Yesterday evening, Ryan and I went out to play in the back yard, armed with a hula hoop and a big rubber ball. We started playing catch - actually playing catch, not just me throwing a ball at the boy and him walking away. Then a couple of kids from the building came out, and we all started playing catch together. Ryan not only did not object to including Jonathan and Ashley in our game, but he was really enjoying it. Then Ashley picked up Ryan's hula hoop, and I braced myself for the mine-mine-mine screaming. Instead, he grabbed the other side, smiled, and the two of them went running off together, giggling.
I had to catch my breath: Ryan was playing with other kids, unprompted, and enjoying himself.
A while later, Ashley picked up the ball; Ryan clearly did not approve of this. I prepared myself to intervene for when the inevitable pushing and crying would start, but to my surprise, Ryan said to Ashley, "Hey, that's my toy! Give my ball back!"
My jaw hit the patio. Eight-year-old Alison stopped peddling her bike and stared right along with me. "Did you hear that?" I asked her. "Oh my gosh, I never heard him say that before!" she gushed. "He's warmed up to us!"
Alison and the other kids from the building know that Ryan is different, and they like him anyway. He's the youngest of the usual back yard crowd, and the kids treat him with nurturing kindness. You might think a group of elementary school kids would ignore the peculiar 3 1/2 year old with limited language and poor sharing skills, but they watch him with great amusement, as one might regard the antics of a puppy. I've told them to give him space, to let him get used to them before pulling him into a game, and they have respected that.
These kids gives me great hope for Ryan's future.