Parallel Play and Autism–at my Age?

Photo by Arissa Thompson
Photo by Arissa Thompson

The kids in this photo are doing parallel play, which is a normal stage of development starting at two or three years old.  As they get older, they will be going into other stages of more interactive play.

Apparently, with my autism, I’m still a kid at heart.

Through my teen years, I saw no reason to interact.  Fortunately, I have a sister, so I was forced into it, and must admit, I liked it sometimes.

At one point in our childhood we lived beside a lake.  Normally, I would wade in the shallows watching and trying to catch minnows by myself.  My mother had a metal washtub outside, which we normally didn’t notice, but it was going to see its demise that day.

My sister, being the instigator she is, had an exciting idea!  We would use our pink sand pails to put water in the washtub and fill it with blood suckers (leeches).  This went on for hours.  What fun!

Mum yelled, “Lunchtime!”  Then it was nap time then play then have supper.  The blood suckers hadn’t entered my mind.

The next day, we heard suddenly heard a yell.  “You two get out here right now,” Mum said.  We walked to where she was standing, hands on hips.  She said, “You ruined my washtub!”

The washtub was in the hot sun, dry with blood suckers crusted to the sides and bottom.  Fascinating.

My sister looked up at me, and I felt something I had not before: a feeling of complicity.  We had gotten in trouble together–a feeling of togetherness.  Mum quickly interrupted that feeling by telling us to clean it.  The blood suckers weren’t so cute anymore.

I felt that feeling of complicity and togetherness the rest of my life even though I still primarily played by myself.

As an autistic adult, I feel a strong feeling of togetherness with my hubby.  I’m content and secure if he’s in the house or yard.  I don’t need to see or say anything to him for hours.  Yet, when he goes out of town, I feel horribly lonely.

Similarly, toddlers are happy when a parent is around even if they are not interacting, and they are scared if they can’t find their parent.

So, if you have a child or spouse with autism, you are interacting and being loved just by your presence.

About Eileen Parker 100 Articles
Support a starving writer, by buying my current book, The Weighted Blanket Guide, on Amazon. I'm a writer working on my fourth book. I live in the Twin Cities with my husband. Between us, we have four children.

3 Comments on Parallel Play and Autism–at my Age?

  1. This just brought tears in my eyes. It reminded me of a photo I so loved of my husband and me very early in our relationship. It was us, hand in hand, looking in the same direction. It felt more intimate than anything, it was as if we were sensing each other, through invisible bonds. It is exactly the kind of feeling you describe as a feeling of “complicity” and “togetherness”. If other people thoroughly enjoy “looking deep into each other’s eyes”, I think for me this is the valid replacement.

    I have also noticed in the past, that there were people whose near-by (but not immediate) presence I found extremely comforting but I could never find out what it actually was I wanted from them. It wasn’t talking, nor was it sex. But a tight long hug would have been so good! (This was before I learned about autism. I didn’t understand and I accused myself of wanting sex, for lack of other explanation, which put me off myself completely and every chance of normal interaction was gone.) When they disappeared from my life without knowing about my fondness (because I tended to be very awkward, wanting to please and not knowing how, basically just brain-freezing in their immediate presence), I was devastated. I knew I was somehow in love and I couldn’t forgive myself for not getting over myself and actively seeking involvement in their lives. It only occurred to me later that maybe I could have been of help and that it can’t be anything but flattering for somebody else to know they are liked. On the other hand, I just felt incredibly pathetic. Also, I’m not good at helping people. I always stand around like a third wheel. I always had the feeling I didn’t have anything to offer! But with those two, there was this feeling of companionship. They were on the Spectrum. But, as I know now, most likely so mind blind that they probably didn’t even notice the drama I went through over them for years.

    Yeah, that got too long.

  2. My mum told me that a boyfriend I had as a teenager told her that he couldn’t figure out how to get through to me, and he didn’t understand me.

    Through the years, other men have asked “why.”

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