I feel like I spend a lot of my time teaching Connor life skills. Things like compromise, politeness, sharing, which are all vital to existing (perhaps even flourishing) in our social world. Obviously some of these skills are harder to master than others.
Politeness, Connor has down pat. He says please and thank you (though not 100% of the time, but he’s pretty darn close). Sometimes he even catches me unawares by saying thank you for something I didn’t even notice.
Sharing is a skill that has seen vast improvement over the last year. He now allows children to play with his toys, in his own house or elsewhere (though there seems to be some invisible timer as to how long the sharing can go on). He even offers other children (and sometimes adults) toys they could amuse themselves with while the plays near them. Connor has nearly mastered turn taking, especially on the playground. My heart swells with pride when I see him wait patiently in line at the slide, instead of pushing and shoving as he did a year ago. Yay!
Compromise….is something that we are working on….every darn day.
Like most children, when Connor wants something, he wants it now! Like many autistic children he has hard time understanding or controlling his impulses, so if he wants something now and doesn’t get it, the world may truly end. Or at least for him it feels that way. There is no later, there is only now! now! now!
To work on this pleasant little quirk of his (please ignore my eye twitching) I’ve been employing the “first…then” technique. For example “First eat dinner, then you can watch UP for the 4th time.” “First put your pants on, then we can go for a walk through the neighborhood.” You get the idea… probably faster than Connor did.
It took him at least a week to understand what I was saying and how easily he could get what he wanted if he just compromised and did what was necessary first. Ta da! It was like a little light bulb went off in his head. He gets it! Unfortunately he’s not super happy about it. Now when I ask him to do something horrendous like wash his hands or eat breakfast or clean up his toys, you know the usual mommy torture techniques, he cries through the whole exercise and sometimes after, despite willingly doing whatever it is I’ve asked of him.
It’s pretty pathetic to watch him quietly blubbering at the lunch table in between bites of hotdog. Poor poor child to be mistreated so.
Of course this last week of whatever plague we’ve been suffering from was no fun. When Connor gets sick, it’s like every ABA exercise, every therapy moment, every word he’s ever learned just flies right out of his head and I’m left with a crying, snotty mess. Yuck! Every demand placed on him is completely unfair and unreasonable! Why should he have to take a bath? Why should he be forced to eat? Why does he even need sleep???
Lots of yelling, lots of hitting, lots of throwing toys. The dogs and I tried to keep a good 6 feet out of his range whenever possible. If we could, we simply left him to his own devices and hunkered down silently in the next room, lest we provoke the beast with some sudden movement.
Connor will be returning to school tomorrow and I might weep with joy.
Yet however bad Connor’s behavior got I realized that he’d return to normal and we’d start practicing these life skills again. And every time I discuss this training with someone I realize there are a heck of a lot of adults out there who don’t practice the same skills I’m teaching my son. How many people out there know someone who never shares? or says please or thank you? or absolutely refuses to compromise? (I can think of a few just off the top of my head…)
So do me a favor this week and pick up the cosmic slack while Connor is still grumpy from being sick. Say thank you to your checker at the grocery store. Give the last bit of milk to your husband. Meet your friend for happy hour at her favorite bar and agree to let you pick next week.
Set a good example for the Connors of the world! And you just might feel better too.