The Boy, The Playground and Me

I’ve never been one for playgrounds..

Too crowded. Too noisy. A sensory nightmare.

The squeak of bare legs being forced down a hot metal slide on a summer’s day still makes me shudder as if there’s a hairy-arsed tarantula about to pounce on my face..

When The Boy was younger he hated playgrounds with passion. The first time we put him on a swing he like TOTALLY screamed the place down. Sure, children having tantrums are common place in parks but I’m talking TOTALLY LOSING HIS SHIT meltdowns where people stare at you because it MUST be down to bad parenting, no?

Er, no.

Playgrounds are a danger area for us because of the stimulus. Even now (aged seven) ten minutes is all he can handle before he starts to go into meltdown. Although the stimulus affects him, he likes the playground now. He is a sociable child but the problem is that he is too sociable and doesn’t understand the rules as is the case with autism. It doesn’t matter how young or old the other children are because they are all equal in his eyes and this causes problems..

For instance, on one occasion The Boy ran up to five teenage boys who were hogging the roundabout. He jumped on there with them as if he’d known them all his life. I hesitated to see how they would react to this little interloper but The Boy’s idea of play involves lots of incoherent shouting so it wasn’t long before the teens started nudging each other and laughing, the twats, though to be fair, they were just acting the way that most teenage boys act, it’s just that I’d have given anything for just one of them to show my son some compassion..

The Boy laughed back but had no idea that they were laughing at him. This took place in a matter of seconds but I’d seen enough but as I made my way to him the teens got up and just left him spinning on his own, not that it bothered him. As usual, he was oblivious as to what had taken place..

The thing is that he stands out.

His autism is IN YOUR FACE, autism.

We let him go into playgrounds whenever possible as long as he’s not showing signs of overwhelm before he goes in. We know that he’ll get over-excited pretty quickly so he’s given a ten minute countdown and those minutes seem like hours, believe me. All this on top of my own sensory issues makes it a stressful experience..

The last time he went into a playground was a few months ago. It was the adventure type playground and he homed in on a big rope type roundabout that could take about ten children at a time. My heart sank because I knew what was coming. I have a fluffy sensory toy which I keep in my pocket to calm myself and I stroked it so fast, I practically rendered it bald!

The Boy scrambled on with no qualms whatsoever. Aside my anxiety, I had to marvel at his inability to be apprehensive in certain situations. So, there was a little girl stood next to him and he shouted away to her. He was totally animated but she just stared at him open-mouthed and then asked to be let off. Once again, my son had been rejected only it was me who felt the pain, not him.

OH and I exchanged ‘the look’.

When we’d entered the playground, it was noisy with children screaming and parents chatting. It literally took five minutes for the atmosphere to change. One by one the kids on the roundabout fell silent as they stared at the little boy who excitedly screamed out incoherent babble to nobody in particular..

Then the parents stared at him and started looking around to see who he belonged to.

Er, that’ll be us, folks.

We knew he wasn’t going to make ten minutes as he was seconds away from meltdown and I wasn’t far behind having one of my own, so we grabbed him and left.

I didn’t look behind me because I didn’t want to see the judgmental looks on the faces of people who haven’t got a clue about our lives or his. I’ve seen those looks too many times and each time it hurts. I physically and emotionally hurt for my son..

So, I slammed the gate shut and pulled him close, mentally effing at the lot of them for not seeing my beautiful boy as I see him.

The blessing is that he is unaware of the way people stare. I was aware from the age of five so I’m glad he’s been spared for as long as he has but the day will come when he does notice and being different and knowing you’re different is hard. You’re forever having to work at appearing ‘normal’ and I pray that my son remains oblivious of people’s intolerance and ignorance for as long as is possible.

Those five minutes in the playground are still bothering me, obviously because I’m writing about it months later. It’s in my head now, logged with all the other ‘incidents’ and it makes me sad that some people show more compassion for their cars than they do human beings, especially vulnerable ones who could really do with their support..

Here’s a thought..

How about people stop staring and start supporting these kids?

Why shouldn’t my son express himself in the way that is natural to him? He’s not hurting anybody. It’s not an aggressive reaction. What people see is happiness minus the filters. To me, it’s beautiful. He is beautiful. It isn’t him that needs to change, it’s society.

“How would your life be different if…You stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day…You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.”~ Steve Maraboli ~ Life, the Truth and Being Free

Creative Commons Image Via Pixabay


Spectrum Sunday


12 thoughts on “The Boy, The Playground and Me

  1. This is so sad to read Tracy, all I can see is his happy smiling face and the negative judgement of parents and older children/youngsters. I can’t lay blame at young kiddies making their minds up that they don’t want to play with someone for whatever reason, it’s a good filter that they have that some sort of stranger danger in their minds. But what I do know from my 5 year old granddaughter is that at the moment she is totally nonjudgmental about people, black or white, old or young, fat or thin, able or with a disability…….to her they are all just people.
    For the love of god, let people be happy and encourage the differences. What a bland world we would be if we were all the same. Disrespectful thoughts are learnt, children on the whole are not born being judgmental, it is learnt from those around them.
    I just want to think of him having fun at the park within the time limit he can manage, thank goodness he doesn’t see what is going on around him. Run free young man, laugh, climb, swing and slide……..that park is there for your enjoyment equally to everyone else’s 💙
    Big loves 😘💞xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks lovely. The blessing is that he is oblivious to it all and I hope that never changes but I think that it will. And you’re totally right that intolerance is learnt as children are naturally accepting of each other when they are young so the people around them have a lot to answer for imo. Your granddaughter has good people around her. Lufs you loads 🙂 xxxx


  2. You could have written this about Neve too. She seems to be getting noisier with age especially when she’s excited. She’s so loud it stops people in their tracks and boy do they stare! I tend to avoid busy playgrounds and because she’s so big people probably think I shouldn’t take her there at all but she may be 17 but she’s still a child!! I once went up to a group of sniggering teens and asked how they’d feel if they had a brother or sister who was special and everyone laughed At them? They had the decency to look embarrassed.. wish N and S could have a playground all to themselves one day. What fun they’d have and we could just smile xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you lovely for challenging those youths. Maybe all that’s needed in some cases is to imagine that the person they are taking the piss out of is a member of their own family and, in a way, that’s exactly what we all are – one BIG family. I’d love to see N and The Boy – they’d have such a great time together. 🙂 xxxx


  3. We seek out playgrounds with less people. Any where too busy and we don’t bother. It’s a bit hard because our daughter is desperate to play with others… but it doesn’t work for our middle and our eldest still sometimes needs help ‘intregrating?’ We are ‘that’ family. Thanks so much for sharing this with #spectrumsunday and sorry I’m commenting so late.

    Liked by 1 person

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