Monday, August 8, 2011
A Kind of Acceptance
When Alanna was younger, I used to buy her a lot of toys. I still buy too many toys for the kids. My wife will tell you it's my weakness. Toys "R" Us is a bad store for daddy.
Alanna was never interested in playing with toys "properly" when she was younger. She would play with parts of the toys, or lick them, smell them, stare at them, or do any number of "weird" things with them. This perplexed me a great deal, especially before her diagnosis. I tried to show her how to play with them properly and figured if I buy the "right" toy, she would like it and play with it a lot.
Fast forward to the present day...
We have taught Alanna how to use a number of toys as they were "designed". We have taught her how to play with pretend toys, and how to even pretend how to use things for functions for which they were not intended (e.g., feeding a baby with a block!) We are presenting trying to teach her to play with a variety of toys if they are laid out for her to play with, and we're trying to do this without a visual schedule because this is unnatural and we only want to do that if it is absolutely necessary.
Alanna will play with toys, but usually not for very long without prompting. She loses focus and goes on to the next thing. This is usually tied to sensory regulation. If she is regulated and isn't engaging in activities to stimulate her senses, she plays better. If she needs deep pressure, bouncing, running, etc. to stimulate her senses, the playing will not last long unless it is prompted.
It occurred to me the other day the purpose of play really is supposed to be fun. So buying her more toys with the hope she will find out fun means I have to obtain toys she finds fun. Most toys she finds "fun" are sensory toys. She will also play games with me, but on her own terms.
I used to think Alanna needed every waking minute to be "redirected" to ensure she was learning from her environment. Not only with that attitude completely burn you out as a parent, it is also unfair to your kids. Here's the reality - for Alanna, bouncing on the trampoline and bouncing on her bed is fun. Pulling out facial tissue and rubbing it all over your body is fun. Licking stickers and sticking them all over the place is fun. Emptying your closets and throwing your clothes on your bed is fun.
Maybe playing the way I want her to play is work. Maybe she does it sometimes because she is interested but mostly because I want her to do it. Kind of like when your dad tries to show you fishing is fun, but it's not.
Lest you think I've converted to neurodiversity with this post, I haven't. Play skills are still needed for school, to interact with others and to learn other skills. But it's still work. I can hope she will eventually find it fun. I can try to make it fun, but if I'm really giving her time to relax, shouldn't I let her do what she wants to do to relax (within the limits of safety and sanitation?)
Maybe the next time she is rubbing something all over her face, I'll just join her. It's work for me, but maybe that is the price of entering her world.