New Member Saying Hi

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Mrs Smith, Jul 12, 2007.

  1. Mrs Smith

    Mrs Smith New Member

    Just wanted to say hi and thanks for all the great help and support you've given me while I've been lurking.

    I have a 14yo son with AS+ (Lamictal 200mg/day, social skills group therapy, part-time LS program in regular MS) and a husband who self-medicates with substances not covered by medical insurance. I'm a mostly NT stay at home mom and if I wasn't crazy before, I am now!

    Anyway - I do have a specific question for those with kids on the spectrum. How do you handle obsessive interests that take over life almost to the exclusion of everything else? M has a friend who he talks to on the phone daily for many hours (6 or more some days). The conversation is not what most would consider typical. It revolves around an imaginary scenario loosely based on the Dragonball Z theme but has morphed into real-life type situations (dating, sibling issues, parental authority issues, peer interactions, etc....) This other kid either tolerates my son's interests or he enjoys it also - I can't tell. When he comes over to visit he seems easier to redirect to other activities than my son. So my question- would you limit the amount of time he spends in this activity or not? doctor (neurodevelopmental pediatrician) says encourage but don't force.

    The other problem is that when he can't get his friend on the phone, he doesn't seem to know what to do with himself and complains of boredom and becomes restless and irritable. His other activities are watching cartoon network on tv, playing Dragonball Z video games or listening to a few select songs on his ipod. Occasionally, he'll shoot hoops or practice karate moves in the yard. I used to be able to redirect him to activities with me, swimming, trips to the zoo, bowling or movies but he refuses - is this a result of puberty? What to do? Thanks for your help.

  2. Mrs Smith

    Mrs Smith New Member

    Oops. Sorry wrong forum.
  3. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    Hi Mrs Smith

    No problem -- I'll move this thread to the General Forum.

    Welcom to the site!
  4. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome! Glad you found us! I don't have a child on the spectrum. I do know my soon to be 14 year old easy child is pretty much only likes to talk on the phone or listen to her ipod. Once in awhile we can get her to watch or go to a movie with us.
  5. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Some of what you're describing is typical teen stuff. But the phone converstations is probably excessive.

    I never had much luck with redirection with Travis. The best I could manage was just simply limiting the activity because he couldn't seem to do it for himself. His is sci fi, Star Trek, Star Wars ect.

    If he wanted to watch reruns of Star Trek he had to accomplish such and such throughout the day. If he didn't then no Star Trek (or other sci fi activity). That was the only way to motivate him to do something else like chores, or to simply go outside.

    I learned to work around, and to use Travis' obsessions to my advantage. It was my only option. And it usually worked pretty well. Heck, I still use them. lol

    Welcome to the board. :salute:
  6. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi, Mrs. Smith.
    I have a spectrum son and your son sounds extremely "normal" for a spectrum kid. They don't have a lot of interests. in my opinion your lucky your son has a friend. Mine has school chums, but he has no interest in interacting once home. I have to send him to summer school to get him out of the house (he is 14). Because I'm around the house, it's ME he'll talk to about the various videogame scenarios non-stop. He is very fluent, but does not hold normal conversations. My intensive attempt to widen his interests failed. Even when I forced him to do other things, he'd come up to me (or CALL me) and start talking about his obsessions. Yes, this includes when he would be at things like kid oriented activities. He never interacted on a deep level with other kids and is always anxious to get home, although he is very well acclimated at school and likes to go. Once home, he is DONE socializing and likes to hang with the family, doing his obsessions.
    I'm not sure there is much you can do, or if it's bad for spectrum kids--my son seems pretty happy. He is just very focused on only a few things and I can't get him to focus on anything else no matter how hard I try. The older he gets, the less I can intervene and make an impression because he is growing up and not as amicable to my suggestions. My son is mainstreamed except he spends one period in Special Education, and has a modified cirriculum, which he needs. He's doing well, and doesn't need medications to maintain good cheer, but he's very quirky and different, and I doubt I can change that if he doesn't want to change. Welcome to the board. Others will pop in.
  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Oops--forgot. Lucas, due to having a limited imagination (common trait of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids) can't amuse himself either. He doesn't have and never did have the ability to amuse himself in an abstract way. He needs props or he annoys everyone by picking things up, looking them over, shaking them, putting them down, moving to the next object and then maybe clapping his hands really loudly, etc. In our case, we think he does better when we let him obsess. He *is* in soccer and on the swim team (against his will) grrrrrrrrrrr. I can't force that once he's an adult though.
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Welcome, Mrs Smith (I feel like I'm talking to a teacher!)

    Oh, boy, do I ever understand! I have a house full of these. And now with BF2 living here, it's another one. You've already noticed how kids like ours find more like them and bring them home?

    BF2 is a total NUT about these sort of games - to such a huge extent that he actually WORKS for a business which organises gaming for kids. They also sell model kits, game kits, pots of paint to decorate models, etc. He's just come home from a gaming convention (difficult child 1 was there, too, but he's not coming home tonight - staying with girlfriend tonight).

    BF2 gets on really well with difficult child 1 especially on the gaming front. He has a diagnosis of ADHD but I also wonder about AS with him. Because he has a family history of similar problems, including depression and some physical disabilities, he actually met difficult child 1 and easy child 2/difficult child 2 at Young Carers Camp (where easy child 2/difficult child 2 is off to at the moment). Then they met up again at animé convention.

    So as you can see, we've given up trying to control it too much. There are rules - the kids have to buy their own stuff. This includes games, models, DVDs etc. We're never stuck for Christmas or birthday presents - a gift certificate does the trick. The kids have to store this stuff in their own space. This includes their DVDs. Sometimes we watch or play with them, but it's more so we know what they are immersing themselves in.

    easy child 2/difficult child 2, difficult child 1 and BF2 are adults. Legally. And yet they don't behave like it. We've accepted that their maturity is going to take longer. Where husband & I were married when we were 22, these kids are just nowhere near ready for independence.

    And I haven't even got to difficult child 3!

    Basically, our kids will find those who like the same things and think the same way. I would scrutinise M's friend - he sounds Aspie, at least, if he can talk to M about his obsession for so long. But finding friends on the spectrum is a good thing, I think. It really boost their self-esteem because they can really see it's not just them.

    My advice always, in any issue when dealing with a kid on the spectrum - begin by meeting the kid where he/she is. Then progress from there. You mightn't be keen to immerse yourself in Dragonball Z but you could at least support him, by helping him organise his collection (maybe shelves?) and if you see information about it (say, in a TV news story) bring it to his attention. Go to a convention with him. Help him meet his favourite celebrities (such as the animators, for example). And if you find something similar (such as our kids finding animé) then share it with him to broaden his world.

    My kids aren't home at the moment (apart from BF2 who isn't very communicative/experienced about how to support someone with AS) so I can't ask them for some similar things your son might like.

    It sounds to me like he's making progress, if he's getting bored. It means he is wanting more in life than Dragonball Z. He could do with another outlet/interest.

    What is he like at art? Can he copy some of his favourite illustrations? He could be in demand in local areas with fan clubs, for poster design for example. Or making a pinata in Dragonball Z form.

    How is he going at school? Can you try and channel his interesat into academic areas? Maybe interest him in cartooning in general? Design a storyboard to describe something for school? And the shelves - he could make them (with help) and fulfil a carpentry requirement.

    difficult child 3 just suggested Sonic (the Hedgehog) as a possible alternative - "difficult child 1 & BF2 are both adults and they're into Sonic as well," he told me. Sonic includes games, movies and DVDs. If he likes slapstick humour, he might like to try Love Hina - it may not sound promising, but it's very funny. (This is from difficult child 3 - you might like to vet it first). Also, Ranma 1/2.
    A word of caution over the animé options - they are Japanese in origin. They were designed for Japanese teens/adults. Japanese culture and morality are very different (and seem very strange to us). References to nudity are no big issue for them, because of their culture. They are highly moral in other ways, however.
    I would also recommend - Evangelion. It's a serious animé, a very high standard of story and animation. We watched it with our kids. The story is Japan, in the future - children of special talent are the only hope to save the human race from alien invaders. And of course, as in a great deal of animé, the protagonists of the story are children who don't fit in for various reasons, which is why, I think, our Aspies et al LOVE this stuff.

    By diversifying, you are also encouraging greater diversity in other areas. He will learn to try new things, just to see. He can also meet other people at conventions, expand his interest further.

    But something else to consider from here - where is he going, life-wise? What potential career path do you think he will follow? Where do his talents lie? And in what way can you connect his interests with his potential?

    BF2 has found a connection and is using it. For difficult child 3, I've suggested he look at computer programming. easy child 2/difficult child 2's exBF (who was also an animé fan) has gone into computer-based animation and game design. He's working towards job placement in Japan, which will be interesting.

    Other possibilities including trying to invent, in reality, the various sci-fi toys shown in these stories. So many possibilities... and sometimes, all you can do is support a hobby while they build a career path in a different direction.

    Something to encourage your son to do now - write reviews of games, DVDs etc and try to submit them to fan magazines. If he can get a job as a regular reviewer in a special-interest area, it could open a few other doors.

    There will be people who will say you are mad to allow it, let alone encourage it. But as you already know, what choice do we have? When these kids obsess about something, you can't stand between. Better to be an ally now, than flattened by a steamroller. As an ally, you may have some influence. As a ribbon of flesh on the road, you have been walked over and considered unimportant.

    Stick around. We can support each other (and cry on each other's shoulders, across the oceans!)

  9. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome!! Glad you posted.

    I think anything in excess is unhealthy. Limiting some things that seem to easily take over is a good way to go. Perhaps you can tell him 4 hours max and it has to be split into 4 different conversations. With luck it will dwindle on its own, if not you will probably want to slowly reduce the amount of time on the phone. I would go to 2 hours - but I think initially it will upset him too much.
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I think limiting phone time is fine. I'd do that myself. However, I don't think you can actually make a spectrum kid forget about his obsession and think about something else. It will be on his mind, even if he isn't talking about it. I've tried in vain to get my son distracted into other things and interests and it always goes back to his Not saying you shouldn't try just because it doesn't work for me, but in my Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Parent Group we spend a lot of time laughing about the kid's and their obsessions and how they can focus on their obsession ad nauseum and how hard/impossible it is to make them think about something else. The kids are simply wired so differently than typical kids. If you find a way to get him out of hit, let me know and I'll try it on mine! :smile: I get a little tired of hearing the launching dates of Mario Party 8 and all the ways you can "die" lolol. This is conversation with He also is addicted to certain cartoons and will talk like Sponge HELP! I'm open to suggestion, but I'm half convinced this is just how he is.
  11. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Mrs Smith,

    you've gotten some gread words from those with experience on the spectrum. I just wanted to pop in and say hi and welcome you to the site!

    You'll find tons of support here. Glad you found us.

  12. Mrs Smith

    Mrs Smith New Member

    Thanks everyone for your great suggestions and support!

    In the past, I've always indulged his interests and they seemed to extinguish themselves naturally over time. He's never really had an over-riding long-lasting intensive obsession like I've read about in other spectrum kids who amass volumes of information about their topic and are content to spend hours alone to do it. M always wanted an audience and minus the audience, he would wander aimlessly looking for something to spark his interest. The interests also were typical kid interests like trains, animals, construction equipment, and dinosaurs not parts of objects or unusual things like deep fat fryers or the Titanic.

    That's the piece I always wondered about in terms of a correct diagnosis. I'm thinking his obsessive interest is more about having a friend than the initial connection that brought them together. Before this kid, there was another one who had a shared interest of star wars. Then it was star wars games, movies, toys, and this kid all the time. And then he literally dropped the kid one day (and the interest in star wars) and moved on to the new one who had the common interest of Dragonball Z. Now it's all Dragonball Z all the time but without this kid's involvement, the interest pretty much goes away - he's not content to indulge the interest solo and he's left wandering aimlessly again looking for something to peak his interest. Before the star wars phase, there was a kid who liked karate, before that there was a kid who liked transformers, etc.... It is definitely obsessive at the time though and any attempt at redirection is met with an intense reaction and bad feelings (you hate me, you think I'm stupid, you wish I were dead).

    The AS diagnosis is a new one. Before that was ADHD, Learning Disability (LD), possible tourettes or bipolar. Mood disorders and ADHD are rampant in the family tree and he clearly has a math Learning Disability (LD) (way behind academically). I'm thinking he's more non-verbal Learning Disability (LD) and adhd and probably anxiety or depression which together looks like as. There's also severe fine motor problems.

    His educational background has always been Special Education learning support class partly for the opportunity to meet others like himself and also for small group intensive instruction. He's always made friends (one at a time) in school. He does not have or ever had any typical friends. He's been a easy child in school though, always willing to learn new things so we've never had to involve a special interest to aid in learning. He really defies a label.

    Would love to hear your feedback. Thanks again for all your help!
  13. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Something I didn't mention, but which was made clear to me tonight - difficult child 1 was stretched out beside me on my bed (I'm recovering from my cold; plus, "Pretty Woman" was on and I was TRYING to watch it).

    difficult child 3 was reading his current favourite comic book - "Footrot Flats". It's about a New Zealand farmer, his dog is the main character. NOTHING like Snoopy!
    But difficult child 3 is learning a lot of social stuff from comics and cartoons. They are much simpler, more stylised. A comic strip has the set-up and the punch line. difficult child 3 keeps asking me to explain a joke - sometimes he asks me to explain each one. He's really digging into it - "Why did Wal smile at Dog?"
    "Why is Dog acting like that?" "Why did Dog let the boar take refuge from the broody sow in his water tank kennel, but not let Wal hide from Aunt Dolly?"

    Needless to say, I'm glad I've seen that movie many times before.

    difficult child 3 also reads Mad magazines. He's studying the humour, especially the satire. He also has begun using the humour in his own social situations. And also he uses a lot of stuff from his computer games, in social situations.

    I've mentioned before, how the first time he successfully got rid of a bully, it was because of a line he adopted from one of his games. difficult child 3 was running down to the library, when a kid who used to bully difficult child 3 regularly began to chase him and throw things at him. difficult child 3 stopped briefly, turned round and said, "I'm really busy right now. Can I come back and ignore you later?" and then kept going to the library. He said he glanced back - the bully was just standing there, mouth open. On the way back from the library, the bully was nowhere to be seen.

    I did manage to put in some time restrictions. We also make sure they have valid reasons for existing, too. At first our reasons were based on needing to get difficult child 3 settled for bed without being overstimulated. One computer game we had would give him nightmares. So we banned certain games after 6 pm.

    Our current restrictions - no gaming when there are tasks to be done. This includes taking medication; eating meals; bathing; chores; getting ready for bed.
    On school days difficult child 3 may play games once he'd medicated and had his breakfast, but the games stop at 9 am. (Sooner, if we've agreed he will begin work earlier).
    NO gaming is permitted during school hours. This includes lunchtime. Preferably, he can eat his lunch while he continues to do schoolwork.

    Schoolwork finishes at 3.30 pm or when set tasks are complete, whichever is the longer. difficult child 3 can then play games until 7 pm, apart from time spent doing chores. But from 7 pm to 8.30 pm, tasks must be done as a priority, games stop immediately when he's asked to do something like eat dinner, have a bath, clean teeth etc. Games can only continue when he is completely ready for bed, including teeth cleaned.
    Games MUST finish at 8.30 pm. Bedtime is at 9.30 pm or whenever he chooses (if earlier). Lights out at 10 pm. From 8.30 pm, reading is permitted but no gaming.

    We tend to relax things during school holidays, but I still involve difficult child 3 in other activities and often (these days) he will take himself off for a walk or a visit. Today he visited his best friend just after lunch, then came home and told me he was visiting a young neighbour over the road. OK, he's probably gaming at both houses, but at least he's playing with someone else, plus walking there and back.

    Back when difficult child 3 was very young, he would sit and watch the same movie or taped TV show over and over, with the subtitles on. He would stop, rewind, play it, stop, rewind, play it again. He sometimes changed languages but generally not until about ten years old. Before then, he would just watch. It seemed like nothing was happening.
    But what was happening - he was learning social situations, the whole lot in one go. The social context; the dialogue; the facial expressions and body language; the vocal intonation; the pronunciation; the spelling. He HAD to learn it all in one huge chunk, or fail to understand it at all.
    He began to quote huge chunks of text. In some cases we had the manuscripts printed out and he would read them while he watched the show. In later years, he would watch a cartoon/movie and keep pausing the tape, while he ran to the computer to type up the next part of the manuscript.

    Yes, it's obsessive, but it's helped him communicate. There is a lot we didn't understand for a long time, but we see our kids doing weird things which later turn out to make sense in some sort of weird way. It has helped them make progress.

    difficult child 3 learned to talk not by watching "Play School" but by watching a TV series for adult migrants.
    He learned to count not by watching "Sesame Street" but by watching the display on the microwave oven, and by reading car licence plates and letter boxes.

    Because difficult child 3 knows that we will not block his gaming completely, he feels secure about the restrictions.

    When difficult child 1 was in his final years of high school gaming was interfering with his study. We made an agreement to limit his gaming time per day - I actually asked difficult child 1 to name the number of hours per day and he, not realising how excessive his play was, nominated four hours a day (thinking it was the amount he played). He was horrified at how much less game time he got - which then horrified him at how much time he had previously been playing.
    difficult child 1 then asked me to police his gaming and quarantine him from games entirely, until he had reached a certain stage in his lessons. So I removed a vital component - with difficult child 1's blessing - and hid it.
    It was interesting to see how he coped - or didn't - with total loss of game time.
    He actually lasted several weeks but he was so relived when we finally reconnected everything!

    But because HE set the limits, he felt more in control and it was easier for those limits to be followed.

  14. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    I just wish that the obsession was remotely something that I was interested in! YuGiOh is his PASSWORD for different things, the cards are everywhere (in certain order of course) dueling is the MOST important thing in the world and anyone that thinks differently is ignorant. I can't stand the bloody things!!!

    We ended up with a total meltdown the other day because his little brother mentioned that he wanted to collect the cards as well.

    Welcome to the board, these kids can be mind bending for sure!


  15. Mrs Smith

    Mrs Smith New Member

    Thank you for helping me put into words my disjointed thoughts on this subject. I think now I know why I've been on the fence. I see both positive and negative outcomes with the obsessions. Like Marg noticed with her kids, there's alot of social learning going on. Dragonball Z was the springboard but really he's practicing social skills with feedback from another person. I see the negatives too - it doesn't leave room for anything else and the intensity and mental effort wears him out in the end so he's that much harder to redirect and it negatively affects his mood. There's no simple answer but I want a relationship with him so I'll push to a point, but no further. Striking the perfect balance is nearly impossible and endlessly frustrating.

    Thanks again to everyone who shared their stories and experiences.