March 17, 2008 at 1:35 am 7 comments

     C’s obsessions (in autism-land, these are known as perseverations), range from the entertaining to the somewhat annoying. We know enough now to realize that they generally pass in time as he moves on to something else. His first was an indicator of his hyperlexia (a savant skill related to autism in which the person is obsessed with letters, words, numbers, logos and signs). He didn’t have many words yet, but we could always tell when he came across a Fisher Price toy in his travels of the playroom. That was followed by an obsession with stop signs and street lights that nearly caused me to careen off the road and have a heart attack multiple times. A screech of such pitch and shrillness caused us to revive his earlier nickname of “Pterodactyl Boy” whenever he caught glimpse of a street light in the distance. Soon after came an interest in garage doors so intense he kept up a running commentary while in the car. “Open, closed, open, open, open,” was what we heard from the back seat. No amount of redirection could distract him from the garage doors.

     Some time later, he had more words but not enough to explain himself when he would repeat “Seven oh three Tope” on the way to preschool in the mornings. It was only months later, while trick-or-treating on Halloween, that I understood the sentence. We stopped at house number 703 on a nearby street, and the name “Tope” was mounted on the mailbox. Mr. Tope became our friend from afar. I considered knocking on his door and telling him of my son’s adoration, but I thought perhaps the one-sided affection might seem odd to an elderly gentleman who probably knew nothing of autism.

     An obsession with plumbing pipes caused a great deal of consternation at our house. Not because we didn’t want him to be a plumber if he so desired, but rather because of the places that obsession took him. Long stretches of time spent in the bathroom (at previously mentioned terrible Montessori school) gave C three severe cases of diarrhea in as many months, followed by rotovirus in the fourth month that sent us to the emergency room. “Does diarrhea happen at the beginning of every month?” he asked.

     At one point he learned the television schedule; he didn’t really watch any programs, but he knew when everything was on and what channel. “Charlie Rose is on at one o’clock on channel 8,” he told his teacher, requiring me to reassure her we didn’t plop him in front of the television for hours on end. “Sex and the City” prompted questions not about sex, but rather what city. Couple that with his asking me if we needed any condoms one day (while standing in line next to them at the pharmacy), complete with four women laughing hysterically in front of us, and one might begin to understand the potential dangers of a four year old who can read.

     Currently, he is fascinated with the caller ID on the phone and who is in what place, as if it was a race Ga and Pa or Uncle T and Aunt J might win. “You’re in 15th place,” he gleefully announced to T&J today, “but if you call us back you’ll be in first place!” He is also obsessed with Galaga 88, a video game we don’t even own, but he watches videos of other people playing it on You Tube. We don’t let him watch it nearly as much as he talks about it. My distress over this includes the obvious frightening places that can take a young child, but also the fact that he can combine the words “you” and “tube” into a phrase my parents have never even heard.

     His obsessions come and go and sometimes return, depending on what is going on in his life. Some we miss, and some we anxiously await their passing. I don’t particularly miss the recitation of the morning announcements and what classes had perfect attendance at his school that day, but I wasn’t ready for his uncanny ability to tell one’s age in coinage (I am a quarter, a dime, and three pennies) to disappear. Now if we could only teach him how to count cards so we could take him to Vegas.


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I’d like to extend my warranty, please On Death and Dying

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. T$  |  March 17, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    i cannot wait until galaga 88 takes it’s place in the dustbin of C’s latest obsession.

    I hear you on that one, although you guys are taking the brunt of it at the moment. 😉 I wish he was still excited about email, but I think he typed too slow for it to be of lasting interest. Perhaps I should teach him how to type….

  • 2. Jesch  |  March 17, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Amen to that, T$. I miss the presidents and state capitals…

    I do too – I keep hoping he’ll get back into something more academic soon. They are starting presidential coins, so we’ll probably start collecting those and perhaps that will spark his interest again.

  • 3. awalkabout  |  March 18, 2008 at 3:31 am

    I’m sorry, I’m still laughing at the accuracy of Pterodactyl Boy. HAHA! I know just the sound. Honestly. HAHAHA. OMG we get humor in odd places don’t we? HAHAHAHAHA.

    True, isn’t it? We used to call him that as a baby because it’s about the only noise he made. It wasn’t particularly unpleasant – at least when you weren’t within 10 feet of him – but I swear, if I closed my eyes I could pretend I was in the Jurassic Park movie. LOL!

  • 4. hfamom  |  March 18, 2008 at 3:41 am

    J is into naming off who does the voices of his favorite cartoon characters… a few days ago we went to see Horton Hears a Who and he told the whole theater lobby that Jim Carrey Does the Voice of Horton and the rest of the list– He got some really impressed looks from the adults around us.

    Our children come off as brilliant to strangers who only hear part of the conversation… could be worse, right?

    I love it…what other kid would know that? Very, very cute. And yes, all the time people in stores and such are asking us how old he is and telling us how smart he is…which, of course, he IS, but it’s only part of the picture!

  • 5. awalkabout  |  March 18, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    You know, and yet we can’t seem to just accept the compliment. Because they ARE smart. And they ARE well-mannered. But we always go back to focus on the other part. It’s a struggle, but I hope some day I can just look at what they ARE, instead of what they aren’t.

    I know, I’m always sort of giggling to myself when people compliment us on him, because I sometimes wonder if people think we’re putting flash cards in front of him all day (that’s a post office story about numbers I’ll share soon), so I find myself explaining that yes, he is bright, no, I’m not drilling him on equations all the time, and yes, he does have autism. I guess I’m hypersensitive to that annoying parent who brags on their child ALL the time (while completely missing the fact that they are putting the cat into the microwave at that very moment) – I feel like we see the full picture of our child, the awesome parts and the challenging parts (which are also sometimes awesome)! But I’ve gotten to the point now where I don’t “explain” him all the time and just say “Yes, he is my smart boy!” So perhaps I’m turning into that bragging parent anyhow. 😉

  • 6. Jesch  |  March 18, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    amen, walkabout, amen

  • 7. lastcrazyhorn  |  March 30, 2008 at 8:30 am

    If you only knew about my obses–er–perseverations whilst growing up . . . there was a point (a long point) where I was obsessed with bathrooms and their locations in every building that I had ever been in. As a result, I think, I still have a pretty good sense of places that I’ve been in, even if it was several years ago.

    Yes, that is C to a T. I’m pretty sure we’ve seen every bathroom west of the Mississippi (and plenty of them east as well). For a long time, the noise scared him, but then his interest in the pipes overcame the stress about the noise. For a slightly germ-o-phobic mom, that was a tough phase!


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