Our Journey Raising Two Children with Special Needs

This blog chronicles our life raising two children, Nicholas 14, diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome and Weston 17, 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!