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Asperger's Obsessive Behavior
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Asperger's Obsessive Behavior

My 8 yr old son develops obsessive interests in one particular thing and that is all he wants to talk about.  We have been through collecting Halloween decorations, Christmas decorations, different series of books, webkinz and now we are on to the Titanic. It is all he wants to read, watch or talk about. Whatever the obsession of the moment it, replaces any other topic of conversation with both family members and friends.  What can I do (if anything) to change this obsessive behavior?
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My 8 yr old son develops obsessive interests in one particular thing and that is all he wants to talk about.  We have been through collecting Halloween decorations, Christmas decorations, different series of books, webkinz and now we are on to the Titanic. It is all he wants to read, watch or talk about. Whatever the obsession of the moment it, replaces any other topic of conversation with both family members and friends.  What can I do (if anything) to change this obsessive behavior?

There is surprisingly little research on this particular characteristic of autism. So, the literature does not provide much guidance. I can, however, offer some general suggestions based on my clinical experiences. I think our tendency with all children is to encourage obsessive interests by purchasing every available item related to the interest and centering our own conversations about the interests. At the same time, we fail to encourage the children to develop new interests because we are offering a more restricted range of experiences. We often unintentionally contribute to food selectivity in the same way. Do your best to expose your child to a variety of experiences and to reward trying new things.
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I have the same problem with my 10 year old.  Obsessed with animals, dinosaurs, nature.  He will talk your ear off about them.  His teacher told us yesterday he is ANNOYING.  Problem is no one in his class is into any of this and therefore has no friends and his friends call him stupid and boring.  
Have you found a solution to this?  
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I personally do not see a problem with Aspies' obessions, unless they are totally inappropriate.  I don't agree with the Doctor on her answer either.  What is wrong with getting into the child's world and experiencing their obsession with them?  In fact, you MUST do this to ever truly reach & connect with an Aspie.  (FYI--in school, the teachers that practice this are the ONLY ones who have been successful with my daugther.)  How can we expect them to come out to our world when we refuse to visit theirs?  In an NT world it is great to expose your child to different things & have it work out.  In an Aspie world when you expose your child to different things it USUALLY ends up a disaster.  Like you have said, Connorsmom, their obsessions change--they find other interests on their own.  
Helpmommy--it is difficult finding friends that are interested in the same thing, especially in their grade.  Their interests are usually in line with kids either older, or younger, than they are, so you are going to have to look outside his age group for playmates.  This is VERY typical of Aspies (to hang with people outside of their age group).
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I have a 16 year old who has been on the same pattern for about 10 years now. Every thing is music from the 1950's threw the music of today. We play games like stump mom over this one! She can tell me everything and anything I want or need to know about any singer or band. I think it is kinda cool.To have the gift to keep and store of that infor. Why try to change what works for your son, learn to work with him.
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I agree with the other comments.  Children on the spectrum tend to be able to put all their focus and attention into one thing at a time.  Obsessions can be a good way of teaching other things simply because they are interested in the subject and therefore can concentrate for hours.  So, for example, Thomas the Tank Engine can be used to teach colours, numbers, shapes, relationships, facial expressions etc etc.
Sometimes these obsessions actually turn into future jobs and expertise.  I don't think anyone can beat an Aspie on info on their pet subject!
If it is a case of trying to help the person understand the limit of anothers interest in their pet subject, then you can use social stories or get them to time themselves.  Ie. after 5 mins non-stop talking on your pet subject ask the other person if they want to hear anymore!  But even NTs can be just as bad as someone with Aspergers.  I have frequently been cornered by someone at a party who just liked to talk.
But a hobby, interest, obsession can be a good way of getting them to socialise eg. join a music club, a quiz team etc.
I understand it can be irritating to us sometimes, but that is when we have to teach them some social cues.  And I agree with the other posting that we shouldn't always expect them to fit into our world, why not enter theirs' sometimes?
There are many parents out there who have non-verbal autistic children and any kind of communication would be wonderful for them.  Count your blessings.  Tell your child when you've had enough and can't listen to anymore, but say they're really great to know so much!
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I just remembered something I do with my son.  If he is going on and one about something I use some autistic behaviour back to him eg. I cover my ears with my hands (that is what he does to me when he can't listen to me talking anymore), and it works!  He knows I've had enough.  
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If your child's specialized interests are not concerning to you and do not appear to be interfering socially or academically, I don't see a problem either. My original response was written to a mother who did identify a problem and asked for some suggestions.
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The teacher found him annoying - that is why our child goes to a school for Asperger's children where the teachers actually like being with "annoying" children.  They have a shelf for him where his Bionicles sit and wait for him.

Having said that - he has learned over they years to keep his obsessions to himself (he is 9).  I think that is the key with social training.   THe obsessions don't leave - but they can become a more private, family affair.

Right now we have moved on to roller coasters.  Did we give in?  Sure - we have a season pass to Six Flags, we are going to build a 7 ft. tall roller coaster in the living room this summer, and we are buyting Roller Coaster Tycoon3.  I secretly think theat companies like Lego and K'Nex have rooms full of Asperger's people working for them.  Is it all bad?  No - we will learn all about the physics of a roller coaster and building is such a quiet activity.  The great thing about obsessed Aspie's - they don't need you to help with the instructions.  Don't you love it when your kid can build any lego set -  but ask them to tie their shoes?  Someone explain that to me?

Now, to the advice about branching out.  I totally agree.  We don't let him have his obsessions until his homework is done.  I make him read books that he doesn't want to or experience things he doesn't want to before we reward him with his obsessions.  

His doctors are amazed - when they see what he can academically do considering his level of executive dysfunction.  He has a high IQ but a difficult personality - he doesn't like interacting with alot of people and he would rather read all day - but e are really tough.  We were taught great ABA strategies and though we felt like prison wardens instead of loving parents, he has learned to do what people want most of the time without too much grumbling.  

We have moved from Harry Potter like novels to George Orwell and Dickens (he is 9) and with that we can talk about other things such as religion and politics.  we make him watch the news and documentaries.  It is a struggle - but he is becoming very versatile in his conversations.  But, he is a bit unusual for an Asperger's type, he has strong inferential skills - but the doctors attribute that to his voracious reading habits.  

It won't always be Thomas the Tank - but best to develop a worth while obsession and not encourage another one.  He wanted to start collecting Transformers and we said no - Bionicles were enough.


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