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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Janey's Five Step Video Viewing Progression

Lately I've realized that Janey's viewing of movies and other videos follows a very strict sequence.  It's helping me understand some of her previously mysterious fits when watching videos.

Stage One---I put on something new for Janey, on Netflix or on VHS (we don't do DVDs for her much, as she very much likes to handle them, scratch them and lose them.  And VHSs are a dollar at our favorite thrift store, in terrific shape)  This might be a show or movie I'm pretty sure she'll love, something about a topic she likes or with characters she likes.  For an example, recently it was Toy Story.  She likes that type of computer animation, and the music seemed like something that would appeal to her.  However, no matter how perfect the match is, the first viewing is a disaster.  Janey will watch a bit, seemingly interested, and then get very upset and ask for something different.  I used to try to leave on the new video a bit longer, but now, I just take it out.

Stage Two---Two or three days go by.  I don't mention the video.  Then, out of the blue, Janey finds it.  She shows her ability to read in that one specific situation by always knowing her videos apart, even if there are no pictures.  I am not sure how she does it, but she does, even new ones.  It might be font, or letters, or who knows what, but she does.  She brings the video to me, or if it's Netflix, often finds it on her own and puts it on.  I don't mention her previous reaction, and neither does she.  She watches it eagerly and seems to love it.

Stage Three---the video goes into heavy rotation.  We watch, for example, Toy Story day and night.  Janey memorizes it, and says bits of dialogue at random times.  If there are songs, she learns them by heart.  The video is on her mind all the time.

Stage Four---Janey is still enjoying the video, but is starting to get upset while viewing it a bit more.  Sometimes, she starts crying during it, and we use our set phrase "If a video is making you sad, we turn it off".  She will accept that at first, but then obsessively ask for the video, watch it a bit, and then cry again.

Stage Five----The video completely freaks Janey out.  She is terrified of any even slightly scary parts.  This is true of videos you would not even picture having any scary parts, like Kipper or Sesame Street.  She still asks to watch it now and then, but then gets hysterical waiting for the scary parts to come on.  The video is added to the pile of unwatched shows.

I think it takes quite a few viewing for Janey to understand to some extent the plot of shows she watches.  Her initial enjoyment is just based on learning the dialogue and songs, and watching the images.  As she watches the show over and over, she starts to get it more, and characters like Ursula the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid or Sid the Bad Kid Next Door in Toy Story come alive for her, and they are pretty scary.

I've learned a few things from figuring this all out.  One is that with much repetition, exact repetition of the kind that videos provide, Janey learns first to repeat the elements, and then actually learns what is going on.  It's her way of progressing with learning.  Other people might first watch for plot, and then get so familiar with the show they start to memorize it, but Janey does that backwards.  The other is that when Janey suddenly gets upset, in other contexts, it might be something she's heard or seen a lot of times before that has now clicked in as scary.  For example, she recently became nervous about sirens, after hearing them for years.  I think she finally connected them to the fast vehicles with flashing lights, and they are finally scary to her.

It's interesting that echolalia, or delayed echolalia, seem like vital step in Janey's understanding of the videos for content.  Maybe repeating the lines in her head allows her to work on understanding them.  I wish she'd not have to get scared after the understanding kicks in, or maybe I wish videos didn't all seem to have a bit scary parts.  But gradually, in small ways, I sometimes feel like I'm starting to get Janey.


Sophie's Trains said...

I know what you mean. Sophie rejects anything "new" the first time. But then she seems to accept it. I learned not to take initial rejection as a deterrent from trying again. She is younger than Janey but I also think she understands things in "layers". So repetition is key for her to learn things. She loves repetition! She seems to enjoy the videos she has memorized more than the ones she doesn't. She doesn't get scared but she does remember and anticipate things I can see that.
It is good "getting them" isn't it? I am excited when I figure something out too.

Suzanne said...

It really is a good feeling to get something like that! I feel like I should have figured a lot of this out a long time ago, but better late than never! It's interesting Sophie rejects the "new" things too. I feel cruel sometimes even trying something new, because it can get Janey so worked up, but it's amazing how often she comes back to the same thing that got her screaming. I think when she REALLY likes something, she reacts more strongly to it the first time in a negative way. Maybe it's like "oh, boy, I'm going to have to do a lot of memorizing of THIS, because it's SMOKING great! This is overwhelming!" Layers of learning is a great way to put it. It helps me not give up the first time to remember that, and also to not to follow what is conventional wisdom and assume obsessing over one thing is bad. I think she needs the obsession to learn.

mknecht24 said...

I loved this post. Being able to see her process in steps is fascinating. Jacob also will watch a video repeatedly then suddenly is afraid of it. Minus the autism though, we are able to talk it out with him. I would love to get inside Janey's (and Lindsey's) head to see what's going on.

Lindsey is prepping for state testing next week at school. Her new teachers are in for a wild ride. At least they heeded my warning to practice test taking instead of surprising her with it.

Queenie Guldbaek said...

I am a teenager with autism. I can understand this. Initially, I rejected new things, but when I started to watch them more, I started enjoying them. However, there are some things from my childhood that I would find difficult to watch for one reason or another.