As more research comes out on Autism and as we better observe children who have it, therapists, parents, and educators alike are coming to realize that certain behaviors that we may as abnormal may actually be behaviors that are beneficial for the progress of a child. One example is repetitive or obsessive behaviors.
Autistic individuals tend to have many different obsessions, but some common ones include, computers, trains, dates, science, or certain TV shows or movies. They will want to learn a lot about something they feel interested in and strongly about. These obsessions tend to give them a sense of structure and predictability, help them relax, and bring happiness in engaging in something that interests them.
One four year old boy, Owen Suskind, diagnosed with autism at 18 months, was obsessed with watching Disney movies. He would constantly rewind and rewatch and it seems that he was very focused and happy when doing this. When his family sat down to watch one of his favorites with him, The Little Mermaid, they noticed that he kept rewinding to a particular part of a song where Ursula is singing, “…Just your voice.” Owen had been saying ‘juicervose’ for the past few weeks with no one able to understand what he was actually trying to say. The moment of clarity was a great moment of connection and celebration not only for Owen’s family but Owen as well. Owen’s speech and interests grown with his “obsession” for Disney movies throughout his childhood, and the more his parents were able to acknowledge and respect his interest the more the were able to connect with him and help him communicate. So these obsessions were actually helpful to his success and everyday functioning.
So perhaps we need to change the way we look as certain behavior patterns in autistic children. Obsessions can be used to increase your child’s skills and areas of interest, promote-self esteem, and encourage social behaviors. Parents and educators can think of ways to make theses behaviors a functional part of their children’s lives and ultimately help them to become successful and happy individuals.
To Read Owen’s Story, click here
For more information on Obsessive/Repetitive Behaviors and how to help your child, click here