If I could have one wish for Conor, other than curing his autism, it would be for him to have relief from his obsessions. For truly, Conor’s obsessiveness (or perseverative behaviors, as they say) is a tremendous obstacle to his progress. And to our family’s quality of life.
It is, to be blunt, the bane of our existence.
He does come by a touch of it honestly. I have my own little consuming interests, like my lust for organizing and re-organizing the closets, my addiction to mystery novels, and a passion for John Mayer and his music. But I keep them under control, thanks to an awareness of social mores.
Like, for example, once you’ve thrown your panties at John Mayer, it’s probably a good time to leave the concert.
But Conor doesn’t have that social sense. And without an awareness of social rules and guidelines to help him mitigate his behavior, things quickly careen out of control.
Let’s take his obsession with girls, for example. (Public Service Announcement: stalking is a serious crime, Conor. Social guideline #1.)
Conor might meet a girl on the unit, let's say. He’ll ask what her name is. Appropriate. He’ll query you about her age. Naturally. Then, the next morning, he’ll ask, “Conor wants to buy Stacy P. a calculator?”
But the calculator is $30, and we can’t be buying every girl we just met a calculator (Social guideline #2). We don’t even know this girl.
So we say, no, that’s ok, we’re not buying her a present. (And, to be frank, it’s often just as much about purchasing the calculator than giving it to the girl. Sorry, Stacy P., I know it hurts, but it’s true.)
“Why can’t Conor buy Stacy P. a calculator?” he asks.
Because it’s too expensive, Conor. (#3) And we don’t know Stacy (refer back to social guideline #1 re: stalking).
And it’s not her birthday. (#4). Because it’s creepy when a guy you just met buys you an expensive gift, unless that guy is Brad Pitt, of course. (#5)
He doesn’t care that he just met Stacy, and that she has no desire to have any kind of relationship with him. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t know her family, or even what state she’s from. It has nothing to do with her birthday, or whether it’s even close to Christmas. He just doesn’t care.
He wants to scratch that itch. He will nag you, and tantrum, and obsess, and whine, and caterwaul, and gnash his teeth, and tantrum some more for days. No, weeks even.
So we write social stories, and we put a behavior plan in place. We ignore requests, and deny access to reinforcing items if he asks more than four times in two hours about the
(She’s really not even that cute, Conor, seriously, let it go.)
Oh, and we medicate. Boy, do we medicate.
It’s enough to make you want to throw in the towel. (But not your panties; you have to save them up for the next John Mayer concert.)