I love blank pages, full of possibilities, ready to soak up the ink from my word-spilling pen, happy to take my doodles that resemble nothing yet appear constantly when I am on the phone or mulling something over. The crisp, while cleanliness silently encourages me to make my mark, tattoo my thoughts and generally use it to convey something.
However, for our little ASD/Asperger’s girl, it is quite simply terrifying. A blank page means the dark prospect of having to pick up a pen (problem number one), write with said pen (problem number two), think of something to write or draw (problem number three) and continue with the writing/drawing until something is completed (problem number four). So, like so many things in her life, the thought process is complicated, the motivation hard to find and the ever present low self-esteem ready to ruin the best laid plans.
So let’s take these problems in turn:
Problem No 1 – Picking up the pen. No, she doesn’t have problems with the physical act but the enormity of what it means to have to embark on something. Motivation to create, complete, imagine or simply begin is very tough. Because for this little girl, ahead lies the possibility that things won’t be perfect, she will get judged for that imperfection or even that she will create something worthy of a compliment and compliments, are very hard to take. A compliment means that someone has noticed you, someone is trying to connect with you and confusing emotions will once again wash over her.
Problem No 2 – Writing and drawing. When someone’s confidence is chipped away little and often about a particular thing, I don’t think they every get it back. There is a permanent scar, a constant niggle that you will never get it right. So for her, the mere thought of putting pen to paper brings back the time she was told her writing was messy, the time her work wasn’t hung on the wall and the ache in her wrist when she tried and tried and tried.
Problem No 3 – Imagination. Anyone who has read in-depth about girls with Asperger’s/ASD will know that they show far stronger creative skills than boys with a similar diagnosis and our little one is no different, but when you have a million ideas coming into your head, how do you filter out just one? When every action can have 20 possible ramifications, all of which she computes in an instant, deciding whether it is a mermaid or a dog, a poem or a letter, a scribble or a square is exhausting.
Problem No 4 – Completing. I don’t know if I will every be able to describe my daughter as a starter/finisher (or even a starter) because when your brain is firing, your ears are picking up the hum of the washing machine three rooms away, your toes are feeling the cold smooth wooden floor, your nose is smelling dinner cooking in the kitchen, it is hard not to get distracted. There is also her overwhelming need to fidget; the wobble cushion, the fidget pen, the bendy ruler and the hair flicking so her hands are just as active as her mind.
The incredible thing is though that when she manages to combat the nerves and the concern and the worry and the desire to move, what she produces is lovely, not extraordinary, not gallery worthy, not prizewinning but wonderfully cute and naïve and exactly what an eight-year-old should produce. So, even though we don’t have 20 paintings stuck to our fridge, we do have one and I love it.