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obsessions

(9 Posts)
mrsshears Tue 16-Aug-11 14:29:47

Hi i'm not sure if i'm posting in the right place but this seems like a friendly forum so i thought i'd ask here.
My dd is 5 and about to go into year 1, she is a quirky(for want of a better expression)little sausage and i'm convinced she is on the spectrum somewhere,dd has had interaction difficulties which are now largely resolved although dd still has difficulties initiating interactions and also has selective mutism(not officially diagnosed yet).
DD is VERY bright and is ahead at school and really enjoys learning(when its on her terms and about something she is interested in),school have also stated that dd is different.
My reason for posting is that dd has what i would class as an obsession with a certain type of animal which has gone on for about 18mths.
DD will not leave our pet alone,pretends to be this animal frequently whatever dd does seems to involve this animal,if dd is writing a story its about this animal,if she is drawing its this animal she is drawing,dresses up as this animal repetedly to the point i have hidden the costume and is quite happy to walk around in a mask of this animal.
Its awful to say but this is now becoming slightly embarrasing and i'm worried dd may get teased because of it,friends parents and family comment on it too.
I'm not really sure what to do or even if i can do anything,in the begining i just went along with it thinking it was harmless and just a bit of an interest that dd have however i can now see its far more than this,i have now got to the point where i have to say to dd i want to hear no mention of said animal for a certain time frame or she would talk about it all day!
If anyone has any idea on what i can do i would be really greatful,i should add that DH is in complete denial with regards to dd so i'm not interested in any kind of formal diagnosis for dd at present.

TIA

bialystockandbloom Tue 16-Aug-11 14:56:32

Welcome to this board smile

My ds has a diagnosis of ASD (high functioning end of the spectrum) and has obsessions that can last a good few months (atm it's snails). You have my sympathies...

I assume you've tried redirecting her to something else? Or expanding on the games/drawings etc?

The therapy we use with ds involves a lot of 'extinguishing' certain behaviours, routines, obsessions etc. Much of this means absolutely ignoring 'inappropriate' behaviour (including obsessions) but reinforcing heavily the 'appropriate' behaviour - what you want to see. The theory is that if you respond to a behaviour, you are reinforcing it. If you ignore it, the behaviour fades.

Some of the techniques might work with your dd - eg could try joining in her games with this animal, but only if she chooses a different animal. So she will see that she can have a great time and brilliant game with you, but if she insists on being that same animal, you won't play. So her choice is either play on her own or with you (make sure she understands that playing with you will be much, much more fun for her!), but on your terms, not hers.

Only allow the mask during this game with you. Gradually she might see that the game itself is more fun than wearing the mask, so you can fade out the mask.

When she is pretending to be this animal, totally ignore her. When she talks about the animal, totally ignore it - either talk over her about something else entirely or ignore her and just carry on doing what you're doing. Don't respond to conversation about the animal.

Whenever she's doing something, drawing, games etc that doesn't involve the animal, give her absolutely tons and tons of attention. So she sees she gets more fun, attention, cuddles etc when she's not doing something animal-related.

Hope this makes some sense - it's a bit of a potted and rushed explanation of a specific form of therapy!

Possibly not the right time to say it, but when you're up to it, it is worth trying to get your dh on board. If she does have difficulties which aren't helped they might get worse as she gets older and school/social interaction gets tougher. You don't have to get a formal diagnosis (DH/DPs always reluctant to accept anything "wrong" with their children), but it's about recognising difficulties and helping them, not a 'label'.

Good luck.

EllenJaneisnotmyname Tue 16-Aug-11 15:23:04

Great advice from Bialy.

Not much to add really, except I recognise your description of your DD as my DS3 is also 'quirky' but I haven't felt the need to get a DX. My DS2 does have a DX of high functioning ASD, and I'm sure DS3 is on the spectrum.

With your DDs behaviours, it does sound like they are impacting on her life somewhat, with the self mutism and the all encompassing obsession. Are her issues recognised and supported at school? Is she on school action or school action plus? Individual education plans can be for social issues, and aren't just for academic problems as I'm sure you know, but schools sometimes need a bit of convincing.

My DS2 and DS3 both have rolling obsessions that last from up to a few weeks to 2 years (and counting.) They can get really tedious but, especially with DS3, they can be easily ignored. Your DDs obsession may stop of it's own accord, (and a new one start) but as it seems to be getting out of hand, some action like Bialy suggests will hopefully dampen it down to acceptable levels.

mrsshears Tue 16-Aug-11 16:44:11

Thank you both so much i really appreciate your replies

bialy the only thing i have do so far really is to stop dd talking about said animal for certain periods of time.
Because dd has not actually been being naughty i have been swept along by it to a certain degree and i'm ashamed to say have allowed it to spiral out of control sad,i suppose i also thought that dd would get fed up of it.
I'm going to try you therapy starting from tommorrow morning,should i attempt remove all the animal toys/costumes etc or not?(dd has lots because everyone knows about this and most of the presents she recieved from her school friends related to this animal) and should i try and reason with dd concerning this behavior?I do attempt to reason with dd about this but not pariculairly strongly up until now.
As i'm writing this my dd has walked into the room on all fours which is something that has started over the last couple of weeks which shows how out of control it is getting now

bialystockandbloom Tue 16-Aug-11 19:32:12

Don't blame yourself at all. Many, many children get obsessions, which can go on for months/years. And most grow out of them (though of course might replace them!). So it's perfectly natural you would expect dd to grow out of it too. It's great that you've recognised that this is getting a bit out of hand and doing something about it. And you're right, it's not naughtiness.

I don't know whether this applies to your dd, but my ds often plays obsessively/repetitively with the same toys because he doesn't naturally know how to expand his play. He has got imagination, and once you show him a new way to play he loves it and embraces it. But it doesn't come instinctively to him, hence getting stuck on the same thing. It might be the case with your dd - needs a bit of help being shown alternative ways to play, alternative animals to try, etc.

Whether you do it all in one swift step, or gradual, probably depends on your dd and how open she'd be to reasoning. And how prepared you are for any behavioural repercussions (ie tantrums!) when you remove or restrict the costumes etc. You could be pretty harcore and remove everything, but if you do, you must be consistent on this and not give in. I'd probably suggest just restricting the use of costumes to start with, only allowed to play for a short time, and only with you or siblings/friends.

With behaviour like being on all fours etc - ignore her when she's doing this. If she tries to talk to you or anything, say to her once "dd I will talk to you when you stop pretending to be the animal". Stick to this - don't repeat it as you're just engaging with the behaviour. Just get on with what you're doing as if she's not there. As soon as she gets up or stops pretending to be the animal, then immediatley give her your attention.

Also, try and make sure everyone else follows you on this - consistency is so important. If you're trying to eliminate an obsession and you are consistently ignoring it, but others keep reinforcing it (ie responding to/allowing it), the behaviour itself won't be extinguished - she'll just learn that you won't let her do it, but others will, and that's probably pretty confusing for her. So whatever you decide to do, ask that DH/grandparents etc do what you do. And ask everyone not to get her any more toys on the theme!

Also agree with ellenjane about making sure she's got adequate support in school.

wraith Thu 18-Aug-11 03:02:00

sounds about right and welcome

mrsshears Fri 19-Aug-11 12:30:57

well we started yesterday morning and its actually going quite well,i have moved all the animal paraphanailia(spelling!) but i havent actually told dd that i have done so, im just trying to distract her with other things which unbelievably is working so far.
Its quite hard work because i seem to be constantly entertaining dd but i know it will be worth it in the end.
we have just got back from the supermarket and dd started getting excited in the pet food isle(that sounds so silly but i cant think of how to better describe it)which i just ignored.One area that hasnt improved is she is constantly harrasing our pet,obviously this is more difficult as i cant hide the pet!I'm just doing the same thing with this and diverting her attention,it is constant though and i have to admit i did raise my voice earlier which i'm not proud of.
I had a chat with DH and told him what i'm going to do and whilst he has agreed to go along with this he says in his oppinion she is just a "normal" child but when i point out lots of dd's behaviours to him he does admit they are not necesarily normal child behaviour,one example being the fact that dd refuses to speak to her Grandparents.

Thank you for the lovely welcomes too smile

EllenJaneisnotmyname Fri 19-Aug-11 13:04:00

Great start, good luck! smile

bialystockandbloom Fri 19-Aug-11 20:40:27

Well done, sounds like it's going really well and that you're being very strong and consistent - good for you!

Ah yes I didn't mention that it might include a bit of hard work did I blush grin

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