It is World Autism Awareness Day today. A day to not just remind ourselves that we are unaware of many many issues surrounding autism and be aware of them, but to do something about them as well. To be more proactive.
Awareness is often used with a powerful connotation. People use it to signify something, often with reference to “need of the hour” strategy. But awareness is not awareness if one doesn’t do anything about it. Autism is not the “they are special” or “they are different” or “they are unique” part and making grand speeches. Being aware of autism entails something much more simple: acceptance and zero discrimination; creating a mutually conducive space; Providing a little bit of support if needed and if one can. And if one cannot, then refraining from discouraging others who believe they can.
There is a fine line between knowing and being aware, you see. Even if you impart this awareness to one person around you, you have been proactive to some extent. And that, makes me want to do my bit today.
There has been one loooooong post for long in my drafts that I have always wanted to share. I somehow wanted to write it very effectively. I wanted to wait until the moment when it would make an impact. I couldn’t have been more foolish. So many days wasted. Without much ado, let me share some of my thoughts in brief and supplement it with technical terms as well. I plan to do one post a month for 4 months under this section where I will talk about play and how it shapes a child/adult’s communication and behaviour.
I am sure that many if not most of you, have played some game or the other. Hide and seek, hopscotch, tic-tac-toe, monopoly, chess, thief-police, bingo, pictionary, treasure hunt and even an experimental “hypnosis” are a few of them. Sometimes, we may play unknowingly, like trying to stack a few objects one above the other, doodling, playing with food on your plate (not a good thing to do though), trying to make footprints with wet feet etc. To me play was when you are having fun. Little did I then know how powerful play can be.
Imagine a game of hide-n-seek. There is a team involved (under normal circumstances), there is turn-taking on who hides first, there is counting (where it is normal to skip tens of numbers), sharing (2 kids may want to hide behind that small shrub), eye contact and so on and so forth. There is a huge range of skills that a child develops subconsciously. There is so much of language being thrown around in context that children pick up words at the speed of the fastest bullet train when they play. I learnt counting through this and not because my kindergarten teacher made me write each number in that checkered pag, 100 times. I knew what counting was because of the game. It somehow made more sense that way. I learnt the concept of hiding and seeking through the game.I knew I had to wait for my turn to count. If I did something out of turn or context, it would go against the game.
So, you see, a simple game of hide-n-seek that signifies fun, actually stands for more. All those little games we play in our grandparents’ places mean something more. And it all points to one thing – All work and no play does indeed make Jack/Jill a dull boy/girl.
One of the first things I ask during case history is always this – “Tell me what the child likes to play”. And by the time the parents answer, I pretty much know where I need to begin. If the parents tells me that their child is playing, I feel overjoyed. I know that there is something right happening. And I know that things will only get better if this is encouraged.
But what play is good play? Are there types of play? How do I know if my child is playing the right type of play if any? Can I introduce play deliberately? All this and more in my next monthly post.