Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Obsessive" Stacking and Autism?

Today, I was reading an article online: "New Study Finds Differences in Way Autistic Children Learn." ( ) It was an interesting article, which I enjoyed reading. My primary problem with the article was the caption to the photo of an adorable little boy making a stack of tin cans that he'd gotten from his kitchen.

Here is what the caption said: "A young autistic boy by the name of Quinn is shown here obsessively stacking cans." I don't know about you, but when I was young, we called that building a tower! I guess we'd better haul all of the kids in preschool that build with blocks to have them evaluated for autism!

I'm being sarcastic here, but it seems to me that we have two problems relating to children with special needs represented here:

1. We tend to label (as something bad) many things that autistic kids do. Special talents are not recognized as such, they're called "splinter skills." A joyful motion of repeated throwing leaves in the air is called "stimming." Let's not forget that autistic kids are still kids, and all kids do weird stuff! And, that's okay.

2. I think that we, as an American society at least, are making every negative or unusual behavior a clinical diagnosis. As I said above, all kids do weird things. All kids act out to test their limits sometimes. What all kids really need is consistency, kind discipline, responsible parenting, and plenty of structure. We don't need a pill or diagnosis to fix our problems!

This is not to say that there are some legitimate medical behavior issues, because there certainly are. I just think that we're going overboard with labeling.

Have a blessed day,



Me Mc said...

I think this is a very good point! I tend to do that- over label. Thanks for making me more self aware.

jejacobson said...

My daughter was an obsessive stacker - and now I totally miss seeing the awesome things she used to build. When she was 18 mos. her prognosis was moderate autism, but early intervention got her to the point where I said, "Stop testing her, she is who she is." We know enough to deal with some of her ASD-type issues, but she is toppling new towers every day. Here's a blog entry I wrote about her stacking:

Dave Angel said...

Good point - We are so keen to label these days. That often we forget that kids are just being kids and not displaying x,y or z "special behaviors".

Serenity said...

I don't really care if people want to call these things stimming, as much as I care that they consider stimming to be negative. What's wrong with regulating your sensory system? Absolutely nothing! Even without labeling these 'stimmimg behaviors' they're still seen as odd. It's my sincere hope that someday stimming will just be seen as another variant of the human population. Not good, or just is.

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Crystal said...

I agree.

Anonymous said...

People are no patience anything today, i have son who is autistic and sometimes when we visit some of
our family member or visit us they don't understand. But guess what i don't even care what they think.
I proud my son who is very smart and talent.

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Is Autism a Genetic Flaw? said...

I think you are right that using too many labels on our children for anything that may seem a little odd can be counterproductive.

Jonathan Landis said...

I couldn't agree with you more. There is way too much labeling of kids. We should be questioning ourselves as to why these behaviors trigger a negative or fearful response in adults. It might be the adults that have the problem. Too many years of internalized repressions, too many social and cultural values of the mainstream that go unquestioned. Let kids be kids, it will only be a short time before they have to deal with the "real" world. They have a right to engage the world on their own terms.

Lori said...

I'm an aspie mom too and I've just found your blog. I look forward to reading more!

Anonymous said...

As a teacher of students with autism, labels are not so important to me. I see my students as individuals. Each and every student has strengths and weaknesses. Isn't that true of students without labels? Students with autism are more "normal" than not!

Sarah said...

Hi I just want to say that I think you are very courageous for getting out there and blogging. I am a stay at home mom and I have Asperger's too. So in a way I relate to you on so many levels. I hope you decide to write more, I noticed that it has been awhile since you last posted anything. I am now following your blog, and I hope you will decide to check on mine.

Sandra said...

Good point.

Labeling is a big danger these days in regards to our Aspie kids. I once heard of a study that had a group of kids Aspie and not in a room and they were to watch a tv program. Now, in front of the tv, were a bunch of toys. Apparently, after a bit of watching tv, several children decided to stop watching and play with the toys.

These children were labeled by the researchers as having Autism. I call it kids who would rather be creative and fun rather than watch tv.

Virginia said...

I agree with you that many times these things are overlabeled. My son has autism and I don't think that everything he does because of his autism is bad. For parents with autistic children, I recommend visiting It offers a lot of information about dealing with autism.

Anonymous said...

Wow great article!
Has anybody ever heard of KOULE by Que Innovations? I think it's worth a look if your interested in early child development and or autism therapy! Their website is but I also found them on facebook too. Any thoughts?
Thanks again for the article!

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