Autism is a very serious issue that most people don’t really know how to tackle. It turns out stuffed animals can be of help as they have done for one boy.
Robert Walker from Canada suffers from autism. When he received a Beanie Baby stuffed toy as a gift for his fourth birthday, noone even thought of the consequences, The Reminder reports. Today Robert is almost 18 years old and has hundreds ot stuffies which he all knows and loves. They have turned into a communication tool for him.
For Robert, his stuffed animals are more than just toys. He calls them pets and they often speak for him. He brings a few of them to school and never leaves their sight and it has been that way from Grade 7 all the way to Grade 12 which he just graduated.
His mother is a Grade 6 teacher and says when Robert first started bringing stuffed animals to school she was shocked. “With kids such as Robert, who are on the autism spectrum, the goal is to start removing some of those things because it’s not age appropriate.”
As Robert got older, he was encouraged through his development plan to leave his pets at home for the school day. “But for him, I knew when he was darn good and ready is when he was going to do it,” his mother says.
And he did that by going every day to his mom’s 6th Grade class and handing out his pets to children there. The students get to take care of Robert’s pets for the day and then return the stuffies to him. The next day they all do the same. “I just wanted to do it. I just felt like it. I just wanted to share them with the kids in the class”, says Robert.
His mother adds that his stuffed animals have helped him a lot with communication throughout the years. At first they were speaking for Robert. Now he speaks for himself and him going to other students to give them his favorite pets for them to take care for has helped him learn to commuicate and students have learned better the non-verbal communication, too.
As a child, Robert was diagnosed with ADHD and put on medication. His mom Laurel says her son’s it hindered his communication with others. “The medication kind of stifles a kid. Sure, it keeps their behaviour in check and it has done wonders for him – it helped him through a lot of rough years – but it inhibits his communication as well. So by Grade 6 I said no more medication. There is a bigger goal that is more important and we just worked on communication”, she says.
At age 12, Robert was placed on the autism spectrum. On his graduation day, Laurel says Robert has grown a lot over the last two-and-a-half years. “There is such a difference. He’s more open and sharing, which is huge for kids like him – and especially something so valuable to trust that those kids are going to look after his pets”, she adds.
Finally, Robert says why he loves his pets fo much. “They are just so adorable when you look at them. They need to be squished”, he laughs. So yes, stuffed animals can be helpful for child development.