Monday, April 9, 2012

Reminiscing Childhood Play As a Girl On the Autism Spectrum

I've read a few news articles lately talking about the differences of how girls with autism play differently than boys do, mainly how girls don't do as much lining up and fixate on eccentric subjects.  This got me nostalgic of my childhood.  How did I play?  Was it all that much different than other girls?

I have an extraordinary memory of ages that most people (non-autistic anyway) can't remember. While I only remember snippets I can fondly recall some memories from when I was just a year old. My favorite thing to play with when I was about 1-2 yrs old was a Humpty Dumpty puzzle. Much like the one to the left.  I'd dump it out and redo it all day long. It now strikes me as something that might be a little difficult for an average 12-24 month old, but nonetheless, it was my favorite.

When I got a little older I really liked books.  I wanted my mom to read me the same books over and over again.  My favorite one was 'The Poky Little Puppy'.  I just couldn't get enough of it!

My next book obsession was the Sweet Pickle book collection.  I loved the stories and the little maps they had in the back of the book of the town.  My favorite book out of that series was:
Funny how even at age 3 I knew how anxious I was!  I couldn't stand 'Me Too Iguana', though.  Copy cats and people who are unoriginal still are pet peeves to me now as an adult!  I would recommend these books for any spectrum child, as they really capture emotions in ways that an autistic child can grasp and learn from.  My son Particularly liked 'Zip Goes Zebra'. I'm guessing due to Zebra's zany personality and love for adventure.

As a got a bit older I started playing with dolls and play dishes.  I was the type of child who could entertain herself for hours with very little toys.  I never did master the art of pretend play.  When I played, there was always a script, or a plan.  If I played with my dishes, I'd spend more time arranging them, than actually playing with them, and I never ever pretended to fill the cups with liquid, or plates with food.  I'd always use real drinks and real food.  Seemed idiotic to not use any when there was some available.  Never was sure why other girls didn't.  I rarely played tea with other girls when I was really young.  I didn't get much of an opportunity, and I was too bossy, anyway.

I didn't play as much with baby dolls.  I did however play quite a lot with Barbies.  Most girls would dump all of their barbie things out into a pile and just use things as they pleased.  I didn't do unstructured play like that.  I would line up every Barbie (I had about 5) then I'd categorize every item of clothing and accessory.  Ball dresses, skirts, shirts, shoes, ect would all have a pile.Then, if I were playing with someone else we'd take turns picking from a pile until it was finished. If there was an odd number the odd item would go to another pile to be picked through evenly at the end.  Every Barbie always got the same amount.  To me, this was fair and the best way to play.  Needless to say, other girls wouldn't always want to play with me this way.  If they were my cousins, or people that I didn't like much I'd tell them they had to or they couldn't play with my Barbies.  I'd rather play alone, than with them messing up my order.  If I were at school with girls that I wanted to be my friend, I may concede to their way, but I'd get very whiny and moody as the time crept on, with my order messed up.  It was like a small itch gradually turning into a thriving rash. I barely could ignore the fact that my routine was destroyed.  I played almost every game this way, even Legos.  Legos were categorized by shape, then chosen by the players.  You played with your Legos and doll stuff, and I played with mine.  Only under negotiation was there to be any trades.

I used to line up many things.  I'd spend hours lining up my stuffed animals. I'd categorize them first, by color, or by animal ie; lions, cats, bears, ect..  I'd line them up by a category, look at them from all different angles and from across the room, take the line down, and do it again.  I used to do this with almost everything you could think of, dandelions, rocks, weeds, silverware, anything!

I'd play 'store' a lot.  That's where I'd set up tons of objects as if they were in the store.  I'd even make little price tags for the items. This literally would take me all day.  I didn't always even get to play with the stuff I arranged because it would take me so long to set it all up.  My favorite was to play this was outside with old jars and soup cans.  I'd fill them with dirt and line them up, then dump them out and do it all over again.  My mother didn't like that one as much, and I always got into trouble for playing with broken glass jars and rusty old cans.

By the time I turned around 10 years old I was really into Little House On The Prairie books and horses.  If I wasn't reading I was drawing about it. I loved those books! I did like to dress up like I was a teacher and read the books aloud to a pretend classroom.

My obsession with reading kept on through my teen years,as well as lent itself to a love of writing.  Play was swept aside at age 13 by an old timey typewriter.  I spent many a nights clack-clacking away (much like now!) a story for the fun of it.  To replace my need for categorizing, I began making lists.  I made lists of the boys I liked, or what clothes I wanted, or friends I had.  I listed things I wanted to do, did do, or what I liked to do.  I made lists of lists.  Much like now, I could never see boredom in the world that I could always find something interesting to do.

One last toy to share before I can call this an inclusive entry of beloved toys and books:
Anyone remember the Spirograph? It used to keep me occupied for hours!