Maya is projecting at home what she is learning at school. Since Maya is autistic, or maybe just because she is Maya, she never comes home and tells us what she does at school but like a little movie projector, we see what she is learning from her play. She, really for the first time ever is asking us to participate in her play. Always before we were bystanders and when we would try to enter her pretend world it was very disturbing to her, to the point where she might get angry, yell, or throw tantrums, therefore we have always been very careful to just observe her pretend play and not participate until she asks. She has even been so shy in the past that sometimes when she is playing she asks us not to watch or to look at her while she is playing. We have always let her set the tone for her own play as we have felt it is more important that she learns through play and our attempts to channel her play will only serve to have the opposite effect, she won't play at all and it will only become another struggle. Maya has enough struggles in her life as she attempts to understand a world which is often difficult and scary for her to understand, therefore we have always let her have total control over her playtime. Although focusing on a task is still difficult for her, as is her understanding of the will of others, I can see she is learning a lot, even at a school which is not suitable for her needs.
In the last month she is asking us to participate more and more in her pretend games. Nearly every evening she asks Leo to play with her "The Thomas Story" where she goes to her room where Thomas the Tank Engine and the 30 other trains from the series are, along with the tracks, and the pretend village of Sodor and together, sometimes for more than an hour Maya and Leo are busy playing in Maya's version of Sodor with the trains. Maya is still pretty controlling and often I hear her correcting Leo when the game isn't going exactly the way she wants it. And admittedly Leo sometimes doesn't feel like playing but Maya just will not understand or have that. Yesterday for the first time she asked me to play with her. She had her three kids (Elmo, Pluto and a bunny) and she invited me to Elmo's birthday party which was going to be a picnic, and where she was going to make fruit salad and cake for everyone but she had to go shopping since she didn't have any fruit at home. She told me the store was on the street at number 90 and her kids were at number 91 so she had to go one house to get to the store. She had a hard time shopping she said because she had to take Pluto with her and he is always very curious so she had to walk very slowly for him so he could stop and ask everyone questions.
I know this seems like " big f-in deal" but I do think this signifies a lot in terms of Maya's development. She never felt comfortable having us play anything with her except running around and tickle games but now all of a sudden like magic, she wants us to play with her and take part in her games and stories. Maya's maturity often grows in spurts where all of a sudden with no warning she is doing something that she never did before. I can't help but think that this signifies that she is making strides toward socialization when she is asking others to participate in her fantasies (and believe me she has a good fantasy life. Just a minute ago she told me that Elmo borrowed my iPhone because he urgently needs to speak to someone in America about the Steelers.)
Funny thing about all this pretend. She only wants to do it in Dutch. This is the only time she speaks to me in Dutch and wants me to speak back to her in Dutch as well. Part of me worries that this pattern of speaking, and wanting to communicate in Dutch with me will become a trend and she will lose her willingness to speak English. This happens with many bi-lingual kids, they often prefer the first language over the second and at some point refuse to speak the second language. Maya has always easily and willingly gone back and forth between Dutch and English, maintaining a Chinese Wall between the two languages. With me she insists on English and with Leo, his parents and in school, insists on speaking Dutch. Part of me is torn between not wanting her to stop speaking English on a regular basis, and just joyously without abandon joining my daughter in this play and not worrying at all about the language. She did tell me it is hard for her to play these games in English.
So, I think I am just going to stop worrying and just joyously enjoy that she is branching out to play with me and bring me into her world.