Sunday 11 October 2015

How my child teaches me to think outside the box

I have been thinking a lot lately about how each and every person with Autism is so unique and different. My son included. They say if you have met one kid with Autism...well’ve met one kid with autism. And you can see why this can then lead to so much confusion for people, as there really is no one size fits all.

We have the ‘Triad of impairments’ as a guideline but even that can be interpreted differently as each person is somewhere different on the spectrum. Well meaning folks in the past have said to me things like “well I never knew he was Autistic  because he looks so normal”, or “he can talk well” or the worst one I ever had was.... “I had high hopes for your kids, what went wrong in the genes” (I know I know...don’t even go there with that one!!!)

You see I reckon that your average Joe’s understanding of Autism sadly is like that film...what was it again..... Rainman?

And that couldn’t be further from the truth really. Yes there will be some people who share similar traits to Dustin Hoffman’s character, but many won’t. Each person is different, unique and they have their own challenges and strengths.

Take imagination for example. Most people assume that if you have Autism you have no imagination. But for my son I would argue that’s not necessarily true. He has many strengths and faces many challenges, because he sees the world differently to me. But would I say he has NO imagination at all... No I wouldn’t.

 So maybe to understand this I just need to look at the world through his eyes.

We have two dogs  at home and they’re  always play fighting, one is a puppy so  as you can imagine there’s lots of tail pulling and growling that goes on. My son sees this, thinks it look great fun, and of course he wants to join in the rough and tumble. But every time he does they stop their rough play and lick him all over his face (much to his annoyance) because he wants to be a dog like them... and play like them ...not be licked. So his ingenious idea was to buy a dog suit so they will be tricked into thinking he’s a dog like them!! Logical eh! I mean it’s a very literal kind of imagination... But imagination none the less isn’t it?

His view kinda makes sense to me if I see it through his eyes.

Another example is when my son wanted to play finger football on the kitchen floor going back a few years ago now.  So he decided to draw the pitch (in permanent black marker!!!) you know like you do, across the whole tiled floor??
Hmmmm, I have to admit I wasn’t best pleased at the time. But, looking at the positive side of this as we mums often do, he had actually created his own game. He had then played finger football with his two teams playing against each other scoring goals into cereal boxes at either end of the room.  He was able to use his knowledge about football and make up a game using a  permanent pen, my floor and some screwed up newspaper and tape.
Could you argue that he has used his imagination there?

And more recently there’s been the gaming. At first I was concerned about how much gaming he was doing and the effect it was having on him. But the benefits far outweigh my concerns to be honest. It’s become what he does for his ‘down time’. It’s his passion, and you know what, it’s actually surprised me how imaginative he can be on it. The possibilities with Minecraft are amazing.  He struggles in everyday life to draw any ideas he may have, even to copy an image. And he often can’t and express himself verbally or in his written work at school..... But he can create a whole village with shops/ houses/ animals and theme parks etc. He has also made some online friends who he chats to whilst he's playing, again which has opened up a new world that he feels comfortable in.  

And the latest thing that we have seen is texts and Emoji's.
He sent me an Emoji cake via text for my birthday last week in the taxi on his way to school, when he had been unable to say it in person at home that morning. He’s exploring with the creativity of using Emoji's, and learning there are other ways to express himself, be imaginative and communicate in a fun way without the pressure of one to one conversation.

 So yes my son has the label of Autism, and yes he struggles with imagination because of that. But if we think outside the box a little with our kids often we can find a way in by using their strengths and interests.  I accept he’s never gonna do drama or even be the class joker confidently at the center of the ‘in crowd’. But I am OK with that now, because he is!

I have followed his lead, and I am learning to see that my sons’ skills lie elsewhere. He feels the joy in playing with his dogs in a dog suit, he can problem solve by making a newspaper balls to play footy, and he can create magical worlds on Minecraft.

Each and everyone of our kids is unique in their own imagination, and have their own challenges to face. It’s a spectrum of uniqueness and a different way of viewing the world. So sometimes all we have to do is use our own imagination to view the world through our kids eyes, and see the wonder in their ability to think outside the box.


Mrs M X                                      


  1. Liked your blogs. As a mom of an autistic child, wanted to express my experiences by writing blogs but after full time job and handling an energetic child at home who constantly demands your attention hardly left me any time to do so. I feel these children are extremely gifted in terms of perceiving things neurotypicals miss to do due to conditioning. They observe things which we are unable to do and they think out of the box more often than not.