangers are judging.


Many will be relating, observing, learning and admiring…  


In fact they might be quietly thinking to themselves (as I was):


“What a brilliant mother. What a brilliant child.”


ABC -  All Behaviour is Communication

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