LIFE IS A SPECTRUM

Luge_at_the_2010_Winter_Olympics-image-6

INT. BILLY'S BEDROOM – NIGHT.

I open the door to find Billy lying on the floor, arms at his sides, legs together, toes pointed. There is an intense look of concentration on his face.

ME: Billy, what are you doing?

BILLY: (without hesitation) I'm playing luge.

A beat.

ME: You mean the sled thing that goes down the ice chute?

Another beat.

BILLY: Mama, will you play luge with me?

CUT TO

A few moments later …

Both of us are now lying on the floor, side-by-side, with our toes pointed.

BILLY: Mama! Are you winning?!

 

Yes. Yes, I am.

Reader Comments

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Its so cool to hear he is imagining!! I miss him and willow!

Snippets 'N Stuff

I can honestly say I have never heard of anyone pretending to luge. :)

We were just playing sled using a couch cushion down onto an air mattress! Luge would have been so much cooler.

That's Awesome!

What great imaginative play! You must a proud Mom!

I love watching the lugers, even though I think they're crazy to want to do it!

Wendy

That is awesome! I never woulda thought luge, but now that I'm seeing it's really just like a huge marble run with people instead of marbles...I bet some YouTube videos of that could make Caleb's day! Thanks for the idea! =)

Love love love it! Are there reruns of the winter Olympics playing on some obscure channel or what? I love that he even knows what the luge is. Great creative play...by both of you! :)

Total 7 comments

Apparently, we're teaching our autistic kids about emotions so that they can grow up and fit in with people who think they've had a "bad day" if a bunch of people they don't know lose a game they watched on TV. If Billy grows up to understand that, maybe he can explain it to me ...

Reader Comments

I've got spirit, yes I do!

@BigDaddy: The next time someone assumes I have sports knowledge, I'm going to tell them that I follow MMA instead. That'll shut 'em up.

I want you to know that sometimes when you talk about Griffin, I get this little tingle, like I'm getting a glimpse into something like Billy's future. And it's a beautiful thing. If I can be half as good a parent as you and Mrs. BD by the time Billy enters middle school, I'll consider myself a huge success!

@Ashley: I have a soccer fan in my house too. I thought that was all I had. Little did i know that he was going to adopt all OUR country's sports too when he moved here. Now there is no season that ISN'T a sports season!

@Cheryl: I'll admit it: I'm a big fan of the bowling and poker games on the iPad :-) AND the fact that I can get my magazine subscriptions there. There's something for everyone!

@Lynn: Next week I interview the iPad about it's opinions on health care ...

@Heather: Great minds think alike! Thanks :-)

Frivolous Mom

Oh I SO agree! I love this! You said it exactly how I would have. Love the Vlog!

Still loving the v-logs!

It's so nice to see you every week. Quit showing off that iPad!

I Love your Vlogs!

My daughter does a pretty good job with identifying emotions also, which is really cool.

I really want to get an iPad. Not for my daughter, but for me! LOL

As the wife of a former college soccer player, I do have to question the utter sanity of some of those fans. But at least the fanatics in Europe and South America have grown up with that level of intensity. I really question the emotional health of my hubby who willingly and actively longs to be a part of the madness. =) A World Cup is on his bucket list and I would love to make it happen...I just don't know that I want to be there!

I also graduated from FSU and grew up on Seminole football. But I guess we really do have limited space on our list of emotional investments because it's been a while since I've had the energy left to care. Much.

Enjoyed your post, as usual!!!

V-Log

I am so with you on the professional / college sports thing. I used let that stuff eat me up inside until about twenty years ago I quit it cold turkey. I couldn't tell you who won the last Superbowl if I tried. I do watch MMA (Mixed Marital Arts) like the UFC, but only because I like watching guys beat the cr$p out of eachother.

Funny that Billy thinks he can change your emotions at will. Griffin does the same thing. Mid tantrum he will blurt out "YOU ARE HAPPY WITH ME! I AM GOOD BOY!" How wrong he is.

Total 6 comments

We're still big fans of our new iPad, the biggest drawback being the sheer volume of apps out there that we have yet to try, a lot of them completely FREE. I thought that as Billy finds his favorites, I'd spotlight them, in case you're looking for a great distraction, reward or skill-builder.

AutismXpress
FREE
A simple program that animates faces with different emotions. Choose “Happy” and a goofy cartoon laughs. Choose “Angry” and a red-faced blob bares his teeth, frowns and growls. I'm not sure how educational “Gassy” and “Burpy” are but Billy loves them.

Dr. Seuss books
$3.99 each
We have Oh the Places You Will Go, Green Eggs and Ham, and Dr. Seuss' ABCs, and each one has been played over and over by both kids. The great thing about these books is the interactivity. When you touch a picture anywhere on the page, you see and hear the word associated with it. You can choose “Read it myself” or “Read to me” options.

iGoPotty
FREE

From the geniuses who brought us Pull-ups. Billy LOVES LOVES LOVES this app. We have absolutely no problem about going to the potty now. When I click a button it sings, “I'm a big kid now!” and he stops whatever he's doing and starts dancing along to the music towards the potty. If he goes, he gets to click “I used the potty!” and gets an animated “sticker.” After nine stickers, the app reveals a new game, such as a drawing program or a matching game.

Kindergarten.com Apps
$0.99 each
ABA-based flashcard game designed to help kids categorize objects and people and develop more functional language skills. We've noticed a bit of echolalia/scripting after use of one set a few times, but luckily, there are more sets out there. I would recommend using this one as a jumping-off point for conversations, even if they get the answer “wrong.” For instance, if Billy is asked to “Choose the one you sit on,” and he points to the baby, we talk about what would happen if we sat on a baby.

Look In My Eyes
$2.99
Interesting practice for making eye contact; suggested for kids with high-functioning autism or Asperger's. Close-up photos of smiling kids appear and within a second or two, a number flashes in the center of the child's eyes. Billy's job is then to click the right number on a keypad. If he gets the number right, he earns “money,” which he can then spend to buy food in a cartoon fast-food restaurant or buy furniture – either way, he doesn't care anything about that part. I haven't noticed any definite increase in eye contact in the real world but stay tuned ...

Solar Walk
$2.99
Beautiful tour of the solar system with a 3-D option and groovy space music in the background. You can highlight each planet and its moons, drill into its core, read about its stats, check out pictures of the satellites that have orbited it, etc. You can drag the planets around and rotate them, so that you can look at their dark sides, light sides, orbits and relation to the rest of the solar system. Can't recommend this one highly enough! We use it as a post-bedtime story, lights out activity, and as a reward for successfully completing his nighttime routine.

First Words / First Words Christmas
FREE / $1.99 – 4.99
Drag and drop letters into the right position to form words. As soon as the words are in the right order, the picture of the object animates. There's a “lite” version that's free with a variety of words like “cat,” “train” and “cake.” You can also get sets of words with themes like “animals” or “around the house.” Billy liked the free version so much that we bought the deluxe set for $4.99 and then because we're all about Christmas in this house, the Christmas First Words for $1.99.

Ocean Blue
$9.99
A beautiful virtual ocean aquarium but not really worth the $10 price tag – unless you have an autistic child obsessed with fish who finds staring at it soothing. There are two different environments you can choose from for your fish and eight different animals, including a variety of fish, a shark and a sea turtle, that you can add to the environment. I'm a bit concerned at how much time he spends electrocuting the fish. But then again, WHY is electrocution of the fish an option? You can also feed the fish, take pictures of them or flush them. Yay. But it IS beautiful; the graphics are second-to-none.

Snowman 3D
$0.99
Mr. Potato Head in Snowman form. This cool little app lets you roll up three snowballs with your finger, stack them up, then choose from a variety of eyes, noses, hats, mouths, and bits of flair to add to your virtual Frosty. You can make a snowman that looks like a pirate or one that looks like a clown – or Billy's favorite, the pirate clown. This is a fun way to discuss body parts. And pirates.

Virtuoso
FREE
This is the kind of app that just blows my feeble mind. How does the same screen become a field of snow you can roll into snowballs in one application and in the next, it's a dueling piano? So so cool. I taught Billy to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on this piano, which keeps him busy long enough for us to manage to eat a meal in a restaurant. You can apparently upgrade to a “pro” version of this piano for $0.99 but I don't know how much more you'd want out of an iPad piano or how many pros are going to be bringing this along to gigs, but if you've upgraded, let us know if it's worth the 99 cents.

Reader Comments

Apps for Autism

Thanks for sharing these apps! My 2 older boys are in an autistic support program at school and their teacher got a grant to get an iPad and some iTouches to work with the kids. If I hear about any interesting apps when they start using them, I will let you know. They are going to work on using them for schedules and things in the beginning but she is still in the planning stages. Very exciting that there is such great technology out there for our kids!

Dr. Seuss

There's a Dr. Seuss app? I wonder if they make one for iPhone.

These are all great tips. Solar Walk and Virtuoso sound right up Henry's alley. I'm glad to hear Billy continues to get so much out of this too. I told a friend that you've been having great success with your iPad, and she's thinking about buying one for her boy, Ben. Good info, as always, Amanda!

Eye contact

Sorry, yeah, I didn't make that very clear: The number shows up in the iris of each eye. So if he's staring at a close-up picture of a smiling child, he'll see two #7s, one in each eye.

I agree with you, though, it does seem a little odd. I read the extended description of the app, and they are careful not to make ANY claims that it is proven to increase eye contact -- only that it "could." A lot of things COULD, I suppose: staring at mug shots, looking at yourself in the mirror, wearing Groucho Marx glasses/nose ... actually, if those last two worked, Billy would be aces at eye contact by now. But I'm going to keep an "eye" on it, so I'll let you know if we see any progress.

Speaking of mirrors, though, have any of you out there experienced a greater increase in eye contact if you and your child are both looking into the same mirror. I would swear -- well, maybe not under oath but I have a strong inkling -- that Billy is better at eye contact when he's looking at my eyes in a mirror, rather than in the real world. I don't know what, if anything, that means ...

Look into my eyes

The number flashes like in the iris of the child's eye, or in the space between the eyes? The concept admittedly is a little "off" to me - but I can't think of a better alternative! Definitely interested to hear if you see progress down the road. Caring for an autistic child, and making eye contact has been something we've been encouraging and reinforcing, but seeing little progress.

iReward!

Have you tried iReward? It's available for iPhone and iPad, costs $2.99 and let's you set up a reward system where you can track the number of times they perform a particular behavior before they get a reward. I haven't used it a lot, but setting up the first one was really easy. You can have pictures of rewards that they can choose from and you can set the number of times they have to successfully complete the behavior or activity before being rewarded.

That's great info. For those of us losers who just have the iPhone, some of these apps are available for it as well. I know that Solar Walk is, but maybe the graphics are less impressive on the iPhone. I like the sound of the potty one...I wish there was just a generic one (maybe there is) that tracked how many times some customizable behavior is performed before they earn a reinforcer....like staying in her own damn bed at night.

So Informative!

I don't have an Ipad, but if I ever get one, I know who to turn to for advice!

Total 7 comments

There was a time when I despaired that by the time my son was 3 or 4, he would abandon me in favor of his dad. Because he was a boy, I imagined that eventually, sports would start to infect his brain and he would come to pity me and my sad lack of any kind of ball-playing skills.

He turns four this summer, and Billy's ball games are still very inclusive of those with special needs like myself. "Billy Ball Tag," one of the games he invented, involves me throwing a ball in his general direction and missing, so that he can shout, "You missed!" I got serious skills in Billy Ball Tag.

Then there's "It's a fumble!" which requires one of us to pick up the football (an American football for those of you Brits who still insist on calling the round black-and-white one by the wrong name), running to the other side of the yard and screaming either, "Touchdown!" or dropping it and yelling, "It's a fumble!" When we fumble, we also have to fall to the ground and pretend to cry. It turns out that Billy's understanding of the rules of football are pretty much on par with my own.

Floortime therapy has taught us to follow Billy's lead when it comes to play. He has better ideas for games than anything put out by Parker Brothers. After he gets comfortable with playing a simple game, we try to add a little complication to it that will encourage his desire to communicate.

Dave is really good at this. He invented "Yummy and Yucky" bubbles. Billy dearly loves to have one of us blow bubbles. I've practically hyperventilated trying to keep up with his bubble jones some afternoons. One day, Dave watched Billy pretending to eat the bubbles. He copied him and Billy laughed. So they spent several minutes trying to catch bubbles in their mouths.

Then he started asking Billy, "Is it a yummy bubble or a yucky bubble?" And after Dave "ate" one and declared it "Mmm-mmm, YUMMY!" Billy tasted one, made a face, and said, "Yucky!" and a game was born. Eventually, another layer was added, as we declared bubbles "hot" or "cold," "scary" or "funny," and so on. Beware Billy if he gets hold of an "angry" bubble; he's like the Incredible Hulk.

Sometimes, when we add a complication to a game -- or a "playful obstruction," as Dr. Stanley Greenspan calls it -- we lose him. He just turns his back and moves on to something else. That's the sign that he's not ready to move up the communication ladder any further that day. Or it could just be a sign that our game isn't fun.

Case in point: "Three Little Pigs." Billy loves to act out certain parts of the fairy tale. He likes the part where he hides in his playhouse and I pretend to the wolf banging on the door. He likes the part where he escapes out the window and the wolf has to run after him. He likes the part where the pig jumps into the swing and flies to the moon to get away (a plot twist Billy added to the story). He does not like any attempt on my part to get him to sit down at the picnic table and do a craft in which we build a stick, straw and brick house.

"Stinky Broadfoot," however, is a game that gets more complicated every morning. It started when he climbed into my bed one morning and I told him that he needed to go to the potty with Daddy first and then he could get into "Mama's bed," as he calls it (I'm not sure he knows that Dave also sleeps in that bed). When he resisted, we explained that if he didn't get a new Pull-up, people would call him "Stinky" when he got to school.

Well, there is nothing in this world funnier to Billy than bad smells. He decided his name was "Stinky" and we all three rolled around the bed making faces and complaining about the smell. The next day, Dave adopted the name "Smelly Daddy" and I was "Malodorous Mama." And every day we have to come up with new names for "stinky." Billy has even developed some sort of dance where he holds his nose and waves his other hand back-and-forth in the air around him. God forbid any child at school should ever have some unfortunate gas incident. My child cannot be counted on for any sense of discretion where stink is involved.

As we were rolling around on my bed this morning, contorting ourselves with fits of laughter, I thought to myself that if this is therapy, it sure beats those months when we had him on the gluten-free diet and I spent all my time cooking. Now I can concentrate on developing my skills in "Billy Ball Tag." I'm our team's starting forward this season.

Reader Comments

Games as Autism Therapy

EJ is a "typical" boy just like Billy when it comes to his love of flatulent sounds. He is still pretty amused by his own and not so much anyone else's, however, I am sure it is just a matter of time. I am dreading the day when he learns the "F" word and revises his current exclamation of "Mommy, I am a gassy boy!".

We got him a soft T-ball set for Christmas and he seems to finally have some interest in "playing" T-ball after weeks of trying to engage him. I should note, however, that he derives the most pleasure not from hitting the ball on the T, but from demolishing my patio plants with the bat. See? Typical four year old boy!!

JD in TLH

Billy Ball Tag

I want to see a video of Billy Ball Tag in action!

From Amanda

First of all, there will be no videos of Billy Ball Tag, as even my ability to laugh at myself has a limit!

Billy does almost exactly the same thing with his T-ball bat. His uncle sent him this awesome kids' pitching machine that pumps a ball out of a shoot a little ways into the air so that you can hit it with the giant bat.

Billy LOVES to watch the balls fly into the air ... and land a few feet away. Again and again.

AND he loves to beat things with the bat. However, we haven't actually got him to put the two together yet :-)

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