What just happened? Where did that sweet child go?
Just as you feel as though you and the child are in a good, productive groove…KABOOM! In a flash there are tears, frustration and what seems to be an explosion of outright defiance.
Sometimes our students or children with autism do a sudden about face and jolt us with their disobedience. Perhaps tasks or activities that had previously been accomplished with minimal support now seem to produce volcanic eruptions of emotions. What do we do? How should we respond?
Our authoritative gut instinct may tell us to get tough and stand our ground by demanding the tears stop and the work gets done. Too often we jump to conclusions: “He just doesn’t want to do it! “He is just being stubborn! He wants out of the work! He is just pushing my buttons!”
For the record, that thinking is OUR own emotional brain being hijacked. Given some thought, some deep breaths and some distance if possible, we may be able to deliver a more productive response.
Take a good hard look at the task: Is there any component of what you are asking that taps into an area of weakness (even a small part)?
Hand written work?
Questions using inference or prediction?
Multi step problems?
Creating patterns with no template?
The list could go on. For individuals with autism, the brain has many strengths but there
are areas of cognition that are simply not in working order. Or at least, not in good working order. Expecting individuals with autism to use these areas of weakness with no support is akin to asking a person that cannot swim to: “Just try. Swim hard. Just do it.”
Best to give him a life-preserver I would think.
Teachers and parents be aware! What may seem to be a stubborn or rebellious reaction may be a cry for help. This is a perfect time to take out the visual supports, the concrete examples and the step by step instructions and lead the individual through the task.
Stay tuned for more possible responses to sudden attacks of “I CAN’T DO IT!”
© 2014 Jennifer Krumins
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