Grace’s 10th birthday party was this week and she opted for a climbing theme. We arranged for seven giggling 9-10 year old girls with Josh and Dylan to all have 90 minutes on a climbing wall with an instructor.
Dylan appeared keen from the get go. He quickly grabbed himself a helmet when instructed but then the whole concept got a bit real and from that point on Dylan was a bit more apprehensive.
When Dylan starts to get anxious he will whine and winge and usually sit out. He get frustrated and bored and will then require direct attention from a parent to ensure he is kept focused and behaviours don’t spiral for him. This isn’t bad behaviour but Dylan’s anxiety coupled with frustration at himself for being unable to complete the task. To most people they see “Dylan can’t do it; he needs to sit out.”
The party leader was relatively new so she was being supported by a more experienced instructor, lets call him Bill. On the registration form it requested any medical details for the children and for Dylan I added ‘autism -non verbal’.
Bill instinctively saw Dylans anxiety but also his wish to be involved. He showed Dylan the equipment and let him hold it before asking if he would like to wear it. He spoke directly to Dylan and copied the way I gave Dylan simple language and clear choices so Dylan could repeat his option back to me.
Dylan will link onto my arm when we’re out and gradually through the party when he was ready to try a bit more equipment or to feel the wall a bit more, Dylan started to unlink my arm and go and link arms with Bill.
Well. He only got on the flipping wall!! And more than once!!
Bill was so supportive and reassuring for Dylan. Once off the floor Dylan would panic, it looked like his correctly fitting groin harness was sending him into sensory overload and he wanted to get down now. Dylan would grab onto Bill’s hands and hold them tight but Bill took it fine. Some people recoil when Dylan tries to touch them. I suppose being an adolescent boy Dylan has some tactile needs that are closer to a boy younger in age; like the arm linking or hand holding and not everyone understands why Dylan does this. Bill didn’t care.
Bill was cool.