October 10, 2008

Dealing with Obsession in the Autistic World

I didn’t think much about why my son, then an infant, had to carry his foam “W” wherever we went.  I didn’t  think much about the tantrum that ensued once we lost it during one of our outings.  I didn’t think much about it.  I figured it was his security blanket.  He was a thumb-sucker, so I figured his ‘obsession’ with the letter wasn’t any big deal.

Nowadays, he no longer carries a letter, but his Fischer Price Doodle Pro goes everywhere we go.

I purchased his first one in 2006 because I noticed he liked to draw; he was going through drawing pads like crazy.  I figured I could help save the environment while getting him something that would offer instant gratification and not be as wasteful.

In 2007, he managed to go through 7 Doodle Pros.  Not because he was rough on them, but because he used them all day, every day.  Fischer Price owes me some moolah; I’m sure I had something to do with the rise in their stock during ’07!

What is the correlation with obsessive behavior and autism?

One reason is people on with autism want and need consistency in their daily lives.  The slightest change can be upsetting to them.

It is believed that sameness may offer some measure of stability; allowing the person to be more focused.  Or perhaps, this sameness gives them the ability to block out any painful stimuli.

People often make the ‘mistake’ of making abrupt changes to the environment of someone with autism, and they wonder why things always seem to backfire on them.

For example, if a child spends hours lining up toys or other objects, and someone says, “enough is enough”, and put these things away, they could have a full blown explosion on their hands.

Perhaps, the best approach in helping an autistic child live in a non-autistic world is to make slow and gradual changes.

My son adjusts pretty well to change.  We’ve moved a few times, and I’ve always made a point of changing something in the setup of his room so it didn’t look like the previous setup.

I don’t know if this is the right thing to do because I’m not an expert.  But what I do know is that he hasn’t suffered any meltdowns because of the change.

So, if you have a child or know of a child with autism, try it out.  Make a subtle change and see how your child adjusts.  If it doesn’t work, you can always change things back.

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