A play date at The Little Explorers Activity Club, UK. Miriam is working with Violet for her Physics Thesis.
“Where is Iris? Where is Thula? Is this Iris’s painting? Where is P-J? What does P-J stand for? Who is this in this picture?´ and the questions kept on coming…It was Violets first time at the club and as we showed her around the house and garden she left a trail of questions in the air and we tried to keep up. We answered all of them and that seemed to give her some comfort and when they came our way again we would answer them carefully once again with as much enthusiasm as the first time. These questions were important to her and that meant they were important to us too. When it’s a child’s first day at the club I always take it steadily and I explained to Miriam we would follow her and then introduce the physics concepts as we went along but to go with the flow on this session and to take our time so we could make this a wonderful experience for her and she could get used to this new environment on her terms and in her own time.
“Is that Iris´ grandfather? Do you know who he reminds me of?” she asked. It was Alfred Russel Wallace. Miriam went to her room and brought a picture of Alfred Wallace and gave it to her. This is why we do our research on the children before hand, it allows us to have the right materials to hand. Violets passions are The Ice/Stone Age, Precious Stones and Explorers in History. She looked at Alfred and David again and we agreed that they had both the same parting of their hair, but David didn’t have a beard.
We all went outside and she saw the big trampoline and Violet asked her mother three times if she could flip her. She asked about Thula and had a look in the smaller trampoline that was decorated with large rugs over the sides so it was like a cave. “A woolly mammoth” she noticed the little pictures and signs of the stone age which we had set up on the trampoline beforehand.
Thula, our very own Sabor Toothed Tiger in the cave.
Her mother flipped her on the trampoline and she started giggling and laughing. Miriam stood back and watched while they had fun together and then got into conversation about how she was from Germany. “Can you sing a German song?” Violet asked and Miriam sang the “Alle meine Entchen” song. “Is she a student Mum?” she asked “Are you a student Miriam?” she asked again and Miriam said yes. “Can you sing very loud?” Her mother explained about why she was asking - there had been students early in the morning who sang songs very loudly. Maybe they had been at a party and that´s why Violet was interested in students and singing.
Iris was watching from the decking on her swing seat, unusually she was staying, I had thought she would go back inside because of all the questions but she seemed interested and was looking up from her Dr Seuss book. Then Iris got up to play with the sea creatures on the table infront of her. A large tub was filled with water, a sprinkler was on and she ran her fingers across the water. Violet wanted to say hello and to have a play in the cool water too.
“What are we learning about physics today?” we explained that today was all about the Ice Age, she seemed happy and ran off to have a look at some pictures that Miriam had set up. We wanted to take the pressure off the physics and make it less like a lesson for her, we knew that Violet got anxious about things, she hated compliments so we were mindful not so give those and she had been having a hard time at school so the less this seemed like school the better in our minds.
She found necklaces in the sand and gave one to Miriam and asked me to help her put on the bracelets, she was more relaxed around us and the questions were slowing down, she seemed calmer and more settled. “Is this a real mammoth fur? Mommy look, Mom! ” I explained that I put this on when it is cold in the winter and even though it was an extremely hot day I swung the fur coat over my shoulders, it was boiling but I didn’t care the look on Violets face made it worth it. She showed the mammoth picture to her mother, read what the mammoth was asking “Why am I so woolly?” She repeated the question and seemed really enthusiastic about the fur. “Is this a real mammoth fur?” I agreed that it was real fur and explained. “I used to wear it in the cold glacial winter and it keeps me warm.” “Can I wear it?” Violet asked and was very excited. “Like a mammoth” she sang and went back on the trampoline again. So a luxurious fur covered Violet bounced happily on the trampoline in the hot summer sun. Miriam said that she must feel very warm in the fur right now. “Do you want to try Miriam?” Miriam dutifully took the coat and I began to giggle. “Do you feel warmer?” I asked.
Then Miriam did something rather clever, knowing that questions and answers were Violets safety zone unlike other kids on the spectrum where we would avoid direct questioning we would use questions to get a conversation going about heat. Miriam and I had discussed the idea before hand and done a little trial run but we weren’t sure when to do it, now seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Miriam - “Why do I feel so warm with the fur? Does it make me warm?”
Violet - “I think it is because of the warm fur.”
Arabella - “I don´t know. Maybe the fur keeps the heat in, what do you think?”
Violet - “Well in the ice age most of the animals have had fur and also the people wore fur.”
Arabella - “But why do all these animals have fur?”
Miriam - “Does the fur make everything warm? I mean you and me and the animals and the ice?”
Violet - “I don´t know.”
Arabella - “I think it is because you are warm.”
Miriam - “Because my body is already warm.’
Miriam announced that she had a fabulous idea. ‘What if we put some ice in the mammoth fur and see if it makes the ice warmer.”
This was where we had our ‘here is one I made earlier' moment and I appeared from the garage with a tray of ice that had been frozen into different shapes all with gem stones hidden in layers. We touched the ice which was very cold and Iris joined the party by the trampoline for this interesting experiment. “Is this made out of real snow?” Violet asked. “It is real ice.’’
“It´s cold. But as soon as I touch it, it starts to melt, because my hands are so warm.” Miriam carried on in this way commenting on what was happening, talking to Violet, asking questions to me.
“I can imagine how it was in the ice age.” Her mother said. Violet was very interested in the ice and held it in her hands and smiled when she touched it. Miriam touched a piece of ice on her face and it started to melt, water drops fell onto the grass. Violet smiled, touched her own face softly with the ice and kissed it. Iris was intrigued holding a slippery snowflake shape in her hands. Violets mother pointed out how the ice was melting on Miriam’s face. “I give heat to the ice and the ice gets warmer and starts to melt.” Miriam talked softly and carefully knowing that there was a fine line to tread with Violet. We were in a good place and wanted to stay there. “Look the ice is hard but on Miriam´s face it starts to melt and it is a fluid. It becomes water again. It changes and is liquid ”
The trampoline served as a wonderful platform for any occasion, it’s one of the most flexible teaching tools, we went from a science lesson to a joyful bounce all within a moment. I jumped on the trampoline with Iris and Violet enjoying the fact that there was no need for a transition if they needed to move we moved with them. Miriam said that she wondered what would happen if we put a piece of ice into the fur, would it melt faster than just the ice out on the grass because it’s warm inside the fur coat. Violet was sure the ice in the fur would melt faster. “We can do an experiment” her mother said. I was so grateful to her, she had been with us by our sides all the way with Violet, guiding us to know how to be with her, what she loved, her good and bad sensory triggers aswell as any anxieties she goes through. She is the expert and knew Violet better than anyone. To all those reading this if you take one thing away from my story today I want it to be ‘to trust the experts’. Without the information that Violets mother had given us before this play date it would have been very difficult. Trust and be guided by the parents and siblings, soak in as much information from them as possible, each golden nugget of info is like a key into that child’s world and will allow us to teach them.
Which one will melt faster: The one in the coat or the one without the coat? Violet put her favourite piece of ice in the coat and Miriam set up the experiment.
While we waited it was time for a ride in the wheelbarrow and some more bouncing then a little look on how things were going on the ice experiment. Violet came off the trampoline and had a look at “her” piece of ice. ‘It hasn´t melted that much yet.’ We were really surprised because that means that it must be cooler in the fur than outside although we would have expected it the other way around because the fur makes us warm. Seems weird. We put it back and wanted to have a look later. Back on the trampoline again and then off for a walk down into the meadow. Iris and Violet held hands, Iris touched her face and kissed her on her cheek, at first not appreciated but then Violet with some encouragement realized that it was just her way of showing affection and that it was ok. They both struggle with social situations and as we helped them along things improved.
Another look at the experiment, “Violet is this one bigger or smaller?” her mother asked. “Bigger”. We noticed that the ice that had been in the fur was still bigger. “So the ice doesn´t melt in the fur coat, it keeps it cool. So if you were warm like me it would keep you warm, it blocks the heat or the cold.’
At the end of the play date we had a final look at our experiment. “Look this one is completely gone. Let´s have a look at the one inside.” Miriam said. “That´s my one. It’s still there.” Violet was excited. Her mother commented “I thought the fur would make it melt faster, but it is the other way around. It is like a fridge.” “Like protection” Miriam added “So is this insulation? It insulates it like the fridge.” Violets mother completely in the swing of the Movement Method.