Monday, June 18, 2018

When The Gap Between Chronological Age And Ability Continues To Widen - Living With FASD

Joseph is in another one of his frustrating phases, although if I am honest, I am not sure who is more frustrated, him or I.

Joseph has always had an amazingly creative mind, he can make tractors out of a twist tie, paper and Lego tires. He can turn dust bunnies into animals and play with them for hours. The problems begin when he wants to make "real things," but lacks the ability to understand why his idea's won't work. He is currently upset because he cannot make a computer out of a broken calculator. Once, in an attempt to keep his brain occupied, we bought the book How Things Work, by Neil Ardley. Our so called brilliant idea backfired though, because now, 2 years later, he wants to make the things he reads about in the book and his "projects" never turn out like he envisioned which results in a meltdown.

This morning he took his calculator apart and became upset when his computer didn't work like the one in his book. I tried explaining why his idea wasn't feasible in an attempt to help him understand. I know, I am a hard learner but I keep hoping that someday he will be able to understand. Here is our conversation:

"Joseph, you cannot make a computer out of a broken calculator."
"Yes, I can! The book says all you need is a wire and a battery"
"Yes, but you need the right kind of wire, and one that isn't broken. You cannot build a computer out of something that is broken."
"If you would give me something that you don't use but it still works, I could make something."
"You need the correct parts. Even dad (who in his mind can do anything) cannot take an engine apart and make a chainsaw out of it, because he wouldn't have all the exact parts he needs."
"Yes, but I have my calculator screen and that is like a computer screen n I have the buttons. All I need to do is hook a wire to the buttons and then they will make numbers on the screen."
I finally came to my senses and tried a different tactic. "If you want to build things, make them with wood or Lego's, boys who are ten can't use machine's and make electronic toys."
He sat there with the most crushed expression and I was once more aware of how much FASD has robbed him.

Lest you think I got my point across....he is currently making a solar panel out of the calculator. I am bracing myself for the meltdown that will come when he realizes his solar panel doesn't work.

This gap between his age and his abilities is continually growing. He see's other 10 year old's doing things and he wants to as well, not realizing he doesn't have the mental or physical capacity to perform the same activities. Letting him try and fail, doesn't work due to a lack of cause and effect. 

We tried different kits including electronic connectors and Lego kits but he cannot follow the directions. Helping him build something doesn't turn out so well either as he has his own idea's about how things should work and gets upset when you tell him differently.

Recently he has been recalling things Tristan did when he was 10 years old. Unfortunately, he has a surprisingly accurate memory in this area and deems it unfair when we do not allow him the same privileges and responsibilities. In light of that, we have really begun hammering the fact that age does not equal privilege, rather responsibility does. So when Tristan was dreaming of the day he can get his drivers license, Dean reminded him, and all his siblings who were listening in, that just because you are legally old enough to drive does not mean you will get a license. We have to trust that you will obey the rules, drive safe and make good choices, before we will take you for your license. The phrases, obey the rules and make good choices are ones our middle two children are well acquainted with. Our hope is that, if we continue drilling this concept maybe by the time they reach the age where their peers are getting more responsibilities, it won't come as quite a shock that mom and dad aren't suddenly going to give them the freedom they so greatly anticipate.

Thankfully, I know this phase will pass as they always do, but in the meantime we will batten down the hatches, wait for the storm to pass and hope the damages aren't too great, while hoping against hope that some of what we are attempting to teach sticks! 

I would love to hear how you help your child cope with the gap between his age and the privileges other children his age have.

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