Ever since newspapers picked up the story about John teaching Ian, a young man with autism, how to express himself through photography, parents of similarly situated children have been bringing their little boys and girls to him. Some of these children are probably too young to learn photography, so John ends up inviting them to come to Manila Zoo to meet Maali, the elephant that John has been taking care of for the past ten years. Within the main zoo, there is also a wonderful place called Kinder Zoo, where they can touch and be photographed with animals. Recently, it has set up a rock wall, and a zip line for children.
I remember John's story about one such little boy with autism. His name was Carlo. He did not like Maali, so John looked around for something to interest him. He was not keen about snakes and baby crocodiles at the Kinder Zoo, or its tortoises and monkeys. But he got attracted to the zip line, and pointed it to John. That’s what he found interesting, and that’s what he wanted to do.
John has learned that children with autism have no sense of danger, so John did not know if he would hold on to the rope until he was safely at the end of the zip line. He was very young, maybe 6 or 7 years old, and the mother could not reassure John either, as this was this boy’s first time for this kind of adventure.
John decided that to be sure this boy was safe on the zip line, John had to be holding on to him. The zip line was low because it was designed for little children, and John could be on the ground, running the full length of the zip line. That would have been the best arrangement. The line is about 50 meters long- a half of a hundred meter dash, and John thought that was doable. John was game, and so was Carlo. There was no need for anyone to push them from the platform. John simply had to run along with this little boy perched on a round seat that was hanging with a rope from the zip line. Off they went, and John zipped along on the zip line. Just as they came to the end of the line and John, huffing and puffing, was feeling grateful that he/they made it, this boy gleefully said “Again!”. Without hesitation or asking for a break, John said, “Of course,” and ran again. He huffed and puffed again, but he felt good to have satisfied this little boy’s whim to try the zip line. Twice.
He came home tired but happy to tell me the story of the little boy who likes zip lines. :)