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Sunday, August 17, 2014

I Really Don't Get It...

It is hard for me to look at another child and think to myself...

Why? 

Why my son?

What is the reason?

Will I ever find out?

I see videos on facebook of kids Mason's age (and younger!!!) participating in the ALS ice bucket challenge with their parents. These kids are totally aware of what is happening.

(As a side note-I really think the awareness being spread for any disease or disability-in this case ALS-is AMAZING!!! Awareness is an amazing thing. It is easy to brush aside disorders and diseases if they don't affect an individual directly. I try to do the same with autism.)

I see  kids Mason's age age and younger. Cognitively they are so ahead of him.

It scares the crap out of me.

I have to be honest-I just don't want to deal with autism.

I know that individuals who suffer from ALS don't want to deal with it either.

I am not suffering. I don't know if my son is. But it is my job to advocate for him.

If I don't... then who will?

I don't want Mason to be a different person. I want Mason..my Mason...the same Mason that love and cherish...to be a child without autism.

I know there is this big neurodiversity movement going on where autistic adults get offended when parents of autistic children are not skipping through fields of daises, celebrating autism.

Maybe I will write about that soon because that is another subject that really annoys me.

I want my son to not struggle.

Is that really so much to ask for?

Is anyone listening?????

I would dump 1000000000000000000000000 buckets of water on my head for him.

And for anyone, for that matter.








Saturday, August 16, 2014

Spinning

Mason has always had a fascination with spinning objects.

I have written about it before.

A fascination with spinning objects is a sign of autism, and Mason displayed this fascination when he was very very young.

As a baby, he would look at ceiling fans. At the time, I thought nothing of it because...uh...lots of babies like to watch fans spin. There was nothing unusual about the behavior but it was noticeable that he did really like to watch them spin.

As he got older, things started to seem "off" to me.

I started to notice in his first year that he did not play with toys like other babies did.

He would not bang things on the floor, or hit things to light up.

His "play" was very methodical-it never seemed spontaneous to me. He would spin his toys-no matter what toy it was, and would watch.

I could tell he was looking for or at something specific, but I really had no idea what.

Again, at the time although there was a little nagging voice in the back of my head, I just brushed it off.

By 1 year I knew something was wrong. He was not developing any type of imaginary play. He was not interested in toys like other 1 year olds.

He would just watch objects spin.

By the time he was 1 and a half, it was obvious his preference for spinning objects was becoming somewhat of an obsession.

Preoccupation with specific objects is also a sign of autism.

Although Mason had a toy in his hand, he did not "see" the object for what it was intended. For example-stacking rings. He would just spin the rings over and over. By the time he was 1 he could spin two at a time.

He would spin the object, step back, watch, and was very serious.

He was looking at...something.

Here is a video of Mason two weeks after his 2nd birthday.

Spinning a quarter.

Here is another video of him spinning some bottles. (please excuse the television on the floor, I was waiting for my television stand to arrive at the time this was recorded)

Spinning bottles

As you can see, he is pretty good at spinning.

I am pretty sure he could spin anything!

We have really worked hard to eliminate how much time Mason spins objects.

When we first started Early Intervention, it was his preferred way to play and when we would try to get him to do something else, he would FREAK OUT.

We actually removed all spinnable objects in the house.

It was not because I wanted to be mean-I actually felt guilty.

The reason was that he was not interacting with anyone around him, or doing other things for enjoyment.

He was one and a half and would not do a puzzle, he would not sit and stack blocks.

So in Early Intervention we worked on other types of play for Mason.

His therapist suggested getting a mimi trampoline for him to control his sensory input which was causing the desire to spin.

All of these things worked!

He still does spin things but it is mostly when he is tired.

Sometimes he does it for fun which I am ok with because he is interacting, playing with other toys, can do puzzles, etc...

I loved when he spins something and then looks at me, very proud.

Spinning  is a part of who he is.

While I do want him to continue to play with other toys so that we encourage pretend play (which he still is in the very beginning stages of) I will never stop him from spinning.

Along with spinning, Mason LOVES fans. Any type of fan.

Last Christmas, there were 10000 toy commercials on television.

There was not one reaction from Mason when a commercial came on.

One day on the television, some low budget commercial for an injury lawyer came on.

There was a ceiling fan.

I didn't even notice it, but Mason went crazy and I had to laugh.

All the Christmas commercials and he was excited for a fan.

At the Zoo last week, while he loved all the animals, the fan that was spinning in the room with all the reptiles is what he was most excited about!

So Mason likes fans and he likes spinning...which brings me to what I wanted to write about today.

If I turn on my ceiling fan, Mason knows what speed it is on even really before it starts spinning.

He is not watching me turn it on-I mean the fan really does not even start to move.

If I turn it on medium or low, I am immediately called out.

"Fast."

Um...what?

Is this kid for real?

I have tested this numerous times to see if it is a fluke and every time I put my fan on a lower speed, Mason demands it to be on "fast".

I have put the fan on medium, then fast.

When the fan first starts spinning .0000001 second after I turn it on...the speed looks the same to me. Like...literally the fan doesn't even go around one time, and he can tell what speed it is on.

Seriously...how does he know?

Mason has spend so much of his life watching objects spin.

When I see him watching, I know he sees something none of us see.

Sometimes I wonder if his desire to watch thing spin will somehow spill over to his career as an adult.

I don't know what it could be-but it is fun to think about.

I know a big part of therapy for autism is to eliminate behaviors that are not typical and while I do understand why...I think it also is eliminating a part of who he really is.

Obviously I want him to interact with people, play with toys appropriately, and develop other skills.

But I think we will keep the spinning, too.




Sunday, August 10, 2014

Situations Are Not Always What They Seem...

So as most people may have read, there was some ridiculous story floating around the internet posted by some douchebag who decided to be "awesome" and stick it to a kid who wanted a fucking pie.

As a side note...the post has since been deleted from Reddit. Before the delete, the "author" claimed he could not produce a receipt for the pies, as the incident occurred 2 years ago and it was when he was living in a roach and bed bug infested apartment, and none of his belongings from that time period made it to his new apartment.

Um...ok.

He sounds really amazing. What a guy.

Reading the post, my personal opinion is that this really awesome dude who likes to make kids cry imagined this whole scenario in his head. 

The particularly stand out part for me is the "climax" of the story when the mother finally orders a pie and is told there are none left. 

She then demands to know who ordered all the pie.

Ok if I was ordering something at a fast food restaurant and I was told they were out, I wouldn't assume a guest in front of me decided to order the entire stock of that particular item. I would just think it was poor management of the restaurant.

But the author proceeds to tell the story like this:

Moments later I hear the woman yelling, "What do you mean you don't have any pies left, who bought them all?"

 I turn around and see the cashier pointing me out with the woman shooting me a death glare. I stand there and pull out a pie and slowly start eating eat as I stare back at her. She starts running towards me but can't get to me because of other lineups in the food court. I turn and slowly walk away.

Give me a fucking break. Did the whole restaurant slow clap as you slowly bit into your pie?

This guy is probably a dick who just hates kids and saw a kid crying in line and came up with this scenario. 

But the more disturbing thing to me is the response to the story.

The guy is called...a hero?

For "sticking it" to a kid who wanted a pie?

Most of the comments are along the lines of the "the little shit" getting what was coming to him. 

I do not understand society today....

Kids are HARD. They are UNPREDICTABLE. And honestly, parents shouldn't stay locked in their homes for fear their 2 year old is going to want a fucking pie.

And like for God's sake it is fucking BURGER KING. They sell crappy junk food and give kids paper crowns to wear. There is a friggin jungle gym in the restaurant. 

And this guy is complaining about kids?? 

Seriously people????

Who is the moron here? 

 13,000 comments  online.

I have a heartfelt blog about my son and I get like 1 comment a month.

With all that being said, there is another perspective I would like to bring up.

What if a child is having an outburst, and the child is special needs? What if they look almost 4  years old...too big to be having a tantrum on the outside, but on the inside their brain has not developed past a 1 year old?

Mason is 3.5 years old but developmentally in all areas, he is between 1-2 years old.

Only in motor skills is he considered "below average" but not delayed.

Every area of development, he is delayed. 

In cognition and language, he is extremely delayed.

Cognition is the set of all mental abilities and processes related to knowledgeattentionmemory & working memoryjudgement & evaluationreasoning& "computation", problem solving & decision makingcomprehension & production of language, etc. 

Mason does not understand abstract concepts. He is 3 and a half but does not understanding waiting his turn, sharing, things like that. It is not that he just doesn't want to-he does not understand what it is. He does not understand why he has to share. He does not understand that he can not immediately get what he wants.

This is all fine and dandy at 2 years old...but at 3.5 do you know what it looks like?

It looks like he is a spoiled brat.

I have gotten looks at the grocery store.

Mason wants...oh say... goldfish so I get him a bag and let him eat them while I shop to avoid a melt down.

This does not just happen with goldfish. It has happened with bananas...and he doesn't even eat them he just likes to look at them. Toothbrushes. Chips.

You name it.

I cannot bring him a bag of (insert item here) because I have no idea what his item of interest will be on that day.

Literally one day he wanted to hold a banana and look at it.

Anywhoo-

We get to the line and the item has to be scanned.

Kids this age you can say "the lady at the register is going to scan and then you can have it back."

Mason literally has no idea what that means.

I say it to him anyway so that people around me think I am being a good parent...but i know in reality we are .05 seconds from an anxiety attack because I took the goldfish away that I really didn't want to give him anyway.

Goldfish get scanned. My heart is pounding. I am pretty much sweating and taking short breaths because I know what is about to come.

Total and utter devastation.

He thinks I am taking them from him.

He screams. This ungodly high pitched scream that makes your ears pop.

The cashier looks at me-wide eyed in shock.

I freeze. I don't want to look around me because I am afraid of HOW everyone is looking at me.

Yes-my 3.5 year old is screaming bloody murder because his goldfish are being scanned.

And what can I do? 

I cannot leave him at home, I have to go food shopping.

He is already getting $75,000 a year worth of behavioral therapy.

I am not a bad mom, I just don't know what the right thing to do for a 3.5 year old who is developmentally a year and a half behind.

The cashier tries to give him a sticker.

No please God no. Stickers make him freak the fuck out.


I apologize over and over.

"WOW he must really be hungry."

I swear to God this has happened to me about a dozen times.

At Target on Saturday-same thing.

I decide I want to take Mason out and buy him a new toy.

I try to walk in with a positive attitude. This is supposed to be fun! Buying a toy for your kid...yipeeee!

I know the moments from when we pick out the toy to when I get into the car are just...I don't know what is going to happen.

I take a deep breath.

Mason picks out his toy- Dusty of course.

We walk through Target and Mason hands me the box.

"Help, please".

Shit.

"Mason, mommy will open it for you in the car. We have to go pay for it first."

He does not understand what that means.

He looks at me again.

"Help, please"...he says.

His tone is much more worried now.

I am breaking out into a panic, cold sweat, heavy breathing.

Please please please Mason keep it together.

All I want to do is be normal and buy my kid a toy.

I am like RUNNING to the cashier. Mason is getting more anxious as the seconds tick.

I am dreading "the scan".

Mason is starting to lose it.

"HEEEELLLLP PLLLLLEEEAAAASSSEEE" he screams as I am running with my cart.

Why do the cash registers seem like they are located in Antarctica? Why am I running in slow motion?

We finally get to the register and I take Dusty from Mason so it can be scanned.

And you guessed it-he is upset.

His mouth turns down and little tears come out of his eyes.

He is taking short breaths, gulping.

"Bye bye Dusty" he says as if it is his last moment on Earth that he will see Dusty.

The cashier looks at me

"Is he crying because he wants his toy?"

I stare at her. My eyes...I have no idea what the fuck I looked like.

She quickly scanned it and handed it back to Mason.

I moved away from the line and proceeded to open Dusty for Mason.

Know what I looked like?

A mom giving in to her bratty kid that could not wait for his toy.

I was so stressed out by that point I did not care.

But I did think of the pie story at that momeht, and all the people in cyber space who virtually high fived a man who lives in a nasty ass apartment with roaches for "finally sticking it" to a bratty kid.

Mason is going to have so many struggles.

What if some day an adult is cruel to him because he is not fitting into society's idea of how a child should behave?  

I am not a bad mom. I will try to discipline him. But for fucks sake I just want to get in and out of Target.

I just want to get in and out of Shoprite.

Do I "pretend" to discipline just to appease all the haters of kids who scream?

I seriously have enough to worry about.

Being judged, as much as I would like to say I don't care...well...I do.

I don't want people to think Mason is a spoiled brat-he isn't.

But I can see that at his age, he probably comes off that way in some situations.

And believe me, I am not "gentle parenting" shit-as I have said before I just want to get my ham and get the fuck out!

I guess the point of this blog today was just to present another perspective regarding a child's behavior, and their mothers behavior toward the child.

 If a kids seems like he is being unreasonable, or being bratty, it doesn't mean that he really is.

If the mom isn't giving some sort of Hulk Hogan smack down, it doesn't mean she is a bad mom.

But oh I forgot-if that was the scenario then everyone would be calling 911, recording the video, and posting it on youtube.

Seems like we just cannot win!








Thursday, August 7, 2014

I Saw The Sign

Many people ask me if Mason displayed signs of autism as a baby.

The answer to that question...looking back...is yes. And to be honest, I was very uneasy about development as he approached his 1st birthday.

During his first year of life, I did not mention my concerns to anyone other than my mom and sisters and a few other family members-it seemed totally ridiculous to me.  He was a baby. I was probably being a paranoid new mom.

I remember having a conversation with my cousin-Mason was probably 10 months old. In a joking way (even though I was not really joking) said I was scared Mason was showing signs of autism, and I felt like the media had too much information out there which was scaring new parents for no reason.

As I said the words though, in the back of my mind I was pretty sure I was the only person I knew who was worrying about this while other people were enjoying their kids.

If there was so much media attention that it was scaring new parents, why was I the only one scared?

What I realize now is that what I was referring to is Autism Awareness. And yup. I was aware. And today I am thankful for all of the awareness because I was able to start therapy for Mason at 16 months old.

When Mason was very little I was not really worried about developmental delays. Mason seemed to be hitting all of his motor skills on time- he rolled over at about 5 months, could push himself up on his chest at 5 or 6 months, he crawled at 8 months, could pull himself up to a stand around 10 months, and walked by 13 months.

Nothing out of the ordinary there.

Mason was a very good baby. As he got older, he could occupy himself for very long periods of time.

At first, I thought this made me very lucky. I had a GREAT baby! He could sit in the pack and play and I could clean the whole house and he never bothered me to come out, reach to be picked up. He did not look at me to see where I was.

Approaching his first birthday, this did not sit well with me. Not only was he not trying to get my attention, he really would not interact with me.

Now...there is a difference between react and interact.

Mason would react to my actions.

If I did something funny he would laugh.

If I played peek a boo he would pay attention, laugh, and show that he was interested in what I was doing.

He always gave me hugs.

He did not, however interact.

I would try to play back and fourth games with him and could not engage him. .We never did anything that could incorporate "turn taking".

He did not bring me toys or show me anything. In fact, he did not point or gesture at all.

Pointing was first on my radar as an important developmental milestone when my sister took her daughter, my niece Georgia, to her 5 month check up.

I had NO IDEA pointing was an important developmental milestone, but it is. It is actually just as important as babbling.

Georgia was pointing out things to her parents at 5 months old. She would point to lights, to birds...things like that. Before she was 1 year old, if you asked her to show her name, she could pick out her name and point to it.

My sister came home from the 5 month appointment and told me that the pediatrician was astounded that Georgia was pointing so early-most children do not point to show shared enjoyment-which is a child's desire to interact with others by using non verbal gestures- until closer to 12 months.

Pointing to show shared enjoyment is different than labeling which is another form of communication. Pointing to show shared enjoyment would be if your child sees an airplane in the sky and wants to show you. Labeling would be when you ask your child to show you something-for example "show me the airplane" in a book, etc...which would show development of receptive language.

Both skills are very important for language development.

Anywhoo-Georgia pointed at 5 months.

Cool.

I waited for Mason to point.

And waited.

And waited.

Mason did not point until he was around 19 months old.

At his 12 month appointment, I spoke with my pediatrician about his lack of pointing.

I had read if a child does not point by 12 months old, it could be a sign of a developmental delay.

I was told not to worry.

"But...he is not babbling either" I said.

Again, I was told all children develop differently and not to worry.

Alrighty then.

Other signs of autism before his first birthday- he did not "play" with toys-he did not bang things and turn things on and off.

He did not seem interested in different toys.

He would only "play" with toys that had a part that he could flick, or spin.

If I gave him a book, he would flick the corners of the pages instead of turning the pages to look at pictures.

One time, I wanted to see how long he would flick a page. It went on for about 30 minutes before I took the book from him. He never turned the page, just flicked the page corner over and over and over.

As the clocked ticked by during those 30 minutes, I could feel my panic grow.

WTF was this?

He was probably about 10 months old.

Mason always smiled. He always laughed at me. He did not tantrum. He liked to be cuddled.

The signs of autism in an infant and toddler have nothing to do with what they ARE doing.

The signs of autism are based on what they are NOT doing.

Now that Mason is 3-it is much more obvious he has autism than when he was 1.

He is talking  now, and pointing, and communicating.

I am THRILLED!!

This morning when we woke up, he asked for apple juice, cheerios, told me to sit on the sofa with him, and asked me to put on his favorite show.

Oh and he also asked me to built a tunnel with the sofa pillows.

Demanding little bugger-I was trying to make coffee!

However, Mason also has no imagination, he lines up his toys instead of playing with them. He shows signs of anxiety if something is not exactly how he wants it. He flaps his hands when he is very excited. He will probably still be in a diaper when he turns 4. He cannot use a fork, spoon, or straw. He screams with anxiety if I try to get him to eat new foods. He repeats the same phrases over and over.

Developmentally, he is about 24 months but he will be 3.5 next month.

If he wants something in a store and cannot have it, he looks like he is being a spoiled brat but really, he simply does not understand why he cannot have what he wants. He does not understand abstract concepts such as "waiting" and "sharing".

Looking back, I think of the little red flags. I understand why they are called "red flags".

I picture little red flags waving around Mason as a baby and toddler.

Look!

Pay attention!

See us waving??

I look back on that time and wish I could have experienced what parents of typically developing children experience.

The excitement of watching your child develop as opposed to a huge sigh of relief when the milestone finally occurred... a year later than it should have.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

Blah.

Here's hoping for more sighs of relief in the near future!










Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What Am I Looking For?

I remember the painful nights leading up to Mason's diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum.

The endless googling I did.

The search for an answer BESIDES autism.

I searched for blogs written by mothers who were afraid,  but everything turned out ok.

I would google the same things over and over...the behaviors that did not sit right with me. The nagging in my head something was wrong.

1 year old not babbling

1 year old spinning objects

1 year old not pointing

I would stay up way past midnight searching for another answer than the one that was hitting me in the face.

There was no way I could have denied anything- Mason exhibited every single "red flag" that was listed online for a toddler. Every single one.

I was sucked into a world of google, a world of learning about and understanding autism.

Of searching for answers.

A very lonely world.

I would read, and then put my head in my hands and the tears would come.

I didn't want this for him.

But obviously...it was not up to me.

A year and a half I still am searching...but I don't know what I am looking for.

I still google autism. I still read about behaviors. I still read and read and read about childhood development.

I read about children that enter adulthood and lose their support.

Who will support Mason when we are gone?

I talk about autism a lot. All the time.

Honestly, it is the only thing I am comfortable talking about. It is becoming an obsession for me to learn anything I can.

I watch my son and see his progress.

I am so proud of him.

But I also see his peers progressing. It is not like their development stops so Mason can catch up.

I see them developing faster and faster.

This fucking clock is in my head, counting seconds every day....ticking away time...

Can I do more? Should I do more?

What the fuck should I do?

I am looking for an answer... that I guess...

Does not exist.




Saturday, August 2, 2014

Friends

So Mason will be three and a half next month, and he still does not really understand the concept of a friend, or playing with friends.

Yes he loves his cousins. He interacts with them and will parallel play next to them. 

Parallel play is a form of play in which children play adjacent to each other, but do not try to influence one another's behavior. Children usually play alone during parallel play but are interested in what other children are doing. This usually occurs after the first birthday. It usually involves two or more children in the same room who are interested in the same toy, each seeing the toy as their own.

Many times his cousins are running around, he will join in and follow them.

He shows interest in what others are doing which is a huge step.

But he does not "play".

Example- His friend Noah was over last night. Noah is 5 months younger than Mason. He wanted to play hide and seek.

"Mason go hide, I will find you."

Mason did not look at Noah. He was lining up his airplanes.

"Mason! Mason! Lets play hide and seek!"

Noah got frustrated and looked at his daddy, my friend Tom.

"Daddy, why won't Mason play with me?"

This is a common occurrence. Other children getting frustrated because Mason does not acknowledge their request to play together.

Noah proceeded to act out the entire first half of Frozen, complete with choreography and singing while Mason inspected his airplanes.

If "playing" does not involve imagination or specific instructions by other children, Mason is all over it.

Noah started running around in circles, and Mason joined him. They both laughed. Noah turned the running into a game of "tag" but Mason didn't really get it.

But...they had fun. Noah continued to lap Mason and tag him, so he was happy that they were playing together.

I have dropped off Mason at school where I have seen all the kids yell "Hi Mason!" when he walks in. Mason does not say anything back. It is like they are not talking to him.

I have no idea who the kids are in his class. My niece and nephew who are the same age as Mason talk about friends in their class. My niece Georgia has two best friends at school.

I am literally clueless. At a fundraiser a few months ago, all the kids from school were there. They are ages 2.5-kindergarten and a mix of typically developing kids, and kids with autism. 

Mason's class is about 8 kids without autism and 2 with autism.

I recognized a few kids,  but Mason didn't acknowledge them when we walked by.

Most of them ran up and said hi to him.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like for Mason to get in the car after school and talk about friends, or what he did with friends...like other kids his age do.

At my mom's house a few days ago, my niece and nephew went up to Mason.

"Mason do you want to play outside?" asked my nephew Jules, who is 5 months older than Mason.

I could tell Mason was happy they were interacting. He loves Jules, and he loves Georgia, my niece, who is 3 weeks younger than him.

Mason did not respond to the question. Instead, he pointed to the ceiling fan with excitement and exclaimed "What is that!"

He knows what a fan is. For some reason, when he is excited, he shows people ceiling fans.

It is like he doesn't know what else to do, so he does the first form of communication that comes naturally to him which is showing lights and ceiling fans to everyone.

Jules and Georgia looked at each other.

"That is a fan Mason. Can you say fan?" said my little niece in her sweet little voice.

It boggles my mind they are 3 weeks apart.

Georgia talks about friends. She gets excited for birthday parties. She has even a few times talked about people that annoy her at school.

Jules and Georgia are together non stop. They hold hands when they walk together. They are best friends.

I know they love Mason, and they always try to include him.

These scenarios make me wonder how he will be at school when he is older. Will he want friends?

I am still baffled when people say to me it is a boy/vs girl thing and boys are "slower"

Um no. Boys his age PLAY. They PRETEND. At some point, people need to get over the boy/vs girl thing. A baby rolling over two months earlier than most therefore making them "advanced" is like...not the same thing as a 3.5 year old with severe developmental delays.

I love Mason. 

I love when he talks about airplanes.

 I crack up how every morning, he pulls me toward our ceiling fan light fixture and sings the same little song..."ha hoo ha hoo hoo ha ho" until I turn it on.

Even though when he wants the milk carton in the middle of the floor it is very annoying, it still makes me laugh.

I love watching him line up his toys and inspecting them. I wish I knew what he was looking at.

Every day he looks out my window to see the same bumble bee fly by, and he gets very excited when he sees him.

Mason is happy. He loves his family. He is affectionate, he gives the best hugs and he loves to snuggle and be tickled.

I cannot imagine him any other way, yet sometimes I just WANT to hear about his day. Hear him talk about a friend. And then I feel guilty because I know that is not who he is.

It is very difficult being a parent and just not understanding your child.

I don't know what his future holds. I don't know if he will even want friends. Maybe he will just be happy talking about airplanes. I have no clue.

Right now I am just mentally preparing myself to grasp that things that I would want for him maybe are not necessarily going to be what he wants for himself. 

Pretty sure that is true for any parent. I mean...it is  not like every single child grows up to be what their parents wanted them to be at 3.

We as parents are all on our separate journey and they all seem so different on the outside.

Sometimes I feel like I live on a different universe than parents of typically developing children.

But if you (I?) take a moment to look a little deeper...maybe it is not as different as I thought.





Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bumble bees, Airplanes, Fruit Snacks, Oh My!

Mason did something pretty cool this past week-but before I share what it was-I want to share WHY it was so exciting for me...

Typically, children on the autism spectrum lack the ability to imaginary play.

This is true for Mason.

He does not have an imagination.

The first signs of imaginary play emerge around 18 months old-your child will pretend to talk on a toy phone, pretend to mimic what their parent does around the house- cooking, cleaning, etc...

(I remember when my niece who lives in Philadelphia was  actually pretending to "look for a parking spot" when she was driving in a little plastic car-she was not even 2 years old. )

From there, the imaginary play skills will continue to develop.

My three nephews were really into the whole super hero thing around 2.5.

They would dress up as Spider Man, and Batman.

They would shoot invisible webs from their wrists at me.

My niece, along with pretending she was looking for a parking spot would make up stories about owning a bakery, traveling to California (um...what?),and now her big thing is pretending she is Queen Elsa.

My best friend who has a son who is a few months younger than Mason likes to pretend he is Disney Characters. He was 2.5 (maybe younger?) and reenacting the entire Wizard of Oz movie.

He runs around pretending to be the Wicked Witch, melting us all with his imaginary broom.

So anyway...you get the picture, right?

Mason...does not have an imagination.

He does not pretend.

He does not understand "Dress up" or "costumes".

In ABA therapy since last summer when he was 2.5, his therapist began to work on pretend play.

They started with rolling a car and saying "beep beep"

I was very confused at how this was all going to work.

I remember asking the therapist "Isn't he just imitating what you are doing? He really doesn't understand he is pretending to play 'cars' "

She agreed and explained that is how they start out teaching imaginary play.

Slowly, Mason did start to display very basic imaginary play skills.

He pretends to talk on the phone, he pretends to sweep the floor.

In ABA they now work on pretending to be different animals or objects.

They work in pretending to be a rocket, pretending to put on socks.

Here are some videos of Mason pretending.

He had to be taught all of this, none of it came naturally.

January 2014 Pretending

July 2014 Pretending

Pretending/imaginary play is a very important of child development and Mason has kind of had a little breakthrough.

I bought him these fruit snacks...I am totally desperate for him to eat anything that is remotely associated with fruit.

Anywhoo, he never ate them. Instead, he picked out Nemo and Dory and would walk around with them all day.

I actually found some Dorys in my bed.

I decided since Mason wasn't interested in eating the fruit snacks, I would do something fun with them.

I made an airplane out of them.

Now..anyone that knows me knows that my..ahem.."artistic" abilities are on the same level as like a 5 month old. So my fruit snack airplane wasn't anything great-it looked like a lower case "t" made out of Dory and Nemo fruit snacks.

Mason...however...was seriously impressed!

"Dory airplane!" He shouted.

He ran and got his Dusty airplane (from the movie "Planes")

"Two Airplanes" he said.

"Dusty Dory Airplanes"

He LOVED my fruit snack airplane.

He came ran into his room again, and brought out a white plastic hanger.

"White airplane. Dory airplane".

He put all of his airplanes together.

I was actually very shocked-and happy.

He was pretending the hanger was an airplane.

It honestly was the very first time on his own he pretended one object was something else.

I am pretty sure I am possibly the only parent who wanted to do a back flip because my kid pretended a hanger was an airplane.

We pretended different objects were airplanes all morning. We didn't actually "play" airplanes-Mason just likes to put them all together and look at them...but hey...there was pretending going on so I was not complaining at all!!

I really felt like this was a huge breakthrough for him.

On Friday morning, I felt like we had another type of breakthough.

I was getting Mason dressed for school, and I put a yellow and black striped shirt on him.

He looked at the shirt, looked at himself in the mirror.

'Bumble bee."

Bumble bee?

I literally fell to the floor laughing-I think he was telling me I was dressing him like a bumble bee!

I laughed to myself but was also super happy.

Mason has never seemed to understand dress up or costumes.

Was "bumble bee" maybe a sign that he is starting to understand?

At that moment, I was so happy for him.

I want him to have an imagination, I want him to be able to pretend and play with other kids.

I wanted to hug a bumble bee right at that moment for giving me hope!

Instead, I kissed my very own little bumble bee and told him I loved him.

"Are you my bumble bee?" I asked.

"Bzzzzzzzzzz"

Well ok then!

                                                 not dressed as  a bumble bee