Friday, March 4, 2011

Comments make me think

Someone made a very interesting comment on my last post. I didn't respond to it directly even though I had thought about doing so, but this blog is not designed as a conversation, just a series of tales and situations. But I have been thinking about it and wanted to bring it up again.

The commenter suggested that I bring a blanket for Simon to the concert on Sunday. It would serve multiple purposes -- it would give him the security of something that he's familiar with. It would also give him something to hold and to rip apart if he needed that. But also he could use it to help shield the noise by covering his ears with that since we can't use headphones for him. This suggestion was EXTREMELY appreciated.

First of all, let me say that we are bringing something special for Simon (and Rachel and Daniel) -- a stuffed animal for each of them. These concerts are themed "Birthday Party Concerts", and everyone is supposed to bring in an animal because they have birthdays too. Also, when they sing the song "Pig On Her Head", perhaps they will do the animal that our kids bring (didn't work that way in May, but we're bringing different ones this time).

But I've been thinking of what (if anything) elicits that attachment in Rachel or Simon (we have things for Daniel) and I realized that they have NEVER formed an attachment to a toy/stuffed animal/blanket like that. Not even a pacifier when they were babies. Is that yet another autism trait (since one of the problems is that they have difficulties forming attachments to people)? Or is it just them? (for the record, I know many neurotypical individuals who didn't have this kind of attachment to an object - but for some reason this comment made me question this specifically)

Daniel's formed attachment to items, even though the specific item has changed over time. When he was a baby, he needed a cloth diaper in the crib with him, especially after he started day care when he was 4.5 months old (we would bring it to and from daily). And there were several stuffed toys that each had the honor of being a favorite that must be present for him to go to bed (right now it's "Zebra" who has been his favorite for about 2 years now -- this one is a true keeper). Whenever we travel, we make sure to bring this with us, and make certain that when we leave, it's in the car or in his arms. And we love to see this in him.

I posted this question on a couple of different autism "pages" on Facebook that I regularly visit, asking if anyone else has made this observation about their kids/grandkids/students/etc who are on the spectrum. Someone did respond back that their son has a blanket that MUST be there when they go to sleep at night or it will be a long night. We have tried to give them several things to allow Rachel and Simon to attach to, and nothing has had this reaction. Don't get me wrong. They have certain toys that they really love. Rachel enjoys playing with her Barbies (appropriately). Simon loves to cuddle with a stuffed animals, but is not particular about which one (though there are a few he favors and others that he avoids). Last weekend they received birthday presents of Pillow Pets (Rachel has a ladybug, Simon a panda) and they both really like these. Rachel will carry it back and forth from room to room, but that's about as close to an "attachment" to a toy that we've seen from either of them.

Except for books and Rachel. For her, books are another story. When Rachel made her transition to CAPP last year, she couldn't go ANYWHERE without a book. Her preference was a Sandra Boyton Board Book (didn't matter which one). When she arrived at school the teacher had to have one ready or she wouldn't go with them. Then she would carry it to the classroom. She would carry it from activity to activity. She would carry it when they left the classroom to go to specials or to lunch. She would carry it THROUGH that activity. She would carry it when she walked to the bus, and many times she would carry it on the bus ride all the way home. It was typical to find a book in her hands or in her backpack when she stepped off the bus. As she got used to the program, the books were less and less necessary and now she doesn't have one at all (except for circle time or time in the book corner). But again, it wasn't an attachment to a particular object -- it could be ANY book. She just needed to hold it and be in control of it. So I'm not sure if this really counts for the original question.

The differences between a child on the spectrum and not on the spectrum are often so subtle. Some things are obvious, but for many things, you see these same traits in children both on and off the spectrum. What leads to an "autism" diagnosis (anywhere on the spectrum) is that they have a certain number of these traits across several categories, just as all psychiatric diagnoses are made. This is one of the reasons that you, in general, can't look at someone and know for certain that they are on the spectrum or not. You may be suspicious, but it's possible that that individual is just having a bad day. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to human beings, children in particular. They are all just so unique.


  1. I thought this was an interesting post. With our oldest, I fretted and worried when he was four and still hadn't formed an attachment to a particular object. Now, he is nine and sleeps with a bed full of stuffed frogs, hedgehogs, snakes, etc. Perhaps I should be careful what I wish for ... ;)

  2. Chananiah just started his attachment about 6 months ago---it's a curious george stuffed animal. And that would be completely fine but he bites the HECK out of it and multiple times a day I say "don't chew george"! Poor George hits the washing machine a lot and needless to say, he's no longer curious.