Emma’s attachment to her green furry monster, Muzzy has grown to such a degree I feel compelled to honor Muzzy with his own post.
There are a number of significant early “signs” of autism: An absence of pointing as a toddler, unresponsiveness to ones own name and a complete lack of interest or emotional attachment to inanimate objects such as stuffed animals or dolls, to name just a few. Emma could be counted on to display all three of these things from an early age. So it has been with great excitement we are witness to her growing desire to bring Muzzy with her on outings. It is an attachment, which made itself apparent to us during her first stem cell treatment. Emma asked to take Muzzy into the operating room and the doctors agreed it would be fine. It was during that initial trip that Emma said to the anesthesiologist, “Muzzy first.” Thankfully everyone was wonderfully good-natured and went through the motions of putting Muzzy under before it was “Emma’s turn.”
On a recent excursion with Joe, Emma insisted they take the jogger stroller out. When they returned, I had Joe go over the outing in detail as I took notes. Joe also took a video, which I haven’t been able to figure out how to post, so I’ve transcribed much of it. I am always struck by Joe’s ability to use any opportunity to draw more language from Emma.
“Em, you’re too big for the jogger,” Joe said.
“Jogger stroller!” Emma said.
“Who’s going to go in the jogger? Am I going to sit in it?” Joe asked pretending to climb in.
“NOOOOOO!” Emma said squealing with delight at the absurdity of it.
“I can’t fit!” Joe exclaimed.
“Too big!” Emma said.
“Yes, I’m too big!” Joe said. “Who do you want to go in the jogger?” Joe asked.
“Muzzy!” Emma shouted twirling him around her head by one large furry arm.
“Oh! You want to put Muzzy in the jogger?” Joe asked.
“Yes! Put Muzzy in the jogger. Go for a walk!” Emma jumped up and down.
“Okay, where should we go?”
“Muzzy needs to put on his seat belt,” Emma said, carefully buckling Muzzy in.
“Which way should we go?” Joe asked.
Emma carefully pulled up the “hood” on the canopy of the stroller, a flap of fabric covering a plastic window to peer down at Muzzy, checking to be sure he was all right. “Muzzy sleeping,” she said.
“Big Muzzy is okay. Esta bien!” Joe said in his Muzzy voice.
“This way!” Emma said, pointing east. “Muzzy needs to go in the rain jogger,” Emma said.
“Do you think it’s going to rain?” Joe asked.
Emma stopped and lifted the flap to check on Muzzy. “No!” Emma laughed. “Let’s go this way, down the hill.” Emma peered into the jogger stroller at Muzzy and asked him, “Do you want to go fast?” Then she started running, pushing the stroller ahead of her.
“Do you want to go slow or fast?” is the type of question we often ask Emma as it is still hard for her to answer an open ended question and so we give choices. Joe is terrific at coming up with choices for her, often one will be ridiculous such as – Emma do you want to have some yogurt or should we eat this stick? Emma will then laugh at how absurd this is and choose yogurt. When we trained with Stanley Greenspan he emphasized the use of choices to increase language and back and forth dialogue. It is not as easy or simple as it may seem. I have found myself grappling for creative choices and coming up empty many times.
“How’s Muzzy doing?” Joe asked after a little while.
“Muzzy sleeping,” Emma said. She stopped running and looked into the stroller. “Do you want to go back to sleep?” she asked. Looking at Joe she said, “Muzzy wants a snack.”
“Muzzy’s hungry?” Joe asked.
“Yeah. Muzzy wants some vanilla yogurt,” Emma said.
After they stopped for a snack and continued on several miles, Emma said, “Time for Muzzy to go back to Granma’s house. Muzzy needs to put on PJ’s.”
“Then what should we do?”
“Brush teeth, Muzzy go back to sleep,” Emma said.