A couple of days ago, I blogged a promise to blow the dust off all the old board games in Rémi's room and make yet another attempt at teaching the boys to play quiet, turn-taking games. We've tried before, but they never seemed to understand, and the last time we tried (a year ago), it all seemed too far beyond Rémi's abilities. Come to think of it, Gaston never quite got the hang of these games either.
Cleaning up Rémi's room was quite a trip down memory lane. We found all sorts of baby toys which he'd outgrown, way too many electronic toys which have stopped working ages ago, some games which he'd never been interested in, some toys with so many little pieces that they never seemed worth the trouble of keeping. We filled two big garbage bags with toys which could only go into the bin, and four bags with toys which some needy children will surely enjoy more than we ever could.
The biggest memory trip was finding all the plastic food and toy kitchen paraphernalia which we'd bought years ago, shortly after the kids were diagnosed with autism, on the advice of speech therapists and psychologists. We were supposed to use these things to teach the boys imaginative play. They were never interested in pretend play, despite our efforts. The supposedly educational toys didn't teach them a word about cooking or eating or household chores: in hindsight, they were a waste of space, money and time.
Gaston eventually learned all the kitchen vocabulary anyway, because he loves it when I bake, he loves to explore the fruit & veg section of the grocery store and he loves certain daily routines like breakfast (the phrase "Daddy drinks coffee and Gaston drinks milk" is one he has repeated many times over the years). Rémi probably won't learn any of the kitchen vocab for years because he's one of those kids who isn't interested in food. He's all over vacuuming, though: he loves the vacuum cleaner.
All this went through my head when the dreaded hour of "Game Day" came and I felt obliged to break out Buckaroo and Don't Drop the Acorn (which is essentially Ker plunk). I seemed to remember that nobody likes these games, especially not me because I seem to spend more time picking up plastic acorns and tiny plastic camping gear than actually playing the game.
Sensing my dread, my wife Anne (bless her) said "Why don't you just play Wii?" As usual, she was right. We played Wii Bowling like we've done a hundred times before. They completely understand the concept of turn-taking in this game. I heard beautiful phrases such as "Rémi's turn" and "Gaston's turn"--in English, which means they must have picked it up at school and were now generalising it. They got more excited about getting a spare or a strike than I ever do. Gaston bowled better than I've ever seen him do, and Rémi tried doing it on his own for the first time ever.
"Game Day" was a complete success, once I let go of some pre-conceived notions of what a Game Day ought to be, and put the cards and board games back on the shelf.
The first time I suspected this could be an interesting development was when we were on holiday in Tasmania. We stopped at a cute little town called Sheffield, famous (among Tasmanians) for its murals. When I told G to take photos of them, he did:
And he proceeded to take photos of all the park benches and other things around the place:
I told myself I'd give him more freedom with the camera, to get an autistic child's perspective on our holiday. He would mostly take photos of the inside of the car during the rest of this holiday
Darn it, I'm putting him through the same childhood I had suffered through!
Sometimes he surprised me with clever series of photos. Here's one he took at the Melbourne Zoo weeks later:
Here's one of his own drawings, a kind of step-by-step guide on how to draw a train:
(it goes on... best to stop here)
I could go on. Pictures of Legos, of popcorn, a how-to guide on how to open the front door (not that he needs it for himself), photos he took of himself:
The above photo always brings a tear to my eye. Oh, how I miss my beloved Olympus μ 820!