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Managing “Fixations” in Kids with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

"How much should we allow our daughter [high functioning] to play video games? She would spend most of her time doing this if we let her. My husband and I are divided on this issue, which has caused a riff between us." 

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Anonymous said...

Lissa Bean
Oh I know! My 6 yo daughter cannot leave the house with out bringing her favorite things in a bag. I have to tell her at least 10 mins before we leave because she gets nervous and packs all her stuff like shes going on vacation! she does the same thing in the bathroom. She always has to have something with her. And when we asked her not to bring things in she would get very upset and say how "she needs it so bad and cannot live without it" we don't give on always but we tell her it'll be ok and that it will be right here when your done. That usually makes her very anxious but we're working on it ;-)
25 minutes ago · Like

Anonymous said...

Great article! It addresses something I have had to work through with my child. I have to limit time with Star Wars book, Legos, and his tendency to fall back on playing with nerf guns and play swords EVERY time company (with kids) comes over. I have to set limits and nudge him in other directions or he will do NOTHING else!

Anonymous said...

Yara Victória Pereira my son has gone to school with his psp on his underwear because he knew he wasn't allowed to take it... :)
43 minutes ago · Like

johnnieR said...

Once when I brought the topic up of playing too many video games my then 10 year old daughter looked at me and said, "But that's the only time I feel like a hero." It broke my heart because I knew how stressful her days at school were. We still struggle to find a balance even though we've eliminated a lot of the stressors by changing schools.

hidstro said...

I feel like there is one important aspect this article leaves out about (specifically) video games and Asperger syndrome. Video games are such a popular topic in tween boys' social conversations. If you go into any middle school cafeteria you would hear lots of boys discussing the latest video game level they are on. When I completely restricted all video games for my AS son("he's addicted! He cant think about anything else!") , he started to fixate on origami instead (a 'not-socially-acceptable' topic of conversation). My husband and I decided that this medium (video games) allows him to interact, socially, with boys his age and gives him something to chat about. It also builds his confidence since he's feels like he's quite good at playing them and the other boys make a big deal about whatever level he's accomplished. That said, we do limit time he can play. We also limit the types of games he plays. I am more on the liberal end of time he spends gaming and my husband tends to be more conservative. Bit I've learned a lesson about taking something completely away. It will be replaced with something else...possibly something that stigmatized a child even further.

Drexel Clayton said...

Hi! I'm not a parent, in fact I'm only 17 years old, but I am on the autism spectrum (PDD-NOS) so I have some insight I thought you may be interested in hearing.

I don't see these fixations as entirely a 'need' or a 'burden', but a gift in many ways. You say their usefulness in real life is extremely limited, and I disagree. The reason I am going to become a either a doctor or a physician assistant is because of a book I read called "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks" which prompted a fixation in neurology that persists to this day (I read it about over two years ago). In fact I can think of a couple examples of fixations which have benefited society as a whole: Temple Grandin's fixation with cattle ranches prompted her invention of humane livestock facilities, having designed 1/3 of all livestock handling facilities in the US, as well as her invention of a squeeze machine that serves as a comforting coping mechanism to replace hugs that would otherwise increase an autistic person's anxiety rather than reduce it. Greta Thunberg's concern, and I would argue fixation, with Climate Change, is the reason she's a climate change activist who has worked so hard to fight for reducing carbon emissions. These are two incredibly inspiring people whose fixations have changed society for the better.

My fixations have been harmful in some instances, and I definitely agree that parents need to control them if they get out of hand. For instance, sometimes my interest in neurology has gotten so extreme to the point where I spend hours in a day studying things like cranial nerves, while struggling to not neglect self-care and my social life. Also, while I've passed the phase of video games to the point of having just about zero interest, I used to play Minecraft all day to the point where I was isolated and not having the social interactions that I needed to be fulfilled and not depressed. However, I think it's important to acknowledge the value that these fixations have, for not only the autistic person, but society.

I've had a lot of struggles that stem from my autism, but I'd rather learn to cope with them and reduce them rather than taking a 'cure', which would get rid of not only the bad parts, but the good parts that stem from my autism as well. I consider my fixations not only one of the good parts of my autism, but one of the main reasons I don't want to be cured. Why? Well, not only do I enjoy them, but I've gotten an amazing number of talents and knowledge from them. I play piano and guitar extremely well, I've learned to draw very well, and I've accumulated knowledge about academic disciplines which interest me, such as the medical sciences, history, and a little bit of political science/economics being only just some examples. I'm an activist for political and social change, and I've had a recent burst of energy in regards to the inhumane conditions of the immigration detention centers which I would consider a fixation; a fixation which has prompted me to fight for justice.

You say they should be managed if they become unhealthy or harmful in any way, and believe me I absolutely agree. However I think you fail to acknowledge that they can be incredibly useful for not only autistic people, but society as a whole. Many people on the autism spectrum have something to offer to society that not everyone has, and the fixations are no exception. Sorry my post was a little lengthy, but thanks for reading this far!

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