It doesn’t matter how big and grown up we think our children are getting, when they’re feeling vulnerable they’re always our babies.
The Monster has spent the last three mornings as part of a small group of children being assessed for an ASD, or autism spectrum disorder. The wee group of six children aged 4 and 5 play together in a mock nursery setting with two specialists. Through a half silvered mirror (think of those big mirrors you see in police interrogation rooms on TV) six adults sit in silence, watching their play. Armed with clipboards and pens, these adults are responsible for deciding what, if any, additional support needs the Monster has.
Today, we got to join these assessors for five minutes to see what sort of thing was going on. As I quietly sat down I could see a buzz of activity before me – five of the children were buzzing around pretending to play at shops (the theme for the day), making pretend sandwiches, running pretend cafes. One was sat on his own, in the middle of the room beside a toy till, patiently waiting for someone to come and ask to pay for something. Only the other boys didn’t want to buy anything. After a while, the wee boy, who had been eagerly watching the other children, started to quietly say, “nobody’s playing with me. Why is nobody playing with me? Nobody’s playing with me,” over and over. He eventually went to one of the play workers, told them the same thing and then sat back down, obviously distressed. This wee boy was my wee boy, and my heart went out to him.
The protective mother alligator was awakened in me. How dare those children not play with my son!? How dare anyone allow him to feel sad and alone in a room filled with people!? I wanted so much to just run through to the adjoining room, scoop him up for a cuddle and tell him it was ok. To either encourage him to join in with the others, help him to make his shop seem more exciting, or to just offer to be his customer, but I couldn’t. One of the play workers did join in with him after a few minutes, and he was invited to join the others but his place was at the till and he didn’t want to give it up. He was still there when my time was up, and as I left the room it was all I could do not to weep for him.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he did join in of his own accord later. As I left they were going to be moving on to more structured activities and when he came out he seemed to have enjoyed himself, but at that moment he was my baby and I wanted to protect him. Do you think that ever goes away?