Eldest is home for half term. It’s going remarkably well.
Now… as a mother, my expectations are not high with him during holidays. I have made a list of expected tasks (colour coded, rotas included, and laminated!! With a check list on the back) which includes getting up by 8am weekdays, 9am weekends, getting dressed, applying deodorant, having breakfast. There is a big part of me that feels that I am not setting standards too high for a twelve year old.
But… these are things that he really struggles with, and for him to comply with any rules and routines is remarkable. My check list is full of ticks!! There have been shouting matches, and some nasty confrontations, but they’ve been resolved really rather well. We’ve even had some very good late night chats (by which I really mean therapy sessions – always with the late night heartfelts…).
Eldest LOVES his laptop. And I have to say, he’s spent most of his time on it this week. Which normally makes me feels deeply uneasy. We have got out of the house at least once a day which helps, and his compliance with our few rules makes all the difference.
What is new, however, is that laptop gaming has now turned into a social activity! Thanks to Minecraft and Skype, I now feel as though there are two or three nearly teenage boys in my house!! It’s a strange and slightly freaky experience, but also rather lovely to witness my Aspie playing with his friends. For those of you familiar with The Big Bang Theory, the scene is extraordinarily reminiscent of THIS clip. (Embedded videos, I suspect, only come when one pays WordPress). of course, in my house, I only have one geek sat at his laptop – the friends being in their respective homes somewhere in the UK (I think it’s only boys from school at the moment… oh the joys of the internet).
Later in the evening, I do insist on him coming downstairs, if only to avoid the fight that comes at bedtime… the plus side being that his communication then turns to typing rather than talking – excellent for his typing skills I think!!
And so, I got to thinking…
Parents of children with Asperger’s syndrome are often found to talk of their love/hate relationship with all things technological. Our children are often extremely at ease with computers, happy only when in front of a screen and “reliant” on such devices as DS’s, playstations etc… Of course, when we mean reliant, we usually mean that we rely on said devices. They provide what is often the only moment of peace and respite in the day. They also allow us to see progress, hope and potential in our children which in daily life is most usually missing.
And yet, we hate them. Because our children are obsessive by nature. This means that, although we love the peace that a computer provides, we hate the conflict that the same machine causes. Eldest has almost no sense of time. So whether he has been on his computer for ten minutes or several hours, the wrench he experiences when it is time to stop is equal, and dreadful. The ensuing emotional outburst can be extraordinary.
When I see the animations that Zack has programmed on Scratch, or the creations he builds on Minecraft, I am bowled over by his talent and his ability. And yet I hate the machine deeply for turning him into a bolshy, aggressive recluse.
In the last few days, I have witnessed a group of these young boys demonstrating very typical social behaviour. That they do so at miles from each other, using computers and games is really beside the point. The technology gives them a platform to do so, in contrast to the “real” world in which they struggle so much to form and maintain relationships.
And it struck me that the very thing that we parents love and hate has been created by our children. Over generations, these quite amazing people have devised, engineered and built a world in which they can thrive. The rest of us reap the benefits of computers, the internet, ever-evolving software etc… But actually, I’m beginning to think that Aspies are taking over the world! And in creating a world which suits them, they are far better able to communicate, socialise,and … well, live!
I was discussing this with Darling Man earlier this evening (another wonderful Aspie, who also lives very much through his laptop) and our thoughts very quickly turned to “how did Aspies cope without all of this?”. We each ended up feeling that they probably fell into two groups: those who were doing the creating, the building, the engineering; the scientists, philosophers, engineers. And the drop-outs. Those who simply could not cope with society and did not have the means (social, financial, intellectual) to be among the first group. I dread to think how many prisons were filled with people like Eldest, how many of the homeless in the cities shared his difficulties with social convention and expectation.
How glad I am, we are, to live in our time, and our place. To have the means, intellectual, financial, social, to provide Eldest with possibility. Right now, that means playing silly computer games with friends miles and miles away. But tomorrow?… Who knows!