A few years back Jude spent most of his time at home disengaged. Often it felt like he was trying to avoid me, leaving the room when I’d try to go and play with him. He found it difficult to look anywhere near me, let alone make eye contact. It felt like he spent most of his time ignoring me.
Jude would spend his day tapping objects, windows, walls, radiators; anything that made a good sound. I’d have given anything to snap him out of it, and come and play with me, with a ball, a balloon, look at a book, anything but tap everything!
Then I got given probably the most valuable piece of advice I’ve had so far about autism.
Stop trying to force Jude to enter my world, and join him in his.
His world was where he felt safe, comfortable, able to cope with the challenges of everything around him. By becoming a part of it I was able to build a relationship with him. It deepened his trust in me and stopped him from feeling like he was doing something wrong all of the time. After all, I was the one trying to stop him from doing what it was he enjoyed!
So when Jude sat on the floor tapping the radiator, I sat there tapping the wall. If he was tapping on a plastic bottle, so was I. I joined in with whatever it was he was doing, even if it was completely separate from him….
And slowly, it started to make a difference. He’d look over to see what I was doing. He was interested in me!
Occasionally he’d look up and laugh or smile. Once he became more comfortable I was able to try and introduce something new, and see if he was interested in that too. He loved throwing things. So rather than try and stop him I’d sit at the other end of the room and throw them back. Balls, deflated balloons, toy bricks (dangerous), toy figures, whatever it was he wanted to throw. I stopped caring about what it was we were doing and just focused on having fun with him.
Fast forward a few years, and now Jude doesn’t leave me alone. It’s not just me, it’s the same with everybody he trusts, and who actually get him. When we’re together at home he drags me from room to room, either making me part of what it is he wants to do, or just to be there and watch him. He trusts me. He knows I’m not going to keep trying to stop him bouncing, flapping or tapping.
That change in attitude has worked with Tommy too. He was always more sociable to begin with, but again he’d spend a lot of time isolated, in his own world. He preferred activities that were more solitary, like making puzzles or looking at books. Whenever I’d try to join in Tommy would grab the puzzle piece out of my hand or slam the book shut. So, I’d sit away from him and build my own puzzle, or read my own book. At first, Tommy would either ignore me or try and stop me from what I was doing. In time he would come and take over, sitting with me to complete the puzzle. Eventually, he allowed me to build the puzzle with him, even putting my own pieces in (sometimes!)
So, I would sit away from him and build my own puzzle, or read my own book. At first, Tommy would either ignore me or try and stop me from what I was doing. In time he would come and take over, sitting with me to complete the puzzle. Eventually, he allowed me to build the puzzle with him, even putting my own pieces in (sometimes!)
So, I’d love to pass this advice along….
Next time you see a child who you think is ignoring you, step back for a second and take a look at how you are approaching them. Think about how you are making them feel?
Why not try and join them in what they are doing, and see what a difference it makes. Show an interest in what it is they enjoy instead of deciding for them what you think it is they should be doing.
This simple bit of advice changed everything for me and brought us so much closer together ❤️