Monday, January 10, 2011

A Japanese Weekend, and OCDs

My wife grew up in Japan, but our son practices relatively few Japanese customs. Kai likes to eat rice and seaweed, and he learned the hiragana and katakana alphabets last year, and he goes to karate class, but that is about it.

This weekend, he expanded on this.

For breakfast on Saturday, my wife made ozoni, which is a clear, Japanese soup that is traditionally served at New Year’s. The soup contains mochi, which is rice cake, as well as kamaboko (Japanese processed fish cake), mitusba (a Japanese herb similar to parsley), chicken, and peel from yuzu (a citrus fruit).

Kai sipped the soup and liked it. It took a little more prodding, but then he tried the mochi. I wasn’t sure that he would like it as it has a bland taste and sticky texture, but my wife thought that he would since he likes rice so much. Of course, my wife was right. Kai loved the mochi and ate it all up. He even asked for more. After all of our battles over getting him to eat breakfast, I never would have thought that the most food he would eat in the morning would be from a traditional Japanese dish.

Later that day, Kai wanted to do origami. Origami is the traditional Japanese folk art of folding paper. In origami, colorful square pieces of paper are folded to make animals, flowers, or objects. The most well known origami model is the paper crane, but pretty much anything can be made.

Of course, Kai, being Kai, was not interested in making birds or animals or anything like that. He wanted to make letters.

And, so, with just a little help from Mom, he made all 26 letters of the alphabet. About a year ago, my wife tried to interest him in origami but, at that time, he was unable to do any of it by himself. This time, he followed the step-by-step instructions on a website. And, while he asked for Mom’s help on some of the more complex folds, he was able to do most of it himself.

We are happy that Kai gained a bit more exposure to his Japanese heritage this weekend. But, after thinking about it, we suspect that his desire to make an origami alphabet has less to do with an interest in Japanese and more to do with his OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) flaring up.

Like many kids with autism, Kai obsesses about things. His obsessions tend to center around letters and numbers. When we see his obsessions more frequently, we know that something is up. The past several days, besides the origami, he was writing letters and numbers and talking about them even more than usual. Our understanding is that an overgrowth of yeast in the gut can lead to an increase in these types of OCD symptoms. And, that taking antibiotics can increase yeast levels. Since Kai had been on an antibiotic for the past two weeks, it may not be a coincidence that he has been all things letters for a few days now. If we see that obsession die down as the antibiotic wears off, that will confirm our suspicions.

In the meantime, we’ll focus on the positives. The origami is great for his fine motor skills. And, hey, he even ate more mochi for breakfast this morning.

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