Thursday, August 6, 2009

Developmental problem or just an every-kid quirk?

Max has a way of getting fixated on things.

This truck, for instance. He loves to push it back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.

He also repeats requests for things he wants. After my friend Betsy came to visit with her little girl Melinda, Max fell so hard for Melinda that for two weeks afterward, he'd constantly look at me and say, "Melinda's house!" (It sounds like "Whoinna's ouse.") They were the first words out of his mouth when I'd walk in the door at night from work, the last words he'd say at bedtime, the first words he'd say in the morning. Seriously—I'd watch his eyes open groggily, then he'd sit up in bed and announce, "Melinda's house!" I'd respond, "Max wants to go to Melinda's house?" And he'd say, "YES!" And then, a few minutes later, again, "Melinda's house!"

Last weekend, he went to Aunt Judy's new apartment. Ever since, he's been saying "Aunt Judy's house!" all the time.

Part of me thinks this is adorable.

Part of me is incredibly grateful Max is talking at all, that he can express his wants with words and that he's persistent about it.

And then there's a part of me that's concerned about this tendency. What does it mean that he repeats things or gets stuck on doing one kind of play? Is this a sign of another cognitive issue? It's on my list of things to ask the neurologist (I always have the longest list of questions, from the important to the downright ridiculous, by the time we go to see him.)

I struggle with this impulse to think that Max's quirks could be a sign of a problem. I'm guessing it's not uncommon to feel this way when you have a child who already has significant development issues—you can't help but think you're spotting yet another one.

Rationally, though, I know that Max deserves the benefit of the doubt. He certainly doesn't need a Mom who's always looking at him through gray-colored glasses; he needs me to cheer him, guide him as necessary and just let him be a kid. Come to think of it, I guess it's me who has a fixation, and I need to let go.

Another day, another sanity check.


  1. I go through the same thing with Moo. Every now and then he becomes fixated on something and won't let it go no matter what. I don't find it as cute as you do (mainly frustrating) but my brain clicks into overdrive. Is it something else? Or is it his age? I don't know but for both of us, I hope its the second option,

  2. I'm not an expert, but someone once told me that part of it is we may see our kids do things that typical children usually do, but at a younger age or for a shorter time period.

    Sometimes it can take them longer to get through a stage. Another thing that freaks me out is when they stop doing something they had been doing well, which could be because they are learning something else new and their system is focused on the new thing they are learning.

  3. Ellen,
    Faith has some of the same habits. She is fixated on doors, opens and closes over and over. She's doing it now as a matter of fact. She could do it for hrs. She also is obsessed with doing things over and over. I worried about it when she went for her phyc. testing but they seemed to think that it was her way of sorting things out and how things work. They said it showed persistance and patience. Maybe that's just how Max is, too. It definatly freaks me out too!

  4. At last! Something I can contribute to the discussion. As a mom of 4 neurotypical children (ranging in age from 2 to 16) I can tell you that this is absolutely normal behavior. Typically it peaks just after the child can clearly express himself verbally. So if a kid learns to talk at 12 months (like my oldest), then this would peak at about 18 months. If he learns to speak at 24 months (like my youngest), it peaks at about 2 and a half. And in your son's case, he's right on track. He's been speaking long enough that he's had some success at using words to get what he wants and using repetition to get you to give in. Now he's just combining the two to drive you crazy.

    You can expect this behavior to last as long as it works. In other words, if he thinks it's getting him somewhere, he'll keep it up. But it also goes away as they get more vocabulary. Maybe because they are at least sure that you understand them? But this is normal and comes and goes and occasionally flares up again right on into the teen years. My 13 year old just asked if her friend could come over for the 47th time this week.

  5. I should add, it helps to say "Yes, later" rather than "No" because they don't think they need to ask as often if you've already said yes.

  6. sounds to me that max loves visiting other people. also most people with CP do not have congive issues. are u sure max dose?

  7. I have nothing brilliant to add except I understand. I do the same thing...all the time...with Gavin. But you're right, Ellen...our kids deserve to have Mommy's with better glasses :-) I like that one!

  8. Evan is like that too and it can be so frustrating and worrying. Right now he is into bubbles and will constantly ask to blow bubbles. I let him do it now and then but I don't think my carpet could handle a constant stream of soap bubbles. I try not to worry about his obsessing on things, but how can you not?

  9. Ellen I wish i could say it gets better but Regan is still an obsessive child. It is very hard for her to get over things and to move on. I always chalk it up to her not being able to process change well. She will still throw fits at 13 when we leave a friend's house or plans change....and she gets obsessive over items and people that she will take months to let go of.

    Honestly I find it annoying but I know her repetitive nature and her need for consistancy and her need to focus on certain items are just her own personal way to deal with life so I take it in stride with patience.

    I had always hoped she would grow out of luck yet.

  10. Well, at least it's good to know other parents are dealing with the same thing. I'll let you know what our neuro says when we go (which isn't for a few months).

  11. Late to the conversation, but still here.

    Alex does it. Only it's over toys or things he's seen recently, sometimes things we have to think very hard to figure out where or what he's talking about. His perseveration is so difficult for us to deal with. It's constant. One second after the next, after the next. It goes on and on until it can be interrupted...then a short time later, it begins again.

    This has been happening for years. Good luck! Hang in there. You might be in for a long perseveration ride.

  12. Elizabeth is REALLY stuck on dinosaurs at the present, this one has lasted for a very long time. This stickyness and a couple of other things have me really on edge we have had the ASD talks with her Doc's and it is something I think we are fighting. ASD is a common diagnosis with prem's and for once I would like her to have a break and avoid and another list of letters that stigmatize her.
    A mother worry never ends SIGH.

  13. It's just sensory integration and association. I used to do that.

  14. I can relate to max! I have a special intreast in the 405 freeway! (:


Thanks for sharing!

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