With winter coming, our summer routine of parks every day will be coming to an end and yesterday we headed to the children's museum. We've been going to various children's museums regularly since moving to the northwest, they're a real sanity saver during the long wet winter when playgrounds are miserable. The more I learn about autism though, the more surprised I am that Merry has very little trouble with what must be a crazy sensory overload situation.
Merry loves to visit the museums and handles the noise and bustle very well, but I suspect he copes by he going into heavy focus mode. He'll pick one activity (trains are a big favorite) and disappear into his own little world. Good luck trying to suggest a new activity or area, or trying to introduce interactive play--this boy is gonna do his own thing.
Yesterday while he was running excited, overjoyed laps around the electric train display Merry picked up a couple of companions: a little boy in a blue shirt who was probably a bit older than he was and a girl who was probably a bit younger. I don't think Merry ever spoke to them or even looked directly at them but they were all having fun watching the trains, pushing the buttons and running around.
Then Blue Shirt decided he wanted to play in a different room--one that projects the kids' movement onto a colorful psychedelic screen. It had never been a hit with Merry (visual overload, much?) but Blue Shirt wanted his new friends to come along. He asked Merry repeatedly, tugged on his sleeves, very persistent. But it was a no go. Eventually Merry ran off to the airplane exhibit and the other two followed him. It was both heartwarming and worrying to watch them follow Merry's lead through several different exhibits, join him in the cockpit of the airplane to push buttons, run through the farmyard and toss beanbags around. But although I think Merry enjoyed the company, I didn't see him actually interact with the other kids. When they got distracted and stopped following him around, he didn't turn to rejoin whatever new play they'd discovered or attempt to keep up the following game.
There are several areas where I'm confident that Merry's problems are temporary, areas that simply need more work and support, but this social oblivion is a different beast. I've heard it called the root of autism, and I suspect going forward that it's going to be our biggest challenge.