Joy In The Playground
It’s a difficult thing to go most places with class of children on the autistic spectrum, but the Queens Science Museum was probably one the most ill-conceived and poorly executed trips I had ever been a part of. To expect five to seven year old autistic children to be even mildly interested in concepts that quite frankly bore older mainstream children was simply ludicrous.
But like the say, when handed lemons, right…?
So we ate lunch in the cafeteria, which was a timed affair, BTW, since there were so many schools there that day. The teachers huddled and all of them saw this as going south really badly of we were to stick with the museum plan. I was called in because I was the only one from the area. I suggested a few ideas, but then someone noticed a small playground across the street. We were all in agreement, so once the children were done eating, we all marched out the museum doors (“No return admittance!!”) to the playground.
The rest of the day was spent forgetting about the science of the how and why and just living in the reality of a sprinkler, jungle gym and slides. Since there was already one teacher or para for every child (and me) all the kids got individual attention. It was so warm out that soon almost all the children were in the sprinkler. I played with James on the jungle gym where he climbed to the highest perch like the monkey he is. We rested at the top and I began shooting.
I took several shots that day, most of which can be seen here in slideshow form.
The shot though that most consider to be the shot of the day is the one I call “Joy”
This one, as in all of the shots of that day, is of a child experience the unique summer time fun that seems to fall away when you grow older. Something about a child and water just leads to pure happiness.
To me though, the real joy in that playground that day was the fact that for a few hours they were just kids. For a short time they had broken the chains of autism and were speaking in the immortal language of just having fun.
I’ve been asked if the subject in the photo above had autism and the answer is yes. I saw him at school awhile later and he was having such a rough day he had a pressure vest on. He was screeching and wouldn’t get on the elevator. He was lost in the sucky world of his condition. However, I knew somewhere inside him was the same joy that was on his face that day.
Maybe all he needed was a sprinkler.