Going “Digital”

WDTVSo…we went on vacation.  Not a 45-minute drive day trip where you eat at McDonalds in your wet bathing suit and come home with sand in your shorts.  No, a week’s real vacation at a condo at the beach (it’s Florida – we are predicable).

“Why not a hotel?” you say.  “Why not some time at one of the Orlando resorts?”

Oh no…it’s Condo or Bust for us.

My parents came with us.  My parents understand all about “The CJ Factor,” but they still wanted to come with us.  They either have some sort of desperate wish to be tortured or the patience of Job.  Or maybe it’s the same thing.

They shared a 3-bedroom condo with us.  For a week. AND…they watched the kids so we could go out. Let me repeat that:  they watched the kids so we could go out.   I once read somewhere that if you want to do something to help a family of a special needs child, offer to watch the child to give them a break.  They recommend that you really, really mean it, as the parents will be squealing out of the driveway before you finish your sentence.

The condo was beautiful.  It was newly refurbished and amazingly decorated.  However, I quickly discovered that amazingly decorated bed comforters will stain when smeared with Cheetos.  What was I thinking when I put that crackly bag in the cart??  I called my husband who was coming the next day and asked him to bring CJ’s comforter with him.  I made a mental note to bring a blanket or comforter with us the next time.  Not buying Cheetos is not an option.

Luckily, nothing was broken or ruined.  I had visions of our deposit disappearing.

And now I have to tell you about the most wonderful thing.  I mean amazing wonderful.  Like, iPad wonderful.  Anyone with kids, but especially anyone with a special needs child needs to know about this.  I think I mentioned in an earlier post that you don’t want to mess with an autistic person’s routine.  Routine and stability are the king and queen of the autistic lifestyle.  This is part of what made the iPad such a wonderful addition to a special needs kid’s daily world.  Movies, TV and photos on a portable device can provide an anchor of familiarity in stressful situations and they can let an autistic person instantly focus and escape into a favorite imaginary world in a sensory overload environment, like shopping at Walmart or eating at a restaurant. Of course, an iPad has a small hard drive and it will only hold a handful of videos.  And they can only be in one format.  It’s a constant struggle to keep it “fresh” enough to let you get through grocery shopping without incessant demands to leave.

Enter the Western Digital Live media server.  Its a little black box (4″ x 5″ x 1″) that will fit in your purse.  You plug it into your TV with one cable and you can plug an external hard drive full of movie files into it with a USB cable.  You control it with a remote control and an easy menu on your TV.  It will play just about any format video file you can throw at it.  You can play any movies, TV shows, music or photos files on any TV.  This means you can copy all your DVDs onto the computer and dump them on the WD hard drive.  No more scratched DVD’s taking up shelves of space, and literally hundreds of movies to watch at the click of a remote.

But it gets better.  The one we got can connect to the internet through your home network, and it has buttons for NetFlix, HULU and VUDU.  Wherever you go, with a wireless internet connection, Netflix and other services are available.  And if you drop a slim hard drive in the bag as well, hundreds of your own movies and TV show files as well, no internet required.

This means that you can TAKE YOUR CHILD’S “SHOWS” WITH YOU!!!!!  Even if you go away for a week, out of familiar territory and in an unpredictable new environment, your kid can withdraw and escape at a moment’s notice to a safe, familiar world to “reset” and recalibrate.

This has transformed my life.

CJ calls it his “digital.”  When we arrived at the condo, I set up his beloved “digital” before I even unpacked a flipflop or toothbrush.  He was so happy.  I was so happy.  We had few problems all week.  Yes, he spent too much time in his room watching TV, but hey!  It was vacation, and he is a teenager after all.

He did join us on the beach, reluctantly, on several occasions.  Good for him.  He did like the pool, but it was too cold to swim for long.  And always, after a session out in The World, he could retreat to time with his “digital,” without frustration or acting out while I’m trying to take a nap.

It ended up being a nice time.  I remembered once again why we use condos and was so grateful to my parents for all their help.

I didn’t squeal out of the driveway even once.

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