So, for yesterday's INSET day, I decided to attempt to drag The Boy away from the computer screen. I took him to Legoland. I grant you, it wasn't the wisest decision I've ever made in my life. Partly because the other 8 million people who live in London seemed to also decide yesterday was the perfect opportunity to visit Legoland.
The Boy coped well with the two hour tailback getting into the car park, and then even the one hour queue at 'Guest Services' for the exit pass to help children on the rides who can't cope with queueing (oh, the irony...). We were finally in. The Land of Lego.
Legoland is great for playing the Spot the Person on the Autistic Spectrum game. The place is filled with them. I may well be playing to stereotypes again, but Lego seems to hold a fascination for so many children with autism. The brick that never changes, is as consistent from one day to the next. The brick you can build walls with to keep the confusing world outside away. I spent the day happily muttering to myself, "he's one" ... or, "she's on the spectrum, her mum and dad just don't know it yet"...
We only went on a couple of rides. There's a favourite one we both like - Fairy Tale Brook. It's a really slow, gentle ride in a small boat through different fairy tale scenes made out of Lego. And the ride is full of new mothers, babes-in-arms and small toddlers oohing and aaahing their way around. And then us two lumps join them and The Boy's voice cuts through the gentle music and air of serenity as he comments at the top of his voice on what has changed since we were last there three years ago and how it's not even a real boat we're sitting in.
Rides aren't really the reason to visit Legoland though. Rides just detract from the main event. The Lego. We spent two hours in one room where you can make cars out of Lego and race other people down a ramp. And The Boy liked it because all the children in the room were at least half his age and frankly they were amateurs. Wasting time building elaborate contraptions when The Boy realised that if you want to win a Lego car race all you need is an axle and two wheels. He kicked the arse of every toddler that dared to take him on. Top dog.
Then The Boy's highlight of the day - Star Wars Miniland. A whole exhibition where scenes from Star Wars were recreated in Lego. Utopia. We spent forever in here. It was dark, so The Boy clung to me with one arm as I pushed his wheelchair with the other, but the darkness also seemed to help him be himself. As we came to each exhibit he became excited and animated as he talked through each scene in front of us. Hand gestures to emphasise points. Sharing knowledge I never even knew he had. It was like a light went on inside him and he was able to express himself in ways he never can and even in the darkness his eyes shone with delight and wonder. And yes, it probably would have been easier to understand him if he'd taken a breath once in a while, but it was one of those all-too-rare moments where he truly seemed alive.
The Dad's highlight of the day? Apart from the drive around the M25, it was in the room where we raced the cars down the ramp. There was another lad who I'd spotted and identified quite clearly as being "one of us" some time earlier. And although he was at least half The Boy's age, the two of them seemed drawn to each other. Birds of a feather... They never spoke, but they raced side by side for quite a while. And as we went to leave, I told The Boy to put his two wheels and axle back. The winning car. Instead he walked over, and without saying a word he just put it on the floor next to the other boy's feet and the two of them looked at each other and smiled. A gift. For a friend.
This blog is about bringing up The Boy. He's 12 years old and autistic. It's written by The Dad. It's my words, my view. Other people will think differently and have different opinions. Good.