Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Tuesday at hippy school is swimming day.
And (surprise, surprise) Billy doesn't like swimming. His logic is sound. Kids scream when they get near water. Screaming hurts his ears so... swimming is not for Billy.
So, we have an agreement. I'll come and get him early, and together we will do something useful. Some extension of what's going on at school. Today, Billy came up with a stroke of genius.
Instead of swimming, he decided we would go to the Sydney Aquarium to see his favourite animal (of the moment) - the platypus. He reasoned the platypus would be swimming... as would the dugongs, the turtles, the sea horses. Again, his logic is sound.
Off we went. We arrived and went straight to the platypus, but he (she?) wasn't there. Must be sleeping, Billy reasoned, and we moved on to the rest of the creatures.
The Aquarium was one of our last real battles with Billy. It's always busy, it's dark, there are odd sounds and all sorts of sensory surprises (glass floored section, anyone?).
The first time we went there, it was a disaster. I don't think we got ten steps in before he started to cry. We carried him through the experience, lamely pointing out Nemo and Dory (like all kids, he had his Nemo phase) and wondering what the hell we were thinking.
But it has animals in it, and we earned early that animals were the best chance we had of getting Billy over/around/through the obstacles that autism threw his way. So... we stuck with it. And each visit was a little longer, a little slower, a little less fear driven and a little more... enjoyable.
My heart was in my mouth every time a baby came near, and I had to seriously restrain myself to not growl at parents that perhaps an enclosed dark public amusement is not the best place to allow your kids to cry it out.
It's taken years. Literally three years of buying annual tickets (avoid the gigantic queue!) and now it's just fun.
The dugongs were chomping lettuce, the pig nosed turtle was there, the penguins were herding fish around. It was cool. Billy read things, checked signage for exact species names, corrected random passers by when they named animals incorrectly.
We cut through the secret back way, so we could see the platypus when he woke up... but he hadn't woken up.
In the past this has been meltdown material. And I'm talking carrying a kicking and screaming child out of the Aquarium style meltdown (poor Carrington got that one). But today, he accepted an offer of chocolate on the way home, and... that was that.
We linked hands and walked back to the car in the afternoon sun.
I know there will be other challenges. Lord knows, he's probably brewing one up right now.
But today, was beautiful.