NEW HYDE PARK, NY – An unusual gift of a vacuum cleaner for his 14th birthday was a dream come true for an autistic teen as well as his family and friends.
The heartwarming story of the Virginia boy’s gift – circulating in print, TV and online news sites – highlights how fixation with certain objects or things can provide a sense of joy for those with autism.
“Although it is very common for children with an autism spectrum disorder to have unusual interests and derive pleasure from atypical sources, we do not have a good understanding as to why this is,” said Andrew Adesman, MD, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. “Ironically, many young children with an ASD have an exaggerated fear of vacuum cleaners because of the noise that they make.”
Since he was 2, Dylan Johnson had been fascinated by vacuums. So much so that his mother reached out to the Kirby Company, maker of his favorite vacuum, and asked if a company representative could give a demonstration at Dylan’s birthday party.
“I think one of the many challenges of parenting a child with an autism spectrum disorder is striking a balance between bringing as much joy and happiness into their child’s life on the one hand, and the risk of encouraging or indulging what may be perceived as atypical interests that in themselves can be stigmatizing,” said Dr. Adesman.
Mrs. Johnson’s request of the company met with an unexpected and emotional response.
Not only did the salesman show up and give a presentation, but he also presented Dylan with the vacuum to keep (paid for out of his pocket).
“As corny as it sounds, it was magical because I didn’t think it would happen and I got to see Dylan smile and be happy,” Mrs. Johnson told local news outlets. "There was not a dry eye in the house."