Dinosaurs in the mud, Wilber the pig from Charlotte’s Web, Horses in the Kentucky Derby, and the wonderful world of dogs are all topics I never imagined that I could learn so much about! However, because my daughter has autism, she was interested in these topics, I learned about them too. We read books, listened to DVDs and visited places where we could learn about these topics. Perseveration is often the term used in the World of Autism to describe the strong interest children have for topics. Children with autism may seem to be ignoring you, but they are just waiting for you to enter their world. The best way to enter that world is to learn about what they are interested in.
When my daughter was little, I would try to play dolls with her or have a tea party. All the typical girl toys that little girls play with she was not really interested in. It was really hard for me to want to play with her and she seemed to be ignoring me. I tried a variety of things, but she was not interested in playing. The only thing she really liked to do was to sit in my lap and read stacks and stacks of books. However, every time we would go to the mall, every horse she would point to and name. So, wanting to play with her, I got little plastic horses and a barn, puzzles with horses, and coloring books with horses. She started to play with us! She even got a bouncy horse that took up our entire dining room! She loved horses and I learned to love them to. The cutest thing was when she got a bowl of Quaker Oats and a bowl of water for her horse Liberty for lunch! I was not allowed to pick up the bowls because the horse was not done eating them, needless to say overnight the bowls became empty.
Next, for some reason, dinosaurs were discovered. Now, this was a real stretch for me. The only similarity between dinosaurs and dolls was the letter “D”. My little girl with pigtails loved dinosaurs. So, wanting to play with her, I jumped in too! We found all sort of dinosaur books, games, cookie cutters, coloring books, and so much more I was amazed. Her favorite was the large plastic dinosaurs that we bought her at a toy store. We set up a sand and water table for her dinosaurs to stomp in. She was so happy and quickly learned the names of them all and even had hand signals for them. When she got mad at us, she would say that you were in the mud! Not a good place to be!
With each new interest, we tried to broaden her world a little bit more. We learned where all the different breeds of dogs came from (geography). We used little plastic dogs to add and subtract. We practiced spelling and writing all the different dog breeds. By the age of 8 Lydia had read all the dog encyclopedias in our public library system! She loved to read those books and would often tell us very unique facts. Our family embraced the interest in dogs and used it to open more of the world to her.
Now each child living with autism is different and unique. These are items that we did, and it worked great for our family. She now has many interests and loves to learn about new topics. So, if you know someone with autism, they may have some topic they are interested in. Remember, a person with autism may not be ignoring you, they may simply be waiting for you to enter their world.