Today’s post is a guest post from Sarah at Little Bins for Little Hands. She is sharing from her heart and I know it will be a blessing to many! Enjoy!
When I first agreed to write a guest post, I asked Heather if she wanted anything special based on what we do over here for learning through play. I still remember her comment as I sit here and write, as it really meant something to me and got me thinking about some of the difficulties we have been having around turning play into an adverse activity. Heather said, something to the effect of, write down whatever HE lies on your heart. This feeling about creating an aversion to play has been weighing heavily on our hearts these days in our home.
I could write a post on the coolest sensory bin we have done, numerous fun ways to learn the alphabet, a cute book and craft project or even the unstructured play time we have, but this time I am going to write from the heart. Certainly the sensory bins, alphabet play, art projects, and free play sort of happen everyday, but they often happen with struggles, frustration, and sadness. We struggle because he has very little interest in toys of any shape or size unless it is novel. We become frustrated by his insistence that he won’t play and we feel sad that we can not find many ways to truly enjoy playing together, let alone build independent play. This is when I fear that we are creating an aversion to play!
It is a fine line I walk between helping him discover play and building play skills but to also have him stay with a chosen activity for more than two minutes. If I try to choose a play idea, he often refuses but if we wait for him to choose, he might not. He is an excellent waiter-outer. Constantly waiting for something to happen, like rough housing, a friend to come over or a playground to go to, but that is it. I understand he is almost four, but he is almost four with Aspergers Syndrome. He is sweet, articulate, silly, lovable, persistent and much more, and we love him dearly. However, a great sadness has been layed upon our hearts that we can not share what we hoped we would share with this little boy . Together we are learning to accept and understand this and work from it to create a happy child. A heft mission has all been layed as well.
So now I write about acceptance. I am learning to accept that toys and average toddler/preschooler activities that would be fun are not fun. I am accepting that he will walk around a beautiful pond only half interested, but he is accepting that I am going to make him see things too! Like two beautiful ducks sitting peacefully next to each other on the ponds edge. I accept that play will be a challenge but we will find unique ways to try to play, which is why I started making sensory bins to get his whole body involved. I accept that legos, blocks, playmobil, trucks/cars, and whatever else just aren’t all that fun and we aren’t going to force the fun as we had in the past hoping to make things right.
Making things right. I remember a big red barn that we had with fences and farm animals and it was pretty cool! At first it was novel, then we tried to show him what we could do with it and tried to get him to stay with it (under a therapist’s direction) and then he wouldn’t touch it anymore and almost appeared anxious when we talked about it. So the barn left the house for good. Over a year later I got another smaller barn for a farm unit we were going to do and I just left it out, I didn’t suggest appropriate play but let him enjoy it instead (and he did although not especially in appropriate ways). I felt like at that moment, play with a barn was OK, his way!
Therefore, I lay out activities for our school time in a way that is best for him. I give him lots of space to decide when the right time is to begin. I set up different work stations, different play areas, I rotate and rearrange to spark curiosity and interest. Will I be able to do this forever, well not forever but as long as he needs it and it does not cause conflict in other areas of life. Will we home school for sure in the future, we will need to see, but regardless we will always have cool activities to do together because that is just the type of person I am. Regardless of schooling choices, I do not want to create an aversion to learning, so whatever works is what it will be. Now he can enjoy sensory play and most of my activities (school work) and board games and as of latest, drawing pictures with us. In many ways the homeschooling ideas I use he enjoys more than toys because they are novel to him. Often he asks me to make an activity for us to do together.
I am understanding his unique learning style and seeing beyond what I hoped we would be doing. I am learning a whole new approach to what works for him and not just for me but still maintaining a healthy family dynamic. My husband and I stand united in the constant adjustment of our approach. Less of this more of that. Some of this none of that. I give him the opportunity to experiment with the work before we start. Finally, I understand I may need to step out of my comfort zone and try new things and if those new things don’t work, to try more new things. I understand that I will never give up finding what works and I won’t settle for less.
I believe every parent is faced with this at some point, not just special needs parents. Often what we have originally had in mind we would do with our children may just not be the right approach for that individual child. As parents we want to do the best possible by our children. We want them to be happy, amazing people and that often means changing our approach, not changing the child. I know in many ways my son needs to be taught specific things that others might not. I have finally been able to (well almost able to) give up wanting to change parts of him that I can not, but I will not create an aversion to learning or play!
At the end of the day what has truly been layed upon my heart, our hearts, is a healthy, happy and loving family and each night I pray that I wake up and be the kind of mother my son needs that day. I let me husband read this when I had finished and he agreed whole heartedly with my words, so I feel confident passing it on to you as our story.
My biggest wish for my son is to be happy and it is super important to me that I find an approach that makes us all happy. It is a work in progress!
How have you had to accept and change your approach with your children? I appreciate your comments and look forward to you joining our adventures!
You’re looking at us. I am Sarah and this is my almost 4-year-old son Liam. I had always planned to be a stay at home mom for this little guy. I didn’t know exactly what to expect and I never would have imagined I would have a child on the spectrum. I have no formal teacher training but love being creative, spontaneous, and adventurous. I live each day for him and for my husband. I love my family deeply. I hope you will follow along with our unique learning style, special needs parents or not. We have a lot of love and compassion to offer!