Tag Archives | video games

Video game lesson – If you can see it, there has to be a way

Cameron - Video GameWhile my boys were playing video games today, there was a level where they could see a door but, try as they might, they could not reach it. I sat and watched as they tried and tried again. Sure, they got frustrated but they didn’t stop until eventually, one of them said “There has to be a way!”

And you know what? They got it. It took a little while but they got it.

I couldn’t help but think what a great lesson that is, not just in playing video games but for life in general. And how much I hope that they can carry that lesson forward in all the things they do.

As I sat there, watching them try and try and try, I thought about all the great successful people that most of us wish we could emulate and it occured to me that their philosophy probably wasn’t that far off from what my children were practicing right at that very moment:

If you can see it, there has to be a way to get it.

I thought about my own life. How I want to learn new materials to advance my career. How I want to start losing weight. How I want to learn new things to get my foot in the door in a more official capacity in the world of autism.

I can see these things. They’re attainable goals. They’re very real possibilities in my future.¬†What I have lacked all this time is the belief that there’s a way to attain them.

I think that’s true for many people in many circumstances in their lives. We set goals, especially New Years resolutions, because we can see ourselves reaching those goals, but when we struggle or fail along the way, we stop believing that there’s a way to reach those goals. We can still see them, we just stop trying to find a way.

But a lot like a video game, if you can see it, there has to be a way. That door was put there for a reason. That extra power up, that extra gold reward, that extra life, it was put there in the game, where you can see it, to make you think and to make you try. It’s a way to challenge you.

The same is true in life. The things we want, the things we need, the goals we work for, they’re put there to challenge us, to make us think and to make us work for it. There has to be a way and so long as we never give up, we’ll find it.

Sometimes it takes a little boy with autism, doing what he loves, to help me see things more clearly.

It’s funny how that works.

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An incomplete task will likely result in an autism meltdown

My son, Cameron, has never done well with leaving something unfinished… it’s especially evident when it comes to video games. It’s for this reason that we try to steer him away from games that can take weeks or months to finish. Certain Mario games consisting of 8 worlds comes to mind.

Asking him to stop in the middle of playing a game, painting a picture, playing with his toys, trying to read, watching a movie… just about any of these things can cause him to have a complete meltdown.

Sometimes it’s not even something that he particularly enjoys… but if his mind is focused on it, he will not cope well with having to leave it before he has a chance to finish what he started.

It’s not always a complete meltdown… sometimes it’s a mood switch. Where he’s been doing great all day, gets interrupted this one time and then, for the rest of the day, he’s moody, grumpy or just plain… not himself.

These are the methods we’ve used to avoid this from happening.

incompleteMake sure it ends

Simple enough right? But this is the best method, obviously, that we’ve found to ensure that there is no issue.

This means that art projects are short, or at least, will never take longer than the time allotted. Movies are played through to completion and that video games are only about an hour long.

The Mario Party games are perfect for this, or racing games. He can start and finish a game in about an hour.

Structure and/or Repetition

One good method is to simply know what to expect each day. This is especially effective at school… when one class ends and another begins, he knows that his time is up even if he’s not done.

It doesn’t affect him as much because it’s how it always is. The same thing, every time.

It’s a bit like my next point, except without having to know how long minutes or hours are.

5 minute warnings

This one varies, since it doesn’t always have to be 5 minutes but essentially, we tell Cameron that his time is almost up, to finish what he’s doing and to get ready to do something else.

This gives him the time to wrap up and put what ever finishing touches he needs on something to help him walk away from it without having a meltdown.

It doesn’t always work out perfectly and he’ll either need a little extra time or we’ll just have to deal with the meltdown but for the most part, this helps him get ready for what’s coming.

Timer

Most children have no idea how long 5 minutes is… which is largely due to our own inconsistencies. Since we’re often doing things ourselves, 5 minutes can sometimes be 6, 8, 10… sometimes even 15 minutes. This can be very confusing and frustrating sometimes.

Cameron does really well now, not really caring just how long 5 minutes is… but at first we had to be pretty rigid.

We’d do this with a timer… having a smart phone with a timer on it is very handy.

When he heard the timer ring, he knew that his time was up. It would sometimes still be a problem since he might not feel he is finished though… again, sometimes having to spare a few more minutes or deal with the meltdown.

Does it ever get better?

Well, Cameron is only 6 so I can’t say for certain if he’ll ever be able to cope well with it… everyone is different after all.

But so far, it’s very encouraging because he copes a whole lot better than he did when he was younger. Which of course, is very much reflective of age just as much as autism. Children in general don’t handle that sort of thing well.

We still have meltdowns to deal with sometimes, particularly if it’s something he really enjoys like a video game or a new movie… but it’s far less frequent now than it was in the past.

We don’t need to use timers anymore since “5 minutes” is generally good enough for him to know that he needs to start finishing up.

Personally, I don’t like having to leave work while I’m in the middle of something I really want/need to get finished. I don’t have a meltdown by any means but it’s hard on me. So I’d imagine, if my son is anything like me, he’ll never fully get over it either.

But he is doing great and has come so far already so I am confident that he’ll manage just fine with dealing with things like that in the future.

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My son is becoming a “low talker”

seinfeld "low talker"

Seinfeld: "low talker"

If you’ve ever seen the episode of Seinfeld, where he dates a low talker.. you know immediately what I’m talking about.

For those that haven’t, let me give you a run down of the situation.

Cameron LOVES his video games. Some would say obsessed… but he has proven to be able to live without them. He can spend time at the cottage without video games and even here at home, he only gets to play during the week-ends.

Still though… he loves them so very much that generally, it’s all he ever wants to talk about. On the drive in to school, he tells me all about the levels he has to beat and how to beat them. He describes the actions that characters can and will most likely take. He recounts entire levels that he’s played previously… even though I was there playing with him.

He’ll tell me, his mom, his cousin… anyone. He talks and talks and talks.

Now, if you know autism, you know that many children with autism never do learn how to talk. They may or may not find other ways to communicate but talking just isn’t one of them for some people.

I know this and I’d never want to discourage my boy when I know not take this sort of thing for granted. Still though… how many can you listen about Mario or Sonic? A day? A week? Months? Years?

So anyway, even if we don’t ask him to stop, he realizes that we’re not nearly as interested. He knows that we’ve moved on to other things or are simply too busy doing other things to really pay full attention to what he’s telling us.

As a result, he’s slowly becoming a “low talker”. What I mean by that is… he continues on talking about video games, but he does so quietly, not really to himself, but such that only he can hear it. So he’s still telling us, or anyone, but no one will ask him to stop… people can go about doing what they’re doing while he’s talking… he doesn’t interfere with them.

There have been times where he’d talk about a video game for a solid hour, as if talking to himself, only… he’s actually talking to someone. He just doesn’t care if they’re listening or not.

Everyone in the house is aware he’s been talking away for an hour. Everyone knows what he’s talking about. But no one can hear the words he’s saying. Not even the person he’s talking to.

On one hand, I’m impressed because he’s found a way to continue on without bothering anyone. On the other hand, will this behavior be looked at positively by others later in life?

As I said, I don’t want to discourage him from talking about the things he loves either.

For now, he’s found a solution that works for him. So I’m more than happy to let him keep going with it.

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