Does your child love to line up their toys?
As someone who consults for families and gives talks on early intervention plans, this is one of the most common things I see amongst toddlers and younger children who are on the autism spectrum.
When I was a kid, I loved routines and order. Having a structure was important for me; it put me in a place of comfort. This started as early as I could remember. They would usually start with trains and Legos. I used to love to organize my trains in height order. As my love of toys began to grow as I got older, this became a common trend with my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures and then other things in my house as well.
This fascination turned later into a love for spinning toys over and over. However, this stopped for me because I’d often twirl my hair to mimic the behavior of spinning when I didn’t have any toys around. This used to leave my hair in knots at a time when my hair was long because my parents couldn’t cut my hair due to my ongoing sensory issues.
I often enjoyed this much more than interacting with others, including my family and friends. I’m not going to lie, some of that structure has gone away as years have gone by (talking from the current perspective of a 28-year-old man who needs to clean his apartment when I hate to clean).
My parents used my love of lining up toys as a way to help me build on my social skills. I came up with stories for each lined-up toy and role-played different scenarios they were a part of. Then I recorded the stories I came up with on my camcorder and watched them during free time.
This helped me become more cognizant of my key interests, as many times the characters I created either loved basketball or loved movies, two of my favorite key interests.
As I always say to our community, when you play up to kids’ strengths while working with them on their challenges, they can do incredible things.
As Dr. Temple Grandin, one of our leading autism advocates, says…
“There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do.”
Take this to heart, and the next time your child lines up toys, you can possibly help them have fun while also helping them as well.