Love My Blankie

Parents of a teen with autism are concerned about their son’s love for his childhood blankie. They said he won’t go to sleep without it, but that it is wearing down to shreds. They are wondering if it is appropriate to allow him to keep the blankie. And, if so, how can they help him preserve it so he can continue to keep it close at bedtime?

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Although not everyone agrees with me, I feel as if obsessive interest in an object like a blanket, a pair of shoes, a family photo, a book, or a favorite t-shirt is an inherent part of autism. Unless some serious health issues are concerned, it seems to me that we can allow our friends to hang on to things that bring them comfort and connections with pleasant memories in the past. Here are a few ideas that have worked for families over the years to help preserve those items that wear away.

TAKE PICTURES. Before the final pillow, teddy bear, or pair of shoes is wearing down to nothing, take pictures of your friend holding or wearing the favorite object. Sometimes the photos help smooth the transition to “life without my favorite pillow.” Also take photos of favorite pets, favorite cars, or favorite teachers to help smooth the transition to new pets, cars, or teachers.

SAVE THE SHREDS. When the t-shirt, blanket, or pillowslip is thread-bare and falling apart, rescue the shreds by sewing them in quilt fashion on a throw pillow. Teens, college kids, and even adults have favorite throw pillows, so it is certainly age-appropriate to integrate his favorite baby blankie into a pillow to keep on his bed or in a favorite recliner.

These are just a few ideas that help preserve favorite items and allow them to stay connected to old favorites via the remnants. This may appear a bit fanatical to some people, but it makes perfect sense to a person with autism who deals with exceptional obsessions every day.

TIP OF THE DAY: Our friends with autism probably appreciate our recognizing their extraordinary obsessions and our efforts to help preserve their favorites.

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

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