Monday, January 25, 2016

Obsessed or Hobby?

Welcome to The Cherry On Top.

We are keeping up with entries related to Autism on Mondays.  

Last week we gave 10 alternatives to tying shoes because we understand how difficult that can be with Autistic children as well as ageing family, friends and patients.  The week before we gave tips on choosing your battles with students, friends and family with Autism and or on the spectrum.   Today, we'll touch on obsession. What is an obsession and when to worry about it?

The definition of obsession is: preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually and to a troubling extent

We are fully aware of the obsessive types of behaviour folks with Autism can have. Our boys certainly go through phases where one type of toy takes over their life to what might seem to be troubling.  We'll dissect this thought and hopefully bring you piece of mind or at least direction if the obsession is in fact troubling or harmful.

As many of you may know, Thomas The Tank Engine is a favourite amongst many kids with Autism.  Both of my boys were zapped with the fun, wheeling, bright coloured trains and faces.  Seriously, what's not to love?  They line them up, learn about numbers, move all around with their trains.  Learn colours, sing songs...I may have loved Thomas as much as the boys!  I can totally see how Thomas is so appealing.  We used Thomas to our advantage on so many levels.

Believe it or not, there are many positive aspects of hobbies or what may appear to be obsessions.  Let's take a look at some of those.

Hobbies can provide structure, order, predictability and can be used as a means to explain, relate or even help in particular situations.

Hobbies can help, relax and even give happiness.

Learning more and more about something in particular may also be fun, engaging and used once again as a means to communicate when nothing else seems to work.

Finding comfort in something particular may also be used as a means to be more involved socially.

We may have to ask ourselves, are we annoyed with their hobby and therefore think it obsessive to the point of worrying?

When should we worry?

Take a good look at the person when they are doing what you assume them to be obsessed with.  Do they look distressed, uncomfortable or do they look like they are trying to stop doing whatever it is, but can't?

Is their learning being forfeited for this?

Are they becoming less social because of their obsession?

Are they capable of stopping?

Is it causing significant disruption or damage to others?

Is the obsession to the point where it undermines their ability to live and enjoy themselves?

If you answered yes to one or more of these, then there may well be a problem.  So what should you do?

Start setting limits.

Do not take away whatever it is, but do try to minimise the use of it.  Try changing the subject if they continually talk about that something over and over.

Definitely make sure they are behaving appropriately socially.  Be sure to stick with the limits here, for sure.  If their behaviour is making strangers or others uncomfortable, it should be stopped or at the very least, addressed.

Link their interest to something new and try to expand or even evolve it into something new or different.

Profesional help is always an option, too.

With our experience, obsessions were very timely.  Thomas is now collecting dust and gaming is all of the rage.  Months and months of Minecraft, but then quickly, Mario Cart pops up again and in a couple of months something else will take over.

Another question you may want to ask yourself is, how much of this is my fault.  Hehehe...  Did you run out to the store and buy everything you could from Thomas?  Did you inundate them with books, movies, puzzles, colouring pages...We sure did!  Hehehe...We never thought of it as an obsession because it brought so much happiness to all of us and they did play with other toys.

Keep introducing new things to your children and students.  If they push them away, just keep trying. Don't force them.  As we mentioned in another Autism entry, some Autistic kids need time.  Sometimes, a lot of time to get used to a new toy.  They may need to look at it for several weeks, smell it, taste it, touch it, even throw it before they start to accept it.

If there is interest in other things, if they are not hurting anyone or being physically impeded continuously, then you may not have to worry.  Think of it as a passion.

These are our findings through personal experience.  We are not experts.  We're just here sharing our findings because there is a lot of information out there and it can be very watered down or perhaps too technical to fully comprehend.

We keep it light, positive and simple to help the most amount of people.

Thanks for all of your kind words and best of luck with your Autism experience.

If you are looking for more our our entries on Autism, hit up our Autism board on Pinterest where you can find more and all in one, easy place.

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