motivation and autism

I see everyday typical children who lack any and all motivation for life. From having motivation to complete school work, do chores at home, play games or sports, do any extracurricular activity that doesn’t involve a screen. However, I see in my son real motivation for learning so that he can do jobs or things when he gets older. I also see other spectrum kids loving many different activities.

It made me think how can we use our kids interest to drive motivation?

Often ABA therapy works on a demand and reward system. This style of ABA has created a child that is very rewards based; “have to earn it” mentality. My son understands work and that works earns him things that are favorable or enjoyable. As we have worked, we found items, things, or activities that are favored or desired. This system creates the motivation. However, this motivation is extrinsic. Most of our kids can get and respond to extrinsic motivation.

The real change in motivation come when it is intrinsic. We want all kids, typical or spectrum to find intrinsic motivation. This is the motivation that is going to change their attitude and mindset and help them achieve their goals and ambitions. Finding this feeling of internal motivation is hard for everyone but once we find the fuel, off we go.

Ideas for how to create more motivation for our kids with autism:

  1. Find their likes, obsessions, preferred activities and journal about them. It helps if you use a calendar if the preferred activities or obsessions change.
  2. Encourage and enrich any obsession or preferred objects. If they like art, music, gardening/weather, animals, numbers, Thomas the train, dinosaurs, or a cartoon character buy it, read about it, visit, buy art supplies, or anything that you can think would deepen that interest.
  3. Introduce skills needed to do or be involved with that interest. Some times their interest are not something we can do at the age of 10. For example, if my child wants to “cut trees” he can’t run a chainsaw. However, we can have conversation about learning to read so that you know how to read warning signs and directions, learn math like measuring to know how long or high the trees are. Now, school has a purpose. Giving him a purpose gives him that motivation to do reading and math so he can “cut trees” when he gets big.
  4. Support and explore any changes in finding their likes. This can be very expensive and frustrating. This is why I encourage you to journal or keep a calendar. Keep a list or a note with details about obsessions. They might come back around to those interests. It will also help you to continue to support their learning and developing.
  5. Get creative. How can we find a skill that could turn into a job? Look for future education and training options. Then really get into the information, like look into what it takes to qualify, cost, tests, location and any other specifics that would be needed to complete the training. Once you understand what it takes, don’t think it isn’t possible.
  6. Don’t limit your thoughts or your child. Stop thinking, he will never. Start thinking anything is possible.

I look forward to seeing my child find their motivation and purpose in life. I underestimated that phrase …finding purpose or meaning. That’s actually a huge phrase! We all want a purpose or to have meaning to someone or something. Using these tips will help you to support your child on the spectrum and off find their motivation and drive to find purpose and meaning in life.

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