Autism Watch: 2007

My Guitar Hero

Posted on: March 25, 2008

Sometimes, even for those of us with the best of intentions, life just gets away from us. We look at our “To Do” list and pat ourselves on the back that we got everything done. We feel relieved we got through something, some other fun but stressful event is over with, and start planning the next. (And obviously, a blog update hasn’t been on my list for a couple of weeks.) But then it hits you — while you’re stuck in the minutiae, life is passing you by. The little things…the fun unplanned moments…the smiles, the laughs, the roses you need to stop and smell, they’re all either going unnoticed or they’re getting the cursory, obligatory glance while you head onto the next item on your list. Before you know it, weeks are gone by, and you have a long account of things you’ve achieved, but what about life?

I dread moments of deep thought and realization like this. I’m not a ‘deep’ person. I don’t like drama, no matter how easily it seems to find a family with numerous kids, especially those with special needs. I am not one to pontificate on life and philosophize on what something really means. I believe in God, and that’s where I put my ‘deep’ faith. Beyond that, I can appreciate a good poem or symbolic piece of art, but I myself don’t create them, so when reality hits me in the face, I need to recognize it and give it the acknowledgement its due, slowing down on my list writing at least for a while.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen improvements in ds. He has these moments of clarity that are getting more frequent, where he can calm his anger down somewhat on his own, even in small measures. We can talk to him, reason with him, if you will, before he gets to the point of hurting himself or someone else. He will still get mad, sometimes extremely mad, but we can see glimpses of what we think he’d be like if unaffected by autism.

When researching on treatment with medication, one thing that kept standing out was the likelihood that we’d see other signs that were always there but masked by his anger. I wasn’t sure what to think of that in the beginning, because autism symptoms/signs have always been there, but as time goes on, I think I’m understanding now. Routines, anxiety, irrational fears, and his particular specific need for sameness, control, and advance knowledge of what’s going to happen definitely stand out more than they did. Cut the pancakes this direction, but no syrup until after they’re all cut — and keep that fork out of the way until the syrup’s poured, too. Don’t let the kids in the room whisper when he’s there, they could be talking about him! His particular type of conversation, and the need to control it, starting over when interrupted…in a word, wow. Yet, it’s a good thing. We know now what we need to work on, and it’s no longer hidden by so much mad that we can’t see where to start. We can focus more on the things that are causing him problems, particularly in school, and address them with less tantrums to interfere.

This week, he’s off school for spring break. The Easter bunny brought him candy, and he’s been eating it. A lot. We also had three other gatherings over the holiday weekend that have contributed to him having a lot of dietary infractions, and he’s literally bouncing off walls. We’re focusing now on getting that back under control, and we know when he’s in control, he’s happier. Yesterday, when he’d need redirection towards better behavior, he’d literally repeat back to us, dh in particular “the same things you always say to me when I have an attitude, so I already know what you’re going to say, so don’t say it again,” all the while making the “wah wah wah” signs with his hands. There was more than one moment where we needed to turn away or completely get out of the room so he wouldn’t see us smile. Sure, he’s being sarcastic and he’s making light of discipline, but he’s being sarcastic! He’s getting sarcasm! He’s showing us he hears us, even when he’s mad. How much can I really complain about that?

The Easter bunny also brought the kids Guitar Hero for the Wii, hence the name of this blog entry. Ds wasn’t as excited as we thought, possibly distracted by the Captain Underpants book he’s been coveting, or the two new Pokemon characters he’d found in his basket. (And the Pokemon shirt? Initial scream of excitement, then it was tossed aside….) Turns out the Guitar Hero intimidates him. He didn’t think he could do it. We persevered, he persevered, and he can now get further through a song before he’s boo’d off the stage. That’s a big deal for him, to continue to try through the frustration…though I think he’s fascinated by the whammy bar and plays only so he can use it. Either way, he’s my little guitar hero. A year ago, that guitar would have been thrown across the room, no matter how heavy. Now, he tries and tries, and when he can’t do it anymore, politely tells us “no, thanks, I want to go do something else.” Major strides, and small blessings. These are the things I need to slow down and enjoy instead of grabbing my pen and adding one more thing to the To Do list. 

2 Responses to "My Guitar Hero"

Ha ha – we got Guitar Hero recently for our older “typical” son and Slow Rider is the best one to start with – our Autistic son now loves this song and requests it over and over (I am ready to tear my hair out!). Have you tried Cooking Mama Cookoff? That is the one my younger son (with Autism) likes best. I wrote about it on a post recently…

I am doing some research for my masters regarding using musical toys as a cognitive scaffold for autistic children.

How are your boys doing now? Does your son with autism still play with guitar hero? Do you think it has helped him in any way?

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