Autism: What do you do when your kid prefers objects over people?

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Follow a story of a family whose little boy was diagnosed on the autism spectrum and the steps they took to overcome this diagnosis.

This story is a personal one and should not be taken for any medical advice. This is simply parental advice. If you are questioning the behavior your child is exhibiting please talk to a medical professional to attain a diagnosis through an evaluation.

By Becky Horace

Not only did my son’s speech regress but his social skills took a nose dive. He doesn’t want anything to do with people anymore which I can’t really blame him living in Thailand. Thai people love kids. That isn’t a bad thing, it’s so sweet and they mean well but when your child has issues and doesn’t want to be touched this can cause a big problem. Thai people love kids but they especially love blond hair blue eyed babies. That is extremely unfortunate for my son. To show their appreciation for my pretty boy, they just have to squeeze his legs, pinch his cheeks, pat his head, try to kiss him, and they are always shouting “hey boy!!” to get his attention. I know that I am annoyed at this behavior and cat calling my little boy has to deal with so I understand why he doesn’t want anything to do with people. I can imagine his life is much more manageable when he ignores everyone.

When we arrived at the Reed Institute for the evaluation, our son had no interest in the therapist or in the staff but only a few toys. There was one toy which really caught his attention. It was made entirely of buttons that would click. One of the reasons he was diagnosed with social delays is because he prefers objects (toys or really anything) over people.

Once we realized this was the case that he preferred toys to people, our therapist gave us some tools that we could use to engage him. We were told to “go to his spotlight”, this means finding whatever he is focusing on, sit with him face to face and narrate what was going on. We would have to be careful because this should not be constant chatter but only be a few words. Now when my son rolls his truck back and forth, I would sit in front on him on the floor and say “truck go” or “zoom” in a very exaggerated way in the hopes that being over the top would get a smile, a giggle and (the key component) EYE CONTACT! Our therapist says eye contact is absolutely necessary and will cause neurons to fire! These neurons going off are rewiring that cute little brain of his!

Weeks have gone by now and all of the hard work spent at therapy and at home are starting to pay off! My son is now interested in other people. At therapy, if the older kids are doing an activity my son will put down the toy and go see what they are doing and sometimes he might participate. Another big win for therapy is that my son is now initiating play on his own instead of us trying to figure out what he wants, my son will come grab my hand and ask (in his own way) to be chased or to be wrestled. Again, with him initiating the play it shows us that he wants to be around people and is enjoying the fun playtime that comes with giving people attention.

Tips from the mom

  • Spotlighting works well if done properly. Talk to your physician about this technique and see if it would be relevant to your child’s case. Make sure when spotlighting, you get down on your child’s level in the hopes you will make eye contact!
  • Your child’s feelings are the most important thing! Here in Bangkok with Thai people always wanting to touch my son, I was so worried I would offend someone if I asked them to stop but I quickly realized my son’s feelings are more important than being considered rude to whoever you are telling to stop. If your child is uncomfortable do everything in your power to regain control of the situation and protect your baby.
  • Sometimes alone time is okay. Sometimes we just want to be left alone with our toys and not deal with anyone, adults and children alike. It’s when this behavior seems excessive in your child that you should consider talking to someone.

This will be an ongoing series of articles of our story through an evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and the end results during our son’s last two years of therapy. I will share with you from a parent’s perspective what we have learned and in layman’s terms explain our son’s diagnosis and the type of therapy used to help him succeed.

I hope you enjoy this read and please know no matter how bleak it may seem you are not alone when you are going through this. Parents around the world are in your same shoes looking for support and love; you just have to be open to talk about it.

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