First of all I have to apologise for my silence. Dear
friends, I haven't vanished. I am still reading and
following, however for some strange reason I am
unable to post comments on your or my own blog(?).
Hopefully it will be fixed soon, once I find out what
Now to the topic.
Most if not all autistic people are obsessive. What
is the difference between a hobby and an obsession?
A hobby is something a person likes and does in
their spare time, a subject or activity of interest.
An obsession is when a hobby takes over the life.
An activity or subject which pushes away most of
the other aspects of life; study, work, conversation.
You can rationalise and see when you are able to
give your time to your hobby, it can wait until you
have done your "chores". You cannot do this with
an obsession. It has to be done. It's a need.
In many cases, obsession stays with the autistic
person forever. In some, like Cirwen, they change.
Cirwen started with Barbie doll. They were going
everywhere with her, they were displayed in a row
in her bedroom, and she obviously liked to have
the images on her clothes. With Barbie, came the
Disney Princesses and the colour pink. "Just like
a typical little girl" you'd say. Maybe, but then,
Cirwen would not wear anything but pink, her
bedroom was glowing pink with princess bedding
and curtains, even her plates had to be pink with
either barbie or a princess on it. She would not
wear trousers, because princesses didn't, although
I could negotiate, that Barbie does...
Cirwen new by heart the whole script for "Snow
White" and "Sleeping Beauty" films. She had to
watch them endlessly and act out all the scenes
taking parts of different characters. Most of our
conversations were based on the subject of pink,
dolls and castles. Later, she added fairies to her
world of pink. This carried on between the age
of 2 and 8. As much as it all sweet and magical,
sometimes I would love to change the subject to
something else, even Winnie the Poo (I still love
him), but it was impossible. Cirwen would ignore
any reference to a different subject suggested by
us or withdraw completely if we insisted on talking
about the topic she was not obsessed with.
After she turned 8, the pink started to fade away
slowly. With the move to the junior part of school,
she started to say she is "growing out of it". She
discovered rock music, and became more interested
in her Living Dead Dolls (which formerly were only
to scare away The Dark).
Within the next six months barbies and princesses
were given away to her friends younger sister, her
bedroom turned black last year, and gradually she
is who she is now. In her own words: "A gothic rocker
who smiles". ( In her literal thinking she thought that
goths are so depressed and unhappy that they never
smile). With all that came all the Tim Burton films,
Lenore, anime and YouTube. Especially YouTube
became a daily must to find the most weird gothic
cartoons, music and videos. She also plays game
consoles (e.g. Wii or Xbox). This has to be monitored
and timed as she is able to play 24/7 if not told off...
However, there are a few games she will play all
the time no matter how many times she has completed
them. This will be Fable and Fable II and Sims.
There are also books and comics. reading has always
been a big part of our life.
Lately Cirwen became interested in her Dad's hobby -
- Warhammer games. It's a great game, where you
build your own fantasy army, stick together and paint
your models. It is like chess with a bit of magic.
I personally do not try to change her obsessions or
stop her from doing them. There is always something
you can learn through play.
Barbie and princesses I used to teach her conversation,
interaction, and films helped to recognise emotions or
simple facial expressions.
Use of the computer teaches her keyboard skills, resource
finding, and as well as the games - hand eye coordination.
Warhammer battles have so many aspects; planning,
strategy, basic maths, again manual skills and it is
helping with interaction with others. She visit the Games
Workshop once a week, where she can have a battle or just
sit down, have a chat with staff and kids while painting her
models. We also have battles at home between her, us
and a few uncles.
There is now some variety in Cirwen's life and more subjects
to talk about. This is because we introduce new things slowly
and let her do this on her own terms. I know now what mood
she might be if she vanishes in her room in front of the laptop
or a console - that usually means she is tired and fed up with
people - she needs escape. She does that everyday after school.
It is a need, obsession, which gives her life comfort. Repetitive
action - familiar, predictable and in it's safety - relaxing.
I know of others with stranger obsessions. The boy obsessed
with drains, another writing letters , then dividing them in
groups, classical Thomas the Tank Engine, numbers etc.