When I am speaking to different groups about Asperger’s and Autism, one question that often comes up is how to deal with obsessive behaviours. Many parents are concerned that the obsessions their children are focused on are narrow and can appear to be limiting.
Most children with Asperger’s and Autism have a certain thing they are obsessed about. It can often be very frustrating for parents and teachers to guide these young people into turning their obsessions into a something meaningful and understandable – for the parents and teachers mind you, not the child – they are perfectly happy!
For those diagnosed with ASD, with the right guidance, as they reach adulthood, often their obsession can turn into their life work. Many naturally gravitate towards an area they have a particular obsession about….. computer programming, science, engineering, medical research, music, acting and film making to name a few. The challenge for parents and teachers is to find a way to direct the ‘obsession’ into something that can lead to success.
When our son David was little, he was obsessed with computer games, but at the same time loved to spend a large part of every day on his own, totally engrossed in his own world.
When he came home from school , the first place he would head was out to the backyard to spend time doing, what we called, debriefing. This debriefing time, however, was like a never ending story going on in his mind. Often after spending a long time outside, he would rush back into his room to write stories down. Sometimes he would share them with us, but mostly not. It was his own private world.
So in order to create some balance we also set up some parameters. He was able to spend a certain amount of time on computer, if he spent a certain amount of time outside, and then a certain amount of time either doing homework, or helping with jobs around the house. It was all about balance!
The parameters we set up for David, we also set up for our two daughters. I believe that it is essential to encourage children to explore the boundaries of their imagination and so we actively encouraged our children to spend time every day playing, acting or story telling. Now, many years later, interestingly all three of our children are very involved in the arts in different ways, in very different genres. One is involved in film making and editing, one in music and media and the other in acting and dance.
Although the journey for David has been a little challenging, he is now in his final year of a Bachelor of Film and TV Degree at university, and this year he has three major film projects to complete. On all projects he is the Sound Editor, a role he really enjoys, is quite good at and is perfectly suited to his personality. Sound editing is very precise and requires patience and attention to detail. A skill that others may find laborious, he finds challenging and interesting.
In fact last weekend, he had to record the sound of waves on a beach – as if it was a desert island. Even though we live by the ocean, there were many stressful moments, driving for miles trying to find just the right ‘sound’. I was quite impressed – he heard things I wouldn’t have even taken any notice of – his attention to detail was very precise. It had to be perfect!
Most children with Aspergers’ Syndrome grow up to be very successful in their chosen field of work. We are so excited that David has now directed his obsessions into the world of film and TV.
Below is the trailer of his team’s feature film, which will be filmed later in the year. The team on this project was also very fortunate to secure the services of a highly talented and experienced radio journalist, (David’s sister) at great expense of course! And if you look closely you might just recognise David in a cameo role!