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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wordy Wednesday

“Ah game night!”
“That was easy, are we done?”
“Not quite.”
“A pictures of the kiddos would have been more interesting.”
“Ooo no you wouldn’t want a picture of that!”
“How come?”
Mayhem, absolute mayhem. There again, pictures don’t have sound attached so you would probably have survived the exposure.”
“I suspect we’re not talking about whoops of laughter somehow.”
“How true, how true.”
“Maybe you should have chosen another game?”
“Doesn’t make any difference. All games are torture.”
“Except electronics?”
“Got it in one.”
“So……why is that then?”
“Well there’s ‘preferred’ and then there’s everything else.”
“I take it preferred is the ‘electronics’ so anything other than electronics is torture?”
“A perfect summary.”
“Well why don’t you just let them play what they want to play?”
“Ooo I only wish we could, but a full day of electronics from sun up to sun down probably isn’t the best way to spend our time.”
“They’d do it all day?”
“Geez, I don’t think I can think of anything I like that much that I’d want to do it all day, every day?”
“Likewise. Anyway, all children need to learn a few basic skills like taking turns.”
“Right. Especially if you’ve got three of them already.”
“So what’s the object of the exercise?”
“Good point. I wonder that myself sometimes. Maybe just indulge mother for half an hour?”
“The general idea is that they remain in the general vicinity of the table, pay some attention to what’s going on some of the time, learn a few basic rules and attempt play.”
“Sounds awfully……..clinical.”
“It is a bit. The idea is that if they’re exposed to it again and again and again, then eventually they might find a crumb or two of pleasure.”
“A bit dry.”
“Indeed. But if they can get the hang of one game, then they might be able to generalize those skills and perhaps play with other children.”
“How long have you been doing this for then?”
“Four and a half years.”
“It does take quite a while.”
“You’re not kidding!”
“Would you say that they….enjoy it now?”
“Well yes they do, after the initial protest.”
“Initial protest?”
“It’s a transition, you know, stop what you’re doing now and start doing something else.”
“Hmm. I get that bit. You know, I’m having a hard time getting my head around this one.”
“You and me both dearie.”
“You see both my parents worked when I was a kid, they didn’t have much free time. Sometimes they’d play a board game with me and my brother. It was great, I loved it. I didn’t really care what we were playing just that we were all together having fun with mum and dad.”
“I’m afraid that’s the bit that’s missing.”
“Not so much missing as overshadowed. It’s very difficult to explain. A huge chunk of it is the need for them to suppress their loathing of the chosen activity. That’s the real hurdle.”
“I’m still struggling here.”
“To be brutally honest, I’m of the pretty narrow minded opinion that autistic kids love and loathe their families just as much as other kids, whether they can express it verbally or not. The love of six foot parent is powerful, but the fear of a 60 foot phobia standing right next to the parent, is much more overwhelming. Proportionately, you’re lucky if the child even notices your existence by comparison.”
“For some things. It’s the same for all of us in some ways. Which do you notice more, the beautiful bouquet of roses or the spider dangling from a petal? If you prick yourself on a thorn, are you going to deal with the blood or run away from the spider? Did you take the time to smell the perfume or did you forget?”
“But how can a game be so loathed, all games?”
“Well lets say we’re in an adventure playground.”
“There’s one of those pully ropes suspended from two trees.”
“Just for the moment, say you’ve never been exposed to the experience before. You’ve never seen one. You’re not copying anyone. Somehow you instinctively know that this is going to be thrilling, some innate attraction.”
“Sounds fun to me.”
“The trouble is that you have a great fear of heights. You want to do it but you can’t. Two emotions are fighting each other.”
“Hmm maybe.”
“That’s the best I can do I’m afraid without burying you in a load of psychobabble and extraneous detail. Your parents can be there to help, guide, supervise and encourage, but it’s something that you basically have to overcome yourself. You can’t really do it to please your parents, as the emotions are too huge.”
“Just for a game?”
“O.k. Sooo.......just give me a teaspoonful of the extraneous psychobabble.”
“You’re sure?”
“Well I need to check that there are no pictures of Teddy Bears that might jump out and terrify one of them into a meltdown.”
“Oh yes, I remember he’s afraid of bears.”
“Lots of kids games have teddy bears.”
“Anything else?”
“The pieces might be difficult to hold, get a grip on, especially if they’re very small. The board could be too busy and confusing, something simple like black and white with lots of contrast is easier. The board might have an unusual font that puts it completely off limits. It might hide all kinds of trigger words like ‘dead.’ With something like checkers where the pieces are uniform, one might be imperfect, some minute irregularity that they just can’t tolerate that captures all their attention so that they lose all focus. All of those things are guaranteed to provoke meltdowns. Game over.”
“O.k., o.k., o.k., that’s enough. I get it, just enough.”
“The ultimate goal is enjoyment, but there are so many traps and obstacles for them to overcome that it negates the pleasure quotient. It has to be made worth their while. There has to be something in the game that’s so wonderful that it cancels out all the grief that they have to endure, to make it a positive experience.”
“Well when you put it like that, it’s gonna be one hellava good game!”

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