Beautiful games: my autistic son at play

When he was younger, he’d line up rows of straws and twiddle them in turn between his hands; now he loves nothing more than to have his toys taken apart (or dismantle them himself) and see what’s inside. Sometimes he even puts them back together.

Over the years, my son Tom, who has autism and is now eight, has gone through different phases with his toys, like any child. He’s always been fond of things that light up and he likes squidgy sensory toys and mechanical toys – things with wind-up mechanisms or motors and axles and cogs. I never would have thought that he’d learn to comment on whether toy cars are pull-back or friction-powered – but he does.

Some things he was once terrified of now fascinate him, such as fans and bubble machines. He also likes to arrange his toys or their constituent parts – maybe it’s a fond maternal eye, but I do love to see these arrangements. It seems to me that sometimes there’s an artistic (or scientific? Or both?) sensitivity and precision to them. Sometimes, though, it all turns into a crazy tangle! I thought I’d put together some of the pictures I’ve taken of his games down the years.

Sometimes he pimps his toys, like these creations – wheels and axles from one kind of toy, bodies from something else.


Here he is with another creation – a spinner.


Lining things up is good, especially with the help of a suitable wall.

The line below is of robot vacuum cleaners. Or he was pretending they were, anyway.

my autistic son's toys

Not sure what these sensory animal toys make of the morass of other stuff they’re warily eyeing up.


Sometimes, it all just gets a bit chaotic…


But sometimes, the effect is rather magical.

autistic son's light-up toys

light-up toys
Soft toys do have their place, too. Well, Blue Bear, Tom’s autism awareness bear, definitely does.

my son with his Autism Awareness bear
The very favourite toy of all is the ipad. When it got broken once, it was necessary to make do with this substitute while it was mended…

Insides of things are sometimes just as important and interesting as outsides.

Sometimes it is essential for alien eggs to live on the kitchen table for a while…


Other times, the best thing is being outside

checking out nature

or going somewhere new

IMG_0547like maybe the seaside


and exploring it with people you love.