Susan's Blog

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Autism Mommy Swami Q & A: Age-Appropriate?

Dear Swami,

My son W will be turning 13 in January. He has limited communication skills and in many ways is like a younger child.  He probably falls in the moderate to severe range on the spectrum. I try to encourage his independence. He does chores around the house. It has been recommended to me that I steer him away from some of the things he likes that are for younger kids. For instance, he is perfectly happy to sit and watch Sesame Street. He will go on You tube and pull up Teletubbies and Caillou.

We recently attended a birthday party for a very high functioning 11 year old girl. She is obsessed with animals and bugs. It was a reptile themed party. There was a demonstration where they pulled all these reptiles out of a box and the kids got to hold them and learn about them. It lasted an hour and W did great. He attended, he held everything. He didn’t react much but he participated. For the rest of the party he sat on the floor and played with the girls 2 year old siblings’ toys. I’m not sure what else he could do. He cannot have a conversation and is emotionally a lot younger than the other kids. I don’t think he has any / many interests to share anyway. Staying at the party allowed my 10 year old daughter and I  to socialize.

I half think I should just leave him alone. I’m not sure what to replace these shows or toys with. It’s what he likes. On the other hand, will he be 20 and playing with jack in the box? What does Swami think?

Thank you for this forum. D


Dear D,

The Swami understands and recognizes the pain of not knowing how much to try to change and how much to accept/let be in our kids. I struggled so much with this when my Nat was younger. I still struggle with the question: “Is it okay to let him sit around or pace half the day on weekends he’s home, or should I be engaging him more with constructive (read: neurotypical) activities?”

You can probably see where I’m going here. I paid special attention to your statement: “I half think I should just leave him alone…” This is one instinct to consider and give credence to. Our autistic kids are atypical; they are wired differently. They like different things than neurotypical people. That is a fact and it does not mean their preferred activities are wrong. Even if common thinking is that the particular activity is not age appropriate, I have to ask, “How is such a judgement decided? Who died and made Mattel or Lego or television programming boss?” Do psychologists get together and tell television shows and toddler toy manufacturers what is what? Why do they put those stupid depressing ages on the box? Why do we pay attention to it? You like what you like. To tell you the truth, the Swami still likes to dress up in gowns and high heels, only now, they are my own and not my grandmother’s. My “typical” 21 year old still likes Pokemon and thinks Spongebob is awesome.

If, indeed, W at 20 still plays with a jack-in-the-box, where is the tragedy?

On the other hand, if you can find ways to expand his world, and give him more activities to enjoy, go for it! I think it’s great that he enjoyed the birthday party, as well as the 2 year old sibling. Friends, no matter what age, are friends. People are people. We love what we love, who we love. As long as we love, we are doing great. That goes for W, your wonderful unusual boy. Swami says: enjoy him and learn from him all about a different kind of mind!




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