Archive | January, 2011

Turning obsession into good behavior

My boys each got handheld video games for Christmas, Cameron got the Nintendo DS and Tyler got a leapfrog. We knew that they’d like them but, as is the case with many children, they’ve become the subject of complete obsession. The first question in the morning is if they can play their games and it continues on until it’s the last question of the day.

If they had their way they’d be staring at those games through out the entire day.

Behavior ChartMy wife had the idea to get a large green piece of paper and make a chart for each of them. She filled the chart with all sorts of things from chores to bad behaviors and at the end of the day, we check to see what they did and didn’t do… for all the good things, they get a sticker, for the bad, they get an X.

An example of some of the chores would be putting dishes into the sink, tidying up their toys, making their beds… and some examples of the bad behaviors that made it onto the board are “no yelling”, “no hitting” and so forth. If at the end of the day, they didn’t fight, they get stickers. There are some good behaviors listed as well, of course, such as “playing nicely together” and “sharing”.

At the end of each day, we all gather at the chart and see what they did well and what they didn’t do or worse, got X’s on. The first day, Tyler cried when we asked him to turn off his game. Turning off their games without complaining is on the list. Well, for his outburst, he got an X.

Each day, when they ask to do something they like, such as playing their games, we review the chart for the day before. If they did well, then yes… they get some video game time. If they got X’s or missed a bunch of things, then they lose out on game time. That means they had better improve if they want to have game time the next day.

It’s an excellent lesson in cause and effect. I’m not sure this system will stay exactly as is but there’s no reason that this can’t continue on for many years… eventually moving on to dictating how much allowance they get when they’re older.

Hopefully, in time, it’ll sink in with them that their entire lives can be met with nice rewards if only they put in the effort in advance.

It’s definitely not a new system, I’m preaching to the choir by telling you all of this. I’m not trying to give you any new ideas, just let you know what we’re doing around the Duncan household these days. So far it’s been a huge success.

Oh, by the way, one thing I did want to mention though is that Cameron is 5.5 years old and Tyler is 3. Cameron has Autism, Tyler does not. This system can be started at any age really but I find that their ages right now are ideal.

It has especially been great for Cameron who so very desperately needs a good routine in his life. Not only does this give him a list of things to do each and every day but it encourages him to over come some of those basic Autism tendencies, such as hitting and meltdowns. When he begins to lose control, we remind him that he’ll get an X and lose out on game time tomorrow and it helps him to calm it back down.

The best part about it all, I think, is how proud they are each day of all the stickers they got for doing so well.

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The day that CNN phoned me – What they didn’t print

So CNN phoned me today to ask me about my reaction to the Wakefield “fraud” story and about 20 minutes later, I had said all I had to say on the subject.

As is normal in jounalism, 20 minutes of talk time generally gets you about 3 or 4 lines in a news story. In this case, I’m pretty happy with what they quoted from me, what do you think?

Few swayed by fraud finding in autism study

Here’s what they didn’t print.

“Do you believe Wakefield was honest or fraudulent?”

I honestly have no idea but what I do know is that it’s so strange that there is no real investigation, a criminal one. There are claims that he hurt the children, that he paid the children (or their parents) and that the results of all this, if the results are fraud, may have directly caused many deaths.

We’ve been hearing about this study for 13 years, it’s been discredited for several, he was disbarred last year and in all this time, we still have no real answers.

“Do you think this news story will change anything?”

No, I don’t. People who are anti-vaccination read the studies that support their stance. The people who are pro-vaccination read the studies that support their stance. Everything else, they each dismiss.

To be honest, I’m rather sick of anti-vaccination people pulling the 7 degrees of separation game with every doctor that finds no vaccine-autism link in an attempt to link them to some big pharmaceutical company. So some guy’s grandfather had a neighbor that worked as a janitor for some company… is that really a reason to believe he was paid off to say something just to discredit Wakefield?

Why does it work one way and not the other?

Why is it ok to find these links to discredit every doctor out there that says what you don’t agree with but you don’t even bother to question the very public, very obvious controversies surrounding the one doctor that does say what you agree with?

If you question one doctor, or a group of doctors, you have to question them all. Believe no one, do your own research… ALL OF IT.

“Did this story or any of the stories about this make you question vaccines?”

Not really, no. It was pretty clear my son had Autism before his MMR vaccinations and even if there was some question, I’d rather take the Autism risk than the disfigured or dead risk.

No, this controversy is the one big controversy that divides the Autism community and it makes me sick. I get asked the question a lot and usually I don’t answer because I don’t want one side or another hating me. I just want everyone to support each other.

I don’t believe we’ve found the one cause, I don’t even think there is just one cause. But I am pretty sure it’s not vaccines causing anything.

“What do you mean by this is the one controversy dividing the Autism community?”

Well, we’ve had studies, just in the last year or two, that have suggested links to Autism with living next to a highway, with IVF, with jaundice, with premature birth, with oxygen deprivation during birth, with tylenol during pregnancy, with flouride in the water… I could go on and on. Why aren’t people fighting over any of these studies? Why isn’t there some big panic over any of these things?

Why does this one issue have to be so huge that it’s causing people to snap? I mean, this morning a company that makes toys and products for Autistic children posted the link to the Wakefield story on their facebook page and some moms were furious… lashing out at this company for posting a story to discredit such a wonderful man, and to slam all these parents… and so on and so forth.

I mean, seriously. Calm down. They shared the latest Autism news. That’s all!

“So it’s been 13 years now, you said, you think that’s enough?”

Oh yeah. I mean, not a single soul will have their mind changed by these latest news articles. It simply adds fuel to the fire in terms of dividing the community even more. It prolongs the argument.

All this energy in fighting could be spent on getting more teachers out there that understand Autism, getting more employers that are patient enough to take on some Autistic teens, getting housing built that’s affordable and with available help to those adults with Autism that will need it.

I don’t know what the future holds for my son but if he gets to be my age and this argument is still going on, then he’ll have missed out on a lot of services and information that could have been made available if we could just move passed this.

“So why do you think that this continues then?”

People are very passionate about this, this is their children. There’s nothing you can be more protective of than your own child.

I feel bad for the parents who for a while have a normal child, who hugs and speaks and then shortly after they turn 2, they lose all words and no longer look them in the eye. I would look for someone to blame too. If they had just gotten vaccines, I would be pretty angry too.

No news story is going to convince them of anything. When you have that much anger and frustration, it’s passion. They’re fighting for their children.

How much time has been spent with us fighting?

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I can’t believe I’ve become the “When I was your age” guy

This Christmas was pretty amazing.. we had virtually no money and yet our children ended up waking up to their own hand held video games and a new Xbox 360 Kinect, all of which had multiple games.

I, myself, got a WD Live Media Player… it is essentially a little box that sits next to my tv and plays blu-ray quality movies straight off my computer that is in my office. My computer, by the way, currently holds over 70 movies for us (parents) and 50 movies for the kids. So turning on this new media box and being able to flip through over 100 movies is kinda nice. Plus, it also does Youtube and stuff, right on the tv… high quality.

What does all this mean? It means that I found myself sitting in my chair thinking to myself… “When I was you age…. ”


Cutting edge techology

I mean, seriously… I’m 34. When I was 5, the newest game to hit the market was the Atari, which featured stick figure characters and a range of about 6 different synthesized sounds. This was the big step up from what I had when I was 4, which was a small coffee table sized unit with a knob on each end. That’s right, it had Pong on it.

Also, we were nearing the end of an epic movie media battle between VHS and Beta. Ahh… VHS. You had to press play, then hit fast forward for several minutes to skip all the previews, then press play again to watch the film. Then you had to rewind it when it was done so that you wouldn’t have to rewind it before watching it next time (or returning it to the store and being charged extra).

When a movie got to be old (like, a few months), the sound would start to get wonky and if you’re really lucky, the tape would get stuck in the machine and get chewed up.

Then they had new players… they called them “Hi-Fi”. We thought the picture was amazing!

You know what we did during car rides? We stared out the window.

Alright alright…  now fast forward to current times, where I have 2 children that have it a little different.

The video games today feature life like animations and features, stunning image quality, days of play time, real world environments, open ended style play and most amazingly… a space aged camera that makes your entire body the controller.

Not only that, but they can now play games in their hands that are far better quality than what I had when I was a teenager. How did hand held units get so much better than what the top systems had to offer on my television? So much for staring out the window on those long car rides.

VHS is all but non existent these days with DVD having replaced them but even that is almost out the door as Blu-Ray is quickly taking it’s place. Watching movies in Blu-Ray is truly an amazing experience all on it’s own but what I failed to mention earlier was how crappy our televisions were. I mean, when your tv has a knob that you must physically get up to walk to and crank to change the channels.. that’s crappy.

But today, my boys get to watch 1080P movies on a 46″ plasma television… pretty darn swanky!!

Plus they get to play those controllerless, life like detail games on that plasma tv too.

Oh, another nice little perk… is my cell phone. Yes, my phone. When we’re out at a restaurant and the boys are getting restless, I can pop on a game or video or even a full length movie right onto my phone and presto, they’re entertained. I mean, in the palm of their hand they have more than I had in my entire bedroom at their age.

So yes, I’ve become a “When I was your age” guy, rather envious of my boys for all that they have compared to what I had but at the same time, rather proud.

I mean, we really are your normal family, living paycheck to paycheck, not much to spare on much of anything really, but with a purchase here, a purchase there… over the course of a few years, my boys really don’t have it so bad!

By the end of my jealousy induced memory flash backs, I was actually quite proud of what I’ve been able to provide for my family. No, I didn’t invent this new technology for them, but I’ve been able to provide them with it.

All in all, that’s really not so bad. And one day, when they’re in their 30’s and thinking about how bad they had it as kids, hopefully they’ll appreciate the fact that despite it being so crappy in comparison, it still was the top of the line, and their parents had it for them.

I think I’ll call my mom tonight just to say thanks.

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