Obsessions and gifted children

Shauna - posted on 03/14/2012 ( 22 moms have responded )

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I would be interested in hearing about other gifted children who have "obsessions" or extreme interests. I have read elsewhere on the web about some gifted children having obsessions, and would really like to relate to other moms who have experienced this.



Back Story:

My son is 4 yrs old. He has been "obsessed" with vacuum cleaners for about a year now. At first it was cute, then we tried to discourage it, and finally after reading advice from experts in the field of gifted children we decided to encourage his interest and find more ways to expand on his interest.



He is a very creative and imaginative child, and extremely bright as well as quite sensitive. He loves to draw pictures of vacuums, which are way better than I could ever do, and then he adds them to his catalog he created where he pretends to sell his vacuums. He also like to watch vacuum review videos, and likes to perform his own reviews as well. He has 8 vacuums total, with the love of his life being a very old Electrolux canister vac. He enjoys polishing the chrome on it with a soft cloth. He knows how to change the bags, change the belts, can identify them by sound, and knows many makes, models, and brands.



It's been interesting, and frustrating to say the least..but overall I think we are handling it fairly well. He's allowed to spend x amount of time daily with his vacuums, if we did not set a limit and be consistent about it, he would work with them constantly.



Anyways, I would love to swap stories such as this.



Thanks =)

Shauna

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Patricia - posted on 08/22/2012

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Our Daughter is 10 and has gone thru some obsessions too. Once she finds something she really likes she will hold on to it for months and even years. We are finally over our Webkinz phase which started when she was 2 and she had collected every single stuffie out there and I was running out of room to store them-ugh. Then it was everything Brave from the movie and then Warrior Cats. Now she has discovered Harry Potter.



She has always been into drawing so not looking for that to end anytime soon.

Margaret - posted on 05/03/2012

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Shauna, take a look at what he is actually focusing in on with the vacuums. My older son was obsessed with the periodic table of the elements. By age 4, he had the table memorized and could tell you anything about the characteristics of that element (he's 10 and it still is all there in his head) and could build the elements with an element set that we bought for him. At the time, we thought "Oh, we have a budding chemist!" His next obsession was Pokemon. It was at that point we realized that he loves classifying things and knowing everything about each classified object and how those objects interrelate. (We've also been through rock/mineral collecting.) The other aspect of his obsessions are structural....how small things can be linked in complex ways to make amazing things. He is now on to video game design and we can see the more structural nature of his obsession. It sounds like your son is also doing some classification and structure.....as he ages, you may see that again and again. While being into "vacuums" may sound disconcerting, if you figure out what the underlying interest is, it may help you show him other things that are interesting in a similar way. As for Star Wars, my husband is Star Wars obsessed and WISHES the 10 year old was interested in it. Unfortunately, that hasn't worked out! :) Luckily for him, our second child, though, is into Star Wars (although Moshi Monsters are really more his thing...)

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Britany - posted on 08/21/2014

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I found your story very interesting because your story sounds like my story. My son has been obsessed with vacuums since he was very little. Just before he turned a year old he was scared of them, so we bought him a toy vacuum hoping to ease his fears. It has grown from their. He is now 3 1/2 and very obsessed with them, has been for couple of years now. He has to look at them in the store, it's all he talks about (He has been dignosed with Language disorder) so his communication skills are lacking for his age. He's been ovaluated for autism because his speech therapist thought autism was the cause of his obsession. Like you I have embraced it, tried to take every vacuum away, then limit time with them. But nothing works it's all he will talk about, play with, and probably think about.
I worry because he has a hard time making friends in his prek class because while they are doing various things, all he talks about is vacuums. When I ask him about his day at school I hear a vacuum story. (Even if their was no interaction with a vacuum during his day of school). I could really use some mom to mom advice on this...I've heard to ignore it and it will go away, I've heard I need to quit worrying. I only worry because I want the best for him and to expand his interests and ultimately his language skills.
Thanks

Gayla Jene - posted on 09/22/2013

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I am 49 years old. I was diagnosed with bipolar an ADD two years ago. I began reading at a young age and started playing classical piano at 4 years old. I am not good socially. I would rather be learning my new thing I am on at the moment teaching myself guitar and learning Haitian Creole. I often find a new song and will listen to it at least 100 times before I move on. I have always been very peculiar and deep minded. It's difficult for other people to understand my OCD. I can't help it. I seem to get a thrill from the notes harmony chords beat etc. I only want to play music all day. I live in a dream world and didn't do well in school but received a piano scholarship. I often feel as if I am from another planet. I never have fit in. Life can be overwhelming with its drama and I feel things so deeply I can't handle other people's emotions or my own. I am very successful and have overcome drug addiction and lots of childhood trauma. My most painful is my mother who still says she just can't understand me. So moms out there. Let your children obsess. They are thrilled by these things and enjoy them. It's a long road but with the right guidance these children can be stars in life.......

Leslie - posted on 09/18/2013

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My 19 year old son is highly gifted. He is a sophomore in honors program in college now. Your first child is a learning experience. Since he was 2 or 3 he had obsessions, he still does. His first was animals, then maps, geography, food chains, equations, movie series, tv series, etc. When he's done with one obsession it's over and he moves on. His latest is anthropology. We've come a long way....lol

Rachel - posted on 09/18/2013

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Sounds EXACTLY like my 4 yr old son. His PRE-K teacher is worried because that is all he talks about. He knows details about vacuums the sales people don't. We limit is time on vacuum videos too. I am kind of upset that his teacher is so concerned about this and do not know how to handle her.

Emily - posted on 08/26/2013

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This is so interesting to me. I was looking for some information on obsessions, because my 20 month-old daughter has fixated on watching the orchestral version of John Williams conducting the Star Wards theme (on YouTube). I sang the song for her one day and her eyes got incredibly wide, so I thought we'd show her the real deal. Woops! Haha!

Now, it is adorable, and we limit her viewing to no more than 3x per day. I will play it on the piano or we sing it together as a family in place of viewing it on a screen.

She's also extremely into particular stuffed animals right now - specifically her Pete the Cat stuffed kitty (she calls him "meow"). She likes to have things in her hands - when she sleeps, she holds a pacifier in each hand. Yesterday she had a death-grip on two sticks, one in in each hand.

What up wit dat? She has hit all of her milestones early (except walking!), and is a very observant and active little girl. I do wonder if there's a correlation between these odd obsessions and intelligence, or if they are just things that make her feel more secure in this crazy world.

Amber - posted on 01/04/2013

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Shauna,

The description of your son could be exchanged with my son's. He had his picture pinned to the employee bulletin board at the Fantom Vacuum Headquarters. Every year I had to decorate a cake with a vacuum on it, etc. At age 7, he chose to visit a huge vacuum factory in New York and received an Italian prototype Shop Vacuum! He has had more vacuum cleaners than any child I have known. I did not limit the "time" spent working or cleaning with his vacuums.

He is now 19 years old and a sophomore at Michigan Technological University. He just received the latest Shark Professional vacuum for Christmas and I made sure to have it be the last gift he opened because everything else would be ignored! Sure enough, he had it out, vacuumed the floor, then cleaned it all out. Finally, he placed it very neatly in his bedroom.

His love has evolved into mechanics. He knows so much about cars/trucks, foreign/domestic. He is extremely capable of diagnosing problems over the phone and fixing them as needed.

I finally began doing some research on Asperger's Syndrome (new name in 2013). I actually had him tested the day after Christmas. I should be hearing from his neuropsychologist next week. He is very bright. However, he has always had trouble socially. He has numerous "twitches", etc. that increase with stress. I continually tell him that he is very special and that God has a special plan for him. I have grown to understand him better. When I look back to when he was just 18 months and older I could see that he was "different". Different in a special way. Different in many good ways. I am proud of him and know that, one day, he will create something to benefit the world. (He is in the Clinical Lab Sciences Program.) His emphasis on the medical field may have come from his diagnosis of cancer at age 13. He has been through some tough times. Thankfully he has been cancer-free for five years.

Your son is very special. I don't know as I would set limits on his curiosity with vacuums. I never allowed my kids to have Nintendos, X Boxes, etc. and I know kids can become "hooked" badly on them. I just think vacuums will always be a love for him, but his desire to understand other types of machines will evolve from his initial curiosity. BTW...My son's favorite for a long time was an Electrolux Canister! Ha! Best Wishes.

Patricia - posted on 10/17/2012

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Hopefully not. My Daughter changes her mind about her room every year or so. Thank goodness.

Ashley - posted on 10/17/2012

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O, goodness! The things kids love! Lol! Yes, my son is turning 2 in December and we are switching him to a toddler bed. He's in love with Sesame Street and Elmo, so we found him an Elmo toddler bed! And we have tons of decorations for his room too. But, hopefully he won't change from this to something else too soon!

Patricia - posted on 10/17/2012

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Goon Goon that is so cute!!! LOL. Oh yes the obsessions. If he is starting that young you have many more years to look forward to-ha. Get ready Mom. Just hope he doesn't get into The Wiggles like my Daughter did- eeek. I can't tell you how many times I have redone her room in her newest theme.

Ashley - posted on 10/17/2012

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This sounds so familiar! My son is 21 months and he is absolutely obsessed with vacuums! He has been for a few months. We have a Dyson vacuum and that thing is huge! He can maneuver it like it's nothing. He knows how to take it apart and where the attachments go. He knows how to empty the canister, too! Everyday, he has to go into the closet to see the"Goon-Goon". I literally had to lock it up in our closet because he became so obsessed with it, he would throw temper tantrums when he couldn't play with it. We bought him a small toy vacuum and he has to get it out everyday to play with it and clean around the house. When we go to our local store, he runs in screaming,"Goon-Goon!!!" Until we go by and let him see the vacuums, he will scream it and become very persistent. I thought for sure it was just my son that had an obsession. Glad to know it's not just mine!

Chaya - posted on 08/04/2012

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This too shall pass, my daughter was interesed in things I considered odd, she had a pet slug at one point. Eventually, she got interested in something else.She's an accomplished swimmer, she has skipped three grades (made them hold her back twice)
One of her obsessions is reading, she read Sue Grafton when she was five. It was only a paragraph, but I couldn't have done that at her age.
Now it's a couple of wizard rock groups and Hank Green. It's mostly clean, it's fun, we went to a Harry and the Potters/Hank Green concert last week, she had a blast, and she got to take pictuers, and met the guys, and she's lusting after them, which is funny, as she's a lesbian.

Tori - posted on 07/25/2012

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She knows most of her colors - sometimes she gets red and brown confused, sometimes blue and green, but not always, and to be fair some of those shades *are* pretty similar :P

We haven't experimented with paint yet, just crayons and colored pencils. The only paints I have in the house right now are the watercolor pencil set I use for work, and they're way too expensive to let her get her well-meaning hands on. I really want to let her paint though, and I have a set of those crayola no-spill watercolors in the closet waiting to be wrapped for her birthday next month. This week I'll be going out and grabbing a pack of construction paper and kid-friendly acrylics too. I have actually never heard of those easels before you mentioned it - I went and took a look and they are *awesome*, and reasonably priced too (and trust me that really matters). I'll probably pick one of those up for her birthday too, thanks!

I worry about playdoh because she still tries to eat some things when you aren't looking. She'll even try to eat her crayons still - which is why we're now mostly using those Crayola "twistables" colored pencils. She hasn't figured out how to twist the ends so when we're done with them I just twist the lead back up.

But yeah, sometimes she'll just get so absorbed in it that I can do some of my own painting at the same time, which is fun :) The homemade playdough sounds fun, too - haven't used that stuff myself since high school art class, haha.

Shauna - posted on 07/25/2012

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It's truly amazing what these kiddos are capable of. Does she have one of those easels for kids? Step2.com has some really neat ones. Does she know colors? Maybe that would be something related you could work on with her. Obviously she's quite young, but she may enjoy learning the colors. If she already knows the color names and such, maybe showing her what happens when you mix colors together? We use to do that with food coloring and water. She might like to sculpt things out of homemade playdough too perhaps.

It does seem alarming how long these kids can spend on their interests, but I was told it was okay and to encourage..just to find ways to relate other things to the interest.

Tori - posted on 07/25/2012

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Wow, vacuums huh?
My daughter will try to hug and kiss our vacuum occasionally, and whenever I turn it off after using it she declares "all clean now!"

Her obsession though, is drawing. She rarely ever goes longer than an hour without drawing something (except when she sleeps, of course) and almost constantly carries a crayon around. We've used almost an entire ream of printer paper in the 4 months it's been since she started. She'll bring the paper to me and ask me to draw Plex, or a happy face, or a pirate. When I do, she takes the paper and the crayon and goes off and ... well I'm not really sure what it is she tries to do sometimes.

Often she circles the various features on whatever I drew - she'll circle eyes, mouth, hands, feet, and she's taken to drawing Plex-style antennae on everything. Just recently she's started doing full stick figures, including two eyes and mouth.

I honestly don't know whether I should discourage the obsession or let her go with it - it's especially hard for me because I'm an artist, myself, and I apparently did something similar when I was her age, according to my grandparents. But when she spends 3-5 hours a day on it? Seems like an awful lot for a not-even-2 year old. I didn't think she'd have that kind of attention span till she was much older.

Shauna - posted on 07/18/2012

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Thanks so much for your replies, this makes me feel not so alone. Kiefer is 5 now, and still into his vacuums and Star Wars. I really think Margaret is onto something with the classifying and learning about objects and how they relate to one another. As far as Star Wars goes, he more or less likes to collect light sabers, and learn everything he can about each one. Which movies they were in, who uses them, he even has a certain way of storing them depending on which style of hilt they have.

Electrolux sent him a brand new vacuum a few months ago, along with a rug and a huge banner. Dyson sent him some great material on design and prototypes too. I simply emailed vacuum manufacturers and asked if they had catalogs or any marketing materials they may be willing to part with for him. We have also started making regular visits to a local vacuum repair and sales shop.

We're going to homeschool this year, and see how things go. Kiefer has been playing outside a lot this summer at least. Really wish we lived near some of you so we could support one another.

Mintyfaglady - posted on 04/30/2012

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Shauna, I could have written this about my son, practically word for word. He's a bit younger than your boy - recently turned 3, but the hoover mania has been raging for probably a year now.

He knows everyone by what brand of vacuum they have, and it's the first question he asks when meeting someone new. He also likes to watch vacuum reviews on YouTube and I often catch him acting out his own reviews while playing. Everything he plays with becomes a hoover, be it an upright, a handheld or a pull along. He often plays with my vacuum and knows all the different parts, how to take dust collector off and change tools, etc. When he's not playing with them, or pretending to play with them, or watching them on YouTube, he's talking about them. I do sometimes feel a bit sorry for him when he can never find anyone to share his enthusiasm for vacuums for more than a few minutes, but it doesn't seem to bother him.

When other people tell me their kid is mad for vacuums too, I'm never convinced they're really referring to the same depth of obsession as we're dealing with - it really is all-consuming for him.

He's keen too on other types of electrical appliance, and on machines in general, and we do try to elaborate as much as we can. A recent visit to a farm resulted in my dad spending half an hour or so talking to him about the compressor he could see and hear operating on the outside of one of the buildings. Everyone elses kid was looking at the baby animals!

I'd be really interested to know more about what reading you've done around this. He's a bright little boy, very sociable, with a fantastic vocabulary in both his home languages, but we've never really considered that he might be gifted in some way.

Our biggest concern at the moment, though it's a while off, is schooling. His obsession means he's quite unconventional in his play and learning and whilst his nursery is happy to accommodate this, and allow him to explore and expand on this interest (along with other things), we're worried that a conventional school approach might not be best suited to his personality, at the early stage at least. We have a Montessori school and a Steiner school nearby, but know little about either approach.

Shauna - posted on 04/19/2012

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Thanks so much for your reply Angelique.

Your son sounds like quite an interesting little guy! I would love to swap stories with you sometime.

Shauna

Angelique - posted on 04/12/2012

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My son is now 6. We have been through MANY obsessions. Some last longer than others. Vacuums, IS unsual.. HA HA! My son loves computers and electronics and it gives him an issue in school because he has a hard time focusing and not wanting to change all the desktop backgrounds (he got in trouble for trying to change the desktop backgrounds on the computer lab computers and for trying to show his friends how to do it) I agree, let him go with it.



We started to give our son different computer programs to try. He really likes one that teaches him basic programming! I also have to set a time for computer (albeit that is probably more common than vacuums) How interesting!



By the way, though my son hasn't had an interest in Star Wars (although I keep trying to get him to watch it because I love it) He loves Star Trek Next Generation! He especially loves (go figure) Data.

Shauna - posted on 03/14/2012

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Thanks so much for your reply! It's funny you mention Star Wars, as that is my sons second love. Occasionally he'll lay off the vacuums for a few days and focus on Star Wars. Usually he wakes up in the morning and says something like.."Hey Mom I'm going to focus on sweepers today if that's okay".



It's a whole new world, and I'm learning everything I can to help my son come out of childhood well rounded in all aspects and hopefully left unscathed.



We try to encourage free play, and don't focus much on academics currently.

Louise - posted on 03/14/2012

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I think this is exreme. My son who is now an adult at uni is gifted he speaks 5 languages and is a mathamatician. As a child he was mad on Star Wars everything he did was star wars based and every story he wrote was Star Wars themed. He would play for hours and hours with Star Wars toys and watched the films constantly.



It was just his thing. Now as a 21 year old he still likes Star Wars but he has finally come through the tunnel and is living a normal student life.



I think your son has an eye for mechanical machines and this could go so many ways. Just make sure that he has enough imformation to feed his thirst for knowledge. may be a trip to a farming museum would expand his mind into bigger greater things.

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