Updated: Sep 20
Ryan Lee Rui Yang, Kindle Garden Preschool @ AWWA Ltd Ryan has often declared to others that he loves Andy*. It is no doubt that he does, and it really shows throughout his interactions with Andy! He is extremely patient and kind to Andy, and open to the different and occasionally unusual ways Andy loves to interact with him. As the K2s are doing a project study on “Primary School”, during conversations about who they will miss during Primary School, they both chose each other when asked personally (they were not aware they had chosen each other!)
Andy was actually first drawn to Ryan’s hair because of his sensory seeking traits. Ryan often cuts his hair short, and Andy loves feeling the texture of Ryan’s hair after a haircut. Ryan’s open-mindedness and acceptance led him to be open to Andy’s curiosity about his haircut, and his eventual understanding and willingness to accommodate Andy’s sensory needs led to the start of their friendship.
Being extremely affectionate, Andy loves hugs with Ryan, and their interactions often lead to playful games with each other. Even though they may not be in the same K2 class, Andy and Ryan often seek each other out whenever they can to spend time with each other during combined class activities. Due to Andy’s allergies, he often has a runny nose; Ryan would usually take a tissue to help Andy clean-up on his own accord. It is small moments like this that really demonstrate Ryan’s pure affection for Andy. Andy is non-verbal, but is very expressive through his body language and facial expressions. Ryan is able to read Andy’s cues well. Ryan's presence has significantly contributed to Andy's social-emotional development, as the bond between Ryan and Andy has created a safe and inclusive space where Andy feels comfortable expressing himself and exploring new forms of social interaction. Andy, who initially engaged in repetitive stimming activities on his own, found a newfound desire to seek Ryan's company and engage in interactions during these activities. Rather than isolating himself, Andy now actively seeks out Ryan's playful involvement, creating dynamic and engaging interactions between them.
For example, one of Andy’s stimming activities was to repeatedly pick up and drop different beanbags from a container. Ryan first begun to playfully throw the beanbags Andy has caught into the container, making it into a throwing and catching game. By embracing Andy's unique interests and finding ways to make his stimming preferences more interactive, Ryan has shown other peers how Andy enjoys being interacted with. Ryan's open-mindedness, acceptance, and genuine enjoyment of just spending time with Andy has empowered him to step out of his comfort zone and fostered Andy’s confidence and willingness to engage with peers in group settings.
With Ryan by his side, Andy has made significant progress in participating in simple small group activities with minimal facilitation from teachers too. For instance, during a catching game, Andy looks to Ryan as a role model and mimics his actions. By observing Ryan's behavior, Andy gains a better understanding of the roles and dynamics involved in the game. This modeling helps Andy develop social awareness and grasp the concept of turn-taking, leading to improved social interactions and meaningful engagement with his peers.
Just Ryan’s presence around different activities helps Andy better sustain his attention and interest in different tasks too. Ryan would often engage in the materials in ways that he knows Andy would enjoy. For example, simple reading activities that he does with Andy would become more fun and interactive as he would incorporate actions that Andy can imitate.
Ryan's positive influence extends beyond his direct interactions with Andy. Other peers also take cues from Ryan's inclusive and accepting approach, which encourages them to interact with Andy in similar ways. This includes showing more physical affection, engaging with Andy through his stimming interests and playing simple social games. As a result, Andy has begun interacting with a wider range of peers who he may not have typically engaged with before. Ryan's positive example has helped create a more inclusive and supportive social environment for Andy.
*Child's name has been changed to maintain anonymity.