From an early age it became apparent my son had over-attachments to things. He fell in love with Elmo at some point between 18m-2 years and sometimes got so excited when Elmo came on TV he would cry! This was soon followed by a Wiggles fanaticism. This one I fed because as a first time Mum this whole new world of stuff that made him happy- videos, concerts, musical toys- in turn made me happy too and encouraged his development.
Next came Thomas. That was the big one. He plunged himself into world of Thomas like he was an actual resident of the Isle of Sodor. He played with trains, slept with trains, babbled about trains, drew pictures of trains, wore Thomas shirts and pyjamas. That’s all anyone ever bought him. It started out very sweetly but this is when I became concerned. We were as yet undiagnosed and completely unfamiliar with the world of autism. My boy seemed to be on Sodor all of the time. Day and night. I wasn’t sure what it meant but it made me uncomfortable. He didn’t emerge for years.
Our son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome by the middle of his first year at school. Around this time he discovered Lego, which was a relief for me because it helped his fine motor co-ordination and took his mind to a different place. Later there were other serial obsessions with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Thunderbirds, Wallace and Gromit, Ben 10, Bakugan, Bionicles and then at age ten he got his first Nintendo DS. Hello Pokemon, Mario and right now, Zelda. Harry Potter has snuck in too but to our eternal gratitude is the only reason to date Mr12 will so much as pick up a fiction book of that or (any size) willingly.
While there are advantages to our ASD kids having obsessional interests: it relaxes them, especially when they come home from school. They can be social ice-breakers, new acquaintances with mutual interests may be found, side-hobbies such as short movie-making develop. But there are also disadvantages, as well as the concerned comments from family.
There seems to be no end-point to this stuff. He has a wish list for us to purchase that never, ever ends and he can be very repetitive about it. Now that he has his gaming devices and a PC it is frustratingly difficult to get him away from them. It upsets me deeply how much effort it takes to disengage him. To my despair if I did not go in there and start requesting/ asking/ begging/ pleading/ bargaining/ demanding/repeating myself till I’m sick to death of both of us… he would, and has, spent an entire weekend attached to those devices, not leaving the house. Household involvement in terms of responsibilities can be major source of stress for all of us for all the same reasons listed.
What do you do in these instances? We have at this point only managed to place 2 technology-free days into the week. He does have two physical activity classes per week. Is it as much of an effort to separate your child from their ‘stuff’ when you need to and how do you place boundaries on it? What sort of rewards or incentives do you utilise?