We celebrated Parker’s birthday on Sunday. His actual birthday isn’t until Thursday, but Sunday was the only day everyone could be here. The cake was white, trimmed with blue frosting. Since Parker is allowed small (very small) bites of frosting, I have to make sure it’s a color that will show up in his trach. This alerts me to any possible aspiration issues. Hey, you play games at your kid’s parties, we check to see if the frosting landed in Parker’s lungs or not.
The hardest part of this celebration began months ago. Let me tell you a little secret. Buying toys for my kid with special needs sucks. Well, not exactly. Buying those toys isn’t what’s so frustrating, it’s bringing them home just to have Parker show zero interest in the toy. Oh, he has a few favorites. He’s getting better at going and getting a toy and playing with it appropriately. He’ll play for hours with me or his siblings, but……spending a lot of time playing by himself? Nope. Not happening the way it would with a typically developing kid.
This means that I spend a lot of time trying to decide what to give him for birthdays and Christmas. I’m of the belief that kids learn through their play. Even brand new eleven year olds. So I like Parker’s toys to be open ended, build on a theme, and provide an opportunity to explore a subject in greater depth.
Parker’s play is a big part of his opportunity to learn new vocabulary, signs, turn taking, math skills, and imaginative play. I can hear some of you now. Kids need time to do their own thing. To use their imagination to create their own rules and worlds.
Here’s the thing. Parker has had to be taught how to play. Where your kid might figure out how something works simply by experimenting, Parker has to be shown. And then given lots of invitations to take what we’ve shown him and play.
It takes a lot of structure and planning for Parker to have a successful experience at play. It also makes buying toys for my kid with special needs damn hard.
For months I’d been thinking about creating a unit on Knights for Parker. At a yard sale, I found an old Ryan’s Room doll house for the ripe old price of $10.00. Yup, ten bucks for a doll house wallpapered in patterns so neon bright that when you looked away you could still see that pattern burned into your eyeballs.
I knew right then and there that I had found Parker’s Castle.
A few cans of gray spray paint. A LOT of sand paper. A few blocks from an old Jenga game. The transformation was complete.
Next came the furniture for the Knight and his family. I found doll house furniture. Pink Princess furniture. But the furnishings for a castle eluded me. Then I searched ebay. My heart raced as I viewed furniture fit for a medieval hero. It came to a dead stop when I saw the price, but began to cautiously when I saw that little button inviting me to place my best offer.
Success. Six months after first laying eyes on the potential within my $10.00 yard sale budget, it was finished. Just in time to give it to Parker when our family celebrated his birthday on Sunday.
Castle Gray Wall won’t be the type of invitation to play that Parker will automatically know how to accept. We’ll be playing together when we put the Knight’s children to bed after a day of slaying dragons. I’ll provide the only dialogue for my non-verbal child. That’s okay. It’s time for him to experience the worlds found only within his imagination. I’m happy to be his guide.