Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Parenting with Autism Part Two: Repetition, repetition, repetition...

I have a great deal of patience with my daughter.  It seems that I share a lot of characteristics with your average 3 year old (and I mean that in a very positive way).  Like her, I don’t get easily bored when doing something I enjoy, and I’m quite happy to do things repetitively again and again.  Watching the same episodes of Peppa Pig is fine by me – she loves it, and I enjoy the humour each time (whereas my partner is endlessly frustrated by the repetition).  It seems that I have an inexhaustible appetite for the expertise of Daddy Pig and the song of Grampy Rabbit.  Like her, I can immerse myself in what she is immersing herself in, in that total fashion that all toddlers have – books about trains, playing with the Lego, organising her books and toys.  Of course, this love of repetition, order and immersion are all characteristic of autism, but also of early childhood – I feel that my Asperger’s is somehow giving me the ability to bond even more with my young daughter, and I think this is wonderful.

Over the weekend we spent a happy few hours in the loft room with my Lego collection, which is embarrassingly vast.  I have taught her to respect Lego and the small pieces involved, so she is now very confident with it, and I with her treatment of it.  She doesn’t try to eat it or break the pieces, but is beginning to build simple structures.  She is totally over Duplo, viewing it as clumsy and unsophisticated.  We were sitting in companionly silence, snow slowly layering on the overhead skylights, both completely focused on what we were doing, but taking an occasional interest in the other’s ‘work’.  I was rebuilding something, and she was sorting out the heads and hats of the minifigures before putting them all on seats on a rudimentary 2-wheeled bus that she had constructed herself, to my quiet and overwhelming pride.  Every now and then she would ask for help with a particularly fiddly task, and occasionally I would ask her how her project was going, but for the most part we were in our own worlds and yet completely together, simultaneously.  I felt tremendously relaxed and calm.

Being a parent with Asperger’s can be extremely challenging, so I think it is important to highlight these positives.  Being autistic has allowed me an insight into her young mind that I suppose other parents may not get so clearly.  I understand the value of obsessing over details, studying differences, total immersion and repetitive tasks as they bring me comfort in the same way as they are helping her learn.  This does not mean that autistic people are children – far from it.  I think it is more that we never lose that youthful ability to focus on something completely and cut out the white noise and the nonsense that could distract us.  I hope this continues for a time, though I am mindful that as she gets older she will, presumably, begin to lose her appetite for these activities: I will make the most of this while it lasts.

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