Teaching Tip for Autistic Child


When parenting an autistic child, we can't forget the "child" part!

Using this single teaching tip, an autistic child can learn many, many things:

Lucas is blessed with two angels in his classroom; his teacher, Miss Paula, and his para-professional, Miss Cammy (I believe "para-professional" is Latin for "person of astounding patience and fortitude"...).

Miss Cammy also has an autistic child named Michael. This story is about Cammy and Michael.

One day last week, Cammy & I were talking about getting our kids to move forward in their skills. Since we each have an autistic child AND a normal child, we both appreciate the fact that sometimes it's not the autism, it's the "kid thing" that makes life difficult!

Difficulty dressing - Cammy told me a story about how she had to dress Michael every morning for the day; he just wouldn't do it for himself.

Cammy didn't know the reason that Michael wouldn't dress himself:

  • Was it that he couldn't physically manage it?
  • Was it that he didn't understand the need to change from his pajamas into other clothing?
  • Or was he was just being lazy, since he knew she had always done it for him?

Since she had to get to work each day, Cammy really didn't have the luxury of waiting Michael out each morning, so she would end up dressing him.

Motivation - Now, Michael loves a certain Monster Truck. A lot.

Cammy and her husband managed to track down the owner of the truck. They told the truck owner about Michael, his autism, and his love of that particular truck.

A few days later, a package arrived in the mail for Michael, with photos of the beloved truck. There was also a t-shirt with the truck on it.

Picture it - Here's where you have to use your imagination to picture Cammy discovering this teaching tip for an autistic child:

Cammy walks slowly up her driveway from the mailbox.

She's opening a large envelope as she walks. She takes out a couple of photographs, and unfolds a t shirt with a beautiful picture of this magnificent monster truck on it.

She looks up, and here comes Michael, through the front door.

He sees the shirt, sees the picture on the shirt, and quick as a flash, he peels off the shirt he's wearing, and dons the new Monster truck shirt.

The moral of this teaching tip for an autistic child is, don't ever think that it's ALWAYS the autism that prevents your child from doing something. Both Michael AND Lucas have proven beyond a doubt that THEY'RE KIDS FIRST (meaning, they're lazy, manipulative and quite clever, just like ALL other kids).

Other scenarios - Now, where else can you use this teaching tip? An autistic child, like all other children, can use a little "reinforcement" with something they like. Do any of the following situations apply to your child?

Dressing themselves - Like Michael, they don't want to dress themselves. Try a shirt, etc. with something they like on it.

Lucas has several shirts based on his favorite movies (a shirt like this also makes a great gift for an autistic child).

Bedtime - Does your child refuse to go to bed? What about a special toy they only get at bedtime, or again clothing based on their favorite movie or TV show (Thomas the Tank Engine pajamas, perhaps.)

Putting toys away - This one's almost too easy; try no TV or no dessert until toys are put away.

Church - We used this teaching tip for our autistic child to help him get through church, which is about an hour long.

We used the promise of a donut after church IF he sat quietly for the whole hour.

It only took two weeks. The first week, he sat quietly and we went to the donut shop after church.

They will test you - The second week, however, Lucas acted up during church. Now comes the second tip for teaching an autistic child...

HOLD YOUR GROUND - After Church, we went to the donut shop, and made Lucas sit there with no donut while his brother enjoyed a donut.

I won't kid you, it was very hard on all of us to do this. But when we decided to use a donut as the motivator for being good in Church, we knew that backing down on it would accomplish nothing!

Success - The next week, and every week since then, Lucas has sat quietly during Church, behaving better than many "normal" children! He got a donut every week, too!

One thing at a time -

  • Pick one thing that you want to work on. Start with something you can easily find a reward for when your child does it right.
  • Prepare yourself to stick with it when your child tries to test you. They will; they're autistic, not stupid!
  • Don't expect a perfect job right away. The idea is to get your autistic child used to doing something new, not doing it perfectly. It will probably be done better as your child gets used to doing it (although Lucas STILL can't hang a pair of pants on a hangar correctly...)
  • It's important to remain calm when your child attempts to get out of doing what you ask, but DO NOT GIVE THEM THE REWARD. If you get upset, it shows them that they're getting to you, and they'll keep at it. So stay calm!
  • Once they get it right, praise them lavishly while you give them their reward; they've earned both.
  • Stick with just one thing for long enough to let it become a regular part of the routine. THEN, and only then, move on to the next thing.

I think you'll find that using this teaching tip for your autistic child will allow you to teach them all sorts of things, making both of your lives SO much nicer!

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