Help! Her attention-seeking behavior gets worse when there is company.

True story

Taken from en email we received from a parent…


I am becoming a little concerned about her attitude when we have company.

It seems that if anyone comes to the house that is going to take any of my attention she becomes agitated and screams, yells, throws things and finds any way possible be disruptive.

She doesn’t like it when one of her siblings stays home from school but she is fine with them being home on weekends and nights.

Maybe I am making too big a deal out of this?

I take time during the day to play with her and include her in what I am doing but I almost feel like I should have someone else come in and play with her once a day so she won’t get so attached to me and expect my attention all the time.


The good news is that what worries you is the most NORMAL thing ever.

All children in the world suffer from “phone syndrome”, “mom has friends over syndrome”.

You probably did not notice it from the other kids, because they were playing their “syndrome” so much lower key than your daughter has been forever, that they went unnoticed.

The fact that she is demonstrating her awareness, attachment and fear of losing even a second of your attention may be a sign of healthy development.

Now, how will you deal with it?

What do you do now? Ask her to be quiet? Ask her to calm down? Reinforce her?

No, inviting more people will not help her get used to it.

Giving her even more one on one time will make it pass.

She is growing and developing in her head, it is a wonderful thing.

Children go through this phase when they are between 8 months and 2 years of age. At this age it is convenient to parents because they are small enough to be carried where we need them to be even if they don’t want to, they can be placed in someone else’s care, and you can go on with your life when you need to.

When they go through this phase at a later age it can become a burden on you. Remember that everyone has to go through the same developmental milestones one way or another. It’s not just her and it’s not just you.

Other good news: it will pass!

My advice: buy a book on the normal development of typical children and check to see where she is at, it may help to give you an idea of what is coming next.

You can’t make a child be convenient, you know that already.

Let’s talk a little about what may be going on in her head.

To grow up, to feel she is becoming an individual on her own is a little frightening, so she wants both of both world. She wants to be the baby that you care for every minute of the day, but she also needs to be the boss too, and that creates an internal conflict that makes it even harder!

Asking you to play games is her way to own you, to own how long you are going to spend with her. The more complicated she makes it for you, the longer you will be hers and hers alone.

There are no easy shortcuts to child development, keep following your Sensory Enrichment Therapy program, so she will develop naturally. You are doing everything that is best for her, do not  worry more than you need to.


Thanks!  Everything you said makes perfect sense.

I think I am always over-analyzing everything Kristin does, looking for those autistic tendencies that I used to worry so much about… the insistence on routines and repetition, etc.  

I have to remind myself that I am not looking for characteristics of autism anymore, but instead I am watching a growing little girl emerge with her own individuality and personality!

Last night Julia and I spent about 45 minutes with Kristin and you could say we were doing nothing more than teasing her which is something we would never have considered doing a year ago!

She was lining up her DVD cases in rows and we kept ****ing one from the lineup just to get a reaction.

Julia stole her stack that she was working from and refused to return one at a time until she got a kiss for each one.

Kristin was mocking us, laughing and enjoying the game rather than screaming and getting mad because we were messing with her and she seemed to enjoy it.

Julia was amazed that she knew who was on the cover of all the dvds and the words were clear.  She kept commenting with astonishment that Kristin was saying so much more and she was so excited she called her boyfriend and put Kristin on speaker phone.

Mark said hi to Kristin and she said “Hi, Mark!”  (first response ever to a phone)

She then picked up her Wiggle’s DVD and proceeded to sing “Hot potato, Hot potato” at the top of her lungs.

The point here is that it is easy to forget that your child with autism is also a real child who is trying to grow and mature naturally.

Your child will go through all the developmental milestones. He may do it in a different order or at a different pace, and so he will look weird and immature in many situations.

But don’t forget how you help a child grow. Forcing situations to help a child get used to living in the real world does not work. You have got to help prepare whatever needs to be prepared inside her head, both emotionally and physiologically so that she will be fine, just like a regular child is fine in that situation.

Are you translating all what your child does as a symptom pertaining to the diagnosis? Take a step back, read a book on normal child development and see.

names have been changed to preserve the privacy of this family.

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