Sunday, March 27, 2011


As a child of the 70s, I did a great deal of pretending.  Even though many people judged TV as the harbinger of doom that would forever change our generation into a bunch of coach potatoes, most of my friends and I played outside or at each other's houses.  What did we do?  Pretend.

We were Luke, Han Solo, and Lea fighting Darth Vader.  We were the Hardy Boys solving a mystery.  We were the Pink Ladies.  We made snow angels and chad snow ball battles.  Recent WWF moves were re-enacted (most of the time with me as the guinea pig, but I digress).

No, this is not a walk down memory lane or an intro to a lecture about the evils of technology.  It is a reflection on something VERY challenging for children on the autsim spectrum: pretend play.

Ignatius would often be seen having many worlds going on inside his head.  He would walk down a store aisle with me as his fingers were going a mile a minute making some bizarre gestures.  He understood what he was doing.  In his pre-school years, I recall a chat with one of his teachers who presented this concern, "JoLynn, he just goes over to the corner and reads."  At the time, I chalked it up to yet another characteristic of introversion, and saw nothing atypical about it.  He was just making different choices than other kids.  That was allowable.

Max made similar choices for play.  He preferred repetitive things, like his ball table or spinning the wheels on a car, or lining up pieces of a puzzle.  He was not interested in engaging in pretend play.  I had been down this road before.  Although he pretended to be at his favorite thing---a car wash---his play was repetitive.  He often wants to do these things alone.

I have to add, this was one area in which I felt a little cheated.  I LOVED pretending as a child, I LOVE to act on a stage, and I believe I became a teacher because I LOVED playing make-believe with kids.  The incentive for many of these things were my own... not requiring adult micro-management.

This week, finally, after six years, Max gave me a little gift.  He typically plays with the little rubber edges to our workout mats (they become part of the car wash repetition).  This week, they became magic wands!  We turned his dad into a stone (that was particularly fun for me).  He has also had patches of make-believe here and there that I am sure have been building through his socialization at school.

So, what's the big deal?  My personal opinion is that pretending gets us ready for the big game.  I have watched both of my kids struggle to make social connections with others... to engage in play or show they did not wish to engage in play with others.  Pretending is practicing for the multiple social mergers we all do in life.  It's a risk-free time to try out conversation and see if we can get another to play along with the scenario we are creating.

Those with kids on the spectrum are not always given this opportunity.  I appreciate the blessing.  Carpe diem!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring has Sprung!

I just realized that the blizzard was the last thing I blogged about.  What a difference a month and a half makes!  Today was warm, windy, and a bit delightful here in Central IL.

It is finally Spring Break, much needed for all of the Plato family.  Yesterday and today, Ignatius and I ran/walked together.  Yesterday, we were outside.  Today, we went to 4 Seasons 1.  I ran the track, he walked the elliptical and treadmill.

The exciting part was that I REALLY ran.  I walked the first 5 minutes or so as a warm up (through the song, Dancing Queen), then I ran/jogged the rest through to the distance of a 5K (well, I stopped running at 3.2 miles).  It felt pretty good, I have to say.  I had been doing a run/walk for a while to save my foot, but I found today that just slowing my running pace was an OK thing as well.

The kids are great.  We had Max's IEP annual review.  That seemed to go well.  It's very difficult to plan goals when he changes so much within a year.  They are always willing to revisit his plan, which is nice.  I have to start gearing up for continuing his education throughout the summer months.  He's not always as receptive to mom wanting to do "academic" things with him.  He will be attending "Autism Camp" for 5 weeks.  That will work on social-emotional goals and maintaining social gains (I hope) that he has made this year. 

Ignatius registered for high school at Central Catholic.  He is really excited.  I find it hard to believe he is of age, but it's coming.  It hit me when we did not have to register for Holy Trinity for the first time in 9 years.

I am still crossing my fingers that the ministry at St. Pat's will catch on.  We had a meeting during "Blizzard Week," where myself and Ellen were the two participants.  We are trying again on April 9, this time offering child care and a bit lengthier blurb in the bulletin.  If that doesn't work, this just might not be the time.  But I can't say we didn't try.

So glad spring is here!