I was going to write about something particularly hard hitting and pivotal regarding youth and learning disabilities tonight but I’ve changed my mind. Instead I’m going to write about our trip to a soft play centre this morning 🙂 I haven’t been to soft play for years because, quite frankly, I can’t stand the places. For a parent of a learning disabled child they can be a busy, sweating and noisy plethora of nightmares that most parents wouldn’t even notice. The potential problems are vast and just off the top of my head a few worries I have at these places are…Jude being picked on, Jude speaking to someone who doesn’t understand him and thus ignores him or says something mean, Jude accidentally hurting a smaller child due to his incredible clumsiness, Jude freaking out and having a meltdown or getting lost and not being able to explain what his name is or who he is with.
I’m lucky. Jude has never got lost in one of these places but I know someone who has lost their disabled child and later (probably only five minutes but felt like five hours) they found them bundled up in a corner, hiding their face because they couldn’t cope with the constant hum of noise. It’s funny because for some disabled children (largely autistic) sudden noises freak the hell out of them but for others, the constant murmur of a chattering room can literally drive them to insanity and it is these children who often wear ear defenders.
Thankfully again, Jude doesn’t seem particularly bothered by either situations. If a room gets really busy and processing everything he sees and hears becomes too much then Jude will often just go quite quiet and hold my hand but he has never run off because of it.
Today at soft play we were quite lucky as it wasn’t very busy. Emmeline had never been before so we thought it would be nice for her to have a run around, climb up stairs and blocks without worrying us and practice her ambitious gross motor skills. She’s generally pretty nuts for a thirteen month old baby and I have honestly never met a child with such single minded determination but I thought even she may find the large slide slightly daunting, especially on the first run. But no, she loved it…listen for her cackley laugh.
Jude. I have horribly vivid memories of attending this same soft play centre with a five year old Jude and a nasty, spiteful little boy of about the same age, shoving him in the chest and then spitting at him. At the time, Jude was looking through the face hole of a wall painted with a clowns body, smiling at me and calling over to look at him in his funny state. This child was a few feet away from Jude, initially just looking at him but then, for no apparent reason he started shaking the (kind of thin plastic material) wall he was looking through. Jude looked at the boy, not understanding the confrontation at all and laughed because he thought the boy was trying to interact with him. The boy obviously took Jude’s laughing as a green light to do what he wanted and shoved him through the plastic wall, really hard. Jude fell back a few steps and the boy leant through the face hole and spat.
I’m ashamed to say I didn’t say anything to his parents. Actually not ashamed. I was so flippin shocked that a young child could even think to do this that my initial and during that span of time, only emotion was to make sure Jude was ok. He was. And thankfully because of his entirely lack of comprehension of the what was going on, he had no clue as to what had just happened. I had a few words with the boy (how controlled was I?!) and we moved to another part of the play centre.
BUT not to dwell on the negatives, I was interested to see how Jude would behave in such a confined place today and he amazed me by being absolutely fantastic. In fact, him and Elsa ran off together and spent nearly the whole time we were there, playing together happily. Like, really happily! It was so wonderful and Jude was so so happy.
Weirdly, he seemed to grow in confidence in terms of gross motor skills, I noticed how freely he was moving and I’m thinking that we should attend a few different soft play centres so he doesn’t become too complacent and constantly use the same sections of the building each time we go.
In truth, Elsa finds these places a bit boring these days however, I think because we literally never go together and she managed to get her beloved Joe on the big slide with her, she had a good time. Not that she’d admit it.