Distraction Verses Obsession in Children with Autism

I spent last week pondering these two ideas.


Well, here’s the set up:

My son is currently obsessed with Pokemon. It started last spring when a buddy got him into it. They play it together now, and it’s pretty much all my son plays these days.

Not only plays, but talks about.

And, thinks about.

Sometimes, he’ll compare a real life situation to one of the characters from Pokemon. “This situation is sort of like the one where so and so had to do (whatever) to get back his Pokemon.”

He’s Pokemon-on-the-brain sometimes.

We have a discussion before school about this. School is school, you can’t be thinking about Pokemon during most of the school day. “Yes, Mom, I know.”

Even though he says it, I think his obsession is hard to turn off sometimes.

I get that about children with autism. They get focused, really focused, sometimes on just one thing.

I may be over-exaggerating a tad bit here. My son does have other thinks that he likes (baseball, history, his fantasy baseball team, music games at the pizza place, and pizza, of course.)

But, if I were asked about what my son is “into” these days, it’s Pokemon. His current obsession.

What else happened this week?

Well, I suppose in the scheme of things it was a small thing, except for it got me thinking about pitting things that our kids obsess over verses things that just can’t stay in their brains due to being so easily distracted (sometimes by those pesky obsessions).

Friday was my son’s picture day. Picture day at my son’s school takes place during their P.E. class.

My son’s P.E. class is Period 1, the very first period of the day.

Right away.

Drop him off, he goes to P.E. class. (For those of us with some age behind us, we used to call this gym class. And grammar school. And Junior High.) But, I digress (because I got distracted?)

Anyway, I gave my son instructions about his picture day. Before we got into the car that morning, I showed him the form for ordering pictures. I asked him where I should put it so that he can get it easily and hand it in during P.E. (Period ONE).

He told me where he wanted it so that he’d remember to hand it in.

During the car ride to school, and right before he got out, I reminded him to take out the picture day form and hand it in.

Did he remember to do this?


Did he get distracted during the time he had to walk from the car to the gym?


Now, where was his brain when he was supposed to hand in the form?

He’s my discussion about distraction verses obsession.

It was a simple instruction (in my mind). They call you up to take your picture, they (the gym teachers and/or the photographer) ask if you’re handing in a form.


You get your picture taken.

You’re done.

It that happen with my son?

No. Because he got distracted and that “little thing” that seems logical to non-typicals got lost somewhere, somehow, perhaps even in an obsession.

Interesting, isn’t it?

The little things are the things that we remind him/her of all the time, and we have to cross our fingers and hope that those things get remembered.

However, the details of one Pokemon battle from April seems to be in his memory bank for months.

Those things get locked in. (As do scores of baseball games from past spring training trips. My son can do that as well.)

I’m not complaining. I’m mightly impressed by the things my son can remember. And, I don’t mind the Pokemon references in our real life conversations.

I know he understands that Pokemon isn’t real. And, we have put limits in place. We haven’t allowed him to play Pokemon Go due to too many uncertainties about how our child is going to interact with the public (and us) while trying to pursue a Pokemon on his phone.

It is frustrating, too. My son will have to go to the makeup picture day because he forgot to hand in his picture day form.

Lesson learned.

And, yes, a lot of this appears to be typical teenaged behavior.

Yet, add autism-like obsessions and distractions on top of typical behavior, and it does add to the life of an Aut Parent, some little headaches and some bigger ones.

Is it distraction, obsession, or both?


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