When Quentin was three years old he had a speech therapist who told me he always wanted the same toy, on the top shelf of her room. I asked what it was, and she said: “It’s a McDonald’s toy. You must go to McDonald’s a lot with him!” This gave me pause. Quentin had never been to a McDonald’s at that point in his life, but there was a Micky D’s located just three blocks from where we lived. Also, at that time, McDonald’s was underwriting Sesame Street, and he saw the golden arches every time he watched Elmo’s World. I suddenly felt like everything Morgan Spurlock taught me was right; my kid knew how to identify the McDonald’s logo before he could say his own name. Was fast food really that pervasive?
Turns out, it wasn’t just McDonald’s Quentin liked. He also has a thing for American Express, Apple computers, Chase Bank, Sprint, and many others. You see, what it comes down to, for Quentin – all his behaviors, desires, needs – is visual stimulation. And for him, this manifests itself in a curious form: The boy is obsessed with corporate logos.
I can’t remember when this first began. Quentin’s logo obsession could have began as he began noticing magazines laying around the house, and saw the same ads come up repeatedly for each issue. It also could have started when he first started watching TV. He quickly noticed that all channels have a visual image of their brand that appears either when we change the channel on our cable system, or else in the lower corners of the screen. (As a side note: it always bothered me that kids channels like Nick Jr. and Disney have to have their corporate logo emblazoned on the screen during shows. This not only disrupts the aesthetic look of the shows, but it interferes with the learning! How is a child supposed to say where Dora should go next if part of the map is obscured by a big old “NICK JR” logo in the way? Sorry – side rant now over.)
At this point, corporate logos are what he lives for. And it’s not until you have a kid like Quentin in your life that you realize how much they dominate our world. Walking down the sidewalk with him means bracing for the moment where he runs into the local drug store, which is awash with logos. He happily points to logos on every billboard, every bus stop, every cell phone store, and the Sunday newspaper inserts. Once, I took him for a walk to the playground four blocks away, and on the way there he insisted on touching the logo on every car that was parked on the street. By the time I got to the park with him, his hand was black with grease.
When Quentin sees a logo, he insists on hearing what it is. He sometimes murmurs something that sounds like “me, me” (which might be “tell me”) but more often, he asks, “Da!” (“what?!”) very loudly. We are working on having him replace this with “What?” and then “What is that?” but he needs constant reminders. To get an idea of what this is like, here is a video I surreptitiously shot while we were at an indoor playspace in March.
I’m not sure what all this is about, but I feel strongly that Quentin’s logo obsession gets to the heart of how important visual stimulation is for him. Has anyone else out there seen this in their children with ASD before? Please share your stories in the Comments section here!