As promised, I arrived home yesterday evening and found the art bin in Emma’s room. After brushing off the dust I pulled it out into the living room. ”Hey Em. Look! Let’s make something together!” I gestured at the pop beads, the wooden beads, the string, the glitter, paint and brushes.
“No, no, no, no, no!” Emma said, casting an eye at the art supplies before returning to the vigorous twirling of her velcro strip.
“Oh come on! Look at these things. These look great. Let’s make something with these,” I said, digging into the bin and producing a bag filled with brightly colored wooden beads.
“No, no, no, no, no! Mommy go away! Go away!” she said, whipping her plastic strip around so that it made crackling noises.
I sat there looking at the bin and then at her. ”Are you sure?” I asked.
“Mommy no! Go away! Go away! Go away!” she said very quickly so the words all slurred into each other.
“Go away!” is new for Emma. She says this either when she is going into the bathroom, a very good sign in my opinion, or when she is doing something she thinks we might object to. That she was now using these same words to indicate displeasure with a suggestion seemed like an advancement as well. This is a child who just months ago might have bitten her arm or hand or punched herself in the face to express her dislike of an idea. I was relieved to hear her say – Go away! And while it might not be considered the most polite response to someone who is trying to engage in an activity with her, it’s certainly a step up from self injurious behavior. We parents of autistic children take what we can get.
An old familiar feeling of determination crept into my thinking, as I sat on the floor with the art bin before me. Right, I thought, we need better art supplies. Wooden beads and pop beads just weren’t going to do it. As I considered what sorts of things to look for, it occurred to me that I have a great many things at my studio which I will never use. Drilled gemstones I bought years ago when I first began designing jewelry, glass beads, cooper and brass wire, as well as lots of silk thread in dozens of beautiful colors. I have a wide assortment of origami paper, leftover from the year I became obsessed with paper folding while pregnant with my son, Nic. We have glitter, paint, construction paper, tissue paper, scraps of hand pressed paper, pipe cleaners, all the things one might need to make a wide variety of art projects.
“Okay, Em. Don’t worry. We can make something together another time,” I said, dragging the bin back into her room.
Emma followed me. She bent her head down so that it was about an inch away from mine and said, “Play – Don’t say Mommy?”
“Don’t say Mommy” is a chase game where Emma and sometimes her brother Nic will come very close and say, “Don’t (two second pause) say (two second pause) Mommy! (shouted)” and then they run screaming through the house while I chase them. This game usually involves lots of doors being slammed and beds being torn apart as they burrow under sheets and blankets. A variation on this game is – don’t say Daddy! When we catch up to them, we walk very, very slowly giving them plenty of time to hide and ruin whatever bedroom they’ve sought refuge in, we tear the blankets off them while saying in a loud voice, “AHHHHHHH! There you are! I found you!” followed by villinous sounding laughter and tickling until they cry for mercy. This game can go on for a very long time, so we have found, for the sake of ourselves and our neighbors, it’s important to put limits on it.
“Okay, but just two games and then we have to get into PJ’s and brush teeth.”
Emma stared at me intently with a little grin on her face and a wild look in her eyes, “Okay, okay. Don’t… say… Mommy!” and off she went like a shot, her feet thumping against the floor as she disappeared into our bedroom.
Art will have to wait one more day.
Emma’s art project brought home from school.
What makes these significant is the detail, the number of “bracelets” she made and the fine motor skills required to make them. For any neuro-typical preschooler, these would be commonplace, but for Emma these bracelets show a marked improvement in her finger dexterity, concentration and focus, not to mention the sheer artistry. (Okay I’m totally biased, but they are pretty fabulous!)
For more on Emma’s continuing journey through a childhood of autism go to: www.EmmasHopeBook.com