Does your child have any item they truly love playing with? Something that isn’t electronic? Something that they play with appropriately? What about pretend play? That has been a hard one for us. “Play,” such a small word, but one that holds so much impact in development. We are all told how important pretend play is, but until your child doesn’t do it, you really don’t understand just how important it really is.
This weekend we had the most wonderful experience, one we really have been hoping for but hadn’t happened as of yet. Matthew engaged in a long, uninterrupted, non-directed session of pretend play! He grabbed some small Legos StarWars figures and started to mess around with them. Next thing we know he is setting up scenes from the Legos Play Station 3 Star Wars game. His brother joined in and they were enacting battle scenes and making up their own action. I casually made mention of what they were doing and Matthew pipes up and says, “Mom this is pretend play. They are like action figures and it is so much more fun when you move them around.” He even started to take them apart and put them back together. I was really impressed by this since he has a lot of problems with hand strength and fine motor skills.
I’ve always sort of loathed pretend play ever since we had an Occupational Therapist from his infant and toddlers years. She impressed upon me how very important it was for Matthew to learn how to play and she brought me this child’s play garage. She left me with the assignment of teaching him how to play with this darn garage. (Oh how I hated the site of that thing.) Each day I’d take him over to the garage and with my hand over his I would guide him through the movements. Up the elevator, pump the gas, down the ramp. Repeat. But he never engaged, never even noticed the garage let alone the small car I held firmly in his hand. He didn’t even notice me. It was a painful time and I hate to recall it. Things seemed so bleak back them. He never really developed any love for pretend play.
This past Christmas Larry decided he would get the boys a few Legos PS3 games to maybe introduce them to the video games so many of their peers played. He decided on the Legos StarWars games after reading so many good reviews. To try to heighten the excitement I also bought the Legos StarWars Advent Calendar. Matthew showed no real interest in it, but Nico loved each new figure or machine and begged me to help him put them together each morning. But once they got the PS3 game Christmas day, they were hooked. I was excited and happy to indulge them in their extremely normal infatuation. Our home has become overrun with light savers, storm troopers and Darth Vader masks, and little Lego StarWars men. And then this weekend happened. Matthew picked up one of those figures and a lightbulb went on. He just got it. He just finally understood that he could play all those great StarWars scenes out right there on the kitchen table. He, and Nico, even had to take a few figures out shopping and to lunch, clutching them in their fists like small treasures. I’m seeing a real attachment developing. The same sort of attachment other neurotypical children develop and I’m liking it. Oh, yeah, I’m liking it a lot. Maybe I’ll find a child’s garage next.
About the Author
Maryann DellaRocco is the mother behind the blog Matthew’s Puzzle, which chronicles her journey into the world of autism and biomedical interventions. She is married and has three boys, her oldest is on the spectrum. Follow her on Twitter: @mehmig.
*Photo Credit: Hellotjm_Photos on Photobucket.