My 5 year old has ASD and has a great ability to do chores or activities that many can’t do at the same level. He has an ability to observe an action or set of actions then repeat them. He is able to create a system to complete the chore correctly and accurately each time. He’s very precise about how to set the laundry; I have no doubts about him being able to care for his clothes.
However, these rigid systems that he creates to have success doing more complex tasks often cause the most problems. When I started to share my first video, it was over Max not being able to do the laundry. Max melts down over not being able to do the laundry. (Part 1.) What I observe is that when the system is interrupted or the chain of events (sequence) is changed that he almost short circuits. It is as if his brain is unable to accept or process how to complete the task because something has been changed, added or eliminated. Most of the time (4 out of 5 times) he cannot recover if the pattern or system is interfered with. We try to use first, then language as well as hand over hand help to get him to finish. He may try to continue but will not be able to finish and move on.
This is what lead to our January 1 melt down. I had started the laundry without him and he came mid system and tried to start from the beginning. He wasn’t able to listen and observe that soap was already in the machine and that clothes were going in. Max will have to be physically removed from the area. As you can see from revisiting Part 1, Max often has continued negative behaviors even when removed. Once he is able to calm down, he will help clean up and then he can continue with more wash. In this example, part 3, he goes back to the wash and is able to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer then start the dryer without help.
My take away from Max doing the laundry:
- value the ability of your child
- encourage self care skills
- read and work to understand behaviors
- find a great therapist to talk and share with (I recommend ABA)
- find comfort in that all spectrum kids have behaviors
- laugh now
- do the best you can today
- be proud of the accomplishments your child makes
- celebrate the wins
Finally, be prepared! Be prepared for the unexpected. Overall, children will grow at a rapid rate and often our developmentally delayed children will suddenly make a huge change or growth. They are going to learn through struggles only to encounter new challenges. Just keep moving forward and growing with your child…like the little engine that could!