Well, decade at this point. To really know Josh there are a couple of things that truly define his persona. The one that is probably the most important is Blue's Clues. Children/people with autism have a tendency to become hyper-focused on certain things and Josh was/is certainly not an exception to that. Zach was 2 when Josh was a baby, and was just starting to be interested in some children's shows on tv. There were two in particular that he wanted to watch - Blue's Clues and Teletubbies (he was only 2, he liked it, HUSH :P ). There were some other shows that he grew to like over time, but those were the ones he was watching primarily for quite a while. Josh at the time, loved being near his brother. When he was only 6 months old, I noticed that he was actually watching the Blue's Clues episodes. He would literally sit in his exer-saucer and would focus his attention on that show for the full 30 minutes it was on. If you know anything about infant development, you know that this is not normal for a baby that young. At the time it seemed impressive, but we had no inkling that anything else might be going on.
From that point on, his interest in the show never waned. In fact, it grew into an obsession. As time went by and his issues became more and more pronounced, it became entrenched into his life. Josh is verbal, but only to the point that he can request things that meet his primary needs (like food, Blue's Clues episodes, people he has a bond to, scripting, and naming objects). Communication will be covered in its own post later, but as it relates to this, about 90% of what Josh says is related to or directly scripted from, Blue's Clues. He can't tell me where something is, but he can recite entire episodes word for word. When you have him say "thank you", it will always be "thank you so much for your help today" which is what Steve always said at the end of the show. Salt in our house is always "Mr Salt". He will sometimes ask for episodes in his sleep. It's his whole world, it's always in his head. He adores the books. I have probably bought hundreds over the years. He spends enormous amounts of time looking at them. As a result they get quite worn out fairly quickly so they mostly end up as individual pages all over the house. I have toy bins in his room to keep them all when I pick them up at the end of the day. I can't bring myself to throw them out because he still likes to look at them. He will pick up a page that has to be 7 years old, worn, torn, and will carry it around with him and sit and look at it as though it were brand new. Of course the most exciting thing for him is when he gets new ones again. This is the bulk of any Christmas or birthday gift giving. He also loves the toys. Now, since the show hasn't been in production for several years (I cried when it stopped, because I know that it's everything to him, and eventually it will be very difficult to satisfy his obsession with it) it is getting harder and harder to find these things for him. The books for the most part are still carried by Amazon thank goodness, though some of the classic ones from the very early years you can only get via private sellers for hundreds of dollars. The toys are a different story. E-Bay always has a few, but for the most part I just have to rely on praying that battery replacement will be enough to keep them going for as long as possible.
Of course then there's the actual show. I believe I have every episode ever made, across several different media - store bought DVD's, home made DVD's, TiVo, and yes, VHS tapes. There ARE many episodes he won't watch, for whatever reason. But he will on occasion ask for one that he hasn't watched literally in years, so I can never rule anything out completely. This does pose several problems. VHS players are practically extinct these days. I know I can record those episodes on to DVD's, which I have with quite a few of them, however Josh is so particular about this that he will even specify which medium he wants. For example, I have the episode of Blue's Birthday on VHS, store bought DVD, and TiVo. He will very specifically tell me which one he wants, and there are some episodes that he will only watch on VHS. So I have to keep them. Recently the VHS part of our DVD/VHS combo player broke. So after some searching I did find a wonderful machine, by Panasonic, that is a Blue Ray, DVD, AND VHS player and it will up-convert the DVD's and VHS to 1080 dpi which is pretty nice. But it will need to last us a long time, since it was hard enough finding a VHS player now, I imagine it will become impossible in the future. Aside from the technical difficulties, his incorporation of this show into his being means that it is on in my house almost continuously. This is going on 12 years soon. Yes, really. It's a good thing I like the show, I have nightmares when I think that it could just as easily have been Teletubbies.... ! He doesn't even really sit and watch it, well he does that, but more often than not it's background. I think he needs it always in the background. He can be upstairs playing in his room and if the episode ends or if he wants it to start again or heaven forbid someone turned it OFF, he will start asking for it again, from upstairs. Now, I realize that many people who read this are going to wonder why I allow this. What you have to understand is that Josh is not like you and I or his brother. You cannot reason with him because he does not understand and his tantrums are not at all easy to deal with. At a certain point, like with all children, you know you have to pick your battles. Some things are worth fighting for, some, are not. At what cost do we draw a line? That is up to each family and what works for them. There is a tv in the loft for Zach to use for watching, or his console video games if it's a weekend, so Josh's domination of the tv in the family room is not taking away from Zach. I don't watch tv much and when I do it's after the kids are asleep for the most part. At this point I think we are all so used to it, it's just a part of the background noise for us. Where it is somewhat disruptive is the fact that it requires me or Zach or whoever is here and capable, to manage the media center. It's not always just an issue of putting on a different episode. Sometimes he wants the one he's watching re-wound or to start over, sometimes you have to ff or rw through a VHS tape to find the one he wants, you have to search through the library of tapes, DVD's and TiVo episodes... I have actually catalogued all the episodes on the VHS tapes, home made DVD's and TiVo to make them easier for someone other than myself to find. That took a long time :P But it helps. The other time it's more of an issue is when people are visiting. Since we've been living with it for as long as we have, I often take for granted that other people may have a harder time with the fact that Blue's Clues is pretty much on non-stop here while Josh is home and awake. Ok, sometimes it's Little Bear, he likes that too. :) But you get the point. You can on occasion turn it off and be persistent enough that he will stop asking for a while, but that is not always possible. I put the counter on the blog to actually keep track of how many times each day I have to go to the media center in the family room to handle a Blue's Clues request of some sort. It's one thing to tell people he asks a lot, it's another thing to really see what I'm talking about in terms of numbers.
So between the scripting, books, toys, shows, the quilt on his bed and his backpack for school, Blue's Clues is an integral part of Planet Josh and at this point it doesn't look like that will ever change. I am not sure what I will do when he is older, and these things are harder to get if not impossible. This is one of those "I can't go there" subjects (there are quite a few of those). Right now I just take it one Blue's Clues day at a time.