This post originally appeared on the Field Notes on Allistics Tumblr.
A thought I had while writing yesterday’s post on moods: Do allistic children have favorites? Are they even capable of genuinely appreciating an item, sensation, or experience?
I ask because my own children, in addition to appearing to have “moods” dictated by such seemingly unrelated criteria as the weather, also seem to form no real attachment to or understanding of anything outside themselves.
For instance, Al Jr.’s current favorite pair of shoes is a pair of black Nikes with bright yellow stripes that his Nan bought him for his birthday. I asked him today why they were his favorite and he said (he is still working on expressive thought, especially in print), “Bobby has the same pair.”
Bobby is his best friend. I’ve seen this happen before: last month, Al was in love with a Spaulding basketball because Bobby had just gotten a basketball hoop in his driveway. This month, I’m not sure Al even knows we own a basketball – and to hear Bobby’s mother tell it, Bobby has forgotten all about it as well. Now they’re both into something called “Mario Kart.”
A normal child – like our youngest, Gracie – would have told me the sneakers were her favorites because they didn’t pinch her toes, or because the stripes reminded her of going to the beach with her Nan and eating lemon ice, or because these were the shoelaces she had in when her Grampy died and now she keeps them switched because if the shoelaces are in the same shoe they were on that day they would be sad. You know, normal associations that indicate a child is developing the capacity to think deeply about her surroundings and possessions.
With Al Jr. and Alia, though, “favorites” seem to depend solely on whether their friends approve or whether they saw the item on television (which seems to me to be an extension of whether their friends approve – television just being a wider circle of “friends”). It’s bizarre.
….I don’t mean that. I love my kids. I really do. But I despair of their ability ever to perceive or understand the world in anything like a normal way. Their ability to sense and associate is clearly impaired. Maybe it’s time I ask their school for accommodations in these areas – their test scores are obviously going to take a hit unless they have more time to think. (Poor focus seems to be closely linked to impairment in sensory perception and association.)
For children who spend a great deal of their time pestering other people to pay attention to them in rigidly stereotyped ways (saying hello, telling stories about their day, etc.), they surely seem to have almost no capacity for forming attachments.