Autism: When your child’s obsession consumes the whole family

My son love lifts. He has done for many years now. He watches lift doors open and close on YouTube, he knows every shop in our town and beyond that has a lift, and when he has hospital appointments we HAVE to visit every lift in the entire hospital. 

It is consuming! 

It rules his life: He is drawn to lifts like a magnet is drawn to metal. He can not simply walk on by or use it for the functional purpose of just moving up one floor. No! He has to press every level, every single time. He has to get out at different floors and watch the same doors open and close from every possible angle. He has to flap, dance and giggle at people getting in, people getting out and the repetitive announcements telling you which floor you are at. He has to touch every wall, put his ear to the back and have a fit of the giggles at me preventing him from pressing the emergency alarm…at every single level! 

It is consuming!

I can’t just go to the shop to pick up milk or a loaf of bread because my local supermarket happens to have a life in the car park and two inside the shop. He either can not come with me (which involves a complete meltdown because despite having limited understanding he seems to be able to sense I am going to somewhere with a lift!) or he comes with me and I risk leaving having only made it to the lift! Moving him on is almost impossible. It involves him self harming, screaming, physically dragging him and sometimes calling for backup. It is not pretty. 

It is consuming. 

He loses all track of time in a lift. It is like an entire world to him. He loves the noise, the echo, the shiny walls, the confined space, the predictability, the voice that comes out at just the right time, the buttons he can press, and the feeling of it moving. It is exciting. It is his ‘happy place’ and he would stay there all day every day. I can’t let him do that though.

So I film him so he can watch himself back. I use ‘first and then’ and desperately bribe him to come away. I use timers and warnings. I use visuals and talkers. I could send God himself to rescue him but he still would not care. 

He is consumed by his obsession and nothing will move him on. 

Isaac is loved deeply. We allow him time at his obsession even though his sister would rather stick pins in herself than be at a lift! But what do you do when every family outing, every waking minute on YouTube and every google search (for images as he has no ability to read or write) is all consumed with your child’s obsession? 

There has to be a balance. Isaac has no understanding why he can not be utterly saturated in his own obsession. He has no awareness of the needs of others or that shops even have closing times! He craves the sensory feedback of lifts like you and I crave water and food. To deny him that would be to destroy him. 

So what do you do when you are consumed by the needs and wants of one member of the family? 

It is hard to get the balance right. We have tried the splitting up idea where one adult has the thrilling day of lifts (yes I am being sarcastic!) and the other entertains his sister. That causes resentment eventually. We have tried days without lifts (that was that awful screaming you heard ringing in your ear thousands of miles from me). We have tried compromising (have you ever tried to reason with a severely autistic non verbal 8 year old? It isn’t fun!). We have even tried the seesaw approach of you get a lift and we all get something we want too. That went down like a lead balloon!

There is no ‘little bit’ when it comes to an autism obsession. There is no ‘forget about it’ days. 

It consumes them. It consumes us. 

We are trying to teach our son patience, self control and limitations. Meanwhile he has other ideas…

P.s. I spent so long at a lift today I typed most of this up while watching him! 

His obsession really has consumed me now too…I am even writing about it! 

That is what happens when your child’s obsession consumes the whole family! 

——-

This article first appeared on http://www.autismawareness.com where you can find other great articles and information on autism.
A link to the original piece can he found here.

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21 thoughts on “Autism: When your child’s obsession consumes the whole family

  1. I so know where you are coming from mama. My nonverbal 6 year old son is obsessed with Trains. Toy trains, real trains, pictures of trains, trains on the tablet, you name it. When we are taking a drive I am literally a nervous, sweating wreck until we find him a train to see. It’s exhausting…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can only imagine (and imagine I did) how consuming this must be – when the obsession is something ‘non-moveable’ and so limited in how many different angles you can satisfy the obsession. I hope this eventually gets easier for you all, somehow x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aww what a cute boy you have! I have previously worked for an autism assessment team and heard from many parents about their childs’ unique obsessions and how they can make everyday life difficult and different from the ‘norm’. Unfortunately not all parents were as understanding and patient as you appear to be. Nice post, thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ours is Hoover’s and iPhones. She even names her body parts after them! She , at 14 , has more understanding not to consume us with it and is VERY verbal and quite bright at mainstream secondary school but still her obsessions are extrememly BORING!!! but still they go on!!! So I sympathise and totally feel your pain. Her brother gets really frustrated too but we do the same and all split up to save our sanity !!! Xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My verbal ASD son is trains (thomas) I have trains and tracks everywhere and he wants more and more I’m literally running out of room now he wants Thomas super station do you know how big it is? Lol he is also obsessed with going on buses.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, it must get so frustrating and I can understand where resentment would come from eventually if you alternative a day of lifts and a day with his sister. I can only imagine what this must be like.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wouldn’t it be great if he could move on to a different obsession, one which you might be able to enjoy more?! Sadly I understand that there’s no way to tempt him, you just have to wait until this has run its course – soon I hope, for your sake. You’re doing a great job of trying to keep everyone happy – no easy task! Hugs to you x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Fingers crossed he switches obsession to something a bit more inclusive for the family at some point. Though I know that may take a long time. Well done on trying out different strategies to figure it all out. It’s so hard for everyone sometimes eh? x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello I have the same challenge with my son he is 10 years old obsessed with elevators in a very consuming way for me , he wants to go to the mall just to have it , what can we do to give them a simile ER sensation or feel ? How can we introduce something similier but less consuming ?

    Thanks a lot

    Liked by 1 person

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