Autism and Child’s Play
Written on 27th Oct 2016 by Alex Lowery
Today’s article will be focussed more on Children than it will be on adults with autism. I particularly want to focus on the angle of how children with autism ‘play’. It is often said that children on the autistic spectrum lack imaginative play. Today, I’m going to be writing about how I used to ‘play’ back in the day.
When I was around 3, my idea of playing was lining up my die cast toys from ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ in one long row. I’d also pile all my toys on my mum’s knee. There were also certain things I wanted my mum do again and again.
Growing up I always played games with my Siblings. However, they were rarely the typical games that children play. My older brother used to try to get me to play Football with him and play fight, (he still tries to have play fights with me occasionally) which are the typical games that brothers play together. I was never interested in playing football or playing rough. Due to having Dyspraxia, I didn’t know how to co-ordinate my body to do the things my brother expected me to do, and I still don’t for the most part. Play fighting also takes physical contact, which I’m not too keen on. Sword fighting (not with real swords obviously) can be fun even though, again, I am awful at it.
Due to how I’ve never really been rough, I was generally always considered to be a bit of a ‘goody two shoes’ by fellow kids my age when growing up. Adults often viewed me as very sensible, and mature, but in reality I simply didn’t know how to be any other way. When I was in my pre-teens to early teens, I tried to fit more into the ‘norm’ but I failed on every level when doing this.
Anyway, shall we get onto the kind of play I did do? There was a game I did play with all my Siblings to a point, but in particular with my older brother and sister, when I was very young and my language hadn’t fully developed. It was a game where I’d give my whole family a different name from their own. These names would be random words I had heard such as ‘Shopping’ and other words that I can’t really remember. There was also an evil being/a monster that existed in my mind. I tended to view him, as the being that was responsible for all my terrifying thoughts, and nightmares. The monster was called ‘Scudder’. I used to play games with my Siblings where Scudder would be constantly scaring children. Then Scudder would die and we’d all go to his funeral. But it then turned out that he wasn’t really dead. There is a big link to Scudder and my day-to-day struggles with anxiety, but that’s a good topic for another time. I don’t vividly remember the ‘Scudder games’. I can only remember bits and pieces of them.
As I got older, I would play a lot of games with my younger sisters. And I will tell you now; they were NOT like the typical games that Children play. We had a game were my sisters and I would pretend to be members of the royal family. The game was called ‘Kings of Lovida’, despite there being a Queen and not a King. This game had a theme song that I would sing before we played. Because my sisters were younger than me, this made it far easier for me to control them, and get the game to play out how I wanted it to. I couldn’t do this with my older siblings, because they were older than me. I would pretend to be Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, I used to say that Camilla was a witch, which wasn’t very nice of me. My sisters would basically do whatever I got them to do. They would just go along with it. Whenever there were current events going on, that involved the royal family, I’d try to capture these events in this game. I even tried to play out some Political things into the game, despite not really understanding Politics at all.
I liked to play my favourite games again and again, like following a script. I didn’t let other children have a say in how the play was going to go because I had a set idea in my mind. I wanted it to follow through in that way. I am the same now when I plan a film, I have the whole scrip in my head and I feel really put out if my technical ability stops me from making the film as I see it in my head.
To me, this wasn’t really a game. I basically saw it almost like a TV series where we would watch this series of events involving the royal family play out. Or in mind at the time, I was imagining these events really where happening. When I stim, I tend to be re-living past memories with a twist/spin on them, or re-living what I’ve seen on film, and imagining I’m the same environments that these characters have been in. So I suppose, you could say, this game was a form of Stimming for me. As I was acting out, I was imagining these situations with the royal family were really happening. And when it came to the next time my sisters and I would play, I saw it as ‘time to continue the story’ essentially. I would Stim while playing these games because like I said, to me this game was like a form of Stimming.
We played other games as well. There was one game were I would lie on the edge of the settee and shout, “Help!!!! I’m falling!!!” And my sisters would have to stop me from falling over the edge. The reason why I played this was because I liked imagining I was in a situation where I was falling over the edge, but was saved just in time. The thought made me feel relaxed, like lying on a trampoline. However, in the game, we (and by we I of course mean I) made it so that falling off the edge of the sofa made you turn evil. So in my case, when I fell off the edge; I basically started acting like Darth Sidious from Star Wars. I would be using force lightening all over the place, and then fell into this water, which made me turn good. Clearly, I had a very black and white view of good and evil didn’t I?
There was another game I’d play with my sisters (well, mostly my second youngest sister) called “Dinner”, were I would lie there, and she’d pretend to put spices on me and then put me in the oven to cook me, then she’d go to sleep and I’d have to escape without her realizing. This was also a game, where I liked imagining I really was trying run away without being noticed.
So those where the types of games I played when I was young. Not the typical kind of games kids play are they? Like I said, because my sisters were younger, I could basically guide them to do what I wanted. There did actually come a time when I decided I was too old for these games, so I’d say to them “Just play them without me”, and apparently they couldn’t. They simply didn’t know what to do if I wasn’t present, because I was basically doing it all myself. My sisters ended up thinking this was the normal way typical kids play, but apparently it isn’t. To me, the games worked quite differently from those of typical kids. If you’re autistic, please leave me comments explaining how you played as a child. Can you relate to anything I said?
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this article.
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