It is the first week back at play groups at the Friend 2 Friend Play Centre for children with autism after the holiday break. The play theme this week is space. A highly motivating theme that is very versatile, becoming almost anything that the players imagine it to be. This flexible play theme is especially important on the first day back after the holiday break. The players arrive back at play group excited to be back to see their friends. But as every parent knows, raising a child with autism means that the transition back to the regular routine after the holidays can be a difficult one.
Many of the players arrive back to play groups carrying transition objects. Typically, transition objects after the holidays are toys that they have received. They proudly carry in their new prized possession, excited to share it with us and their friends at play group. And of course, we acknowledge their excitement and pride while attempting to include the object into the play whenever possible.
This past Saturday one of the players brought a pineapple to play groups. Yes, that is correct, a full, fresh pineapple!
When the player arrived at the door with the pineapple he handed it to the Master Guide saying something I could not make out. I looked in the direction of the Master Guide who was holding the pineapple asking, “Should I cut it up for a snack?” The Master Guide looked at me in horror, clutching the pineapple while shaking her head, “No”.
Clearly, the pineapples’ attendance at play group was for a purpose other than sharing it as a snack. As always, wanting to follow the players lead, I decided that the best strategy at this point would be to incorporate the pineapple into the play. I quickly put a space helmet on the pineapple saying, “Space Pineapple”.
During the play group session, we sang hello to the space pineapple, the space pineapple wore a space helmet, came on board the space ship and by the time it was time to sing good bye, all the players where keen to sing the “good bye space pineapple” song.
None of play guides skipped a beat, they swung into full space pineapple inclusion mode. Modeling for the expert players that pineapples are welcome in play group, and making what was unconventional the “norm”.
You see we are not about judging the space pineapple; we are not about changing the space pineapple and we are not about fixing the space pineapple. We are about accepting, understanding and empathizing with the pineapple in the true spirit of friendships.
I cannot wait to see what this player brings next week!