It was a long day at work in June 2013 and I was waiting to finish seeing the last child and go back home. And here came the Barbie doll who actually looked prettier than Barbie and had a cute smile on her face. After going through the papers, I found that she is in the spectrum of Autism and was referred to me through a parent.
Barbie did not talk and was three and half years of age when I met her for the first time.
- She had no receptive language and did not follow any instructions at all. The only way she communicated was by taking the person to the object.
- She was not settling in the regular school and was extremely rigid in her behaviors.
- She had a good eye contact.
- She was not toilet trained and did not enjoy being with kids rather she did not even acknowledge their presence.
- Parents were really concerned regarding her rigid behaviors.
- She could sing songs and tunes but did not use her speech for communication.
We started her on Occupational therapy sessions thrice a week. We added Therapeutic Listening, Astronaut training and Sensory integration to her therapy program. After 3 months of therapy, there was a long break because parents had to focus on the elder sibling who was getting left out because of Barbie’s therapy and they needed time to balance both. We saw Barbie after 6 months and there was just slow progress rather she was so rigid that therapists had a tough time to just settle her. There were a lot of sound seeking behaviors when parents decided to start therapeutic listening at home along with therapy. We did only modulation chips with her for three months.
I saw her now when she is going to turn 5 in two months. Parents were delighted with the changes. Her mom who was so dull and low when she met me for the first time and was all glowing and had so much to tell me now. She was really not letting me talk. Her mom went on to say that Barbie is very communicative now and uses sentences to communicate for her needs. She has also started sitting in the class and following all the instructions given by her teachers. She has also started writing which was a major concern earlier.
With respect to her social skills, she has now started playing with kids. She still cannot maintain the conversation but her initiation and interest in kids has improved and she prefers to be with kids rather than being at home. She is very aware of everything and has also learnt to complain and tease. Barbie feigns coughing to get her favorite cough syrup. When mom smiles, she runs away. Barbie’s grandfather took her cup to have his coffee. She was furious and went straight to her mom and complained about it. Mom was in tears and so was her grandfather to see her complain in her own sweet way. Tutors come home to teach Barbie’s elder brother and she greets each and everyone and strikes a conversation with them in her own way. She is still not asking questions but started using “where” questions.
And here is another development with her play skills– Barbie can do pretend play now! After Raksha Bandhan, she puts the dupatta on her head, takes her plate and ties a string to her brother every other day. She takes her mom’s cosmetics and does her complete makeup. Mom was very angry and asked her what she was doing, to which Barbie cutely replied that she is a “dulhan” (bride). She wears new clothes from the cupboard and then asks mom to take her picture and then comments” beautiful” to herself.