This Charming Man!

This Charming Man!
In the interests of balance I thought I would relate another wee tale from our break in Crieff last week. We may have had to endure some subtle discrimination in the Co-op but I am not suggesting for one moment that this was typical of this beautiful town. There are small minded people everywhere! I have spoken before about the wonderful kid’s park and cafe in Crieff. My kids all love it and if the weather allows we always visit it. (If you are in Crieff with kids you have to go!) We were there a few times last week and back at our cottage I had mentioned to Jen that the guy in the cafe “got it” regarding Andy’s autism. As a parent you tend to be receptive to these things and when someone takes the time and effort to engage with Andy I am always impressed. I had entered the cafe behind my precious boy as he explored the place. This involved circling the outside of the building and touching the walls and trying the side doors before finally entering. The mapping of the cafe continued as he walked around inside touching walls and tables before touching and licking the glass display cabinet. The man that ran the cafe was busy stocking the ice cream cabinet and as I tried to direct Andy to indicate what he would like I was immediately aware of a calm and relaxed attitude in the place. Andy started raking his way through the ice cream cabinet with no regard for the man. Again there was no problem only understanding shown to my son. When he selected an ice cream the cafe owner engaged Andy on his own terms giving him time and space and using simple clear language. He never forced eye contact. He used Andy’s name (overheard from me) and the double high five gesture that Andy uses to confirm his choices. This short interaction illustrated perfectly how an open and unthreatening approach to communicating with Andy can make a connection with him. On the final day we were again at the park with Andy. He took us in to the cafe again no doubt encouraged by his treatment the previous day, as well as the ice cream! We got talking to the kind man again and he told us that his son was also autistic. We shared experiences for a bit and I happened to mention Andy’s fascination with the receipt machine that had caused all the nasty stares and comment in the Co-op. As we were leaving the cafe owner invited Andy up to have a look at his till. Andy was a little unsure at first but when he realised he was allowed to press the button and produce a receipt he was over the moon. The man carefully and gently showed him what button to press and what ones not to! Andy related to this kind man who had made the effort to engage with him in an activity interesting to him. Andy had several goes and stimmed away excitedly. After a hard week it was a small but lovely moment for us as parents. It was also a reminder on how to engage with Andy appropriately and meaningfully. Thank you.

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