“Come on, Peter! This is supposed to be fun!” These are phrases I find myself saying often. Very often. This past weekend I tried my best to do “fun” things with Peter, to get him out of the house and away from his iPad. On Saturday, my sister was visiting so we went to a nearby state park to play in this adorable Splash Pad:
I first had to convince Peter that it was okay to enter the gate. Mind you, we’d been there before! It took another ten minutes for Peter to get near the water, then another ten until he seemed to be having a bit of fun:
By then I was hot and sweaty, so when Peter sat himself on a bench a short time later and tried to put on his shoes, I was fine with leaving.
On Sunday morning I took Peter to a brand-new playground. The weather was perfect and we had the entire place to ourselves. Was Peter excited about this? No. After we parked, I couldn’t get him out of the car. I had to bribe him with a cookie. When we finally made it to the playground, all he wanted to do was sit at the bottom of the slide and play with the wood chips:
I had to force him to climb up and down the ladders and go down the slides.
As a parent, one of the most frustrating things about having a child with autism is their apparent lack of enjoyment of all things “fun.” Playgrounds, water parks, theme parks, games, toys, etc. Things that a typically developing child would find exciting are usually sources of stress for the autistic child. You might say that it’s an overload for the senses, and to a certain extent that is true. But take another look at the photos above. There were no other screaming children around. We were virtually alone. The playground, in particular, was as quiet as could be. Still, Peter was not happy to be there and he did not have “fun” like I wanted to him to.
I suppose that “fun” is very subjective. What’s exciting to a typical child might be terrifying to Peter. What is new and special for some might be daunting for him. I understand this. I do. But it’s hard not to be frustrated when you make so much effort and he acts like he is being tortured.
Peter did perk up after our trip to the Splash Pad, I should note. In the car, he said “french fries” on his Talker. So we went to the Arby’s drive-through and got him a sandwich and curly fries. Then he was happy. To him, french fries are “fun.”
To each his own.