Rush Hour Traffic

No one likes rush hour traffic. But the reason it exists is because thousands of people feel that they have to take the same road at the same time. Then they get upset because they can’t all do it fast.

Rush hour traffic is highly over-rated. So are developmental time-tables.

One of the important points is that a lot of the “developmental disorder” end of things is developmental slowness or unevenness – it takes longer to get certain skills, and they may not necessarily be reached in the same manner as most. Comparing a child with such to the standard developmental timetables may only serve to increase stress at the seeming brokenness.

So many schools are trying to fast-foward children, expecting kindergarten social, cognitive and physical skills from preschoolers, and gradeschool social, cognitive and physical skills from kindergarteners.

Children between the ages of 2 and 6 are integrating a humongous amount of information in a variety of spheres, including receptive and expressive language, physical skills ranging from gross and fine motor to bodily functions, single-interpersonal skills, group interpersonal skills, acquiring subject knowledge in concrete things in their lives, cause-and-effect stuff, abstract stuff like numbers and reading and time (seasons, special events etc), and a bunch of other stuff that’s not even coming to mind right now.

Then we throw in things like developmental variability in sensory realms and proprioception and language processing and …

I couldn’t tie my shoes until I was in 3rd grade. Bike riding was even later. I didn’t know all of my multiplication tables until 8th grade. I required speech therapy in primary school, and that was back in the 60’s when most kids didn’t get anything.

Sometimes I think that too many people turn all these developmental timetables into bare minimums, when in fact they are simply averages, which means that some kids do things sooner, and some kids do things later. Given how uneven our kids are, they think that everything should be as advanced as our kids’ best skills. They also spend too much time evaluating how well children participate in herds, when in fact most toddlers and preschoolers really aren’t so much herd animals yet.

School is not about racing to the finish. Nor is it about everyone taking the same path to get there. Despite what people say.

But people get Terribly Concerned because their children are not learning things at the proscribed rates. They become afraid that their children won’t learn at all, that somehow they will be “stuck” at whatever stage they are in. So there are children who spend 40 hours a week in a variety of programs for speech, for movement, for scholastic tutoring, for mimicking social interaction …

Once upon a time, long ago in a galaxy far, far away … we didn’t have all these “programs” for things. Which is not to say that some kinds of programs might not have been helpful. It would have made 40+ years easier if people had known about my considerable Auditory Processing Disorder difficulties, instead of saying I “wasn’t paying attention” or was lazy or whatever.

But people get Terribly Concerned that their child “doesn’t know how to play”. This boggles the mind – how can a child “not know how to play”? But what people are really meaning is that their child is not playing the way they expect them to, i.e., not the “right way”. It’s pretty sad when children are graded on whether or not they play correctly. Play is a personal exploration of the world, for one’s own learning and delight.

One of the things commonly ascribed to autism is a “lack of imagination”, because autistic children don’t always play with the same toys that neurotypical children do, or don’t engage in make-believe games the same way that neurotypical children do. This is really ironic, because Hans Asperger himself said, “It seems that for success in science and art, a dash of autism is essential.” Hmn … And indeed, you’ll find autistic people in most every sphere of endeavour.

If the child doesn’t show an interest in typical toys, then they are simply not interested in them. Let them be available — they may later, or they may end up using them in different ways than other children. (Toy cars are for lining up, right? <grin>) It may be also that other things not generally considered to be toys will be more interesting to them.

For example most kids of all sorts find a manual eggbeater to be fascinating. But an eggbeater is not considered to be a “toy”. Nor is graph paper or a weight scale or a Latin dictionary or an Army Corps of Engineers building manual for national parks structures, although I found all of these fascinating as a child. I still do, and they gave me background useful for my degree in horticulture — you never know how those particular fascinations can be useful.

You may not see the same style of role-playing activities as more socially-oriented children engage in. Those are called “imaginative” play, and many people assume that a lack of engaging in them is a lack of imagination. Rather, it’s a lack of role-playing, and imagination can take many other forms. I played with dollhouses — but spent hours arranging the furniture, not acting out stories with the dolls themselves. To this day I can remember what the furniture looked like, but not the dolls that were supposed to go with it. I have a superlative mental “CAD” type program in my head for arranging and manipulating elements in space, and if I tell my husband that the sofa is six inches longer than the wall, by gum it is six inches longer than the wall. I can re-arrange stuff and pack more into a dishwasher or suitcase or packing box than anyone else.

Let your children have time to explore their worlds by giving them a wide range of experiences, and letting him take those in, in their own manner. Give them what they need by way of therapies to help him deal with things that make their lives difficult, but please, don’t fill their days with them. Children do develop, and some of them do so on different time tables.


  1. qw88nb88 said,

    9 August 2007 at 21:13

    Grace, you’re not “spamming” — comments are open any time. Thanks for doing so! It’s always fun hearing what people have to say.

  2. Grace said,

    9 August 2007 at 12:14

    (Sorry I’m spamming your blog with so many comments on old entries, but I just found the link to it today and have been reading through while procrastinating things that need to be done!)

    Anyway. I did the same thing with my dollhouses. I *loved* rearranging the furniture. With my larger-sized dolls, such as Barbies, I didn’t have dollhouses, but I would make houses from other stuff, and I had some furniture (and made furniture out of boxes and such as well). I’d lay down a doll blanket or handkerchief as the “carpet” and then arrange the furniture on top. When I played games outside, the bulk of the time would be spent making a house, too. Picnic benches were turned on their sides for walls, or upside-down to be boats, etc. I loved arranging stuff. :)

  3. qw88nb88 said,

    3 December 2006 at 19:01


    Thank you so much for responding! I rarely know who is reading, much less what people think about what I have to say.

    Despite my own developmental variability, I did eventually learn everything set before me, and then some — I have a Masters of Science degree. However, that was not reached by being dunned for learning things differently, but rather in spite of the roadblocks people set in the way.

    The whole NCLB scenario is a terrible mess! Of course we have educational standards that we strive for. But does repeatedly testing someone make them learn any better? And if so many schools systems have aging facilities, an insufficiency of staff members, and not enough instructional materials, does it really make sense to punish them for having problems?

    SpEd students have IEPs for a reason — they cannot reach standardised goals in standardised ways. Telling the students and their various teachers that they just need to “try harder” to be “normal” (or even to pretend to be normal), is not going to effect those goals.

    When we look to make students “measure up” as you say, are we really trying to help ensure that they learn the variety of things that they need, or are we just trying to make them look good to show them off? Is a person’s value derived from how “normal” they appear? Has form (appearances) surpassed function (getting things done, however)? Norman Kunc has a fantastic essay on this, which I think you will enjoy:
    and more here:

    Thanks for writing in; please do so again.
    P.S. Don’t let yourself or anyone else be fooled by what someone’s disability diagnosis says they should be able to achieve!

  4. bamagirl said,

    3 December 2006 at 17:08

    I read your blog everytime I read blogs on autism-hub. I rarely read one that pulls on me to respond. But as a special education teacher trying to make children with disabilities (including ASD) fit into the NT world of school, and by that I mean not only behavior and socially appropriate actions but also fit into the NT goals that our FEDERAL gov’t has set forth….that ALL children will reach 100% proficiency on academic goals set forth by state and local system that come from the FEDERAL gov’t. It is very discouraging for me as a special ed teacher to try and adapt and adapt so these children ‘measure up’ in the eyes of so many who do not understand what is typical for these children. To me, these children are far suceeding what their disability says they can, and for the gov’t and state and local school schools, it still isn’t enough. I enjoyed reading some of what you say here that applies to that. If it’s ok, I may print out your blog writing here and share it with co-workers. I think it sums up nicely what we are expected to do to make these children do what is expected of them in the eyes of a NT administration. Why can these children not have goals of their own and reach 100% profiecieny on them? Why must they met 100% on things that all other children are expected to attain. I mean, come on, even 100% is not even logical on some of these goals for children that are “NT”, whatever that is. Anyway, off the soapbox now, but thank you for these words. They really spoke to me as I am in charge of trying to make these children play with toys the way the gov’t expects them to, and be friendly the way the gov’t expects them to, and read at a level and comprehend at a level the gov’t expects them to, on material the gov’t picks for them to read and understand. You have summed up the problem, totally, for me! Thank you! And on behalf of the children I server, thank you for these words!!!

  5. qw88nb88 said,

    3 December 2006 at 16:36

    Ah, I had read about the Pollock fractals. Moondog I am less versed upon. Presumably the Volvo windshield wipers don’t make that scuddd-screeeach-scuddd-screeeach-scuddd-screeeach racket lke our old Dodge van.

  6. 3 December 2006 at 12:22

    Perhaps I should let Drumbo explain for himself

    “one rainy day in hollywood, behind frank zappa’s studio in early 1976, don van vliet decided to write a song from the drums up (subconsciously, i guess i have always placed drums at the bottom of the musical spectrum). as we sat in his volvo, he turned on the windshield wipers. i wrote the main drumbeat on a matchbook cover with the idea in mind to duplicate this wiper rhythm. does this mean volvo deserves royalties? perhaps an endorsement will be enough.”

    As for my reference “Daimler Fleetline. Engine: Gardner 6LX, 10.4 litre rated at 140 bhp at 1700 rpm” One of these engines in a preserved front engined (fleetlines have it at the back) apparantly is as economical pulling a bus load of passengers as my landie’s 2.25 litre petrol engine is at lugging me.

    Moondog, well he recorded a duet with the Queen Mary on the Hudson River and incorporated traffic sounds into his street recordings.

    Pollocks paint strokes follow fractal equations BTW.

  7. qw88nb88 said,

    3 December 2006 at 0:23

    I auto have some answer to that, but my train of thought got derailed and now it’s going to bug me. Diesel have to do unless someone can horn in on this discussion.

  8. 3 December 2006 at 0:09

    Ah the children of the night, my windscreen wipers what music they make.

    Moondog would have known, Drumbo John French did, but his were on a Volvo.

    And I guess you would need to be as eclectic as the late John Peel to know what I am on about, but just as the splash of a Jackson Pollock stroke obeys set rules so does the vibration on the panel of a daimler bus resonate to the rhythm of a gardner diesel.

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