I realize that this was supposed to be a series of pictures but I was inspired today while on a picnic at the park with the boys so I am writing this one.
One of the issues parents say they struggle with is staring from other people. They really don’t like it. We were always told when we were young that it is impolite to stare at other people.
Here is my take. I actually don’t mind it, in fact, I would even like to encourage it. Yes, you heard me right.
I learned a few things in my Early Childhood Education course at college. Just a few, but one of them was that infants learn 3/4 of their lifetime of learning in the first year of their lives. Or something like that, don’t quote me on that. How do they learn? By touching, tasting, listening, smelling and looking.
In college, one of the things we had to learn and practice was observation. We had form sheets to fill out and time slots set just to go to a nursery school and just observe and take notes. We learned things about children and were able to recognize when behaviours were different and the possible causes of them.
So the reason why I am telling you this is because while we were at the park today there were some children there. When we first arrived, they and their parents stared some. The children noticed Andy sitting in the pea gravel tossing the stones. I positioned him facing away from the equipment and let him toss away. He enjoys it. He made occasional noises that were kind of loud. Ethan wandered with his string on the playground equipment pretty quietly.
Those children slowly moved towards their parents and continued to stare apprehensively. I smiled and tossed a few stones on Andy’s lap, playing with him. At one point I had went over to Ethan to get a little snuggle in. I had to step in his way and grab him but he leaned in for the hug and kiss and then gently pushed me away to keep his walking on the outside perimeter wooden beams. Then Andy started tossing the stones onto the grassy area beyond the playground so I walked over and stood in front of him in the path of his tossing and he stopped. He won’t throw stones at me or anyone else.
The children as they observed, learned that these big kids were different. They didn’t talk, they didn’t play like most kids and they made funny sounds.
Soon, those kids and their parents were walking over to the playground from where they were sitting and started to play. They were still watching but getting closer.
They learned that Andy wasn’t going to throw stones at them and Ethan wasn’t interested in touching anyone so there was no fear of him hurting them. They learned that they will interact and will accept affection.
Eventually the family was brave enough to have interaction with us and we shared a chuckle over their dog’s antics.
My point is, starring is good for Autism Awareness! How will others learn how kids with Autism play or communicate or what they like unless they observe? How can they grow comfortable with kids with Autism unless they observe that though the sounds and play is different, that they are not a threat and in fact may even enjoy a friendly smile?
Parents of kids with Autism, I know it is uncomfortable being under what may seem like a scrutinizing stare but smile and let them observe and learn how you interact with your child.
We are extolling the virtues of Autism Awareness this month, lets not send the message to be aware while hating the means by which they become aware.