Taking place a little time before my last post, we could see that our son needed some gentle sensory stimulus and we knew just the place. At the side of our favourite Hollingworth Lake country park walk, the visitor centre is surrounded by woodland – and, as it is also a car park, the access roads are ideal for wheelchairs. The key, is to arrive early, before the car park fills up and at the time of year, the colours from the wild flowers and the birdsong is delightful.
Taking our time, we stroll along the paths, being tarmac, they were smooth and the ride in the chair immediately begins to ease the rising tension.
Halting at a suitable point I try to focus our sons mind on what (hopefully) his senses could detect. ‘close your eyes’ I tell him, and ‘tell me what sounds you can hear’ At this point, there was birdsong, the breeze was rustling through the long grasses and trees, children were laughing as they played on nearby swings and our dog ‘Miss Bronte’ was sniffing and snuffling through all the undergrowth. There was also the distant sound of a tractor in a farmers field and so much to focus his mind and ears on.
Our sons eyes close and (I think) he listens. after a few seconds of unresponsive reply, I gently prompt him. ‘Tell me what you can hear’ … his eyes open, breaking that connection with the sounds due to visual stimulation that comes racing in, but he did tell me ‘Birds’ …. That is good enough for me.
I tried to tap into his visual focus at this point, but without any success or cooperation. ‘Tell me what colours you can see’ I know he knows his basic colours and so the ‘blue’ of the abundant bluebells, the ‘green’ of the foliage and ‘brown’ of the tree trunks would have been a success. Sadly, nothing! We walk on in our (now often) pattern of me talking and explaining what I see, explaining that which I know about wildlife and geology, even a bit about geography and the history of where we are. I’m not sure how much is understood as my occasional questions, go unanswered. Even the antics of Miss Bronte appear to go unnoticed.
We are only about 20 minutes into our walk when we begin to head back. In some ways, this was not a real success and practicing our sensory focus routine, but in other ways, how great it was to get outdoors into this wonderful country park. We have pictures that have formed part of our sons activity stories, so we can revisit and recall the event and use it to plan our next trip here.
We arrive back at the car, unpack the flask – yes I did remember it – and looked out across this countryside, drinking our hot brew and a piece of cake. Though we consumed these in silence, I knew our son was feeling comfortable and safe in each others company and as we head home, I could see him relax into his seat for the journey.
We measure the success of an event like this by the fact that we did it. Others may have family members and their children excitedly laughing and chatting in preparation of going and throughout the time spent there. In our way we experience the same, but the signs are somewhat different and that laughter and chatter may just be a look, or a raised eyebrow or just the fact we could do it without having a meltdown. For us, this is all the excitement we need.
My message is simple, sometimes we dance to a different beat 🙂