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?
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