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).


23 responses

  1. me

    Precious post…

    April 4, 2012 at 7:38 am

    • Thank you, Me. 🙂

      April 4, 2012 at 8:13 am

  2. I always find it interesting how we gravitate toward others with similar energy. I was a preschool teacher before becoming a domestic violence counselor and my oldest daughter followed and surpassed my footsteps. She is a Special Ed teacher and a Behavioral Specialist working with autistic children!

    April 4, 2012 at 8:08 am

    • I think you might be correct, Bonnie…seems kindred spirits find each other somehow…maybe how we express ourselves. How nice for you and your daughter…tender hearts. 🙂

      April 4, 2012 at 8:13 am

  3. A great post Scott. 🙂

    April 4, 2012 at 9:25 am

    • Thank you, Chillbrook. 🙂

      April 4, 2012 at 6:23 pm

  4. Wonderful post Scott. So much color for the children to reach out and try them. Thanks for posting this.

    I liked the words” kindred spirits find each other somehow”. It is so true. One has to look for it positively. Be it a friends, a fellow worker, siblings, or life partner, it does happen. It may take longer , but it does.

    April 4, 2012 at 10:21 am

    • Thank you, Pattu…very nice words. And yes, the kindred spirits do find each other…it seems. How nice for us when it does. 🙂

      April 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm

  5. sweet…..

    April 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    • Thank you, Gunta. 🙂

      April 4, 2012 at 6:28 pm

  6. I was lucky enough to have healthy kids but I have friends who have an autistic boy, so I’m glad there are people like your wife trying to help. It’s not so bad when you can be with them everyday, but when you realize that there has to come a day when they will be on their own, it gets very hard to bear.

    April 4, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    • It’s nice that you don’t have this particular life-aspect to worry about with your children, Allen…but as a parent, you already know that life has enough other things that can come along and and bite us on the rear, too. And you did mention a concern of ours, as well as your freinds who have the boy with autism…someone is going to need to take care of them when we’re gone…as they might not be able to do it on their own…kind of frightening…very unsettling. Thank you for your comment. 🙂

      April 4, 2012 at 6:33 pm

  7. It sounds and looks like a wonderful place for self-discovery. I can only imagine how incredibly fulfilling it must be to walk this path with children and their families.

    April 5, 2012 at 6:00 am

    • It does look like a wonderful place, Melanie…and I do hear stories of how rewarding it is. 🙂

      April 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm

  8. I love the dream like aspect of the photos – I’m sure the children find it a real haven – a “magical toy box” of a place…

    April 5, 2012 at 8:50 am

    • Thank you, Dreams and Zeros…I tried to make the toys appear as if they weren’t part of our world, but of the little ones’. And yes, the children do find it to be a haven. I like that, “magical toy box of a place.” Very nice. 🙂

      April 5, 2012 at 7:22 pm

  9. Mary Lou Rutledge

    How amazing. My life is touched by autism and I wish there were more like her.

    April 5, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    • We’re finding more and more of us whose lives are touched by autism, Mary Lou…. We seem to have almost twice the national-average here in Salt Lake, too, for some reason. And yes, it would be great if there were more like her…. 🙂

      April 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm

  10. What a wonderful post Scott. How lucky your wife is (to be able to help these children) in such a stimulating and creative way.

    It’s was also fun to see her ‘Tools of Trade’ in photos.

    Thanks for sharing.

    April 5, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    • Thank you, Victoria…very nice words. And yes, my wife does feel very fortunate to be part of these little ones’ lives. You’re welcome. 🙂

      April 5, 2012 at 9:34 pm

  11. Beautifully written and pictures accommodate this post so well!

    April 19, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    • Thank you, Lisa…my wife is in her own little heaven with her kiddos and their toys…and she says that they love the sand-box most of all…absolutely fill it with the toys and act-out their lives…something you probably know very well.

      Thank you for visiting and for letting me know you were here. 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 7:00 am

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