The Cell Phone

cell phone We bought our 21 yr old Aspie a Cell phone for her 18th birthday and put her on our plan.  She was thrilled.  Although she has few friends there’s something powerful and in control about owning a cell phone.  A key to the world beyond!

What a surprise when we received the first phone bill after she received her birthday present.  It was several thousand dollars!  She didn’t realize it cost extra to use the internet.  Being the computer genius she is, she did all kinds of fun things with that phone.  She downloaded lots of games and music and chatted with friends she met on her cell phone internet.  Apparently she was up all night playing and downloading with her new toy.  She was as shocked as we were with the phone bill.  I called AT&T and they wonderfully took all those extra charges off our bill and put a block on her phone so that she could only use it for a phone – no internet service, no downloading or texting.
It was a handy tool to keep track of her and locate her when she just took off.  But, a few months ago AT&T took the block off her phone without our authorization.  While playing around on her phone one day she discovered she had internet service again so without remembering the consequences she began downloading and texting again.  When the $1,400 bill came, I called AT&T and asked why the block was removed.  My husband had made some changes with something on our phone and in that change, our block was accidentally removed.  So once again they took off all the extra charges and we paid only the regular monthly fee.  
She met some guys on  “My Space” and gave out her cell phone # and personal info.  We had a serious talk about how dangerous that is and how she is only to call mobile to mobile, on weekend or after hours.  She was going along pretty good until she met “My Space Mike” on her laptop computer, in another state.  She assumed he had mobile to mobile.  He didn’t!  In looking over her bill she had spent hours at a time, on the phone to him.   Our bill last month was over $800.  Again I called AT&T and they graciously adjusted the bill and as a consequence I took her cell phone and told her I would keep it until she paid for the $800 bill.  (It was after that, that they agreed to drop all the regular monthly fee)  I still have her phone.
We got another bill yesterday for almost $400.  I called AT&T and they explained that it was carried over from our last bill before I took her phone.  Again they agreed to drop the extra charges if I would sign up for “Smart limits for wireless”.  It’s only $4.99 a month. I can put blocks on certain numbers, limit the times she can make calls (So she doesn’t spend all night on the phone).  I haven’t gone into AT&T’s on-line site to put the blocks on yet, but I will before I give her phone back.  I told her I was keeping her phone until I felt she exercised more wisdom in using it.
I don’t believe she did this as an act of rebellion. She is very computer smart and can figure out all kind of technology.  It’s in her hands so she makes it work without being able to understand or remember the consequences.  Her focus in all centered on that wonderful mechanical toy in her hands.  Everything else zooms out the window.  While she is so technology smart, basics like handling money, consequences, cleaning a room, personal hygiene etc. just don’t seem to register.   She felt bad about the big bill, but does that mean it won’t happen again?  Not if I can monitor it closely.

Many folks would say, “But she’s 21, how can you use so much control?”  That’s one of the reasons I have guardianship.  I believe in giving kids as much freedom as they can handle.  When they prove they can’t then it’s time to draw in the reigns.  When the Asperger wiring is crossed up and things don’t always connect then it takes a little outside help to stay out of trouble.

 

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0 thoughts on “The Cell Phone

  • July 22, 2009 at 12:17 pm
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    My sincere apologies for that enormous block of strange text above my last comment–I had written it in Word and copied it over to this and so all that text must have been from then translation! Wierd! Again, sorry about that.

    Reply
  • July 22, 2009 at 12:13 pm
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    Nice blog and like others here I’m sorry to read about your huge cell bills with AT&T. Even though it sounds like you pretty much worked out
    the issues for now, I thought I’d add that there are some effective ways to
    fight back against high wireless costs and billing discrepancies. Pardon the
    name dropping, but I work for a consumer advocacy website,
    http://www.fixmycellbill.com , that slashes the average cell bill by 28
    percent. As the consumer protection division of the company Validas,
    fixmycellbill.com has currently audited nearly 30,000 cell lines and has saved
    consumers over $5 million (and counting) off their wireless bills. You can see
    Validas in the national news media, most recently on Good Morning America at
    http://www.abcnews.go.com/GMA/MakeMoney/story?id=7640149&page=1.

    Good luck to everyone reading on cutting your
    wireless rates. My email address is dylan@fixmycellbill.com for anyone who
    wants free advice from an industry insider on getting fair cell phone rates.

    Dylan

    Reply
  • June 24, 2009 at 11:16 pm
    Permalink

    Sorry to hear about your ordeal with ATT.  I used to work there as a customer service rep…notice the past tense.  One thing to remember, as I learned when I worked there, if a client is verbally argumentative to a specific point such as “I did not change it; I am not going to pay your outrageous fee”, supervisors WILL ok reduction of your bill…totally.  Please keep this in mind when working with this company as they want seamless service with totally satisfied customers…so keep you point in mind with a good argument, and keep at it.  I have talked circumloquitous tangents for in xs of 1 hr, which is really bad for a customer service rep because you have a total you are suppose to complete daily…1hr with one client really messes up your stats.

    Reply
  • June 23, 2009 at 1:03 pm
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    That’s got to be frustrating.  Just reading this, I can’t imagine how someone can be so irresponsible and thoughtless.  But obviously, she has Asperger’s and that interferes with… things.  If she is not able to manage a cell phone, I doubt she will be able to manage anything else similar in her life.  Personally, I would never give her the phone back.  She does not and can not understand the consequences of her actions, it would be better, as the guardian, to just keep her away.

    Reply
  • June 23, 2009 at 11:00 am
    Permalink

    @dr52383@xanga – when minutes run out on the prepaid phones I have ever seen, it stops working except to call 911 in an emergency. I haven’t seen many though, so there could be exceptions to that.

    Reply
  • June 23, 2009 at 10:59 am
    Permalink

    Here’s something to think about. I have been known to do many of the same kind of things often forgetting that some things have unseen consequences or consequences that don’t happen right away. If she is so computer savvy, one good thing that you might want to try teaching her is computer programming in BASIC. By teaching the computer the if/then structure of cause and effect, it might help her start putting two and two together in other things as well. I don’t remember quite enough to show you a complete program, but one line might look something like this:

    09 IF A@= “Cat” then GO TO LINE 10

    Line 10 would then have the “consequence” of A@ = “Cat”

    She will then be able to try all kinds of things and will be able to go back and LOOK at the program to see how the programming works to make the computer do what she wants it to. If the program does not work, she will be able to go back and see the glitch in the program… it is still another example of cause and effect that is readily visible, yet still “hidden” or “non-immediate” consequences of actions. The same concepts can then be applied to life…

    One of the things that made this possible for me to figure out is that a lot of times, my mom would let me face the “natural” consequences of my actions. Which was often far more unpleasant to me than any punishment she could dole out. I was able to see the direct connection between what I did and the results. I was not allowed to use Aspergers as an excuse because no one knew about it at the time. I just had to deal with it. I survived. I am capable of holding my own now… for the most part.

    I would say that knowing your daughter has Aspergers is both a help and a hinderance to her. She is probably capable of more than you give her credit for, you just have to find the right ways to push her… which is unbelievably difficult. Please, do not think I am criticising you at all here, I’m not. I’m just offering an alternate point of view.

    I know that “left to my own devices” so to speak, I would sit and play on the computer all day ignoring the rest of the world. I have to have someone or something force me to leave it and do what I am supposed to do. I still lack a good measure of executive function. When I was a kid, I fought like hell about any kind of change in what I was doing. I used to resent my mom for MAKING me do things that I didn’t want to do, but now I’m glad she did. I would not be capable of what I am if it weren’t for her pushing me and fighting with me and all of that. There were a lot of tears involved in my life growing up. There was a lot of hurt and pain. Looking back on it though, is like looking at a computer program in BASIC. I can see the lines of programming that created what is now. The key to it is to keep love at the forefront.

    Now I’ve been married for nearly eleven years. I’ve got three kids who are the best thing that ever happened to me. Josh, my oldest, is a lot like me as a kid… and I’ve been able to help him without some of the “mistakes” my mom made on me. My struggles are more with my middle child who is apparently NT like her dad. My youngest is a mystery to me as well, but in different ways. Right this minute, the “program” is running through my head saying, “IF you don’t get your butt in gear and get to the laundromat soon, you’re going to have to scramble to get your clothes washed and packed and then you’ll be running around like a chicken with no head trying to get the rest of everything done for the trip.” So, I should go… 

    Reply
  • June 23, 2009 at 10:30 am
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    wow! you got some really empathetic and nice at&t reps!  i’m impressed.  i completely agree with you with limiting her cell phone options…especially if you are teaching her to monitor and control her usage with the thought that one day she will be able to control herself and have the limits removed.  maybe you could get her one of those prepaid phones where you buy minutes and load them (not sure what happens when they run out).  a lot of people that i work with with mental retardation have those and it displays on the front of the phone how many minutes are available.  just a thought!

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