As many of you know Attachment Disorder is a complex condition punctuated with anomalies. In Winnie’s case the most significant anomaly is her overwhelming desire to be in control, while at the same time being unable to do anything unless instructed and guided.
Winnie just cannot cope with ‘free play’, but if we suggest something she will refuse to do it. ‘Guided’ play has to be introduced subtly so that she thinks it is all her idea. She finds coming up with the ideas herself extremely tricky. If left unguided Winnie will literally stand around for hours doing nothing, just watching or in other words staring – which can be very disconcerting.
This standing around and staring has been exacerbated by the recent arrival of Baby Billy. On the plus side she absolutely loves him and is happy to share us with him. Long may it last! However she is slightly obsessed with him and seems to think that he is there to entertain her. She doesn’t play with him, she just follows him around and gazes at him. Billy on the other hand is constantly exploring his surroundings and toys.
For the last four weeks we have not be able to persuade Winnie to do anything, not even play with Lego or draw, which before Billy’s arrival were the only two things she would actually do on her own.
And so I’ve been trying to come up with ways to capture her imagination and encourage her to think for herself. My answer is arts and crafts. I love anything crafty and have always encouraged my kids to get messy with glitter and glue. On a rainy day, when tempers are frayed and all else fails, I often resort to craft activities (more for my own sanity than anyone else’s). At 15, Sammy can still be tempted by a crafty challenge and even my technically minded husband now makes his own cards!
Winnie absolutely loves creating things and it has definitely helped us bond, even on a very bad day. However the activities usually need to be heavily guided, otherwise the end result is carnage. And so in a desperate attempt to encourage Winnie to play independently I have introduced the ‘Activity Box’. I fill the box with a selection of craft items and junk and ask Winnie to create something.
And so far it seems to be working! She loves opening the box and discovering what’s inside. I encourage her to think about what she is going to make before I hand over the glue, so we don’t end up with a gloopy mess.
The result is around an hour of relatively unguided, creative play (and an hour of peace and quiet)! Without realising it Winnie is working independently and using her imagination to create an end product that she is very proud of! Let’s hope the novelty doesn’t wear off! I now need to work out how to develop this idea to encourage other forms of play. The ‘Sensory Box’, the ‘Make Believe Box’? All ideas welcome…