The Blessing and Curse of Technology

The advances in technology in recent years have been nothing short of a miracle for families who have children with special needs. Computers can give our kids a voice where they previously didn't have one. Certain apps can teach how to read, count, add, socialize, and so much more. They give parents a voice and a way to find other parents in the same situation. It's hard to imagine like with our kids now without technology.

But then there is the other side. The side where I would love to take every iThing in this house and sell them on Ebay to the highest bidder.

Children with autism can have an obsessive side. The technical or polite terminology for it is fixation. A child that fixates on technology can be next to impossible to unplug. I literally could not take the Nintendo DS out of my tiny, not even 60 pound nine-year-old's hands this afternoon. He somehow managed to channel an Olympic weightlifter or two and held onto that DS for dear life. It can be like mudwrestling an oiled up pig to get the iPod off of this kid as well. If it's got Mario or Angry Birds on it, be prepared to fight...and most likely lose.

The same thing goes for computers and video games, but I know where the breaker switches are to those!

There are good sides to the fixations. When we have to take the boy to places he doesn't want to go, those games and apps are fantastic! You won't hear from Sean during any youth hockey game or trip to the funeral home. If you want to see what he looks like though, he's unfortunately going to have that video game glow reflecting off of his face.

So things we as parents can do to deal with fixations:

1. Set time limits: Our TSS came up with the greatest things ever, the croaking frogs. It's a sound on her phone that Sean knows well. He gets a certain amount of time to do an activity, but as soon as the frogs croak, it's time to move on. Those frogs save quite a bit of stress.

2. Use it as a reward: Those pesky chores, homework, or other unpreferred tasks? Promise your child 30 minutes of Wii to do it, and you will have amazing cooperation.

3. Find creative outlets for the fixation: Ever hear the phrase "if you can't beat em',  join em'?"  It's been said some of the greatest minds of our time may have been on the autism spectrum. Imagine if someone told Einstein not to study physics, or Dr. Temple Grandin not to study livestock. Or Bill Gates not to play around with his computer. Find some use for the fixation. Art projects, turning math into problems with Angry Birds. Classes at the local community college may even be available. There is a chance that behind the fixation that is annoying now, lies the chance of something brilliant developing years down the road.

I remind myself of #3 every time my child makes another hundred Origami Yodas, leaves Legos all over the floor for me to step on, or wants to be on the computer "building" things for Roblox or Minecraft. Who knows, we could be looking at a college scholoarship one day, and I'll have every Angry Bird in the world to thank for it.


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