There’s no doubt about it, Mr 3 can get focussed. Very, very focussed. For the past couple of days it’s been our Thomas the Tank Engine set that’s captured his attention. Prior to this, it was the PS2, and before these, it was my iPod.
When he focusses, he gets absorbed. Completely consumed by the task before him.
Train in each hand, puzzling out his next move, that’s my boy! And yes, that sounds about right for any 3 year old boy too, right? Well, yes. And I love that.
The trouble is, just five minutes after this photo was taken, we had to head out shopping. And it was his reaction to this turn of events that wasn’t ‘about right’ for any 3 year old boy. Yes, he had a tantrum. Yes, he screamed in frustration and kicked his train track and broke it into several pieces. Yes, he thrashed against me, who had picked him up and was attempting to hold him tight and calm him down.
Yes, all of which (it could be argued) is also fairly typical for any 3 year old boy. But it was the sheer strength (and length!) of such reactions that, had anyone who didn’t know my little cherub, been within earshot of my house at that time, they would have thought, “That’s not normal. There’s something wrong with that kid.” And it’s that, which concerns me. Not their thoughts – but the fact that they had them. The fact that he has such huge tantrums which are out of character for what society says is ‘normal’ – but completely in character for a little autistic boy who sees the world differently to ‘normal’. And when circumstances occur that cause a mismatch between our view of the wold and his, then he’s going to let you know about it, darn it!
You see, he was happy playing with Thomas. Figuring out his next move, train in each hand. Completely and utterly absorbed. And he wanted to remain this way until *he* had finished; until *he* had decided that it was time to take a break. Having parents come and tell him that no, it was time to go *now* just didn’t fit with his view of ‘the way the world should work’. So he communicated his frustrations the only way that he knew how. Helping him to see that wrecking his train track wasn’t the best choice to make – because we wouldn’t be gone forever, and he could keep playing once we got back – was difficult. But I managed it, and once he understood that we’d be back fairly soon, he was more than happy to go and put on his sandals (and hat! Don’t forget the hat!) and hop into the car. It was just that initial lack of understanding that caused the problem.
And that’s my concern. Because at the moment, he’s three. But ‘turn around twice’ and he’ll be five, ready to head to school, and how on earth is his Prep teacher meant to handle such tantrums?
The way I see it, I have a small window of opportunity – just eighteen months, or thereabouts – to teach him resilience. To teach him that his view of the world, although completely valid, is not the only one; and that others are equally valid. To teach him how to react – how to behave – when his viewpoint collides with others. To teach him the protocols which the world considers ‘acceptable’; ‘normal’ even – although I’ve come to realise that there really *isn’t* any such thing as ‘normal’.
And at the same time; I want to enjoy his ability to focus whole-heartedly. Have a great day, dear readers!