The Boy’s Venture into Cyberspace

When we moved, The Boy asked for an email account.  I had to think awhile about whether he was old enough and responsible enough to be able to handle it.  I wanted him to have a way to communicate with friends and teachers from the home we were leaving, and I wanted him to explore Google Drive so that we wouldn’t have to rely on Microsoft, PowerPoint, and dozens of flash drives for his hobby anymore.   I took my time, did my research, and made a plan.  He and I talked at length about internet safety, with which he was already familiar, thanks to school.  I told him that I would have access to his account, and would know his password so that he would have some level of supervision of his account activities.  And with that, I gave him a supervised Gmail account.

He did attempt to change his password once, but because I had set my email address as the backup, I was notified immediately, and we discussed it.  We changed his password, and he seemed to use it appropriately after that, until he forgot his password, and we had to reset it again, but that was no big deal — again, he seemed to be on the right path.

Every once in awhile I would notice in his account that he had registered for some site, but they were kid-based animation sites, and when I investigated, he had opened a free account, but hadn’t used it.  And then about a week ago, I saw some notifications in his inbox of comments on his YouTube account…  Because when you open a Gmail account, you get a YouTube account automatically, now.  I had turned off Google+, but YouTube had slipped my mind…

With trepidation, I looked up his account.  Luckily, he didn’t have his profile picture posted on his account – just an abstract design.  Luckily he didn’t have too many views of the videos he had posted.  But unfortunately, there were two videos of himself, that he had taken with a webcam at some point.

mario in gI knew I would have to talk to him again about internet safety, and we would have to take them down ASAP.  I knew he would be suspicious of me “looking at his stuff,” and he would “know what (I was) trying to do!” I knew he would have some anxiety about my knowing some of his secrets.  But I continued to look at his account, and began to see something really cool.  He had posted some other videos and comments, and I can’t pretend to understand the fascination, but these other videos were a combination of animation, other videos (like the title sequences of cartoons), and modified (very strange) music.  And the coolest thing was there were other kids that were into this same type of “creation”, knew the programs he had used (Audacity is one – I had no idea he knew how to use it!), and were asking him technical questions about how he had created it.

In his first, clumsy venture into cyberspace, he had somehow joined a community, sharing his skills, and supporting other kids.

We continue to work on his understanding of what’s OK to post, and what’s not.  I continue to monitor his internet usage through his email account and other venues.  But I also continue to tell him how proud I am of him, and I’ve asked him to show me how he makes his videos.  So cool.

Autism and Attachment to Stuff

Google searchGoogle “Autism and Clothing” and what comes up are links upon links to articles, studies, and blog posts about sensory issues with clothing, and how clothing can be a source of anxiety and struggle for those on the spectrum.

But there was only one link about being emotionally attached to articles of clothing.  And it was a forum post from the experts – adults with autism.  From my quick perusal of the “research”, it doesn’t seem that anyone has studied this, but based on what I read on this wrongplanet forum post, there seems to be a correlation between a spectrum diagnosis and the sense that objects have “feelings”.  Unused, or un-purchased toys may feel “lonely” or “discarded” and therefore need to be saved.  Lego towers and models mustn’t be taken apart because that would be “like an execution”.  Clothing that has become too small must not be thrown out or donated, it must be kept forever, because it would be too sad, too unbearable to part with it.

Ring any bells?

Sometimes I fall into the trap, believing my child is rational because he usually has such a logical and straightforward outlook.  This attachment to things is miles from rational, yet it seems to be so prevalent in those with ASD…

Why has no one studied this?  Why has no one examined this and come up with strategies to deal with these anxieties about the feelings of objects?  Several of these adults with autism on the forum have even contemplated purchasing extra storage space so they could keep all of these “saved” items!  Yikes!

Clothing is one of our meltdown triggers, and I finally came to the realization that The Boy had this irrational attachment when we had a big meltdown the other morning.  He reacted to some “missing” (read: donated) size 8 pants (he wears 14-16 now) extremely emotionally, almost as if a pet had died.  That’s when I began my Google search.

Today, I floated an idea by him.  In the car, I mentioned to him that we could take pictures of the clothes that are too small before we donate them.  Sorta like my T-shirt project.  That way, he could “keep them” as long as he wished, and could look back on those clothes and the attached memories as many times as he liked, and the clothes themselves could go on to other families and be used by smaller kids.  He kinda liked the idea.  Which means it just might work…

I’ll keep you posted.