I’ve written before about how progress and development is measured differently when you have a child on the Autism spectrum. With Stone, this has held true with everything from potty training to riding a bike. One of the more interesting areas to observe (and encourage) is in the area of social interaction with others.
Like many kids on the spectrum, Stone tends to be a bit of a loner much of the time. In the past he hasn’t sought out interaction with other kids and “playing” for him has always been different than with Ty and others.
But as we’ve seen in other areas, Stone is making small – but significant – steps socially, especially with his twin brother Ty.
Renee and I have long believed that personality-wise, Stone is naturally an extrovert and would be extremely outgoing with others if he didn’t have his speech and communication challenges with others. He is an incredibly smart boy and I have no doubt that he figured out a long time ago that this disability made him different from others. And I think that knowing this, it has made him shy away from others. And it makes sense too. Why would you seek social interaction with others if you knew you would have a hard time communicating with them? It would be very frustrating – and maybe even a little embarrassing.
I’ve also noticed a big difference in Stone’s personality and behavior when he and I are together alone. He is *much* more outgoing and gregarious when it’s just the two of us compared to when we’re in a group with others. I know that he feels comfortable with me and he knows that I “get” him – so he is relaxed and we can have fun practicing words or just being silly together.
As his speech development has been progressing, we’re also seeing signs of him interacting more with others – especially Ty. And this is so encouraging and fun to witness.
I can’t say it enough what a blessing Ty has been with Stone. He completely and totally accepts him and has evolved to the point where he really wants to protect him. Sometimes this need to protect him goes a bit overboard – he’ll get too worried about Stone in public places, especially if Stone is checking out doors or exits. This concerns goes back to a few incidents more than two years ago when Stone set off multiple alarms in stores by opening doors he shouldn’t have.
But fretting about door alarms aside, Ty is an incredible brother to Stone and as I said, it’s been fun to see them interact together more than in the past. The interactions are still fairly limited – especially when compared to many sibling relationships – but they are increasing. I’ve posted an example of a spontaneous episode that demonstrates their unique play together.
When it comes to other kids, what I find most encouraging with Stone is that he no longer avoids groups of kids or others playing around him. He seems comfortable playing around others and will often show his vocal pleasure by laughing and/or jumping around when he sees kids riding their bikes or running/chasing each other near him. I’ve also seen a few examples of parallel play – last weekend at a park he found some berries from a bush and decided to throw them down a hill. Another girl joined him and even though they didn’t converse – it was cute to watch them side by side picking these berries and tossing them down together.
We still have a ways to go with Stone in many social issues but we’ll keep working on it with him. My dream is to someday play a game with him – any kind of game – in which he can interact and understand the rules. I don’t care if it’s an Xbox Kinect game or Candyland…I just want Stone to have that experience and to benefit from all that we learn from playing games (or sports) while growing up.