I love making dens. Throughout the generations children have been making dens. Special places for hiding away in, meeting with friends in, mini-homes with salvaged bits and pieces converted into useful items. Outside, dens are made in bushes, trees and tents. Inside, dens appear behind sofas, under the stairs, in cupboards, attics and in ready-made pop up tents. The possibilities are endless...
For the little person with autism dens can become an essential place to restore an overloaded mind. My daughter would often retreat under the table or behind the sofa. I had to learn that this was okay and something that she needed to do! It wasn't the hiding that was difficult for me to understand but the refusal to be comforted by me when her screams had accelerated and showed no signs of subsiding after several hours. Looking back perhaps this is how my little daughter was feeling:
My fears have got the better of me,
Overwhelmed by faces, voices, gestures and uncertain movements,
I retreat under the table,
Locked in by solid wood,
Surrounded by my favourite possessions,
Comforted by my own ticking mind,
Slowing down as my screams subside.
Having a special place to go to continues to be very important at home. We have created Special Agent Head-Quarters, Nature Detective dens, and cosy corners for snuggling down in with a book or other activity. Sometimes sister is invited in or maybe a special friend but the place needs to be safe from uninvited intrusion.
Happy adults often have their own dens: The shed, summerhouse, caravan, special comfy reading chair. Not such a bad idea is it? Taking frequent mini-retreats from the busy social world that we live in. Special places are almost sacramental. Sitting, thinking, being still, waiting ...