• 9/12/2011 9:52:01 PMBrainware Safari and Ice CreamMichael has been working with this computer program called Brainware Safari to help his cognitive thinking skills.  The program has various little memory/thinking related tasks for him to work through and over all it has been a real challenge for him.  

    In one particular exercise he has been working on, the application tells him 4 random numbers between 1 and 100.  The numbers are then displayed on the screen and Michael's task is to put them in order by clicking on them in the proper sequence.  This involves listening, memory, linking what is heard to what is seen, and sequencing.  Michael repeatedly fails at this and is frustrated.

    Mom is watching while Michael struggles and so she decides to give him a hint.  She repeats the 4 numbers that were spoken and puts them into the right sequence.  Basically, she gave him the answer.  All that was required to do was for him to click on the numbers.

    Can you guess what he did?  He clicked on the 1st number correctly, then the second number correctly.  For the third number, he hovered the mouse over the correct number for a long time.  He waved the arrow back and forth and then suddenly clicked on a different incorrect number.

    Brainware Safari is very good at detecting failed exercises and attempts to cheat.  As soon as the incorrect number was clicked, a sound was made and a message flashed that his choice was wrong.  All of this happened very quickly and since Michael has bombed this exercise so many times, he knows the sounds of failure.  No sooner had he clicked on the wrong number and got the fail noise - did he immediately look at Mom with raised eyebrows and an expression that said, "SEE!  I Clicked on the right number but there must be something wrong with the computer!"

    Mom said, "I was watching you and I knew you would not click on the right number even though I gave you the answer.  You clicked on the wrong number on purpose."

    Michael gave mom a very puzzled look as if he wasn't sure what she meant or perhaps what she was saying was pure crazy talk and he would never do such a thing.  We refer to this as "playing dumb".  This was all a big mistake or misunderstanding because Michael "really tried his best to do the right thing".  At least that is what he likes to tell himself.  He tells himself the lie that when you do the right thing, it’s too hard and it never works out – so why bother.  Then he said, "Sometimes the computer doesn't work when you click right on the number so I click next to it because that is how it works."  

    Of course as an experienced computer programmer, that is how I write all my software.  I don’t want the user to correctly and exactly choose the right answer.  The best option for every user is to choose an option that is close to the correct answer – but never the correct answer…  

    Mom said, "I was watching you and waiting for you to do this.  You knew the correct answer and you chose not to click on it.  Now you're saying that you tried to click on the right answer but you're blaming the computer for not working correctly.  Why?  What is the point of all of this?"

    Michael answered, "I don't know"

    I'll tell you the point.  It's a game where the rules of play and the definition of winning and losing are only known to Michael and only have meaning to him.

    So what is the proper response to a Reactive Attachment Disorder game such as this?  At our home, we have a score chart that we keep on the refrigerator that has a column for each of our names.  When Michael does this sort of thing, we go and give ourselves a point and then say, "Thank you for giving me a point.  That was very kind of you.  Now I have 25.  Thanks Michael!  You're the best!".

    A friend of mine suggested that I redeem my points for a prize.  I think that when I hit the magic number of points (which is known only to me), I will redeem my points for a big bowl of ice cream.

    Brainware Safari