(Still in the process of edits. Updates will be made soon.)
Recently I began to reread one of my favorite books, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. In the image above, Christopher Vaughan attempts to define what play is. Acknowledging that it is an experience that cannot be contained by explanations. While reading further, I kept being confronted with thoughts of how these very important principles of development & being are constantly taken away & limited for autistic kids and people. The idea being that if an autistic person is to properly develop then they’d need to learn how to play in ways that would properly develop them. Except, the way we play is best for the way our autistic minds develop.
I was growing frusterated with memories being recalled about autism professionals expressing their frustrations with parallel play and discussing how their clients needed them to teach them how to play. But before I went off the deep end, because no one likes acting off of assumptions, I reached out & asked autistic friends & acquaintances for input.
As the responses came I there was one thing that was clear, no one wanted someone elses social expectations forced onto them. But even those who expressed contentment with the play of their youth had more to say on how they would have preferred things to be.
Play in Summary
Play is intigral part of developement, especially in earlier years but also for the whole of our lives. Through play we are able to learn things like who we are, what the rules are of the world, how we can best work, how we connect with others, how we can see the world. All with lessened pressues of failure.
There are 6 kinds of play, each stage having typical developemental markers as well:
• Unoccupied play: Pre-play stimming
• Independent play: Playing on your own
• Onlooker play: Watching others play
• Parallel play: Playing “near”
• Associative play: Playing “with” with different goals
• Cooperative play: Playing “with” with the same goal
Autistic kids are more likely to stay within earlier stages of play such as unoccupied play, individual play, onlooker play, & parallel play. We tend to have a harder time with associative play, & cooperative play.
Autism professionals usually pin this on development. While this can be the case (and it is important to be patient of autistic development not reflecting the pace of typical development), there’s also a lot of significance in the impact of sensory differences, confusing social expectations, & non-accommodating people.
Despite all of that there are still concerns that autistics aren’t getting the “need to know info” from our preferred kinds of play, when we are developing within the best scope for our monotropic minds. We explore creatively & share intimacy in ways that make the most sense to us.
Rather than individuals insisting that we intigrate into the kinds of play that makes the most sense to them, what we really need is:
• for people to help us to understand the function of things & to be clear with explanations,
• for our needs to be accommodated (sensory & otherwise)
• for boundaries to be taught to us; how to make them, how to uphold them, & how to respect others
• to Accept Us As We Are, &
• to Not Be Blamed For The Mistreatment That We Experience
Intimacy Through Autistic Connection
Despite what many autism professionals try to say, parallel play is a very intimate way to interact with others. It’s like
‘Will you be with me as I am right now?’ takes a lot of vulnerability and trust
More people should learn from it.
Parallel play is to play “near” rather than to play “with”. Although for many people, especially autistics, “near” can still be interpreted as “with”.
Some ways that folk enjoy parrallel play is:
Exposure Anxiety’s Influence on Play
Exposure Anxiety is important to be aware of because it can be what causes distress for autistics, especially autistic kids, in any kind of social confrontation. Which further affirms the importance of parallel play for autistic children. Many behaviourists believe that fits in reaction to social confrontations or demands are behavioural things that need to be fixed, when what more than likely is sensory overwhelm &/ exposure anxiety. Being mindful that These Are Not Responses That Autistics Can Control. Meaning that autistics Should Not be punished or forced because of the way our nervous system is responding.