How the Ask Amy doll changed Betty’s life
By Helen Nichols
For a parent, an autistic child can be its own universe with a set of laws and rules that we need to learn. Nearly every action turns into a search for an alternative. Choosing a toy is no exception. Though it may seem all children like toys, children on the autism spectrum can often ignore or even reject the toys that other children would be delighted with showing a preference for things that we as parents may see as “not a toy.” Choosing toys for my Betty became another little challenge for our family. I created criteria for the toys we selected. They must not only entertain and occupy Betty but make her feel relaxed and safe when playing. I wanted a toy that would help improve her communication skills. It’s important for the child not to be afraid of the toy and not to reject it.
And that perfect toy for Betty came in the form of a brown-haired doll who looked a lot like Betty called Ask Amy! We had no clue that Betty would accept this doll. Our first clue Betty liked the doll was when she didn’t become scared or upset to see the doll in her strictly organized room. She actually expressed an interest in Amy. Inspired we continued encouraging Betty to interact with Amy. Little by little Betty accepted the doll as her friend. Amy began to take part in all Betty’s day-to-day activities: getting up, bathing, eating breakfast and so on. Amy helped Betty to acquire new skills. We would demonstrate Amy “doing” something new first and Betty would be more willing to do the new action. Seeing Amy do something new made Betty calm and showed that there was nothing to be afraid of. Gradually Betty repeated the actions herself. I showed my daughter how to communicate with the doll: what phrases she needed to say to make Amy answer. Slowly Betty began talking to Amy. Betty loves music. She especially liked to ask Amy to sing a song.
Amy became a constant companion for my daughter, her loyal friend, plain, stable, giving her a sense of safety. Amy taught Betty to take care of other people. Amy’s life-like facial expression helped Betty to identify emotions. The fact that Amy looks like a little girl showed Betty she didn’t need to be afraid of other children. The doll became the motive for communication with children since such toys stir an interest in girls and even boys. At first Betty wasn’t happy to get so much attention. She slowly warmed up to other children and proudly demonstrated Amy’s abilities using special phrases.
It may sound unbelievable to others how a toy helped my daughter with autism become more interactive in the world. Even our therapist who guides Betty on ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) methods remarked on Betty’s progress since she became friends with Amy. I’m sure Betty will have much success ahead thanks to Amy. I’m happy to see my daughter happy and cheerful.
Helen Nichols is a happy mother who is passionate about healthy lifestyle. She has a degree in nutrition and she enjoys learning and teaching about nutrition, fitness, emotional health and weight loss. She is also an editor-in-chief at Well-BeingSecrets.com