06 June, 2007

What’s good for the (Spruce) Goose isn’t good for the Connor

At an early age he was reclusive and had a strong fear of germs. This strong fear developed into one of the most well known cases of Mysophobia. He is Howard Hughes, inventor, aviator, billionaire, and quite possibly Autistic.

The world renowned aviator and inventor of the Spruce Goose became so encompassed by his phobia of germs that in his later years, he would seldom leave his room which he deemed as clean. When he did leave, he wore gloves on his hands and facial tissue boxes on his feet. His servers were provided with complex instructions on how to prepare his food without a (perceived) possibility of contamination.

“Will I get sick if my straw touches the table and then I drink through it?” he asked his mother for the third time since sitting down to eat. Unfortunately, this “he” I is not Howard Hughes, not Michael Jackson (another famous person with Mysophobia), nor is it Tony Shalhoub’s character Adrian Monk (from the hit series “Monk”). It was, in fact, my 7 year old Autistic son Connor.

I wish I could say that Connor’s concerns over his straw touching the table was as simple as a child being conscious of cleanliness, but it is merely the tip of a much larger iceberg. My only hope is that we are able to slow the engines and turn the rudder hard enough before this iceberg has the same tragic impact on Connor as another did on the Titanic.

Warning: Some may find the next section to be disturbing or disgusting. I know I do. So if you are easily offended, be forewarned.

I imagine that it might be helpful at this point for me to describe all of the new (having started within the last 2 months) actions Connor has started to do that are signs of Mysophobia. The most pronounced is his spitting. While spitting may seem to be the vilest and dirtiest thing possible, Connor perceives it as a way to rid his mouth of germs. It is not that he spits like a grand champion expectorator, in fact the spit just sort of dribbles out of his mouth, only to be wiped onto his shirt. In a matter of minutes, Connor can completely drench his shirt with his own saliva. Besides the wet shirts, this has caused a rather ill effect on Connor’s health, as the acids in his saliva have created sores under his lower lip.

When ever we have asked Connor about the spitting, he tells us that his mouth touched something, such as a garbage can, the floor, his feet, etc… and he is concerned that if he swallows he will get sick. I could probably understand wanting to spit if my mouth touched the floor or a garbage can. But for Connor, these things never really occurred. If we point out to him that they incident he described never occurred, he simply replies with a question of what would happen if he did do it.

Other signs of his developing Mysophobia can be seen in his recent obsession with using utensils to eat his food. While on the face of it, Connor using utensils is a good thing, it has gone to an extreme in which he refuses to eat common finger foods such as chicken nuggets without the use of utensils. When asked why, he states that his hands might be dirty from touching his pants or the table.

Connor has also become gradually more and more obsessed with washing his hands. At first, I linked this behavior to his love for water and water associated play, but in looking at the frequency and manner in which he washes his hands, it is clearly associated with his feeling dirty or germ laden.

My wife and I have a difference of opinion on the severity of this problem. I believe that this is the start of a rather debilitating downward spiral while she feels that this is simple another passing obsession of Connor’s. It is my hope that I will be shown to be wrong. For the second time since Connor’s diagnosis, we are going to look to an outside source for help in dealing with a behavior (the first was with his eating habits). I will post updates about our progress.


Anonymous RanKuru said...

Our 15 year old displays frequent hand washing--not sure if it's the phobia you describe or an OCD thing. Anti-anxiety meds seem to help with some of his behaviors.

07 June, 2007 09:03  
Anonymous Sandrissimo said...

Y has that kind of problem when he thinks that the food we give him could be expired or bad. If I let him have his way with for example a bowl of strawberries, he will toss minimal 20% of these berries because the seeds are to close to each other or a petal sticks to the strawberry, things like that. He seems to think people want to poison him or something like that...
What are utensils?

08 June, 2007 07:43  
Anonymous LAA and Family said...

My son goes in and out of various OCD behaviors. So far there are no signs of obsessive handwashing or anything like that. His has to do with wanting routine and sameness, quite typical for autistic kids. He wants only the utensils from our "set", no odd-pattern spoons or forks. He made a comment about this the first time we had a meal on vacation, but then never mentioned it after that. Now that we're home he only wants his regular utensils again.
I sense anxiety with Samuel when he displays these behaviors. I too am trying every possible kind of behavior intervention before I consider medication.

13 July, 2007 11:30  
Anonymous LAA and Family said...

Oh, I forgot to mention..nice to see some posts from you again! How's everything going with Connor since your last post?

13 July, 2007 11:31  
Anonymous Nickname unavailable said...

I just wanted to say excellent blog and i hope all is going well for you.


19 October, 2008 09:11  

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