“Mommy, I got a question.”
“What is it Declan?
“My son’s birthday is today.”
Does Declan have a son? No. Does Spiderman Declan have a son? Yes.
Spiderman Declan’s son is a two foot tall stuffed Spiderman.
When Declan cannot find his costume, or I have it in the wash, Declan cannot take care of his son.
Only Spiderman Declan can.
We have had Spiderman Declan’s son since he was given to Declan at Christmas as a present.
Spiderman Declan’s son is about 50 years old now. That is how many times Declan has said it was his son’s birthday.
But we had never really officially celebrated the way that Declan had fully intended.
So when the schedule showed we had an open day to put the time into a birthday party for Spiderman Declan’s son – we did.
Declan made him a birthday card, we made a cake with Spiderman RED icing (a must to Declan). There were guests to the party and Declan wrapped his favorite toys as gifts.
And Declan very eagerly volunteered to blow out the candle for his son.
It was a wonderful day for Spiderman Declan’s son. And for Spiderman Declan.
We took the one thing he loves most in the world, Spiderman, and celebrated.
Repetitive Behaviors and Autism
Declan’s intense love for Spiderman is a part of his autism.
Remember this graph I showed you before about the symptoms of autism?
I’ve spoken before about Declan’s loss of speech and social problems. But that third bubble there, at the core of autism. Repetitive behaviors. That is where Declan’s love of Spiderman fits in.
Defined by the Autism Speaks website:
Repetitive behaviors can take the form of intense preoccupations, or obsessions. These extreme interests can prove all the more unusual for their content (e.g. fans, vacuum cleaners or toilets) or depth of knowledge (e.g. knowing and repeating astonishingly detailed information about Thomas the Tank Engine or astronomy). Older children and adults with autism may develop tremendous interest in numbers, symbols, dates or science topics.
Declan has an intense preoccupation with Spiderman for 3 years now, and given the opportunity, he will talk about Spiderman with anyone.
Did you know there are 34 versions of Spiderman? I didn’t either. But when confronted with this Spiderman, I was perplexed.
“Declan, who is this?”
And sure enough, he was right.
Repetitive behaviors can take on other forms. Further explained by Autism Speaks:
Unusual repetitive behaviors and/or a tendency to engage in a restricted range of activities are another core symptom of autism. Common repetitive behaviors include hand-flapping, rocking, jumping and twirling, arranging and rearranging objects, and repeating sounds, words, or phrases.
The tendency to engage in a restricted range of activities can be seen in the way that many children with autism play with toys. Some spend hours lining up toys in a specific way instead of using them for pretend play. Similarly, some adults are preoccupied with having household or other objects in a fixed order or place. It can prove extremely upsetting if someone or something disrupts the order. Along these lines many children and adults with autism need and demand extreme consistency in their environment and daily routine. Slight changes can be extremely stressful and lead to outbursts
While we can definitely relate to this part of repetitive behaviors for Declan and Catelyn, it is Declan’s extreme preoccupation with Spiderman that really stands out.
If we were to try to stop Declan’s obsession with Spiderman by taking Spiderman out of his life somehow, that would not cure his autism. It would not make his autism go away. It would lead to a very sad or bitter little boy. Eventually, I would imagine, Declan would become completely infatuated with something else. It is how his mind works.
I look at Spiderman as a good role model. He’s a good guy, doing good things. Declan is infatuated with him.
I accept and celebrate this love. And we will celebrate his son’s birthday again (probably real soon!)