Tuesday, 23 August 2016

At the beach for my son with autism

Boy with autims on the beach

He turns away from the sunlight. It's bright... it's soo white. His eyes crease, his nose crinkles and his big brown eyes become little slits on a chubby looking face. He looks down, seeks the shade and seeks shelter from the wind behind me. But his isn't a bleak desert or an isolated part of the 'mid-west', this is simply our son David, at the beach.

I'm not sure David really understands why each summer and in various locations, the family heads for a beach. If you think about it, there isn't really anything specific to 'do' at the beach.  Yes, we can build sand castles, play in the sea, look in rock pools etc. Like many people with autism, David struggles with using his imagination to develop his play.  As his understanding of play in a house is limited to lining up figures, cars and scanning through books or playing with a variety of electronic devices, the beach must be a bit bemusing. Go to the playground and it's obvious..there are swings, slide climbing frames, roundabout... all with an obvious purpose or play. But it's a bit different at the beach and I think David associates it most with eating because we always take snacks or a picnic.

Like many people with autism he also has some sensory issues and this can be difficult because they vary from day to day.  The first day we went to the beach he wanted to paddle in the freezing cold water before seeking solace with me near the tall grass and next to the snack bag.  On the next day he wouldn't take his shoes off and sat on the towel fully clothed with socks and trainers still on.   Most days though he will find the sun bright and seek comfort from the breeze.  Even the sound of the waves can seem deafening to him sometimes. So he retreats and plays on an iPad and enjoys a bag of his favourite snacks. The iPad provides him with consistency and he can use it to block out the rest of his environment. He may hold it up to his ear and close his eyes. In many ways the snacks do the same thing, provide him with familiarity, like he's been away from home and is desperately seeking a mummy made meal.

Of course, its not always a case of watching our other kids play and sitting nicely with a huddled David.  He will often see something that does catch his eye and in an effort to control his emotions and the way he feels he will fixate on it.  That may be another child's toy that their parents have brought to the beach.  Trust me, I've tried taking a mountain of toys but what's the point when lining toys up on the beach is just annoying because they get covered in sand. He once chased a kite down the entire length of a very busy beach and then tried to rip the cords of the owners hands.  Those pretty sandcastles lovingly built and decorated by a trio of girls has 'flatten me' written all over it for David. 

It's not that we don't try to communicate with our five year old son.  He can now understand when he sign 'beach' where we are going and he has got much better at following instructions.  He has got better coping too, but not everyday and not with everything.  Sometimes it's just too much.  One day a family next us to bought those lovely coloured windmills. David was fixated with them.  The were very nice but after a short while of standing on all of their stuff and attempting to scratch anyone that came near him, it was time for us to leave. 

So when you pass our family and you see a fully dressed child in a beach tent or behind a windbreak playing with an iPad, or three, with their hand into a third pack of crisps, try not to judge.  He's just trying to have a fun day at the beach too and he probably is just not necessarily like you.

This post supports #wetalkmakaton sign of the week 'Beach'.

Linked on:
Monkey and Mouse


  1. There's nothing wrong with him enjoying the beach in his own way. My daughter isn't too sure about the beach either - she can't seem to stand the way the sand feels on her feet and won't walk on it unless she has her trainers on. Every kid is different. #DreamTeam

    1. I'm not a bit sand fan either. Stuff gets everywhere! Thanks for commenting!

  2. I think it's fab that David enjoys the beach in his own way.
    The seaside, Some snacks, a windbreak and Ipad sounds just perfect to me :)

    Thanks for being part of #MMBC Hope to see you next week xx

  3. Doing it his way is what matters. Sometimes I don't even realise that what we are doing might seem odd to others! #DreamTeam Ordinary Hopes are all we have, we get there in our own way.

  4. What a fabulous post Hun. So much I can recognise in this and you are spot on when you ask people not to judge. My big lad at 10 has learnt to adapt to family time but we have to always have a back up and be prepared to use technology or simply go home. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

  5. While reading this I was thinking to our recent trip to the beach. My son is 2 and had major meltdowns anytime we went to put on a bathing suit and sun screen. I had all of these expectations of how much he would love it and playing in the sand but it was quite the opposite. I'm glad your son was able to find his own way to enjoy the beach. I mean an ipad and snacks sounds like a great plan to me. Thanks for linking up to #DreamTeam Hope to see you next week!

  6. I guess your experience will be useful for many women who have such special kids. Thank you very much for sharing with us.

  7. That's interesting to hear how he copes at the beach, I know many people don't like the texture of sand stuck to their feet after being in the water (it was a hated thing of mine as a child) and the bright sunlight is always hard for myself and eldest too, it's so bright we need to close our eyes until the sunglasses are on (is that a bright blue eyed thing?). But I can completely understand why it would be hard to play when there is nothing obvious to do. Snacks and an Ipad would definitely be useful! Thanks so much for linking up to #Whatevertheweather :) x


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