Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hoses and Mazes

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we may have moved beyond Ethan's fascination with doors.

As a little refresher, for the past two years or so Ethan's big thing whenever he was stressed or bored, particularly when we were visiting someone's house, was to play with their doors. He loved (and still does, to some extent) screen doors, sliding doors, garage doors, any old door.

For the longest time, I wondered how to pry him away from the habit. Load him up with sensory activities, like carrying around a weighted backpack or giving him a massage or back pats, one therapist suggested. Give him a puzzle with doors or a book with little doors to open, another said. These people of course were never around when the door obsession hit. They didn't understand, really, what Ethan once expressed quite succinctly about four months ago: "I NEED the doors!"

After awhile I relinquished my need to quell the door habit completely. I told myself it was a habit not unlike my biting my fingernails when I'm bored, nervous, or sometimes not even thinking about what I'm doing. We worked on diminishing the door obsession, playing along with the door, playfully distracting, lots of Floortime-type stuff. And now, after two years, the love for doors is fading.

But, this being autism, after all, Ethan has a new object of affection. Or several. For this we can thank the sunflower maze and Jesse Bear.

Ethan has always loved hoses and water. This summer he and Anna have taken a good amount of time exploring the different sprayer settings on our hose in the backyard. In case you're wondering, there's Mist, Shower, Jet and Center, to name a few. But when we found the book "Better Not Get Wet, Jesse Bear," Ethan's hose adoration ratcheted up to a new level. In this book our beloved Jesse Bear continually gets into all kinds of escapades that involve getting wet, to his parents' chagrin. Several of these involve a garden hose. Ethan flips through the pages of this book for extended periods of time. "Is it on Mist?" he'll ask me, staring at the page where Jesse Bear sprays the hose up into the air to make a "sprinkle tower."

"Nah, I think it's on Center," I tell him. These are the types of conversations that seem perfectly normal in our ASD world.

We went to a huge 1st birthday bash for our friends' son last month. A year ago, Ethan would have spent an inordinate amount of time playing with the nearest available door. This time, he was tracing the hose path in the front yard until (joy!) he found it hooked into a spray attachment just like ours.

"That's Mist!" he exclaimed happily, pointing to the correct word. Will my boy be the first ever to learn to read off our backyard garden hose? (Note: He's not there yet. Later he read "J-E-T! That's Mist!").

Speaking of paths and garden hoses leads to Ethan's other recent affinity. Paths and mazes. He loves to curve the length of our hose into different paths along the grass and traverse them with deep concentration. "Yeah! We made it!" he'll sometimes say when he reaches the end.

When he does this I wonder if it's wishful thinking on his part, that he is recalling what was supposed to happen when we traveled to the sunflower maze at a nearby orchard a few weeks' back. Mamma didn't make it to the end. We had to be escorted out by one of the orchard workers.

Ethan loves winding around paths. Last year when we went to one of the largest corn mazes in New England, he had a blast. On our sunflower excursion he got right back into the groove, taking pride in choosing right or left turns, and learning a new term: Dead End. We reinforced that one often on our sorry little journey.

Now Ethan is quite interested in not just getting from Point A to Point B but also about any "dead ends" encountered along the way. He will walk through the house and get to, say, the far side of the living room wall. "Is this a dead end?" he'll ask. I've contemplated trying to explain No, not exactly, because you can still turn to the left or right; not like the dead ends in the maze, but know these kinds of nuances will go over his head. "Yes," I usually answer with gusto.

Our annual Labor Day trip to the corn maze is fast approaching. I have the feeling we're going to be talking quite a bit more about mazes and dead ends.

So we have moved beyond doors to Ethan tracing the paths of hoses (and indoors -- did I mention? -- light cords). Sometimes he pretends (PRETENDS!) he's going down a road or even is riding a roller coaster.

The whole thing is of course "quirky" but makes me smile. "You know," Dan said to me the other day, "I can remember doing the same kind of thing when I was a kid."

Maybe we're all a bit quirky. Never mind maybe. That's why I use to hear songs in the rhythms of the windshield wipers, or used a ball of yarn to tie my room into a giant spider web. Dan likes to pick up a stray sock on the floor using his toes -- and apparently, like his son, used to enjoy to tracing the winding green paths of his Dad's garden hose.


Jackie said...

Kids are all special in there own way. I think it is great that he is enjoying the mazes made by the hose or light cords.
My youngest's current obession is with the sizes of items. Everything has to be from biggest to smallest. Every day it will rearrange toys, shoes, and pillows till they line up from big to small.

Brenda said...

Ah-ha! Yes! We started with doors, too! Which was ... convenient, seeing as there were doors everywhere. And we were and still are fascinated with dead ends. Yes, I can see a trip to a corn maze this autumn. Love it!