Sunday, June 26, 2011

"What's wrong with him?"

I want to tell you about my yesterday. No, not the "everything that's happened in my life thus far" yesterday, but literally my yesterday, 6/25/11.
Yesterday I had the privilege of discover another one of Fort Wayne's best kept secrets: Buckner Park. Yes, it's pretty, but here's the coolest part: a boundless playground. More specifically, a boundless splashpad.  A place for all kids to play; wheelchair-bound kids, special needs kids, just plain special kids...they all get to splash and play and laugh. All of them.

For you Fort Wayne-ers, seriously, check it out here. For you non Fort Wayne-ers, just get really excited about this with me. Because this is seriously cool (aside from the fact that it's a slpash pad.)
So yesterday I got to take one of the boys with Autism that I do in-home therapy with to the splash pad. At first, honestly, I was mad I had to work. It was Saturday, MY Saturday, and I wanted it! But I dragged myself out of the house, and was glad I did by the end of the day.
This particular kiddo has some pretty serious stuff going on; sensory, behavioral, you name it. But today he was just a little boy in an orange swimsuit laughing. (A bit too much? Probably. Laughing is a stim of his (Once he starts, he often can't stop). Know how hard it is to tell an 8 year old boy to stop laughing?) And jumping. (Again, a bit too much? Probably.) We went from the swings to the water, back to the swings, and back to the water yet again.
Another wonderful thing about this particular park is that mommies and daddies (or therapists, in this case) can walk in among the water spouts and spigots in normal clothes and not be completely drenched. So I walked and avoided the random shoots and blasts, just to prevent him bolting off in a random direction (mainly, not to the birthday party that was happening not too far from us) should he get so excited he not remember that no one likes a party crasher. He was laughing, I was laughing it was wonderful. Until he went to stand underneath the bucket that fills with water and then dumps on your head. Because when he got there, he ran into the other little girl standing there. He didn't care, he just wanted to get splashed. The little girl, however, cared. "Hey!! Stop!!" Nothing. No eye contact from him, no glance in her general direction of "whoops", no acknowledgement of her presence. That was not enough for her. "That hurt! What are you thinking?" More laughing and slight jumping in response. At this point, I was tempted to step in and wring her neck, but I didn't, I just stood. And watched. Until the girl saw me and associated him with me. "What's wrong with him?" she asked me.
I couldn't breathe for a second.
What's wrong with him? What's wrong with him?  I wanted to crawl out of my skin. It wasn't the little girl's fault...she didn't know that was mean. She just wanted to know, and was young enough to not know that's not the polite way to ask. " He has special needs, and sometimes talking to people, and watching where he's going, is hard for him to remember. I'm sorry if he hurt you." I replied. It was all I could think of at the time. Thankfully, it was all she needed for an answer.
From that point on, there was nothing "wrong" with him. For the rest of the afternoon, as he splashed, played, and ran (thankfully never to the birthday party!). He was 8. It was summer. There was nothing "wrong" with him, except he couldn't decide which water spout to play with first. It was a wonderful breath of fresh air.

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