All things autumn
Conkers or pine cones? What’s it for you? I cannot stop myself from picking up conkers. I am addicted. And I am pretty sure I am not alone on this one. So silky smooth, round and gorgeous. Yes, I know they lose their shine and shrivel up just as soon as you have them displayed in a glass bowl but, I still have to pick them up. I wish my furniture looked like them!
Cringeworthy set-up of a photo here what with the merchandise thrown in and all. In my defence, I have just been for a long head-clearing walk and well, house keys and a cap to hide the no make-up are standard issues. Autumn in England is hands down my favourite season followed very closely by winter in Johannesburg (that I miss so much).
Every time in the past few years that I have been out for a walk I have tossed around thoughts of how we can get non-verbal autistic Henry, age 7, to join us for a walk. His literal mind doesn’t see the purpose, he must loathe not knowing where he is going and I think it disorientates him. If I could paint a line he’d happily follow that without even looking up haha.
Accomplishing a walk, just once, would be all we need. I know he'd be sold on it and therefore happy to repeat it same day same time every weekend! I need a motivator/reason for why he should walk somewhere though, and surely it has to be a pub? We have worked so hard in the past few months to get him used to it (driving there of course)? For Henry, the pub = low arousal noises, bar stool, fizzy drink and chips, perfect! However, it would be a good 1hr walk for Henry who has refused to walk 20m from the house so far.
Henry and many other autistic children do not do distraction or bribery like you would do with toddlers for instance “Ooh look at the horse” etc. to keep them going. If he decides he is going no further, that's it. There is also the issue that should we succeed, we need to get back...although I suspect having visually mapped the way there, returning home would be no problem at all for Henry.
We could start the walk but I doubt he’d last mentally and he is too heavy to carry now. I have tried the shorter walk to a shop option but he gets so cross, insisting on the car because that is how we always go to the shop so why am I trying to mess with a routine?
Mmmm, I’ll keep scheming because I feel it’s important, it would a great thing for us to do as a family (encouraging the two teens to join us is equally difficult these days) and I have read about other autistic adults who really enjoy walking and nature and how beneficial it is for mental health and anxiety. Having grown up in Durban this notion of an English wintery family walk to the pub and a roaring fire is deeply romantic and such a privilege so I WILL find a way for Henry to enjoy it with us because well, 'winter is coming'...
The other thing about autumn is that temperatures are dropping, not that Henry has or will notice. Henry struggles to understand days of the week let alone, months, years and seasons and he insists on wearing t-shirts, shorts and no shoes in the home all year round! Admittedly, with central heating and the bulk of his memories to date being Jhb and Singapore he has not exactly received the best set of rules to go by.
Even in mid-winter, Henry will not wear more than one layer and everything is removed the minute he is either in the home or in the car. Did I mention how many snotty noses he suffers from during the winter? The plan I have concocted is to take a photo of this tree outside our house in exactly the same way, in exactly the same spot (measurements have been made), each season, and turn it into a visual chart matching the appropriate clothing images to help Henry understand. Not sure it's going to work, he can appear to be wholly uninterested in visual charts but, that doesn't mean he isn't looking...
England has had the most wonderful summer 2018 with a mild and pretty autumn following suit so don't give up on the outdoors just yet. Don those old trainers and wellies, support local and go for a walk. Having taken lessons from an autistic child I am so much more in tune with the environment we live in where most of us filter out the noise pollution and crowds and traffic and how busy everywhere is but Henry cannot. In an almost mindful yoga type way, I make myself acknowledge peace and quiet and fresh air these days, it's good for the soul, and for us all.