Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fear of toilets: Youtube therapy

If you peek at my youtube watch history list, you'll think I'm some kind of pervert: there is A LOT of videos of toilets there. That's what we've been doing lately, me and Koopa: watching videos of toilets flushing. A lot of them. Every day.


Seriously, I had no idea there were so many videos of toilet flushing out there. But what really shocked me is how many pounds of baby carrots, grapes and sausages were wasted in the making of these videos; how many cellphones, golf balls and plastic letters went down the drain. Look at this one here, for instance. It's astonishing. I swear I'm never buying a new toilet because of these ads.

So we've been watching these horrible videos, me holding my fingers crossed, desperately hoping that Koopa doesn't get the wrong idea and attempts to flush our cellphones down the toilet. So far he's been pretty judgmental about everything he's seen in those videos ("Mama, he's throwing sausages into the toilet! You're not supposed to do that!!!", he says with a gasp). In other words, it's been a good educational activity.

Seriously, though, the purpose of this youtube therapy is to get him acquainted with as many toilets as possible at a safe distance. When I first offered him to watch toilet videos, he liked the idea but didn't want to hear the flushing sound. So I taught him how to turn off the sound on my laptop, and that's how he's been watching them: silent or almost silent. He really likes it, I think, because it gives him complete control over the situation. Then we took a video of our home toilet flushing, and I put it on the same playlist as all the other toilet videos. I was curious what he would do about it. What he does is simply turn up the volume for our home toilet video because he's not scared of it, but turns off the sound for all other toilets. My hope is that eventually he'll be able to see that they're exactly the same and watch all of them with the sound. But for now, I like the idea that he has got some control over the monster.

Now, the interesting thing is that this little volume control trick has now been extended to non-toilet situations. Koopa now turns off the sound for many other videos or parts of a video that he watches. I've noticed that he turns it off (or turns it down) not just in loud or scary situations, but in emotionally charged situations that are not that loud, for example, when a character is crying ("I don't want to hear the piglet cry" / "Я не хочу слушать как Фунтик плачет"), somebody getting angry at another, when there is bullying or teasing going on. Even when its not overtly emotional but something bad is happening to someone (e.g. in one cartoon he watches a character is being thrown to jail), he turns the sound off. In some of these situations I've also seen he turn away from the screen or run away and come back when the unpleasant episode is over. When I saw him do all this, it amazed me again just how sensitive this boy is, and I'm glad he found a way to control the emotional stimuli to prevent overwhelming himself.

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