Is my grandchild’s strange obsession a bad thing? 33



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Since I can remember, my friend’s grandson has been obsessed with buses. He always had a toy bus with him and would play for hours. He was later diagnosed with autism, with one of the indicators being obsessions with items or things. Once he was of age, he applied to be a bus driver and is now in his late 20s, driving buses. He has been told off a few times by his manager because he just wants to drive buses non-stop, and as is the same with pilots, you have to have a break. It’s taken over his life.

So you can imagine a little of my apprehension and worry when my two-year-old granddaughter became absolutely obsessed with this frying pan. And it wasn’t exactly a light frying pan either, or a toy one. You would try and wrench it out of her hand and she would cry. She wanted to sit in in, put her food on it, and just drag it behind her every day. She hated dolls and fairies, but she loved her frying pan.

I wonder if there are other grandparents who have seen this bizarre fascination in their grandkids and haven’t known what to do, or if it means they’re autistic. I know, I know, let kids be kids. It can actually be funny to see my little grandie carrying ‘Fy-py’ around but I don’t want to be the fool if we find out far down the track.

I’ve had a look into these strange little obsessions children have, and I must say I had a little chuckle when I heard this story from the US:

Grayson Dobra is two years old and loves a local personal injury lawyer called Morris Bart. Whenever Morris’ ad comes on the TV, little Grayson becomes fixated and cannot look away – he simply loves this man.


Grayson was thrilled with his themed birthday party.Photo: L’erin Dobra

So, for his second birthday, his mum L’erin threw him a Morris Bart themed party complete with cake, cardboard cut out and signed photo.


She also contacted the office of Morris Bart, hoping he might be able to drop in to the party.

The firm’s marketing coordinator Kaley Wilkins-Fabre initially thought the request was a joke but sadly he couldn’t make it, though did send a cut out, autograph picture and t-shirt.

I’ve also done some research into what an obsession could mean, and it has sort of set my mind at ease, though there still is that connection. For any other grandparents wanting to know, a toddler’s repetitive odd habit is usually nothing more than that and they will go on to develop normally – only about one in 100 toddlers develop any form of autism, and it is four times more likely to occur in boys than girls.

But if the obsession with the strange object (or person) is impairing their social interaction and growth, this may be a sign that something else is at play and you should see a doctor.

What I’ve learnt is that it is just as important to not look for signs than it is to look and turning a blind eye could possibly delay developmental treatment.


I’m interested to know: Does your grandchild have a strange obsession with anything? What is it and do you worry at all about it?



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  1. Yes,when my granddaughter was little,all she wanted to do was wheel matchbox cars back and forwards.this would go on and on,pick things up and put them down,over and over.She was diagnosed with autism

  2. Thank you for sharing this article. I have 7 grandchildren and one on the way in January. Two of our grandchildren exhibit behaviours that have my husband and l quiet worried. Our 9 yr old has been having counseling for 2yrs , and we feel that she needs to be assesed further as her behaviour at times is quiet troubling. Our 6 year old has anger issues and recently snapped his lpad in half , by placing it under his foot and holding it eachside till it snapped . He did this after losing a game. His anger is not just limited to things but extends to his cousins and sibling. However at school he is a model student. We keep telling ourselves he has just turned 6, but worry about him. We love all our grandchildren and would move heaven and earth for them. Each one is unique and we don’t ever compare them for this reason. Being a grandparent can be tough at times , but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Looking forward to oyr little bundle of joy arriving safe and well in January. Cheers

  3. The autism spectrum is a long one and I guess all of us have some of the characteristics and it is important not to rush into a judgment as children go through many stages but it really is important to look into it at a younger age if the child shows many sign because the earlier they receive intervention the better.While I was still working in the support area 3 years ago funding for early intervention cut out at 7 years of age. While it has to be diagnosed by a doctor schools will support you in your enquiries . There was good funding for speech programmes and other early intervention so don’t leave it too late . A wonderful lady called Sue Larkie has a website with lots of free information .

  4. My great grandson can tell you every car name just by looking at a picture of a badge, he also lines up his little cars, lilies etc, anything that can be lined up and pity help anyone who messes it up. He has been been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and cod and is the most beautiful intelligent little man you could ever meet.

    1 REPLY
    • My great nephew has quite a few health issue Jenni including Asperger’s. His late grandfather was the guiding light of his life, taking him to football (soccer) as he was too ill to play, and encouraging his obsession with their local team and the English team. He has matured into a lovely young man who now works for the Dept of Human Services in the UK.

  5. All kids are obsessed with something when they are young- often because it’s something their parent has a passion for, be it trains, dinosaurs or a sport. Doesn’t mean it will always last forever. Some will be diagnosed with the spectrum- many are just…

    2 REPLY
    • Playcentre used to teach us parents that kids obsessing over toys and lining up cars etc was a normal part of development. Now it’s consider autistic?? A very experienced Doctor has told me asbergers (?) can’t be truly diagnosed until kids are at least 13 and there is a lot is mis-diagnosing going on now.

    • Agree, Paula. Having taught in a high school with an autism unit, those kids were truly heavily special needs, but some of the kids who are diagnosed as such would probably be better undiagnosed. Sometimes I think parents and some teachers want a diagnosis just so they can justify behaviour/ not being able to deal with it.

  6. Why can’t children just be children? Does everything they do have to have a title? I personally see nothing wrong with a child having an obsession. I have eight grandchildren and all did something a little quirky at times. We did not rush them to counsellors to be given a title and they all grew up normal. Is this unusual these days? For goodness sake, the problem is far too many go to university and train to be counsellors and the medical profession has to supply them all with jobs. This to me is the only reason children are given titles like autism when they are really just normal kids.

    3 REPLY
    • A friend of mine, whose child only has a 12 hour memory, was told by Doctors that Asperger’s syndrome cannot be truly diagnosed until 13 years of age and a lot of children labelled as autistic are mis-diagnosed. The Doctor they see refuses to label the kid just yet, and I think that is good doctoring! When I was at playcentre we were told children lining up cars and toys and obsessing over things is normal part of development. 15 years later and parents are told something is up! Pfft. Maybe too many phones/tablets and devices being given to entertain 2 year olds is the cause? I have friends tell me Robbie must be autistic, I just say he is something else at times starting with A and stubborn, but that is a personality trait, nothing else. A teacher suggested testing “for funding” but as soon as I said as a NZer we don’t qualify they suddenly decided he was doing quite well and developing normally lol

    • It goes both ways though. It is really important for early intervention with children with autism. It’s best to be safe than sorry.

  7. I have a really lovely grandson who will be 25 next week! He was diagnosed with Aspergers when he was 5. He has had obsessions with many things, dates, birthdays, traffic lights, town planning ..all highly intelligent interests, but then at about 8 yo. he became obsessed with the Newcastle Knights football team. He knows every statistic associated with the team and is highly regarded by team members. We love him!

  8. I wouldn’t worry about this as all kids get obsessed with something in their lives. They soon grow out of it.

  9. I was like that with trains and railways as a kid. So I grew up and joined – wait for it! – the railway. And I’m still a rail-fan today, at nearly 60. And it had nothing to do with autism, just an interest in and love of steam railways.

  10. I have a grandson now 16 who has autism. He developed normally but at around15 months we thought he was deaf as he didn’t respond when we called his name. He started to walk on his toes shortly after that. Line up anything and became obsessed with Thomas the tank and toy trains. He is autistic and attends a special school. Mind you he is a beautiful gentle soul that has taught us all so much about life. Love him to bits.

    2 REPLY
    • Yes but this became an obsession with our grandchild. I think that is the difference. His behaviour was repetitive. In hindsight now we could pick it up easier but at the time he seemed fine. He sat up crawled walked as talked as normal but then he lost a lot of his speech and it escalated from there. So yes what you say is true but it’s the repetitive obsessions that would be an indication to get checked. He still loves Thomas at nearly17.

  11. My granddaughter was obsessed with lip gloss. She loved them, used them collected them had a special handbag she carried her lip glosses around with her. When she was naughty, her lip glosses were confiscated. At school now and not so obsessed but she still loves her glosses.

  12. If this were my grandchild I would have it checked out! This can be an indicator of autism!.

    1 REPLY
    • I agree. It’s best to know early so the child can get the help she or he needs. If it turns out that it’s just an obsession that’s ok but on the other hand early intervention is the key.

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