As Pelle is autistic, we run a program at our home based on the principles of Son-Rise, but with a little Dutch twist to it. I play as much as I can with Pelle, about two times a week. Every Tuesday Lila comes over and every Friday there’s Tamara to play with Pelle. We have a great team together. As Pelle loves to go outside, we also play in the woods around our home and in places like his schoolyard since he’s able to keep connected there.
Our goals at the moment are to entice him in imaginative play, encourage him to play together and to stimulate him to draw.
Here are some examples of how we do that.
Pelle loves to play with a little electronic game where you match cards.
If you place a card on the one hand side of the toy, the little elephant asks you a question and you have to place the right card on the other side. ‘This is mister green. What vehicle does mister green drive?’, and you’re supposed to find the green truck. Pelle has since long learned how to match the cards, but the thing that keeps him going back to the game are the funny noises he loves. And especially when you misplace the food items. The little elephant says ‘Bah!” (= ‘yuck’) and this is so very funny, Pelle laughs wholeheartedly. So when he played the game the other day Tamara made a creative turn. She asked Pelle to imitate the characters. And there he went, pretending to walk with a stick (mister blue), to wet the plants (mister green), to walk behind a pram (mister pink) Tamara acted out as the female counterpart of the cards. They had lots of fun and thus realized one of the goals (pretend play).
When Lila and Pelle went out to the woods a few month ago they started by taking the same course every time. Pelle did not want Lila to walk ahead and that was just fine. Lila followed Pelle’s steps and it developed into a game where they each do their funny walks while the other person tries to imitate it. More and more, Pelle is giving away his control and last time they took turns deciding which path to take and strolled around the entire forest. It was the result of Lila asking if she could choose and step-by-step, Pelle gave in. (He started by allowing her to take 5 steps in front of him). It’s about being patient and persisted, but also about being totally at ease with the situation as it is. There is no pressure whatsoever.
In the woods, Lila also sometimes pretends to be a classmate who for instance can’t cross the puddle and needs help (Pelle offered his hand) and they practice waving and other social behaviors.
And what do I do? Last week, he said to me: “I want to do something scary”. So I blindfolded him and gave him tasks like “walk to the music box”, which stands in a corner of our room. And we did some wrestling, too. Tried to push each other of the couch (I said it was a boot and the floor was the sea, to give it an extra dimension, but Pelle didn’t react to that), I ‘imprisoned’ him behind the couch where he escaped and we chased each other. The interaction was so organic. Miles away from the way we started, with a bus on the floor of his room and hundreds of questions about the way the doors would open and shut. And that was only one-and-a-half year ago. If I think of the progress he’s made since then, I’m filed with gratitude and admiration for this boy who puts his trust in us and who dares so much.