Of Books and Letters
Delayed Opening Can't Get Us Down

One Way to Deal With Perseveration

Loading groceries onto the conveyor belt  A local autism organization contacted me yesterday afternoon: Channel 2 was doing a story on vaccines and needed a "pro-vaccine" parent. Thinking about how, after stating that "more and more of the scientific evidence refutes a link between vaccines and autism," I was going to have to figure out how to say really really fast that "what we really need are more services, schools, and supports for individuals on the autism spectrum," I said I'd be glad to. It seemed that I could be interviewed at work tomorrow (i.e., today), but when a producer from the TV station called me about "vaccines" they told me they would interview me around 5pm.

That is, they'd be sending a crew over at 5pm tuesday afternoon and I'd be on the 11pm news.

It was 4.11pm when I heard that. Rapidly adding up that 5pm was not  an hour away, that they wanted to come to our house, and that it was Charlie and me here as Jim teaches all day on Tuesday, I said, can't do that, that I could do tomorrow. At which the word was "Oh. Bye."

Ok by me. It certainly didn't seem like the (breathless) producer was going to hear about our main concern: No filming Charlie.

Charlie's and my afternoon proceeded with its usual excitement: I finally got around to filling out a claims form to send to the insurance company. I wrote a quiz for my elementary Latin class. Charlie announced "garbage dogs, garbage CDs" and, cheerily and very studiously, attempted to shove the two stuffed dogs, the big black beat-up case of CDs, and a water-stained faded neon green backpack into the kitchen garbage can. After trying a few configurations, he put the dogs and the backpack on the floor, picked up the bag and shook it so everything settled, tied it shut, and asked for his socks. And dumped the whole thing outside.

Two hours later, he put the backpack into the now-mostly-empty garbage can, and dumped it, too.

Yes, I do think there is something going on about Charlie and the music that he gets overly into---obsessed, you might say---and his deciding to throw it away, as he threw away his iPod a few months ago. My mom and dad got him an iPod touch for Christmas and I've yet to set it up with music and all that for Charlie. Based on this dumping business, I'm thinking it might be best not to put any music on it at all, lest I want to continue digging through the garbage to find the latest discards.

That said, I actually feel pretty proud of Charlie for taking the initiative to get rid of things that Jim and I have certainly noted are obsessions, and obsessions that---when Charlie has "too much" of them (listens too much to the same CD over and over in the car), neurological storms, all too often of a banging and fierce nature, can result. The tough thing is getting---convincing, persuading---Charlie to let go of things that, while he might smile about them at first, ultimately do him no good.

Would that we might all leave behind our perseverations. In discussions about autism, I'd say the vaccine issue is quite devolving into such. Now that the 1998 Lancet study linking autism and the MMR by Wakefield et al. has been retracted by the journal, one wishes that we could, yes, move on. But, as we know too well, it's hard to let go of the perseverated upon.

I'm not saying we have to throw the whole issue out with the proverbial bathwater.  But I think it's accurate to say that a great deal of time, energy, and ink (actual and digital) has been expended on "the v word," with many "behaviors" presented among various parties. Seems like some just can't let this topic---interest---ok, obsession---go.  

Giving it up doesn't mean we won't cease to consider the causes of autism in all their potential multi-facetness. But the time is overdue to let go, let be and reconfigure.

(I kid you not: As Charlie and I exited the grocery store, I saw a minivan bearing the bumper sticker "New Jersey Needs Vaccination Choice!".)

More than a few of the CDs in the dumped case being ones that Jim and I actually like, I did retrieve them. But I left the case in the garbage can. 

High time for a new one.



Maybe a storage container of some kind specifically for Charlie to keep "unwanted" items might help? If you have somewhere that you keep stuff that doesn't get used frequently it may make sense to Charlie.

Vaccines - research in general - the media's manipulation of research - I feel a big sigh of disappointment coming on. I'm sure the subject of vaccines won't be going down without a fight.

Kristina Chew

We have a basement and you've me thinking, why not get an extra big plastic bin to "dump" things in (currently the two dogs are in a certain place on the dining room floor, just where Charlie seems to want them and perfect for us to trip on them!).


I'm seeing that this process of "dumping" may be repeated many, many times. It may not represent a "letting go" just yet. It may be that Charlie is still thoroughly exploring the process itself, along with its contents. At least Charlie's current method is revocable (not like the toilet!). Yes, it is certainly wise to secretly hold on to the stuff, as he is showing you that he needs to revisit this again and again, as he works all of this out.


Wouldn't it be a good idea to find out what causes autism?


Perhaps some apps on the ipod touch, instead of music, would be nice for him. I have several apps downloaded specifically for certain kids. We don't even call it an ipod around one kid, and he has never heard any music played on mine. If he figures out that I have music, he'll never see my ipod again.


Mars got an I Pod for Chanukah and became disoriented with it. He's AOK with it now if he uses it without headphones.


Liz Ditz

Back when the special interests in my house were stuffed animals, Legos, and PlayMobiles, I had a system of bins. There were a small number of items out in play, and the majority of the collections were stored doubly out of sight in bins that were in a closet.

When I noticed that a particular set hadn't been played with for a few days, I'd bring another set out and put the neglected items in bins.

Occasionally the kids would ask for the complete set of whichever to be brought out and played with, but after a day or so the on-display items were reduced again.

This preserved my sanity.


In the writing you do is it possible to introduce the idea of having him write (or some other way to identify) how he feels about these things that he's disposing of? Maybe starting out with some unrelated and perhaps more small-step things to introduce the concept with a goal of being able to tell you how he's feeling without you having to guess whether he really wants to get rid of them, whether he's just "tired"/bored of them and it's merely for a hiatus not a permanent disposal, or whether he anticipates that despite going into the can, that (at least some) will reappear at some point?

Just thinking about it. Not wanting to kill the golden goose of writing with too much demand, but there seem that there could be several potential scenarios happening.


Wow! Good for him! I know how hard it is for our kids to separate from things. Jack won't even let me throw old lollipops away! So impressed that he's trying this out.

And so proud of you for recognizing this AND for digging around in the trash. Supermom.


I kind of wish folks would learn what autism really is instead of obsessing over what causes it because what it is, what it entails, how autistic people see the world is way more interesting to me than blame.

Deborah Porras

Hi my name is Deborah and I have been reading all your blog sites for the past 3 or 4 years. My son Connell is also autistic very similar to Charlie he is 12 and will turn 13 in sept. he is mostly non verbal but likes video games. I admire all you manage to accomplish in your days. My son also is a joy to be around and has made me a more patient and better person. I agree with you that vaccine are not the worst things you could do to your child. I just want to tell you not everyone thinks that they are bad.

Kristina Chew

I have to go dig out the two dogs later this evening. Thanks for the tip, Regina, will try it.

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