Monday, July 5, 2010

Thank you woman at Wizzy World...

Yesterday, Billy went to a birthday party. Could have been a disaster. Wasn't.

It was at an indoor play centre called Wizzy World. Should have been a disaster. Wasn't.

The party was for a boy who has gone out of his seven year old way to be friends with Billy. He has invented games Billy can understand. He creates activities that the two of them can complete together. He tells Billy (and me) every school day that he loves him and misses him when he's not around.

So Billy really wanted to be there for his friend's party. It's only the second peer party of his life, but he was clear on what it was going to be, and he wanted to be there.

Wizzy World is as it sounds. Wizzy. Colourful. Noisy as Sideshow Alley on People's Day.

We warned Billy, showed him photos, talked about noise levels, offered to bring the headphones or the noisy hat. He refused, saying he'd be fine. So he and Daddy set off to the party with mid-range hopes.

When they arrived, Billy was hit with a wall of sound. And not the sort of sound he can handle (self generated, predictable, even toned). This was the noise of a couple of hundred screaming, sugared up, party going children.

Not surprisingly, the hands went up to the ears, and the unsure dance began. There may even have been a bit of flapping, as Billy made it clear (without words) he wasn't comfortable in this space. His body wanted to leave, but his brain could see his friends (or maybe it was the other way around). In any case, he-who-thinks-blogs-are-stupid had some negotiating to do.

After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, and the odd rash promise of McDonalds on the way home, Billy agreed to play. But only with Daddy by his side. Could adults climb on the brightly coloured plastic tower nightmares, pondered He-who-thinks-blogs-are-stupid. As he was thinking, a woman came up to him and tapped him out the shoulder.

'It's OK,' she said, 'You can climb with him if you want to. I do it all the time. My son is autistic too.'

He-who-thinks-blogs-are-stupid looked at her, and she said 'I'm sorry. I hope I haven't offended you.'

But he wasn't offended at all. (Phew!) He was grateful, and together he and Billy spent the first 30 minutes of the party climbing together.

To the nice woman at Wizzy World, I say thank you. I am grateful too. You have made me realise some really important things.

1. That women can be really courageous, and nice in the face of really confronting things. It would have been so easy to not reach out. Who cares if a kid goes home early from a party? But she knew a little more about how hard it was for both of them. She could read the situation, and she took a risk. That risk meant that my son, my partner, my family can walk a little taller today.

2. That people who don't live with a challenge like autism either can't or won't 'get it' on a level that makes it possible to build a bridge between strangers (like you did, Wizzy World woman).

And that's OK, because people have a lot going on themselves. It's becoming clearer as time goes on that most perfectly empathetic, generous folk still struggle to get a grip on the special needs game. There's no point of contact. Unless you have faced  that soul crushing fear in your child, until you see your little one consumed by what looks like irrational worries, until you have experienced kiddie fight or flight on a cellular level... you can't be expected to 'get it'. It looks like so many other (slightly more familiar) behaviours, but it isn't. You can help in other ways, but I see now how it's not easy to help when you don't know what the problem is in the first place.

3. I should have your courage more often. I am going to try from now on. Thank you for reminding me that I can.

4. Finally, despite the autism... primary coloured squishy rooms full of slides are undeniably attractive to children. What the hell is that about? Some primal human instinct? Maybe the womb looks like Wizzy World?

This morning when Billy woke up on Day 1 of the holidays, the first thing he asked was, 'Can we go to Wizzy World again?'

I soooooo wish I could come up with a reason to say no.


Anonymous said...

Oh Valerie!
You made me cry!
I'm so so so so so happy for you all!
That woman certainly needs a medal. How wonderful that Billy got to enjoy himself so much with his classmates.

Karen said...

Oh God i love you x

Ro said...

Oh, that is fantastic for all of you!
What a great lady :)

Anonymous said...

First of all have to laugh at "he-who-thinks-blogs-are-stupid" I have one of those at my place too!

Second WoooooHooooo I am so proud of Billy what a huge step for him! good job little buddy :) :)

and last of all Thank you wizzy world woman you are fabulous. You took a scary situation and turned it in to something wonderful I wish more people were like you :)