A parent turns up to playgroup and the child she’s bringing won’t enter the building.
They flatly refuse to enter, they cry and beg not to go in but are told firmly and repeatedly that they have to go in, if they don’t they are going home and will be ‘in trouble with nanny later’.
The parent is harassed, they need to go shopping and have only two hours to do it in after they drop the child off, the crying is annoying, they’ve already been through hell trying to get the kid dressed and now they can’t even leave?!
‘Autism at its best!’ They think resentfully as they try to back away one more time while the child clings desperately to the door frame screaming “No,no, no!!’ .
After much bribery the child calms, twenty solid minutes of distress.
The parent leaves feeling content that the child has been dropped off, and moans to their friend over a hurried cup of coffee that it’s getting harder and harder for this kid to go anywhere, do anything! All they do is scream, spit and cover their ears.
The friend suggests yeast overgrowth and essential oils as she’s heard ‘somewhere’ they ‘help’.
The parent laughs uproariously having heard all this before having researched and seen debunking information, not wanting to appear rude they smile and say “No he’s just going through a difficult faze, it will be fine, eventually”’. They laugh and the parent shakes their head sadly.
Grabbing a pack of cards they know the child collects from a sweet shop nearby they hurry to get the child and get there just in time.
The child comes out, immediately hitting them and screaming.
The parent hurriedly produces the cards as a peace offering, the child pauses and rips open the packet, rapidly flicking through them and suddenly screaming in anger throwing them in the air and aiming a well placed punch into the parents leg.
The parent wants the ground to swallow them…. why did they bother?
‘Why did I bother? why did I?’ They think furiously.
“So strange,” says the play worker shaking their head and gazing at the parent in horror, “They are fine here.”
Let’s try it again, this time from the child’s perspective.
The child wakes up that morning with a growing sense of dread, they are forced into the playgroup uniform t-shirt which is bright yellow, they HATE yellow.
Breakfast is a hurried affair, the light from the window bounces off the shiny kettle on the side giving them sensory overload.
They are told it’s time for playgroup while arranging their cars in a neat long line, the cars are swiftly removed and put away, their creation broken.
They are put into a car that smells strongly of air freshener, the one the parent bought from the petrol station on their last visit.
The car starts up and they begin to feel sick.
When they reach the playgroup they don’t want to go in, they just don’t.
They are still tired, they hate their t-shirt, their eyes still hurt from the glare from the kettle, their lines been moved and the car stank, no they have to go into a noisy crowded room with twenty other children who will mess up their lines when they try to make them and will insist on playing with them in the toy kitchen!
They say ”No, I don’t want to go in, please don’t make me!”
Their parent says “You are going in, now come on hurry up I’ll be back soon, come on stop being silly you’ll be fine once your in.”
No matter how much they protest they are not allowed to refuse, they beg and cry, holding their ears as the sound grows louder, their own sound that they can’t stop.
Three play workers come, looking into their eyes saying “Come on, look at me its ok, come on let’s get up now time to go in!”.
The child spits at them, their eye contact hurts and they aren’t listening, no one is listening!
Their parent leaves promising to bring them something, they go slowly into playgroup, mentally shutting down as a child grabs their hand and pulls them over to the kitchen.
“Let’s play pizza kitchen!” They seemingly bellow, the child quells a little inside, accepting that this will be going on for a while, a shut down begins and they move on auto pilot.
The play workers look on in satisfaction, “See, he’s fine here, must be something at home,” they mutter and nod to each other.
The parent turns up and the child, now overcome with masking the overload from the sound, light and constant interaction attacks in indignation, ‘You didn’t listen! You keep, leaving me!’
They stop suddenly, the cards they collect…’If I can get the one I have been waiting for everything will be ok…it’s in there I just know it!’ They think desperately ripping their packs and rapidly flicking through it, their page in their card book will be complete everything will be fine…..it’s not there!
Devastation ensues and the world is ending, control has been taken away from them all day and this is was one thing, just the last thing that could have been theirs and it’s not there…..
What could have been done differently?
Give the child an extra ten minutes once they are awake with a sand timer to show when they need to get up.
Allow the line to stay, they are attempting to control and make themselves feel safe, along a window ledge or somewhere out of the way is a good place to allow lining up.
Sit where the child sits in the morning, squat down to their angle and try to see what could make them squint the way they do. Is the light hitting anything? Could anything be moved?
The uniform t-shirt had a choice of colours but the parent chose yellow, they didn’t think to let the child choose.
If this is not an option at your playgroup or school it’s a good idea to speak to the SENCO about the possibility of a little flexibility.
Avoid strong smelling air fresheners as the smell and motion of the vehicle can trigger a nauseous reaction in some with sensory sensitivities.
Listen to your child, if they do not wish to enter somewhere there’s a reason.
Ear defenders will help lessen auditory onslaught.
A transition space before they enter the play room would be helpful, a trip to a sensory room or library corner where it’s quiet to prepare them for the prolonged social interaction they have to endure with a play worker assigned that can take them for regular quiet times and sensory breaks with sensory play implemented to calm and regulate through tactile and visual stimuli are essential.
These things will all help calm and give your child some control, a warning of not crowding your child and all forced eye contact suggestions removed will also help.
Complain to the head about play workers remarks, they are unhelpful.
The cards? Hope for the best and buy two packs.
Link to part one here: