On Saturday, we went to an indoor playground, with staff that watches your kids while you have a coffee in peace. That is the theory anyway, what usually happens is that my kids see me having a coffee and decide they would like to order everything on the menu, particularly if it happens to be both unhealthy and expensive.
This particular place also had an art room, and following our success last week, I thought Pudding would be happy to give it a try.
I was right.
The staff member pointed out all the things that Pudding could paint for free, and all of the things we’d have to pay for. Pudding sees a canvas, and determines that is her medium of choice. I see the price tag, and vehemently disagree. Then I see a cat in the free section. I’m thinking cat…Hello Kitty…painting: this will be right up her street.
I was wrong.
Pudding immediately starts sobbing that she doesn’t want to paint the cat, she wants the canvas. I hold firm, and she begins to paint, but cries through the whole experience. Talk about moody artist.
Upon reflection though, I can see her point, whereas she wasn’t able at this time to see mine at that moment. Her point is that she wants to paint something. She wants to express herself on canvas with paint, not simply colour in something that already exists. Really, I was denying her the right of self-expression, which must be the ultimate in frustration for a child on the autism spectrum who already struggles to express herself in typical ways.
Pudding’s ability to draw has also come on leaps and bounds lately. She has always loved drawing, but the end result was very repetitive (perhaps intentionally so). She has always enjoyed drawing people she is close to, now she is adding more detail: hair is long, short, or curly. Clothes have pictures on them. And she is moving on to drawing other things: houses with garages and cars, trees, and of course, showers.
A few weeks ago, at least a month after everyone who is anyone, I started playing the Draw Something app. I adore playing in real time while on the other side of the world to the boy I sat with in school when we were Pudding’s age, even if my artistic talents haven’t developed since that point.
It is very interesting playing with other mothers of children on the autism spectrum. To be good at Draw Something, you don’t necessarily have to draw well (though that helps, obviously) as long as you are good at expressing yourself in a way that your teammate/opponent will understand. We mothers get to be pretty good at that.
It comes as no surprise to me that Fi of Wonderfully Wired and I have played so many successful turns that it stuck at 99. Nor that Alysia of Try Defying Gravity finds a way to use positive reinforcement when my efforts are particularly successful. Solo Dialogue and myself were both hyperlexic, and we are both far better as expressing ourselves through words!
But for me, the real draw (forgive the pun) of this app is the way I get to play with my daughter. Games are so, so challenging for Pudding. Or at least the games we’ve tried haven’t been right for Pudding. Following rules that she doesn’t appreciate is tough, taking turns is also hard, and actually being interested enough to play to win? Just not her.
But we play our own version of Draw Something that plays to her strengths. Pudding can read a few words, perhaps twenty, but nothing like the number she’d need to read to play independently. So with Daddy’s help, she is taught the word, and then draws it for me. When it is my turn, she guesses my picture, then Daddy helps her pick out the letters to solve it.
I’d love to see a version where the word could be read out for the non-readers who play. But for a social game, it definitely manages to avoid several of the things that generally frustrate us both playing more traditional games.
Sometimes she’ll freestyle and draw her own thing before she can be persuaded to draw the pick, but it just adds to the game for me- trying to work out what her drawing is, and whether or not it is relevant for my game.
As for her game, all that is important is that she gets to draw something. One time her turn was “cat”. She can both read the word, and draw the image, so she got to play independently. Then again, whenever she is given her own blank ‘canvas’ she can express herself independently, and that is a thousand times better than just painting a cat. Lesson learned.