I don’t often write about the ‘a’ word as it gets me a little choked up before I even start… (although that said, less close to home, I will have 3 asperger kids and 1 autistic kid in my class next year which I’m excited about and eager to begin. I’ve done prep work with all of them and they’re going to be an excellent addition to my A level graphics class. 3 of them are excellent artists and I’m keen to see how the integration into a mainstream class will help unlock any inner confidence or potential).
Closer to home though, those who know my son know that he’s lovely, funny, enthusiastic and hopelessly energetic. He’s also autistic and was diagnosed at an early age because it was immediately apparent to my wife (a primary school teacher) and year on year apparent to everyone who meets him.
It’s been, and remains, a roller coaster ride. Ten years after his statement we remain in the dark about many of the best ways to work with (or around) some of his methods until, generally, after the event. His obsessions are one of the strange things (at times wonderful and at times heartbreaking. A short while ago he became convinced he had nits and, at unguarded moments would pull clumps of his hair out. That was not a easy time, amongst many non-easy times).
Two of his wonderful obsessions have dovetailed recently in a more calm and beautiful manner. He loves playing computer games but we’re mindful that some aren’t very helpful for his temper or emotional growth. Nothing with a gun gets through the first filter but some platform games have the capacity to set him off big time. Some games are brilliantly calming and whimsical (even if they are not obviously games at all): Electroplankton is fabulous and he’s enjoyed Art Academy for drawing on. We’ve tried (and so far failed but I continue regardless) with Samorost, Animal Crossing and Botanicula, but without a shadow of a doubt the biggest hit, the most closely loved by Stephen is Pikmin (1 and 2, on Gamecube and Wii).
With some games the suspension of disbelief is a problem… With Rayman 3 (another favourite) Stephen often asks how he can do the things Rayman can do.. (With the Incredibles film we had a long running issue of him wanting to go to town to buy rocket boots. Now we have the same issue with the Dolphin rocket from Pikmin. Hey ho).
The problem we now have is the same that many parents face but with the volume turned up to 11. Any shop Stephen sees that has any sort of games content becomes the new battleground. He wants to go in, buy a Wii U and Pikmin 3 out of his pocket money, and take it home now. This became more of an issue when we went to the shops to buy party food for his mum and he found a Nintendo store £15 card. That became exactly enough money to cash in for a Wii U and that became the argument for the rest of the day. Nearly every day we get a variation of the same question…
Fortunately we have some wonderful friends, and some useful skills, to distract as much as we can. The pic below contains a dolphin rocket my wife and Stephen made together. Preston, Louis and Olimar were made with felt and the caps from washing machine liquid bottles and the Pikmin themselves were needle felted by a friend. He was delighted and fell in love with them straight away. That said, what he actually did was snatch them out of our friends hand, turn around and mumble a quick ‘kyou’ but she knows Stephen of old and knew that was a pretty big thing and more thanks than he’s normally able to communicate.
So these are Stephen’s treasures. On a recent holiday club he took his folder of printed treasures and was lucky enough to have a one to one helper who drew him these pictures 🙂 She’d obviously learnt a lot about the Pikmin on the week she looked after him.
And his sister got in on the act by painting this for a Christmas present which was lovely.
Which leaves us with the one question that my wife and I, and most people who come into contact with are liable to get: when’s the Wii U coming out! His birthday money and Christmas money are all set aside, all we need is the hardware and one game in particular (although I suspect my wife is looking forward to the next Animal Crossing and I’m interested to see whether an Art Academy title is likely to come out with the console… seems a no brainer to me…)
And the second obsession? If Pikmin 1 and 2 are the first? Rubber ducks. In the game aliens name a variety of human made objects and the names are wonderful, whimsical and eccentric. A rubber duck is called ‘Rubber Ugly’ (and a separate duck head is called a ‘Paradoxical Enigma’). So not only do we have a pile of hand made Pikmin toys (and would buy a clutch of official Pikmin toys if they existed) but we also have 112 rubber ducks that get taken to various places in small groups (because we can’t keep track of them all at all times and he would know, probably immediately, if one had gone missing….)
Interesting times… But I do look forward to Pikmin 3 almost as much as he does… It’s nice to share in something that is delightful and odd and inventive and creative.