Sunday 21 November 2021

Song and sign is an open door

Disco ball in purple ballroom

We've watched Strictly Come Dancing properly for the past three years. I watched a few series when it first started years ago but there's so much on TV nowadays and we honestly usually only make time to watch sports live.  That was until two years ago when our autistic and neurotypical family found it help us to connect with each other.  And this years moment came last night with Rose and Giovanni. 

Grandma and Grandad have been Strictly Come Dancing viewers for years. Far more loyal than our household.  A few years ago, they came over to babysit for one of our rare nights' out, and something they've not been able to do since March due to the pandemic. When they came over, they watched the latest episode of Strictly live with the kids.

Well, the kids were hooked.

I'm not too surprised about Jane - she loves dancing.  I do too, to be honest.

But the boys loved it too.

For Anthony is was all about the scores.  Although autistic like his younger brother, Anthony generally keeps up with school and numbers is one of the things in life he understands.  He's no savant, but numbers are constant, and make sense. Scores, make sense. And he adopted being a judge (along I'm sure with many others) revealing his score "Anthony Hickman - 8".  Course, a few years later he's hit 'teenager' and there's a lot less of this. 

When I stopped and had a think, it was also relatively easy to see why David, our pre-verbal autistic, now ten year old son, liked it too. Bright lights, lively music and figures flying across the screen, shiny sequins and the constant theme music will all appeal to his sensory and routine needs.  It's something he can enjoy with us all too which I think he often craves, but doesn't know how to be involved. 

David replays the shows over and over on iPlayer. The way he knows his way around BBC iPlayer is like magic. This is very common for David and rewatching TV shows, he enjoys rewatching and takes in so much from the iPad. We can replay the songs on Alexa and dance around the kitchen together and when he's been really into it we get super excited when he tries to sing along to the lyrics like he did the year there was a dance to Uptown Funk, but it has rarely gone beyond that.

This year there was the possibility for extra connection.  As David struggles to communicate and like a quarter of all autistic people doesn't really talk, we and he use sign language as a way to support our communication.  Having Rose on the show and signing used in dancing was a great treat. 

This week was musicals week and I was so excited that Rose and Giovanni were going to be dancing to a song from one of David's favourite films (Frozen) and one of his favourite songs to try and sing too "Love is an Open Door" .  They did a bit of signing in the performance, and in our living room my daughter, who knows sign as a way of communicating with her brother, filled in the gaps too. 

So I wasn't surprised when David's eyes lit up.

I wasn't surprised when his eyes were glued to the screen as he jumped excitedly around our living room.  

I wasn't surprised that as soon as the dance finished he'd found it on iPlayer and was repeating it. 

Judge Craig Revel Horwood is missing this week due to testing positive for coronavirus and his replacement Cynthia Erivo used sign language whilst giving her feedback to the pair. 

And then came the scores....

Cynthia Erivo "10"
Motsi Mabuse "9"
Shirley Ballas "9"
Anton Du Beke "9"

And then from our living room there was a loud squeaky "10!"

We all turned and looked at David.  "David Hickman," I said, announcing it like the judges and he shouted "10" at the top of his voice and then beamed and burst into giggles. 

Sometimes it's easy for people to think that David doesn't 'get' things when he doesn't speak. But he gets a lot for than people realise. 

We all gave scores to join in his communication and then continued to watch the rest of the programme.  Yes I know there was a mistake but Rose and Giovanni got a perfect "40" from us. 

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