Our Journey Raising Two Children with Special Needs

This blog chronicles our life raising two children, Nicholas 15, diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome and Weston 18, diagnosed with Autism/Asperger's/ADHD. It's the ups, the downs, the joys, the sorrows and most importantly, the beauty of living a life less perfect, a life more meaningful.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Weston Takes on "The Claw"

For a child diagnosed with ADHD, the ability to wait patiently is synonymous with pulling teeth. It is physically painful.

So, things like "going out to eat" can be an extremely difficult experience for both a child and his family. Once in a while, however, we get brave and try it.

Yesterday, we visited Papa Gino's, a local pizzeria.

We ordered our food and sat at a large booth by the window.

Not surprisingly, Weston had trouble sitting still and suppressing his wiggly energy.

Accustomed to large crowds of families, with lots of wiggly children, Papa Gino's ingeniously installed one of these....

For those of you unfamiliar with this apparatus, it is called "The Claw"

As you can see from the photo, a large glass box is filled with rather cheap stuffed animals. Above these furry friends is a large metal claw that can be operated like a crane. You simply place your coins in the slot, and using the joystick, maneuver "the claw" over the desired toy. The crane drops down and squeezes the toy. The joy stick operator must now lift the claw up and swing it over to the left side of the glass box ensuring that the claw does not (for some unforeseen reason) drop the tantalizing teddy.

I do not know about you, but I have never seen anyone win one of these toys.

So, when my son Weston asked me if he could play this game, I hesitated before answering.

Hmm, I thought to myself, this is a good opportunity for him to expel some of that restless energy before we sit down to eat. On the other hand, how much money do I want to waste? Like I said, I have never seen anyone master the art of operating the testy crane inside this money gobbling monster.

"Weston, I have never seen anyone win one of these games."

But after several,

"Awww come on Mom, pleeeeease?"

I reluctantly agreed.

I gave Weston a handful of change and accompanied him over to the tempting machine.

A workman waiting by the drink fountain smiled at the sight of the "toystruck" tot testing his luck.

The elderly woman picking up her pizza scowled at me, asserting her disapproval of my poor parenting decision.

The young boy working behind the counter stopped what he was doing to watch Weston play.

Now, there are several things that boys diagnosed with ADHD are very good at.......one of them is video games. When interested, children diagnosed with ADHD can hyperfocus. This is a very focused state of mind. In this state, they can easily ignore any superfluous noises or distractions. Intense focus then ensues enabling them to concentrate on an incredible amount of variables simultaneously. It is this hyperfocus state that enables boys diagnosed with ADHD  to master the art of "the joy stick".

Like a cowboy holding the reins of a runaway stallion, Weston expertly grabs the handle. He opens his stance, distributing his weight evenly over his feet, he relaxes his shoulders, and places his tongue strategically in the left corner of his mouth. He begins to hum.

"Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm" he murmurs using the calming sound to help him to concentrate.

He maneuvers the claw carefully over the largest toy.


The claw crashes down on a fluffy blue teddy.

Slowly he starts to raise the claw.

"You can do it son," the workman waiting by the fountain says to Weston.

The fluffy blue teddy begins to rise.

"Way to go Dude," says the teen behind the counter.

The elderly woman continues to frown.

"Mom, I'm doing it!" Weston shouts.

I am reluctant to celebrate since I have seen the spastic claw disappoint many an anxious patron.

The claw swings wildly.

I am sure the cheap toy is going to drop.

Everyone is starting to cheer as my masterful son, still humming loudly, maneuvers the testy beast with expert precision. The fluffy blue teddy flies haphazardly over to the left and plunks precisely into the winners slot.

"Yeah!" Weston shouts with pride and pumps his fist into the air.

"Woohoo," the workman whistles.

"You did it Dude" says the teen behind the counter, even the disapproving woman starts to smile and cheer.

My young son has caused quite a ruckus in our local Papa Gino's pizzeria as many folks stop eating and congratulate Weston.

He is smiling and for the first time in all of our "out to eat" experiences, Weston is successful.

He expelled some restless energy, won a surprisingly cool furry toy and somehow managed to delight an entire restaurant full of people.

It is this experience at Papa Gino's that helps me to realize the importance of finding the right outlets for Weston. By focusing that restless energy in more positive areas, it can have some surprising results.....for everyone!

Way to go......Weston!


Giulia said...

At least, the elderly woman had to time to lecture you and "your poor parenting decision" :D

Good job, Watson :D

But Lisa, don't forget about girls diagnosed with ADHD : they can hyperfocus too, like me. Mom took a whole long time to understand that it pairs of with ADHD.
And some so told good friends (that are now gone from my life) told me that I couldn't have ADHD because I can be intensely focused, that psychiatrist was wrong, that I have nothing, some dared to tell that I had a diagnosed to excuse losers. Those so told good friends are far gone from my life now, and what a breeze !!

Lisa said...

Thank you Giulia,
You are absolutely right, hyperfocus is a very real symptom of ADHD and is common to ALL individuals who are diagnosed with it....boys, girls and adults too. It is an amazing ability! The ability to multitask is something to be admired.
I must admit I was very very ignorant about ADHD. It wasn't until I had a son diagnosed with the condition did I finally understand it! (AND my husband who although never officially diagnosed, suffers from many of the symptoms of ADHD.)
I read an awesome book written by Dr. Russell Barkley called "Taking Charge of ADHD" The Complete Authoritative Guide for Parents. This book truly opened my eyes. You might want to give a copy to folks who may be having trouble understanding your challenges.
You are right however, there will always be those who are not open to understanding!
Wishing you the best!

Giulia said...

Lisa, I leave these so told good friends out of my life.
If they want to understand, they understand. Otherwise, I kick them out of my life.
I have plenty of energy to spend with fighting to make a law change (a full time job by itself), plus preparing to go back to university, I don't have neither spare time nor spare energy to deal with such stupid persons.
Now that I made the big clean up, I see clearly :D

Lisa said...

I am happy you made some life changes that make life more positive for you. Good luck to you as you prepare to go back to college. Changing the law is never easy, I admire your resolve. Go get 'em!

Anonymous said...

I just know with the hyperfocus talent he will put it to good use one day and be very successful and nothing less!

Mary said...

Lisa, I loved hearing about Weston's success with that claw game (I too cringe when my kids ask -- they have NEVER won and are always very disappointed) and seeing his growth through the years in his birthday post! It's so great when we find (or stumble - in my case it often seems we are stumbling) into situations that work for our kids.

I wanted to thank you too for your comment on my semi-finalist post! As I also REALLY admire your writing I was so touched by your words.

Lisa said...

Anonymous, thank you for your comment, it made me cry..happy tears of course.

Mary, I hope you win the contest! I love to read your writing. I can never get enough of it and look forward to purchasing your book one day.xo

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