About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The Rock Whisperer
Sometimes in order to open a lock, all you need is the right key.

M was invited to a rock climbing party at an indoor centre on the weekend by her friend A. His parents had told us that they were worried by his choice, but A had insisted, so rock climbing it was. So a group of us gathered outside the party room and the instructors did the best they could in getting a group of mostly seven year old boys, some with autism, ready for the adventure. After a brief introduction, everybody who was to climb had to put on a harness. This is where it got a bit tricky for M and her friend T, there was no way a harness was going on either one.

T's dad M explained that when T was in the sort of mood he was in right now, there was no point in pushing him, as things would only get worse. I can say from hard experience that he is right, but he was also wrong. For those of you who have seen The Horse Whisperer, you would know that forcing a recalcitrant horse to do something it doesn't want, will never work, but if you pull back and find the right angle, you can get the horse to do almost anything. With people it's the same, it's all about finding the angle.

Unfortunately M and T were happy enough racing around a cave like section of the rock climbing, and as they weren't allowed in there, the problem was to get them out. Things came to an abrupt halt when T who was chasing M bumped his head into the faux rock wall. It may not have been real rock, but it was just as hard. Some kids with autism don't feel pain in the same way we do. A hard knock that would make someone else cry is often blithely ignored, but when they do feel pain, look out.

I saw the whole thing and actually felt the bump pass through me and called his dad over and told him that it was a really hard bump. T started to whimper and cry, on his forehead, a lump the size of an egg started to form. It looked like T's day was over. I called M over and said lets go to the wall and watch some kids going up, which she did, but she still didn't want to have a go.

Later on I found a nice red harness, one of her favourite colours, but that was no good either. We watched some kids go up the wall and I asked again would she like a shot to which she said yes, so off I went to find an instructor to fit the harness. When I brought one over, M had changed her mind, no harness, so I left her to play, then in a lull, called her over to the wall asking if she would like to feel it, which she did. I asked her to feel the hand and foot holds and she did that too, then...

"Dad, can I climb?"

I practically fell over myself in grabbing an instructor, who came over and fitted M with a nice blue harness, as red wasn't colour of the day. Over to the wall and after a tentative start, she went straight up to the top! Way to go M! High fives! Her friend T was watching and despite his earlier run in with the wall, got caught up in the excitement and asked if he could have a go too, so on with a harness and over to the wall he went. He went up maybe five or six holds and feeling out of his comfort zone, started to climb down. I could sense his dad's disappointment, but I was having none of that. As soon as T's feet touched the ground, I yelled out, "You did it T, you climbed the wall! Well done, now give me a high five. T was positively beaming with pride and then his dad worked it out - his son HAD climbed the wall. Soon it was high fives everywhere and T wanted to have another go.

One key, two locks.
  posted at 8:50 am

At 11:51 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, and it certainly brings to light how differently things appear when force yourself to look at them from another angle to the one that you're used to. I'm glad to hear that M made the journey to the top of the wall :) Thanks to your patience, perseverance and understanding!

At 1:46 pm, Blogger TexasGal said...

my daughter has had several rock climbing parties and her friends love them. It is a good feeling when they make it to the top. Especially when it's at a section of wall that they have to make several attempts to climb it.

At 11:37 pm, Blogger pentacular said...

Nice post Neil. I like the horse whisperer angle. Encouragement should be as much as possible in the direction of the child's esteem, not the parent's expectation as you showed. D is climbing walls now, hmmmm, I thought you had things under control. hehe.

At 8:23 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi ellie, the angle is the thing, you've just got to find it, not always easy. Funny thing is, I was as happy for T as I was for M.

Hi texasgal, you're a long way from home! Those parties are good fun, maybe next year M might want one, we'll see. It's great to see the kids working it out.

Hi pentacular, control, HA, HA! Not in this house, buddy. It's not always easy knowing at what point the child has succeeded on their terms, you have to look closely to see.


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