Once upon a time, and twice a week since then, a little boy would make a mess. Shampoo. Toothpaste. Bubble bath. Washing up liquid. Laundry detergent. Perfume. Powder. Spray deodorant. Mouthwash. Flour. Butter. Bicarbonate of soda. Food colouring. Vanilla extract. Broth cubes. Salt. Corn flour. Sugar. Fabric softener. Conditioner. Bath gel. Even – in a time long, long ago – some cleaning fluids. Nothing was safe.
This little boy made messes big and small, smelly and sweet. Sticky and staining. Hidden and brazen.
For years his parents chastised and chided. Hid things and redirected. Monitored consumption and kept to the script of what we are supposed to do with such things. Teaching, they thought, that it’s not good to waste, that we don’t play with food, less is better than a lot.
But still the messes continued. In fact, one window may be forever fogged in the corners from some unknown combination that was once sprayed and congealed.
This little boy grew to be a googler. He became adept at finding Kids Choice awards, and played over and over and over again the scenes where famous stars are covered in slime. He found YouTube channels full of people doing challenges where they sit in bath tubs full of cheerios and jelly.
Maybe he had tried over the years to tell his parents where all of this was going. If he did, his parents didn’t hear. They just occasionally grew angry when the shampoo was gone, when the bath had to be rinsed yet again from whatever-mix-that-was-this-time.
Meanwhile his parents had been googling and learning themselves. Doctors helped. Diagnoses opened minds. The parents began to see this through new eyes, and began to rethink his relentless ignoring of warning after warning. They began to see he wasn’t being ‘naughty’ – they finally grasped the behavior as a symptom of a need that he could not express. But knowing that wasn’t enough. They had to change their approach. Create a different environment.
So they started to buy cheap items for sensory play: foaming soaps, oozy liquids, cheap whisks and plastic bowls. To the consternation of some, they enabled the mess but fulfilled a need.
Meanwhile, the happier boy kept googling. He watched hundreds of videos. He turned his attention to a single focus. Slime.
It wasn’t pretty. The house became filled with randomly found containers of soapy smelly stickiness. But this time the parents didn’t fight it. This time they planned fun trips to the store with the boy so he could pick the ingredients rather than help himself to Dad’s favourite shaving gel. They googled to try to find UK replacements for Elmer’s Glue and Borax (the holy grail of slime making), knowing how frustrating and abstract this was for their son to understand that some ingredients were not to be had on these British Isles.
They set up some spill trays and gave smaller bowls to limit the quantities for experimentation. They lined up saline solution and salt, cheap shampoo and hand soap. And day after day after day, the boy tried. And he tried. And he tried. He just couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working. He wasn’t so keen to follow the recipes exactly, he insisted a dash of this or a bit more of that was what he needed. But though it was not ‘successful,’ he was absorbing and learning using his senses. He was focused.
The household was under a spell. There were mixtures in the freezer, in the refrigerator, on the counter, and on window sills. And still he googled and still he tried. The boy was happiest when mum was sitting by him, watching the videos and listening to the fake American accent he adopted as he mimicked the kids on the videos.
Day after day. Powder and flour clouds occasionally rose over the sticky concoctions.
Never did the parents say a negative about the mess this time. They stayed close and helped clean. They supported, not critiqued.
And then, after maybe 10,000 mixtures, there it was.
The boy made slime.
Good slime. Slimy slime. Goopy slime. They kind of slime you need to put in a leak-proof container and bring to school to show people kind of slime. The kind you ask mum to stand next to you, with her own little bowl and spoon, so you can show her your special recipe kind of slime. And yea, though it was remarkably close to the one she was trying to show him weeks ago, it was so much better because the boy made it himself.
He had to learn this his way. And low and behold, he did.
On this magical night when proper slime finally was created, as the mum was walking out of the room after the high fives and well-dones, she heard it.
The boy’s voice. Quiet, clear, and confident.
“I AM a scientist!”
He said it to himself. It wasn’t bravado. It was fact.
The words hung there in the night.
And suddenly, the parents knew that all of it was worthwhile. And they were pleased that though their patience had been tested again and again, this time, they knew they had helped their boy on a remarkable journey of self-discovery.
You might come yourself to this enchanted house. You might still see the huge tray full of half-mixed concoctions. Yes, there are stains on carpets that are ignored, and you might rightly stare hard at the cups and spoons you are given which may or may not still have traces of the taste of glue clinging to them despite the parents’ best efforts.
But the family hopes that if you come through their doors you will see Progress. This once dark and stormy house has become a happier, calmer place. It’s far, far from Perfect Land, this much is certainly true. But in SlimeVille there are pockets of joy and self-satisfaction. There are bridges across Sensory and Cognitive Needs to Productive Lives.
And what was once a battle has been redrawn into a shared camaraderie, a past-time that opens doors for discussions between them rather than the flashpoint for shouts and frustrations.
The boy had been trying to say this for years. Once again the parents were too slow to see what he was teaching them.
But they learned, and it helped.