Play

A TV documentary about how different animals play made me aware of how each species’ games were amazingly appropriate for developing the particular skills they would need as adults. Predators usually played ‘catch-&-kill’, whereas prey animals played ‘run-as-fast-as-you-can.’ Chimps played ‘swing-from-branch-to-branch’ while mountain goats played ‘balance-on-precarious-precipice.’ Males of all species played ‘fight-and-compete-with-other-males’ and ‘mount-anything-that-moves.’ The program also made analogies with how human children play but did not distinguish between different personality types.

That’s when I got the thought that perhaps those who play differently as children also may be playing perfectly appropriately for their particular type.

BORN TO BE A SPECIALIST?

A child who shows signs of having special interests and insatiable hunger for knowledge out of the ordinary before school age, and less interest in common child games, I think should be encouraged to pursue those interests, as there is no knowing if this person will one day become the next Mendeleyev, Edison, van Gogh, Spielberg or Bill Gates, or someone who just follows their interests for the fun of it. Either way, having special interests may still be useful either directly or indirectly (e.g. in developing one’s concentration, coordination and perseverance).

“Hans Asperger believed that it takes a dash of autism to be good in the scientific fields and the artistic fields (Klin, Volkmar, & Sparrow, 2000). Science and art both require a creative sense, perhaps even a sense of wonderment about the world around us that autism seems to supply.

“I don’t know how many of you did this but I drove my parents crazy as a child because I always wanted to know more (my favorite question was ‘why’?). The more I watch other people the more I realize that most people quit asking questions way too early!  We may drive others and ourselves a little crazy at times but this can be viewed as a bonus for us!  We discover worlds of understanding through questioning.”

Rachele, Aspie from USA

“Katie is hungry for knowledge (ravenous even!) and asks questions well beyond her years. For example, she wants me to explain photosynthesis to her!  I can already see I’m going to have to become very well versed in whatever she chooses for an interest, since explaining what I remember from elementary school is not satisfying her (which reminds me, I’ve got to do some research)!”

Wendi, Aspie mother from USA, about one of her 4½-year-old spectrum triplets

“i took a radio and clock apart when i was 3. i always have been fascinated with clocks and time. i think the main reason was how the sounds came from them and i wanted to know how that happened and how i could make other things provide the same effect for me so i took it apart to explore how i could maybe do that. i think me father was surprised i actually put them back together and they still worked.”

Martka, female adolescent HFA from Scotland

At 4, I wanted to know why electricity was invisible, why water was see-through, what the brain and the heart looked like, and what death is. I was disappointed that my parents didn’t seem to know, or wouldn’t tell me. The only thing my mom would share was the mystery of how babies were made, which I happily forwarded to my slightly shocked grandmother.

Ing, site-author

“I was much for ‘investigating’ things. I was obsessed with learning things by rote, it could be books, songs or films for example. Sometimes I would correct mom when she read to me, not because I could read but because I knew the book in my head since I had heard it several times before.”

‘missbutterfly’, Aspie from Sweden

To use odd things for toys, taking things apart and examining the details, collecting things or organising toys or other things rather than playing make-believe games with social content, indicates being more form oriented than people oriented. This is perfectly normal for specialist & artist personality types, and the skills one develops playing this way may be of much use later in life.

“i never played with dolls. it sort of just always seemed boring to me. i liked things that do stuff or required putting together or taking apart. i liked puzzles and games requiring logical thought. And lots of science stuff. i never had a dolls house but i made buildings out of furniture. it was never to play with and i got mad when me parents would take them apart.

“also i got in trouble once for creating a lab and hatchery in me baths. i just wanted to learn how to create things. Actually, the shrimp that hatched stayed for days because i still was not sure that i had managed to do everything perfectly right, did not smell so good either! 😛 Me father did not say too much because he is a scientist, but me mum sure had issues with that one.”

Martka, female adolescent HFA from Scotland

“My earliest memory is of carving a truck out of a piece of wood when I was three years of age. Specifically, I learned just how much more difficult it is to cut across the grain of the wood than with the grain. I will never forget this lesson! I can still feel the feelings, see the images, and relive my frustrations…..”

‘Rainbow’, Aspie wood-craftsman from USA

My own intense interest in colour, design, electricity, language, architecture, reading and sorting things when I was a child, has been tremendously useful to me in my personal, creative and professional life (as a colour consultant, lighting expert and antiques dealer among other things). I’m glad I didn’t waste any time on appalling baby dolls (since I never wanted to have children anyway).

Most of my time I spent thinking of and experimenting with colour; painting, testing various colour combinations (e.g. mixing an endless variety of subtle hues from yellow, cyan, magenta & white Play-Doh and making little cats out of them), making mental notes of which colour schemes match this or that hair colour and testing it on my Barbie dolls (though I had no idea what to do with them after I had dressed them up). Had I not been allowed to pursue this interest, I might not have developed my unique sense of colour and harmony to such a refined degree.

Ing, site-author

“I played a lot with electricity and fire and pyrotechnics as a child (and ‘goo’).”

“I’ve invented all sorts of things. Today I construct machines and people often mistake me for an engineer until I tell them otherwise. But I still do jobs that you’re supposed to be an engineer to do. 🙂 I get a lot of fun commissions most of the time. :)”

nano, male Aspie from Sweden

“When I was small I had at school a desk with a drawer. I made a small house inside with furniture and beds and carpets and all that and the thing was making it out of all typical school materials. I became a really nice house. My teacher found out about it and she thought it was too pretty to throw away. So I just had to promise her not playing with the house all the time. But I was not playing with it: I was building it” : )

Lida, Aspie artist from the Netherlands

“I had dolls and played with them, copying the other girls who lived on my block.  But I didn’t have the imagination to play with them and make up original stories – it was all scripted.  I didn’t play with the dolls out of choice, but just because I was trying to fit in.

“I did used to set up my stuffed animals like a classroom and read to them though. I used to pick a topic and research in my encyclopedia and copy every word into a notebook for REAL fun lol.  The topics changed, I guess my interest was really the research part (and it still is fun for me!).”

Wendi, Aspie from USA

“The playing house one yeah, like social children just seem to be able to spontaneously play with one another and all know the unspoken rules, I on the other had would make dolls houses, design them, but not really play with them – it was the design and creation, order and structure that to me was important. Other children I just found messy and unpredictable and would mess up my structure and order. I think the way I played (or did not play) house was I was already creating environments that I had total control over – to me it was a solitary thing – if you added people to the equation, they just messed it up” 🙂

Julie, Aspie from England

Some use toys and other things in unconventional ways.

“On my first birthday I got a teddy-bear. When I opened the package and saw it I first looked puzzled. Then I squeezed it a little and lifted it and looked thoughtful. It was big, hard and light. Then I lit up and went off with the teddy-bear. Pushed it beside the front door and stood on it and could then just reach the door handle. Then I pulled it into the kitchen and stood on it to reach the top drawer with knives in it. And I was so happy. They had understood what I needed! My mom also looked happy so I felt that we had some sort of contact. That she had anticipated my needs. That she had shared my mental world.”

Stefan, Aspie from Sweden

INTROVERSION

Naturally introvert and sensitive may prefer to play alone. Being forced to spend much time with other children – especially in larger groups, and with unfamiliar children, can be highly stressful. Being introvert and introspective is a natural temperament variation – not a disorder.

“Introverted children enjoy the internal world of thoughts, feelings and fantasies, and there’s a physiological reason for this. Researchers using brain scans have found introverts have more brain activity in general, and specifically in the frontal lobes. When these areas are activated, introverts are energized by retrieving long-term memories, problem solving, introspection, complex thinking and planning.”

Experts: Introverted youth have deep roots for behavior

Being put in kindergarten at 4 was a bustling horror that literally gave me nightmares, even though I was not treated badly in any way. Though I eventually got used to them, other children generally frightened me and I felt no inclination to approach them to ‘play’. I got through kindergarten by keeping to myself and sticking to drawing & crafts.

Much more satisfying to play alone at home and build a Lego house, make a drawing or sort mother’s buttons in order of hue. Or to simply sit in peace and read, daydream, watch a rhinestone glitter in the sun or ponder on things that needed pondering on.

Ing, site-author

“I was extremely unsocial as a child. I had no interest whatsoever playing with other children before I was 9. MY only interest in others was when I got to read something in class and they listened to me. I loved performing, to be seen, but not if it included talking with others. I never wanted to play with others. But I was very caring, didn’t want the other children to be sad that I didn’t want to join in. I noticed that they were disappointed, which I made me feel bad.”

“I was very easily scared too. Loud noises was what mostly gave me panic, complete panic.”

‘MissNervvrak’, neuro-atypical female from Sweden

“I was quiet and shy, stayed close to the teachers at recess, was not forward and thought I’d stay quiet all my life. Now I know that my musical activities and having started to work has made me more outspoken and forward, I can thank some employers and musical contacts for that.”

Crille B, male Aspie from Sweden

EXTROVERSION

Some children, often with ADHD or Tourette are very extrovert, sensory seeking & energetic and can’t sit still for a minute.

“Extroverts enjoy the external world of things, people and activities. They have more activity in brain areas involved in processing the sensory information we’re bombarded with daily. Because extroverts have less internally generated brain activity, they search for more external stimuli to energize them.”

Experts: Introverted youth have deep roots for behavior

I was as a child very dominant, played only with children older than myself. Fought and often got into rows. Played tiger a lot (I was always the dominant male tiger). At home I often sat in my closet as I felt safe there (something I still do). Slept in my mothers bed until I was 11. In my neuropsychiatric evaluation it says that I probably had juvenile ADHD. I was very active, but I needed everything to be on my terms and be ‘perfect'”

‘12312qw’ female (?) Aspie from Sweden

SHYNESS & CONFUSION

Some atypical children may want to play with others but are too shy to approach, too different to get accepted and/or unable to figure out the rules & purpose of the games other children play. Such children may appreciate being guided into interacting with peers.

I used to watch in amazement as my outgoing American cousins easily made new friends by simply going up to them and asking if they wished to play – something I’d never dream of doing! The games other children played puzzled me no end. Even when I was invited to join in, I was often wondering how everyone else could know the rules, and what the point of the exercise was.

Ing, site-author

GENDER-ATYPICAL GAMES

Many play games not typical of their gender.

“I feel like ‘me’ and can’t see myself as more typical female than as typical male. I have never been able to identify with women/girls and when I was younger, I didn’t even understand that I was the ‘same’ as ‘those who play with dolls.’ I could notice the difference between girls and boys but not put myself into that context.

“Girls were those who played boring games with dolls, liked ugly pink colors and skirts, and were mean and calculating in a way that took me days or eternities to see through, or if I figured it out directly, wasn’t able to handle (had a meltdown).

“Boys were those who played some fun games (except team sport games), but they didn’t want to play with girls (‘coodies’ and all that).”

“I used to love technology. Loved soldering circuit cards, loved learning how to build houses (I drew ceiling structures and planned building a house :-D). Changing electric wires in lamps and other things is fun. Or taking apart electric motors and checking inside. A more feminine part of me loves knitting and stitching so I’m not a total Tomboy.”

Emma, Aspie from Sweden

AGE-ATYPICAL INTERESTS

Some have unusually mature or unusually childish interests for their age, be uninterested in playing with others of the same age, or the same type of games, and may prefer the company of adults or older children. These may be signs of being gifted and/or sensitive & confused in social situations. It is not uncommon to be seen as either too childish for one’s age or too serious, simetimes precocious.

“I think I was a child longer than usual. I still played with dolls and read cartoons when my peers wrer out drinking and sleeping with boys… my ‘teen’ period with discos and partying started when I was 25, and that’s when I moved from home. So I was very late with everything.”

Heliora, Aspie from Sweden

“When I was growing up, people often accused me of always being serious. In high school this continued and people did often remark that I tended to be too serious. Out in life, people tell me I also look like ‘I have my mind set on getting something done or that I am deep in thought and don’t want to be bothered. That said, there are times that I will play around, just that you can’t really see when it is coming. I’ll just go from being Mr. Spock to playing around and right back again.”

William, Aspie from USA

“I think I was extremely inquisitive as a child, often adults would laugh because ”my questions were so cute” but that just made me indignant. If I asked when I was three what politics was, for example, I naturally wanted a descriptive reply and not a sneer. I never felt at ease in my ‘child’s body’ but felt older inside than a child I think. I wasn’t keen on other children and very early felt different. Thought other children were stupid and had an erratic movement patterns which scared me.I was not interested in playing, I also didn’t know HOW you play. For me it was totally uninteresting. I liked crafts and painting and could make very advanced patterns on pearl-plates without ever getting the wrong colour. I was like a machine when I had started something and could turn off everything else and just be completely absorbed by what I was doing.

‘missbutterfly’, Aspie from Sweden

“I rarely associated with peers of the same age but preferred (some) who were oldrer, teachers or older relatives. It was tough during teens when one was called teachers favorite. People thought I did it just to get better grades.”

Matilda, Aspie from Sweden

“My ‘problem’ is rather that I’ve always been mature. Or… too mature. Have always been more comfortable with those who are several years older, ever since I was a child. Am I grown up? Yes, even now people tell me I’m too grown up.”

tahlia, female Aspie from Sweden

“I think, and people often say, that I’m either much older or much younger than my real age. I’m rarely 25.”

‘MsTibbs’, Aspie from Sweden

Many adult Aspies still love things one is supposed to have outgrown once past childhood or adolescence, e.g. comics, cartoons, computer games, train sets, Lego or stuffed animals. And are often the happier for still being able to find comfort, entertainment and joy in such things. Life does not have to be boring just because one reaches a certain age.

“I seem to enjoy lots of things that are often though of as children’s things. I have noticed a love of children’s things or things that are perceived as children’s things in many friends who also seem to have AS traits.

“I like anime and manga (Japanese animation and comics) and some other animation and independent comics.  I like stuffed animals.  I have T-shirts with cartoon characters.  I enjoy reading some books that are labeled for young adult or teen (my actual reading level is very high).  Sometimes I wear clothing from the teen section of the store (though I have been trying to be professional looking at work).  I am 36 and I don’t think that I will be outgrowing of this; I think this is just the way I am.

“I think this can take several forms.  Adults that like children’s things.  Older children or teens that like things targeted toward younger kids.  People in their 30’s that like things targeted toward teens or college age people.  Adults that like grown up versions of things believed to be childish, such as comics, video games, collectable action figures or dolls.”

Ilah, probable Aspie from USA

“I think [my biggest asset is] probably my youthful side – it helps me get through this life not being too serious all the time and having a sense of wonder remaining intact.”

Julie, Aspie from England

LINKS

Monotropism Hypothesis by Dinah Murray, Mike Lesser & Wendy Lawson

Is AS/HFA necessarily a disability? by Simon Baron-Cohen

Experts: Introverted youth have deep roots for behavior by Janie Magruder

This is Lewis.net A young Aspie’s perspective.

BOOKS

The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child: Helping Your Child Thrive in an Extroverted World

1 Comment »

  1. […] mig, fast jag har aldrig hyperfokuserat i veckor i sträck. En annan artikel på sidan har rubriken Play, och här hittar vi citat som jag helt och hållet känner igen mig i: “I don’t know how many […]


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