Wednesday 5 December 2018

Guest Post: The importance of enjoying play via @theautismpage

Child playing with toys

Hi, my name is Jade and I am delighted to be able to guest post here. I found Rainbows are too Beautiful through its linky series #spectrumsunday. I really love the mix of activity posts, opinions and information shared.  It is great when you can really relate to a blog post and recent post from Rainbows are too Beautiful about restrictive diets and iPad use are certainly close to home for me.

I blog over at The Autism Page where I share information and resources related to autism. I have two boys, the eldest is five and he is autistic. The youngest just turned three and is currently working with speech and language. My guest post today is about my realisation about the importance of fun and play.

We all know that playing with our children is important but what I have only just started to realise is how much more enjoyable it is when you are really playing too.

Too much focus on learning?

Over the last three years I have spent so much time focusing on the need for various therapies and support for my children. I am not just parent to my kids I am their speech therapist, their teacher and their support worker.

On top of this I have been doing overtime at work, working more on my blog, fundraising for my son’s school and taking over running my local autism support branch. There are days I feel like I am attached to my phone or computer. I get so angry with myself when I am checking my e-mail and my husband is talking to me. It breaks my heart if the kids are trying to get my attention and I am distracted by my phone.

I always make time for my kids, they are my world and I make time to play with them. I gave up full time work so I can be home with them. Even though they are my focus it is still very easy to become distracted by life. I have become too focused on structured play when I have planned out what we are trying to learn from the game.

Whilst this is important it needs to be balanced with actual play where we are all just enjoying the moment. I have been visiting speech therapy recently with my youngest. It was such a different experience this time, with my eldest the focus was getting his attention and starting the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). For my youngest it has been more about getting him to enjoy playing with others. We have been doing some Intensive Interaction where I simply follow him round copying his actions and sounds or words. It has been brilliant- so simple but he clearly just wants to play with me and we had been missing this interaction by focusing on everything else.

It is so easy to get caught up in everybody’s needs that sometimes we neglect the simple things. All we need to have fun and play is each other!

I am beginning to see that all play is essential for my children, it is great that I plan different types of play for them. I just need to start enjoying it with them and not analysing their every move!

The key ingredients for play

I am quite uptight sometimes (particularly when tired), my kids bring out my fun side. I now realise I have gone too far in trying to teach and develop the kids. It is time to loosen up the reigns, relax and enjoy some fun. The best toy in the house is me, my kids just want to play with me. I just have to make the cleaning and cooking part of that fun (even if it then takes all day).

For some play is very natural for others like my autistic son they need a little help to learn. I am fairly self-conscious and often I need to remind myself to forget about what I look or sound like and actually enjoy myself. One of the kid’s favourite things is having a dance party in the living room, probably because this is when mum and dad are more fun. When you are at home no one else is watching this is the time to have the most fun.

Actions really do speak lounder than words. Enjoying yourself and showing the kids how to play by doing really is the best way. If you are struggling with where to begin start by copying your child, then change and see if they copy you.

Thanks for having me at Rainbows are too Beautiful and as I am all about sharing information I will leave you with some different types of play.

Types of play

• Symbolic play – simply pretend play, feeding, combing hair, sleeping, dressing up.
• Repetitive play – a child playing a repetitive game may become upset if a play sequence is interfered with. Gradual involvement, starting by just sitting beside them can allow more tolerance to join in the next time.
• Parallel play – playing alongside someone, doing the same thing but not interfering with each other.
• Physical play – my boys love being physical from jumping and running to tickles.
• People games – a game that involves the other person such as peek a boo, chase or ball play.
• Messy play – anything that is messy like water, sand, mud, paint, glue and glitter
• Outdoor play – getting outside for nature walks and trips to the park
• Imaginative play – making it up as you go along
• Games with rules – playground games like what is the time Mr Wolf to board games.
• Exploratory play – finding out new things or how things work

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