Top five things people don’t get about kids with autism.

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1. Kids with autism know they are different. They know they have an issue no one else around them has and fight with themselves every day over it. They are embarrased, hurt and sad a good deal of the time even with all the positive reinforcement in the world.
2. There is a normal, intellectually competent (in MANY cases) kid “trapped” inside a malfunctioning body. Kids with autism stim because they have to, not because they want to. They yell because (in some cases) everything is loud to them. They get in your face because they have trouble controlling themselves. But under this, is a kid who wishes they didn’t do ANY of these things. And when a “spell” is over they regret the behavior.
3. Kids with autism work their asses off to cope with their condition and function. My son has trouble sitting still and listening because of his need to stim. Yet, he sits still during class, does his work, and listens for entire school days. What people don’t see is when he gets home he is completely exhausted as if he just ran a marathon — because he had to expend that much energy to get through the day. Tempermental? Moody? You would be too if you ran a marathon every day and then were expected to behave when you got home too.
4. The need for control in autistic kids isn’t just about something “Broken” and “OCD” in their head. If you couldn’t control your body, what would you do? I mean really? In a lot of kids cases, they control what they can, so they can stabilize as much as they can in their life. If you are busy attempting to control your body for an hour you don’t want to have to worry about where you will be, what you will be eating, etc. in the future — when you JUST got your body adjusted to dealing with the situations/foods/stimuluses you’ve been currently dealt. Anything NEW represents an entire new set of coping mechanisms or the chore of adapting the current ones to a new situation. Tiring.
5. Kids with autism love the kids in their class and want friends. Social isolation is the most tragic symptom so far I’ve seen in an autistic child. A kid who wants t obe in a group and interact with normal language with his peers but can’t find the words and can’t stand close contact or even sitting in a group because it is “too much” for his system. And as a result, he lives a lonely life on the outside looking in. Thankfully for many kids they have a support system to aid with this and create a bridge; but the frustration caused by not being able to just be a part of the group is palpable and real.

Pass this on to anyone you think may need to read it; and next time you see an autistic kid respect the internal fight they are dealing with all the time to overcome the obstacles they’ve been handed.

Categories: Parenting

Helping a developing child to handle hyperreal technology

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My five-year-old son is obsessed with my iPad, iPhone, and Mac. He has a genetic predisposition to become hyper focused. Once something has his attention, and he’s really really interested in it, it can be almost impossible to get him to talk about anything else.

The iPad. The iPad. The iPad. That became the answer to every one of his problems. Let me play with the iPad!

As a technological enthusiast, I like to think that I understand both the cost and benefit of having this technology accessible to young children. Having been addicted to video games at one time in the 90s, I also feel I have a distinctive understanding of the dangers of this technology.

What follows is how I’ve chosen to deal with the situation with my own son. By sharing my techniques, I’m hoping I can help other parents who face a similar challenge with their child becoming obsessed with the technology in front of them.

The goal is making reality more attractive to the child than fantasy. Reality can be dull, or depressing, or downright miserable. Technology provides “perfect worlds” In 1080 P. Fully realized, hyperreal Disney movies can have more neurological impact than actual real-life events in some instances. You know when your grandpa’s birthday is? Or can you recall all the dialogue from cut scenes in Halo? This disparity helped me reach a catharsis. I can use the technology to reinforce my child’s reality, as well as develop his imagination.

When my son begs me to use the computer, it’s not to play a video game. It’s not even to play in educational game. When he begs to use my computer, it’s to use iPhoto to view a slideshow. Looking back at the positive family events we’ve experienced, it reinforces our bond as a family, reminds him of all the good times he does have, and at the same time presents it in beautiful 1080 P — using all the technology strengths to show my child what’s really important.

Also, we have screen-free days. When I say “screen free” I mean television, Internet, and mobile (as much as possible). Today is a great example. Having a rare full day to spend with my kids, we did the following: went to Church, walked to a hardware store, walked to a park, came home and raked leaves, played a board game, and chased each other around the house as ghosts. My son made up stories the whole walk, filling his “entertainment vacuum” with pure imagination. The hardware store? Discovery of an LED flashlight. A bit of tech to shine on reality is fine with me.

Finally, my child is in a karate club. Not only is he learning self defense and reflexes, he is learning balance, attention, respect for authority, and tons of other intangibles that can at best only be imitated in virtual worlds. And his achievements will be real karate belts, not those gleaned from button pushing in a virtual world. Similarly, I will purchase him a real drumset before he plays Rockband. A kid needs to know what real is before he learns what isn’t.

I don’t expect my kid to avoid video games or computers as all. If he can distinguish fantasy from reality, select real tangible goals and achieve them, self filter and make healthy choices, then I will happily loosen restrictions and give him access to an XBox. In the mean time, establishing what reality is and what is really important is my primary goal. Care to join me?