My son is well aware of the concept of pairs.  In fact, he is fixated by paired objects.  They cannot be split apart.  For example, two shoes.  They must remain together at all times.  He prefers to put his feet in them simultaneously and remove them the same way.

With socks?  He is a little less rigid.  He has some difficulty removing a tight sock so he is okay with taking these off one at a time provided he is the one doing the “taking off.”  But, heaven help me if I try to take off one sock and don’t get to his other one immediately.  Welcome to Meltdown City.

For a while, we rotated this quirk out of the picture.  I wrote just a bit on the subject in June when I mentioned I bought a two-pack of toothbrushes and he wanted to use both of them.  This was in the context of colors.  He hasn’t given up on these meltdowns, but like any good artist, he knows how to create variations on a theme.  Color meltdowns to “pair” meltdowns.  Either way, I swore I would not buy another two pack of the toothbrushes, but you know how it goes.  I thought we’d extinguished this little behavior and – silly me- I bought a two pack of Batman toothbrushes, facilitating his more recent obsession.  Turns out that the “pair” was more important than the “Batman”.

We went to brush his teeth.  He wanted to use both.  So, a couple mornings ago, as I was brushing his teeth, he grabbed the second toothbrush and shoved it in his mouth so he had both in there – again.   Yes, that was quite the sight.  I didn’t have time to do a whole “lesson” on why this is inappropriate and hey, we got his mouth extra clean.

He likes to have two of everything.  It’s a compulsion.  He has one red toy car.  He wants another red toy car – no, not another color, a duplicate.

These situations have occurred with gifts.  He receives two of the same thing.  One cannot go back and get traded in for something else.  The two become a pair and he must keep both.  They must stay together.  No one can touch them, except him.  He can break apart the pair to play with one but no one must touch the other or move it.

He went through a phase where he loved to play Memory on his iPad.  He would become so obsessed with finding the pair that he would mow over the turn of everyone else, (usually just me), and continue to turn over cards to find the match.

I searched online for other parents whose children share the same “pairing” behavior.  I saw nothing.  The behavior has escalated.  Apparently, his therapists gave him a couple dart guns as a reinforcer for completing a program today.  He wanted to play with both.  One of the therapists made him choose.  He went ballistic.  His tutor began to play with the blue one.  The other one was green.

He screamed.  He cried for the tutor to play with the green one.  He would not give in.  I walked away but for about an hour, throughout the office, we heard my son screaming to “drink green milk.”  We don’t drink green milk at my house.  In fact, he rarely drinks milk at all.  Clearly, a communication about the green dart gun.  I was instructed to remove it from sight.

Many moons later, he calmed down.  I don’t know whether the extinction of the behavior is starting or what that was but I’ve got a feeling I will be needing some green milk tonight.

Psychologically, I guess the ultimate pair that can’t be split is me and his dad.  Oh well.  I guess I’ll just have to stick with the old man for now.


About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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6 Responses to Pairs.

  1. Jim W. says:

    I know this isn’t the same. . . but when I was a lad, I had to FEEL the same on both sides of my body. If fell, and my right hand stung, I’d have to slap my left hand so things felt “equal”. I sorta grew out of it, but that balanced feeling was very important to me at about 5 or 6 years old.

    • solodialogue says:

      Hmmm. I can’t really remember anything like that as a child. I hear lots of stories of autistic children who change as they grow in relation to different behaviors. I’m just hoping for some relief from this one through ABA…

  2. Jim W. says:

    if *I* fell, that is.

  3. Tootleslady says:

    Green milk looks gross….. Just saying.

  4. ElizOF says:

    Interesting… What do his therapists say? What if you buy only one item and refuse to get the second? Will behavior modification work in this case? Just curious… 🙂

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