Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fun with OCD. Um, Not Really.

One of the things that happens when your children are go off to school is that they learn all kinds of stuff that you wouldn't have taught them.  I don't just mean all that crazy New Math stuff, either.  I don't even mean creative use of the English language.

It seems like a good idea to teach preschoolers about germs.  They're always sticky and their idea of sneeze etiquette is to wipe their noses on your new pants.  So learning how to properly wash hands is an excellent idea.  And learning that germs can be on surfaces like doorknobs, and that there's germs in your mouth, and that germs are bad, bad, bad: All seemingly excellent things to teach a preschooler.

However.

When your preschooler has Asperger Syndrome, he's going to take the video literally.  Even if it is a cartoon.  He is going to think that this guy lives inside him:


Also, he is going to think that guy lives on his blanket.  And the other side of his blanket.  And on every doorknob and possibly every surface in our house.

Now, as you may know, Little Dude is getting over a sinus infection, so last week we used up every tissue available in the Gulf Coast region of Texas.  So while he was at school watching "Scary Germs Live in Your Head" or whatever, I happened to be at Target buying tissues.  And coincidentally, I am a jackass I bought these:


I had to explain that the box did not contain germy tissues.  In fact, I exclaimed, these are awesome tissues that kill germs!  Yay!  Like Jedi tissues!  And now he has a new bedtime ritual of wiping down his entire comforter (both sides) with the anti-viral Kleenex Jedi tissues.

So now, my friends, Little Dude has become Mini-Monk.  He is obsessed with germs.  He usually has new worries each night (like, "Are the Freshbeats real?") but he has been rockin' the germ worry for two nights and he talks about it during the day, too.  He worries and frets and asks me questions in a trembling voice and then is compelled to hop out of bed to wash his hands, and these are not just bedtime stalling tactics.

I'm thinking about going to the library for a kids' science book about germs so he can at least see that they don't have eyes and fangs.  But I'm not sure if realizing that germs are microscopic is going to make things better or worse.


So maybe not so much with the scientific approach.  This isn't a fun obsession like Legos or Star Wars.  Those obsessions are hours of family fun.  This has the potential to be a real honest-to-goodness Lady MacBeth, Clorox-scented obsession.

What do you do when you're watching an obsession begin?

22 comments:

  1. My son is 4 and has Fragile X Syndrome with mild autism and he's really close to my dad (his Papa). Well a while back Papa went out of state for about 6 weeks for work. He now needs to know where all his friends and family are every.single.minute. He also loves his Papa's car and we once made the mistake of using valet parking. He thought they were stealing his Papa's car and freaked out. Now he needs to know where Papa's car is every minute of the day. He asks "Papa's car?" about 984357243895 times a day.

    I feel your pain.

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  2. Ugh. I wish I had had some advice for you. Usually my autistic 13 year old's obsessions start cute and only later morph into parental torture devices. This germ one is a doozy! On the bright side, he will probably be better able than most kids to avoid the flu outbreaks that inevitably go around school every few days or so.

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  3. I wish I had some advice for you. I think I have blocked the "sugar bugs" incident out and cannot remember how we got past that... I will say that we still do not get arguing about teeth brushing but after that field trip to the dentist where they showed a video of sugar bugs that live in your teeth it was every. five. minutes. I thought she was going to brush her gums right off. :( I hope Little Dude finds some middle ground as my daughter did with her fear.

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  4. I don't know what is the correct way to deal with it, but the way I deal with things that freak me out is try to make them funny. When things are funny, they aren't scary.
    "Nature is dirty"~ Adrian Monk

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  5. Sigh. Yeah, last year we thought we could wean the boy from his OCD meds because he was doing so well. The first day of the wean the teacher called to tell me that the boy went to the bathroom EIGHTEEN TIMES in six hours. Meaning, every twenty minutes or so. He came home, his hands were blood raw from washing so much. We went right back on the full dose the next day.

    And don't get me started with how he directs other kids' play "The car must be rotated to a 30 degree angle and has to be in line with the moon and jupiter." And he wonders why other kids don't want to play.

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  6. I was always told that you take their 'thing' as a starting point and bring it into your world. I'm thinking stuffed toy germ or germ puppets, give the germ a name and make a story. Super germ? evil germ? Jedi germ saves the day? Make a machine out a box that kills the germs?

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  7. When my brother started to get obsessed with astrology at a very young age my parents managed to redirect it to astronomy. (OMG did I just use my parents as an example of doing something right?) You are very right, it IS still at the beginning. I'm not sure if this is helpful (or if you really want advice from strangers on the internet!), but maybe planning the biggest, baddest distraction ever for tonight's bedtime might help. If it were my son, I'd try to get someone to show up in a dinosaur suit. (He loves them, it's not a plan to terrorize!) Seriously, good luck derailing this.

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  8. My friend, who is a doctor, shared this website with me. As with the E.coli under the microscope...it's a toss up as to whether it would help or hurt! Ha. But they are cute, for killer organisms, aren't they? (http://www.giantmicrobes.com)

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  9. http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7148143/


    I know it's off topic, but too funny not to share with you :-D

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  10. I was going to post up about the giantmicrobes website, but Courtney already beat me to it.
    I would suggest also teaching him about the "good" germs that live on your skin, and maybe probiotics and live cultures and things like that so maybe he won't feel like he is the only thing between him and the "bad" germs. Make sure he knows there is a whole other side to germ warfare subculture and hopefully he won't feel so defenseless.

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  11. The best method for me is to try and distract, distract, distract my son from his obsessions when they're starting and hopefully head them off at the pass.
    The MAIN thing that helped me however was to eliminate his red and yellow dye intake. Hard to do - but when I cut out all Red #3 and #40 and Yellow #5 and #6 his OCD obsessions went to almost nothing - well, at least compared to an OCD kid - he still has his issues. (after about a 36 hr time as it got out of his system) Worth a try anyway!

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  12. I saw the stuffed animal germs on Thinkgeek, but they didn't have quite the selection that the giantmicrobes site has. I wonder if I could get giantmicrobes to send me some of their stuff for a blog give-away? Like their petri dish of plush e. coli? That would be SWEET.

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  13. We had daily talks about good germs and about how our body fights bad germs for several weeks, but we did manage to head that obsession off at the pass before it got ugly. Added bonus, he is now eating a bit better after I told him that a good diet helps your body fight germs.

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  14. Gosh, that is so tricky. I'm sorry I have no advice. I hope that he doesn't cling to the germ concept forever.

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  15. I haven't had to deal with this with my daughter. I think I good place to start is to let Little Dude know that while there ARE bad germs, there are also good germs! Push the hand-washing before eating, but tell him that he doesn't need to wash them too much! Good luck!

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  16. I agree with the other posters who advise talking about the good germs. My first born started down this path when he was about 3; his little hands were red for days from washing so much. I talked to him A LOT about the fact that it's good for our bodies to be exposed to some level of germs (even the bad ones!) so that our bodies can learn how to fight off sicknesses. Kind of along the lines of a vaccination (although I'm slightly anti-vax too, but that's a whole other topic!) Those discussions did seem to help head off the OCDish behavior, although now, five years later, he still won't share a cup with his siblings. *sigh*

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  17. I'm teaching Macbeth to juniors. "This has the potential to be a real honest-to-goodness Lady MacBeth, Clorox-scented obsession." was awesome for me today.

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  18. Oh yes... he totally needs to learn about the super-awesome evil-fighting Jedi germs that he's got defending him from the inside!

    My 4-year old thinks germs are fascinating. I'm getting her a giant microbe for her stocking this year - just need to decide which one... e.coli maybe. :)

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  19. Oh how well I remember that day mine came home with the new found knowledge of germs.... I should have purchased stock in Clorox wipes BEFORE that day.....

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  20. Maybe a visit with your pediatrician. Would it make him feel better if his doctor put it in perspective? Good Luck!

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  21. My son is 4 and he has PDD-NOS. When we had to tackle this topic, I had him speak to a doctor (who happened to be my sister and I made her practice on me while I pretended to be Henry so we knew we could cover every subject he might bring up). We talked about good germs vs bad germs. We talked about the importance or proper hand washing and the importance of getting a little sick once in a while to boost that immune system. And whenever he brings up germs, I reiterate everything that we spoke about and I can see the anxiety leave his face. Not sure if it will work for Little Dude, But Henry is a talker and he is obsessed with how everything works. Oh...and I made a social story about it after the fact that he read over and over and over and over. Not sure if this helps, but good luck! - Debbie

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  22. I have a young son with Asperger's and went through this same thing. It was great that he was washing his hands, but not great that he was washing them 40 times a day. Since my son is very science-minded, I explained to him that he has to be exposed to germs in order to be healthy. It is, as someone else mentioned here, the same basic idea as vaccination, something I BEG people not to reject. Take a look at all the babies dying from Whooping Cough in California lately and consider if you want that to be your child, or if you want your child to be the one who passed the disease on to that baby. But I digress.

    I explained to my son that people who live in bubbles, never exposed to germs, are the least healthy people anywhere. They can't even go outside without becoming horribly, dangerously sick. This is because they don't have enough germs on them and around them. I had to repeat this bubble story over and over and over again to him. I told him he should always wash his hands after going to the bathroom and before eating. Other than that, I told him to accept that germs are not bad, but are part of our lives. They make us stronger by giving us immunity. This has worked very well for him. Luckily I'm not a germaphobe. He'd be a nervous wreck if I was.

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