My Personal Experience with Autism and Interactive Toys
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Parenting is an extremely challenging thing. For each parent, in various ways.
Nevertheless, it’s a great and incomparable happiness.
I would like to share my own parenting experience. It’s a very intimate, special experience as my little daughter has autism spectrum disorder.
I want to reveal our story and spread a word about one thing that helped us a lot. It can surprise you but I’m talking about a doll, just a doll though, very unusual.
I hope my story will help other parents who faced this very particular parenting experience.
While waiting for a baby, probably every woman imagines what it will be like: who it will take after, what eyes and lips it will have, how it will smile, what its favorite toy will be…
And every woman – I’m sure – even before the birth of her little one is convinced that it is certainly going to be special, not like everybody else.
Future mom sees her baby wonderfully painting or singing, excellently playing football, or, maybe, in her dreams it is – a gifted mathematician.
All these different fantasies and wishes are united by one thing – every mother wants to see her baby happy and cheerful.
Not a single woman concedes that her little baby may be special but the in the wholly other sense…
I am just like all other mothers.
Being pregnant, knowing that I’m carrying a daughter, I could be absorbed by fantasies of her future for hours: here she’s still an infant stretching her arms to me, here she’s old enough to eat with the spoon, and here she’s running and playing with other toddlers, and I’m watching her and my heart is full of joy.
Naturally, in all these fantasies there was not a spot of suspicion that something is going to be wrong, that my girl will be born different.
And, indeed, she was born just the way I had imagined – a healthy and beautiful baby.
At first I didn’t notice her, even in her infancy, acting not the way other infants do; I thought that I was lucky to have such a calm baby who didn’t cry even being hungry.
Although in the course of time I began observing peculiarities I didn’t like at all – I couldn’t catch the sight of my little girl, any loud sound, even well-known, could make her cry a long while.
When Betty was 2 years old at the planned visit to a pediatrician, all my subconscious fears and worries were expressed by the doctor who carefully but seriously told me that my daughter probably had autism spectrum disorder.
He advised to go for neuropsychologist for a consultation with no delays.
I was struck and depressed, I didn’t believe that my daughter could have such a scary (I was afraid because of lack of awareness of autism) diagnosis.
I persuaded myself it was impossible, not with my child. But specialist’s examination proved my worst expectations.
A completely new life began for all our family.
An autistic child is a permanent regime, rigid space organization, everyday ritual performing of even the most usual actions.
We totally devoted ourselves to our little girl and to struggle for her happiness despite her specialty.
Unfortunately, autism is still poorly explored, its causes are not completely clear, and there is no one right approach in adapting autistic children to the life usual for everybody else.
It’s an endless search for methods, praxes and means of teaching the little children common actions, helping them to socialize and not to suffer from every contact with each unusual, beyond their world, phenomenon.
An autistic child is the whole other universe with its laws and rules that you need to stick to.
It turns almost every simple action into search for alternative.
And choosing a toy is not an exception though it seems that all children like toys.
Autistic children can often ignore or even reject the toys usual for all other children, giving their preference to some non-playable things.
That’s why choosing toys for my Betty became another little challenge for our family.
A toy for an autistic girl must not only entertain and occupy the child but its task is to help this little person who is overwhelmed with fear of this world to relax and feel safe, develop communication skills, and improve motility.
Currently there are plenty of toys designed specifically for autistic children but it’s extremely important for the child not to be afraid of the toy and not to reject it.
And that perfect toy for Betty became Ask Amy Doll!
Frankly speaking, buying Ask Amy Doll I and my husband didn’t hope for some amazing effect.
The greater was our joy when Betty didn’t get scared or upset having seen a new toy in her strictly organized room but she actually expressed some interest to it.
Inspired by this fact we continued acquainting our daughter with Amy Doll.
Step by step Betty accepted the doll as her friend that took part in all everyday activities: getting up, bathing, having breakfast and so on.
Also, Amy helped Betty to acquire new skills, it was easier for Betty when we demonstrated Amy “doing” something new first, it made Betty calm and showed that there was nothing to be afraid of.
Gradually she repeated those actions herself.
I demonstrated to my daughter how to communicate with the doll, what phrases she needed to say to make Amy answer.
Not at once but eventually Betty began talking to Amy.
Especially she liked to ask Amy to sing a song as Betty had always loved music.
That way Amy Doll became constant companion for my daughter, her loyal friend, plain, stable, giving her sense of safety.
The doll taught Betty to take care of others, its life-like facial expression also helped Betty to identify people’s emotions.
The fact that Amy Doll looks like a little girl showed Betty that she didn’t need to be afraid of other children.
The doll became the motive for communication with children since such toy cannot but stir interest in girls and even boys.
Betty wasn’t happy to get so much attention at first but then she get used to it and proudly demonstrated Amy’s abilities using special phases.
It may sound unbelievable but a toy, though such an unusual toy, helped my autistic daughter a lot!
Even our counselor who guides Betty using ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) methods remarked her progress since she had become friends with Amy Doll.
This fact inspired us a lot and proved one more time that we were so right when we bought the doll.
Here is a video from Ask Amy website that shows how this doll works.
I’m sure Betty will have much success ahead thanks to Amy.
And I’m just glad to see my daughter happy and cheerful.
A version of this was originally posted on Well-Being Secrets.