Play, A god given right for all children!
Its importance is critical to the development of every child regardless of, Class, age, race, gender or ability!
With every game of peek a boo, every story told and building block added to a carefully constructed tower, your child learns something new & exciting.
A child may not speak or be able to hear, he may not walk, they may be even confined to a wheelchair, nonetheless this doesn’t mean the child will benefit from play any-less, regardless of a child’s disability, they should be encouraged in play, and will enjoy it like any other child.
As a mother to three children, I really love playing and interacting with my children, whether its make-believe, a board game or something else all together! Though yes, I do admit it’s not always easy to find the time, yet its something I consider important so try to make it a priority (something we engage in a few times a week minimum).
As most regular readers will know, my eldest son has Aspergers syndrome which forms part of the autism spectrum. At almost 11 years old, Little man was my first-born, when I was at the tender age of 18. I noticed pretty early on in little mans life that his play style was somewhat different from what I considered to be typical play for a child his age.
My daughter didn’t come into our lives for a further two and a bit years, meaning I had plenty of one on one time with my developing baby. Games such as Peek a Boo or sing alongs didn’t give of that WOW factor for Little man, instead they sent him into a howling frenzy.
Regardless of the above I persisted in my quest, a road of discovery, encouraging my child to engage in interactive play. I knew he got enjoyment from playing alone, I didn’t discourage, though I didn’t reframe from interactive play either! I’m convinced this has been of some benefit to my child now his older.
Play helps feed a child’s imagination helping it grow, it allows a child to use creativity while helping them to connect to their surroundings and adapt play to their environment. I believe that play can help a child learn certain roles and requirements while aiding the development of dexterity, physical, cognitive strength.
When your child is on the autism spectrum, play may not be what you typically expect it to be!
Yes, I learnt the hard way, don’t we all?
I learnt that my child didn’t actually require all the latest toys that the boy next door was playing with. My expectations both before and after Little man was born were unrealistic, I had naively assumed that all children played the same way! Play was play, nothing more, nothing less, It all amounted to the same thing! God I had a shock awaiting me and a hell of a lot to learn.
I had no intention on lying to my friends and family when I announced that Little man loved Bob the builder only to end up with a house full of Bob merchandise come Christmas! In some respects I think I half convinced myself it was the case, well he had at least glanced in the direction of the tool kit I had brought him! It wasn’t just Bob the builder, I was a mother moving with the times & quite honestly the latest craze that I quite often learnt about from the gloating neighbour who would quite often proudly inform me about the latest Spiderman bike her son was now whizzing around on! The next week Little man would have that very same bike, though it remained in the cupboard by the front door only ever seeing the light of day once, twice if you include the day I awkwardly tried to get it home on the bus. This was one of hundreds of toys that were both a waste of time and yes money!
Looking back as I write this I get a glimpse of how bloody crazy I was! Yes, total denial sweep through me.
It was only once I had taken a few steps back and observed the situation that both myself and especially little man began to benefit.
I note… No, Little man did not like playing with Cars (though he quite does today) he did however love spinning the wheels over and over again! I decided that actually that was OK.
I note… No, Little man did not love Bob the builder (though I only wish I had kept all that merchandise as my youngest is Bob gaga) though he did love Thomas the tank. I decided again, that was fine!
I discovered that between the ages of 2 and 7 Little man only ever really played with train sets and transport mats despite his bedroom now looking like the Disney store!
Finally I excepted this!
I stopped focusing on that Little boy next door, therefore letting go of that, “My child should be playing with that toy” scenario! I focused on the Little man instead and what I saw was no longer what I felt I needed to see through my own stereotypical rigidness, I now saw Little man for the child he actually was! I successfully learnt my first very valuable lesson about play!
“Play is unique there is no right or wrong way of doing it”!
By stepping into Little man’s world while taking small steps to engage with him in this child lead play I noticed he slowly became more interactive, wanting me to take an interest in his games.
Yes, all along I just needed to go with the flow (so to speak) I needed to embrace and celebrate his interest, a massive milestone
Oh, and did I mention that big credit should be given to my wonderful daughter? Siblings can actually be a massive source of learning for the child on the spectrum, Alice-Sara certainly was!
Alice-Sara was that child who played like I also assumed all children did! She played the way I always expected the Little guy would!
Through sheer willingness and determination his younger sibling did something wonderful without really knowing it! She introduced her older brother to role-play! She taught him the value of this type of play and helped him develop the tools needed to engage in it!
It is this aspect of play that I firmly believe is the true instrument needed for a child with Aspergers to progress.
I don’t know if Alice-Sara just longed for this type of interactive play from her older brother, but as a small child she fought to get it, and she did!
OK, it isn’t perfect, as much as he is able to engage in such play it is still largely ritualistic and he can become overly controlling often using his younger sibling as a play object, yet his come a long way!
However ritualistic and Un-spontaneous his play maybe, his sister has successfully taught him how to play schools (a game he still plays today, though it always involves a school “bus”) he also loves playing shop keepers and hospitals (if his the ambulance driver of course)!
This variety of play offers so much to the child on the spectrum. The child will learn important social interaction skills, and a number of other important life skills they will acquire in life.
I’ve seen my Little man go from the child who really did prefer the box as opposed to the toy that came in it at Christmas (mainly due to what I was giving him) to a child who now enjoys play so much more and through he still does it alone, he is much more willing to play with his peers even if they don’t always oblige to him joining in.
Yes, he still has them “odd” items on his Birthday and Christmas wish list; Batteries padlocks, neon electric fly zapping lights; and 20 cans of DR pepper to name a few; yet he also loves, computers, lego, model buses and trains, bikes, scooters, board games and magic tricks.
Recently I saw a worrying statement
“As easy as child’s play don’t apply to children with autism”
“That is bum fluff!”
“Just because it isn’t typical doesn’t mean it isn’t magical!”
I learnt that the hard way, I hope you don’t!