Today Philip had another playdate with his friend Kaylie. This time we met at her house. Philip was a bit timid about coming in at first, but when he finally got up the nerve, he came in and presented Kaylie with a new laminated letterboard. I decided to come prepared with a game this time. When kids are first learning to communicate, they do best answering close-ended questions before venturing into the wide open field of expressing original thoughts and feelings. I came up with Trivia Bingo, modeled after the Bible Bingo we played the night before at Stockade. I placed 16 index cards in a 4x4 grid with the numbers 1-16 on them. I had prepared questions corresponding to each number for the kids to answer. Some of the questions were 'what season is Christmas in?' and 'what TV show features Big Bird?' Philip breezed through his questions, even knowing the President lives in Washington DC. Kaylie, being newer to this, had a tougher time. I could tell Kaylie was completely understanding the questions and probably knew the answers as well, but she was having trouble initiating her responses. When asked what animal lives on both water and land, once she got the first letter F after some hesitation, she picked up steam and spelled F-R-O-G. As I asked Kaylie the question, “What is the name of the band that has four members who wear different colored shirts: red, yellow, blue, and purple?” her eyes lit up and a big smile spread across her face. Again she needed prompting to get her initial start, but then very easily and quickly spelled WIGGLES, this time even on her iPad. Her mom Lisa and I cheered. You could tell Kaylie was proud of herself too. After the kids finished their game, Lisa invited the kids to jump on the trampoline in the backyard. Lisa and I pondered about how wonderful it was for our kids to finally have real friends.
At the end of the playdate, Lisa wanted to know if Philip had any words of wisdom for Kaylie like he did last time. Philip sat down and started, “I AM E. ” But he didn’t get to finish because the next door neighbor’s dog started barking and by all the commotion, we knew we were done for the day at Kaylie’s. When we got home I asked Philip to finish his words to Kaylie and told him I’d text her mom what he spelled. Philip spelled, “I AM EXCITED ABOUT ALL THE ATTITUDES ARE ALL CHANGING ABOUT US.” I asked Philip to tell me how attitudes were changing. He replied, “I AM SMART. I AM TALKING. ADDRESS THE REEL ME. I AM LOTS OF USE.”
A change in attitude goes a long way. Before I knew the “real” Philip, I treated him as a toddler who did not understand and could not be trusted in much of anything. Philip did not progress beyond what I thought of him. Now that I see Philip as smart, capable, and trustworthy, he is rising even beyond my expectations. Like all of us, we need someone to believe in us to believe in ourselves and fulfill our true potential. Philip is still autistic, by all means, but he is showing he is a lot more than his label. He is a complete person with ideas, thoughts, feelings, and desires.
It is now my hope and Philip’s hope to change people’s attitudes about autistic people one person at a time. Know that your attitude and the way you treat each person makes a huge difference.
Finally pooped out!