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Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Dry Erase Board Artist and Angie Dickinson

I went to Ross the other day and overspent in the toy section, yet again, in the hopes of finding some piece of plastic made in China that will spark the imagination and creativity that so many therapists have pointed out are lacking in my son's play.  To that end, our playroom looks like a full blown preschool.  We have toys in neat little canvas bins on shelves - manipulatives, imaginary play, sensory toys, arts and crafts, trains, planes and automobiles, marble towers, Candyland, play huts, floor cushions, bean bags and the list goes on.  And to boot, we have converted our carport into a quasi occupational therapy center complete with tire swing and cocooning hammock. 

When Finbar was a baby, he would not engage with any toy for long (an autism red flag often overlooked).  Many toys were uninteresting to or frightened him.  He never liked sounds and lights - overload.  As he increasingly grew interested only in balls and things that spun (so he could stim), I searched far and wide for the perfect toy to engage him and filled a 20x20 playroom in the process.

Long ago my goal was simply for Finbar to roll a ball back to me. The "goal du jour" is imaginary play. This is  a common skill deficit in autistic children, and by age 5 deficit clearly separates and isolates many ASD kids from peers.  According to experts imaginary and dramatic play is all the rave in the typical 5 yr old's world. Pretending to be pirates and Star Wars characters, putting on puppet shows, playing doctor, and dressing up for Halloween (Finbar's worst nightmare) are all "normal".  I frankly don't remember being into dress up and dramatic play as a child and I certainly hate to dress up in a costume now, so this bout of developmental focus is a stretch for me.

But I plow on.  I am in Ross and amongst other things I see a mini dry erase board with chalk board on other side. It folds out like a tent to sit on a table. I think, good for practicing letters.  But - Bingo!    When I brought it home, Finbar drew on the board for more than two hours stating, "mom, I'm going to be busy doing this all day".  He drew sheep, penguins, and then for about an hour he drew the planets, earth and its oceans, the solar system and all things in the universe it seemed.  We even had a little contest drawing pictures and having the other one guess what it was.  He was on imagination fire and I got my 10 bucks worth out of that toy :)

Just one year ago, I was resigned to the fact that Finbar would never really draw or color. And I was just praying that he would learn how to hold a writing utensil correctly by the time he was 7 or 8, his fine motor skills were so lacking. And here he is at age five holding the dry erase pen correctly and free drawing.

 We are so impatient with our kids sometimes.  Development, even in a developmentally delayed child, HAPPENS.  We always want our kids to start at the end result.  In this case, holding a crayon and drawing a great picture, colored in, by age 5 - because that is what Suzie G over there can do.  But with Finbar, I realized that many kids need to take baby steps and we as parents need to recognize and support this. So we started with stick drawings in the sand. It was then I realized that he COULD write his name, just not with a pencil.  Then it was sidewalk chalk. That's when I learned he COULD draw pretty detailed pictures, mostly of rocket ships mind you, but great pictures, just not using a crayon.  Then it was a chalk board, and lo and behold he COULD write letters and numbers, just not with a pencil.  So now, we are working on the pencil in Kindergarten. I give him golf pencils, the half length ones and he holds them fine. Give him a long one and he is lost.  But he has closed the gap with his peers. Patience. It only took a year.

oh yes, and I FINALLY convinced him to wear a Halloween costume this year....well, sort of. It is a pair of glow in the dark skeleton pajamas. Patience...

On another note, a very very sad and disturbing article came across my screen..  Click here for story. Apparently Angie Dickinson and Burt Bacharach had an only daughter who just committed suicide at age 40.  She had Aspergers, but did  not know until she was in her twenties. This led to lack of early intervention and poor decisions about her care.  The description of her as a child is not unlike my own son - highly verbal and precocious, but with severe sensitivities.  After reading I feel so blessed and lucky in my unluck that Finbar was born at a different time, a more opportune time. I have lots of hope for him and children like him.  Poor Angie Dickinson was not given that same hope. She speaks throughout the article of her daughter never really feeling grounded and connected. My son feels the same. But in today's world, with all the awareness and early intervention, I am hopeful that those who live in this world will help him stay grounded and connected by reaching out and understanding.  If you are reading this blog you are one of those people :)


Rebecca Royce said...

Hi Jen,
For a number of reasons this post was very 'telling' for me today and I thank you writing it. I'm so sorry to hear about Angie Dickinson's daughter. What a nightmare for the family.

RIght now I'm searching for my patience. You may have given it back to me. We'll talk soon.
Much love

finbarsmom said...

If you find your patience send some over haha :) xoxox