Being a teacher,i can surely relate to this one-children not wanting to participate in an activity or not being able to decide what to work with.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.
There is a lot we can do as a society with our children,for our children always.every single day.But for today there is a lot we can do as adults and educators for children 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 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.
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.
Just for all of us as adults to know autism is not a disease!
Reconnecting with Foylee,and got talking about what is seperation anxiety…as a mother of three she has lots to say from Morocco, ‘I’ve made this transition with three children, and, amazingly, it hasn’t gotten any easier. I felt just as guilty leaving Kip, who entered preschool this week, as I did leaving Otto, now in kindergarten, and Zane, a big-time fourth-grader. Yet, until this year, it never occurred to me to stop by the annual separation workshop offered by their school, the Brooklyn Heights Montessori School. I could just hear my mother’s exasperated voice: “Oh, come on, Hope, you parents today can’t do anything by yourselves. What ever happened to ‘just shut up and do it’? You think parents 40 years ago had workshops on stuff like this?”
Guess what did she learn at the workshop?
Never sneak out of the room. Your child won’t be happy when he figures out you’re gone. (I learned that teachers hate this tactic.)
Never make promises or bargains you can’t keep. Don’t say you’ll be waiting outside if you won’t.
Keep things stable. Don’t introduce any other new thing into the routine.
Expect regression. Your child might be great the first week and drag her heels the second, or she might be completely potty trained but start having accidents. Having experienced this as a teacher i second Foylee here,regression can be mapped in the in-between weeks and also be maybe due to much of preparing at the home front,which parents must be doing purely out of good intentions!