We went to the mall the other day.
This is one of Jonah’s favorite winter-time activities. Usually he will run around … and around… and around.
Typically we will start at one end of the mall, run clear to the other end, play in the arcade (run around looking at the lights and rolling skee balls back and forth), and then turn around and run back, making a detour by the kids play area… just long enough for Daddy to take the shoes off, before we high-tail it outta there with mismatched socks (because Daddy was too lazy to find matching pairs), while Daddy frantically chases gleeful toddler trying to get shoes onto squirming octopus kid legs.
Repeat until the kid is tired out, which would be like…in 5 hours, or until Daddy decides he is prepared to deal with the inevitable meltdown before leaving.
That is the norm.
This day, Jojo tried a different route on the way back. Today we went through …THE FOOD COURT.
This is not a HUGE deal, but it deviates from the usual path so I guess you could call it a small victory.
And for some reason, Jonah was compelled to stop in front of the Gyros House.
We went at about 11am which is the opening time of most the restaurants. The gentleman working was preparing fresh fruits and veggies and Jonah was simply enthralled.
There were lots of colors and textures on display. Ice, cucumbers, apples, and oranges…
Most people working in the restaurant industry and needing to prepare for the lunch rush wouldn’t have given my son much notice.
Perhaps a smile and wave while going about their business.
Jonah would usually prefer it that way. Strangers are not a big priority on his “I want to encounter today” list.
But this gentleman took the time to engage Jojobee, and Jonah was genuinely interested. I can’t understand why, except the gentleman may have had a slight resemblance to Daddy.
He showed Jonah all the various fruits he was putting out and asked him all kinds of questions even though he never got a response to any one of them.
He gave Jonah a cucumber to try (which Jonah accepted, but dropped on the floor) and didn’t seem to mind him standing there even as customers came and started ordering food.
Jonah must have stood there for a good 10 to 15 minutes, fixated on the food. Watching how it was prepared, how it was served, how it was replaced after going out.
He was never hurried along, or moved out of the way.
Jonah eventually moved on, but on his next lap around the mall, he decided to ONLY loop around the food court. And every time we got to the Gyros House, the gentleman waved at him. Jonah smiled back.
It’s amazing how just simply ENGAGING a child can be a breakthrough for them. I mean, this is a complete stranger! I didn’t need to explain to him that my son is autistic, or that he fixates on odd things.
This is simply someone taking the time (out of their own work day) to make my son’s day a little better.
Things like that should not be overlooked in life. Because those little things can be what prompts a child to come out of their shell. Positive reinforcements from interaction with strangers can establish a pattern of positive interaction with ANYONE.
Three days later we returned to the same mall. Jonah didn’t even bother with his full lap around the place. He went straight to the food court.
Straight to the Gyros House.
With the same gentleman working.
Who was with some customers, but still looked over, gave him a wink, a smile and a wave.
Jonah was beaming.
We didn’t even have a meltdown when it was time to leave.