Video Games and Autism

I might add to this page later, but the first writing is by Susan/wifetovegman, responding to someone who came to complain about her autistic son's video game addiction. The quotes are a mom whose writing has been rendered anonymous, and Susan's response is wonderful. -Sandra

Hi! I'm Susan, mom of two boy-os on the autistic spectrum, and one girlie who is not.

[My son] is a video junkie and not in a way that I think anyone would consider healthy, either physically or mentally.
This is not a respectful way of talking about your son's passions and joys. You need to reconsider how you view his hobbies and likes and dislikes, because it is through them that learning will happen.
He will shut out everything including his own bodily functions once he encounters a screen.
So is he pooping and peeing in his clothes because he can't leave the game? Refusing to eat until he is done? How about suggesting that he take care of those things before he starts? How about fixing him a plate of his favorite foods and serving it to him while he plays?
It's like hypnosis of the evil swirly eyes kind - kind of like 'Tommy' in real life. While my older boys (teens) were video addicts, I never had to physically block the screen or shout loudly into their haze just to get them to go to the bathroom. We've had to clean furniture and carpets and floors. And not just at home, either. It's almost scary.
Are your older children also autistic? It isn't really fair to compare children anyway, but comparing a child with a neurological difference to his older neurologically typical siblings really isn't fair at all.

Also, computer/video games weren't the same then when they were your son's age as they are now, either. It sounds from your word choice more like you are the one that has decided that video games are evil.

Our solution is to curtail his video time to about an hour total on any given day. That includes computer, TV, videos, LeapPad, etc. It really makes a world of difference.
One hour isn't enough to even watch one whole Disney video. Thirty minutes isn't usually even enough to finish one level in most advanced video games and defeat the boss and get to a point where the game can be saved.

What are you doing while he is engaged in these activities? What does he do for the other 23 hours in a day?

Even so, he will literally talk like a video game with sound effects, beeps and clicks, hand gestures (there's a name for what he does with his hands but I can't remember it), and is almost completely unresponsive when we speak to him, sometimes for entire days.
LOL! This sounds so much like my son Aaron. Even his pretend play with figures always sounds like a video game, complete with levels, hit points, and bosses. He will set up an incredible scenario and have my assigned little toy go through it complete with battles. Some day he might be an awesome computer game creator.

However, lots of little boys sound like walking video games. I have read that over 80% of the verbalization that small boys make are just sounds like bangs, whistles, swooshing swords, crashing hot wheels, etc.

Limiting my sons' time with computers and video games backfired big time. It caused them, in a typically Aspie way, to obsess about their time on the games down to the last second, and when they weren't allowed to play, their mind was obsessing about the game, thinking about when they would be allowed to play again and what they would do. Often they would retreat and then when we asked what they were thinking about it was the game.

Releasing the limits actually freed my boys from that bondage. Knowing that they could play their games as much as they really wanted to helped them let go of the obsessing and anxiety, they could complete their games and then put down the controller and walk away feeling happy and satisfied and go on to something else. They could also choose not to play, knowing that later they would be able to pick it up if they wanted to.

Getting a DVR meant that they could tape the shows they love if we are busy outside the house and didn't spend the entire outing worrying about what they were missing or if we would get home in time, and could enjoy the activity.

Instead of limiting the video games, you *could* use them as a way to connect with your autistic son, to draw him into a world where you are interested and talking to him about the games, and building a relationship with him.

We use the Sims and Sims 2 character maker as a way to help Aaron focus on people's faces and expressions. He sits on his older sister's lap while playing, and they laugh and talk and hug and discuss the people they make and how they look and make decisions about clothes and hair and their expressions and such.

Aaron and I play a game while we are playing Pokemon Coliseum where we both cross our fingers and chant, "pretty please" together, (sometimes fast, sometimes slowly, sometimes loudly, sometimes softly) until we know whether or not the pokemon we are trying to catch will stay in the poke ball. This is called emotion sharing and referencing in therapy circles, where the activities are artificial and designed to emphasize these things, but for us, it is just part of our enjoyment of an activity together.

So my suggestion would be that instead of seeing his joys and passions and hobbies as something that interferes with your relationship with him, start seeing them as possibly a place to start to connect. It will overflow into other areas.

~ Susan later note: that page is gone now.

"Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive - it's such an interesting world." Anne of Green Gables ~ Lucy Montgomery

Special Unschooling * Video Games * False Assertions by Parents about Children
Parenting Considerations