Earlier this week I was tagged in a post on Twitter. “OMG, did you see this?!” It was a post of an “autism parent educator”. For a moment I thought it was an “autism parent”, but apparently the two have similarities: they think they know a lot, but they don’t actually listen to people with autism. See the tweet in question below.
Now I think people crafting their own statements into quote images are suspicious anyway, but that tweet beats everything. “Lining up toys is a classic characteristic of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)”, yes, okay, that’s right, but then: “To help develop their play, switch up their playing style by interrupting their routine.”
Imagine. An autistic child is playing quietly with their cars. All Toyotas together, all red cars in a row, all vehicles before 2000 in a separate category… And then there’s that woman. Mixing everything up. I think my “playing style” would soon turn into throwing cars.
So many questions. First of all, what does she want to achieve with this? “Develop their play?” Develop into what? Is there a better way to play? Is sorting a bad thing? Marie Kondo is doing quite well.
The idea is of course that autistic kids should play in a more “social” way. Play house, or something. Because social play, that’s good. Or so she thinks.
What this lady completely misses, is the autistic child itself. Being social is often a challenge for us autistics, so can we please do what we want during play time, our free time? Does this lady have any idea how happy we get when all cars are sorted by year, color or brand? Does she have any idea at all what the idea behind the sorting is? Has she ever asked the child anything?
The world upside down
The comments made me very happy. Reaction after reaction urged her not to apply this, because our way of playing is equally valid. People explained how their preference for sorting by color is useful to this day in their artistic professions. People told her about how they enjoyed their collections, lists and systems as a child. People told her how visual order gave them peace, and still gives them peace, in periods of stress. It gives them some peace of mind; finally something that fits, that clicks, that helps with clearing raging stimuli and the experiences of the day.
Some people made jokes, or turned things around: “If your parent structures appointments in a (digital) agenda or planner, then try to break their routine by deleting some appointments highlighted in yellow” and “Playing in a chaotic manner is a characteristic of Neurotypical-ness. Try to break that by teaching your child some structure.”
“Don’t be a bully!” The lady squeaked. Typical. Disrupting our play is good, but the other way around it’s bullying? Sigh.