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Sunday, January 20, 2008

When Imagination Meets A Brick Wall

People with autism perseverate. I'd never heard the word before Tommy came along - back in the olden days we called it "spinning your wheels," "talking about the same thing over and over," or just plain "being boring."

At first, Tom's perseveration was not really contentful. He'd recite scripts from TV shows... recite poems... or just talk gibberish.

Now, he's really quite imaginative, and I KNOW I should appreciate it. Usually I do! Today, though, I am bored, bored, BORED with Tom's imaginary world.

We're working on a unit about Massachusetts history, and recently traced the path of the Mayflower from "old" to "new" Plymouth. Tom is trying to find a way to turn Massachusetts history into a story about his favorite old pal, Lizard.

Tom: "Lizard has a Mayflower."
Me: "What do you mean? You mean a real Mayflower boat?"
Tom: "Yes, he has a real Mayflower boat, and he sails it with his friends."
Dad: "Tom, the real Mayflower isn't around anymore. It sailed more than 400 years ago!"
Tom: "What happened to the Mayflower?"
Me: "I think it sank."
Tom: "Lizard's Mayflower didn't sink."
Me: "Tom, can't we talk about something real, just for a minute?"
Tom: "OK, OK - the real Mayflower was 400 years ago and it sank in the sea. NOW can we talk about Lizard?"
Me: "Oh, Tom, can we NOT talk about Lizard for a while?"
Tom: "I WANT to talk about LIZARD!"
Me: "I'm going to clear the dishes!"

Now, honestly, this is a pretty great and impressive conversation. It shows that Tom really did understand that the Mayflower was a real ship... that it carried pilgrims to American... that it sank... and that's HUGE! And I know - a good autism Mom would encourage that conversation, build on his interests, and help him get beyond perseveration to real symbolic language and conversation.

But the truth is - Lizard is starting to bore me.

Lizard's always here. ALWAYS. And love him as I might, he gets... a little dull. Lizard has everything. He is all things to all people. He's a great reptile. He even has his faced carved on a mountain (Tom sculpted Lizard's face out of clay and stuck it onto the model mountain he and Dad are building for the model railway). Lizard has a golden palace... a giant hotel... a white and gold train, a sailing ship, a racecar, a restaurant, a playground... you get the picture.

Lizard is the ultimate good guy (unlike his pal Sid, the Skeleton, whose job is to whack badguys in scary, brutal ways).

Lizard is the Superego, Sid is the Id. And Tom's working on finding his own place.

It's not that I don't appreciate Lizard. But I think I need a break.

Tomorrow I'll work on finding more ways to let Lizard come out and play - and help Tom learn math, care about history, and explore literature. Maybe we'll even invite Sid to come out and whack a few baddies.

For tonite, though, it's ENOUGH! Lizard, take a nap!

1 comment:

The Glasers said...

Actually, you might be interest in reading a book recommended for RDI parents. One chapter covers private talk (which is a problem solving strategy children have until they learn to internalize it) and pretend play (I have not read that chapter yet). There may be some strategies you can use to help Tommy talk about his math. The book is called Awakening Children's Minds.