Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How odd he is

Exhibit A:
Frankie is still obsessed with W*rld of W*rcraft. When he isn't playing it he is talking about it or reading about it. I mean really. If you start a conversation about something else he will talk about that, at least for a while. If you pause though he will probably say something like, "I want to get my character new armour. What do you call those things that over the bottom of your leg, but not the top?"

Now being 15 or 10 and obsessed with a video game is not outside the normal range of behavior.
But the combination of being obsessed with it, being really bad at it and not getting better even though he keeps playing is mystifying to me. I have trouble understanding how the obsession continues when he does poorly.

This is what happens: he creates a character who has strengths in the areas that he previous character did not.* He then goes out on his own, perceiving that none of the other characters like him, and hunts down beasties. He spends his money recklessly, takes on beasties he is not strong enough to defeat, and ends up with a character who is low on health and has no money. This character having failed him, he deletes it and creates a new one.

And makes the same sort of mistakes again.

And again.

This is called "perseverating," right?

It's just odd, especially since he doesn't seem to be having a great deal of fun, at least while he is playing. When he is playing he seems mostly frustrated. When he is not he is very excited about whatever he plans on doing next time.

Exhibit B:
His motor skills are horrible. He could trip over air. He holds implements in what my mother used to call the "shovel grip." It means of course that he has to use his whole arm to get food from his plate to his mouth, but it isn't something that I have been concerned to correct.

But yesterday I made soup for dinner. Frankie was very excited about the "homemade noodles" (direct from the local grocery store freezer). He cupped his bowl in his left hand, scooped soup with the ladle with his right, and then poured hot soup all over the bowl and his hand. The ladle probably holds about a cup, and only a few tablespoons landed in the bowl.

Fortunately the soup had been off the burner for a while, so it was not scalding hot. It did hurt though. He yelled, "ouch."

And then he did it again.

He did not seem to take a moment to think about it. If he changed his grip or speed or anything about how he did it, I could not see it. He got the same results. On the third scoop, after cheerfully refusing my assistance, he managed to get mostly noodles and very little broth into the ladle and most of those landed in the bowl. Pleased with his success he carried the bowl off and ate his noodles.

He's just such an odd duck. So lacking in the abilities that he needs and so cheerful.

Most of the time.

Is this FASD? Low IQ? ADD?

And I know in some ways it just doesn't matter, because whatever the cause, it is Frankie.

But I can't help wondering.

*For those who don't play WoW or live with those who do, you get to choose what race (human, elf, troll, etc.) you want to be and what occupation (mage, warrior, etc) you want. Each sort of character has different strengths and weakness. You can be good at healing yourself or others, good at casting spells, good at fighting, but no character is good at everything. I'm sure Maerlowe can explain it better and more completely!


  1. I have a son with Asperger's. A lot of what you describe resonates with a spectrum type disorder. But then, my daughter has RADS and sometimes her behavior is very like spectrum disorders...

    Found you from a link on Dawn's LJ

  2. You know, all the behaviors of the alphabet soup diagnoses overlap each other so it's hard to say. Slugger does this type of thing, too. He loves that buttery-flavored spray stuff and has squirted himself in the face on a number of occasions. The only difference is Slugger doesn't remain cheerful when he makes a mistake. He gets disproportionately down on himself and says things like "I'm so stupid" and "Why did I even dooo that"

  3. Anonymous4:36 PM

    your agency pays for lots of stuff; have you considered some sort of OT or PT?
    homeschooling ema

  4. That soup example is so my A! Then she would have a conversation with herself about it. "Oh" "Okay" "I spilled it."

    She was so clumsy and unable to perform athletically AT ALL that we had her evaluated and she passed just fine. We figure that in a controlled environment she is okay, but having to think about say, running and the direction of the running is too much. She has slowly, over the course of a year gotten much more coordinated. Enough to ride a bike even (although we don't let her out of the driveway yet!).

    I still don't know what her "issue" is, but neither do any of the "professionals".

  5. Serious lack of cause and effect thinking. I wonder if there are some cognitive exercises you could do with him to help him? Kind of like choose your own adventure, Frankie style! Hmm, now you have me thinking. How about this? Footprints, lifesize, bunches of them. Then a path through out the house, where he would choose which way to go, each choice leading to a different outcome? Perhaps it would give him a way to physically get the "message" about choosing things. Good luck dear!

  6. Anonymous7:29 PM


    The motor skills thing sounds like what I had. The gross and fine motor centers of my brain were damaged in utero (through no fault of anyone, just a development flaw.) I went to a clinic to retrain another area of my brain starting when I was about 8 until I was approximately 14. The clinic had me do things as silly as play games like "hungry, hungry hippos", and bouncing around on a hippity hop ball. They had me work at home with the original Nintendo system, by playing games that were good for my hand-eye coordination, things like Super Mario Brothers and the original Duck Hunt game. I was terrible at the games and I would get incredibly frustrated, but I kept at it, and while it would take a day to develop the skills for the game for a normal person it would take me weeks into months. But I persisted, just like Frankie is currently with W*OW

    All of that really helped, and as an adult, I seamlessly use a different part of my brain to handle motor skills. While it took until I was 26 to try and learn to ride a bicycle, I can do just about anything that everyone else can do. I do still trip over air, but I can laugh that off. You may want to talk to the agency about having Frankie's motor skills appraised. It might end up that OT would help him.


  7. Elcie had problems with eating, writing, etc. when she was little. Therapy corrected most of it. Of course he's older; for her it was mostly game playing but it worked.

    As for the games, I don't know. Is it too simplistic to think maybe he doesn't want to be the only kid in the universe who doesn't play W of the W?

  8. Elise7:53 AM

    Hi there. I've been following your foster care journey for a while, but have never commented. For some reason, Frankie's story has really touched me. I have a brother who is completely obsessed with on-line gaming (he's 34). For him it's a mechanism for escaping reality. He has a very difficult time dealing with truth and consequences (we grew up in an alcoholic household) and I think that gaming was a way for him to control his environment.

    When you describe Frankie as going off on his own to "hunt beasties" rather than interacting with other characters, it seems like he's playing out his everyday existence through the game. But unlike real life, no matter how bad he is at the game, he continually gets to start fresh with a new character. Until he develops awareness that his behavior needs to change in order the get a different outcome the result will always be the same. I bet if he had to play the same character every time he would lose interest very quickly.

    He seems like a lovely kid, good luck.


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