HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Aspergers & Obsessions

"How can I get my Aspie son to focus less on his favorite video game (Call of Duty) and spend more time doing other things? He is truly obsessed with war games. It's all he ever talks about."

One of the hallmarks of Aspergers and High Functioning Autism is the child's tendency to be obsessed with particular topics. He might want to constantly talk about video games, race cars, cartoon characters, movies, or even bugs. It can be very frustrating for parents and teachers to deal with an obviously bright, articulate Aspergers youngster who is somehow "stuck" in one particular frame of reference.

How can you get an Aspergers child to have less obsessive thoughts and ideas? The honest answer is... you will not be able to entirely eliminate them. Some Aspergers kids will gradually leave one special interest behind, only to quickly fixate on a new one.

There are two ways to classify these thought-consuming interests. Some are considered "primary obsessions," and others are "secondary interests." Often it's difficult to tell which of the two you're dealing with.

Primary obsessions are intense enough that it is very difficult to get the Aspergers youngster to think of anything else. The obsession monopolizes conversation and daily activities. It may also interfere with schoolwork. The Aspergers youngster is consumed by the thoughts.

Secondary interests are a challenge and are somewhat obsessive for the Asperger youngster, but ultimately can be managed. Not only that, but secondary interests can be used as motivators to help the boy or girl succeed in school or improve behavior. 

Here are some suggestions:

1. Working with your Aspergers youngster's teacher, use the "favorite" topic to promote learning. If your youngster likes war video games, apply them to math problems (e.g., "If there are 5 tanks on the battlefield, and then 7 more line up, how many tanks in all?"). Art projects that teach different techniques could involve the topic. Science experiments could address the topic in some way. Reading can be promoted by providing the Aspie with books on the topic. Use the interest as a starting point, and then build upon it, slowly expanding the youngster's areas of interest.

2. Use the topic to motivate good behaviors. Buy a book associated with the topic. Your child can read it when homework is finished, or after sitting quietly. Perhaps allow him to watch a movie on WWII when he's completed a job around the house.

3. Reward the Aspergers youngster for making conversation that is correctly related to what's going on at the moment (something other than his special interest). For example, if your son looks at the sky and says, "I see an airplane," and that's a comment which is appropriate and in the moment, then immediately respond with attention and praise (e.g., "You're right! I see it too! Look, it's very far away. You've got good eyes. Do you think you'd like to fly in a plane someday?").

4. Give less of a response to random, meaningless comments about the obsession. If your Asperger youngster mentions the obsessive topic when it has nothing to do with what's currently going on, either don't respond, or act confused. For example, gently reply, "We're not on the topic of video games right now," or "why are you talking about that?" If the youngster becomes agitated, give a simple "ummm hmmm" with little eye contact. Then ask your Aspie a question, which requires him to engage in the present activity or conversation.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook 

  
COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... A nine year old that plays video games and surfs the net for hours does not become a computer programmer or video game maker. They become 25 year olds that play video games and surfs the net all day. The electronics allow them to be non-verbal, non-social, and obsessive, all the things that are comfortable for my 16 year old. He can control his environment and is confident and competent within the world of the game. I found that he is more social and plays well with other kids at his level, especially other aspies. I took the video games away completely and internet time is at the end of the day as a reward for good behavior. Some days this really sucks and he turns from aspie to a-hole. But he has friends, he plays some sports, and can be social. You have to make them uncomfortable so they will be comfortable in the long run.
•    Anonymous said... By the way, words written out of grief of mama heart, not to frustrate anyone who posted on the set limits topic. And I meant "advice".
•    Anonymous said... Explain how video games can be addicting. Compare and contrast to something else that is addicting. Then ask how will they know when playing their game becomes a problem for them. What are the signs they see? How can they monitor themselves? Do they need a timer set for instance...All children on the spectrum unwind with video games but they must be taught to self monitor themselves and balance that with outdoor activities.
•    Anonymous said... I appreciate the "set limits" thoughts BUT, my 9 year old Aspie is ONLY interested in video games, computers and electronic devices. I get frustrated with the onslaught of advise to replace the activity because in the case of autism, sometimes you simply cannot. We had him in play therapy since he was a tiny toddler and he has NEVER EVER played. So yes...I homeschool...then he has chores...but by afternoon when all is done there is literally nothing else that can occupy his time. Outside stuff? No. Legos, puzzles, coloring, cars, board games, books...absolutely no interest. If you take away the electronics (which of course I have done a million times), he simply doesn't replace it and he does nothing (and that hurts a mama's heart). I had to rant a bit here because I am up to my eyeballs in advise that doesn't work and it is very frustrating. I wish my son could learn to love other activities (and it is not that we don't try - he starts archery class tomorrow) but it is what it is sometimes.
•    Anonymous said... I think Erik has hit the nail right on the head. You can't help your children by doing things that make them comfortable, especially when they have Aspergers. Most day-to-day things make a kid with Asperger's uncomfortable and the only way to help them grow is to push them out of their comfort level and do the things that don't come naturally.
•    Anonymous said... My boy is more violent and less caring for others especially his siblings when he has been playing fast action video games. We completely banned him from them over a year ago and his behaviour has much improved. He was a little upset, but he knows they affect him and get him into trouble, so those times when he is logical it's easy enough to get over the reasons why which he's accepted. thereare plenty of other games he can play, even some educational ones, he loves maths games.
•    Anonymous said... my boy loves anything to do with games and the internet! too... think I let him play on them too long myself... But then he says you like Facebook and being online too Mom!... He's right it is very addictive.... kids can't just go play outside like I did as a kid, that's why I let both my kids be online and on games more then I should.... Wish my kids could have the freedom that I had..... Say la vie... Goodluck will def be reading the comments
•    Anonymous said... there are a lot of jobs in video games, computers and electronic devices. is he interested in taking them apart and putting them back together? enroll him in computer class or take him to video game conventions for socialization. buy him books or check out books at the library about the video game. get the call of duty lego sets. embrace the obsession. he may outgrow it and appreciate that you accepted it or he may turn the obsession into a career.
•    Anonymous said... try introducing him to sports games, like NBA 2013 or FIFA which is a fun soccer game- my son switched from Halo and Call of Duty to the sports xbox games and loves them.
•    Anonymous said... We also have limits on time for video games. It's my sons down time after school. He gets 30-45 mins depending on what events we have for the evening (homework, etc). I don't let him earn the time but we have a printed schedule that he helped create that I refer to if I have a problem.
•    Anonymous said... We set a daily time limit on video games. He has to do chores to earn the time.
•    Anonymous said... When you take the video games away and he doesn't replace them, how much time are you giving him to choose something else? Maybe he hasn't gotten bored enough. He's old enough, in spite of his condition, to make the choice to be bored. Though it may be upsetting to you to see him "doing nothing" its not hurting him a bit. Adults go to meditation retreats and do nothing for days on end, and its considered a good thing. My son likes to do two things - legos and TV. Due to discipline issues, I took both away for a week. The first day was HELL, I can't believe we made it a day, gradually we did things he didn't normally do and it turned out to be not so bad.
•    Anonymous said... Wow this is my son to a tee, he to is addicted to "call of duty" on his xbox. i hate it he will play al day and have the night if i let him. he is 14yrs old, and was into legos for awhile but he's starting to outgrow them. i just worry in the future that it will be more important then the things he needs to do like school or work. im finding it very hard to set limits.

*   Anonymous said... I didnt see this thread and just posted about this same issue. Its sooo hard. My daughter is getting 'lost' in the world of Pokemon and i do get her interested in other things but Pokemon are everything to her. They are real to her and she relates to them. Its excluding other things. I know its a result of her trying to organize her world and feel safe but i want to help her feel safe somehow without always needing them. i hired her a babysitter over the summer i knew was aware of pokemon but little did i know the 21 year old girl was still obsessed with them herself and it put my daughter over the edge! i feel like she gets angry that i'm not a big pokefan myself. its almost like her and the pokemon vs the world. sad. i wish there were a better way to help her with her anxiety. i get her outside a lot and spend time with her and have done everything i can to get her socialized/friends. i advocate for her at school (but still believe its her big stressor) and i know that there are changes in our life that are hard. i got her a counselor but all she talked about there was pokemon and she didnt connect with her... thanks for letting me vent

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38 comments:

Anonymous said...

My daughter is 15 and has become completely obsessed with her hair. She can spend anywhere between 2-4 hours looking in mirrors and working herself up into a meltdown, she can't sleep and she refuses to leave the house because her hair is 'messy' and 'not right'. (Her hair is actually perfect - she is the only one who doesn't see it that way). What can you suggest, I find this so difficult to deal with?

Anonymous said...

Can you say pokemon, WWE wrestling, Mario & Luigi video games and now Bey Blades??

Anonymous said...

Pokemon and bakugon and football…

Anonymous said...

Rapinchuk bugs! LOL- My son is CONSTANTLY asking to go check in our pool for frogs- we've had to set a limit to how many times a day now!

Anonymous said...

Busses and bus time tables!!

Anonymous said...

Sonic the hedgehog, dr who and harry potter, I swear I could win mastermind with any of those as my specialist subject!

Anonymous said...

Super hero figures and owns every of them one. He can name every single one of them off the top of his head and has to always have one in his hand or pocket at all times. Including while he's sleeping. If he happens to lose it he completely falls apart. He actually goes into super hero "character" and imitates everything they say word for word.

Anonymous said...

From trains to Star Wars, from Star Wars to Clone Wars. From Clone Wars to Harry Potter (in books and after each book the corresponding movie). In video games the progression was: Super Mario (all), Lego Star Wars, Halo, Halo Reach...Pokemon while all these are going on!

Anonymous said...

I think star wars is next, atm he's just interested but no doubt it will be a full blown obsession soon

Anonymous said...

vacuums! canister, upright, hand held, he knows them all. knows brand names of most. same is true of fans and air conditioning units. oh, and he's only 3! I just love how his brain works! :)

Anonymous said...

Mine is into vacuums too! His main obsession is car and trucks though. He knows every make and model and can tell me which is which from a block away. He's the only person I know who loves to be stuck in traffic! lol

Anonymous said...

The alphabet and the solar system! I can now say I am qualified to work for NASA!

Anonymous said...

My son, almost 5, also has the exact same obsession with police/fire/rescue/ambulance vehicles. He has also had some anxiety with this. He used to love watching Fireman Sam but now every time it is on, he freaks out. It's the actual emergency that he seems to be anxious about.

Anonymous said...

I guess I should be happy mine is obsessed with MineCraft, I mean, at least he's just killing Zombies and building a world. LOL

Anonymous said...

skylanders here :)

Anonymous said...

I found my son playing his DS at 2am today and found he had not gone to sleep yet. I took his DS away until further notice. Aspergers is merely a challenge not a handicap. I have never treated my son any different than my other 3 kids. I have also told my son that if he ever uses having Aspergers as an excuse that only means he's chosen failure over success. Video games are his obsession therefore I have removed his contact with it until he earns it back.

Anonymous said...

There is no quick fix for this. It all hangs on tapping into your son's motivation to engage with others. We are all hardwired for social interaction but in autism, this hardwiring isnt as strong......but it is still there. Its taken me a long time to tap into my son's internal motivation to engage but we have come a long, long way. We have done it through providing him with lots of experiences of being competent in social interactions with one other person. Now sometimes, he will seek me out to cook tea together or bake together, or go for a walk instead of being on a video game.

Anonymous said...

Anything Army my son loves. We watch a lot of the Military Channel here. What we have done was have him look up online about past War events. Holocaust for example. Then let him watch a document on it. At least he is learning by this. Since most Aspies have a hard time with understanding feelings (my son being one of them) he saw a lot of the history more than the over whelming heartache that it was and still is.

Anonymous said...

mines obsessed with mine craft badly and lego batman and a few other games we have allotted times for gaming otherwise he will play for hours and hours and hours till his eyes are blood shot he is so quite in the computer room sometimes we forget he is there and he can sneak an extra hour in here and there

Anonymous said...

My son was always the kid playing by himself until 4 years ago (he's 12 now) and now he always seeks out new kids to play with. He has 2 best friends that do not have Aspergers. I have NEVER aided my sons challenge. I have always pushed him out of his comfort zone. I see a lot of parents "defending" and "protecting" their "delicate" child and what I've found is Aspergers children are very much capable of functioning fairly normal in all social scenes if given the chance. Make your child a little uncomfortable and see outside their bubble. You will be pleasantly surprised. I'm not saying destroy your child, I'm saying push them. You grow and change when you are pushed and uncomfortable, so do they.

Anonymous said...

Mine craft and Legos with my son too. I have a chart in his room and it has time periods he can go on, and if it's not the time then he can't go on. If I didn't do this he would be on all the time.

Anonymous said...

mine is ubsessed with those types of games too, I cant get him to do anything else most of the time

Anonymous said...

My son loves anything military as well. As parents we have to make tough decisions for our kids whether an aspie or not. We had to set rules during school game time is for Saturdays only (3 hours max) , pick from several games to play & only play 1 war game. He has to earn it with keeping up his homework & chores. It has not been an issue since setting the new rules.
During summer he is only allotted 6 hours weekly if game time. he has to choose a variety of games just to try them at least. This way he doesn't limit himself to just war games.
Now he rarely plays them. It has taught him to broaden his horizons.

Anonymous said...

All I'm reading with slight exception is that YOU the parents are allowing the behavior to be acceptable! Step up and be in charge. It's not going to kill your child. My son is living proof!

Anonymous said...

absolutely agree! It is really tough but it's for their best with any kid...not just one with Aspergers. They will thank you later I promise!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely! I am a single mom of 4 kids, one with Aspergers and I expect them all to do their best and just because 1 has Aspergers does not mean he gets a "get out of jail free" card! Lol

Anonymous said...

My son can also obsess with the games and becomes aggressive when it's time to stop playing. That was before the timer. I set a timer for him that goes off 5 minutes before he has to end the game. I then set it for final 5 minutes so he can wrap it up and save. If I give him extra time or less.. then I get the blow up. Limitations on time has significantly improved the graphic discussion and obsession with talking about the gamw violence when he is not playing. We always take dog for walk after gaming and look at bugs, animals, plants, etc and then go home and research anything new we find. It is a great way to pull him out of game world and snap him back into the real one. :)

Anonymous said...

Its hard ,mines 16 and we had the same thing ,its health and fitness at the mo ,had the whole Xbox ps2 @ps3 it changes the obsession just go with the flow ,mine had major meltdowns if things taken away however would only find something else to replace it is book which I felt was the better option x

Anonymous said...

Every year my son jumps to a new obsession...its just how they are....

Anonymous said...

Timers work well for us too, no matter what the situation! Setting absolute boundaries with finite timeframes works well for the logically thinking Aspie mind. :)

Anonymous said...

My son is all about Halo, all he thought about or wanted to.do this summer. I took the advice of a wonderful friend whos son has Aspergers too. She said during the summer they pretty much let him be as long as he came down And socialized with the family. I did that, And now it is paying off. He is in ice hockey, And loves band so much he is also in the pep band. We have seen him be more social the last week then the last few years. No Xbox until homework is done, And off by 8. He now does it on,his own.

Anonymous said...

aspergers is not an excuse for anything....i challenge my son to do things and learn new stuff...i change his routines at times too so he is able to learn to adapt to life changes without notice....keep up ur great work.....ur way of thinking is brill...hate listening to whinging mums.....

Anonymous said...

I am soo greatful for this topic, it is an issue we are dealing w/ currently and one we are often quite confused on. My son is 10 and he is into minecraft, but he also is into moding (?) he spend hours watching youtube videos on moding and I really dont see how this healthy. I did have someone ask me if it was any different than hours in front of the tv, which to me is no better. I think the timer is a great idea, but i guess my biggest question is what are some alternative habits or hobbies we can introduce in place of the computer and video games? We have no local support group and at times i feel compeltely lost when dealing with this.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely can't say what is best for any other family. I only know with my son, he loves Super Mario Bros, so that is what I use as motivation. He has a behavior chart and we use Mario stickers to check off appropriate behaviors. At the end of the day, each sticker equals a certain amount of minutes that he can play the next day, and the columns that are blank subtract from that time.

Anonymous said...

My daughter who is 8 is obsessed with lalaloopsy dolls. All of them, the big, littles and minis. She is an Aspie too. What I do is make sure she gets whatever needs to be done, homework, chores, eating, getting herself ready etc. and then she can play. With her being an Aspie I know that there is nothing else we can do. There is no "just stop it" they can't stop. In my opinion as long as they get their stuff done and are nice and pleasant to the rest of the family she can do what she wants. good luck. Being the parent of an Aspie is never easy, you have to do what works for you, your son and your family. Don't let anyone make you feel like you should be doing anything different than what you feel is right.

Anonymous said...

Mine is 15 & he's usually on Minecraft, or reading fan fiction of My Little Pony online or other computer games. He could spend literally hours on the computer. Otherwise he's usually quite compliant with requests, well behaved but absolutely no social life.
17 hours ago

DoroB said...

My son is 12 years-old and is obsessed with air conditioners, fans,and electrical insulators. if left to his own devices, he will watch videos of people turning on their air conditioners and telling you about all the specs. The part that surprises me is that there are so many kids on the internet doing this! This obsession has been around since he was three-years-old. There have been other milder, secondary ones, like Harry Potter, cooking, vacuums, and old fashioned lamps. American Pickers is a favorite show and he loves going to antique shows and tag sales looking for "old stuff." The air conditioner obsession is the strongest and drives us a bit crazy because of the intensity of interest. He does build his own ACsout of coolers and parts. sometimes I do not know what to do! Let him indulge or really work to get him off of this. Great to hear from anyone else in this predicament.

Samantha Salmon said...

I could really use some advice on this. My son is obsessed with air conditions, fans, and vacuums too! He's broken so many by hitting them. I do my best to try to keep him away. How do you handle it?

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