Chapter 3. Sandra, Mother of Kevin, age 5, Autistic
“The Joy of Traffic Lights”
Kevin’s favorite repetitive, self-stimulating behavior was drawing elaborate traffic signals on a large, white sheet of paper. His favorite place for drawing was on the floor of his specially designed focus room.
That room was Kevin’s sanctuary, the one place in his world where he felt totally safe. The world around him was predictable and all the people who came to play with him were his dear friends. Two year after the parents designed and conducted an exclusive home-based program for Kevin, I came to visit for a two-day In-Home Service.
All the helpers in Kevin’s program were trained to love and appreciate his stims. They all demonstrated their love by copying him, drawing just the way he did. Not everyone was a Picasso, but everyone loved it and did the best they possibly could.
They all knew that the parallel play in itself was not effective enough to show Kevin that he is indeed loved for exactly who he is. What was more important than being a “good artist” was loving to draw endless traffic light, crossroads, stop signs and even railroad crossings.
The team knew that by merging with Kevin in the joy of drawing, they were getting closer to him, feeling connected with him, even when it felt he may not be connecting back. It was during these precious times that Kevin knew how much he was loved and appreciated for his passion of traffic lights.
On the first day of my visit, Sandra shared with me in a consultation that it had become very hard for her to find joy in drawing her own traffic lights. She just couldn’t get into it, found herself even bored for some stretches of time. She wanted help to finally change that.
I suggested to go for a car ride with Sandra and for her to just be open and willing to participate in a game I came up with. She agreed and off we went.
Every single traffic light we had to stop, I asked her to find something about the light that she found interesting. Something fascinating or unique. She played along.
After a while of stop and go, left and right turns, Sandra started to see little things, like the different shades of green, some tiny bulbs missing, all the lights swaying in the wind.
The arrows were so precise and she marveled at the genius flow of traffic. All cars are guided safely to their destinations.
After a few more crossings, I asked her to double her excitement level whenever she saw the next light, or the next sign and express it.
At first, she hesitated, but after a few encouraging cheers she started screaming with delight out of the car window at every light she saw.
We had a really good laugh heading back to the house. Sandra couldn’t wait to go back in Kevin’s focus room to try something.
About an hour later we met in the kitchen for a cup of tea.
With the biggest, warmest smile on Sandra’s face she said: “Wow, I never ever had so much fun drawing traffic lights and you will not believe it; Kevin stopped drawing and gradually leaned over looking at my traffic system, with the brightest most beautiful traffic lights. He looked right at me and said: “I love you mommy.” Sandra’s smile gave way for tears to come, tears of joy, tears of gratitude, tears of relief. The love for her son literally filled the room.
P.S. We all have the power and the choice to change our perspectives, beliefs, attitudes and our love towards the little daily events which we often take for granted. The effect of this change is very tangible to everyone around us. Try it.