People who meet Garrett for the first time often ask the question, "What's he like?" meaning, what's his personality like.
I'm often stumped by this question because I feel, sometimes, like his personality is locked behind this communication barrier. I know he loves trains and cartoons. He's pretty easy going except when he's tired but he has not yet started to show truly distinct personality traits, especially around other kids.
He is a personality copycat right now. He mimics children around him. If one kid is screaming, he will scream. If one kid starts throwing a ball, he will throw a ball. If one kid hits, he will hit. If the other children are laughing, he will laugh. And if you look at his face it is as though he is confused but eager to follow and keep up with the other children. He performs all actions with a look of, "I don't know why I'm doing this, but everyone else is doing it so I will, too."
When children take things from him (except for trains) instead of looking hurt or angry he looks confused and then resigned almost like, "Oh, I guess I wasn't supposed to have that." He doesn't fight or argue and when the other child is corrected and told to give the toy back or to apologize it is almost always Garrett who is saying, "Sorry" and receiving the toy back with a look like, "Oh, I guess it's my turn again."
I've even seen him get bitten so hard he was nearly bleeding and just look at the little girl like, "What sort of game is this?" When the little girl (who is almost a year younger than Garrett) was told to apologize to Garrett she refused. Her mother, mortified by what happened said, "You say your sorry and give him a hug." Her daughter said, "NO!" while Garrett leaned over, gave her a hug and said, "Sorry." Later that day he started biting himself and coming to show me the bite marks. Thankfully that didn't last long.
This is not to say he doesn't have fun because often, once one child he's been mimicking has stopped a particular style of play he will continue it on his own and continue laughing in seemingly genuine enjoyment at having learned something new and fun. Unfortunately, the same thing goes for "unwanted" behavior that he learns from playmates as well.
Watching him play with other children is a little like watching perpetual deja vu. Unless, of course, there is a train around, then he's perfectly content to sit by himself and play with said train and ignore anyone and anything else.
Perhaps it's all been part of his echolalia. He doesn't understand what's going on so in order to feel like he is participating and interacting he just echos the actions of other children like he echos the words of adults when he doesn't understand.
Other than with toy trains he has expressed no real interest
in branching out to new toys and forms of play. I have been trying to
introduce him to new toys and games through puzzles, match games,
drawing and other pretend play. Lately, I've actually been trying to
keep him away from his trains just a bit to help him branch out and discover
what else he might like.
That being said, I've been waiting for his personality to develop and to see him have some original ideas, feelings and expressions.
He goes to two play groups and a children's library group every week and lately I have been seeing him getting a little more belligerent with other kids. This encourages me because it means he's starting to form differing opinions about what they are doing.
While he has yet to hit or push or bite out of anger (as opposed to out of simply copying what he's seen) I'm finding he has a very strong, "STOP!" and the cutest little scrunched up angry face.
I never thought I'd be happy to see my kid finally screaming "STOP!" at other kids and I'm trying to somehow express to him that letting his opinion be known is perfectly acceptable but perhaps not at that volume. Right now I'm a little inclined just to let him keep it up.