Ok, so this isn’t on the list, because it is a typical school playground.
But Willy had been asking for “playground, please” all day in his sweet broken English. I finally obliged at 6:00pm. The sun had just come out only hours before as we have had a few really rainy days! I wanted to stay close to home and I asked him if he wanted to go to Anthony’s school playground. He replied “bus” which is kind of amazing since it’s been almost a year since we played there, but there is a little bus structure he loved playing on last year, usually while singing “The Wheels on the Bus.”
When we got there, I noticed some kids around Willy’s age at play and their dad shooting hoops on the basketball court. Cool. I just wanted to score a bench in the sun, because 50some degrees is not my idea of a warm day. I watched as my normally shy kiddo at first took a wide berth around the kids playing, but gradually moved in. He was shy, never introduced himself, but found himself saying (appropriately) some of his favorite phrases: “What are you doing?” “be careful” “are you ok?” are all pretty useful phrases for a kid with a speech and language delay to have on hand at a playground. He played with the boys, who I guessed were about 4 and 6, without much communication, but that’s what great about little boys on the playground! These kiddos chased each other and ran and played without many words spoken. I saw my sweet boy climb on structures he was definitely too scared to use last year, and may have been timid without his “money see, monkey do” attitude. His buddies were everything he could have hoped for. The little one, Cole (clad in a Thomas shirt), was 4 as I assumed. And his dad asked if Willy was 3. I told him he just turned 4, but the fact that Willy is seen as a typical 3 year old was great! The older one, Noah, felt left out when Willy started playing as he saw that Willy and his younger brother were closer in age. He complained to his dad about it, but when Willy and Cole came by Noah and his dad, the dad asked Willy some questions. AND HE ANSWERED!!!
Now, he asked what his name was and Willy answered, “William,” which in Willyspeak does sound like Wiiyum. The dad said, “Liam? Ok. Boys this is Liam. Liam, can Noah play with you, too?”
Willy exclaimed, “yes!” and they all ran off!
I wasn’t going to butt in and correct his name and technically since Liam is a nickname for William, it’s practically correct. I thought, someone other than family understood Willy. He answered a question asked by a stranger. This is great!!!
The boys continued to play, and run, and slide. Shortly before the brothers left, the older one picked Willy a dandelion. Willy cherished that flower. He held it in his hand, even after I offered to hold it while he played.
After the boys left, Willy’s flower became his playmate. He let his flower take a turn going down the slide, and held it the whole time. It was too sweet.
Another family came to the park before we left, older girls. But the mom said hi to Willy and he replied, “hi” with his awkward palm faced in towards his face wave. Now Willy is usually right on cue with the “goodbyes” but greetings are still a work in progress.
This mom casually mentioned ice cream to her girls and Willy picked up on that word, one of his favs. The mom immediately apologized, but he deserved ice cream.
I think Willy knows that he can be himself at the playground and no one will notice if he’s jumping or clapping or making a face. I also think there are just good people at the playground who helped m son be himself and improve his communication. Every little bit helps.