Building Success Habits in Children with Autism
Exhausted. Tired of the fight. Sick of explaining and listening to the barrage of excuses.
Was I asking was impossible?
Ever feel like it just isn’t worth the effort to get a kid to complete a chore? Particularly a child with autism?
If so, you aren’t alone.
The truth is that if we want children to grow up to be as self-sufficient, responsible and self-confident we have to start expecting them to contribute to the family, classroom and community when they are young. Even those with autism.
Especially those with autism.
An autism diagnosis does not preclude our kids and students from doing their part to maintain a house or a classroom. Everyone has a role to play. Each person contributes.
Temple Grandin herself is a strong advocate of chores and responsibilities for children and teens with autism. She warns that parents and teachers cannot allow themselves to succumb to the emotional pleas that arise when we insist that the child do something that is not overly enjoyable. Yes, it might be easier to give in, acquiesce and do the job ourselves. But, the price is very high.
Chores and responsibilities are powerful teachers. Not only do children learn specific skills (sorting, caring for a pet, cleaning up after oneself, organizing and materials and finishing a job), but, perhaps, just as important, they learn that they are capable of contributing – that they are not helpless.
Learned helplessness is a very real problem associated with individuals with autism or other special needs. Giving up and failing to try, especially when the task is deemed boring, irrelevant, or hard, is very common for our kids. The key is that we don’t stop there and wish things were different.
As teachers, parents, grandparents – anyone who cares about a child’s development- we must take the lead and our raise expectations of chore completion. Of course, modifications may be needed. I can promise you that modeling, repetition and a whole lot of practice will be required. Mountains of patience will be necessary too.
As much as I struggled with this part, it is extremely imperative that the adult maintain a calm and firm resolve in order that the focus stays on completion of the task, not, the character of the child. No arguing, yelling or emotional pleas. I know – that’s a tough one when your patience is wearing thin.
Take deep breaths and wait. Model again if necessary. Avoid discussion or negotiation. Point to the visual or the task and stand firm. Our kids need to know that what we say, we mean. When responsibilities are not completed there are negative consequences – no ipad, phone, nor fun activity happens until an expectation is met.
I know it’s hard line. But, to be fair, giving in and or giving up is selfish. It makes life easier for us. The child’s development is the casualty. Plus, next time it is going to be FAR harder to get the child to comply with expectations.
Completing chores and tasks hold a valuable life lesson: Sometimes we have to do things that aren’t very fun but, we learn to do what needs to be done anyway. Even individuals who will likely transition to a group home or supported living arrangement will be expected to contribute.
Our children who live with autism deserve our greatest efforts to ensure that we set them up for success and contribution to the degree that they will be able to contribute. Too often, it is we adults who sabotage opportunities for growth and resilience.
Next week we will look at specific chores that kids can do as well as possible modifications that might be needed.
In the mean time, I want to hear from you. What chores and responsibilities does your child or student with autism have? How do you handle opposition?
As always, please share this post with anyone you know who is struggling with a child with autism.
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