Tag Archives: Childhood

Play

And I didn’t continue with the #AtoZChallenge after all. Now I could write my Q post today and just have enough time to get to Z on April 30, but I have no clue what to write about that starts with Q. Besides, I’d just be too behind. I will continue with random reflections whenever I can, but I’m tiref of sticking to the alphabet. At least, the challenge so far taught me that I can, in fact, write a blog post almost everyday.

A few minutes ago, I looked at the friendly fill-in questions for this week. I’m not inclined to join in with the thing in a traditional way. However one of the prompts stuck out to me. It was: “When I was a child, I loved to play ___”. Today, I’m going to write about the joys of playing as a child (and as an adult, too).

As regular readers know, I’m autistic. However, when I was a toddler, I wasn’t the type to line up my toys. In fact, at about age three, I had three PlayMobil figures called Pekel, Foet and Laren. No, these aren’t common Dutch names. The characters would just eat, drink and go to the toilet. Nothing too interesting but nothing too stereotypical either.

I also loved to play outside. I loved the swings in particular. When we were on vacation at the campsite, I’d also climb a tree. I wasn’t as adventurous as my sister, but I nonetheless enjoyed getting outdoors.

One other memory that stands out is my learning to rollerskate at aroudn age eight. My next door neighbor, who was the same age as me, used to teach me and my sister and a bunch of other girls (and a few boys). It was fun until I realized how I, being legally blind, wasn’t able to keep up. Once I was about twelve, I eventually learned to rollerblade too. That too didn’t last long, as my vision became too poor.

My sister and I would play with dolls too. I’d often make up the stories. Like, we were going on vacation to Suriname with the dolls, because, you know, my sister’s doll was brown. Though I showed some level of imagination – more so than my neurotypical sister -, I could be quite controlling. For example, I’d get upset whenever my sister said “said the doll” after a sentence that the doll supposedly said.

I continued to play with dolls and Barbie dolls until I was around fourteen. By the time I was thirteen and about to transfer to mainstream school, I decided I really needed to stop playing. However, I didn’t know what else to do. Once my computer and eventually the Internet took my interest, I hardly ever played anymore.

As an adult, I had a time when my inner child parts were particularly active and I’d even buy Barbie dolls for them. They however usually enjoy stuffed animals. I still sleep wth a bunch of stuffies on my bed.

J – #AtoZChallenge on Mental Health

Welcome to the letter J post in my #AtoZChallenge on mental health. This is one of the hardest letters – I mistyped it in the theme reveal. I’ve come up with just two words and they’re not very related.

Jobs

Mentally ill people are particularly likely to be unemployed. Like I said when discussing experience, some institutions create special jobs for people with mental illness to work as recovery or experience workers. These are paid jobs not suited for people in long-term inpatient care, although they are very suitable for people who have overcome a long-term institution life. People still in long-term care can become part of a recovery group. This is often seen as volunteer work and earns you around €10,- for two hours a week of attendance.

People who are long-term institution patients of course have to do something during the day. Some of these activities are simple industrial or administrative duties. At my old institution, these were purely seen as day activities and didn’t earn you any momey. At my current institution, patients doing this work earn like €1,- an hour. That’s still only a small percentage of what people in regular employment earn, of course – minimum wage islike €10,-. People doing this type of work often still call it their “job”. People doing creative day activities usually don’t.

Juvenile

Children can get mentally ill too, of course. I recently read that as many as 30% of children in the UK have a diagnosed psychiatric disorder. Now I assume this includes autism and ADHD, which are not always seen as a mental illness. However, among older children and adolescents is also a significant number of sufferers of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Even among younger children, mental illness can happen. I even heard of psychiatrists specializing in infant and toddler mental health.

Most mental health agencies serve people of all ages, but there are also separate children’s mental health agencies, especially for inpatient treatment. Even those agencies that serve all ages have separate units and treatment teams for children and adolescents. In the Netherlands, after all, child mental health care is regulated by the Youth Act rather than the various laws regulating adult mental health care.

A Favorite Childhood Memory: Sleepovers at My Grandma’s

Today, I decided to check the Blog Everyday in May announcement and saw that it isn’t a requirement to post everyday. You are free to participate whenever you like. Not only did I decide to add the badge into yesterday’s post after all, but I think I’m going to try to join in with more prompts.

Today’s prompt is “a favorite childhood memory”. This is a tough one, since I tend to dwell on the negative aspects of many memories. A few days ago, however, I saw my sister had posted a picture of the two of us on a sleepover at our grandma’s. I was immediately tempted to write about that. Not only does it allow me to use a picture in my post for once, but sleepovers at my grandma’s were happy moments in my childhood and, for once, they don’t have a bittersweet connotation to them.

Sleepover at My Grandma's

I wrote about my grandma before. She is one amazing woman and I cherish the days spent with her. Particularly, my sister and I loved going for sleepovers. We went on a sleepover at least once a year until I was around fourteen.

Our grandma had saved many of her children’s toys and also still quilted stuffed animals. In the above picture, you see my sister and I playing dress-up.

At the time this picture was taken in 1994, my grandma lived in a family home in a quiet neighborhood in Zeist. She’d frequently take us on walks. We nicknamed the neighborhood “poo place” because of the proliferation of dog shit on the pavement.

As I said in my earlier post, my grandma would often take us on “expeditions” to explore the town and countryside. There was an “expedition” to the parking lot once she’d moved to a senior citizens’ home down town (to figure out how many stories it consisted of!)) There was also an “expedition” to the wildlife garden and an “expedition” alongside a ditch. The ditch had waterplants growing in it that looked just like grass. We joked that you can’t walk on this type of grass. Now that I look it up, the English Wikipedia has a picture of a ditch in the Netherlands. Wonder whether they don’t exist elsewhere. But I digress.

My grandma, as I said in my other post, volunteered for the local environmental conservation charity. I had lots of fun going to the activity group (the “activigeese” I mentioned), where my grandma would make quilted blankets, animals and such for the charity shop. I didn’t do much while at the activity group, as I’ve never been good at sewing, but I did enjoy chatting to the other ladies going there.

After we stopped going on sleepovers, my grandma did take us on a vacation to Paris in 2001. My sister had just finished her first year of secondary school and I had finished my second, so we both spoke a bit of French. We spent the week at one of my grandma’s French acquaintances’.

Of course, I still had my meltdown moments even when at my grandma’s. She was firm with me but never lost her temper. As I may’ve said in my other post, I just plain admire my grandma’s positive attitude. This is probably one reason that, growing up, I had the best relationship with her of all my grandparents. I undoubtedly drove her crazy sometimes, like I did most people in my life, but she handled it so amazingly. This is one reason why visits to my grandma as a child don’t have a bittersweet meaning to me now.

Found Love. Now What?

Age Is But a Number?

Age is but a number, we so often hear. There are many, usually older people who say they never grew beyond age twenty-nine (or whatever age they like the most). Some people even say they remain children at heart.

I can relate to this, and yet I can’t. I can relate in the sense that I strongly embrace my inner children and teens and the fewer and fewer selves who are older than me. Right now, only my crafty self identifies as older than my chronological age.

Yet I am also very much aware that certain developmental expectations are tied to certain ages. I was made aware before I was nine-years-old that, by age eighteen, I’d be leaving the house. My father jokes that the family cat should earn his high school diploma if he ever turns nineteen. The cat is only thirteen, but you get the idea. Even cats need to conform to developmental milestones, so people certainly.

Of course, in the privacy of my own room or even with my husband present, I can be childish all I want. I for example bought a Barbie doll when one of my inner children was particularly active. Nothing’s wrong with that. On the other hand, the only reason I can go on forums that are commonly visited by teens, is that I’m female. Had I been male, I would’ve been seen as a pedophile. (For clarity’s sake: I don’t go on forums that have a clear age limit or ever lie about my age, and I have absolutely no intention of exploiting anyone.)

My age is not only significant in highlighting the inappropriateness of my embracing childlike roles, but also in making clear that I’m missing out on adult milestones. I never spent much time in college, let alone graduating it, though I’m hardly technically a yooung adult anymore. I never held a job, even a summer job. I am not pregnant, let alone a mother. I hardly ever lived independently, which even on sites for people with autism is seen as a rite of passage into adulthood.

I have written about many of these issues before. I grieve the loss of my child identity (and an inner child is no excuse). I also grieve having missed out on adult milestones and likely missing out on even more as time goes by. Age is but a number, but you can’t just act whatever age you feel, at least not in public. That’s with good reason, of course, but it is still somewhat hard to deal with sometimes.

mumturnedmom

Childhood Fears

Growing up, I was a bit of an anxious child, but in some ways, not like other children. I wasn’t afraid of monsters under my bed. Rather, I caught every single sort of bad news and imagined it happening to me.

At the time, early to mid-1990s, the Leprosy Foundation apparently had enough money for large television funraising campaigns. I hardly hear or see them now, so maybe people are more interested in a disease that affects people in the Western world, like ALS. In any case, leprosy was “hot” then. It’s this big, bad disease that magically causes your fingers and toes to fall off. That’s scary to an eight-year-old!

With my fear came rituals to counter the fear. I have never been diagnosed with OCD, but it might be that I had a mild case of it when I was young. So to counter my fear of catching leprosy, I’d sit up at night for hours counting my fingers and toes. Later, when I heard that leprosy causes loss of sensation first, I would make sure I was very aware of the sensation in my extremities.

The fear of catching leprosy got less when I was around ten or eleven, when my father convinced me no-one in the Netherlands gets it. Just then, I met a girl who said she’d had it and a classmate who had a mysterious disease with what I thought were similar symptoms. I had by this time heard that the bacterium that causes leprosy takes two to eight years to become active, so I wasn’t too worried of acutely losing my fingers or toes. But the fear remained at the back of my mind.

Other fears and compulsions took over by my teens. I remember I had this bad fear of getting CO poisoning, so I’d make sure my heating was off and my window was open even in the midst of winter. Maybe now I need some of that fear back as people complain I don’t air my room frequently enough.

Some form of fear and compulsion stayed with me for many years. Some are too embarrassing to discuss here, while others are more ordinary – like the fear of someone breaking into my apartment at night. The fears, however, almost completely disappeared when I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. I still experience some health anxiety, but it is manageable, and the compulsions have completely disappeared.

Mama’s Losin’ It

We Don’t Stop Playing Because We Grow Old

This week’s spin cycle theme is “grow”. Ginny Marie over at Lemon Drop Pie asks: “Are your kids growing like weeds? Are the weeds growing in your garden? Does your garden have vegetables growing? Or are the veggies in your fridge started to grow mold?” Since I don’t have kids, a garden or a fridge, I need to invent another topic to post about. After reading Ginny Marie’s contribution, I thought of something. I want to write about growing up, too, but I struggle. As a kid, I always feared growing up, because it’d mean I needed to stop playing.

For a long time, from around age twelve on, I thought playing meant you were childish and being childish meant you were bad. When I was eleven, the school psychologist wanted me to become a residential student at the school for the blind. My mother explained to me that I was troubled because I had too many toys. I till this day don’t see the connection. Sure, I had quite the toy collection, but so did other kids. Sure, I had trouble making friends, and my interests were not the same as those of my age peers. I doubt they were all into books, which my mother said I had to be into in order to fit in. Books or music. While my age peers in the neighborhood were into music, I didn’t fit in once I listened to the music they were into and had Backstreet Boys posters covering my walls. Not that this period lasted long, because I’d quickly had enough.

Besides, I wasn’t troubled because I had few friends. That wasn’t the reason the school psychologist wanted to institutionalize me. The reason was my meltdowns and tantrums, and I have no clue what they had to do with toys. Sure, I had a tantrum when my Barbie doll’s leg broke off, but I had and still have similar outbursts when my computer crashes. Maybe that means computers aren’t the right interest either.

However, I internalized the idea that to play is to be childish and to be childish is bad. I remember when I was thirteen I kept track of my behavior problems, like tantrums, and soon added any sort of childlike behavior, including playing with Barbie dolls. I was going to regular education in a month, and it had become very clear to me that regular kids my age don’t play with Barbie dolls.

Once at regular school, I listened to the right music and read the right books. It didn’t change my outcast status. It didn’t lessen my meltdowns. It didn’t make me not fear growing up. It did make me grow old. We don’t stop playing because we grow old, after all, but we grow old because we stop playing, according to George Bernard Shaw.

Post Comment Love

Growing Up with Undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome

The Spectrum Bloggers Network is a network of bloggers with learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, etc. The founder uses the abbreviation SpLD, which stands for specific learning difficulty, though I would use neurodevelopmental disisability. I’ve been a member of this blog network for about a month, and this is my first time participating in topic Tuesday, which was posted a bit late on Wednesday. The topic is “children”. What this means is a bit vague, andd it can be interpreted in several ways.


  • What does it mean to be a child with a neurodevelopmental disability?

  • What advice would you give to parents of children with a neurodevelopmental disability?

  • Having or wanting children as a person with a neurodevelopmental disability.


I could write on all of these topics, but am going to focus on the first.

I grew up in the 1990s. This means that, while autism, including Asperger’s, was known to the psychiatric community, the general public wasn’t nearly as aware of it as it is now. My parents knew some about autism, as they later told my diagnostician that they’d suspected it in me from an early age on. Then again, the idea that autism affected those with an intellectual disability only, was still pretty prevalent especially when I was a young child in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Asperger’s wasn’t added to the DSM as a specific condition till 1994, after all.

My parents recognized my intelligence very early on too, and they wanted to challenge me as much as possible. I cherish early memories of learning difficult math concepts like squareroots and calendar calculation. Unlike what is thought about intellectually disabled calendar calculation savants, I understood the underlying concetps. Nonetheless, calendar calculation was definitely a perseveration of mine.

I was largely unaware of my social and behavioral difficulties. I did realize I spent many hours in my room as a punishment, but didn’t know why. I also knew that I had few friends. That is, when I still went to the school for the partially sighted for first, second and third grade, I had some friends, mostly older girls. They mostly admired my advanced academic abilities and other than that liked to baby me. In regular Kindergarten, I had one friend. Other children didn’t really bully me yet, but they obviously didn’t accept me.

My parents claim that the real problems didn’t start until I was around nine. When I moved to a new school for the blind in 1995 and moved to a new city the next year, I started noticing that I had few to no friends. Looking back, I realize that I approached potential friends in a hugely childish way. One of my classmates used to ask her frieend for candy, saying: “Got something to chew on?” in a certain tone of voice. I don’t think I realized these girls were friends for other reasons than candy, and I often imitated the one girl asking the other for candy myself. In fourth grade, I had only one friend, a third-grader who remained my friend till I left elementary school, but I wasn’t really excluded or bullied. In fifth and sixth grade, I was. In the neighborhood, my only “friends” were my sister’s friends’ big sisters.

I don’t know at what age my temper outbursts became abnormal. Like, I know that, at five, I had a temper outburst over my father saying only kids under six could access a treehouse, worrying what would happen to me accessing the treehouse next year. This worry seems a bit silly to me for a five-year-old, but having a temper outburst is normal at that age, right? When I was still having these temper outbursts at ten, this became a significant problem. The fact that I still have them now that I’m nearly 28, well, you get the idea.

I was nine when my paretns were pressured by the school into sending me to play therapy. I don’t remember that play therapy was all that useful. I threw out purple miniature dolls because people aren’t purple, tried to get the water tray to overflow just to see if I could, and fought using toy swords with the therapist. After four sessions, summer vacation arrived and my parents took me out. I hated having to miss out on biology class anyway.

I didn’t have an extreme need for predictability. I was somewhat resistant to change, particcularly if plans that I’d been made aware of, were changed. This however looks like a bit of a “my way or the highway” attitude, and maybe it was. I do admit that I was particularly self-centered. I still am somewhat, having to really consciously think about taking another person’s perspective into account. This, rather than rigid routines, seems to be more why I am and was resistant to change. Please note that self-centeredness is in fact common in autistics, and it is not the same as selfishness.

I was eight when Asperger’s was added to the DSM. Then again, none of my school psychologists suggested I had it. My parents did take me to many different psychologists for second and third opinions, but this was mostly to validate that I was indeed intelligent, which the school for the blind often questioned or outright denied. The focus as far as social/emotional issues were concerned, lay on my temper outbursts. It is in this sense kind of interesting that these same outbursts weren’t looked upon as anything other than low tolerance for distress in the 1990s, but were seen as the reason for an autism assessment by 2007.