Monday, July 10, 2006

Miped out

"A little guy like me has no place in the great big sky."


"A little guy like me has no place in the great big sky."


"A little guy like me has no place in the great big sky."


"A little guy like me has no place in the great big sky."

This is how Bud has been watching an episode of Pinky Dinky Doo that he's recorded on TiVo. One line, over and over and over.

Of course, he's not watching one line of Pinky Dinky Doo exclusively.

He's also watching one line of Dora the Explorer: "It's time for the pinata!"

And one line of Max and Ruby: "La, la, la - HICCUP! - excuse me, Louise."

And one line of... well, you get the point.

This is not the same sort of "productive rewinding" that I've seen him do in the past. This is a more manic perseveration that is building upon itself, spiraling to a place that's beyond Bud's control.

It's behavior I've seen before; it's strikingly similar to the reaction Bud recently had to the video camera, and once again it's made me think of a comment that I heard RDI founder Dr. Steve Gutstein make about video games. He said that it's important to expose children with autism to the same things you would any other child, "except video games. Video games are like heroin to kids with autism." And that's the image that keeps coming to mind as I watch Bud hit the rewind button on the miper: heroin. He can't stop. Even if he wanted to - and I'm not sure that he'd want to - I don't think that he could resist the urge to rewind just one more time.

I keep re-reading the comment that Zilari made when I wrote about this before:

My parents used to tell me, "If you get upset when you're doing something you think is fun, you have to stop". And if I ended up getting upset or at a point where I couldn't stop, then I wouldn't get to do the "fun thing" for a while. I also remember having very strong feelings not only of liking something a whole lot, but wanting to continue liking that thing, and getting edgy when the thing started to not have quite the same appeal.

Over time I have learned to alternate perseverations a bit, and keep an eye open for new things on the horizon that have the potential to be just as interesting. The "brain stickiness" is always there and is something I would never want to lose because I do think it lends tremendous, awesome, all-encompassing depth to experiences.

But fun is supposed to be fun, and when it's not fun anymore, that is indeed a sign that it is time to take a break.

I don't think it's fun for Bud anymore. So I'm taking Zilari's advice and I'm telling Bud that it's time to take a break from the miper. I'm not cutting him off completely, as I did with the video camera - not yet, anyway. But when he picks up the miper I give him a ten-minute warning: ten minutes with the miper, then it's time to choose a show to watch.

Luckily, we're also cultivating an alternate perseveration that seems to delight Bud even more than time with the miper: water balloons. We stand at the sink together: I fill small balloons with water and Bud counts them as we put them in a shopping bag. Then he carries the bag very carefully into the yard and hurls the balloons at the garage, one or two at a time, until they break. Some balloons smash right away, little fireworks of water streaming across the garage door. Others prove more challenging, bouncing away and rolling down the driveway as Bud chases them in his bare feet. Once all of the small balloons have burst we head back inside and fill a really big balloon, then we head back to the driveway for a grand finale in which Bud drops the balloon to the ground and the water splashes our feet and he dances in the puddle as it streams toward the street.

I have to say, I'm enjoying Bud's passion for water balloons. It's certainly a welcome break from the intensity of the miper. And it's a show I don't mind watching again and again.


kristina said...

I suspect Charlie would more than enjoy a bag of water balloons and a garage, too.....

"Brain stickiness." I'm really glad you cited that phrase----too often I have seen what I thought were Charlie's pleasures turn into not exactly pain, but not pleasure either---into OCD perseveration. This happened with certain videos and DVDs (Barney especially).

To use a more "outdated" technology metaphor, I think of Charlie getting the "stucks" as similar to when a record (the 33 or 45 of 78 rpm kind) got a scratch and the needle would stick and on and on and over and over again the same phrase would repeat...... Oliver Sacks's NOVA segment on autism shows a boy using a remote in a miperish manner.

gretchen said...

SO SO SO interesting about video games... We took a family vacation last year with my in-laws. One night I, being a homebody and having an autistic kid, wanted to order takeout from our favorite restaurant. Everyone else wanted to eat there. As we walked in the door, Henry caught sight of the 2 video games in the waiting area.

We never did get him to come to the table. Bill and I took turns standing out there with him while he hummed and danced and watched the games move (he wasn't even playing them, but maybe thought he was...) Finally Bill took some food to go and took Henry home.

Tara said...

I have shared your concerns with the possiblity of video game overload but for whatever reason Littleman doesn't seem to have much interest in them. To be fair he hasn't had much exposure either but the few times he was able to play with them he became bored pretty quickly. Perhaps a combination of the auditory component and not really understanding the rules mixed in with some eye/hand coordination stuff?? Who knows- I guess we dodged a bullet on this one. Now, water balloons is something Littleman really loves!!
Glad Bud is enjoying them too!

Usethebrains Godgiveyou said...

I really enjoyed this post. It was very insightful. Ben is 12, and just yesterday I was telling him how he used to memorize long strings of information from tapes. He couldn't tell you his name, but he could do a report on the trans-continental railroad based on a Charlie Brown special in pre-kindergarten.....

The interesting thing was the way it came up. Ben, when motivated to do so and when taking ritalin, which allows him to focus, can receive A's in all subjects but math. Yet, I have NEVER seen him crack open a book.

"How do you do that?" I asked.

"I just play the tape back in my mind...I have an audio tape, too..."

I guess "stims" can come in handy later on.

Also, this brought up something Ben used to say when he was little, that gave me insight into the workings of his mind.

When we had a really good, rip-roaring time (I never thought of the balloons!), he would always say, "Go backwards!".

He wanted to rewind life and do it again.

At least in BEn's case, it wasn't just the tapes he wanted to rewind.

For a long time, he used these "scripts" he picked up to communicate with me. Sometimes they made sense, sometimes they didn't.

Slowly, they made more and more sense. His repertoire of scripts has become so vast...he can plug them in at any time, and for the most part, appears to be like any other kid.

I would say that Bud memorizes the scripts because they have meaning to him.

Sorry for the novel. YOu just made me think of so many things!


The Jedi Family of Blogs said...

B is getting a great deal of enjoyment out of water balloons these days, too, particularly sharing them with other kids, which has been great for socialisation. The video-game thing is interesting... B has played games on the computer since he was 18 mos. old (time-limited, of course) & is at this moment at computer camp learning to design computer games in Flash, but he absolutely refuses to get involved with nintendo or game-boy-type video games. Part of it, I think, is that he's seen other kids playing violent games on them & violent images just get stuck in his OCD & replay themselves endlessly, to his great distress. But there seems to be another component to his video game aversion... not sure what, but maybe it's "know thyself" :)

Wendy said...

I've never heard the video game/heroin connection before but it's a nice little tidbit to store away for the future. Glad to hear Bud is enjoying his summer!

Jennifer said...

I am just starting this journey and this post (and several of your others) really resonate with me because I can see Lauren in them. She has a CD that she loves. She used to listen to it from start to finish, then she started to rewind it after the first song finished, now she is restarting it after the first few lines.

She seems to get stuck in a loop and it is very hard for her to stop.

Zilari said...

I definitely stand by the comment you quoted, MOM-NOS. Helping kids on the spectrum recognize when THEY stop having fun with something can be important in helping us recognize the feelings necessary to self-regulate.

However, I would be wary of taking the video game comment as dogma, or anything as dogma, for that matter. I don't think it would be fair to utterly ban kids on the spectrum from even attempting to play video games. It's not as if the brain has a special "video game" category that is somehow malfunctioning in autistics; it's just one particular sort of stimulus, and plus, not all games are alike.

I did used to get "stuck" on certain games as a child (and as an adult, I fully admit!) But some games have actually taught me valuable skills. One in particular taught me the value of preparing skills for use later on; that is, I learned that when one knows what one is likely to be facing, one can determine where to put the most energy, and how to prioritize better. I don't think anyone can say all video games are all good or all bad for anyone; they're like anything else: probably fine in moderation, possibly educational, but something that people shouldn't spend all their time with. There's no magic autism switch in any video game; responses really depend on the individual, their interests, their tendencies, etc. :)

Anonymous said...

we make water balloons too although fluffy and i bring them out to the street and toss them high in the air and watch them SPLAT on the pavement when no cars are coming! he's just discovered that he can make homemade water bombs with zip-lock sandwich bags. very expensive fun, that. but he was so proud of himself for coming up with it, being able to fill and seal them himself so, it's off to Sam's Club we go for more bags. tee hee.

Anonymous said...

I realize this is a really old post, but hopefully you get emailed your comments... :) You're a great mom to Bud, and he's so lucky. I'm an Aspie, and my parents always discouraged me from my perseravations- either I was interested in the 'wrong' things (medieval history, dogs, horses, and mythology) or I was 'flighty' because I didn't want to stick with the same after school activity every year- funny, most afterschool activities for kids are sports related, and a sport was only fun as long as EVERYONE was new and I wasn't the only clumsy one- once it got to the point that other kids were moving upwards in the levels and I wasn't, it was pretty miserable. Riding wasn't like that because although I couldn't always make my body do what I wanted on the horse and I wasn't the best turned out kid in the ring, I was a VERY good braider and the barn I rode at emphasized that care of the horses was just as important as how good a rider you were- I was very lucky.)

MOM-NOS said...

Anonymous, comments do get e-mailed to me, so I get them no matter how long they come after the original post. Thanks for your kind words! It's really important for me that Bud know that I don't just love him, but that I also respect him - which means giving him the space an opportunity to be exactly who he is, without getting any messages from me that there's something wrong with it.