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My Grandson with Autism and Thomas the Tank Engine

April 30, 2014

This post is from Gary Lewis who has two grandsons on the autism spectrum. 

My grandson Brody is 3 ½ years old and is on the autism spectrum.  He was diagnosed at age two. We are fortunate that in California, we have had special one-on-one teachers who first came to the house and then at age three, through the public schools. Brody has thrived with these programs and has progressed extremely well. He is a very social, loving and happy child and as such, is normally easy to work with. 

Upon interacting with Brody, one realizes that he is extremely bright and very clever. Even at an early age, he was able to quickly understand the workings of most latches and locks. He observed adults and quickly emulated their actions regarding mechanical items.  He also quickly understood and mastered different types of puzzles beginning with different sizes of rings on a pole and nesting blocks.  When introduced to jigsaw puzzles, we were astounded by how quickly he mastered even those designed for well above his age group.  We began calling him the “Puzzle King”. For fun, he often searches out his jigsaw puzzles and disassembles and reassembles them over and over.

In most ways, Brody is like the average child his age, except he is mostly non-verbal.  Like many children on the spectrum, he was not able to connect words to things or ideas.  It was a struggle for him to learn that he is “Brody”. As training has gone forward, he has made much progress in this area. Some things that have helped have been children’s programs such as “Sesame Street” which have aided in relating numbers to counting. He enjoys the Sesame characters, particularly Elmo, and laughs at the antics. At the same time, you can see him ingesting the message.

However, the greatest help has been the “Thomas and Friends” cartoons.  He has related to these programs in a most unexpected way.  He loves the cartoons and he has train sets with Thomas trains that he will play with for hours. But when the Thomas jingles come on, he stops what he is doing and actually sings and dances along.   He has learned many of the words and sings them to some extent.  It sometimes seems that he also is learning to read the song captions at the same time.

We feel that Brody will develop his verbal skills and perhaps one day will mainstream in school.

His brother Donivan, age seven, is also on the spectrum and is less social and more introspective.  As he has aged, his verbal skills are beginning to emerge and he is less frustrated when adults do not understand what he wants.  He has related much more to the iPad and spends his free time playing games and watching YouTube videos. He has an aversion to loud noises and prefers to wear only his underpants when at home.

He is also a loving child, but much less social than Brody and can get frustrated when something does not go his way. He normally plays well with Brody and shares his interest in trains, but not to the same degree.

Both boys have benefited from the special education training they receive and although it is often challenging, the future is bright.  I would advise others with children on the spectrum to look for that thing or things that might interest them while at the same time aid in their development.

From a grandparent’s perspective, I have joy when I see the progress these children have made and I take great satisfaction when they learn a new word or phrase or skill. I see in their eyes the same satisfaction and am glad to have them in my life.