The Quirky Object of My Angel’s Obsession

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

by Sabrina L. Johnson |

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My 11-year-old Angel, Juliana, has a fixation. A fixation is an intense focus or obsession. Some parents may view this as a bad thing, but experts say otherwise, and I’ve found Juliana’s obsession to be one of the most positive influences in her life.

Since she was about 1 year old, Juliana has had a special doll that has been responsible for bringing her joy and comfort. It’s a Playskool toy known as Busy Lil’ Ladybug. We shortened her name to Ladybug to make it more personable.

Sorry, not the cutest doll

Juliana first got Ladybug when she was an infant and we were her foster parents. It was a gift from her case manager. It wasn’t your typical-looking doll, and at $30 for a little stuffed animal, I thought it was quite pricey. But because it was a gift, I let her keep it. The two have been inseparable since then.

toy | Angelman Syndrome News | A close-up photo of Juliana's favorite toy, the Busy Lil' Ladybug doll from Playskool.

The toy of Juliana’s affection, Ladybug. (Photo by Sabrina L. Johnson)

Everyone who knows Juliana well understands her attachment to this doll. Ladybug comes in several styles, but her real attraction is that she has a rattle inside. Juliana loves music and making noise, so the two are a match made in heaven.

When she first got Ladybug, I had no idea what a relevant fixture this doll would become in her life. She sleeps with Ladybug. Ladybug gets chewed and shaken to no end. You’ll also find her with Juliana as an eating companion. Wherever you find Juliana, Ladybug won’t be far away.

toy | Angelman Syndrome News | Juliana sits at a table in a restaurant and eats, with Ladybug perched on the table right next to her.

Juliana, age 8, enjoys breakfast with Ladybug close by. (Photo by Sabrina L. Johnson)

When I started to realize how attached Juliana was to Ladybug, I purchased an extra to make sure we had one for upstairs and one for downstairs. Well, that didn’t really help. Of course, one would get misplaced or left somewhere. So, the goal was to make sure that we always had a backup or two.

Years ago, I struggled with finding the best toys for Juliana. For a while, we did a lot of musical toys. Those worked well. But Juliana can be rough with toys. So, they would get damaged rather quickly. Thankfully, Ladybug has had a better fate. The doll is durable, so it holds up well to Juliana’s use.

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Just give me Ladybug, please

Other than beach balls, no toy can hold a torch to Ladybug. I have seen Juliana sit and play with this toy for stretches of time well beyond an Angel’s typical attention span.

Juliana’s relationship with Ladybug has also served us well as a means to motivate Juliana. She has been quite useful for speech therapy. Ladybug was one of the first things that Juliana requested with her first augmentative and alternative communication device (AAC).

Since Angels are considered nonverbal, AAC gives them an option to communicate. So, with picture cards and her iPad, Juliana could ask for Ladybug as early as 3 years old.

Ladybug has also been a great reward for school. When Juliana does well on a task at school, she can get Ladybug as her treat. I remember when her teacher requested that I fill out a checklist of things to motivate Juliana and serve as a reward. I nixed most of the ideas on the list and sent a Ladybug to school.

toy | Angelman Syndrome News | A photo of Juliana's letter to Santa. It reads, "My name is Juliana and I am 11 years old. This year, I have been very nice. For Christmas, please bring me some new beach balls and a new Ladybug doll. Love, Juliana." The letter also features a drawing of Santa and his reindeer.

Juliana’s Santa list from school this year included a new Ladybug doll. (Photo by Sabrina L. Johnson)

Truly, I don’t know what we would do without Ladybug. This is also the reason why we have so many of them. The original Ladybug doll met her demise years ago. Although the Busy Lil’ Ladybug is no longer in production, I continue to replenish them.

Where there’s a will

I scour every website imaginable where I may find a Ladybug. Maybe someone at Playskool will read this column and bring her back so that Juliana will have a never-ending supply of this cherished friend.

If not for the internet, we would be Ladybug-less. They pop up on the oddest toy sites, and I buy them as soon as they appear. But for a year or so I panicked, because it seemed like the doll was disappearing. My goal is to keep her around as long as possible, so I’ve started somewhat of a ladybug inventory. Currently, we have seven ladybugs in circulation, with two more on the way for this Christmas.

Last year, when Juliana opened two of them as gifts, she couldn’t contain her excitement or shake them fast enough. What’s better than one Ladybug at Christmas? Two, of course.

It seems odd that a small toy could do so much for my daughter. However, Ladybug does bring a lot to the table. I’m grateful to have this odd little fixation in our lives. Music and companionship within arm’s reach? That’s not just a good toy — that’s practically a best friend.

***

Note: Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angelman Syndrome News, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Angelman syndrome.

Comments

Alicia White avatar

Alicia White

I love this article. I will look for the ladybug doll for my precious niece.

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Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

Sabrina L. Johnson

Oh Alicia you are too sweet. Thank you so much for the comment and follow-up on the article. Please let me know if you find her precious doll. We can never have too many of them.

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Tami Guilday avatar

Tami Guilday

Another fabulous read, Sabrina! I will be on the lookout for a Ladybug, too! Hugs!

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Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

Sabrina L. Johnson

Hello Tam, thank you so much! We need all the ladybugs we can get, so please be on the lookout.

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Judy Riley avatar

Judy Riley

Has there been any study of thyroid function and Angelman Syndrome? I suspect my GGranddaughter may be an Angel. At six months (after noticing lack of advancement) was found her thyroid wasn't functioning. Further investigation revealed there was lack of evidence she even had a thyroid. After being on thyroid medication...she started showing much improvement. She is now 14 months, sitting alone, pulling up to things and a lot of babbling almost like she is trying to say "mama". She even started sleeping all night. She has not been diagnosed. She smiles and laughs all the time and is a beautiful baby. She has a lot of tongue protrusion...which also improved after thyroid meds. I'm praying my suspicions are false as I have not shared this with anyone except my husband. So I wondered if the thyroid, or lack of thyroid has been noticed in any of the Angels.

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Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

Sabrina L. Johnson

Hello Judy--I'm so happy to hear that there is some improvement with your great-granddaughter. It sounds like she is meeting some good milestones.

I've not read or heard about thyroid issues and AS. AS is rare and still relatively new, so there is a lot that is still being discovered.

There is often overlap with behaviors and it could be something else. The only way to know for sure if it's AS is genetic testing.

If her issues continue, it certainly wouldn't be a bad idea to at least mention your thoughts to her parents.

I pray too that your suspicions are wrong, but if they are right, early intervention will be so important in her life whether it's AS or something else.

I think you are so wise to be on top of this for her sake.

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