Thomas and Friends, trains, cars, films, Disney characters, maps, numbers, are all subjects which may attract someone with autism to the point of obsession and all they talk about.
But is this a bad thing?
I don't think so, obviously it depends on the subject but I think these interests are there for a reason and may be there to help a person with autism make sense of the world around them. It may be that their interest makes them feel relaxed and happy so why would we think of taking it away or trying to discourage it? The only reason would be that if it was unsafe for the individual or those around them.
We had our EHCP (education health care plan) meeting last week for my son and it's always an eye opener as so much can change in a year. So much has really from leaving secondary school and starting sixth form and now he is sixteen it was more centred around him and allowing his input. I'm not sure whether that is because of his age or because that is the routine for the new plans now. I always found the meetings in the past to be a discussion about the young person and then they had very little input at the end but that depends on the level of communication and ability to contribute.
Our meeting involved myself, my sons dad, our son and his English teacher. I am no longer with Thoma's dad and haven't been for a long time now but we have maintained a great friendship and do come together for both of our children which is great and something I do feel grateful for. Thomas was asked a lot of questions mainly about himself, how he thought he was coping and what his aspirations were for the future to which one of his answers was.....I'd like to be a zoo keeper!!
A bit random! We all looked at each other in suprise, he had never mentioned this before and he doesn't really show a great desire to be with animals.. His teacher looked calm. I had projected myself into the future, thinking about him bringing his work home with him and picturing our garden looking like something from the film Madagascar, which his where he probably got the idea from. His dad however sat there calm as a cucumber and had worked him out straight away to which he asked him if he liked animals - 'Yep' said Thomas, did he like dogs (not a zoo animal I know but we know he isn't keen) - 'ermmm no' said Thomas and did he like animal poo and want to clean up after the animals - 'ermmmm no not at all, they are stinky'.
So we established a career as a zoo keeper probably wasn't for him, well not for now. You see Thomas cannot, at the moment anyway, answer questions and give a true answer. He will say anything to get you to be quiet so that this bombardment of questions can finish as soon as possible and he can get back to what the fat controller is up to. This makes him vulnerable with his lack of social skills, that's autism! We also realised that in lessons he was tending to rush work to get to his reward. It was something that had been in place to allow him to get work done, it had been useful but now his teacher knew he was capable of a better standard of work and felt he could be pushed a little more if he could widen his concentration and take his time. It's always been a bit of a challenge but it was worth giving it another try.
We asked Thomas if there was a Thomas and Friends story which involved any of the engines which rushed to get a job done but suffered major consequences because of their actions. Suddenly we had got his attention. It was as if he was suddenly accepting us asking the questions because we had entered 'his world'. 'Yes' he said, and we learnt how Dunkin Duncan rushed his work shunting trucks, got into bother and ended up in a situation which didn't end well with the fat controller. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't read the book or seen the episode but we probably have three copies of the book if anyone should want one and it's season six on the dvd's if your interested.
So we have now incorporated Dunkin Duncan into college work just as a reminder that we need to try a bit harder and take time to finish work. Whether it works or not I will have to keep you posted but I really do feel that in day to day life we have to enter the world of autism to get a greater understanding and a result. We spend far too much time trying to force people with autism to abide by the rules included in the neuro typical social world, and yes, in some cases it is necessary to pave a way for behaviour to be regarded as acceptable and allow inclusion but it is hard for them. There are times when I don't feel like I need to know anymore about Thomas and his tank engines or Disney Pixar but when I do and I make a conscious effort to get involved I find I can communicate with my son a lot more and it is kind of fun. It's a two way street.
I realise it's not going to be the same for everyone and all our experiences with autism are different but this is just my view and our life. I know some aspects of challenging behaviour are not going to be solved by a story or a film and may need further intervention. I will at some point in the future write about challenging behaviour so that we can help those who do have problems but for now thanks for reading about us and I will catch you tomorrow.....
.....join me for Pass the Remote Sunday - a review of the last weeks tv.
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Every Saturday will be about Autism, family and life.