Asperger Subtype: "The Emotion Boy"
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This child has many obsessions that take him elsewhere, away from the here and now. Although he appears inattentive, in reality, he has other issues that he is dealing with instead. For example, are his shoelaces tied the way he likes them? Is everything around him exactly where it belongs? How many dots are in that ceiling tile over his head? Did he ask the question that he wanted to in the right way? And so on. The list can be endless. But no matter what is on his list, it usually takes precedence over anything that is on your list. He is often a perfectionist, and everything has to go a certain way. If it doesn't, it's the end of the world. There is no middle ground; everything is black or white. It is either perfect or it is terrible.
He may have completion rituals where things must be finished before he moves on. And there are many rituals or routines in this child's life. For example, he can't shut off his Game Boy until he reaches a certain level or he can't shut off the TV until the program is totally and completely over. All of this and more can be going on in his head and cause him to disengage from reality and become unavailable.
Let's look at an example: Tommy, age seven, only wants to play his video games. He always plays them after dinner until bedtime. When he is playing them, he finds it very hard to stop. He argues, whines, and may even have a tantrum when asked to try an alternative to video game playing. He has certain requirements for getting ready for bed and an order to them. He changes his clothes under his covers, even though there is no one else in his room. He brushes his teeth for 120 seconds. Mom has to kiss him good night first, Dad is next, and then he gets a story that he always picks from the books on his shelf. He has to have his radio on in order to fall asleep because he has to hear the music and have the light from the radio shining in his room. Tommy has lots of rules about how things are supposed to go in his world. He is an OCD child. Now, it may seem like he is a Rule child with all of these rules, but there is a difference. The Rule child will typically follow others' rules once they are spelled out to him. The OCD child makes up his own rules about everything and only wants to follow his own rules, no one else's. The OCD child is compelled by his anxiety to follow his own dictates: he must be in control. The Rule child's anxiety compels him to follow everyone else's: he must obey. Each has a different motivation and therefore a different response.
Recommended Approach: You must gain control over his obsessions. There must be limits and restrictions on certain activities. Rituals and routines are addressed through sabotage. You must teach him how to be more flexible by changing routines. You must expand his repertoire of interests, teach him shades of gray, and have him develop a balance in his life. Obsessions will remain, but you can use them as reinforcers as long as you limit the amount of time spent on the obsessions. Each of these things is discussed later on.
More on: Asperger's Syndrome
From Parenting Your Asperger Child by Alan Sohn, Ed.D., and Cathy Grayson, M.A. Copyright ฉ 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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