Social contracts, amphetamines and Planet Coaster

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 22, 2017, 9:29 PM | comments: 0

It has been awhile since I've written about parenting. School started last week though, which has frankly been a relief for us, and especially for Diana. Summers are hard, because his neighborhood friends are mostly in daycare, so he doesn't see other kids as often as he does in school. And as much as we try to keep him busy, it's not always easy with the daily summer afternoon thunderstorm.

Parenting has been challenging. Last year's ADHD diagnosis was rough. While the amphetamine they prescribed definitely helps him in school, we think it causes his concentration to also reinforce his finger picking habit. It's not a great feeling when the school calls you and they say we need to do something about his bleeding fingers and constant need for bandages. And it's not his nails, it's the pads of his fingers. He can't control it. He has to wear socks at home so he doesn't do the same thing to his feet.

We strongly feel that Simon needs therapy along with the drugs, and one of his doctors agree, but the other problem he has is extraordinary anxiety. Because of that, working with him to develop coping strategies is a non-starter when he's anxious about success and doing the right thing. The doctor prescribed a drug that didn't work, but she recently switched to another and it seems a little better. As much as I am all about talking about these challenges openly, I hate the idea of all these medications. Fortunately, I don't think they change his personality

One of the doctors or therapists that he met with didn't feel he was dealing with ASD, which is a pretty ridiculous assessment after spending 15 minutes with him. Simon is still struggling with social contracts and you can see the frustration and energy he expends trying to reconcile the unreconcilable. For example, he interrupts with an "excuse me!" when we're talking, and despite correcting him and asking him to wait, he starts to get frustrated and angry because to him, he followed the rules. In more serious conditions, he loses privileges because he didn't follow directions, and he can't reconcile the punishment. To him, a "sorry" makes it better because that's what we taught him. So when we take away his favorite computer game for a few days, the frustration, and physical manifestation of it (a lot of shaking and convulsing), comes up every time he wants to talk about it. I used to think it was just him not getting his way, but the frustration is so deep and intense. He truly can't reconcile the cause and effect.

That favorite computer game, by the way, is called Planet Coaster. It's not so much a game as much as it is a construction kit for virtual theme parks and roller coasters. He's obsessed with it. He uses a combination of wood toy tracks, cars and blocks in the playroom to build "rides" patterned off of actual rides, and while he really uses his imagination, the constraints of the physical world sometimes frustrate him. But in the game, he can do whatever he imagines. If that weren't enough, he's able to operate a theme park, and he makes little announcements to the guests and analyzes every little 3D inch of the rides. He's even getting physics a little.

Aside from the fact that it's not a social activity, I can't think of any good reasons to keep him away from the game arbitrarily. We limit the time, but I won't forbid him. It brings him a lot of joy and I see the quality of what he's building improving. I also have the baggage that not only did adults not encourage me to use computers, many actively treated my interest as a nuisance. I can't repeat that history.

Simon is still a sweet kid most of the time, even though he has learned already to declare that he hates us from time to time. He's funny and charming. I'm acutely aware that the window for him to be my little boy is quickly closing, and that's the thing that reminds me to be as patient as I can.


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