Labels, a video game a movie and summer holidays

For a couple of months last year my then 8yo son had an obsession with inventing a new video game. He expected to be able to dictate to me over my shoulder for a few hours on our home computer and ‘voila!’ we would have a brand new highly functioning, multi level, multi platform video game to distribute to the market at large. Then he wanted to be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest child to create a video game.

A few things came out of that process – firstly,  now I understand what all the ‘created by’ credits are on the television shows I watch. They are the people that walk around the room spouting the ideas that everyone else writes down, puts into scripts and and and and …. that eventually ends up as a finished product. Look in the future for ‘created by’ credits from said son.

The second was, after googling ‘how to create video games’, walking him through the process of story boarding, character and plot development and creation. I thought that as he has quite a capacity for understanding things this would help him realise that it wasn’t going to take a day or so – it would take significantly longer (even more so if he was relying on his mother to be the game coder).  We did progress slowly through the process – one day I came home to find him directing his father on the story board side – stretching his power point skills significantly and not yet meeting with approval from the ‘creative’.

It was relentless, at school pick up he would want to run through things in the car on the way home, after homework time when he had his one hour of his chosen electronic device he would throw ideas at me as he was walking around playing, at the dinner table, at bath and bed time. All ideas for his game, I would gently continue to remind him of the full process as he was reminding me to call video game distributors to discuss terms. It became too much for him when he thought I was trying to talk him out of it, which to be honest I probably was. What I thought I was doing was setting realistic expectations for him.

‘You’re just trying to crush all my dreams’

Not what a parent wants to hear –  and not when said with such emotion and despair.  Parenting is a precarious process for which there are really no guidebooks, training or licensing. Hands up who now regrets not having a year or two of child psychology thrown into their post school education?  I bet I’m not the only one.

He is a fan of dramatic words and phrases

When teaching him how to ride a bike ‘This is a ridiculous vehicle, you are trying to kill me, I am your only son and you obviously don’t want one’

Christmas morning  2011 at 5.15am ‘Mum, there is no way I can make it to 7am, the anticipatory excitement is killing me’

A new chocolate ‘Have one of these, your taste buds with explode with astonishment’

And later – same chocolates ‘I’m exploring my teeth for some tasty toffee morsels’

Our son turned 9 years old yesterday and has a diagnosis of Aspergers and ADHD.  While we’re talking labels he is also a TCK (Third Culture Kid)  meaning every few years we pack him up and move him to a new country, he’s on his third one right now.

The fact that he has these labels is partly helpful and partly difficult and sometimes confronting, like when his diagnosis had to be included on the medical forms that were submitted as part of our recent visa extension application.

Not long ago on Twitter I read something that resonated with me “High functioning autism means your deficits are ignored & low functioning means your assets are ignored”

In many ways he is like any other little 9 year old boy and for those that meet him casually and from time to time may not see anything ‘different’ about him. In fact I am sure that some of my family and friends often think I am overstating the issues when I talk about him.

People have said to me

‘Won’t he grow out of it?’ – Umm no

‘But he looks fine’ – Yes he does

‘He’s so handsome, he will be alright’. – I can never disagree with the handsome part, I am his mother after all, but being handsome won’t help him suddenly discover an understanding of when to stop talking about his favourite video games or stop the pacing and arm twisting while walking on his toes that relaxes him when his mind is racing.

Even in our parenting we often impose NT (neurotypical – luckily there are labels for the rest of us too) solutions to behavioral issues that most likely require a different approach, because sometimes its hard for us too, to know what to do. In these cases parent and child are often bewildered as to what has happened and what not to do in the future and sometimes we end up right back where we started. We’re all learning together.

2011 was such a big year for him, he made amazing progress at school in both his written work and his social skills, mostly due to the amazing teacher’s assistant that worked with him each morning. He now has friends in his class and just last week had his first sleep over at a school friend’s house, whose parents we don’t know very well. It was a success *cue sigh of relief*

During the recent summer break (7 weeks) my mother told me to try and enjoy the school holidays rather than resent them. As a former full time worker moved to full time parenting with the last country change, school holidays and I are still coming to terms with each other.  I decided to try to take her advice and embrace rather than rail against each day as it came – I had a mixed bag but I worked hard on not crushing dreams.

Samurai versus Zombies - Level 1

We reinstated the video game development, we are only up to Level 1 (apparently there will be 10) but all characters have been developed by the creator himself after we watched some you tube videos together on how to use the tool we found to make a simple game. Time has given a perspective that allows him to see we cannot get from a to z in a day or two.

We are also in post production on a horror movie, which he created and scripted and included in the cast his sister WAFYO (the world’s angriest five year old – more on her another time). We just need to find the right scary music as its an old style movie – music and no words. It didn’t all follow the original plan as we had to change the cast at the last minute but most of the key players were involved and I was very happy to be mentioned more than once (unrequested) in the credits page.

The film credits page - some names deleted to protect those actors who are underage starring in horror films

18 months ago the school wanted him to move to a keyboard because he wasn’t progressing with his writing, now he is writing for fun.

After recently watching an episode of Top Gear with a hypnotist on it, our next assignment is to study hypnosis, the list of things he intends to get people to do is intriguing to say the least – tips anyone?

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22 responses to “Labels, a video game a movie and summer holidays

  1. Tears. You are amazing and he is freaking incredible. xxxx

  2. Never ever a dull moment in parenting! It sounds like Z is thriving and I applaud your patience and diligence in learning how to “write a video game”. Well done. I’ve had to take an interest in birding. Well put. Thanks for sharing.

    • Stephanie – a lot left to learn in the coding game I’m afraid – still a very early beginner. Good luck with the birding, sounds like an interesting one.

  3. Nikki, i just love this and aspire to be this pro-active in my children’s lives. Seriously Z has done good to have a mum like you…
    You are not ‘crushing dreams’, you are helping your son to achieve his potential, which (I would like to add) will most probably far surpass those of his current peers! So keep at it Super-mum, and when Z makes his first million on his blockbuster video game/movie/hypnotic influence, he will be sure to remember all that his mum did for him!

  4. I am so glad you finally got that post out. An amazing post, an extraordinary boy and mum. Deserves to be read far and wide.
    Michelle xx

    • It was sitting in my drafts for sometime I have to admit, a few things recently prompted me to push the button. Deep breaths. Thanks for the encouragement. I really appreciate it.

  5. I would love to play a level of samurai vs zombies! Can I choose which character I am going to be?

  6. hmm – only those four at the moment – will let you know when we get names for them and you can choose then ;)

  7. Wow. I came here in search for an expat blog and I found much more. Despite any labels or difficulties he seems to be progressing incredibly well. I think it is so cute and cool that he wants to do the video game so badly and you are working so hard to help him with it, while teaching him a lot about how things work and how much time things take. That is an important lesson. Great post, great family. Looking forward to reading more- going to go explore the rest of your blog!

    • That’s why its called ‘Random Thoughts….’ ;) there are some very random ones here. Thanks for stopping by – I assure you there are many more relevant ‘expat’ posts if you look a bit further in.

  8. Tears. So proud of you all and love you soooooo much. Mum xxxx

  9. Beautiful. He’s a lucky boy to have you. And you’re a lucky mum to have him!
    I’ve had ‘Thanks for crushing my dreams, Mum’ from one of my NT boys, too. It did cause me to reflect and change my attitude.

    • The crushing my dreams comment had a follow up ‘you take all my great ideas and make them into silly baby ones’ – the combination really hit home. Thank you for the comment – I enjoy so much reading all the things you write and have a heavily marked copy of the Australian Autism Handbook.

  10. He picked the perfect Mother! You are amazing!

  11. I can’t remember the last time a tear rolled down my cheek. Truly awesome.

  12. three interesting boys

    I have goosebumps. You have just described my 9 year old. We have storyboards for ‘the game’ in piles all over our house and we have tried to follow the “you tube” instructions but it just doesn’t happen as fast as the brain is ticking with new ideas. School is such an interruption and he is always getting chatted for discussing or drawing the latest improvements to “the game”. He has managed to get some friends seeing his vision and they are sooo keen to get it happening. Last week he wrote a movie and proceded to hand scripts out at school and informed us that the filming would take place at our place that weekend, which it did. He was not at all impressed with the results so I then had a crash course in video editing and we have ended up with a movie he is happy with (although nobody has any clean clothes). Whilst we do not have a label there are a lot of question marks and his 19 year old brother shares the same diagnosis as you son. I can speak with experience in saying that when they are old enough to follow there dreams things they usually do and are much happier people. Loved you story.

    • Thank you so much! I am now finding that there are so many parents also in the first stages of their game coding or movie editing careers, sometimes I feel like we are alone in the process and wonder where its all heading. It is so lovely to hear from people who are also going through it – and are even further progressed. Your words about being older and able to follow their dreams – making them happier people are so inspiring for me. x

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