Tag Archives: Play

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.

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) and Floortime: Two Autism Treatments #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day eighteen in the A to Z Challenge on autism. Today, I will focus on two behavioral interventions for autism: relationship development intervention and Floortime.

Relationship development intervention (RDI) is a behavioral approach to helping autistic children reach the highest possible quality of life. The intervention was developed by Dr. Steven Guttstein. The basic idea behind the intervention is that dynamic intelligence, which is the ability to think flexibly, is required for a good quality of life. Dynamic intelligence includes the ability to appreciate different perspectives, cope with change, and integrate informaiton from multiple sources (eg. sight and sound).

The most important objectives of RDI are:


  • Emotional referencing: being able to learn from the emotions and subjective experiences of others.

  • Social coordination: the ability to observe and control behavior in order to participate in social interaction.

  • Declarative language: using verbal and non-verbal communication to express curiosity, invite interaction and share perceptions and feelings.

  • Flexible thinking: being able to adjust to changing circumstances and adapt one’s plans accordingly.

  • Relational information processign: the ability to put things into context and solve problems that don’t have a clear-cut solution.
  • Foresight and hindsight: being able to use past experiences to anticipate on future possibilities.


Autistic people usually have trouble in these areas, which leads to their autistic core symptoms. Typically deveoping children commonly learn these skills through interaction with their parents.

RDI uses the parent-child relationship to enable the child to master the skills mentioned above. An RDI consultant teaches the parents to modify their interaction and communication style in such a way that the autistic child will be supported to learn the missed skills.

I used to believe that RDI is the same as Floortime, but it turns out it isn’t. Floortime was developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan and relies on the idea that, in order to teach a child functional skills, they have to engage with their parents, teachers or therapists. This is precisely where some autistic children have trouble, particularly those who are very withdrawn. In Floortime, the parent carefully intrudes the child’s play, following the child’s lead, and tries to engage the child.

So what is the difference between Floortime and RDI? An important distinction is that, in RDI, the parent takes the lead in engaging the child, whereas a parent who uses Floortime follows the child’s lead. Both approaches require consistency and follow-through, so as a parent, you most likely won’t be able to combine the two.

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.

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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.

Play the Game of Pim-Pam-Pet

The game of pim-pam-pet

I go to the activity room in the building across the street from my ward regularly. Usually, I do crafts there, but I sometimes play word puzzles and card games too. One such card game is pim-pam-pet. It’s a very family-friendly game, which I played as a child too. I could hardly find English-language information on it so don’t know whether the game is sold in the U.S. or UK, but the cards are easy to make. There also seems to be an iPhone app fo rthis game. Pim-pam-pet isn’t played with a regular deck of cards. Instead, there are a set number of cards with category words on it, such as “book”, “girl’s name”, etc. Then the game contains a letter wheel used to select the letter with which the answer to the word on the card needs to start. If, for example, the card says “girl’s name” and the letter showing on the wheel is A, the players need to come up with a girl’s name starting with A. The first person to name a girl’s name starting with A (Astrid!) wins that card. At the end of the game, the player possessing the most cards has won the game.

There are premade sets of cards which you can buy at a toys store. However, you can also make your own cards using pieces of white cardstock. On those, you can put funny questions such as “What do you like eating for dinner?”, “who do you love most?”, etc. Of course, the letter showing on the wheel limits your choice. I myself find I sometimes get stuck when I can’t think of something I genuinely like with the letter showing, but other people I play with name random things. For example, it’s quite funny to hear someone who can’t stand broccoli answering that to the question of what they like to eat for dinner when the letter B comes up. Similarly, when the question is to name a book and the letter showing is I, my activity staff has come up with: “In the summertime. I bet there’s a book titled that.”

When you are playing seriously, this game is a good way of teaching object categories to children. It may be that you’ll need to turn the wheel multiple times. After all, what if the letter Z comes up and the question is a color? When you’re playing for fun, the answers to questions like “who do you like to play with?” can be good conversation starters. When people give random responses, it’s just a way to have a good laugh. In any case, pim-pam-pet is a really fun and sometimes educational game for anyone old enough to know their letters.