Sometimes I just can’t decide!
Temple Grandin has shared that the process of making decisions is difficult and she, like many others, will avoid decision-making. Research supports Temple’s difficulty. Studies have shown that for folks with autism decision making is linked to anxiety and exhaustion.
Exasperated teachers and parents describe children who won’t choose an activity, a character, or a topic for fear of getting it ‘wrong.’ Being asked to make decisions will result in crying, angry outbursts or defiance. It seems that no amount of reassurance will ease the apprehensive feelings that making decisions, even insignificant ones, create for some individuals with autism.
How can we help?
- Start with narrowing the number of options available. Instead of offering four or five options, provide two possibilities for a treat, two topics to write about or two activities to play. Avoid wide open choices such as, “choose a topic.”
- Visually show the choices to the individual using written words, the item or pictures of the option.
- With the student, make a list of an assortment of choices that are made daily (clothes, breakfast, TV, attitude, words, shoes and so on). Include small insignificant choices and bigger more important choices in your list.
- Together discuss the difference between BIG and SMALL decisions. How do we make each type of decision? Discuss which one of the two categories each decision would go under. This helps demonstrate the types of decisions and which ones require more thought and time.
- Teach the individual how to flip a coin for small decisions. This is especially helpful when all else fails and the process is sucking the life out of the home or classroom).
- Make the options plausible and avoid using punishment as an option (Turn off the computer now or go to bed is really NOT teaching any decision making skills).
A colleague reported that flipping a coin was a huge breakthrough after nothing else seemed to calm the student’s fears and tears over having to make choices. Flipping a coin works for quick decision making: choosing a writing topic, picking a character to write
about, milk or juice, Lego or Thomas™ and so on.
Be clear that if the individual does not make a choice, the teacher or parent WILL make the choice for him. Follow through is critical. No waffling allowed!
Teaching our children HOW to make choices and how to cope with the consequences of our decisions is a skill that will make a huge impact on their ability to adapt and function as an adult. We need to find a balance between overwhelming our youth with autism with decisions and making all of the choices for them.
Happy Decision Making! 😆
Copyright 2014Jennifer Krumins