Friday, December 27, 2013

Calibrating consequences: managing the iTunes purchases

I should have been more suspicious of the iTunes statements. There seemed to be a lot of them.

Eventually I connected with my spouse, and we realized #1 was exploiting an iOS 7 iPhone configuration error. When he inherited my 4S the iTunes account was configured for delayed authentication (the default [1]). Every time we bought a song or video, he added on a few more. Last year's Stanley Cup series was the giveaway.

When I collared him he pretended not to understand that his purchases cost us money. I respect that. If you have a cognitive disability, you might as well use it to wiggle out of problems. It didn't work though, he knew I knew that he knew how the charges worked. He quickly gave up that alibi.

So we needed consequences. What formula would be most educational, without inducing full rebellion or breakdown? How could we use this to advance his financial skills - and maybe even get some money back?

I needed a balanced formula -- something that had a built-in reward paired with a consequence extending over time. It had to be understandable to him, ideally something visual. After a bit of thought I came up with a formula that worked very well - not least because relatives gave #1 generous iTunes/Amazon gift credits this year.

I created two iTunes Playlists for him - one with the music he'd acquired honestly, the other with his criminal gains. [2] Each time he wanted a new tune, he had to pay twice. Once for the new tune, and once for an old one. I then "moved" the "stolen" tunes from the Unpaid to Paid list, in addition to putting the new purchase on his phone. We did the same thing for the videos.

After the first few purchases he caught on to how the system worked. He was clearly satisfied -- he likes justice fairly applied. Even, or especially, when it's applied to him. We went through about 1/3 of the backlog with his allowance and snow shoveling money, then a deluge of iTunes/Amazon gifts took out the rest. In an impressive gesture he cleared out the last 15 in one direct purchase.

Effective consequences require creativity; this one worked. I'll look for other opportunities to apply this kind of balanced approach. I know they'll come along.

[1] For us this was an annoyance, but in some cases the family financial impact could be serious. I wonder if Apple ever reverses charges on appeal... It would be "nice" if Siri could execute "configure this phone for a child".

[2] I intended to only sync the first to his iPhone, but with iOS 7 there's no way to prevent someone from using WiFi to put purchases music/video onto a phone. I turned the Cloud setting off, but he just turned it back on again. He's learned a lot from his iPhone.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Explosive Child" Greenes has web site for "Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder" kids and caregivers

#1 and I went snowboarding today. Which doesn't sound like much except that for him snowboarding has been more aspirational than real, and I'm a 50+ Dad.

I knew he needed me doing it with him, and what we both needed was bunny hill time. Not lessons, we did some of those years ago -- a borderline fail then. We needed sliding time in decent conditions.

Which we got. There were some anxieties of his I had to work around, some on the fly strategy invention, and of course I had to learn to snowboard (yay quick iPhone wikihow consultation) -- but we succeeded. Good runs on the greens for both of us. We stopped when he wanted to quit -- at a successful moment.

On the way home I thought of how far he's come since ages 3-7. Those were tough years, they left their marks on our faces. When I started this blog we were just emerging from the worst of it. By then we were experts in applying the lessons of Greene's "The Explosive Child", which I wrote about in 2007

It occurred to me that I ought to send Greene a thank you note. That led me to a relatively new site and organization of his, called Lives in the Balance. Nice to see the team working there. 

You can Tell Your Story | Lives in the Balance. I figured that would be one way to say thanks...

For our cognitively impaired multi-label son, ages 3 to 7 were hard. Very hard. I'm glad I don't remember them all that well; I do remember contemplating splitting the family so I could care for him away from his sibs.

We studied the Explosive Child intensively. It wasn't the only thing I studied -- operant conditioning with extinction of negative behaviors and rewards for positive behaviors was essential too.

Things started to get better around ages 7-9. We had more challenges, especially as he got older and stronger, but somehow his judgment developed just a bit ahead of his physical strength. The biting went away, the hitting went away...

He learned to read - at least to around 6th grade level. He learned many other things too -- hockey, swimming, snowboarding, biking, mountain biking, baseball, wrestling (ugh), xc skiing... Many more.

He's almost 17 now. Who knows what lies ahead. Things could go south at any time, but that's true for any of us.

He's come a long way.

The Explosive Child was the most important book we ever read ...

PS. Visiting the site I learned the "Explosive Child" has a new DSM-5 label: Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder - replaces the misused 'bipolar disorder' for kids like #1. There's a comic outlining the evolution of the label, which is as good and as bad as any of 'em .... "PIA", Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Pediatric Bipolar Disorder, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Today's kids are falling behind. In bullying.

Today's kids just don't measure up. Back in the day we did more bullying in a day than this generation can manage in a month.

That's not the impression we get reading stories of bullying on social  networks, or NYT articles on girls at war (or maybe not). It also doesn't match the scary graph on this Guardian article. So it's my anecdote against the world.

Still. It's what I see with my special needs kids, and it's what other parents (usually younger than me) comment on.  We see high school sports teams not only tolerating special needs "managers" and athletes, but making conversation, exchanging polite greetings, even being supportive.

Weird. Nothing like we were.

I know things aren't this good everywhere, I hear from friends in the old country that bullying of special needs kids is still widespread in Montreal schools. I expect there's a lot of more subtle bullying we don't see.

Still. I think there's progress. In our personal experience, todays kids just aren't the bullies we were. They're failing at nastiness.