Ours is not to reason why…

I often find myself watching J as he goes about his day and wondering what he’s thinking, how he feels and why he does things in a certain way. Does he have the same thoughts and feelings as us? Does he process any information in the same way? I know that on the whole he is very happy and seems to have lots of fun, but most of this is a solo venture and mainly doesn’t involve anyone else. Occasionally he looks at us and laughs or smiles to invite us to share in his happiness at what he is doing and sometimes he allows his brother to join him in his adventure. Often though, he does his own thing and plays by his own rules.

Yesterday we went out for the day and we visited Dumfries House in Ayrshire. It was a lovely sunny day and the house has beautiful gardens, a play park and a science/engineering play park with a hands-on water exhibit. We decided to bypass the water exhibit at the start and go for a walk first to delay the inevitable drenching of J as he splashed and swirled the water. He knew we were doing this of course and let us know that he wasn’t too happy. However, once we were further into the grounds he just got on with it and set about finding other things to do. He ran off the path and through the longer grass, balanced along the kerb of the pavement over the bridge, sat down and ran his hands over the red ash on the path, picked up the red ash stones and dropped them back on the ground in front of him, threw some of the stones onto the grass and at his brother.


This all seemed to improve his mood, so when we reached the walled garden he was full of energy and mischief. It would also seem he can hear/see water from a good distance, as he had already spotted the fountain in the middle and set off towards it before we knew what he was up to. Here he attempted to throw in more stones, luckily we stopped him before he had the chance to clog it up. Instead he leaned over the edge and swirled the water with his fingers. Once we managed to drag him away from this he ran off again towards the greenhouse, which luckily wasn’t open so he couldn’t get at the nice plants. On the walk back down to the gate he decided to climb the wall and run up and down it, jumping off at the end.


As we left the walled garden there was a cottage at the top of a small hill to the left. We were heading in the opposite direction back towards the bridge and play parks but as usual J had other ideas. He decided it would be a good idea to climb the hill and so he did. B set off after him asking him to come back, saying ‘I don’t know why he’s doing this.’ as he followed on behind. I didn’t know why he wanted to either and it again made me think again about his thought processes. Was he just being naughty? Did he want to show he wasn’t happy at having to leave the fountain and wall behind? Was he just exploring a new part of the grounds he hadn’t seen before? Or was there something else driving him to do it over which he had no control?  Is it maybe a sensory response? I know studies have shown that people with autism are visual thinkers and think in pictures but this was more about his reasons for doing what he’s doing rather than how he sees things. I suppose we won’t ever really know why and it made me think a bit more about why we need to.


Everyone wants to understand their children and how they interact with the world around them. It helps us to understand why they do things and know what they need or want at any given time. We can prepare for things they might do or ask and help them to find their way in the world. With J it’s just that bit more difficult. He can’t express things to us and we are left guessing how he feels or what he wants. It can be very frustrating for him and for us as a result. It made me wonder though, should we try to find reasons for everything he does? Yes it helps to know why he’s upset or when he wants something, but what about times like this when he’s just exploring? When he was climbing the hill, he probably just wanted to do it.

My lesson today is that sometimes we can over-think things and look at it too deeply. It’s helpful in some circumstances to figure out what he’s thinking but at other times I figure it’s better just to let him climb the hill. He’s perfectly happy while he’s doing it. Who are we to question why he does it?

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Some related reading about thoughts:

How People with Autism Think – Temple Grandin

Thinking Styles – Scottish Autism

How People With Autism See The World – Daily Mail


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