If you were to stand and listen to my children playing, you would be convinced that they had a great imagination, however on closer inspection you would soon realise that the kids are not in fact using their own imagination but just reliving and repeating past events and/or scenes from their favourite films.
This is a common trait in children with autism, and one we never knew about (or noticed) until we started going through the diagnosis process for Danny boy. We thought he had a really vivid imagination as he would spend hours playing with his Toy Story toys (that was his obsession when he was 3) making Buzz and Woody talk to each other and putting all the parts on Mr Potato Head so he looked exactly like the one in the film (that alone should have gave us a bit of a clue really!!!) we explained all this to his Doctor when she asked about his imagination. His Doctor is a wonderful lady and we’ve been lucky enough to have her deal with all 3 of the kids, so when we told her about how good his imagination was she smiled and asked us to go home and listen to what he was saying when he played.
So that’s exactly what we did and boy did we feel silly!!! What kind of parents must we have been to not realise that our son was in actual fact re-enacting scenes from the Toy Story films word for word?!!! The more we listened to the games he was playing on his own the more we realised it was more of the same type of play, if he wasn’t repeating films or TV he was using the same voices and words that his dad would use when playing with him. With a lot of work we’ve managed to help him with this issue and develop his play, and while his play does still focus on copying things he likes (his latest obsessions are minecraft and star wars) he now manages to play without re-enacting everything to the last letter.
Up until this evening I thought this trait had skipped over the girls like so many others. I was in the kitchen making dinner while the kids were playing in the hallway and as I looked at them I thought what a nice little game they were playing so decided to have a little listen in. It turns out they were playing mummy’s and daddy’s with Poppy being mummy, Danny being daddy and Milly being the baby which I thought was lovely until I heard what they were saying :S
Poppy was pretending to be in a shoe shop and had taken all of our shoes off the shoe rack and put them on the floor – expertly lined up by Milly (I’m sure I will cover lining up in another post as it occurs in this house lots). She had 2 pairs of shoes in her hand saying to Milly “Daddy’s going to kill me for buying more shoes, lets not tell him I bought 2 pairs but they match the bags I’ve bought”. Now as much as I’d love to deny that this is a word for word re-enactment I know I have said these words before (I’m not going to tell you how many times as I know my other half will read this!).
With a little giggle to myself I turned to listen to Danny who was pumping his arms up and down and shouting to Poppy “I’m doing my weights in the garden shall we go to the pub afterwards for a treat?”. Milly started jumping up and down shouting that she wanted to go to the pub so they all pretended to get in the car and while Danny was ‘driving’ he said to Milly ” now remember the rules; sit quietly, no running or shouting or being silly” – another word for word sentence that we use regularly.
This got me to thinking about how they play at school and what other aspects of our daily life do my children repeat? Last year I had to go into Poppy’s playgroup and explain that I do feed her and that when she says that I won’t let her have dinner it’s not because I won’t feed her it’s because I won’t let her have it until her toys are away!
So if any of my children’s teachers happen to be reading this, I’m not a shoe addicted shopoholic who spends most of my time in the pub – my kids are just repeating episodes taken out of context…
…well the pub part is out of context at least 😀