I came across this link today and it started me thinking about this whole new generation of children who are in our world at the present time.
I wonder sometimes if, to some degree, ASD is a function of a different generation of children who are coming into our world and who will cause us to redefine how some children experience childhood.
This video is of three year old Howard Wong, playing the drums. His father plays in a band, and Howard is their drummer.
There is always great debate about pushing very young children into doing things that take away their childhood. I tried to find out some more information about Howard, but there is little available. It appears that Howard’s parents want to keep him pretty normal, without heaps of media attention – after all , he is only three years old!
I don’t know how much time Howard spends practicing or if his parents pushed him to learn to play, but you can tell from the video that he is just having the time of his life! (Especially watch him after the 2:15 mark)
Now, I am not at all suggesting that Howard is anywhere near the Autism spectrum, but further to my previous post, there has to be something said for allowing children to explore obsessions. Not for making them famous, or extraordinary musicians like Howard, but to allow them to learn through them and discover their own way of experiencing the world.
Lately, many parents who have been telling me about their ASD child’s extraordinary way of looking at life and seeming to ‘know’ things that are way beyond their years. Many children on the spectrum just will not engage in things they seem boring, or they deem to have no relevance in their lives. This can cause great upset at school where the curriculum guidelines can be so restrictive. But isn’t learning unique to everybody? Some things they teach in school are irrelevant – its just the ‘neuro-typical’ children just do it and don’t ask questions.. the ASD children don’t get that part They just will not buy into what they think is irrelevant!
When David was 15 years old we enrolled him at TAFE, in a special Year 10 Literacy and Numeracy programme. He could no longer cope in the traditional school system and the bullying, exclusion and stress was causing him, and us, a great deal of grief.
David did not connect with anything in the curriculum at school. He found most things boring and nothing we could do could make him see otherwise.
But TAFE was a whole different story, because the teachers worked on engaging each child, and were prepared to be flexible in their approach.
One of the assignments was Statistics. He had to collect data, analyse it and present the outcome for his project. There was no way he was in the slightest bit interested. So the teachers called me in for a meeting.
After talking for a good half hour about how they could engage him, one of the teachers asked me what he was obsessed about. The only thing I could think about a that time was “that dreadful show.. Big Brother”. Brilliant! was their response. So they gave David the task of designing a project gauging people’s responses to Big Brother. He loved that project! He came home from TAFE every day and would start work on the questions and collating the answers, without any prompting from me.
He was very proud of his ‘Competent’ achievement. For the first time in his high school life he experienced success, because the teachers allowed him to use his obsession to learn what they needed to teach him.
I often used to wonder, when David was little, whether his ASD was in fact in his life for a reason?
While other boys were out with friends, kicking the football or generally just hanging out, David was either in his room on computer, or wandering around the tree outside, creating stories. He would not have been able to explore the world through his eyes, at that age, if he was ‘neurotypical’, as being with friends would have been more important, and expected. Even though he was obsessive, he didn’t show an outward talent, like Howard, but I can see now how those times have shaped his focus in his chosen career.
There is no doubt that many children being born today have some extraordinary talent and many are very different from children of previous generations. I have a sneaking suspicion that some of our children diagnosed with ASD may just be part of that change and it’s up to us as parents to be ready for it!