Olobob Top was created by Leigh Hodgkinson and Steve Smith. It is a programme currently shown on Cbeebies aimed at pre-schoolers. I knew nothing about it until May this year when Oliver’s TA came out of school with him and told me about this “bigtop hill thing” programme he’d found on the computer. It had apparently amused him no end so she was going to find the proper name and make a card so he could put it on his “working for” board.
Now I know that sounds nothing in itself, kids go through phases but let me expand. From age 2 Oliver went to a private nursery. He stayed there (3 sessions a week to help socialisation) until he started reception class. He never brought me a picture home. Never painted anything for me. In almost 4 years I never got a painted picture, a drawing or even a scribble. I asked school not to send home teacher made things like mother’s day cards unless he’d done it because what’s the point? That’s a personal choice, if others want them then that’s fine, what works for me doesn’t work for everyone. It hurt a little especially as Popples was painting mad and my cupboards were full of her pictures, except a space I’d saved – just in case. The day after Mrs D (TA) had told me about this thing he’d found on the computer I went to pick him up as usual and she came out smiling. “Show mummy” she said to him and he presented me with this printout of a scene from Olobob Top (yes she found the right name) that he’d created himself. He pointed to something and whispered “Tib” so I repeated it and praised his beautiful creation. He looked quite pleased. We showed it to Popples, I took a photo and sent it to his dad at work. I found the blue tac and stuck it up. He had made it!
The next day he came out again and he was smiling and Mrs D was practically bouncing. He handed me 2 sheets of paper and said “olobob top”. I looked and almost cried- they were paintings! not only paintings, but you could actually see 3 different figures and they were recognisable as Tib, Lalloo and Bobble. This was the start of a new chapter for him. Usually uncooperative at craft time, he painted, he crayoned, he drew on the conservatory walls (who cares it’ll wash) he made play doh models, he made characters out of stickle bricks and he verbally requested “computer”. He often speaks in a whisper but some words were getting louder.
The biggest thing was reading. I know I’ve talked about Julia Donaldson’s books allowing me to spend quiet times with him, but things changed when Mrs D gave him 2 books for his summer gift. These were his books, they had his name in them. One was a sticker book, and the other was a flap book. He doesn’t like stickers. I tried to show him the stickers go in the book to make scenes but I got screamed at “NO MUMMY! IT’S MINE!” ok fair enough. He took his books upstairs out of my reach. That night my husband put Max to bed and when he came down he told me that Oliver was currently sticking stickers all over his bedroom. He didn’t know what to do because he doesn’t do stickers so I went up and said “what are you doing?” “Sticking” was the response – TO A QUESTION! “Sticking olobob top” he expanded while I stood looking at the stickers on the carpet, duvet, wall, pillows and chest of drawers. “That is fabulous sticking! You are so clever. It’s beautiful. Well done!” The pride on his face nearly made me weep. The I got invited onto the bed to look at the flap book. I tried opening it but it got pulled away so I sat back and let him lead. Eventually he moved it to within eyesight and pointed to the figures naming them. He’d point, say the name then look me in the eye (we don’t demand eye contact in this house) and wait for me to repeat it. Then he’s nod and reconfirm.
Our next reading session was instigated by him. He pointed to a pink bird on the cover and said “BIG” but I thought he said pink so I said “Pink”. He shook his head, and I thought I was going to lose him, he doesn’t like it if I don’t get it straightaway. He sat there and repeated it but we were having a miscommunication. Eventually he took his finger and ‘drew’ the letter b on the bed, then I then g. Light dawned “oh Big! big bird”. He then turned the book over, pointed to another bird and said “little” I repeated it then he pointed to another bird and said “small”. I didn’t know he knew that word! We were having a conversation. He was waiting for me to repeat, giving me eye contact and being in charge. I didn’t touch the book.
Every day he was saying “upstairs, Olobob Top book” and we were reading the way he wanted to. He was gaining in confidence and trusting me not to take over and let him lead me for a change. One day he pointed to Tib and said “it’s Bobble” so I copied and said the same, he looked at me and burst out laughing and said “it’s not Bobble, it’s Tib” oh dear, silly mummy. And that was the game that session, making mummy look a fool! But it paid off because the next day he finally opened the book and I got to see the inside, but just the first page. “Lalloo’s dress” so I added the word spotty. “Tib’s pants” so I added the word stripy. Expanding his vocabulary with no pressure for him to say it back, just giving him a word he might not have but if he chooses not to use it at that time that’s fine. He told me shapes, fish, trees, the other characters. If we are making stuff he says “you could make it up” and gets stuck in. He also has expanded his wardrobe thanks to Tib’s stripy pants, which is lucky as he ripped the bum out of his tartan ones swinging on his curtain pole, and all his other jammies were stripy.
2 more books were released (and bought), although I’ve not proved myself worthy enough to be able to read Norbert’s shop yet I live in hope 🙂 We were talking about Christmas with Popples and he came over and said “Olobob top toys, yes, Christmas” so I had to tell him there were no toys which we confirmed by googling, so he asked for “dvd yes” and again I had to show him there wasn’t any. He did his sad face but quickly rallied and asked for Go jetters instead. They have a laptop where he goes on and plays games, makes characters and scenes etc. He asks for it “computer cbeebies” or whatever he is after that day. He chooses to read with me, he does crafts, he has taken a passion of his and instead of it being confined to one repetitive game or action, he has brought it into more aspects of his life. He hums when he is doing things now, he talks quietly to himself (still a lot of jabber but some words) when playing, he seeks me out to do things instead of me having to instigate it, he knows his choices are important now. They always were but I don’t think he knew that. Now he knows if he wants to talk about the size of birds for half an hour, then mummy will stay and have as much enthusiasm at the end as at the start. I know there is a long, long way to go. I know that I may never have a conversation with him that runs along more conventional lines. I know his language is still miles behind. I know the sound of his voice, I know his laughter, I know he can joke, I know he is clever, I know that what he gives is the best he can and I know that’s enough. He’s calmer, he’s more patient and he’s more willing to try new things.
I got a painting off my son. He was 6 and I got his first painting. That was enough, everything else that has happened is a bonus. We were lucky he found something he felt so strongly about that he wanted to share. I know that Leigh Hodgkinson, Steve Smith and the Olobob’s don’t realise the world they’ve opened to my son has helped him, and us, so much. Thank you