Friday, 4 May 2018

Fortnite guilt


Anthony is a nearly ten year old boy with autism who has never told a lie, ever. The 'best' he's done is go silent when asked something he doesn't want to admit to. So, obviously, this doesn't mean he has never done anything wrong. And it doesn't mean that he's never felt guilty either.  The latest guilt came games.  Well just one really, a game of Fortnite.

Fornite, is one of Anthony's special interests at the moment. It's an online game we play on the PS4. I say 'we' because although Anthony doesn't play, I do and he's actively involved in 'our' game. Special interests are very common with autism.

As Ambitious About Autism say, 'people with autism tend to be more all-or-nothing than most people: something is either absolutely not interesting or absolutely fascinating.' An obsession is a special interest taking over your life or your ability to function due to an inability to stop thinking about or doing your obsession.

Fortnite could be considered being just on this border at the moment and it was this game that led to one of Anthony's few experiences of guilt. Usually Anthony only watches me play the game. There is no microphone, Anthony's can't let anything slip via the online persona that is actually his father's login. But we are very clear that he must be careful about what he does online. This allows some control for us.

Sometimes I can be in the other room and then Anthony is to watch 'replays' of our best games.  We don't have many, I only started playing last month, and so far I've only clocked up two squad wins. Hey, I'm a nearly 40 mumma of three, two of whom have additional needs, so that's not a terrible score right?

Anyways, he's allowed to watch replays  and go through the menu with certain restrictions. One of these restrictions is that Anthony is not allowed to spend the game 'v-bucks' without asking his dad. So, if his dad isn't there, then Anthony and I have to wait if that's what we want to do.

Last week this proved to difficult and when asked to come through for dinner Anthony burst into tears. It took me a while to work out that Anthony wasn't crying because he'd accidentally spent his game bucks. He was upset because he was having difficulty reconciling the fact that he had chosen to spend the game v-bucks despite knowing he shouldn't.  That dance upgrade was too enticing I guess.

My son cried for nearly an hour. Then had his dinner and then started crying again. At one point I thought we weren't going to get him to stop crying in order to get him to eat. His whole concern was about how sad and disappointed his dad was going to be.

It's interesting that Anthony would get so upset by this. He barely blinks when he does some other things that 'disappoint' us like for example hurting his sister, or not trying to do homework. And he definitely shows no guilt for all the people we blast in the game (though those in squads that aren't good team players get quite the earful at our end).  I think it's one of the few times he's really felt guilty about something.

I'd tried several strategies and then finally told Anthony a story from when I was a little girl and did something similar and how I felt about the fact that it had upset my parents. Anthony was mesmerised and calmed down.

In many ways I think this shows Anthony maturing. He has always struggled with interpreting his own and others feelings. My heart when out to him. Feeling guilty is awful, but in some way I'm pleased that he's been able to achieve this milestone and that I was allowed to work through it with him.

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What is Autism?
It's so much I couldn't possibly try and explain. For us it's wonderful and heart-breaking. Joyous and truthful. But as far as diagnosis is concerned, why not have a look at the National Autistic Society for their definition of Autism.
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