It’s sort of ironic that my son has learned the meaning of the word “stuck” over the past month or so. And he thoroughly enjoys letting us know when things are “stuck.” Soft soccerball thrown up the stairs? “Soccah-bawl stuck!” Bucket of blocks not moving the way he wants? “Dis one is stuck!” Stuck. Stuck. Stuck.
My son is stuck. On vacuums. On blenders. On mixers. On trucks. And it’s not just a small obsession; it’s sometimes all-consuming, and I cannot get him to move on.
Me: ****, what do you want to do?
****: Mommy use.
Me: Mommy use what?
****: Mommy use vacuum.
Me: We did that last night honey. The floor is nice and clean.
****: Nice and clean. Mommy use. Mommy use. Mommy use vacuum.
Me: Let’s play dinosaurs! Rawrrrrrr (Dinosaur Train character starts waddling across the floor)
****: Ooey gooey; ooey gooey floor. Vacuum.
Me: Later. ****, look your sister is smiling at you!
****: Vacuum later. Later vacuum. Mommy use!
Etc. etc. etc.
Well, stuck you, autism.
And it’s similar with the kitchen appliances. These are all things he was once deathly afraid of to the point that he sometimes hid under covers and worse. Luckily, OT has made a huge difference in getting our son more ready to experience unwanted sensory experiences, and his other therapies have helped in using his speech to answer questions. His receptive language has always been decent, but it seems that he can really gather what I am saying to him more than ever- even if it takes more time to get his undivided attention. And all of those things have made it much easier to prepare my son to experience life, allowing our family to do daily living tasks without absolutely terrifying him.
The problem has morphed, though. For what was once fear is now obsession. And I am trying to break it up. The best luck I have had so far is with the mixer– we made snickerdoodles last weekend with our stand mixer (it’s not as loud as the hand mixer, blender, etc.), but the snickerdoodle dough got thick, and the mixer started thumping a little on the counter. Well, there goes the fun of that mixer. Now all I hear when my son goes near the kitchen is “Mixer all done. Snickerdoodle done. Mixer all done…”
So today I thought it might actually help to make cookies again. Only we used a wooden spoon and some elbow grease (always working on improving low tone here, people!). I wanted to explain that cooking and baking are not scary and that mixers are just tools to make our work easier. He was very attentive, and I know he understood me. The rest of the day I only heard two mentions of the mixer instead of who-knows-how-many times. So that’s an improvement.
I guess my point here is that it’s hard to get your child unstuck on things regardless of being autistic. But I think it’s a little harder with this disorder. And because of that, it’s frustrating– it’s hard to watch your child be so obsessed with trucks that when he receives one at his birthday party he cannot part from that truck for the next 2 weeks other than bath/bedtime. And I think many people don’t understand that these obsessions are not hobbies– they’re so much more all-consuming and life-dominating. They hint of OCD (and maybe my son will one day be considered for that diagnosis, but I’m not in any rush for that.), and it’s not healthy little-kid love. There’s a reason his Christmas list says, “NO TRUCKS.”
And it’s hard, too. Because these obsessions lead to ways in connecting and engaging. Play with trucks? Get answers. Cook together? Get eye contact. It’s a topsy turvy world.
But it is Christmastime, too. And my sweet boy asked Santa (from a very far distance looking at the floor while drinking milk) for a School Bus & apron. I have a feeling St. Nick is not going to disappoint, especially during the first year of really believing in Santa.
So that’s life here right now. We’re getting unstuck while perpetuating it. What a cycle.