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Aspergers Checklist: Narrow Range of Interests and Insistence on Set Routines

Narrow Range of Interests and Insistence on Set Routines

This refers to the Aspergers child’s rigidity, obsessions, perseverations, and need for structure/routine/order.

A. Rules are very important as the world is seen as black or white:
  1. Takes perfectionism to an extreme — one wrong answer is not tolerable, and the child must do things perfectly
  2. Has difficulty with any changes in the established routine
  3. Has a set routine for how activities are to be done
  4. Has rules for most activities, which must be followed (this can be extended to all involved)

B. The child has few interests, but those present are unusual and treated as obsessions:
  1. Patterns, routines, and rituals are evident and interfere with daily functioning (note: this is driven by the child’s anxiety; the world is confusing for her; she is unsure what to do and how to do it; if she can impose structure, she begins to have a feeling of control)
  2. Has developed narrow and specific interests; the interests tend to be atypical (note: this gives a feeling of competence and order; involvement with the area of special interest becomes all-consuming)
  3. Displays rigid behavior:
  • Has unusual fears
  • Has narrow food preferences
  • Carries a specific object
  • Plays games or completes activities in a repetitive manner or makes own rules for them
  • Insists on driving a specific route
  • Arranges toys/objects/furniture in a specific way
  • Is unable to accept environmental changes (e.g., must always go to the same restaurant, same vacation spot)
  • Is unable to change the way she has been taught to complete a task
  • Needs to be first in line, first selected, etc.
  • Erases over and over to make the letters just right
  • Colors with so much pressure the crayons break (e.g., in order to cover all the white)
  • Only sits in one specific chair or one specific location
  • Cannot extend the allotted time for an activity; activities must start and end at the times specified
  • Selects play choices/interests not commonly shared by others (e.g., electricity, weather, advanced computer skills, scores of various sporting events) but not interested in the actual play (note: this could also be true for music, movies, and books)
  • Has narrow clothing preferences
  • Feels need to complete projects in one sitting, has difficulty with projects completed over time

C. Failure to follow rules and routines results in behavioral difficulties. These can include:
  1. Anxiety
  2. Tantrums/meltdowns (e.g., crying, aggression, property destruction, screaming)
  3. Non-compliant behaviors
  4. Increase in perseverative/obsessive/rigid/ritualistic behaviors or preoccupation with area of special interest, engaging in nonsense talk
  5. Inability to prevent or lessen extreme behavioral reactions, inability to use coping or calming techniques
  6. Emotional responses out of proportion to the situation, emotional responses that are more intense and tend to be negative (e.g., glass half-empty)

Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism have very few things that really interest them, but those interests are very important and may help them alleviate anxiety. They also cope better when there are set routines in their lives. Because change causes anxiety, Aspergers children will want to live by rigid rules that they construct for themselves. They want their own rules so that they can be the “king” or “ruler” -- and they have a difficult time understanding why society has a different set of rules.


Anonymous said...

Children with Aspergers do indeed have a narrow range of interests or serial intense interests and tend to become obsessed with one topic to the exclusion of all others. The topics tend to be fact-based or concrete, such as history and science, as opposed to abstract or people-based. They tend to have a good memory for facts, and take great pleasure in accumulating either facts about the thing (baseball statistics, dinosaur species, or the makes of WWII fighter planes), or actual examples of the thing (beanie babies, action figures, baseball cards). Young boys are often described as ?a little man? because their language skills are strong, their speech and manner are rather serious and formal, and they have a large fund of knowledge, although it is usually limited to one or two specific topics.

Anonymous said...

Some children with Aspergers are overly concerned with rules, and may get very upset when other children break them, by, for example, using a swear word on the school bus. At the same time, they are often unaware of or unconcerned with unspoken social rules, like not buttoning the top button on your shirt. These issues become more of a problem as they approach middle school, when children are particularly concerned with conforming.

Anonymous said...

My daughter was diagnosed with HFA, but her interests are more people related and "fantasy" related like princesses, flying horses and such. I think this is probably part of the reason girls are overlooked is because their interests are not what are considered "typical" for Asperger's. Plus, for her it is not about schedules, but rules. Rules, rules, rules. Day to day schedules can change especially with advanced notice, but she will become upset and will not know how to deal with an unexpected situation. Social skills are lacking.

Anonymous said...

I myself am an Aspie and when I was looking at this list I knew that this is what I did as a young child and even now in 11th grade and a 17 year old girl who just loves to research my interest when I get home and that is Forensisc Science and 20th century American History.

Anonymous said...

Help! My 9 year-old is hesitant to try anything new (from new books, to new restaurants, to new activities) because of his limited interests. We have to beg or insist he branch out. Once he does, he sometimes is glad he did! How do you draw the line between accepting him for who he is and helping him overcome his rigidness so he doesn't miss out on life? :(

Anonymous said...

Dear Help! My 9 year old.....
I think one good way of extending a child's interests is connecting something new with one of their interest areas. This makes a place for the new topic within his 'world' which sometimes can spark an additional interest later on. I think one of the problems relates to how their structures are very rigid, so I just made a way for my son to still 'have control' while placing new related objects together. He has responded well because he likes patterns and symmetry and he is in charge of putting the 'new' information away in his head. Might not work for everyone.

Anonymous said...

My grandson is 9 years old and has just been diagnosed with aspergers, although I have always known this and used the appropriate strategies.

My grandson has lived with me all his live with me having residency for the last 7 years.

The mother has personality disorder and is now wanting custody of her son.

the mothers life is disorganised and she places her interests and needs before his and does not keep to any routine. She has personality disorder

He now has to live for her for 6 days out of 14 as she is wanting custody of him.

How will this affect him and is it advisable.


Anonymous said...

my boy has played with almost nothing but trains since he was 2, now he's 9. he's moved on to the occassioanal lego (which he can build absolutely anything in perfect detail) and bugs, but still trains 85% of the time.

Unknown said...

My 5 yr old sons obsession is Iron Man he can tell you everything you never knew you wanted to know about him. My husband and I are tring to get him out of this obsession but it is not going to well. Is this a good thing or are we actually hurting him by doing this? He has just recently been diagnosed with Aspie even though we have always know there was something more to it then just ADHD that other drs kept saying. He is right now at home till we can get him on an even keel and get him to be able to handle school, the school will do what ever they have to help him with this. All the things that I am reading is so him, but one thing e knows no stranger, he loves talking to people on his terms though. Is this normal? Please help.

Unknown said...

My 5 yr old sons obsession is Iron Man. My husband andI aretring to gethim out of it for it is interfering with his everyday life. I am wondering if this will hurt him. Please let me know your opinion on this it would really help.

Unknown said...

My son has been fixated on spiderman from 4 till now at 8!

Unknown said...

Am a newbie dealing with a recently Diagnosed step son who stays with us every other weekend for the past 10 years (he is 12 now). I cannot get him to speak to me without be apprehensive and "freaked out". He does not express interest in anything other than watching TV or reading the same book over and over. If you ask him for suggestions of activities, he stutters and gets nervous. What do I do? I cannot become involved in his interests if he doesn't have any. TV and books are not "social" to the family and if I turn the TV off, he would rather sit in silence than go find another activity. Thank you for your help

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