Employment and Autism – Out-of-Band Communications

Have you ever been part of or witnessed a conversation like this?
Man: Hi Honey, how are you?
Wife: I’m fine.
 Out-Of-Band #1

It’s more what she didn’t say…

Now guys who are married, and pretty much all women know that the wife may or may not be fine. It depends greatly on clues that are not present in the above dialog. Was she clenching her teeth when she said it? Did she have a forced smile? A sarcastic tone to her voice? Did she chuck a pot across the kitchen when she said it? If any of these things occurred, you could pretty easily guess that she was in fact, not really fine. All of these things are what engineers (who are second only to scientists for making up words) call “out-of-band” communications.  And I believe that out-of-band communication is one of the key success indicators in the area of autism employment – helping adults and young adults on the autistic spectrum to succeed in their careers.

 Out-Of-Band #2

But I was doing my job!

There is a lot of disagreement over the top reasons people are fired (or sometimes euphemistically “laid off”). I suspect it varies dramatically with location, job type, etc. However nearly all of the lists show a significant percentage of people are fired for non-performance-related reasons. The reality is, most jobs require teamwork and cooperation at some level – and these are things that many Aspie’s struggle with, often because they miss important “out-of-band” cues. This is why many times people with autism are described as being “literal” – they are focusing on the “in-band” communication – the words being said, and miss the other stuff. So what can you do, if you are someone who struggles with this? I believe that the answer is the same as for many other fields of endeavor – coaching and practice. An athlete may not be able to spot what is wrong with his performance on his own – he needs a coach that can observe him and give him feedback (often pronounced criticism) about what he is doing wrong, and what he can do to improve.

 Out-Of-Band #3

A coach at work…

I think that the ideal employment situation for a person with autism is one where someone in the work environment can act as a coach – pointing out mistakes and missteps, and suggesting specific ways to improve. In the very best situations, this coach would be the employee’s direct supervisor. I’d like to make an important point here though. We use the word coach to describe several different types of people. I’ll never forget playing football in high school. At tryouts, the coaches were focused on weeding out as many players as necessary, to get a manageable number of good players for the team. If you made the cut, you still had to prove yourself to play in the games, and in my particular case the head coach really didn’t like me. I made the cut, worked my tail off, but realized in the end it was me he had a problem with and not my performance – so I switched from football to cross-country in my junior year. What a world of difference! The team was very small, and the cross-country coach believed in each one of us, and ran the workouts alongside us. This is what I mean by a coach – someone like Sam Mussabini, who coached Harold Abrahams to the Olympic gold in the movie “Chariots of Fire”.
 Out-Of-Band #4

…and a coach at home

But as a person on the autistic spectrum, you might be asking “Where can I find an employer that is willing to take the time to coach me?” It’s true – most supervisors are very busy, and taking extra time to help someone with social or communications situations that other employees don’t seem to have a problem with might be asking too much. Employees (with autism or without) do not like being criticized – but many employers don’t like to do the criticizing either. It’s hard to confront someone about their performance, and it’s even harder when they are really trying – and you as the supervisor aren’t even sure what’s wrong. But there is another way that out-of-band communications can be helpful. Find a personal coach – perhaps a parent or friend who cares about you, and understands you, and see if your supervisor would prefer to communicate with your personal coach in some cases. This may be quicker or easier for your supervisor in some cases, and your coach can then work with you to address any problems and help you come up with a plan to succeed. Everyone wins!

Out-Of-Band #1

Go get ‘em!

So find a personal coach if you don’t have one, and see if your supervisor would prefer to communicate with them in certain situations. And if you’re looking for a job, remember what I said about my football team. Supervisors in big companies (big meaning they are big enough to have a human resources manager) will have a lot less flexibility in working around problems – you want to look for small companies where you’re recognized as an individual – not as just another cog in the machine.


Autism Employment – 5 Things to Remember

Paul working outdoors at his construction job - a autism employment success story!Job interview tips often advise:  “Sell yourself”, but this is a very difficult thing for many young adults on the autistic spectrum.  Instead, we like Temple Grandin’s autism employment advice : “Sell your work”. This places the focus on what you can do for a potential employer, and can be an absorbing project for both parent and young adult, perhaps resulting in a satisfying job. This past year our Asperger’s son Paul graduated from a Bible college several states away and came home to a family that had moved cross country to a community where we did not know a soul. Paul has many talents in the arts, but was unsure of what he wanted to pursue as a career, so in the meantime he needed a job. A series of events led to Paul’s being able to sell his work and become employed almost full time in a way that suits his personality and talents. Here’s our take on some tips for getting a job, using Paul’s experience as an example (with his permission, of course).

1. The important thing is to just start

Paul was a gifted artist, so we also spent years teaching him the art of painting houses – both interiors and exteriors. Quantity slowly became quality, and after we moved to Utah, he did a beautiful job on the exterior trim of our current home as well as refinishing some furniture inside.

2.  Practice your art or skill

Some of his graduation gift money he invested in having a set of T-shirts printed with some of his best art. He really wanted a job with this local screen print company, and it was best to introduce himself as a good customer. Plus, he advertised his irresistible cartoon artwork.

3. Network – you need other people

We joined a small local church and the men of the church were very responsive to Paul’s need of a job.  They passed along job leads and made Paul feel as though he were one of them.  The church also welcomed him as a volunteer at VBS where the children got to see his cartoons.

4. Always do your best – you never know who’s watching

Our realtor from the church came over one day, and Paul showed him the work he had done painting the badly weathered trim and porch.  The realtor had once worked in a home for autistic young adults, and, seeing that Paul had skills and could work, he offered to have him hired part-time by a local construction company to tidy the work sites.

5.  Spread a wide net – you never know what will work

 As we kept an eye on the local job ads, Paul found a second weekend job at a factory as seasonal help over the holidays.  Wages were excellent, but the pressure to perform was very difficult for Paul. By the time the season was over he appreciated his job at the construction company more than ever – and his first job increased his hours so that he did not need the second.  He is happy and productive, paying off his student loans and saving for the future.
Paul working indoors at his construction job

The Platypus Goes West

TractorMath on the iPadWell, following the release of TractorMath last November, Playful Platypus pulled an Amelia Earhart and disappeared from the online world, so perhaps an explanation is in order! We’ve always been pretty up-front that Playful Platypus is a small company (like one family all working part-time on it kind of small). Over the year and half before the release of TractorMath, we were keeping the kids fed and the lights on by doing contract work for a couple of defense contracting firms, and working on TractorMath at night and on the weekends (so you KNOW we’re a family of nerds). Last fall, the contract work started getting a bit thin, but there were some big jobs coming up it appeared, so we did what you should never do, and put our heads down, determined to finish TractorMath and get it into the App Store. Because if we managed to do that, then of course the big bucks would begin to flow in – TractorMath would be an instant seller, our Platypus would replace Perry as the most famous Platypus in the world, and who knows – maybe an Angry Platypus (or FlappyPlatypus) game would be the next big thing! OK, actually, we only thought the first two things on that list, but they weren’t really a whole lot more likely than the second two things. On release day, I sat in a Starbucks with my laptop, waiting on my daughter to take the SAT, and hitting refresh on my browser. I don’t remember the actual number of sales that finally showed up, but I think I could have counted them on my fingers. Hmmm. Time to get my head out of the code, and start trying to drum up some more contract work! Except that there wasn’t any. One contract, an awesome two-year project developing a remote therapy tool for military quadriplegics using a game engine, had been awarded to a different firm than the one I was teamed with. And my standby source of work with my former employer had dried up as well. I will spare you all the gory details, but suffice it to say, that at least from a financial perspective, it was pretty much “worst case scenario”. Lots of potato soup, and not so many Christmas presents. I kept working the contract work angle, but I also put my resume out in earnest, trying to find a job. Months went by, without any success on either front. As a software developer, at least as a software developer with more than 25 years experience – there are always jobs out there. But when you factor out the ones in New York or Silicon Valley (where we would all have to live in a 2 bedroom apartment), all the remaining jobs were either really low pay, or were in big cities with really horrible commutes, or occasionally both. A big adjustment for a family used to living on a small farm, in the peaceful countryside. MountainsFinally, just when we were starting to tell ourselves that two hours of commuting each day wasn’t as bad as it sounds, I found the perfect job, working for a small robotics company in northern Utah. A company located at the foot of the mountains, next to a wilderness area, with a 20 minute commute AWAY from town each day. And someone wanted to rent their small farm (they call them ranches out here – no matter what size evidently). And we’ve been given a couple of horses. And there was a great engineering university close by for our daughter. Oh – and just before I was offered and accepted the job, my former employer awarded me a big contract. We packed up our stuff and moved most of the way across the country – all in three weeks. Our oldest son was away at Bible college, and experienced that dreaded scenario of his parents moving while he was away (but we did tell him where we were going). So pretty much, the last year has been adjusting to a new state, new weather (which we LOVE), new schools, a new job, and a whole lot of contract work at night and on the weekends. TractorMath has been selling slowly but steadily, but it’s not the sales that make us think fondly of TractorMath – it’s the fact that a family, by working together with discipline, could actually finish something like that. And of course it’s great to be helping kids all over the world to learn their math facts!

MoveEast MoveWest Utah

TractorMath – Going Old School for Autistic Kids!

Big boys don’t cry

Father and son working on a carDoug swallowed hard and reminded himself, “Big boys don’t cry.” He was eleven and should have been in sixth grade. Once again his math paper was covered with red marks while other fifth graders were choosing stickers for their perfect lessons. A few days before, at his dad’s auto shop, he had made an engine roar to life. Could he still remember the steps to do it again? Most definitely. So why couldn’t he remember his math facts? Doug was failing math because the educational system had itself forgotten one or two basic facts about children.

Can I interest you in a math fact?

First of all, children do not come with a built-in attention span except for things which naturally capture their interest. This is true to a certain extent for all kids, but especially true for children with autism and related disabilities. With the wealth of math games available today, certainly there should be something out there to spark individual interest. Autism math apps, however, need to carry their effectiveness beyond just an appealing presentation. Pretty pictures alone do not develop good habits, and sometimes educators forget that for some children, not knowing the answers has become a habit.

Sometimes the Old School got it right

Charlotte MasonThe educational system has wandered a long way from principles laid down by Charlotte Mason, an authority for teachers in the 1800’s. In her extensive writings she stressed the foundational importance of creating good habits of attention and memory from the beginning. In the days before workbooks (they used the trees to heat their homes) small children did not have the ”benefit” of filling in the blanks. They copied their math facts from the chalkboard as finished sums. Thus they could not develop a bad habit of seeing a math fact without its answer. In one sense the practice was similar to building from a diagram with a construction set. The good habit of envisioning a math fact complete with its answer became established from the beginning.

I’m just not wired that way

Writing on the chalkboard as punishmentBack to Doug: For starters, he was a boy. Boys frequently prefer building things with their hands from start to finish, as compared to girls who often learn easily from verbal instruction. The brains of autistic girls, according to Temple Grandin, and proponents of the Extreme Male Brain theory, are wired much like those of regular boys, and autistic boys’ brains are “off the scale” when it comes to this type of thinking. Unfortunately, many educators have come to believe that talking is teaching, and normal boys have difficulty keeping up – how much more so for kids on the autistic spectrum. They believe that explaining concepts is the key to learning, spending a great deal of class time on concepts and theory. Rote memorization has fallen out of fashion and the ability to picture a math fact as a complete structure is being lost for the kids who are builders and doers, rather than listeners.

TractorMath: Going Old School for autistic kids – and others too!

TractorMath on the iPadTractorMath is an app designed to retrieve an excellent learning strategy from the past for these non-verbal learners – the principle of copy-work. The child who can remember what he builds is probably a strong visual/kinesthetic learner, and children with disabilities, especially autism, can be phenomenal builders. TractorMath, unlike most math apps, rewards children for each math fact they BUILD correctly, not for what they remember. Shhh…don’t tell anyone, but copying your math facts isn’t a penalty. This time it is actually fun. – Bonnie

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Sound off in the comments!


TractorMath – Making Math Fun for Autistic Kids!

Why won’t he play?

“Paul tracks toys with his eyes”. It was the first entry into the developmental milestones section of my baby book, and Paul was two weeks old. I was a new mom, eager to see something besides eating, sleeping and crying. I wanted him to play, but somehow as the months went by, my baby preferred his newborn activities. Instead of happy play skills emerging, we saw only a frantic quest for mischief. What I have since learned is that not all children enjoy physical and social play – especially children with autism. A natural lack of motor coordination seems to discourage a growing number of babies when they try to play with toys or games – a trend that can only partially be blamed on our increasingly sedentary society. Until my first son Paul was born, I had never encountered a baby who could not play. Even when I tried to engage him in games, he seemed resistant and afraid, preferring to entertain himself; yet he naturally ran out of ideas and remained bored.

Enter the iPad!

Child Playing Playful Platypus' iOS math game, TractorMath

Child Playing Playful Platypus’ iOS math game, TractorMath

Fast-forward twenty years. Now for children like Paul, who cannot play without constant external input, the iPad is a gift. It is much more reinforcing than old-fashioned toys. This is not all bad – even for a Luddite like myself. I noticed the other day that my youngest child (also autistic) was playing the same movie clip of an explosion over and over, in lieu of playing with real matches. This was especially great because at the time I was on an urgent phone conference about a student loan with Paul, now in regular college, 16 hours from home. So this begs the question – how can we harness the fascination these children have with this new technology, to actually teach them something useful? A (not so) quick check of  Apple’s App Store show hundreds, perhaps thousands of educational math apps. Awesome! Move over Baby Einstein! Except…

So close, and yet so far…

I found the vast majority of those apps suffer from a handful of common problems, that make them difficult for an autistic child to use effectively. First of all, I steer clear of the “busy look” at all costs. Figure-ground issues – namely the inability to distinguish important visual data from the background – can distract children with autism. Another frustration of teachers and parents is an app which dramatically rewards wrong answers with visuals or sound effects. Therefore, if an app appears to have boring rewards or lavish aversives, I don’t buy it. Lastly, novelty and variety command the attention of strong associative thinkers, especially autistic children. With thousands of math apps already available, something new and different should be under every rock. However, complexity can easily creep in with novelty and variety, which means catering to autistic children is a difficult balancing act.

TractorMath to the rescue!

Paul Working on TractorMath

Paul Working on TractorMath

When we started our company, Playful Platypus, our two-fold mission was to help young adults with Asperger’s that are interested in creative careers, to develop their marketable skills, and to create products that would help kids with autism. Additionally, we wanted our first project to be something that would help our two youngest boys, both of whom are autistic, and were having trouble with their math facts. We also wanted to take advantage of the artistic abilities of our oldest son Paul. So, we created an app, TractorMath, that is specifically designed with autistic children in mind. At first sight, the warm, colorful artwork is simple, set in a two-dimensional motif without perspective, since many autistic children concentrate better in 2D space. No matter how fun you try to make it – learning math facts is still work. The work, however, is of the kind that many autistic children find irresistible – puzzles and matching numbers. If the work is done wrong, there are no thunderclaps, buzzers, or other visual or sound effects that autistic kids find to be more fun than getting it right. Instead the wrong answer is overlaid with the right one – and the resulting visual misalignment often motivates autistic kids to fix the mistake. Once the work is done right the farm can be explored for quirky animations, and after three animations, a new equation is presented. Since the scenes and music change periodically, novelty and variety help to maintain attention. We think TractorMath will be a great help to both autistic kids having trouble learning their math facts with traditional drill, and perhaps early learners as well. What do you think? Let us know in the comments! – Bonnie

Playful Platypus' iOS math game TractorMath, showing a wrong answer prompt

Playful Platypus’ iOS math game TractorMath, showing a wrong answer prompt

Puppets and Platypi – Part II

Jojo and Me (I'm on the right)So in a previous post I wrote about how we got started with puppets, and how the live puppet performances were really tough on our family, in part because of our youngest son’s autism. So I, with great sadness, disbanded our puppet team, and attempted to focus on my immediate family’s needs. For the next couple of years I didn’t do a whole lot with puppets, but rather focused on learning filmmaking, because my oldest son, Paul, had developed an interest in it. I made a mini-documentary about my youngest son, and his autism, to help my wife find volunteers to work with him. I really enjoyed making the film, but unfortunately it wasn’t terribly effective in recruiting volunteers. About this same time, I noticed on Phil Vischer’s blog that he was speaking at the brand-new Gideon Media Arts Conference near Asheville, NC. Being a long-time VeggieTales fan, and just having read Phil’s fantastic book, Me, Myself and Bob, I decided to check out the conference. When I did, I noticed that they had a short film contest, and that the winners would have a chance to have a meal with the faculty member of their choice. Since I had nothing to lose, I entered my little documentary. A month or two later, to my surprise, I was notified that I had “won”. I say “won”, because that first year there were only a couple entries in the contest (it has since become much more popular), and it was sort of a win-by-default kind of thing. But the contest organizers still graciously allowed my wife and me to meet with Phil Vischer for breakfast one morning during the conference. Phil patiently answered all of my many questions about filmmaking, 3D films, puppets and video, and marketing. I learned that puppets with green screen and simple animation were LOTS cheaper than 3D (like Veggie Tales). He was in the process of launching Jelly Telly – his first major project since the Big Idea bankruptcy, and it was a wonderful mix of puppets and Flash animation. I felt my efforts in mastering puppetry, filmmaking, and animation were instantly validated. Phil Vischer and me (I'm on the left) Of course feeling validated is nice, but it is absolutely no indicator of profitability, and I had a strong interest in eventually doing this sort of thing for a living. I had recently lost my job of 12 years, at a small software startup, of which I was a founder. Thankfully, within a month or two I had found another job, still doing C++ application software development for a very large defense contractor. But this job involved about an hour of commuting a day (I know, that’s wimpy to some folks, but I am allergic to traffic jams), and I really wanted to go back to working at home. I came very close to taking a job with a company that made a major AAA Game Engine, but it was an even longer commute, for even less money. So I toughed it out, and kept learning in my free (ha!) time. I learned to do 3D modeling in Blender, how to build professional quality puppets from videos by Dave Privett and Dave Pannabecker, how to animate in Flash, and how to build cool visual effects in After Effects.

[lightbox title=”Derek’s Lab – Taking the Plunge!” group=”” href=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/jev2zWH_QWg?feature=player_detailpage” width=”100%” height=”100%” class=”” iframe=”true” inline=”true” photo=”false” close=”true”]

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I also had hopes of getting my oldest son into programming of some kind – at least enough to let him see if he liked it or not. Unfortunately, my experience is in C++, building high-performance 3D graphics applications. Not exactly an entry-level type of programming. So I dove into learning Actionscript, and PHP, and learning how to develop rich internet applications. It was a lot easier to get into, but only Flash games had the “pizzazz” that I thought would be necessary to interest Paul, and I learned that it was VERY hard to make a decent amount of money (for a dad with a big family) developing Flash games. About this time, the iPhone, and then the iPad were beginning to take off, and the Apple App Store gold rush was on. So about a year or so ago, I finally jumped on that bandwagon, and have been learning to develop for the iOS platform ever since. About a year ago, I also quit my day job with the big defense contractor, because my wife and I both felt very strongly that God was calling us to invest full-time in our family company, Playful Platypus. It was a difficult decision, as we were not exactly prepared for such a leap. Strangely, my last week on the job, 3 of my co-workers and I were named Co-Inventors of the Year by our company. And a few months after I left, they contracted with me to continue some of the work I had been doing, easing our transition to small business life at Playful Platypus, and confirming God’s direction. So what exactly do we do? Great question! Our mission at Playful Platypus is to hire young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome or High-Funtioning Autism, and teach them to develop interactive media products, using their often-hidden, but usually considerable talents. We have one app nearing completion, TractorMath,

TractorMath Screen Shotwhich is a puzzle-based math game for iOS, targeted at helping autistic children to learn their math facts. My son Paul has done all the artwork and animation for the game, and we recently showed it at an autism conference with great reviews. However, we felt that we needed to put TractorMath aside for this summer, in order to focus on a new project – a project that ties together everything we’ve learned to do, from building puppets, to producing movies, to building iOS apps. Look for more updates soon on Project Prospector and TractorMath!

Puppets and Platypi – Part I

I originally started this blog as a place to talk about games, puppets, and video. Games and video might kinda go together – but what in the world do those things have to do with puppets? Well – the short answer is time and money. Got it? No? OK – well the longer explanation is going to involve a little more history (Oh no! Not again!) So, about eight years ago, I went to big multi-church youth gathering, where one of the featured activities was making very simple puppets out things like paper bags, and then doing impromptu performances. Of course it was all very silly and nobody was really good at it – but it was fun, and I don’t know – I guess I got bitten by the “Puppet Bug”. Or something.

Our lead singer puppet, Bodacious Bob, singing his heart out

So I persuaded my (too) trusting wife to help me put on a Christmas puppet performance with our youth group. In about six weeks. On top of my normal day job. Building a large stage and nine puppets. Real puppets – because we were too cheap to buy them, I guess. Puppet construction involves a set of skills that are found nowhere together in nature. Foam cutting with electric turkey knives. Foam assembly with brain-cell-obliterating industrial contact cement. And lots and lots of sewing – which of course my poor wife ended up having to do (I donated my few remaining brain cells to the cause).  Oh, and someone told us that it was much harder to lip-sync with a recording, so we bought microphones and learned to operate the puppets while doing character voices live. Riiiight -that was easier… We actually pulled it off – which was almost a bona-fide miracle in itself. Of course our transitions between show segments were something like five minutes long – instead of the recommended five seconds. But we did it. And I was hooked.

Seth, Paul's puppet, siging 'My Deliverer'

Then we moved to a different city and a new church, and picked up where we left off. The team grew to about 16 teens, and me. The sole adult coach. My wife had been forced to retire from the puppet scene, because we were beginning to realize that our youngest son was not only autistic – but was even more severe than his two older brothers had ever been. Still, we carried on. We upgraded our lights, then our stage. We bought new puppets (because I didn’t have time to make them anymore). I trained the daylights out of those teens (they called me “The Puppet Boss”) – but they loved it. And my older kids were two of the most accomplished puppeteers in the group. Especially my son Paul. Even though his Asperger’s sometimes causes him to be a little stiff in his mannerisms, no one on the team – not even the coach – could match the way he could bring a puppet to life.

Rosie playing the pennywhistle during 'My Deliverer'

And then I got the weird idea of mixing video and animation with the puppetry. Someone had donated a nice projector to the team, and someone else an 8 ft by 8 ft screen. We bought a copy of the Adobe Production Studio, and I plunged into learning Premiere and After Effects. I know – “Fools rush in…” and all that. Anyway, I wanted to be legit – so I learned all about securing the (five!!!) different rights needed to perform each song legally (that’s a post all by itself, right there). And our show morphed into a wondrous one-hour performance, with puppetry, animation, and video which we took to various churches within a couple of hour driving radius. An hour performance sounds long, and it is – but we had adults and five-year-olds sitting raptly throughout the entire performance.

So we were basically carting around a good-sized theater performance with the stage, the lighting, the sound and projection gear, as well as the puppets.  It would take myself and three or four others as long as six hours to set up for a show. And another one to two hours to tear-down – not including cleanup and storage back at home. We did this for almost three years. Until I just couldn’t manage it by myself anymore, and we had to pull the plug. On our last performance, my wife was finally able to get someone to watch our youngest boy, so she could see the show for the first time.

And I thought – there has GOT to be an easier way to minister and entertain with puppets than this. And I’ll tell you about it in another post. :-)

-BrianAnimation still from 'While you were sleeping'

Here is Puppets & Platypi – Part II!

Welcome to the Billablog!

What’s a Billablog? And what’s a platypus anyway? And why is it playful? Well, hold on – one question at a time! Billablog is (I hope) a clever combination of the words blog and billabong – an Australian word meaning (usually stagnant) pond or lake, and the habitat of the platypus! And a platypus is a rather strange Australian mammal that looks like it is part beaver, part otter, and part duck – truly one of the oddest creatures in God’s creation. I chose the platypus for several reasons – but partially because it reminded me of myself – a hodge-podge of skills and interests that look like they were glued together as part of a grade-school science project. And why is the platypus playful? Well, I’m going to have to give you a little personal background here (don’t go away – I promise to keep it short). My name is Brian, and I want to make games. And kid’s media. And lots of other stuff. Fun stuff. Thus the Playful Platypus.



I didn’t start out wanting to make movies and games though. After all, I’m a software engineer (25 years of C/C++ experience, the last 20 of which have been focused on high performance military visual simulation). I am not an artist – I nearly flunked art in seventh grade when I was told to express my feelings and I drew a battleship. But life can take some odd turns, and over the years I have collected a wonderful family –  an incredible wife, and four amazing, extraordinary kids – three boys and a girl. Our oldest boy Paul just turned 20, and would be considered to have mild Asperger’s Syndrome. But when he was two, he was pretty severely autistic. My wife and I took him to a speech pathologist, and she told us she thought he had autism, and handed us a brochure that told us to just get used to the fact that our son would never finish high school, go to college, get married, etc. At first we were devastated, but then I think it made me mad. Mad that someone would have the nerve to label my son like that. Just write off the rest of his life as a tragedy. So my wife (who is the hero of this story) started learning everything she could about therapy for autism, training volunteers to work with him, etc. 

And so, over the years, I have learned to watch for ways that I can help with the process. When he was little, I did stuff like putting all of his Bible Verses he was trying to learn into PowerPoint, so he could read and hear them, as well as record himself saying them (he taught himself to read – but he still couldn’t talk very well). Later it involved teaching him math for a whole year – drawing up elaborate problems (that used algebra!) involving dinosaurs for him to solve, just so he could learn his addition, subtraction and multiplication facts. And for the past couple years, I have been helping him with his interests in animation and film-making. Along the way we had three other kids, with our two youngest boys being autistic as well. And I’ve picked up other skills and interests to help them too – horses, puppets, Cub Scouts, etc.  And along the way, I’ve also discovered that I really enjoy some of these things too.

So anyway – enough history. Playful Platypus is simply the company that our family started to do these things we enjoy – things like producing kids media  – web video, games, animation – fun stuff! And we’re learning as we go – that’s what this blog is about actually. It’s just a place to share what we’re doing – so if you’d like to learn with us, welcome aboard.

– BrianJojo and Me (on the right)