Oh help, oh no, it’s a Gruffalo
We all have things we like – maybe somethings we like a lot. For those with Autism their obsessions or ‘special interests’ can be much more intense and last much longer, even a lifetime.
People with ASD are all individuals but having a special interest is very common. They can be distracting but also be used as ‘way in’ socially and academically. An obsession is not just liking something lots. It can dominate your thinking, plans, money and can lead to irrational behaviours.
H has always loved the Gruffalo and it remains an obsession of his. We have had some mini ones too, including; Bear Hunt, Three Little Pigs, Mr Tumble and Bing. But the Gruffalo has stood the test of time.
Oh help, oh no…
We have fully embraced this obsession as a family and it will always remain really special to all of us. There’s the clothes, toys, books and films – and naturally we all know it off by heart. Getting alongside H in his love of the Gruffalo has generally not been too sacrificial as it’s amazing! Imagine our delight when we could go to Chessington World of Adventures on the Gruffalo ride and ‘meet and greet’ our family hero.
H is getting slightly ‘too old’ for some of the clothes and merchandise now, but that’s the thing with an intense obsession you don’t just grow out of it! Socially this can be tough as it usually helps to keep your interests in line with your peers.
I used to try and help H know about and do things his peers liked so he would be able to engage socially. He is often playing and interested in things below his age. Like so many things I then realised I was doing this more for me than him as it affected my mum pride as I was so desperate for him to fit in. Still working on that!
When he was shouting for ‘Mr Tumble’ when his friends were over I realised it wasn’t worth having a meltdown about! Why should he engage with things he doesn’t like or understand? Minions have bridged the developmental gap for us which has been a fun phase!
The positive side to obsessions
Obsessions can be positive too. When H has been anxious in a busy environment we will start reciting the Gruffalo. As he joins in with those familiar words he slowly gets calmer and has another focus. It’s worked well in busy swimming pools and on holiday. Other people must think we are mad!
It can also be positive for engaging H in learning. I’m a firm believer in using all children’s interests to engage them in their academic and social progress and fortunately the school think this too. Another positive is it gives H a chance to know more about something and boosts his confidence as he often has less knowledge or understanding.
If you know someone with ASD do find out what their special interests are and talk to them about it. It will give them great pleasure and a way in socially although it might drive you mad!
So now if you see me pretending to be a mouse on the school run you know why. I’m sure there could be more embarrassing special interests!