Question: Is it a sign of autism when a person becomes so overly attached to an object that he or she must carry it literally at all times?
Answer: Attachment to objects is one of those behaviors that is seen in typically developing children as well. I think many of us know children who are one or two who carry around blankets or stuffed animals and become very, very upset if they are misplaced or even washed in the washing machine.
So, when we evaluate whether a behavior is typical or atypical, we have to consider the age of the child, the developmental level of the child. So, I've known children who carry around channellock pliers with them and sleep with the channellock pliers that are almost bigger than they are -- these children can be typical. At the same time, there are children with autism who persist in carrying around objects like the Yellow Pages or a certain number of plastic spoons in their pocket.
And when you consider the age as well as the type of interest or object, that's when you start to think that it might be more unusual. And also, the extent to which it interferes with everyday activities. I mean that's when it becomes important and something to consider working on.