we went to the Connecticut Science Center last weekend with a precious new friend. (thank you, natalia- we loved it, and we love you!)
caroline immediately took natalia’s hand and explored (and loved) nearly every inch of the 6 story building.
julia and i? no, we stayed in one room and did very little adventuring.
i sat in one place for most of the 2 1/2 hours we were there. i did a 93% good job of being present, staying off my phone, watching my girl, and enjoying her as she enjoyed the exhibit. julia stayed at the water table area for all but 30 minutes of our visit- mesmerized by every part of it. no, mostly mesmerized by ONE part of it: a sort of lazy river for small plastic balls that then shoots them several feet in the air on a vertical stream of water. the ball ends in a large transparent whirlpool that pulls it back to the lazy river… over and over again.
what is more engaging than an endless cycle of water and motion?
there are roughly 30 multicolor balls in this interactive exhibit. children can touch the water, splash the balls around, move them to different parts of the feature, watch them go up, down and around… it truly hits every one of their senses. (yup- taste, too. you don’t think those kiddos put their mouths on everything?)
julia did all of this, but she also hopped, danced, bounced, waved her arms, clapped. we call this ‘stimming,’ short for self-stimulation. often julia’s stimming involves galloping or skipping across a room, usually on a diagonal line- corner to corner. occasionally it is more recognizable as an autistic trait- hand and arm flapping, turning in circles, but it mostly looks like this:
a young child having a wonderful time, expressing her joy in motion.
she is happy, and it feels good to bounce. clap. twirl. gallop. dance.
we asked our first occupational therapist about this, way back at the beginning of our journey- why does she always throw things?
why is she always always always moving?
her answer: because it feels better to throw and move than to be still.
and it really is that simple.
just like the water exhibit, julia is an endless cycle of motion and emotion.
being in motion helps her to filter, sort, and understand her emotions.
some say that we need to teach her better coping behaviors- coach her towards more socially acceptable self-soothing.
but as i look at her today?
bouncing, smiling, laughing, galloping…
doing what feels good and makes her feel happy?
i don’t really think so.
(clearly i’m not advocating free reign to do whatever feels good no matter the cost…
YOLO & whatnot. you understand?)