09/23/2014 12:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

That's Mine! Playing Autism Style

Shanell Mouland


"That's mine!" Kate screams as we walk by anything she is remotely interested in. I am guessing she has heard children at her daycare call out this phrase when another takes a preferred toy from them. I am glad that Kate has made this connection and is attempting to use this phrase to request something, but clearly we have some work to do in terms of when and where to use it. Lately, those two words have been preceding some pretty serious meltdowns.

Episode One

Kate does a fantastic job at her swimming lesson and I take her to the toy store to look at the train table before we go home. There is a little boy playing with the trains. Kate lunges for him and removes all of the toys from his hands and says, "That's mine!" The boy looks at his dad and says "Daddy, that boy took my trains!" I immediately liberate the trains from Kate's unnaturally strong hands and hand them back to the boy. "She's a girl." I say. "She just loves to dress like a firefighter and wear a ninja turtle hat." The boy had stopped listening to my explanation the moment the trains hit his fingers, but I finished anyway. Kate lunged for the trains again. The boy, in a true 'fool me once' move, tucked the trains behind his back and looked up at Kate, a little defiant and a little afraid. Kate stopped for a moment, jaw clenched, to consider her next move. I could see that she felt wronged (that is the way she sees it and no amount of explanation from me about 'fair' and 'who had it first' will help us now) and her ability to regulate the anger that comes with that is non-existent at this point. I swooped in with the best re-direction move I have. "Kate, look what I found!" Her head whipped around and I had to quickly produce something more interesting than those trains. I scanned the rack beside me and spotted a dinosaur puppet. Bingo! I had saved the boy and his trains. I made ridiculous dinosaur sounds and chased Kate away from the train table until she became equally enticed by the Groovy Girl doll beds. The boy and his father made their purchase and left without ever knowing how close they had come to a Kate tornado. The smile on that boy's face is my reward. No really, the lack of a bite mark on his cheek is my reward.

Episode Two

We are walking through the shopping centre on the way to the car. Kate spots a lady pushing a baby carriage coming towards us. I am carrying her and when 37 pounds of pure muscle decides to jump out of your arms and beeline for a newborn, you feel it. (I know she can walk on her own. Did I mention the meltdowns?) Kate is quick, and she reaches the carriage before me. Two possible scenarios run through my mind in the seconds before I reach her and the carriage. Either she will immediately remove the toy from the baby's hands while screaming, "That's mine!" at the tiny infant. Or she will emancipate that baby from the carriage itself. I catch up to Kate just in time to see her reach into the carriage and gently touch the baby's blanket. She looked up at the smiling mother and said: "That your baby?"

Good girl, Kate. We are getting there.