Playing with Others/Group Play - Help?

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LolaGranola
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22 Jan 2010, 11:57 am

I have a half-sibling. She will be four next month, is in pre-school, and has Down Syndrome. She also has a few quirks about her that sometimes makes me wonder if she may have ASD.
One of the things I've noticed is that she doesn't play with other children. They go to her, but she just ignores them. At christmas, her three-year-old cousin made a good effort to play with her, but like I said, she completely ignored him. No response at all. She doesn't try to initiate things, either.
However, she will play with me, and her parents, and interact with her teachers. Even then, sometimes she needs to be prompted. I want to know what I can do to help her engage in class, interact with other children, etc. I was thinking about talking to her parents to maybe set up a playdate with one or two kids, and maybe playing group games, like rolling a ball. Because I know she'll play with me, and actually make an effort to get her family's attention, and if one of us is involved, maybe she'll include another child too.
Any suggestions?


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DW_a_mom
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22 Jan 2010, 2:33 pm

I don't know the developmental path for a typical downs child, but it wouldn't surprise me if milestones like "playing with other children" were significantly delayed. Very young children - up until age 18 months or 2 or so (I can't remember the exact age) - don't play together. At best, they may engage in parallel play. They can follow the directions and prompting of an adult, but without that - as in the interaction with children of similar age - they don't know what to do. Point being, this may be a developmental delay.


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22 Jan 2010, 5:01 pm

I don't understand why you would want to have her engage in play with other children. I certainly didn't like when I was prompted to do things I wouldn't do by myself.



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22 Jan 2010, 7:17 pm

I think that you are doing fine just encouraging parallel play, and letting her take the initiative with interactive play (or letting a friendly child in her play group approach her and offer, like her cousin does). She will develop at her own pace; just give her plenty of opportunities to try new things. Maybe another child could join you and her while you are playing together. BTW, some autistics never develop interactive play, and seem to do fine without it.

Down's and autism together wouldn't surprise me; Down's kids are more likely to also have autism. But if she has it, it is probably not too prominent--she's already interacting back-and-forth with adults at the age of four, and considering her overall delays, that's rather early for an autistic person, though it may be late for an average Down's child (not that this "average Down's child" actually exists...!). She will have her own unique developmental schedule as it is; try to figure out her timetable and you will just get confused!


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23 Jan 2010, 2:40 pm

The idea of playdate should be fine! :D It is important that you are concerned for your half-sibling


Callista wrote:
BTW, some autistics never develop interactive play, and seem to do fine without it.

.
Ok, here is me being pessimist again. A paper by Rubin and Coplan (1998) review the literature on studies that followed children who exhibited nonsocial play behaviors during preschool. They found that early social withdrawal from play predicts peer rejection, social anxiety, loneliness, depression, and negative self-esteem in later childhood and adolescence, as well as having negative implications for academic success.


Reference:

Rubin, Kenneth H., & Coplan, Robert J. (1998). Social and nonsocial play in childhood: An individual differences perspective. In Olivia N. Saracho & Bernard Spodek (Eds.), Multiple perspectives on play in early childhood (pp. 144-170). Albany: State University of New York Press. ED 426 776.



LolaGranola
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23 Jan 2010, 3:03 pm

Wedge wrote:
The idea of playdate should be fine! :D It is important that you are concerned for your half-sibling


Callista wrote:
BTW, some autistics never develop interactive play, and seem to do fine without it.

.
Ok, here is me being pessimist again. A paper by Rubin and Coplan (1998) review the literature on studies that followed children who exhibited nonsocial play behaviors during preschool. They found that early social withdrawal from play predicts peer rejection, social anxiety, loneliness, depression, and negative self-esteem in later childhood and adolescence, as well as having negative implications for academic success. [quote]

This is why I want to start now - so it doesn't catch up to her later. She is not diagnosed with ASD, but she does have some quirks that sometimes make me wonder. There is some overlap of ASD and Down Syndrome, like stimming. I want her to be comfortable around other children, learn sharing, and other social skills to make sure that she doesn't fall behind. She already has enough challenges and may be prone to bullying (though I hope not) when she hits elementary school, because as many of us know here, kids can be so intolerant of other's differences. I don't want her to be as lonely as I was when I wanted to make friends and found myself, at best, alone.

I was wondering, besides rolling a ball, what are some other simple games that she and I could play with another child? Nothing too physically intense, because her muscles are weak.


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23 Jan 2010, 5:27 pm

Here's the thing, though--you're assuming that nonsocial play is the cause of all those other things. What they proved is that it's just one of a group of things that occur together. You might as well say that canceling school causes it to snow, or that your alarm clock makes the sun rise. Things happening together doesn't mean that the first thing causes the other things.

I think they happen together thanks to a variety of factors--personality, environment, and ASD traits. Why would a child withdraw socially? Bad home environment? Lots of stress? Simply introverted? Eccentric? All of those things could cause it, and being forced to play with others won't cure it.

I still think the conservative approach makes the most sense here--that is, leave her plenty of opportunities to play with others; make it easy for her to do if she wants to; show her how; but don't force it.

And yeah, you're probably gonna have to turn into a sibling-ish version of a Mother Bear when she gets to elementary school. Kids can be downright evil. Thing is, this girl has at least one person who is going to care about her and stick up for her, and that is one of the biggest factors in your favor that you can have. (Yep, they did study this, with refugee kids. The ones who came through their time as refugees without emotional trauma were--surprise, surprise--the ones who had at least one person with whom they had a close, trusting relationship. Didn't even need to be a parent.)


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24 Jan 2010, 2:29 am

Have you asked on a forum for Downs what the typical developmental age for interactive play is? I think that would be useful to know, before you start down the road of introducing the skill. You can't teach interactive play to a 9 month old, for example, because they are not developmentally ready. I realize you are past the typical age for NT kids, but are you past the typical age for Downs kids?


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24 Jan 2010, 7:27 am

LolaGranola wrote:
I was wondering, besides rolling a ball, what are some other simple games that she and I could play with another child? Nothing too physically intense, because her muscles are weak.


I talked yesterday to a friend who works at a school and he suggested some games like hopscotch. He said kids like a lot the game in which they pretend they are animals, and try to figure out which animal you are imitating. I thought about blowing bubbles and then catching them, playing in the sandbox (also building castles), Hide and seek is a classic... Maybe writtting with chalk, flying kits.



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24 Jan 2010, 4:21 pm

Callista wrote:
Here's the thing, though--you're assuming that nonsocial play is the cause of all those other things. What they proved is that it's just one of a group of things that occur together. You might as well say that canceling school causes it to snow, or that your alarm clock makes the sun rise. Things happening together doesn't mean that the first thing causes the other things.

Correlations are used in a wide variety of studies. Sometimes we have a theory and need to check if that theory fits the data and that is what the authors did in the study. It is not that they are testing absurd relationships like the existence of sunspots and occurence of business cycles (that would be prone to spurious correlation) but they are testing theories that have been developed through the last century and are a almost a century old.

Jean Piaget, George Herbert Mead, Harry Stack Sullivan were the first to emphasize the importance of peer involvement for children’s social development. According to all those theorists experiences within the peer group, had a role in the acquisition, maintenance, and practice of important social skills. For Piaget peer interaction provided exposure to differences of opinion and thought and opportunities for discussion and negotiation about these differences. That aided children in the acquisition and development of sensitive perspective-taking skills in interpersonal relationships. Sullivan proposed that peer relationships are essential for the development of skills for cooperation, compromise, empathy and altruism.

What the authors of the study discovered was that children who experience a consistently impoverished quality of social play and social interaction are at risk for later social maladjustment. According to the authors of the above study social play provides children with an environment where they acquire social-cognitive and interpersonal skills that will be used later in life.

I read from psychologists that when children with poor social skills fail to stablish relationships with peers they are excluded from positive interactions with peers that are critical for learning social skills and the development of social competencies. The isolation of these children deprive them from developing adaptive social behaviors and their social competence may worsen through time leading to feelings of anxiety and inequacy.

According to what I read lack of social skills and peer rejection go hand in hand and coincide with emotional problems such as depression. From what I read from psychologists positive peer relations play an important role in supporting the process of healthy social and emotional development


Here is another exemple in which correlations are used. Correlations were used to counterpose the "theory" that vaccines caused autism. By the use of correlations proeminent scients like Dr. Paul Offit reached the conclusion that vaccines do no CAUSE autism and that is a result widely accepted in the academic comunity. In fact the biggest problem is making the general population understand this result. So correlations are an instrument used in scientific research. If I remember well I read a few times you supporting the views above (that vaccines do not CAUSE autism) in this forum and didn't said anything about watches causing the sun to rise or closed schools making it snow. So I guess that when you like the results of the correlations it is ok but if you personally don't like them you readily discard them with sarcasm about cancelling schools causes it to rain and etc...


Callista wrote:
I think they happen together thanks to a variety of factors--personality, environment, and ASD traits. Why would a child withdraw socially? Bad home environment? Lots of stress? Simply introverted? Eccentric? All of those things could cause it, and being forced to play with others won't cure it.

Yes there is a whole list of factors that influence participation in social play. Current studies suggest that: temperament, parent-child relationships and parenting behaviors (style), ability to regulate emotions, social competence all are correlated somehow with withdraw. But I still think that the theoretical links between social play and the things I listed above (peer rejection, social anxiety, loneliness, depression, negative self-esteem, negative implications for academic) success are quite firm. But I don't think the links between the things that you said and the above dependent variables are sound enough. I mean why introverts would suffer peer rejection or had bad academic success? Why would eccentrics experience more depression, social anxiety or worse academic success? Besides you are just saying things based on what you think and not based on any theoretical or empirical research whasoever.

And setting up a playdate is not forcing someone to play.


Callista wrote:
I still think the conservative approach makes the most sense here--that is, leave her plenty of opportunities to play with others; make it easy for her to do if she wants to; show her how; but don't force it.



IMO for some people with disabilities and autism that alternative might not be enough. The typical kid beguins parallel play at 2 years old, and engages cooperative play at 3 years old and at 4 enjoys cooperative play and group games.

For some people with disabilities it is not that they don't play with others because they don't want to but because they don't know how. Some autistics won't know how to ask another kid if he/she wants to play with him/her or won't know how to negotiate to choose a game they both like etc... It is not that they are not interested in social aspects of play but a it is a manifestation of their difficulties in communication that interferes with their ability to play.
I read from psychologists that social play only occours when the kid possesses the skills necessarily to initiate interactions with another child. So some will need interventions to learn how to play while others will need a gentle help.

I read articles in which the authors found that help from an adult individual increased the number of peer interactions made by autistic kids. I also read about similar results from play therapy. Some authors report that autistics are responsive to a wide range of interventions aimed at increasing their social play behaviour. This might work as well with Downs. I guess that these experiences are linked with Vygotsky's concept of "zone of proximal development". According to this author kids could benefit from adults assistance while playing near them. Again this is not forcing the kid to play. Even some NTs have to go to social skills training to learn how to play properly with his peers (not be bossy, disruptive, follow the rules of the game).

In my view this is better than isolating the individual with disability from the rest of the society.



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25 Jan 2010, 9:14 pm

Quote:
Here is another exemple in which correlations are used. Correlations were used to counterpose the "theory" that vaccines caused autism. By the use of correlations proeminent scients like Dr. Paul Offit reached the conclusion that vaccines do no CAUSE autism and that is a result widely accepted in the academic comunity. In fact the biggest problem is making the general population understand this result. So correlations are an instrument used in scientific research. If I remember well I read a few times you supporting the views above (that vaccines do not CAUSE autism) in this forum and didn't said anything about watches causing the sun to rise or closed schools making it snow. So I guess that when you like the results of the correlations it is ok but if you personally don't like them you readily discard them with sarcasm about cancelling schools causes it to rain and etc...
No, this is actually a different statement.

The vaccine/autism relationship has been disproven because there is NO correlation, not because there is one. If there's no correlation, then there can be no cause-and-effect relationship (barring statistical flukes). The lack of correlation can prove something not to cause another thing, but the presence of correlation proves only that they tend to occur together.

To prove a hypothesis, you have to actually do an experiment; and even then, you can only call it "proof" once the experiment has been repeated by different people over and over and had the same result.

Remember the "refrigerator mother" theory? That one was "supported" by correlation. Autistic children tended to have mothers who were less affectionate than most mothers. But the idea that lack of affection caused the autism, despite the correlation, was still false. This could be because a third factor--autistic genetics in both the mother and child--was causing both the mother's low expressed emotion and the child's autism. Or it could be a cause and effect the other way around--an undemonstrative autistic child doesn't elicit as enthusiastic a response from the mother. Either way, the mistake was made, and lots of families suffered for it, because someone mistook correlation for cause-and-effect.


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26 Jan 2010, 8:54 am

Callista wrote:
Remember the "refrigerator mother" theory? That one was "supported" by correlation. Autistic children tended to have mothers who were less affectionate than most mothers. But the idea that lack of affection caused the autism, despite the correlation, was still false. This could be because a third factor--autistic genetics in both the mother and child--was causing both the mother's low expressed emotion and the child's autism. Or it could be a cause and effect the other way around--an undemonstrative autistic child doesn't elicit as enthusiastic a response from the mother. Either way, the mistake was made, and lots of families suffered for it, because someone mistook correlation for cause-and-effect.


That study was not conducted properly. Once kids were removed from their home environment and transfered to other places they remained autistics. So if someone tracked the correlation through time he would notice that the correlation would vanish. Significant correlations were encountered only because just cross-sectional variation was studied. If a longitudinal study was made (as in the study I cited) probably correlations wouldn´t be found. Moreover in a longitudinal study it would be possible to control for time-invariant effects such as genetics (that you mentioned) making the estimates more precise.



LolaGranola
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28 Jan 2010, 7:26 pm

Wedge wrote:
LolaGranola wrote:
I was wondering, besides rolling a ball, what are some other simple games that she and I could play with another child? Nothing too physically intense, because her muscles are weak.


I talked yesterday to a friend who works at a school and he suggested some games like hopscotch. He said kids like a lot the game in which they pretend they are animals, and try to figure out which animal you are imitating. I thought about blowing bubbles and then catching them, playing in the sandbox (also building castles), Hide and seek is a classic... Maybe writtting with chalk, flying kits.


Bubbles are a great idea! It's too cold to do blow them outside now, but bubbles would be perfectly appropriate in her play room. She loves them.
Also, in response to another post, I have no intention of forcing her to do something she isn't ready to do. I just want to show her how and encourage her to try, and perhaps spark an interest in other children.


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29 Jan 2010, 6:09 pm

This is a topic that I posted on recently and is something we are working on too. Wedge has done a lot of research on this topic, and I agree with him that play is very important to a child's development. It is something that as parents we should try to help our children with if they are having trouble. We don't have to force it, but I think we should keep trying to expose them to it and see where it goes. It is just like helping them work on their communication. Even if they do not seem to be improving, I think we should keep trying. You never know how much information they are retaining that may come out at a later time.

As I have learned with my son, his play may not be like other kids, but engaging with him in a playful manner has caused his communication and his interest in the world around him to improve. I do get discouraged at times when he seems so disinterested in the other kids, but I don't force it on him. I think having him around other kids in small doses is good for his development. I always try to listen to him when he says he is ready to go or if it seems like he has had enough.

As far as examples of things to play: playdough is a good thing that kids can play side by side. Doing a simple puzzle together and letting them take turns putting a piece in. I even used the baby stacking colored rings and had my son take turns with another kid stacking the rings. Reading a story together or even sharing a snack together can encourage social time. Oh, "Ring around the Rosey" and "Duck Duck Goose" and Hide and go seek.

I worked and worked with my son on learning Hide and Go seek for about a year. I did not think he would ever get it. Then one day, out of the blue he said "I want to play hide and go seek" We started playing it, and he had it down like any other kid. I was blown away!! So try not to give up. Just stay in a playful mood, and you never know what might happen!