Love is patient. Love is kind. It is interesting that these two traits are the first ones to describe love in Paul’s famous passage about love in 1 Corinthians 13. I think if we love each other like this, we have the tools to make a huge impact on people in the world.
We were recipients of this kind of love yesterday. It was the first time someone made an intentional invitation for Philip to play with their kids who do not have autism. Ellie is a lady at my church who has been in the area for less than a year. She started reading this blog from facebook and sent me a message to see if Philip would like to have a playdate with her kids. It was very touching. I responded yes, but wondered how it would go. To my eyes and the eyes of most people, Philip does not know how to play. He doesn’t even play with me or his siblings. He often walks away from a group of people to do his own thing. It takes a whole lot of patience to do any interacting with Philip.
Ellie and her kids Nelson and Audrey arrived at our house at 4pm, shortly after Philip got home from summer school. I still had no idea what we were going to do. We made introductions and I tried to get Philip to say something to the kids on his letterboard but he was pointing randomly. I decided to let Audrey play with Lia as they are the same age and get along very well at church. It would be easier to start with Philip and Nelson playing one on one. We went to the backyard to let the boys get to know each other. They jumped on the trampoline while I talked with Ellie. Then Philip would walk around with Nelson following him. I think most kids would have given up on Philip, but Nelson was kind and patient. At one point Nelson asked me if Philip wanted him to leave him alone. That was very understandable because that’s what it looked like. I told him of our experience in North Carolina of how Philip sat apart from his cousins as they played, but that later he would tell me that the best part of his whole vacation was being with his cousins. I told him I believed he was enjoying his company but between his lack of being able to speak and his problems with getting his body under control, he cannot readily show it. Nelson listened intently with patience and understanding rarely found in a young kid.
At different points, I tried to get Philip to use his letterboard. When Philip finally sat down, I told Nelson to ask him a question. He asked, “What kinds of food do you like?” Philip responded “MELON.” We got in a little discussion about how Philip likes fruits and vegetables, but not meat. Ellie piped up, "Nelson is the opposite. He just likes meat." Nelson protested, “I like salad!” His mom gave back a funny look. It was a cute moment.
Finally, we were able to settle into the table I usually use to do my lessons with Philip. Nelson sat on his left and I on his right. I asked Philip, “Would you like to say something to Nelson?” “Y,” replied Philip.
With great precision, Philip spelled, “YOU ARE NICER THAN A LOT OF KIDS.”
Nelson seemed genuinely touched. Then, just as a kid would continue with a discussion, he said, “I am nine. I’ll be 10 in September. Are you close to my age?”
I gave the number board to Philip to indicate his age, “10.”
I told Philip to show Nelson when he turned 10: “MARCH”
“How many months apart are you?” I asked Philip. “6” he responded.
Shortly after that we said our goodbyes. Ellie was so appreciative for our time together. I was equally so.
Later that evening we texted each other. Nelson was excited about the day and looked forward to becoming friends. Philip told me “Nelson is nice.” And “Y” he wanted to play with him again.
I look forward to seeing this friendship blossom and to seeing the growth in both Philip and Nelson.