Children With Autism: Turning Obsessions Into Growth Opportunities

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My son’s latest obsession is a strong desire to meet new
dogs. We have a dog. We had two dogs until last May when we had to
put down our 15 1/2 year old. 

How did that go? 

We made sure to include our son when we were putting our dog
to sleep. He had known that dog his whole life and we wanted him to not only be
able to say goodbye to her properly, but to learn that owning a dog (or most
other animals) means having to deal with their death. He did a great job of saying goodbye, and I think he handled it well.

How and when did the
new dog obsession begin?
 

His dog obsession surfaced soon after the death of our old
dog. My son got it into his head that he wanted to meet new dogs, all the time. 

It started with a neighborhood dog. On the walk to school,
he wanted to say “hi” to this one dog, a friendly pit bull. Then, there was
another neighborhood dog. Then, another.  At home, he began to talk about them and look them up on the
Internet (a clear sign of the beginning of an obsession). The next thing I knew, the new obsession was in place. And,
a new routine had to develop. 

What routine was
connected to this new obsession?
 

Amazingly enough, it was a social routine. My son had to learn a new social skill. He had to learn how to
approach strangers and ask them certain questions and not just go up to a
strange dog, owner or not, and start to pet it. Plus, he not only had to ask questions, but he had to listen to people. 

What questions did he
have to learn?
 

I gave him a script. First, I taught him to ask the person
if their dog is friendly. 

Second, I insisted he ask the dog owner if it was okay if he
pet the dog. 

This routine did not develop overnight. Early on, I had to intervene
because my son was not listening to the dog owner say when he said, “You
shouldn’t pet my dog.” Instead, he was attempting to pet the dog.  

Most people were nice to my son, and even enjoyed the
attention by this cute kid. I think dog owners in general like it when they and
their dog get attention. They like dogs and they like to talk about dogs. Plus, most breeds of dogs are naturally receptive to humans.
“Mans best friend!” 

Then, my son’s obsession began to really develop.In my next blog, I will go deeper into this latest obsession,
and I will explain how I simply LOVE this obsession. 

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