One of the things I struggle with the most is the feeling of frustration and loss of control when Jake is insistent on doing something his way, or exclusively. For example, this morning, I wanted Jake to take his vitamins and eat his lunch. In a timely way, so that we would be able to get ready and leave for school on time. Jake stood, looking at his vitamins, bouncing on his feet, eyes flickering, for what seemed like eternity. It was probably about 10 minutes. He said he just needed to think about it. He said he needed to remember what they tasted like. He said he needed quiet. He said he had to build a fort first.
It was exasperating. It was mental. And it was followed by him sitting down at the table to eat his waffles. Which he couldn’t eat. Because he had so much to say. Literally, he took one bite in ten minutes. And talked non-stop the rest of the time.
Eventually he both took the vitamins and ate his breakfast. And went to school. However, I am left exhausted, unsatisfied, feeling guilty, bothered, and frustrated. I imagine he felt much the same. All before 9 am.
I have been rereading Raun K. Kaufman’s book, Autism Breakthrough. It is loaded with incredible ideas and insights. It focuses on putting the parents squarely in charge of the changes they want to see in their autistic children, which is a huge weight. But I cannot deny the common sense of what he says. He also focuses on loving our children respectfully, building meaningful, trusting relationships with them, and showing them all of the best reasons to want to learn to be more social.
He describes using motivation rather than reward to entice our autistic kids to change. “Instead, think about what your child’s area of interests (motivations) are…. If your child is verbal, what does she talk about when an adult isn’t dictating the conversation?” Then he says to use this to work on specific goals. Today, I am choosing taking the vitamins and eating breakfast as my two goals. Then his technique looks like this (my paraphrase):
- Wait until Jake is paying attention freely and willingly
- Playfully invite Jake to participate in a game designed around something HE LOVES and the goal.
- Keep playing the game as long as you possibly can, adding layers of challenge.
It sounds like it would work. But it doesn’t deal with my anxiety of trying to get ready to leave on time. However, I believe that I could use this to make some progress. My plan would look something like this:
- Start my own game based on Star Wars.
- Playfully invite Jake and Aiden to play my game and include the vitamins, as maybe, super Force power-ups.
- Keep playing the game, suggesting they have to eat the breakfast in small sections before they battle the next bad-guy.
It requires a level of energy and enthusiasm I don’t feel first thing in the morning. It requires creative thinking on the fly, which means that my mind has to be moving quickly, very quickly, as I will also be trying to eat my own breakfast and feed Penny. The payoff could be that we are all happier, breakfast gets eaten, and no one starts the day feeling crummy. I’m in. Isn’t this exactly what I’ve been saying? That I would do better? That I would get myself in gear and really figure this out? Okay, I’m in.