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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Games with Janey

One of the challenges with Janey is finding ways to play with her.  Playing keeps her engaged, and it gives us a chance to work on turn taking, speech, imagination---and most importantly, I want her to have fun!  But like a lot of things I try to do with Janey, it's easier said than done.  Actual, structured games like board games are beyond Janey.  Often I resort to baby type games with her, like patty cake or Here We Go To Boston or even basic peek-a-boo.  But Janey's not a baby, and although she enjoys those games, they don't have a lot of scope for expansion.  Imaginative play doesn't really work.  Janey doesn't get it, and since doing real things like using the phone are not something she can do, pretending to use the phone or pretending to put a baby to bed or so on are not fun for her.  If you don't get what you are pretending, it's hard to pretend.

There's a few things that work.  One is playing catch.  Janey loves to catch and throw balls.  She's no expert, and she misses most of the time when catching, but that doesn't bother her.  She's not that bad at throwing!  I crocheted a ball out of yarn and stuffed it, for safe in the house play, and the other weekend all 5 of us had a very good time tossing it around.  We play with balloons sometimes too, and kick a ball around outside on occasion.  Another favorite of Janey's is one she plays mostly with Freddy---the "I'm going to get you!" game.  He chases her around yelling "I'm going to get you!" and then catches up with her and grabs her shoulder and says "I got you!"  She screams in excitement and then runs off again, turning around now and then to say "I'm going to get you!" to spur Freddy on.

The cats provide us with a lot of entertainment, and I am really pleased that lately Janey seems to notice them a lot more.  She likes gently patting them, and she LOVES the game where I pretend they should be able to talk.  When I tell them to say hi to her, she laughs and laughs.  I think on some level she gets it---cats can't talk, but I'm telling them to talk!  She probably relates to that quite a bit.  And I can get out a little frustration with what I say to the cats "Now, come on, Ash!  You could at least say 'Hi' to Janey!  Be polite and say hi to her!"  The cats never do, so we settle for them giving Janey a high five.  That game can keep her happy for long, long periods, until the cats get fed up and leave.

Last night we had a long round of another of her favorites---Ghost.  This means just putting a blanket over her head or mine and saying we are a ghost.  It actually allows a lot of work on skills.  I can ask Janey if she wants to be the ghost next or if she wants me to, I can give her ideas what to say as a ghost (mostly OOOOOOOO, but we mix it up a little with some "I've come to haunt you!" and so on), we can work on pretend and real when I pretend I really think Janey is a ghost, and then she takes a blanket off and I made a big deal of being relieved it's just my sweet Janey.  We can easily involve other people by going in to scare Freddy or William while they do homework.  And I can introduce words---last night we worked on "double" and "two" by being a double ghost together---the scariest kind of ghost of all, I used to always say when the boys were a double ghost to scare me, back in the day!

As fun as the few games Janey get into can be, it's also frustrating work to play with her.  She never introduces new twists on her own.  She'd be happy if I just played peek-a-boo with her for hours on end.  I have to be very careful to try to vary what I say during games, or it becomes a fixed piece of echolalia forever associated with that game, and she gets upset if I don't say the right thing.  And perhaps the hardest part is that Janey rarely seeks out playing.  She'd  probably frankly be happier if I just mostly left her alone to watch a video or bite on a biteable toy.  It can start to feel like a one-man show playing with her after a short time.  But I do have to believe it's valuable time.  Even if she learns nothing from playing, if she's enjoying herself and enjoying my company for a few minutes, that's a plus.  That's what we want our kids to have as part of their childhood---happy interactions with their parents stored somewhere in the memory banks.  I hope Janey's brain has a place with that kind of memory.


Sophie's Trains said...

I get its hard. Playing with Sophie is hard work too and feels like a one-man show often. She would enjoy all the games Janey likes too. Running, chasing, peek-a-boo.. Basically anything she uses her body for and which she can predict the outcome. Not too many rules or pretending.
Its hard for me too. I love to play imaginitive games with my kids, especially ones with little play sets and figurines. I saved all my older daughter's polly pockets and playmobil people but I don't think Sophie will be into them. I'm happy when she chuckles at wooden Thomas saying "hi" to her :)

Bethany said...

I have to let you know - I check your blog every day like some stalker or creeper! I gobble up every word you write - your writing resonates with me as such honest truth. I relate to so very much that you write that it's like your in my head putting words to thoughts I didn't even know I had. Thank you for being so candid, honest and open. Thank you.

anabel said...

We were playing a board game with Alice just yesterday, where one person hides a lalaloopsy doll somewhere in the house and the other person picks up cards that have questions for clues (e.g. "Is she in a room with a bed?"). It was definitely a challenge. First, to get Alice to understand that one person needed to hide the doll, and the other to ask for clues in finding her. Secondly, when we would find the doll, Alice would cry, like the game was ruined.
It is so hard to keep enthusiastic and cheery when literally every interaction with Alice ends in tears and frustration. I'm new to this autism journey, and I'm trying so hard to keep my mood and outlook up. It gets so difficult some days, I just wish I could flip the switch in my head that makes me say "It's hard, but it's going to be okay"

Suzanne said...

Anabel, I wish I had that switch too. I have that thought of it going to be okay for little flashes at a time, and it's a big comfort when I do, but I know so much what you are saying about the frustration and trying to stay cheerful when your child isn't. On days when Janey is crying all the time, I know that me falling apart too isn't going to help, but I'd challenge anyone out there to keep up the cheerful face when it gets that discouraging.

Suzanne said...

Bethany, you certainly made my day by saying that! That's the kind of stalker or creeper everyone wants! I appreciate so much you saying that about being honest. That's the biggest thing I try to do when writing here. It means more than you know to feel like it's helping someone.

Suzanne said...

Boy, can I relate to the Playmobils and Polly Pockets and wishing Sophie would get into them! Janey was my last hope for that. I bought the boys more Playmobils than my budget ever should have, but they didn't ever care a thing for them. And I was collecting Polly Pockets at lawn sales before Janey was ever even a thought. And now of course they just sit in a box. I used to look for ages at those Calico Critters at fancy toy stores and imagine the day I'd play with them with Janey when she was a baby. I feel petty sometimes how very much I had dreams of the games Janey and I would play that I don't think we ever will. But I know the feeling of being happy that Sophie laughs at Thomas saying hi! Tonight I made a panda toy say hi to Janey and asked if it would give me a kiss, and Janey held it up to me, and I was hugely thrilled.

mknecht24 said...

We have a different problem. While Lindsey is 13 now and kids her age don't play with toys, she still likes baby toys. That is a whole other heartbreak. She never engaged in a game or pretend play, now or back then. Lindsey is stuck in this weird limbo. In some respects, she is every bit of 13, and she is also infantile wanting to listen to her Baby Einstein radio repetitively. What should I do? I just let it go. If she's happy with it, so be it. And I thank God that the reign of Polly Pocket terror is over. (I hated those!)