Saturday, August 27, 2011

Losing and Winning with Super Mario and Autism

Caden wanted me to play Super Mario on Wii today and out of parental guilt over everything that I wanted us to do over summer break and we never quite seemed to get around to, I agreed. This was one of those proverbial train wrecks because he’s really good at video games and I’m really not good at video games and if on the hap chance I do something right and accidentally win, it usually causes an epic melt down (something I should mention that we are working on….his meltdowns, not trying to increase my accidental wins).
Caden was being particularly generous today with his mental energy and time and was thus trying to explain to me what I was supposed to be doing (lesson 1—I was holding the remote up and down instead of sideways…oops) and not doing. It was all very confusing and I wasn’t apparently a very good student since I spent more time in the oops bubble floating around than actually moving forward in the maze or track or world or whatever it is called.

Nothing really matched up to my expectations; I started to wonder if that’s a little slice of what it’s like to see the world differently than most folks. The little turtles were so cute and seemed to be enthusiastically running toward me in the game so I wanted to run toward them. It was quite the shock to find out that they were one of those “bad” things that put my character into a bubble and cost me one of my turns. Caden gets so much joy from lining things up by color, shape, size, function or whatever organizational category he chooses at that moment. I wonder if he is shocked when others don’t appreciate that as much as he does or if he wonders why others aren’t enjoying the rainbows that he always seem to find reflecting off of windows (or really even taking the time to look for)?
Then there are these tunnels in the game that just seem like trouble to me but yet when I’d accidentally fall down one (or Caden’s character would push me so that he’d get extra points) all of a sudden we would be in an underground tunnel full of extra coins with no danger anywhere in sight.  Maybe while spinning until you fall down or laying under the bean bag chair seems like an inherently bad idea, it turns out to be an unexpectedly pleasant sensation.

I wonder then how many things that seem negative really turn out to be okay or that seem okay turn out to be scary somehow.  Maybe as adults we just randomly determine that the birthday song is fun for parties, high pitch nonsensical songs are for preschoolers, that babies like people popping out from behind hands shouting peek-a-boo, or that kids who spend their lives being told to watch out for strangers should then like having their cheeks pinched or tummies tickled by those same strangers in “safe” places like the grocery store just because the person is old enough to be someone’s grandma or grandpa as a way of measuring if we are being fun child-friendly people. 

So I started to wonder if maybe what I want to strive for in my life isn’t so much autism specific awareness but just a general realization that kids are individuals and they may or may not see the same things as us. And that’s not a bad thing—have you ever noticed how much fun kids can have just being, or how uninhibited kids are if they want to start singing in the middle of a crowd, or how they can wear pink and orange just because they like those colors. They don’t necessarily start to worry about being different until we teach them that different is somehow bad.  Yet different is what inspires the courage to make real change.  

Good thing I got some thinking material from the game today because I lost so many times that Caden finally said oh mommy you don’t have to play any more games with me if you got some clothes (i.e. laundry) to do or something.  Hey I can take a hint.....