Here are some things that we are doing with R these days
Expanding of themes and Pretend play
One interesting thing I am noting these days is how R expands everything he learns
Example- he used to love to make me play an imaginary violin – ( tune from Elmo’s Key-board-a-rama )
Now he has broadened that theme –
So he will point to a scrape on his hand and demand “Hurt play violin”
Then I must move the scrape from side to side ( as though it were the strings of a violin)
or “Potty Seat play violin” or “Water play violin”
I try to stretch the theme in another direction to another musical instrument but same object “ Water play piano “( clarinet, flute, drum and so on )
To further branch out, I also make this the theme of our alphabet game in the trampoline while jumping –
So I will say “ A for “... expectant pause and R will reply “Accordion” ,
B for Banjo ,
C for clarinet,
D for drum and so on
( We make some exceptions for some we do not know and we cheat for those alphabets , like E for Elephant.
A few alphabets stand for R’s favorite things so there is an exception made for these as well – Example R for “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” and S for “Santa Claus is coming to town” and “Y for “Yellow Submarine”. And of course “ M for mummy “)
It’s the same with all the Pretend play –
if he learns a general scene in the Dollhouse – Example mom climbed up the stairs and went into the kitchen
He will recreate the same theme with another playset – with Rocket and make the Little Einstens solemnly climb up the stairs of the rocket
The idea is that this will then lead to original themes
Pretend play is critical for abstract thinking which is one of the main gaps that can remain in Auties which is why DH and I are very focused on it and one reason why our house looks like a toy store
We are trying to teach R is to follow the gaze
( try this in your car on the highway – look on the side to the person riding the car on your side – invariably that person will look around to take a look at you – Neurotypical people reference socially in a matter of course. Auties ? Not so much )
I am trying to teach this to R – like in the library there are dolls on the ceiling
I ask R – “Find Elmo”
Then I look at Elmo and see if he will follow my gaze
Coming painstakingly slow
Though what he has is logical –
the other day I poured water on him in the bathtub - as he moved away I asked solicitously
“Hot” he replied
Scripts are not a perfect solution either
Example: if he wants candy we have taught him the script “Can I have a Blue Dum Dum Please?”
However if he wants to go to Toys R Us he will use the exact same scripts “Can I have a toys r us please”
Its logical and meaningful but not fluid
Another example, when I return from ATL at 5.30 pm on Tuesday, I find that R’s therapist is here: I slink around soundlessly( I know from past experience that if he sees me he will waste his therapy session in tears and demand Mummy time every 2 minutes )
When the session ends R gasps with joy and does his happy dervish dance saying “ Mummy Mother Mama”
( so he is expressing joy in a very typical fashion - but typical words needs to come too )
A charming thing he does these days when I say Good Bye to him he replies anxiously " hello miss mummy" as he does not want me to go
( again a logical expression but still not right )
( beatles are a big favorite with R , and he watches their videos on You tube which is the reason for the Hello Goodbye motif)
You can see the theme in all these examples - he is communicating through words clearly, but still has such a long way to go
He loves to show us all his hurts
DH teases me that he is a hypochondriac - but I wonder if its less to do with self pity and more to do with the fact that he wants to express himself and this is one of the few ways he knows how to talk about
In fact this skill of joint attention where child shows you something and their pleasure is increased by you sharing in that pleasure is really great !
So he will say and sometimes write on the side of the bath tub things like
0 hurt ( 0 stands for his stomach as that is what he calls his navel owing to its shape )
To check the crossing over the midline – the other day while he was eating chair – I put some Shredded cheese ( he loves this ) in a plate on his left side
Interestingly I noticed that our OT was absolutely right and R switched hand dominance constantly
However he crossed over the midline - as in right hand crossing over to the left side to pick up the cheese
Episodic memory –
Another thing we are also trying is – help him understand his day – so while I am putting lotion on him after bath in the night – I ask
Me : Today in the morning we went to the park.. there we played with ……. ( I leave an expectant pause )
R Replies “ L and C”
Me: Then we came back home and played on the ……. ( expectant pause )
R replies .. Wii Fit
Episodic memory is critical becasue it is the starting point of what Greenspan would say are Level5 and Level 6 of thinking - grey area thinking - things like self reflection on emotion
So R at a later stage would need to think about his trip to the park at higher and higher levels
Then describe his emotion on that trip
Think about the memory from different perspectives - understand how he came across to C and L
Then eventually be able to reflect on his emotion and correct course for the future
Medium Level thinking : I had a lot of fun because of I love physical activity
Slightly higher level thinking "I think C likes me because she tried to spend time with me at the park"
Highest level thinking " I stayed too focused on the physical activities.. i should have spend more time socialising"
But it all has to start with episodic memory and practising thinking about it !
I am typing up this summary on my way back from Detroit – after a looooong day at work and all my co-workers have fallen asleep
But not me
I love this bit of any work trip
The bit before I get home
Anticipation is a lovely thing and a great source of joy for me .
One onerous thing that mums and dads of auties realise at some point in time is just how much needs to be taught - when your child is younger you think in terms of speech
Of course the flip side - and the side that I choose to focus on - is how much potential there is in our kiddos
And if you treat developmental milestones with a "what is next in my journey" perspective rather than a "he is 6 and still not doing .... " perspective - you have just as good a shot at happiness as anyone else !
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