As a child I was a keen reader and was ahead of the reading level of others my age.
I have a wonderful, vivid and dramatic imagination which never really left me. I could polish off a novel in a weekend and would enjoying picking u a book to relax and unwind.
When we had our son my husbands gran gave him a back catalogue of children’s stories that she had read to him when he was young and we started a book shelf in anticipation that we could revisit these stories with our child.
You see Cameron would never let me engage in story time with him, I tried so many times – so many, to introduce it to the night-time routine.
As many ASD parents know though that’s a task in itself so this was a practice that I quickly abandoned.
As he started nursery then primary we struggled to get him to do the daily reading – it was ALWAYS a battle.
During parents evenings I would receive feedback that story time was a struggle as Cameron would not sit still to engage, or was disinterested in the activity.
What Cameron DID find interesting though were pictured encyclopaedias and Haynes car manuals (which we have around due to a mechanically minded daddy).
He loved to look at pictures of engines in books or cars or planes and would ask my husband questions about the workings of an engine, and retain all this info.
I just thought it was because he was interest in those things.
As Cameron was making his way through year 3, I secretly loved the fact I was making him sit and complete his daily homework task of the Oxford Reading Tree “Biff & Chip” series, I asked him what did he have against books and why did he not enjoy stories.
And with that it all made sense.
One of the main traits on the spectrum is that ASD children are very factual; they are extremely literal and struggle with imagination.
This is why when I tell him that it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t have a grey crayon for the elephant – to just use his imagination; I’m greeted with a blank expression.
He would just rather not colour the elephant than do it a “wrong” colour. This is why he doesn’t want to read book s about mythical beasts or giants in the clouds; it’s not real.
I leant in this moment that I had to teach him that it’s ok to read about things that are not real, that reading a book is a bit like watching a movie – that we have to imagine these things and it doesn’t matter that they are not correct.
Christmas 2016 at 8 years old I bought Cameron his first children’s novel by David Walliams, who he had been learning about in school.
I told him that we would read it together a couple of pages at a time and we are both super excited to read about what the “Midnight Gang” get up to!!
There’s always hope and a way to do things, some things just take longer than others.
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