The other day it was a Sunday afternoon and we were trying to think of something to do. I decided that I would teach Alicia how to do “Miss Mary Mack,” the clapping game. I thought she would think it was pretty cool, and she did. After we practiced it for quite a while, she got pretty good.

Kimball walked in while we were practicing, and he thought it looked like fun. So I asked him if he would like to try it as well. In just a couple of minutes he had it totally down and we recorded this video.

This may or may not look like much to you, but anyone who saw Kimball’s coordination several months ago, and anyone who knows how difficult a game like this can be for someone with autism will be impressed. Think about it. What does “Miss Mary Mack” require?

First of all there is a negotiation of play. I invite Kimball to come and try it, or Kimball asks me if he can play with me. Either way, we make a pact that we will play this game, follow the rules, etc. That gets us sitting in front of each other ready to play the game. But then there is the physical and mental negotiation that takes place during play. Notice that Alicia loses focus of the game when she turns to the camera — not because she has lost her focus on her hands or mine but because she has lost the focus on me. Kimball’s eyes were locked on me during our entire run with the game. Then there is the physical coordination necessary for the game to actually work. Not only are both sides of the body working in tandem, there is a necessary level of awareness not just of one’s own body in space, but of your partner’s body as well. Then we throw the rhyming and singing and the rhythm on top of it all. This is a really complicated task. It draws on so much of what Kimball has been working on for the last several months during Brain Balance. Alicia (neurotypical) at four is pretty good at picking up most of this stuff intuitively, but Kimball's proficiency is the fruit of countless hours of work. Seeing the smile on his face feeling the joy of really interacting with him makes it all worth it -- especailly when I think that there was a time when I wasn't sure if something like this would ever be possible.

All of this is awesome, but it’s not the end of the story. That night I was trying hard to get the kids to lie down and go to sleep. You know how it is at the end of the day. You are tired. You need them to sleep so you can have a moment of peace before crashing because tomorrow is another day of madness. So I put the kids down and within a few minutes they were all upstairs asking questions, needing to go to the bathroom or get a final drink or something. I sent them all back down. A while later I went back down to check on something and I heard Anahí and Alicia talking in their room. My chest started to tighten with that “why-won’t-they-just-listen-and-be-obedient-and-go-to-sleep?” angry stressful feeling. I went to the girls’ room fully ready to give them a stern “Get in bed.”

Then I froze and my heart melted.

There were Anahí and Alicia, sitting cross-legged and facing each other on the bed. And Alicia was patiently teaching Anahí the words and actions to “Miss Mary Mack.” It will take her more than the five minutes it took Kimball to get it. But with a little sister as awesome as Alicia, and with Anahí’s work ethic, I have no doubt that the day when Anahí gets it won’t be too far down the road.

Needless to say, I let them stay up as long as they wanted. Maybe someday they’ll reach this level:


As always, please feel free to comment on and share this post with your friends and family. We hope our story helps other people working with children and adults with autism. Feel free, as well, to click on the thermometer and donate to help us pay for the Brain Balance program that has done so much for us. Every little bit helps!