Our Autism Story – “Hoarding”
This is a topic I never could have guessed I’d be writing about five years ago! What does hoarding have to do with our family?...At times, everything!
At any point in time, Brahm is obsessed with at least one topic – currently, it’s money and the Titanic. Brahm’s obsessions turn into obsessive behaviors. This means he collects everything he can that’s related to the topic. Brahm also “creates” really cool physical items – this includes drawing/cutting/making 25-100 dollar bills per day and creating incredibly elaborate Titanic models out of Construx.
While we love supporting Brahm’s interests and think he’s the coolest, most interesting little guy out there, the obsessive behaviors can cause big challenges in our home. Our entire house used to be littered with Brahm’s items and evidence of his creativity (i.e., scraps of paper, Construx, etc.). It’s different than a typical kid leaving some toys laying around. When Brahm puts an item somewhere, he means for that item to be EXACTLY there! There will be a massive meltdown if we try to move it or pick it up. And this extends to things that would be trash to a typical person – literally scraps of paper!
There came a point where our family collectively couldn’t live in the mess any longer. So, here’s how we’ve adjusted:
If Brahm leaves an item out on the first floor of our house, we move it to his bedroom – this ensures we have at least a few places (e.g., kitchen, living room) where we are free from the clutter!
Brahm’s therapists work with him every day to pick up his items from our basement (this is usually where he hangs out during the day and creates and builds). This is great because it’s teaching Brahm how to make decisions about what stays (and is picked up) and what can be recycled or thrown away.
Brahm’s room is typically a hot mess! It gets so bad that we can’t even see the floor or open doors if we don’t intervene. Every couple days, we “sterilize” his room. This means we take literally everything in his room, put it into a few garbage bags, and take it out of his room. He obviously hates this, so we have to be a little sneaky and do it while he’s at school or out of the house. Brahm’s therapists are also working with him to make his bed and pick up some of the items in his room.
Helena’s room is off-limits for Brahm (unless she invites him in). This ensures Helena has her own space where she can get away from things, too!
I’m always amazed at how our fun little autism journey continues to surprise us with new challenges (and successes!) that we never could have imagined. I can’t wait to see what’s next – we’re ready!
P.S. – Helena and I had a great conversation while we were driving in the car today (totally unrelated to this post). Helena had such a great way of describing Brahm’s hoarding. She said “Brahm knows there are things he doesn’t need any more, but he just can’t handle getting rid of them. And we can help him.” Our little lady is pretty fantastic (and insightful)!