Is There a Link Between Toddler Obsession & Autism?

April Peveteaux
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toddler obsessionMy toddler is obsessed. He cannot seem to get over Christmas and all of the accouterments. Show that kid a pine tree and he is OFF. Rarely a day goes by without a request to hear "Jingle Bells," followed by "Jingle Bell Rock," and a final thumpety-thump-thump of "Frosty the Snowman." When he gets a crayon or piece of sidewalk chalk he demands one of us draw the following: Snowman, Santa, and the generic "Christmas" (does he want joy? snow? candy? we don't know).

It is now March and we're wondering if this obsession with all things merry will ever end. Also, is something wrong with him?

It turns out there are normal toddler obsessions, and obsessions that should raise red flags. Toddlers seem to have one-track minds, and admittedly his sister's princess phase before him had us just as perplexed. But one parenting expert says single-mindedness when it comes to play is a creative act on the part of the toddler, and nothing to fear. Additionally, if your toddler is getting better at something through his obsession, it's all the more fun. Which explains why my boy was so stoked singing "Jingle Bell Rock" yesterday -- on his own, for the first time.

While this love of all things Christmas (thankfully) falls in the normal camp, other obsessions can be signs of autism. The difference between a kid who is a typical toddler exploring a new toy with verve, and a child who could be on the spectrum is that the obsessive behavior isn't the only sign that something may not be in the range of neurotypical. Explained by some experts:

In addition to fixating on toys or specific things, autistic children don't bond with their parents. They don't get a joyful expression when their parents try to interact, they don't look people in the eyes and they don't communicate. Autistic children may also have sensory sensitivities, making them unable to tolerate sounds and touch.

So if your toddler's obsession with Elmo seems to be joyful, rather than something he is driven to do in spite of himself, just sit back and enjoy the show. Of course, if your toddler's behavior has you concerned, it's always a good idea to talk to your pediatrician.

Is your toddler obsessed?

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