Click here for the previous installment of the Princess Dress Diaries.
Pamela blew the socks off everyone, and I want to take time to process everything that I observed and insights that others shared with me. There will be a part two because Pamela's tias plan to write down their thoughts, too!
Aware and Responsive
Pamela has been aware of her environment for a long time. Now, she is also aware of people: what they say and what their body language says. She is very interested in expressing herself and adding her part to a conversation. A classic example of this was our trip home to Carolina. Steve, who travels overseas quite often due to his job, is platinum in the eyes of Continental. During a long layover in Houston, we checked into their Presidents Club. The agent at the desk asked how many were in our party, and Steve replied, "Four." Not only was Pamela listening to their conversation, she corrected him: she held up her babies and said, "No! Six people!"
This greater attention to people means that Pamela is better able to understand what is happening. She listens to what people say and applies it to the situation at hand. That means she is more able to figure out what we are planning down the road. She is more able to adapt in dynamic situations because she is no longer taken by surprise. When something unexpected happens, she is able to read people's body language and figure out an appropriate response. For example, when she opened the gift for the wedding party, Pamela was a bit puzzled by the jewelry tree. She looked at Alyson and then me, so I smiled broadly and said, "You can hang things on it in your room. It will look beautiful." Pamela still wasn't too sure but relaxed and did not toss it over her shoulder like she used to do with other unwanted gifts.
Calm and Poised
Because Pamela is more aware of people and what their actions may mean, she was much calmer in uncertain situations. One of my nephews has not seen Pamela in eons. He was stunned that she could stay with us at the rehearsal dinner and sit at the table before her food arrived and after she finished her food. All he remembered of her during family holiday gatherings was her disappearing act after she finished eating--usually to watch videos in a bedroom.
Because we found a role in which Pamela could feel competent--passing out programs-- and used an interaction pattern she could fall into--assembly line (me-Pamela-guest), she looked poised. Because passing out programs does not require verbal interactions (especially since 100 people arrived during her half hour on duty), we played to her strength: nonverbal communication. If you watch the video carefully, you will see that she was very comfortable and confident in her role. She was not completely mechanical because she occasionally adjusted to close the distance between her and the guest or to avoid the roving ring bearer, adapted her pace to the rate of guests arriving, and altered her eye gaze. She treated strangers with distance and leaned into the hugs and kisses of family. She did not become flustered when I changed my actions or there was an interruption of flow. She even smiled gently about the guy who did not take a program. When the pace slowed down, she reacted naturally: a slight sigh or playing with her pearls. Her facial expression looked very calm and pleased, and she did not grimace once. The oddest thing was that Pamela was so poised I seriously doubt many people recognized her autism!
Humor and Babies
Pamela has progressed in two areas of development that we are not specifically addressing, and I suspect filling in certain developmental gaps enabled her to advance in humor and the appreciation of dolls. Until recently, Pamela only found verbal stimming and repetitive silly videos funny. Lately, she has started laughing at saying the wrong word or doing the wrong thing, people falling down, accidents, and mistakes. According to Dr. Lawrence Kutner in an article on humor, two-year-olds find things out of place funny. This lines up perfectly with our assumption that Pamela functions like a two-year-old in dynamic intelligence.
Pamela started to pretend play when we put her on a gluten-free/casein-free diet at age six. She began playing with Barbie and baby dolls when she was eight. What is new about her doll play is treating her baby dolls like members of the family and including them in family plans like holidays and vacations. For the first time ever, she is treating baby dolls like people. Her play is not sophisticated in that she does not feed them and spend hours in scenarios with them. However, she travels with them and gets offended if we imply that they are dolls. Again, an interest in dolls can begin as young as two-years old.
This video shows Pamela's ability to cope in a very noisy restaurant. You can also see a little bit of her humor (when her cousin Andrea hits her finger) and how she reacts to how her babies are handled.
Click for the beginning of the story of the Princess Dress Diaries.