Autism and Pokemon

Autism and Pokemon

Something that myself and Jack have wanted to do for a while, is a post about Pokemon. I’ve not been sure how to do it, but decided to look at the relationship between autism and Pokemon in general. And look specifically at Jacks complete Pokemon obsession. The cartoon itself and the games are obviously fun, I am just about young enough, to remember when the cartoon first came out in the UK.

I enjoyed it at the time, but soon grew out of it and didn’t collect the cards or anything like that. A fun fact that I only learned recently is, the creator of Pokemon Satoshi Tajiri is autistic. The idea for Pokemon came from his obsession as a child for collecting bugs, and playing video games.

Pokemon Go

The real game changer though, was when the Pokemon Go came out in 2016. It was a big craze when it came out, but has calmed down to the big Pokemon fans. The good thing about the game for an autistic person like Jack, is it encouraged getting out in the fresh air and exercise.

Getting Jack to go for a walk wasn’t easy, now he can’t get out the house fast enough, so he can catch Pokemon. Also there’s the social side to it, if you don’t know the game. There is a need to have in game “friends” to complete tasks and compete in raids. I joined a local group (I have my own game account) so I could do this with Jack. Then there’s the conversation topic, if anyone mentions Pokemon (or even if they don’t) Jack can talk all day about it.

I have to say I enjoy our walks “Pokemon hunting” as Jack calls it, we have spent many hours out there catching or battling Pokemon. It has been fun, but it is something Jack takes very seriously. Jack has trouble distinguishing what is real and what is fiction, and a game like Pokemon Go blurs the line even more. That is what I want to talk about next regarding autism and Pokemon.

Jack’s Pokemon obsession

Autism and pokemon

Anyone who has ever met Jack, very quickly gets introduced to his “obsessions”. The 4 main ones are Pokemon, Minecraft, Secure Contain Protect and Lego. He will try and start a conversation about these things with anyone he meets. Which can be interesting when you’re stood in the queue at Tesco.

Currently he spends a lot of his time playing Pokemon Go, or various Pokemon games on his Nintendo Switch. He is determined to collect all of the possible Pokemon, and become the greatest Pokemon trainer who ever lived. It’s all good fun, but when people talk to him about it, they often don’t realise it’s not “just a game” to Jack. Saying that gets Jack very frustrated, to him his Pokemon are very real. Being able to tell the difference between reality and fiction. Is one of the big issues we face with Jack, and his ability to be independent at the moment.

Jack recently told he wants to travel the world to research all the Pokemon. A fun idea of course, but how to you make that a reality? I’m in a difficult place at the moment. Should I be trying to get him to see things from the “real world” perspective? Is that even possible for him? Should I just let him live in his fantasy world? Sometimes I wish I could live there. It’s so difficult to know what to do, as Jack also talks about wanting to get a job, have a girlfriend, get married and have a family. Some autistic people are able to function in the “norm”’of society, and some cant and need to be looked after their whole life. We still don’t know with Jack, it’s like he’s in a grey area in the middle at the moment.

Getting creative

Autism and pokemon is all about creativity, and it’s not just computer games and watching TV. Jack uses Pokemon to express his creative side as well. He is really excited to show you what he has been making, and we will start with his homemade Poke balls.

Jacks got some polystyrene balls, and decorated them using markers to looks like poke balls. The other thing he has been doing, is making his Pokemon book. Which is a a4 lined pad, which he is putting in Pokemon related stuff. Like drawing and colourings. It’s still very much a work in progress, and he is having fun doing it.

book

That’s all from this post on autism and Pokemon, the subject will undoubtedly pop up again at some point. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Cardboard box Dog House

Cardboard box Dog House

Today I finally get to show of some of Jack’s creativity, which doesn’t involve technology. He has made a cardboard box dog house, for his stuffed dog Jasper. I’m really pleased to finally have something to show from Jack, as there’s a lot more stuff from Lily on here at the moment. As she is always busy making things, whereas Jack has to be in the right mood for it.

When Jack makes something, it can’t just be your average “normal” thing. This dog house comes with pizza walls and floor. The reason being his 3 stuffed dogs he has with him at all times. Known as the Snuggly’s, that you can read more about in this post by clicking here. They don’t eat dog food, they eat pizza. So Jack wanted to make sure Jasper always has plenty of pizza to eat. A very caring thought! I wouldn’t mind a permanent supply of pizza myself.

Cardboard box dog house

Making the dog house

This is a really simple thing to make, Jack just used a old cardboard box. Then for the pizza, paper plates and red and yellow crepe paper. Cut pizza slices out and stick to the walls. He also did a lovely drawing of Jasper, which you can see inside the dog house. Then he made a sign for the top of the dog house that says “Jaspizza”.

Dog house sign

Can you see the Jasper drawing? Purposely placed in that last photo by Jack, to show how cheeky Jasper is. This is a fun little glimpse into the mind creative mind of Jack, that I just wanted to share with you all. As well as this cardboard box dog house, Jack has been working on lots of Pokemon stuff, that will be coming in a post very soon. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Interview with an Autistic Child

Interview with an Autistic Child

One of the things I find most difficult to try and explain to people, is what it is like trying to hold a conversation with my son Jack. That’s where the inspiration for, interview with an autistic child came from. Nothing I could ever write, could capture Jack’s personality and his “autism” as this has. Me talking will be in bold, and inside Jack’s answers there will be comments from me, these will appear in brackets and italic, to be easily distinguished. I apologise if it gets a bit confusing, but that is kind of the point of this hah.

I explained to Jack what we were doing, and what it was for before we stared. He was very happy to do it, indicated by the huge grin on his face. Jack loves showing off, and as with most kids these days it seems. He wants to be famous online, YouTube, TikTok etc. So jumps at any chance to be part of this blog. So let’s get on with the interview.

Interview with an autistic child
Jack training to be a ninja

What is your name?

You know.

Yeah, but what is it?

Jack. That’s a dumb question you know.

How old are you?

You know.

I know, but the people reading don’t. So you need to tell them (-pause-)how old are you?

I told you, you dummy.

No you didn’t.

What? You know, come on.

Yes, but you need to answer the question for the readers.

(At this point Jack is giving me a funny look, so I whisper to him 12 and he nods his head and we move on.)

Who do you live with?

You know, dumbass. (You might have noticed there’s a trend to Jacks answers.)

I know. But you need to answer for the people reading, remember? Because they don’t know.

Guess who’s over you’re head?

(At this point Jack has put one of his favourite teddy’s on my head, and wants me to guess which one it is. If you aren’t aware of the snuggly’s you can read about them by clicking here. A little panda has been added to the gang, so we went through this 4 times before I repeated the question.)

You know dummy. You say them I will nod.

Mummy (Jack nods), Daddy (Jack nods), Lily (Jack nods), anyone else? Biscuit. (Result! An independent answer!! Biscuit is our pet guinea pig.) And you know who else? Who? The Snuggly’s (You can never forget the Snuggly’s.)

Do you like going to school?

Yes. (That’s all Jack had to say about that.)

Do you have friends at school?

(Jack nods his head.)

What are their names?

(We have to wait for a minute, as Jack wants me to watch something that happens in PokeMon, that is on the TV.)
Jimmy, Alfie, Bonnie, Jack, Dawid, Jacob.

What are your favourite things?

(Jack points at the TV for Pokemon.) Minecraft, SCP’s don’t forget about that.

Anything else?

That’s all I can think of.

What about dogs?

Yes. (Jack nods his head and makes dog noises).

What do you want to do when you grow up?

I don’t know. I’m already a Pokemon trainer, I want to become a Pokemon master.

Thoughts on the interview

That is the interview with an autistic child brought to you by myself and Jack. Some of the key things, that I believe it shows far better than I could ever try and explain are. Just a simple question, isn’t so simple. If Jack knows you already know the answer, he just doesn’t see why he needs to tell you.

Staying focused is a difficulty, the TV was a distraction, but it would have been worse without it. The TV in the background actually helps Jack to focus. Without it, he would have been up and out of his seat within a minute.

Jack’s understanding is limited, and he needs a lot of prompting to help him give answers. He wants you to answer for him, why exactly i’m not sure. Perhaps it’s to do with anxiety. But as he proved a couple of times, he can give answers independently sometimes.

One of the big things comes in the last question, and is something I will do in more detail in a future post. Jack can’t differentiate between reality and fiction, to him Pokemon are real. He is a Pokémon trainer, and he wants to travel the world catching Pokémon.

I hope this gave a little insight into how Jack works, and also how we work with him. 7 fairly simple questions that took a lot more effort to get through than what would be perceived as “normal”. I think that sums up well, what life is like for autistic people and those that care for them. Thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Autism and Minecraft

Autism and Minecraft

The first time I ever heard of Minecraft was when Jack asked to have the game. I had no idea of the strong links between autism and minecraft. A quick google of autism and Minecraft will bring up lots of results. It seems to be something that attracts some autistic people, and as is often the case. Once it becomes a special interest, it becomes an obsession.

Minecraft is even being used in therapies, to help autistic children learn things like social skills. You can apply for a specialised server for autistic people, called AutCraft, which is said to be a safe haven for autistic children to play Minecraft. Jack just plays on Minecraft normally, and it’s for fun.

The joy of building something

When you successfully build something, it gives you such a great feeling. No matter what it is, big or small, you still get that feeling of achievement. I talked about how Lego provides that for Jack in “Is Lego good for autistic children”, click the link if you haven’t read that post before.

Of course with Lego you are restricted to what you can make. In the computerised world of Minecraft the possibilities are practically endless. You can go wherever your imagination takes you. 

Using Minecraft to express feelings

The other day Jack was very excited to show me a laboratory he made. He then told me he had the coronavirus inside it and was working on a cure.

on top of the coronavirus lab

I actually felt quite emotional and proud that he was thinking of doing that. He has found it difficult to understand, what is going on in the world right now. Trying to express his own feelings on the matter, hasn’t been easy either.  We have spent a lot of time of time, trying to learnt what Jack is trying to say to us, when he is unable to do it directly.

This was Jacks way of showing us he is worried about the coronavirus, and wants there to be a cure found. So that everything can go back to normal. When he does something like this, it gives us the opportunity to ask questions about a subject he doesn’t like to talk about. 

He won’t communicate about a subject he is anxious about, and if you try and force the issue he’s even less likely to talk. This was showing us he was ready to talk about the coronavirus. Only a few questions, with short answers and nods of the head. But enough for us to get an understand of how anxious and worried he is feeling, and now he knows we know.

Jack’s favourite builds

That was an example of how autism and Minecraft work, to help an autistic child communicate with his parents. Let’s finish with something more fun. I’ve asked Jack to share with you, the favourite things he has built on Minecraft.

Some of the favourite things he has built include, Freddy Fazbears Pizzeria, a nether portal, and the Kanto region in Pokemon.

His absolute favourite is the SCP 250 foundation facility. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means, I don’t really either. Here is a brief explanation of what SCP is.


You can click here if you want to find out more about it. There’s a couple of pictures below to showing the facility that Jack has made.

Minecraft & autism
Full facility

an SCP in its containment pod

There have been a lot of posts involving Lily recently, so it was fun for me to get Jack involved again. For those of you out there who’s kids like playing on Minecraft, or even you yourself. What do you enjoy building on there. We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

Dad Does Autism

Easy to understand Online safety social story

Easy to understand Online safety social story

Keeping your children safe online, is something all parents have to think about these days. We were given a easy to understand online safety social story by Jack’s School. I believe in giving Jack as much freedom as we possibly can. About a year ago we ran into some problems online, with Jack using TikTok.

If you are not aware of TikTok, it is a social video sharing app. Jack discovered it and became obsessed with making videos. He does all sorts of stuff with the videos, adding music, filters and stuff beyond what I know how to do. I personally think it is a great creative outlet for him, and encourage him to work on his videos. Here is an an example of the type of things he does.


Message problems


The problems came with it being a social media app, meaning you could message people. Something Jack wanted to do. You can turn messages off, which is what we did, but it didn’t take Jack long to figure out how to turn them back on.

The problem with Jack messaging people is his lack of understanding of how the real world works. If someone tells Jack they are his friend, he will believe that without question. That obviously has massive safety implications. Jack also can’t separate reality from fantasy. He would think something he watched in a movie was real life.

We have made some slow progress trying to explain these things to him. He has acknowledged these things when talking to him, but it’s difficult to know if he’s saying things just to shut Mum and Dad up. Jack has learned how to say things, to be able to get what he wants. We had problems explaining this to school at first, but they’ve seen it now. Jack is very clever at getting what he wants.

a different type of video

Jack’s trouble with social interaction

The other problem that Jack has in all walks of life. Is people see this 6 foot tall, well built person and think he is a lot older than he is. Add the fact his understanding levels are less than his age. This leaves a massive gap between what people expect of him and what he can actually do. Although his autistic traits are becoming more profound with age. It is not always obvious to people that Jack is “different”, until he speaks. With new people or someone you bump into out and about. Jack’s anxiety means he can get flustered and mix up his words.

When he talks to people, the conversation can be very one way, unless you know him well. Then you might be able to get a two-way conversation out of him, but only if Jack is willing. So when we found he had been messaging people, what we found was Jack bombarding people with talk about a subject. Often annoying the other person, as he wouldn’t stop.

Easy to understand online safety social story

We talked with school about the issue, and they worked on it at school and provided us with a social story. We now make our own using Twinkl, which is a website I highly recommend. I wanted Jack to still be able to make his videos. It is a great creative outlet for him, and something he really enjoys. But we had to make sure it was in a safe environment, so we went through the social story with him.

Online safety social
Story part 1
Online social story part 2

We took the step of deleting TikTok from Jacks phone, and made it so he couldn’t sign back into it. Unsurprisingly Jack wasn’t happy about this, but we came up with a solution that Jack has accepted. I have the TikTok app on my phone, and he is allowed to use it as long as we see what he’s made before he posts it. To be honest I enjoy watching the videos anyway. Also the messages have to stay turned off.

He asks to have it back on his own phone every now and then, but that’s not happening yet. It does mean I have to give up my phone when he wants to make videos, but I can live with that.

Conclusion

I know what you let your children do online and with technology is a divisive subject. It is an area where Jack thrives and even excels, in a world where he struggles with so many things. For that reason I encourage him in the area as much as possible, but of course always wanting to keep him as safe as possible. That was one of the reasons why this blog was started, to give him a platform where we can do stuff together. Something he is really excited about, and why we have the Jack’s documents section on the website. It’s important to have fun and be creative, but you always have to stay safe at the same time.

Dad Does Autism

Jack introduces the T Rex

Jack introduces the T Rex

For those who have been following the blog. Here is Jacks Document, where Jack introduces the T Rex. He sat with me and we wrote notes down of what he wanted it to say. Using the power of google for some facts. So here we go.

T REX

Full Name: Tyrannosaurus Rex

(Also goes by the name King of the Jungle. Which is what Jack likes to call it.)

Jack introduces the t rex

T Rex lived during the Cretaceous Period, 68-66 million years ago. This was know as the Maastrichtian age, and were the last years of the Cretaceous Period. Before the Paleogene period started. They lived on an island continent known as Laramidia, which is the area now known as western North America.

They belonged to the Theropod group of dinosaurs, and were part of the Tyrannosaurids family. These were primarily large predators just like the T Rex. (Jack says that means they eat meat)

T Rex has been measured as high as 12 metres tall, and estimated to weigh up to 14 tonnes. Although other theropod dinosaurs were bigger. It is estimated that T Rex exerted the strongest bite force among all terrestrial animals. This is what has led to its fame, and use in movies and other media. (Jack says his big head and massive jaw is what makes T Rex cool)

One of its most obvious features, are it’s big legs and little arms. (Jack thinks it’s arms look funny)T Rex was the last known member of the tyrannosaurids, and among the last non-avian dinosaurs to exist before the Creraceous-Paleogene extinction event.

This could explain why recent theories have suggested T Rex might have had feathers. Experts appear to be split on this matter. (Jack thinks that some had feather and some didn’t)

A question

Jack would like to finish with a question. He would like to know what everybody’s favourite dinosaur is? He wants to know what the most popular dinosaur is. Leave your answer in the comments. Jack is looking forward to seeing them.

Introducing the Snuggly’s

Introducing the Snuggly’s

Introducing the snuggly’s
Jasper, Fortnite, Minecraft

Jack has been very keen for me to put the Snuggly’s on my website, he would tell you THEY have been very excited for it. So this post is about introducing the Snuggly’s to you. As you can see in the photo above, the Snuggly’s are three stuffed dogs. From left to right we have, Jasper, Fortnite and Minecraft or Crafty for short. 

Jack has always liked his teddy’s. But two years ago Lily had a birthday party at Build a Bears. Jack didn’t want to go, but because Lily didn’t want Jack to miss out on a bear. We said she could make one for Jack. That was Minecraft the Dog. It started something we never expected.We hoped he would like his dog, it turned out that he absolutely loved it.

Family Pets

He is desperate for a real dog, but that is not possible in the house that we are currently renting. So we got some Guinea Pigs instead, they are called Buffy and Biscuit. We had another one called Fluffy who sadly died. Both children love the Guinea Pigs, but they are not as fun as a dog.

Biscuit & Buffy fighting over a green bean

I had a dog when I lived at home, which stayed with my parents when I moved out. He was a Border Collie named Dylan, and Jack really liked him and formed a great bond with him as a small child. Dylan was very playful, and enjoyed lots of fuss. So he was perfect for Jack, who being the first child from me or my brother, and also going to school several miles away from home. Never really had anyone to play with. He was very upset when he died a couple of years ago. Last year my parents got another Border Collie called Mack. Both Jack & Lily love Mack, he’s just as playful and enjoys Justin’s much fuss as Dylan did. He will pop up in my posts regularly.

Introducing the Snuggly’s


The importance of Jack’s relationship with the dogs, (which you can read more about in my post – Are dogs good for autistic children?) is it shows his want for companionship. He has a nice friendship group at school, but due to him having to travel 20 miles to school. Due to that being the closest one that was suitable, after he was excluded from his first school (Our Special School horror story, explains that if you don’t know the story). Outside of school he doesn’t have any friends, apart from one child he sees at the place he goes for over night respite. He will play with Lily sometimes, but I know he feels lonely and wants more friends.

Back to introducing Snuggly’s. Jack is pretty much never parted from his 3 dogs, he takes them everywhere. He takes them to school everyday. They go with him to respite, and whenever we go out. To him they are like his comfort blanket, he feels safe and like he’s not alone when he has them. He did forget to take them on a respite outing once, and 10 minutes later he was back to get them.

At school


At school they have become like the class mascot. When we visited the classroom during the Christmas fair, the dogs were out and about all over the classroom. One of his friends even painted this picture of them for him, which was really nice.

One time Fortnite’s ear got damaged, which Jack was a bit upset about. Jack is in a class of 6 or 7 very boisterous boys, so accidents happen. He accepted it was an accident, and after his Gran fixed the ear. Jack continued to take them to school, which was really good.

Interaction with his Dogs

Jack likes people to join in conversations with his dogs, which is why he’s. Happy with his classmates playing with them. Too him they need the fuss and playing which any dogs need. He likes to get you to communicate with them, 3 or 4 times an hour when I am with Jack. I will be asked how I think the Snuggly’s are? He will be holding them, getting them to jump around and wagging their tails. I always answer “they are snuggly”, and usually they get thrown to me for a snuggle.

Jack will get you to hold them, then ask them a question, and he will then expect you to answer for them. Usually it is something simple. Like “do they want to play? or “do they want a snuggle?”. Jack really enjoys these interactions, so that gave us an idea.

When Jack doesn’t want to, or can’t talk, whether that be he’s upset by a real life experience. Like when his Auntie passed away, or something has upset him from his games. Even when he’s having a meltdown. We started trying to communicate with him using his dogs. Not talking on these situations is not a choice for an autistic person, the anxiety and being unable to process his emotions. Leaves Jack unable to communicate how he would want to.

Helping to avoid meltdowns

We have had some success with this, I t’s not perfect, and it doesn’t work every time. Especially in a full scale meltdown, but he is more willing to communicate this way. They can have a calming effect on him. The key with meltdowns, as always is to recognise the triggers and get in there early. To prevent them from erupting before it’s too late, because m once he’s in full meltdown. It can be a long way back.

If you can do that. He can be distracted by his dogs and it will calm him. How long this will take, will depend on how high the anxiety and frustration has built up. To be honest I did feel a bit silly at first, I was like a ventriloquist with these 3 dogs. Trying to have very serious conversation, but acting like a bit of a clown. It’s what Jack needed though so I stuck with it.

The alternative is deep pressure, which possibly and quite often with Jack, leads to him fighting back. When he was little this was ok, but now he’s 12 and already bigger than me. I’m not small either! You need jack to be willing and compliant before you can try deep pressure, which is where the Snuggly’s come in.

Using them to get Jack to open up on difficult subjects

The really big breakthrough is getting him to communicate what is troubling him. What’s making him sad, or angry, or confused. This was done with the passing of his Auntie. When Natalie has been ill and when he has been unhappy. Both at home and at school we needed something, because we’d spent years with nothing really working.

This can be done either way. I started using the dogs to ask the questions, Jack would sometimes answer. Even if it was only with a nod or shake of the head for yes and no. Occasionally we have managed to get more out of him, but just getting the yes and no answers is a big step.

A lot of Jacks problems in the past we believe have been through frustration of not being able to communicate what he’s feeling. He is verbal, but uses a lot of echolalia. So what he’s understanding and what he’s able to say, are poles apart. To be able to find out his feelings, we need to be able to ask the right questions. The dogs have given us an effective way to ask, that Jack is happy with. Now it’s just a case of asking the right questions, to find the right answers.

How school are now using them too

Jack has been having one to one psychology sessions at school. We get sent a report of each one he has and , they have made for some interesting reading. Jack wouldn’t answer their questions, buteventually he did using one of his dogs. So now that’s what he does, just like at home they ask the question, and Jack uses the dog to answer. Again mostly nods and shakes of the head.

That is all for introducing the Snuggly’s. I don’t know how common this is with autistic children. I’ve certainly not heard much about people communicating this way. If you have, or something similar I’d love to hear about it. I’m always open to new ideas, and I believe any ideas that are working should be shared far and wide. Not every idea works for everyone, but you never know which idea will be the one that works for you.

There is a Tips & Strategies section, which will contain all posts that contain that sort of information. Whether it be ideas we have used, successfully or unsuccessfully, or ideas we have heard about and are looking to use. There is a list of 15 behavioural strategies on this website, that you might find useful too.

Dad Does Autism