- Doesn’t make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed).
- Doesn’t smile when smiled at.
- Doesn’t respond to his or her name or to the sound of a familiar voice.
- Doesn’t point or wave goodbye or use other gestures to communicate.
- Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point things out.
- Doesn’t make noises to get your attention.
- Doesn’t initiate or respond to cuddling.
- Doesn’t imitate your movements and facial expressions.
- Doesn’t play with other people or share interest and enjoyment.
- Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests.
- Lack of empathy. Difficulty understanding another person’s feelings, such as pain or sorrow.
- Stereotyped behaviors. These may include body rocking and hand flapping.
- A need for sameness and routines.
- Preoccupation with certain topics. For example, older children and adults may be fascinated by video games, trading cards, or license plates.
I’ve read and heard all of the above many times used to describe autism signs/symptoms. I’ve spent a couple of years worrying about all of them – and all the other signs/symptoms that aren’t on that list and thinking that Jay would always be that way.
Almost 2 years after his diagnosis, Jay no longer matches with any of the above. Sure, he’s still autistic but he doesn’t fit neatly into any of those dots.
Some he never did and the rest have improved significantly or simply are no longer an issue. That is what I need to remember on days when I feel like we’re losing the battle.
Today I want to focus on the “Doesn’t play with other people or share interest and enjoyment.”
Lets see? On Saturday we went to the park with a neighbour and his 4 year old son. It was the best weather day we’ve had all year. Or maybe the 2nd best. Either way, it was a beautiful day and the kids and I were itching to be outside.
When we got to the park, all the kids ran straight for the climbing thingy with the slide and wobbly bridge etc. They all played TOGETHER. There was no prompting on my part. No urging by Ace. It happened organically. The younger ones tried to follow the older ones up the funky ladders (without success). They all looked at the sliding pole and decided against it. Ace helped pull Jay over the threshold as he got to the top after walking UP the slide. They played tag. When 1 stopped for a juice break, they all stopped for a juice break. When 1 fell and hurt his leg, they all stopped playing until he was feeling better.
Then my neighbour tried to engage them in a game of football (soccer). Jay checked it out (for 0.7 seconds) and decided it wasn’t for him so he instead went back to the play apparatus. Ace and the neighbours son ran around kicking the ball (dribbling) and scoring goals and falling over and trying to tackle the ball away from each other for quite some time. They were having a great time. They all kept calling to Jay for him to come join them but he simply wasn’t interested.
He pulled me to the swings and we swung.
He didn’t seem at all perturbed that the other boys were playing without him. It wasn’t his thing so he found something else to entertain himself.
I realized, that’s always what he does. He joins in when he wants to, and when he doesn’t he just finds something else to do. Is that so bad? I mean, don’t we all tell our kids not to give in to peer pressure? I don’t think I’ll need to teach Jay that lesson.
When they were done with football (still soccer), they began a water gun fight with 2 other boys who were there and Jay was all over that one. He shot people and got shot and laughed and came back to the adults for a re-fill and so it went until it was time to go home.
When we’re home, Ace ALWAYS wants to play with Jay. Sure, sometimes, Jay just wants to be left alone with his i-pad but there are many times when they jump on the bed together, they chase each other and they watch TV, they play with bean bag chairs and they invent new ways to play on the bunk bed ladder (much to CC’s fretting) and they build contraptions and they really enjoy each others company.
On another day I’ll give specific examples of how my Jay “gets our attention” or “initiates cuddling” or “shows flexibility with his routine”. Maybe I can turn this into some sort of series. For today, though, I’m gonna stop worrying about all the above dots from some website and tuck this little nugget of info away …
while he may only play with other people or share interest and enjoyment on his own terms … he does play and he does share his interests and he does have enjoyment.