“The Wheels on the bus go round and round … “ - adult and young allies sang boisterously as they held on to their PRAGNYA friends, and rode in a bus to the Childrens Discovery Museum of San Jose.
For almost every PRAGNYA child on the bus, it was the first time ever that they were riding with someone else without a parent or a therapist or a teacher supervising them. Some held on to their allies for dear life, perhaps out of fear or anxiety, but soon began to sway to the singing and dragging them into the museum once they disembarked at the museum. There was no special group tour, no special treatment since they were different, they waited patiently as the tickets were bought, as allies continued to engage them in conversation, even if it were one-way for many of them. Once inside, each ally and their child with their adult ally chaperones wandered off to explore the wonders inside the museum.
For one PRAGNYA ally, the start was rather uphill, literally, since his child had a morbid fear of stairs, had never climbed up or down stairs. The very first attraction of the Fire Engine required them to climb up stairs. Patiently, the ally encouraged the child to ascend the stairs, while the child had a chokehold grip on the ally’s shoulders, and the parent looked on. Fifteen minutes, a sore shoulder and relentless persuasion, boundless compassion on the part of the ally and a great deal of faith in his ally is all it took for the child to be coaxed into taking one step, everyone surrounding him rejoiced, and cheered him on, beaming at the smiles, the child went up the steps and made it to the top of the Fire Engine exhibit, while another donned his emergency first responder hat and pretended to drive the ambulance after being encouraged to wait patiently by his ally for his turn to drive; while yet another kept darting all over the museum with his ally in hot pursuit keeping pace with him as his parents looked on in disbelief that someone who is completely not related to them, and not even a parent themselves was capable of so much compassion and patience to keep in step with their hyper energetic child and bond with him, as they began to go down slides, play with the water exhibits, run up and down the musical stairs.
Colors were explored in the paint room, snapchat selfies were taken inside the swirling lights room with the PRAGNYA kids and their allies learning to make all kinds of goofy faces and there was a song on everyone’s lips as they left the music room, exhausted, happy and feeling totally fulfilled. It was indeed a “discovery trip” of how much and how well children can communicate with each other and also adults over play, curiosity and without the limits of verbal language. There were tears,yes…. Happy ones, from the parent of a PRAGNYA child and from an ally as they realized how much they had discovered about one another and how, for the first time, they felt relieved that “Autism is NOT hard to get”!