Ryan and I are both diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. It manifests very differently for both of us. I'm more compulsive; he's more obsessive. I throw everything away; he keeps everything and packs it away. We both worry...a lot. We both have occasional panic attacks. We are both on medication.
Obsessive thoughts are a hallmark of autism as well, but Elliott is probably the least obsessive one in our family. Benjamin is a different story. All little boys get really, really into certain activities, but Ben takes it a step further. His first obsession was letters and that has dovetailed into other interests. Currently, it's Super Mario Bros. I love Super Mario Bros. as much as the next person and we play games together with the kids. We limit their video game time to 1 hour per day, but here's the thing. If Ben isn't playing a video game, he's made up a live action game with the figurines. He draws comic books featuring the Mario gang. He plays Mario at school during recess, at playground on the weekends. He talks about it nonstop, from the moment he wakes up in the morning until, literally, the moment he goes to bed. Tonight, I was scratching his back and he was falling asleep after storytime, and he suddenly opened his eyes and said, "Mom?" "Yes," I said. "I'm worried." He was worried that his video game hadn't saved properly. I assured him it was okay and he relaxed again, clutching the little Dalmation he sleeps with in the crook of his arm.
I am worried about how this translates on the playground at school. He found a friend who likes to play Mario with him. I'll call that friend Dean. Today Ben told me, "Sometimes I ask Dean to play with me, but he doesn't hear me." I can only imagine that Dean cannot keep up with the intensity of Ben's dedication to the Mario, that Dean, perhaps, wants to play handball or swing occasionally. I gently suggested to Ben that maybe he ask Dean if he wants to play something different some time, that maybe it would be a good idea if he tried something different. "I just like Mario," Ben said.
I feel badly that we have given this to Ben. I know that we could find ways to pull back on Mario, but I honestly feel helpless because if it's not Mario, it will be something else. It always has been, since before he was 2, when his intense interest in letters exhausted me. The good news is, he's doing well in school and he does have friends. So far, it hasn't interfered with his education. I just want him to be happy and balanced.