To Play, or not to Play…………………………

Published March 29, 2013 by thefamilyof5

‘Play’ is a topic that often fills me with frustration and despair.

You’ve heard the saying 2’s company and 3’s a crowd, well its never been truer than it is here. Remove any one girl from the equation and the chaos and competitiveness of their play departs and calm is restored.

But dynamics isn’t the only issue with play that we struggle with. There are many difficulties around play in general for my girls, mostly because the leader of their little pack, the one that they all look to for guidance and reassurance, has very few play skills. I’ve no doubt that big girls ASD plays a big part in her lack of ‘play’ skills and imagination, but as the eldest, her younger sisters are following her lead.

Baby girl has a wonderful imagination, she can play for hours with something as simple as a cracker toy and loose herself in an imaginative world of fairy’s and unicorns. She’s expressive and fun and imaginative.

Middle girl also has a good imagination and great concentration skills, she will focus on her task/toy and immerse herself in whatever activity she’s chosen. She’s determined, eager and passionate.

Big girl has the attention span of a gnat and the play skills of a goldfish. She has no interest in games as these require turn taking and playing fair. She lacks the imagination to be able to play with toys and is generally only happy when she’s ‘in charge’. This means most of her play is based on learnt behaviors/roles. For example she’ll play ‘teachers’ providing she is the teacher, or ‘mommys and babys’ providing she is the mommy. She also struggles to entertain herself which means she constantly manipulates and controls her sisters in to playing what she wants to play.

The end result of this is that baby girl and middle girls ‘playtime’ is suffering. They don’t get the opportunity to use their own play skills often because they become sucked in to big girls version of play whereby they become bossed around and treated as inferior beings whilst big girl dominates over them.

I’ve tried everything to free them from her grasp, I’ve separated them and made them play alone but big girl really struggles with this and will require 1on1 attention from us, which if she gets, evokes jealously from her sisters thus distracting them from their own play and defeating the object.

I’ve assigned specific activities, but again big girl will struggle with this and will manipulate her way in to their activity or entice them in to hers, honestly you have to see it to believe it.

I’ve even removed big girl from the equation, she attends an after school club for an hour a week, but its just not enough time for it to be of any real benefit to her sisters.

We have every toy you could imagine in our playroom, there are piles of toys gathering more and more dust each day, we have building and making, dolls and tea sets, cars and horses, books and puzzles, arts and crafts, music and films, dressing up and imaginative play. But with big girl not having the skills to use these items, or the ability to learn the skills, we may as well have nothing, for in the playroom, she is the leader of the pack.


14 comments on “To Play, or not to Play…………………………

  • How difficult and frustrating your challenge sounds. It must be so tiring. I feel for you. Is there any play therapy available through post adoption to help? You must feel like you have to treat them so differently xx

    • All my girls are different to each other and everything about them requires me to parent them each differently which is exhausting and frustrating. When it comes to play, big girl is by far the biggest hurdle and the biggest challenge. I’m not aware of any support services that teach a child how to ‘play’ never mind an ASD child. School have tried to instigate some ‘social learning’ for big girl, but mostly she’s just learnt to adapt to the needs of her peers rather than learn actual play skills 🙂

  • I felt a wave of tiredness claim me just reading this, in recognition of how hard this challenge is for you. One on one its taken us six years to find a way to play well together – sometimes.
    Sending you some extra strength, some perseverance and some patience. I know we need them in spades and we sometimes run out. Much respect Mx

  • I am in awe of you. I’ve struggled to manage the play of two children and both ‘know’ how to play. A good friend of mine has a child who can’t play but has to control and it has been a minefield. Of course we should all have access to support such as Theraplay training, but that’s a whole other story….
    Sending you strength and love x

    • I think at ‘approaching 9’ she’s nearing the age where its now too late to learn ‘imaginative play’ skills which is so sad isn’t it, my main focus for her at the minute is the more grown up ‘social skills’, because most 8 and 9 year old little girls are very sociable, they ‘chat’, and she’s struggling with this aspect at school as even her conversation skills are very controlling and one sided. Thanks for your kind words Sally 🙂

  • I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be for you, and for your other girls.
    There are indeed services – theraplay is one of them – that can teach older children to play. Our theraplay guy often talks of young teenagers who he has taught to play, despite their backgrounds and age, but as Sally says, accessing such services is hit and miss.
    WIshing you calm times and thanks for linking with the Weekly Adoption Shout Out x

  • Sounds like your big girl needs more time in specialised care – I know we have after school and holiday care here just for children with special needs – an hour a week is not much. Or maybe sports or something else involving “rules”?

    • We have tried many clubs. The schools wrap around care was the first one where she busied herself tidying up for an hour a week, Rainbows was next, she went for almost a year but it involved games and team work and she’d refuse to take part, so then she joined a kids zumba class but as the group got bigger, it got louder and she couldn’t cope with the noise, there are dance/gym clubs etc but she wouldn’t take part in those either. She does go to a swimming class which she likes, her sisters attend with her.
      She currently attends the schools ‘engineering club’ which from what I can gather is an hour of lego and knex etc which she really doesn’t enjoy either, but, the headmaster takes the class and she has a soft spot for him, and he for her, so for now she is happy to have his attention whilst he plays lego or whatever!
      Finding a club she will attend and enjoy has been quite a struggle, we’re still not there.

  • Sounds like a very tough situation indeed. All of these comments and suggestions are so nice to read, this is why I love this little community. I’m not sure what it’s like where you are – if you were to get a formal diagnosis of ASD would funding and access to therapist who could help be available? I don’t think there is an easy answer but I do hope you find some strategies that make things a bit easier. Take care:)

    • I love this little community, I love that there are so many lovely people out there following our journey and offering support and advice :).
      We do have a formal asd diagnosis for big girl, we got it Sept 12. Aside from addressing her battle with sleep, and assessing her salt needs, they’ve not really offered much else. It is something I plan to ask about though 🙂

  • I feel for you, it’s a tough situation. I can so relate to the whole ‘play’ issue and I’m just dealing with 2 rather than 3, so my hat goes off to you. When I adopted my 2 I naively assumed that children play, obviously adoption prep outlined the issues some children have & potential behaviours but it was only when I was living with their issues 24/7 did I appreciate how a not so great start in life can really affect our LO’s. My eldest can’t cope with games where she can’t win & will manipulate her sister so that she does. Her games involve her being in control, we’ve had ‘queen’ & ‘ servant’ here before now! I’ve tried separating them, setting up different activities etc as you have & all that happens is that I’m run ragged trying to enforce my ‘rules’ on how the play is going to go. Like you we have loads of toys and I get so upset seeing them ignoring these and sitting fiddling with a McDonalds toy. Hope you get to access some extra help soon. Take care.

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