‘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.