Sunday, April 27, 2008

Spencer's Obsession

As many know, one of the characteristics
of autism is the ritual of arranging things
in an orderly way. Spencer has that habit
and he has combined it with a few other
obsessions, too. He loves trains! He loves
the computer! He loves to print pictures
of trains and still frames from youtube
videos! And he loves to line up his prized
pages and tape them into long, long strips.
Until just about 2 weeks ago, he couldn't get
the hang of using scotch tape on his own,
so I was the designated taper. I'm so very
happy to have succeeded in teaching him
how to use the tape!
As you can see, he loves to spread them all
over the house. He has hundreds of them!
He folds them up accordian-style and arranges
the stacks in a row on the floor beside his
bed before going to sleep! I start him with
his bedtime routine about 15 minutes before
his brothers just to accomodate the paper
placement! When he gets up, he has to
spread out all the rows again before he can
leave for school. If he only knew that I fold them
all up and remove them from the kitchen as soon
as he is out the door. :)
Yes, it can be irritating and just plain
inconvenient! But we have learned to
live with it. I'll share in the future about
some of Alex and Harry's little obsessions, too.
You just have to keep a sense of humor to
save your sanity! :)


  1. I confess that I know next to nothing about autism.....but rest assured Betsy that most of us moms out there are well acquainted with kid's projects that spread out all over the floor and every other surface of the house...I remember the day I woke up to find my daughter had been busy making and stringing paper chains all over the living/dining room and was so proud of them that I didn't have the heart to take them down for many days.... Your kids are fortunate that they have a mom who understands what is important to them...

  2. I know a little about autism, but reading your blog has taught me a lot. My best friends older brother was autistic, and growing up we would sit down and have long talks about his art, he loved to paint and draw. I think you are one amazing lady, you understand them, respect them, and encourage them. To me that is wonderful. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. I always admire your calm spirit and sense of humor.

    You could have him put them on the bedroom wall. Mod style of wallpaper? :D

  4. Lavinia ~ cute story about the paper chains! I remember making them for our Christmas trees when I was a girl. Yes, the things we do for our kids! ha-ha

  5. Lady Em ~ hello and thanks for coming over to my blog! Many autistic people are artsy. Mine love trains so much that I wish they would pick up the talent of sketching them....but no interest so far. Thanks for the comments!

  6. Princess G ~ yes, movable art! :) Thats a good way of looking at it!

  7. Willow ~ calm spirit? ha-ha ...I think it's just survival mode. :)
    I did try a bulletin board once...and on the refrigerator with magnets. But he needs them to me mobile....and he has thousands (literally!) It was a good idea, but he didn't go for it.

  8. my, my, work, work, work!

    yeah! your coming back to visit me, thank you :)

  9. Hello Ms. Dragonfly! ~~yes, your artsy blog is very interesting! How fun that you are selling at Etsy, too! Thanks for the visit ~ yes, Spencer is hard at work with his "pages" as he calls them (types, not speaks).

  10. Hi Betsy! Love the trains! It was airplanes with J! He'd find them in magazines, on wallpaper border, wallpaper, coloring books, you name it.

    And he wanted them hung up. The wallpaper border was easy - we measured 3 feet from the floor in the bedroom and agreed to do two walls.

    The cut outs were mounted on cardboard, his daddy shaped them and hung them from the bedroom ceiling at all different lengths.

    Then came the cloud wallpaper because airplanes have to soar through the clouds. Replaced the border.

    Showed him how to curl ribbon so that the airplanes would have simulated smoke coming out of the engines!

    Isn't autism fun! We had a ball. And it looks like you are having a ball too. You got the right idea - incorporate the obsession into your routine and then it doesn't become a chore or nuisance.

    Sometimes my hubby would just take a fit and start ripping things down because he called it junk and the screaming would go on for days. (This happened usually when I was hospitalized or working a 36 hour shift) I don't know who took longer to get used to an autistic household - the hubby or the kid!

    Autism can be troublesome, of course. But "structured autism" as I like to call it, is a joy. To watch your child conquer each level of achievement is truly wonderous.

    Enjoy these teen years! Anne

  11. Hi Anne! Thanks for your cute story about your son! The airplanes sound so fun. Yes, I can see that you can totally relate to what I'm talking about here! I have made the mistake of rushing him out the door in the morning and he is so upset that it can ruin his school day, not to mention the poor teachers! It's just not worth it. And that's what a true obsession is...it's that controlling. Not to mention being nonverbal and having difficulty expressing himself. Thanks for dropping by! It was good to hear from you again!

  12. Hi Betsy...I've read all these great comments..We're all in your corner little mother....In the dictionary the word "admire" means...To regard with wonder and approval..to esteem, respect. That pretty much tells you how we all feel about you. God bless..Dee Dee

  13. Deedee ~ thank you so much for your extra kind comments. That just completely made my day. You are one of the sweetest most encouraging people I "know". You have the gift! Thanks for spreading sunshine on my blog ...and my day! :) We can all learn a lesson from you that we can uplift and bless people with what we say or we can tear them down and hurt them. Thank you!

  14. Thanks again for the peek into your world. You shared in one of your comments that you know he calls them his pages because he types that. I was curious about how much the boys type and how they use it. Do they communicate directly with you by typing?

    Oh, and I marveled at how he seems to be crafting his train papers into trains themselves!

    And, I loved this post because it made me remember when we used to sit for you guys. I remember putting little Spencer in bed with all his train books!

    Lastly, I agree with DeeDee. So sweet and so true.

  15. Wow, that is great and so patient of you. Parker loves people to print out pictures of trucks for him. We used to staple them together. Then I had the idea to get a three ring binder and put all his artwork and truck pictures in there. He loves it. Boy is it boring to read to him though, lol.

  16. Jen ~ Yes, Spencer and Harry type a lot of requests on the computer. They "say" the words but we are the only ones that can tell what they are saying. Alex isn't that far along to type or attempt to speak a word. They took computer classes right along with the "normal" kids at school starting back in 2nd or 3rd grade and last year, Spencer was one of the fastest typers! And just with his index finger, too! He's a whiz at it...kinda like Taylor can text that fast with his thumbs! :)
    Aawww...I remember you babysitting! Wish you still lived close enough for us to trade kids once in a while!

  17. Hi Bobbi! So Parker loves trucks! (love the name Parker, btw...if we had another boy we were going to use that name!) I tried the binders! But they like their pages lined up. They even tear pages out of books so they can line them up and look at them all at once. Please keep coming back...it's so good to talk to another mom. Maybe you could start a blog and I could come visit you! :)

  18. Lol, I already have one. You should check it out.

  19. Bobbi ~ OK, good to know. But when I click on your name blogspot says that you don't have a profile available! I'll enter the url next time! Thank you!

  20. I think Spencer is darling! And let me tell you, both of my boys, especially Boo, would have a ball with him and his printouts. They are crazy about trains and they love tape!

  21. My son goes through spells of printing things as well! He doesn't have the taping and organizing thing down yet though. I'll have to introduce that to him the next time he gets into this again!

    You're absolutely right, sense of humor is a must to put up with this (and all the crazy things my NT kids do too!).

  22. This is so like Pamela!! I could line up pages and pages of calendar information. Her latest craze is to write the years starting from 1960 when my husband was born, write the places in which he and I lived (I appear in 1963), plus the time zone! Since I am a Navy brat who moved a lot, there are a few years with three different states and time zones, just for me alone!

    I can really relate to this post!!! Aren't there memories incredible?

    The calm spirit comes from exhaustion--not enough energy to fuss! :-)

  23. Glaser ~ yes, that is true! I've seen your pictures of Pamela and those calendars! She is incredible! We don't have any savant skills over here, but it's amazing to see what they do and what is important to them!


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