Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Systemizing Brain

I love to watch my children play. E is always in some form of imaginitive play and has preferred this type of play very early on. J on the other hand, is somewhat delayed in her ability to role play. She prefers to play independently maybe because of her communication delays. I've noticed as her confidence in speech grows, she does more imaginitive play. She has recently been interested in playing "babies"...she's the mommy and I'm the grandma! (Must be those few strands of grey hair I've discovered. I'm now Grandma-material.) When playing Barbie's or playing with her doll house, she is very focused on the characters and how they are interacting. This has been exciting for me to watch.

Even as her communication improves, she continues to display an interesting play characteristic. She loves to line up her toys!  LONG lines of horses or cars...

or spoons!

I'll admit playing with spoons is a little strange. It proves just how much she likes to take items and line them up on my kitchen floor. She'll make lines out of any group of objects.

I wanted to know what this was about and in my research, I was pointed in the direction of autism. Apparently, lining up and organizing toys in this way is a sign of autism. It's what one researcher called the Systemizing Brain (Simon Baron-Cohen). Granted some of Baron-Cohen's research and conclusions have been criticized, but one aspect caught my attention. He believes children with autism are "change resistant" and prefer order. In this way, they make lines of their toys in an attempt to make order out of chaos. It doesn't mean that every child who lines up their toy trucks is autistic. Many little children organize their toys in this manner. But for a parent who is already questioning, this behavior may lead to a more thorough investigation. It is tough, but I believe parents must follow their intuition. If something doesn't seem right, journal about what you are observing in your child, and then bring it to the attention of your pediatrician.

In J's case, I'm just going to continue to watch her play. We have enough diagnoses to keep us busy for awhile so I'm in no hurry to add another to our list. I have a feeling as she learns to communicate better and with more control, she'll outgrow this fabulous spoon-lining trait. But if not, I've got some ideas and can follow it up then.


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