If you are the parent or carer of an Aspergers / Autism Spectrum child, then you are most likely aware that ASD people can have obsessive tendencies. They often become completely fixated on the subject or object of their passion. These obsessive behaviors may be quite intense and you might even be concerned that your child’s preoccupation with his or her object of passion is impeding the ability to function in every day life. In fact, it can throw your entire family life into disarray in extreme cases.
As the parent of your ASD child, only you can truly gauge to what extent the obsession has become unhealthy or simply unmanageable. You may decide that it needs to stop – or at least be controlled. You will have to rely on your own internal guidance to make that decision. Before you do, however, it may help to understand what’s going on for your child and what this obsession means for him or her.
About the Aspergers / Autism Spectrum Mind
Your ASD child’s mind is unique and absolutely amazing. As a society, we tend to focus on the “disability” aspect of autistic disorders because we are painfully aware of what isn’t working for our children. Those areas where they are under-functioning get highlighted and brought to the forefront under the guise of “helping” them learn to function in a neurotypical world.
This is most unfortunate because, in fact, there are probably things your child can do that most other people can’t – or certainly not very well! There is almost certainly a part of your child’s ability profile that far outperforms the other parts. And this part most likely functions far above average for your child’s age. It may be highly developed or certainly could be with the right support. You may already know this.
That is where the magic is for your child! If you can help your child focus on and expand this part of his or her functioning – turn it from a raw talent into a real strength – that will be your child’s ticket to happiness and possibly independence. We all need a “purpose” in life in order to feel fulfilled – a reason for being here. Well, this is your child’s purpose! How fortunate these people are to have their purpose call to them so clearly and at such an early age!
About Your ASD Child’s Obsession
From the outside looking in, it is likely that your child’s current obsession appears to be utterly useless in the “real world”. In other words, it may well appear as though your child’s obsession is of no benefit to him / her or anyone else.
But here’s the thing: if your child is obsessed with something, it’s because that thing sparks the high-functioning part of your child’s brain somehow. That’s why your child is so passionate about it! Your child’s brain is LEARNING something from that obsession and STRENGTHENING the inherent talent.
This may be very difficult for you to appreciate from the outside, so I want to give you an example. I will use Pokemon as the example because very many Aspergers / Autism Spectrum children adore Pokemon and share this obsession – both of my sons included. (It’s no surprise that the man who invented Pokemon is an Aspie!)
For my eldest Aspie, it is my belief that the cataloguing and classifying aspects of Pokemon appealed to him – the differentiating, sorting and compiling into different types, abilities, powers etc of the different Pokemon monsters. My eldest is currently in his third year of a chemistry degree and I now understand that his mind works this way. He has an almost superhuman desire to “catalogue” in this manner and it gives him a distinct advantage in certain parts of the study of chemistry.
For my youngest, the appeal was entirely different. It was the fantasy, the heroism, the feeling of justice and power that enthralled him. He has a very rich inner, imaginary world and Pokemon fuelled the flames of this fantasy world. He is now, at the age of 10, showing an incredible penchant for writing creative fantasy stories.
For other ASD children, it may be the visual appeal or the visual spatial (video game) aspect that fascinates them. Most young ASD children would probably be hard pressed to tell you exactly what it is about the game that their brain needs, because they don’t realize it themselves. All they know is that they love it and feel like they need it.
It’s not about trying to figure out how your ASD child’s obsession is benefitting him or her, or what high-functioning part of the brain is being fed. It’s simply about trusting that your child loves the object of passion for a reason and that s/he is exercising a powerful talent and turning it into a strength.
What Does It All Mean?
In truth, these children feel that they need to conquer and master it, whatever “it” is. Your child longs for the feeling of success and accomplishment that accompanies mastering his or her passion. S/he is driven to understand it at the deepest level, to own it completely.
The good news is, your child will almost certainly outgrow whatever childish obsession is currently driving you mad. S/he will conquer it and move on. My eldest had a violent passion for video games. He played more than most parents would probably consider healthy. Then, miraculously, almost overnight, he took that same fervent passion and focused it toward study – the study of chemistry and languages in particular, which both call upon this “cataloguing” aspect of his mind.
The moral of the story is this: curtail your ASD child’s obsession if you must. You will have to use your own internal guidance to gauge how and where the limit is. But understand that your child needs something from that preoccupation and s/he is gaining far more than you can possibly imagine by indulging in it, regardless of how frivolous it may seem to you.
Yes, Aspergers / Autism Spectrum people can be very obsessive. This is not news. What is news, though, is what’s going on behind the scenes for your child in that amazing brain. Indulge the obsession to whatever degree you can allow, and feed the passion! Let your ASD child’s mind learn what it needs to learn from the preoccupation and trust that s/he will move on to bigger and better things.