Squeaker has become intensely interested in cars–you might even call it an obsession. Try hard to stump him with a symbol. No joke, even those European symbols that you don’t see on the road don’t escape his notice and keen observation. It can become distracting and annoying for the parents of an autistic child to live with the obsession. There are only two choices: encourage or extinguish.
Cars have always been important to Squeaker, but it’s also incredibly convenient for us. We can distract him in the car when any of his nearly 3 dozen triggers threaten to shatter our peace.
“Over there, what is that?” I ask as I watch in the rearview while his blood starts to boil because his brother has a book but he does not.
“A Buick” he starts to relax
“What’s after that?” He accepts the game and is now engaged.
“Is it a Chevy?”
“Of course, it is, you know it is, you know all the symbols!” Now Squeaker can communicate again and Autism Mom and Dad can breathe.
He doesn’t lean on symbols anymore. Because of his obsession with cars, Squeaker can identify a car’s make by shape at a distance or from the grill. That leads me to the purpose for writing this. Autism has robbed me of a normal developing son. My son should be impressing teachers with his academic prowess. He should be making friends and having sleepovers. My son should, in fact, be making every one of the parents out there incredibly jealous as I explain that his IQ test came back and though he’s in the third grade my son is being advanced to UNC medical school for the incredibly gifted children who don’t really exist outside of an Autistic Parents disenfranchised mind. Despite being deprived of this mythic son, I was left with an a child that excels in mathematics and can read at grade level and was able to help me decide on my new car.
[bctt tweet=”Will you attempt to encourage or extinguish your #autistic child’s obsessions? ” username=”embracespectrum”]
How the Car Obsession Brought us Together
Since 2004, I have driven a Metallic Steel Mazda 6S 5-door. It’s a fun car that drives smooth and has served me and my family well over the course of 12 years and 250,000 miles (Mazda feel free to contact my wife with free offers, wink send an RX8 to review). The car was getting close to done, and I was 2 years past replacement but money wasn’t right yet. I was looking forward to having plenty of time to research and test drive cars. It started out fun for me and the wife on the few occasions we could get away from the kids, but it got old for her since I researched cars for months.
Squeaker became my wingman. We spent a lot of time on car lots looking at different models. He would skip around from car to car looking their steering wheels and asking to test drive this one or that one. He would patiently listen to all the features, loving to look at the engine when it was shown to us. He would suggest makes for our next trip. Every day he would ask what kind of car I was going to get. We would look through Consumer Reports Car Buyer guide (again Consumer Reports, free subscriptions are welcome :).
In the end, his obsession helped make the decision. The first car we test drove was a Honda Accord Sport, and while I didn’t settle on this car I did buy the Honda Accord in a V6 (Honda, my son wears a size 10 coat and he’ll love it). Every time we drive in it Squeaker points out every Honda on the road. He tells me over and over that he loves my car, and I love it too. I love that I found a way to use my son’s obsession. He was there to help in a way I don’t believe a “normally developing” child could. His attention to detail and commitment to our task were helpful. He helped focus my thoughts and celebrates our decision daily.
To all you Autism Parents out there–find a way into your child’s obsession, create a connection that both of you will appreciate. Find a way to see your son or daughter as amazing. No matter where they are at in school and how far behind their “peers” their teacher statistics show them to be, they are amazing people. My son works harder in school than my make-believe son ever would and he accomplishes more on a daily basis than an everyday “normal” kid because of his sheer effort and enthusiasm for learning. There is a lot to be proud of here.