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Train obsession? Autism???

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
My toddler son is obsessed with trains. When I say obsessed I really mean it. All he ever wants to watch are Thomas the Train videos, he plays with his toy trains constantly, turns everything into a train (if I give him markers to color he turns them into a train, magnets on the fridge, etc) runs around going "woo-woo" all the time, he can spot the tiniest little picture of a train in any book(he has to get our attention to show us). If I turn his Thomas video off he goes "where Thomas?" and gets really upset. Is this "normal"? He doesnt even want to leave the house anymore because he wants to play with his trains. I mentioned this to a friend and she says it could be a sign of autism?? I looked up signs and he doesnt seem to exhibit any..Does my friend just have no idea what she's talking about?
post #2 of 18
I have no advice really but my nephew is OBSESSED with thomas and trains as well. I don't take that as a sign of being autistic alone. are there other things you are worried about too besides the train obsession? if not, then I would try to let it go. if you can. my DS is into cars so I know the feeling of everything-is-a-car (or train in your case) stage.
post #3 of 18
Are you worried? Is this disruptive to family life? I would look at that first before getting to concerned.

That said, obsessions can be a sign of something on the autism spectrum. My nephew has Asperger's and has his obessions, too. They change as he changes. When we was 2 it was things with wheels, then it was kitchen appliances (had to check out your appliances first thing when he came to your house), then it was directional signs. A boy down the street from us has been obsessed with lawnmowers since he was 2 and now he's 5 and just seems to be coming out of it. His went on long enough that we all thought he needed evaluation but his mom was going through breast cancer and chemo and I think they just couldn't deal with it.

You know your son better than anyone else. I say at this point trust your gut, but be sure you know the difference between your gut and denial. Good luck, whatever you choose.
post #4 of 18
Some magazine that I was leafing through had a list of three things that were early signs of autism. The two that I remember are not responding when called by name and not bringing things to you to show you.
post #5 of 18
I wouldn't worry. My son was a cowboy for a year and obsessed with paleontology for a couple of years. OBSESSED. Everything was about dinosaurs and prehistoric life. He is now a normal 1st grader, free of obsessions.
post #6 of 18
MotherEden, you just described my DS22m! I was just going to post something too. He loves watching train videos and does the 'chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga-CHOO-CHOO' thing all the time. He has toy trains that he lines up end-to-end and when he runs out of trains, he adds little cars and trucks to his 'train'. Yesterday he had a 'train' almost as long as the living room! It doesn't help that FIL has a working model railroad that he and DS love to run together.

I don't think it's autism. Autistics need to present with many symptoms, not just one. A lot of kids get really into something. A lot of girls get obsessed with their dolls.
post #7 of 18
I had a cousin who was obsessed with vaccum cleaners. If you took him to Kmart, he'd skip the toys and go straight to the cleaning area. When he was 5, he saved up money and bought a Dustbuster! He doesn't have autism, and we still tease him about it. Secretly, at age 19, I think he still enjoys vaccuming.

My ds goes from obsession to obsession. It was trains, now dragons, orcas for a while. Some kids are like that. Also, toddlerhood/early childhood seems like an obsessive period. Dss used to watch Peter Pan over and over. He'd watch it, and as the credits rolled, he'd ask to watch it again. Kids like to read the same book over and over and over. My adult brain doesn't relate!
post #8 of 18
Trains are the crack of toddlerhood.
Seriously, DS is just as obsessed. I think it is surprisingly common. At grandma's house, the trains go by every 1/2 hour, and he has even woken me up at 3 Am to watch the coal train fly by.
post #9 of 18
First of all, my 25 month old is obessed with trains and it is completely normal. I can't imagine this is a sign of autism.

More importantly what glares out at me is, what the hell is the matter with your friend? I mean really, unless your friends is a pediatrician where does she get off saying such a thing to a mother. If a friend of mine ever asked me what I thought about their kids behavior, even if I thought it was autism (which it's not in your case), I would only say, "If you are concerned about it, why don't you ask your sons doctor."
post #10 of 18
Hmmmm, you've been to my house, haven't you?

Ds1's first word in the morning is "gunk" (his word for milk) but as soon as he is done nursing he delatches and calls out, "Train, where are you?" Then hops down off the bed to go back to his elaborate track setup in the living room.

Ds1's last words at night (after he sings Twinkle Twinkle) are "train" and "choo choo."

In between everything is a train. If we go on a walk or in the car he wants to know when we'll see the trains. The vacuum cleaner cord is a train, dog food lined up in a row is a train, he only wants to look at train book or magazines. The weird thing - he can tell the difference between "toy" trains and "model" trains. And plays w/each kind differently. He's having a train birthday party and I try to indulge his love of trains in different ways (cutting toast in the shape of train cars, counting train cars with him, reading books about trains with him (it's the only kind of book he's ever let us read to him))

I'm just enjoying and going along for the ride. We might make a trip out to Horseshoe Curve in PA this summer for vacation. http://www.northeast.railfan.net/horseshoe.html

Personally, I can't wait until we get to the dinosaur stage.
post #11 of 18
It is true that lots of people with Autism get REALLY into something...and it is true that a lot of children with Autism get really into trains as well...however, if you looked up the other signs and it doesn't sound like your child then I wouldn't even give it another thought...

Can you play trains with him? Or, does he shut you out?
Does he rock, spin, flap, or other unusual type of behavior?
Does he look at you? Does he respond when you call his name?
If he doesn't do these things you may want to look into this further. But if he does connect with you in these ways then I would say your little guy just likes trains! get in and enjoy this time with him...one day he WILL move on to something else!
post #12 of 18
I think your friend has no idea what she's talking about. Like others have said, it is ONE sign out of many, many more. All toddlers get obssessed by something...my DS is Toy Story right now. Anything Toy Story. :
post #13 of 18
Originally Posted by MotherEden
I mentioned this to a friend and she says it could be a sign of autism?? I looked up signs and he doesnt seem to exhibit any..Does my friend just have no idea what she's talking about?

I would stop taking advice from this so called "friend". Does she even have a toddler or is around toddlers. My God, causing you needless worry. Your son sounds PERFECTLY fine. I agree with the other posters, the toddler age is when they start to do very kooky things, like get obssesions. I'm sure if you look at toddlers behaviours, each one has at one point or another exhibited "autistic" like tendencies (spinning, lining things up, obssessed with certain toys). You have to look at the whole picture. If he is developing normally in every other way and is only obssessed with trains, then I say you have nothing to worry about. I'm sure next year, he'll be obssessed with something new.

Please don't worry, I have some insenstive, idiot friend of my SIL make a comment last year when my son got angry and flapped his hands for like 3 seconds. She got all bug eyed and asked if we should have him checked out or something : Ya okay. My ds is perfectly fine btw. And now that he is extremly verbal at 2 1/2 does not need to express himself this way when angry. I always ask my SIL how her friend the "Child Psycotherapist" is
post #14 of 18
My son is obsessed with doors!!! I am serious! No matter where we go, he finds a door and immediately wants to slam it shut!

I agree with the PP's... take a look at the big picture with your son... and decide from there if there is anything else going on that worries you... my SIL is the "expert" on "everything" so I know how people like that think!!
post #15 of 18
My kids have both gone through obsessions. One has autism one does not. It doesn't necessarily mean anything.
post #16 of 18
I honestly do NOT believe this is a sign of Autism. Why you may ask?? Because my DS is as OBSESSED with trains and cars as what you described.

In fact, click the link below to see what he is getting for his birthday present:


post #17 of 18
Originally Posted by Flor
I had a cousin who was obsessed with vaccum cleaners. If you took him to Kmart, he'd skip the toys and go straight to the cleaning area. When he was 5, he saved up money and bought a Dustbuster! He doesn't have autism, and we still tease him about it. Secretly, at age 19, I think he still enjoys vaccuming.
This is like my son. He's been obsessed with vacuums for about half his life (he is 16 months now). We got him a dustbuster for the holidays, and have about 6 around the house. He just loves vacuums. He likes to use them, take them apart, carry around the cannister. He likes other machines too, vacuums are just his favorite. I really don't think this obsession, or trains for many toddlers like yours, are anything to worry about at all. I think they are a great channel for development and learning.
post #18 of 18
I am a behavioral therapist and I work with autistic children. Yes, they do get obsessed with things. One of the boys I work with is completely obsessed with small pvc figurines of tv characters, and another is completely obsessed with trains...but the difference is...

does your ds play with trains appropriately?

If he knows how to "drive" a train along a track or the floor, and if he knows that it goes "choo-choo" I would say that autism is definitely not a concern.

One of the main symptoms of autism is "inappropriate play"
The 4 year old boy I work with who is obsessed with trains is more interested in holding as many of them as possible at once or banging the bottoms of them together. He doesn't understand what a train does and how to imitate that.

That being said, my 23 month old is completley obsessed with his little yellow hot wheels car right now. He carries it everywhere and even sleeps with the dern thing. He has almost rubbed all of the markings off of the poor thing. But aside from his obsession he is perfectly interactive and interested in people and the world around him so I am not concerned about it at all. I think that toddlers are just likely to get obsessed with one thing or another...and it's just a normal part of development.

I am sure your ds is perfectly fine
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