Pokémon Gone Again

Yesterday’s entry for Social Issues Fridays was about Pokémon GO and how it’s impacting on most of society.  It would seem that a great deal of common sense has fallen by the wayside for avid fans of the Pokémon GO app.  However, there are some who claim that the Pokémon GO app is a blessing for those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

Pokémon Blessings
This is just one of many posts I’ve seen on social media where parents of children, teens, and young adults diagnosed with autism are among the most vocal supporters of this app and its use.  However, these same parents are overlooking the long-term effects and the short-term implications of the success of the game with their offspring.

After he caught his first one at the bakery … he ran outside to catch more.

A child with a developmental delay is one who isn’t as aware of his surroundings as are other children the same age.  As yesterday’s entry showed, when people who are considered average, everyday people are making bad decisions while playing Pokémon Go, we certainly cannot expect children with developmental delays to make better decisions than decisions by non-autistics.

A little boy saw him and recognized what he was doing.  They immediately had something in common.  Then the little boy showed [the autistic child] how many HE had caught.

This is the opportunity every predator and pedophile wishes would happen more often.  Most autistic children won’t interact with strangers when out in public, but this mother’s post shows that her son was excitedly interacting with a stranger, and seemed unaware of anything else in his surroundings.

Then she came out and [the autistic child] chatter with her about it, too!  Then she pointed out to him that there was a lot of Pokémon activity at the playground.  He begged to go.  He NEVER wants to go to the playground at night, because it’s out of his usual routine.

Again, the concept of stranger danger wasn’t something either child considered.  And as with the previous comment, this desire to catch Pokémon in the playground after dark is an opportunity every predator and pedophile wishes would happen more often.  The autistic child was begging to do something that was outside of his usual routine.

For those who understand the nature of autism, those diagnosed with autism rely heavily on routines and are loathe to have even the slightest changes inserted into those routines.  But here we see (as has been reported by many parents on social media) that the autistic embraced not only change but transitions (something else that is difficult for autistics to accept).

And when he got there, other kids ran up to him to hunt for Pokémon together. [The autistic child] was interacting with other kids.  

How easy would it be for a predator or a pedophile to convince an autistic to go with him/her based on the story that the predator or pedophile knew where a legendary or very rare Pokémon could be found?  Easy.  As easy as pie.  As easy as disappearing into the night without a trace of where that autistic went and whether that autistic was with someone else at the time of disappearance.

Adults were also hunting Pokémon, and these total strangers were giving him advice like “there’s one right around this corner, buddy! Go get it!” and he would run off laughing to get it.  He would even look up at them and say “THANK YOU!” and run off!

For those of you who were rolling your eyes at the previous statement about how easily predators and pedophiles could make off with someone on the autism spectrum, this parent’s statement confirms how easy that would be.   Adults were also hunting Pokémon, and these total strangers were giving him advice like “there’s one right around this corner, buddy! Go get it!”

MY AUTISTIC CHILD IS SOCIALIZING. Talking to people. Smiling at people.  Verbalizing.  Participating in pragmatic speech.

If the child is capable of all that in the space of a few minutes, the child was always capable of all that long before Pokémon GO was even vague concept in the minds of those who created the app.  The problem was that the child refused to socialize and the parents refused to push their child to socialize.

Especially for parents whose children are diagnosed or said to have Asperger Syndrome (which is now considered part of the autism spectrum disorder category in the DSM-5), this is especially important to note.  You see, Hans Asperger (the man who identified the condition and after whom the Syndrome is named) stated in his research that autistics with Asperger Syndrome must be pushed to do that which they steadfastly refuse to do.

Parents, educators, therapists, and a few medical professionals have espoused that autistics should not be pushed to do anything.  They have claimed that it will drive autistics to the brink of a meltdown or worse.  Not so.  Others have pointed to Hans Asperger’s research and stated that what these parents,educators, therapists, and medical professionals are calling meltdowns are nothing more than temper tantrums leveraged by autistics to get their way.

Participating in pragmatic speech.  With total strangers.  Looking up at them.  Sometimes even in the eye.  Laughing with them. Sharing something in common.

If those on the autism spectrum are doing all of this so readily, those on the autism spectrum doing so were able to do all of this long before Pokémon Go was released.  They chose not to socialize and interact.  They also chose to hold their families hostage by refusing to socialize and interact.

This is AMAZING!

What’s amazing is that so many parents and caregivers refuse to realize and accept that they have failed their autistic children, teens, and young adults by buying into the emotional blackmail they’ve been subjected to over the years.

What’s amazing is that so many parents and caregivers are willing to abdicate their responsibilities as parents and caregivers and to give credit to a company and its app for what their autistic children, teens, and young adults were already capable of doing before the app was made available to the public.

What’s amazing is that so many parents and caregivers are of the opinion that Pokémon Go has solved the socialization and interaction problems of their autistic children, teens, and young adults.

But hasn’t this app solved the socialization problem autistics have?

It hasn’t.  It’s no different than the most abusive forms of ABA.  Once the app falls out of favor, or there aren’t anymore Pokémon to capture, or the app is removed from public consumption, the situation parents and caregivers found themselves in before will happen again.

Socialization and interaction aren’t something that happen instantaneously because of a video game or an app on a cellphone.  They are skills that must be mentored and they are skills that must be encouraged on a daily basis if they are to be learned and mastered.

For that reason, any autistic who is socializing and interacting with others in society supposedly because of the Pokémon Go app already learned and mastered socialization and interaction skills.  He or she was just refusing to make use of those skills for reasons that are only known to those autistics who refused to make use of those skills.

Final Note

For those parents and caregivers hoodwinked into believing this app is a magic cure for the lack of socialization and interaction that is part of the autism symptomology, please take this opportunity to reframe your misperceptions about autism.  Don’t let video games and apps teach your children, teens, and young adults skills that you should be mentoring for them and teaching them.

Make them earn what they want in life including technology.  Instead of giving them everything because you don’t want them to struggle and you’re hoping to avoid enduring meltdowns, push them to do what they can do to the best of their personal abilities.

There will come a day when you will no longer be able to take care of all their needs and wants.  This is when the struggles of parenting will come home to roost.  If you’ve done your job as best you can, your offspring will be able to do as much for themselves as they possibly can.

And for goodness sake — until they’re old enough to make reasonable decisions for their safety, don’t encourage them to ignore simple rules intended to keep them safe whether it’s about running out into traffic, or disappearing into a crowd of people, or going off with strangers who are nice to them!

Elyse Bruce



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