We did have a Floortime session planned for today (which I was planning to blog about), but unfortunately with Wee Girl not being well, I’ve had to cancel it. She’s not at her best, and I didn’t want to take the risk of her vomming everywhere half way through. Plus she’s sleepy, and a bit unsteady on her feet. She’s eating though, and managed to drag herself out of bed for a bit of porridge laced with golden syrup, which so far has been kept down.
Although Wee Girl is pre-verbal, she has come on an enormous amount over the past year. She has much more focus, her communication skills have improved, and she has made great strides in her ability to engage with the world. It’s things that might seem silly to those who are not parents of children with special needs: things like pressing the button at the traffic light, or in the lift, wanting to help Mummy and Daddy cook, waving goodbye, kissing her little brother goodnight and wanting me to kiss her knee when she falls and scrapes it. Things like that, which other parents might take for granted, but are precious and priceless because they have been so hard-won.
When your child has autism, it can sometimes be incredibly hard to know how to start doing something as simple as playing with them. I have watched her play with sand, her actions rote and repetitive, and just not known how to break through the bubble into her world.
So I have put together a short list of games and silly tricks that I play with Wee Girl, and which I find help to keep her happy, entertained and engaged.
1. Be Active. One thing Wee Girl loves is movement. She’s adventurous, something which I’ve blogged about here, and this is common to many children with autism. Maybe it’s sensory-seeking behaviour, maybe it’s just the sign of an active child; who knows? What I do know is that anything which makes a child laugh with delight can only be a good thing. So seek out the things that make your child laugh, encourage them to jump into your arms and spin around as fast as you can. I try to get out to the park every day in every kind of weather to give her a chance to run around, blow off steam and to give me a chance to clear my head and unwind.
2. Be annoying (it comes easily to me). So Wee Girl is repeatedly opening and closing the door to the garden. That is a perfect opportunity for me to get in there and
be annoying start a game where I are blocking the door from closing and she has to indicate that she needs me to move. Same with slamming cupboards; get in the way, be dense, but gauge the mood in case it starts getting frustrated rather than playful. The aim is to make her interaction with me the focus of the game, rather than me trying to distract her from what she’s doing (as I was when she was playing with the sand I mentioned earlier).
3. Hide and seek. One of the earliest games I played with Wee Girl was the hiding of the baby wipes. She had a habit of taking the packet and running upstairs with them to take to her bedroom, where she would then pull them all out of the packet one by one. I turned this into a game of chase; she would snatch the packet and run upstairs giggling, I would chase her yelling “No, no, no,”, and take the packet downstairs again, sometimes ‘accidentally’ dropping it on the way downstairs, sometimes hiding it so she had to look for it. It’s a knackering one, but there was always lots of laughter and it was a game she would ‘ask’ for.
4. Magic Tricks and Games At the Cafe. This is a silly one, which started in a cafe with the lid from a bottle of juice. I put it in one hand, put my hands behind my back, and swapped it over. She has to guess which hand it’s in, and thinks it’s hilarious when she gets it wrong. I try to be on the lookout for any silly games we can play, especially if they teach life skills and keep Wee Girl entertained for a few precious minutes. Any bits of rubbish she can put in the bin? Getting her to wipe down the table? All good.
5. Cuddles and Quiet. And because I’m usually knackered from all that spinning and all those trips to the park, sometimes it’s nice to just lie down and have a quiet, peaceful cuddle, sing some songs and do some feather light tickling of her arms and legs. Books are great, but they can become the focus; try telling stories without a book, making it up as you go along, talking about your everyday life or what you did that day. I tell Wee Girl a story about a princess who never talks, but sings so beautifully the entire kingdom stops to listen. Sometimes feeling supported and safe can help a child to relax, and some of our loveliest moments have happened when we’re just being quiet and cuddling and enjoying each others’ company.