In my recent blog reading frenzy, I read a few autism blogs that were about self-advocacy for people with autism. It was interesting reading. Not a whole lot of it applies to Janey right now, and that's not so much because of the autism but because she is seven, and if you let most any seven year old advocate for themselves, you'd run into some fairly big problems. However, I think there were a few lessons to be learned from what I read. It made me question---do I let Janey make the choices she is able to make? What choices CAN see make? I thought about what most seven year old can choose for themselves. They choose what to wear and what to eat, to a limited extent and from a limited set of choices, they choose who to play with at recess, again from a fairly limited set, they have a voice in what toys they are given, things like that. The big area they probably do have a lot of choice with is how to send their leisure time. Or at least they do if they aren't scheduled into all kinds of lessons. I was never much into doing that, so at seven, my boys had a lot of time to choose how they spent. Freddy spent that time as he does now, playing video games. William thought about, wrote about, drew about, read about trains and other forms of public transit. So do I let Janey choose her own leisure activities?
She does pick what videos she wants to watch, within our tolerance for constantly changing the disk or tape or Netflix. She is getting close to being able to do this herself, and that might be a big step for her getting to pick her own viewing totally. The other big "toy" she likes is the iPad, and that is where I don't think I've done a great job letting her have her own fun. The iPad is for lots of things. It helps her learn at school, which is wonderful, it helps with her speech therapy, it helps her write. I truly think it will revolutionize education in some ways. But at home, I think I was seeing it also as an educational tool. And it is, but I don't need to push that aspect. I didn't make my boys spend their time at home reviewing schoolwork at that age---I was quite opposed to that. But with Janey, I watch what she does and constant try to redirect her to "useful" apps---matching letters, math "games". And she sometimes like them. But other times, she wants to just have fun. She likes Toca Boca Tea Party---she sets up the tea party over and over and over, and pours tea and passes out treats. She likes a puzzle app that I find very poorly done---pictures that seem to be randomly cut into pieces. She picks one of a bunny and does the first 5 or 6 pieces over and over, with tremendous enjoyment. At Christmastime, she played with a animated song app every chance she got. And WHY do I try to prevent this? She seems to enjoy these apps very much. She switches between them---it's not obsessive hours on one of them. I think it's partly because even though I don't feel it in my heart, I have a little bit of that frantic "She has to learn all the time! She has to get FIXED from this autism!" Also, it's partly because I can---I can switch her to another app, I can put away the iPad, and she doesn't totally have the words to tell me "Mama, I wanted to play that! I love that game!" that the boys would have at that age.
I'm not sure what to conclude here, but I think it's important I keep in mind that Janey needs to be allowed to make leisure time choices as much as possible. I'm going to try to ask myself when I have the urge to re-direct her "Would I have done this with the boys at her age? Is what she is doing really hurting her in any way, or just annoying me somehow? Is she truly enjoying herself, or just stuck?" I think I'll be changing my behavior a little.