Leelo and the Children on the Merry-Go-Round

Leo has socializing opportunities aplenty -- around town, with all the people and kids who come to visit and swim and cook with us, during excursions. But those interactions are all heavily managed, to help him avoid sensory overstimulation, and so he won't pull a frustrated HULK SMASH on me, his sisters, or unsuspecting passersby. It breaks my heart to write this, but: he is not a free-range boy, not in scenarios where other children are running wild. It's too risky.

So when he asked to "go play, play with the kids" who were swarming the merry-go-round at Franklin Square playground today, my initial reaction was no. HELL NO. Not just because Leelo is unpredictable, but because -- as I suddenly realized -- I don't trust other children to be kind to him.

But he wanted to go. He was desperate to go, to be part of the puppy pileup of his-aged kids. He kept saying, "Want to play, want to play!"

Ours is a boy who rarely asks to play with other kids. How could I say no?

I said yes.

Off he ran. He dove straight through the outer ring of children, and positioned himself in the center of the merry-go-round. I stood nearby, reminding myself to breathe, ready to spring, explain, apologize.

I never had to.

The other children accepted Leo at their center, without question. No one said anything, or gave him funny looks, not even as he his siren-like crow of delight grew louder as the kids spun faster, faster, faster.

Look at this ecstatic boy-in-the-middle:

I'll be watching this video on YouTube nonstop for the next 48 hours.

Parents, if any of those children belong to you, please give them extra hugs from me. They're amazing.

Today was Leelo's first day of summer. I hope it has set the tone for the next two months.


  1. So nice to read this lovely post first thing in the morning.

    I've often been surprised at how accepting kids are. They may raise eyebrows at some of Squidboy's "odd" behaviors, but generally they just shrug their shoulders and carry on. We've had bullying issues, of course, but far less often than I would have expected.

    If only adults were so accepting.

  2. I was linked to your blogher post for the iPad apps by the speech therapist for the *new* school. My son goes to that school too (welcome!!) Anyway I love this post! I too have one who is often unpredictable & teased on the playground as well so I always hold my breath at the park. But it does feel like such a victory when it is a good park day!

  3. that makes me happy weepy. As did the awesome drawing of Leelo's that you posted to Blogher yesterday!

  4. Anonymous1:28 PM

    This is wonderful. I am so happy for both of you!

  5. You'll only be watching the video for the next 48? I'd make it an endless loop on my desktop!


  6. How to tell you have a spectrum kid:

    The first thing you think of is:

    Now there's a kid who knows his sensory diet.

  7. Anonymous7:11 PM

    I am so happy for you and Leelo that you were able to have this spontaneous moment of pure enjoyment and fun without prejudice or the hairy eyeball. :)

  8. yay! this brought happy tears to my eyes. and I'm so pleased to see that some parks still have merry-go-rounds, my favorite piece of playground equipment which seems to have been removed from everywhere around here.

  9. I'm tearing up with this one. Beautiful! Happy summer to you and your lovely kids.

  10. Moriah: COOL! That SLP is the one who told me about the Stories2Learn app in the 1st place.

    Thanks for the welcome, see you in the fall.

    Everyone else: I KNOW! :)

    I had to put on my sunglasses so the kids wouldn't see my tearing up. I didn't want them to see my weakness, otherwise we could have had a scene like the end of Suddenly Last Summer.

    Leo had the best time ever, most importantly. Sweet boy.

  11. This picture made my day. Thank you for sharing it!

    Sometimes I feel like these small moments of experiencing spontaneous joy with other kids is equal to a week of structured therapy in terms of impact on our guys.

    I hope you have a summer filled with many more of these moments.

  12. Aw, you got me too! I do believe I've fallen in long-distance-love with your boy. Such are the hazards of being a too-few-boundaries pediatrics person. I'm not complaining. :)
    Saw your iPad article linked on facebook by a college friend yesterday. Felt proud to "know" you.

  13. Anonymous2:12 PM

    Awww!!!! This was wonderful to read! Happy for both of you!



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