Soren woke up at 5.30 this morning. I don’t know what the story with that was, but I was not happy. I didn’t really get back to sleep at all, as Soren’s idea of getting up in the morning is crawling into mum and dad’s bed and squirming and chatting and kicking and hugging and kissing. The only alternative he finds acceptable is watching tv, which is not allowed on school mornings. I was tempted to break that rule this morning though.
So, the whole point of that rambling paragraph was to say that I’m tired. Which isn’t really much of a point at all.
The week of no computer and no Wii for the children has come to an end. When all is said and done though, it’s provided a good reason for us to change the rules on a more permanent basis. Emma and Jericho were more settled, and played better with their toys and each other when electronic entertainment was not an option. Not needing to referee fights about turns or juggle to fit in computer and Wii playing with homework and bath and tea have made my afternoons significantly less stressful too. The upshot of all of this is that Troy and I have decided that from now on the rules will be that the children don’t use the computer or Wii during the school week. They’ll take their usual turns on Friday afternoons, Saturdays and Sundays.
Emma and Jericho accepted this change in rules pretty well. I honestly think they’ve enjoyed having more open ended playtime, and I hope that the new schedule will help them maintain a more balanced range of activities and games.
Nicholai is a whole different story though, and this is where it all gets difficult. He really had trouble without having the computer time. He certainly didn’t seem to make any effort to improve his attitude to us or his siblings. In some ways he has been a bit more anxious and agitated without that time on the computer to calm down and ‘reset’ himself. In other ways he’s seemed more relaxed without the computer to hype him up! He’s also been kind of harder to live with because he’s constantly talking at me, without computer time to distract him. When we talked about how the week had gone with the kids, and Troy and I told them how the new rules were going to work Nicholai just sobbed. He’s randomly burst into tears since, and he’s also become obsessed with, and cannot stop harping on, the fact that he’s not going to be able to go on the computer on his birthday, because his birthday is on a Monday.
This is where trying to fit autism into a family can really kind of suck. Because there’s no good answer to this problem. Really, there are three choices- we can go back to all the children playing on the computer every day, which caused endless stress to me, suited Nicholai, and was enjoyed by Emma and Jericho but really wasn’t good for them; we can try out our new rules of computer only on the weekend, which Nicholai will hate and will struggle with, Emma and Jericho will tolerate and do well with, and I will like; or we could try and limit screen time for Emma and Jericho but allow Nicholai time each day, which will suit Nicholai, will be unfair to and loudly protested by the other kids, and will probably increase the stress for me. None of these options work for every one…it’s like all I can do is choose the least bad of three pretty bad options.
I can be reasonably sure that they all are going to be bad options, because when you’re working with autism, it’s not just a kid who likes computers. It’s a child who is obsessed with them, who suffers very real anxiety and stress when he’s denied access to the object of his obsession. I mean, it doesn’t matter what we tell Nicholai we’re doing that day, his first thought is always but when can I go on the computer? I told the kids we were going camping on the Easter holidays yesterday and all Nicholai could do was punch his seat and wail that it would be another week without technology. He has such limited resources for entertaining himself that he quite literally doesn’t really know what to do with himself without the computer.
There is also basically NO chance that he’ll get used to it, or learn to do other things, or accept new rules, trust me. He’s going to be ten years old on Monday. He’s been using the computer since he was three, and was hooked basically immediately. So that means it has been SEVEN YEARS for me of trying to contain his obsession and I have been pretty much unsuccessful. While his interests may have altered (slightly) over the years he doesn’t really have any wider a range of alternative activities than he did back when he was three, he still has meltdowns if he’s denied access or told it’s time to get off. Good god this is so depressing to think about…I have spent SEVEN YEARS managing that boy’s computer usage and being rigidly consistent in his limitations (and if there is one thing Troy and I have learned from parenting Nicholai and can confidently say we’ve got going on it is fucking consistency) and it has not got any better. We’ve never given up on it and let him do whatever, because I really, really hate this aspect of our lives. Now we’re just stuck with the problem of what works for our autistic child versus what works for everyone else, and once again it seems like those things are opposites. Is it any wonder I wish we could just pull the plug permanently?