Toys as Tools….
We all have our tool-boxes for our trades and professions…some of us might have literal boxes with the known tools of screwdrivers and hammers and levels and wrenches…bottles of oil that shoot smoke into engine compartments that help us find leaks in hoses, or figurative boxes with our paint brushes and palates, pencils and erasers, thumb-drives, bags with cameras and lenses and film (maybe), reference books, mortars and pistils, surveying chains, books of flight plans and maps, stethoscopes and syringes…or whatever. And some of us have other things…like years and years of advanced education and hundreds of books…and hundreds of toys…things that stimulate minds to thinking…or relax them from their stressors…things that unknowingly open the doors of others’ minds so that those who are interested in helping them can finally see inside, can finally see the things that have been hidden for so long…because they didn’t know how to open those doors and windows on their own.
My wife is one of those people who has a tool box that contains those many years of education and hundreds of books and hundreds of toys…and who is skilled at opening minds and helping the bearers of those minds to find ways of expressing themselves…helping them find ways of communicating even with themselves…and then drawing maps for the rest of us to follow when trying to understand those minds so we can enter and share their previously closed-off worlds. She works with autistic children and their families…spends hours on the floor with brightly colored toys and objects, pushing, searching, compelling, and connecting with those little ones…gently pressing and urging them into opening their minds….
This past Saturday, I stopped-by my wife’s office to pick-up her laptop…and, since I had my camera with me…I took a few pictures of the toys that decorate her office, those “tools” that draw smiles and widened eyes on the faces of even the most reserved and stoic of fathers who accompany their little ones to their appointments, those tools that are often selected specifically for that particular little one to whom they would appeal. I think it would be wonderful to visit such an exciting and even calming place if I was going there for help….and I can understand the little ones’ distress when their sessions are over and it’s time to leave such a fun place…a place where they think they’re just playing…but are actually building a relationship, learning the social rules of give and take, finding words they didn’t know they had, and allowing someone into their world, sometimes for the very first and significant time.
The children often take these figures and play-out little portions of their lives with the other settings in the office. In addition to the doll house and fire/police station, my wife also has a sand-box and a little multi-leveled tree house that makes a great landscape for their adventures and re-enactments (the photos didn’t turn-out very well).