Sunday, November 12, 2006

Japanese, left hands, & "Flushed Away"...

Whew! Another lightning-fast weekend has almost flashed past.

C worked yesterday morning & I was determined that B would not spend the whole morning at home on the computer, so I traded him some time playing our new katakana scrabble game for some time watching 2 new episodes of InuYasha, which left very little time for computer games. B was much more enthusiastic about playing the game when I got out the real scrabble board to play it on, although we don't have a scoring system set-up yet & aren't actually picking random tiles with which to make our words- we don't have enough japanese vocabulary to do that yet :) The fun of using the katakana alphabet for this game is that it's the one that's used for translated english (& other language) words, so you can fudge it a bit. I found myself spelling "ku-kee" (cookie) & "chyoo-bakka" (Chewbacca) on a couple of my turns. B was amused when he sounded them out :) After lunch we had a japanese lesson & we were psyched to show Tomoko our new game & to play it with her. She came prepared with another InuYasha conversation for us & B wore his InuYasha hat of course. Tomoko alternated between giggling over B's near-perfect mimicking of InuYasha's voice (from the anime's japanese soundtrack) & reproaching herself for teaching him to talk like a "tough guy". B seemed to have trouble sitting still during lesson & kept jumping up to get things to fiddle with, or saying things very loudly so that I kept having to ask him to tone it down. He's never been like this before during lesson, but Tomoko just calmly followed B's lead, which was wonderful. After we had played a few rounds of our katakana scrabble (which she thought was wonderful) B went off to play legos with dad & she & I had our usual chat about everything from grammer to cultural differences to american customs.

Today I finally got around to asking Tomoko about the word for "autism" in japanese, something that Kristina had asked me about in her AustismVox site a few weeks ago. The word itself is "ji-hei-shyou" (じへいしょう)& the kanji means: "ji=self" "hei=closed/restricted" "shyou=symptoms". Tomoko believes that the word is not indigenous to Japanese culture (as something that has been recognised for a long time) but a translation from another language, which makes sense to me, since the english word "autism" comes from the greek ("autos=self"). We talked for a bit about how kids with special needs are perceived in Japan. She said that it's difficult for a culture like the japanese, which values homogeneity & "the group" so much, to value the needs of individuals. She said that there are special schools for kids with obvious special needs & that teachers who work in these school are highly trained & better paid than regular schoolteachers (that's something, at least). She said that kids that go to special schools are rarely mainstreamed. We talked about how difficult it is for japanese kids with Aspergers & other, more subtle, differences because they partially fit in & are less likely to be sent to the schools for kids with special needs. They end up being bullied by other kids as well as teachers for their differences, & their families tend to suffer more shame because of their kids' differences. Tomoko did say that the disability rights movement in Japan has made some progress in the past few years. A man with congenital deformities became somewhat of a celebrity a few years ago, publicising the message that he felt he was ok just the way he was. She said that he had such a genuine way of presenting himself that many people were impressed by him. I opined that he must have one heck of a family, to have raised him to be so comfortable about himself in a culture where his differences are something shameful. It rather reminded me of the disability rights movement of the 70's here in the US, something I participated in actively, when disabled people began speaking or themselves & challenging the general perception of the disabled as people to be pitied. Talking to Tomoko about the current state of acceptance of neurodiversity in Japan certainly made me feel grateful that we live where we do. There are challenges here, for sure, but there is also a lot more acceptance of "lone wolves" here in North America than there is in Japan.

B managed to get himself a spot in Adventure Quest yesterday afternoon, so he played before & after dinner. He's been finding the lack of "free" spots very frustrating (if you pay a one-time fee of $20 you get on any time, so B is saving-up to buy a membership), sometimes bringing him to tears. After dinner when he was playing, there were more & more angry sounds & tics coming from the computer room (really a sun porch that's an extension of the living room) the longer he played. Finally, I asked him what was going on & he yelled angrily at me that the game was too hard. Trying to help B keep a balanced perspective on computer games is really hard, & it's also really annoying when the games become so important to him that he forgets to be civil... After trying to problem-solve a bit I finally asked him to please take a break from the game, & he stormed off in a fury. C followed him upstairs, since B made it clear that he didn't want me around... sigh. After about 15 minutes of B & his tics getting louder & louder I finally went upstairs. I told him that I thought we should work things out, since he was obviously really angry with me. He was in tears & said that he didn't understand why I'd asked him to take a break. I reminded him that computer games are supposed to be fun, & when they make him tic uncontrollably then it's a sign that he needs to take a break- find a new way to do things, think about his strategy, get some help. He was angry, too, because I had used the words "just a kid" during our interchange & he said it made him feel bad... I realised that I wasn't being clear about what I meant, & explained that I meant it to mean that he was less experienced than a teenager or adult might be, which was appropriate for him. He's "just a kid" & can't expect himself to function like an adult. He seemd to understand, & I told him I'd try to be clearer with my language in the future. In the end, we decided he could go back to his game, as long as I sat with him & helped him with his strategy. I'm not sure why (perhaps the autism, perhaps his being 10) but B has trouble keeping track of all the resources he has to play the game. He has lots of different kinds of armour, wizard robes, shields, pets, weapons (arrgh!), magical implements, but he rarely tailors his resources to his situation, so he loses valuable points when encountering monsters. As he played, we looked together at the attributes of the monster he was facing & decided which of his protective & offensive items would be best to use. We tried his different pets out on different monsters to see if there was a pattern there, too. We kept track of his hit points & mana points & tried to balance how much mana his various spells required with the outcome of their usage. This really seemed to help B's gameplay & he also seemed to be enjoying the game more as we played.

B had a bath next & then he played a bit more before getting ready for bed. Friday night he had a lot of trouble falling asleep- perhaps due to the reduction in his seroquel dose? It took C & I tag-teaming until after 10:00 (B went to bed at 8:45) to get him comfortably asleep. Last night I just decided to read to him until he was sleepy... I started at 8:30 & read till nearly 10:00 before he was asleep. Whew! C & I decided that tag-teaming is better, until we have this falling asleep thing figured out (again).

This morning he was up a bit before 7:00 am, which was better by his standards, sinc ehe had some time to play. There were no protests about going to church, & have been none since he's been able to play Adventure Quest on the computer in the lounge while we're in choir practise :) During breakfast the topic of "Q1" (B-speak for his left hand) came up because it was causing a tic. I took the opportunity to ask B how his left hand feels- does if feel differently than his right? I have been wanting to bring this up with B ever since tera and zilari commented on this post that B's OCD problems with his left hand might have something to do with his proprioceptive difficulties (thanks again for your comments!!). He responded that sometimes it feels like his left hand is "giving off radiation", which C interpreted to mean that he might have some tingling or spotty sensation in that hand. I was immediately struck by the memory of B's OT, back in kindergarten, deciding to train B to be right-handed, since he was showing no preference in handedness. Up until that time I thought he might end-up a lefty like me, but we agreed that gently guiding him toward his right hand might make things easier for him... (nothing punitive was done in this process). It did make me wonder, though, if requiring him to establish a dominant hand might have upset his internal balance somehow, but C didn't think that would have happened (being a physician, C does have some insight into this). It would appear, though, that B is having some sensory differences with his left hand that has led to it becoming an OCD issue, which is good information to have.

B had some major tics in the car on the way to church, due to the coat he was wearing (no clue as to what about the coat was triggering him, though), & as we were trying to talk him down I remembered that I'd been thinking of suggesting that we go see "Flushed Away", so I brought it up & next thing we knew B was distracted from the tic thought & ready to think about going to the movies... When we got to church I reminded him of the strategies we'd come up with the evening before for playing AQ & asked him to come see us if he was having tics (he did just fine). My Sunday School class wasn't going to meet today (one of our two faithful youth was going to a conference) so I'd planned to use that time to work on my sermon coming up in 2 weeks. The other of my kids came, though, so I spent the time instead chatting about anime & manga & just hanging out. I had my laptop & showed him the pics of B in his InuYasha hat & some of B's manga drawings I'd photographed for my Jedi Workshop blog. This young man is a very talented artist & plans to pursue a degree in graphic art in college (he's a senior), as well as play football (he's being recruited by some major colleges because he's also a talented athlete). It was so much fun to just hang out & compare notes on manga & anime art, comic books, our thoughts about the casting of the Xmen movies. He gave me some recommendations for manga that he thought I'd enjoy. I realised afterward that there aren't many people in my life that I can chat about this stuff with. I'm pretty lucky to have such a great kids to hang with :)

After lunch we looked in the paper & decided that we could make a showing of "Flushed Away" if we left around 2:00 pm. B was really psyched- we haven't been to a movie in the theatre in a long time... We loaded-up with popcorn & drinks (for snack :) & just got in before the movie started. I had high hopes, not only because I've heard good things about this movie (thanks, Kristina :) but because we've been enjoying Aardman production films since B was very little. I saw my first, "A Close Shave" at a handspinning meeting, where a roomful of women rolled on the floor laughing at a sheep-oriented animated film. I went out & bought all the "Wallace & Gromit" short films right after that & have very fond memories of having "picnics on the moon" with B when he was 3 by spreading a blanket on the kitchen floor & eating cheese & crackers (with tea out of a thermos) while B explored the "moon". We loved "Chicken Run" & the more recent "Wallace & Gromit" movie, too. We were not disappointed by "Flushed" either. The combination of british humour, visual puns, & potty jokes was really good & I can't remember the last time all of us laughed out loud at the same film. The slug chorus was a hoot, as were the eclectic musical selections.

B tried to get on AQ after we got home, but got another screen telling him there weren't any more slots. I found him by the computer pushing the "refresh" button repeatedly, which didn't seem to be doing anything but making him more frantic about not being able to get on. When I suggested he do something else while he was waiting he burst into tears. We finally resolved things by setting a timer for 10 minutes, & every time the timer went off he could check the AQ site. I showed him how to tell if the number of online players was growing or shrinking, so he'd have an idea of how long the wait might be. He played some games at the lego site in another window, & finally- after about 1/2 hour- he was able to get into Adventure Quest. C convinced B to play some katakana scrabble after dinner, which B did half-heartedly for about 20 minutes, then we let him get back to his AQ game. It's almost jammie time, then we'll do some tag-teaming till B goes to sleep.

I've been noticing that B is much more intensely engaged with life since we've reduced the zoloft (in the process of trying to wean him off it). He cries more easily, is louder & more "in your face", & more obsessive about the things he really likes (like Adventure Quest). He's also better able to focus on his legos & the stories he makes up about them (C is trying to get some of B's "Professor Chris" story written down, since it's very interesting & involved). We are giving it all some time, hoping that B's emotional intensity is something we+he can learn to work with.


At 11:34 PM, Blogger Kristina Chew said...

Phrew, I'm glad you liked the movie or so much for me as a movie critic..... Grinker has some very interesting things to say about autism in Korea in Unstrange Minds and some of it is similar to the situation in Japan. (I look forward to hearing what you write about that.) Very interesting what you note about B with the changing Zoloft dose and the lessening of his Seroquel, those being the two medications (though Risperdal, instead) that Charlie takes. Charlie does not have the interest in games and computers but he certainly can go into full-blown hum-mode and it takes some doing for him to self-extricate.

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Monique said...

I was looking to wean off zoloft and wanted to see what strategy(ies) you were using for your little one.

I am trying to wean. I was on a 100 mg dose and have cut doown to 75mg a day....

I know it is random but I appreciate your time and consideration.



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