Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pretend play

We have been in California for the last three weeks.
Cousins are the best.
Older patient cousins are amazing.
Max mimicked them.  He observed their behavior and watched what they did.  By the end of the three weeks he had more words and was even trying new foods. 
If this is ANY indication of how pre-school is going to be I am super excited.
Max is very lucky to have such good role models in his life.

Pretend Play

"Young children learn by imagining and doing. Have you ever watched your child pick up a stone and pretend it is a zooming car, or hop a Lego across the table as if it were a person or a bunny? Your child is using an object to represent something else while giving it action and motion. But this pretend play is not as simple as it may seem. The process of pretending builds skills in many essential developmental areas." -Scholastic Magazine

Max has never done pretend play until this last trip to California.  He is just starting, but any movement forward is progress and we get very excited.  He started pretending to be on the phone, pretending to brush his stuffed animals hair and even feeding a stuffed baby.  He knows what to do, and is pretending to do them.  He usually will come and "show" us his new found skill and then go back to playing with cars or trucks, but we get overly excited.

Children on the autistic spectrum have a very hard time in social situations and pretend play is very social.  Some children pick up pretend play quickly and others, like Max, don't.  He has never showed an interest in anything other than his cars and trucks and things that move.  

Pretend play is important for three major reasons:
1. Imitation skills. Typically-developing children watch how others play with toys and imitate them. For example, a typically-developing child might choose to line up blocks one next to the other the first time they play with them. But as soon as the typically developing child sees others build with the blocks, he will imitate that behavior. A child with autism may not even notice that others are playing with blocks at all, and is very unlikely to observe others' behavior and then intuitively begin to imitate that behavior.
2.  Symbolic play skills. Symbolic play is just another term for pretend play, and by the age of three, most children have developed fairly sophisticated tools for engaging in symbolic play both alone and with others. They may use toys exactly as they're designed -- playing "house" with a pretend kitchen and eating plastic food. Or they may make up their own creative pretend play, turning a box into a fortress or a stuffed animal into a talking playmate. Children with autism rarely develop symbolic play skills without help: They may enjoy placing engines on a track, but they're unlikely to enact scenes, make sound effects, or otherwise pretend with their toy trains.
3.  Social communication skills. In order to be successful in pretend play and imitation, typically developing children actively seek out engagement and communication, and quickly learn how to "read" the intentions of other people. Children with autism tend to be self-absorbed, and have little desire to communicate or engage with playmates.

Here is a great article on pretend play and Autism.

California and Cousin David.

Cousin Andrew graduated from High School.
Pretending with his trucks instead of just lining them up.
But always with a lot of concentration.
Pretending to fix things like Bob the Builder.
Pretending to work like Daddy.
Bottom line - Family rocks.  Learn is amazing.  Growing together as a family with understanding is so important.  Max is so lucky to have a supportive group in his life all over the country.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Max's Third Birthday

Max had a very "Max" birthday.  It was perfect for him.  Quiet and not full of any crazy party.
He played in the dirt.
He got new cars.
He had pasta for dinner.
He had tons of raspberries.
He played with water.

 He LOVES balloons!  Grandma Strong got him a ton.  It was perfect.

It was a perfect day.

And this video made me tear up.  This was the first year we sang Happy Birthday to him with out a meltdown or tantrum.  It was amazing.  We sang soft, we cheered soft, and he was happy.
We are entering his world and he is responding.  He is growing, and we are too.

Happy Birthday Max!  This year is going to be your best yet!

We love you.
~Mom and Dad and Dexter too!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Schedule vs. Routine

Max has a definite routine.  He has a way he wants things done and has a very hard time deviating from the routine. 
  • Max always has to have Gerald and his two blankets to drink anything.  He holds onto them when drinking from his sippy cup.  He will look all over the house before he calms down to drink anything. 
  • He eats popcorn out of a specific bowl in the kitchen.
  • He likes to fall asleep on the floor and then we carry him to bed.
  • He needs Will to be with him when he falls asleep.  Even if he is just in the room he is okay but Will must be visible.
  • He puts himself down for a nap, not at the same time, but the same way.  He must have his blankets and Gerald and a cup of chocolate milk.  
  • The way he plays with his cars is a routine.  He lines them up a specific way, and remembers where certain cars go.  If you take a car out of the line up, he will find it and put it back in the same place.
  • When he does say words it is because he has made it a routine.  For example right now we are working on hello and goodbye.  He routinely says hello and goodbye to people, animals, and even things (like the pool) but he doesn't make great eye contact.  He just knows this is what we do when we leave or when a person walks into the room.  Hearing him say "hi dawg" and "bye bye pool" is pretty cute.
  • When Max asks for cheese, he always wants a piece of bread.  He will rarely eat one without the other.  
Our family schedule changes constantly.  He does have a bedtime routine and we do things the same each day, but as long as his "routine" isn't off he does okay.  We are traveling right now to California.  He does well with traveling as long as he has his daily routines.  He doesn't even mind sleeping in a hotel or in a new place.

Routine is very different than a schedule.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Just a Kid

Max is really just a kid.
He is loving summer.  He loves playing outside.
We actually have noticed an increase in words because of his obsession of being outside.
He will say "Walk" to mean go outside and bring us the stroller.
He says "Go Car" which translates to mean he wants to go out on a drive in the car.

He is just a boy who has a different way of learning.

Tonight we were with our good friends and their kids are so kind and patient with Max.  They played in their little pool outside.  Max was even getting involved with the throwing of water.  He doesn't quite understand that if someone throws water on him, he can then in turn, throw water back...but he was laughing and having a great time.  He loves water and could play in it for hours.

It is a good reminder to me as his Mom that he really is just a kid.  He wants to have fun, he doesn't want everything to be hard, he wants to learn and explore, but in his own way.  And really, who doesn't want that for themselves?
I think back to my childhood.  My Dad would practice basketball with us in the driveway for hours.  We would go over my shot time and time again.  But really it wasn't until I was practicing on my own, not being critiqued, that I really learned.  My dad gave me the basics, but I needed to figure it out on my own.

Max is the same.  He needs to figure life out on his own schedule, in his own way. 
 We just need to enter his world and his schedule.