Recently my husband and I decided that it’s really time for our three kids, ages, 10, 11 and 13 to understand that life is not just about sitting around on your phone, the TV or computer watching whatever cartoon, game or YouTube video your heart desires until it’s time to eat, sleep and do it all over the next day.
There are things like trash to be taken out, dishes to clear from the sink and load into the dishwasher, bathrooms to clean and laundry to do. Since the children are the ones that keep those tasks flowing the most, they should have a hand in doing them. So, we created a list of chores for them.
While autism dictates much about ability, it should not limit it. In other words, it is not an excuse to limit children – barring physical challenges, of course - on what they can do. If they can understand language or visual modeling of a task, it just means a little more direction about the process and expected outcome.
We decided to play into one of the challenges our youngest son, Cash’an, has because of this disorder - compulsiveness and routine behaviors - and use it to teach. In recent months, he has been adamant about taking out the trash bag the second it’s full and placing a new one in the can. It is something he has done automatically at his grandma’s house and at home without being told.
His assignment on the chore list was taking out the trash, but not just from the kitchen, as is his routine, but from bathrooms, too. He also likes sorting things, which is a skill mastered at a school where he also learned to unload and load a dishwasher. Cash’an’s shared chore with his brother, Maurice, Jr., was unloading and loading the dishwasher. Maurice Jr. has also learned this skill at home and when given detailed instructions works hard to get it done. In addition to dishes, Cash’an was assigned to help his sister, Camiryn, with laundry. Other chores were divided among Camiryn and Maurice Jr.
There are many times in our family life when autism plays a role, both in our home and in public. Because we are always conscious of it, it is easy to second-guess ability before giving Cash’an, in particular, a chance to show he can do something correctly. What I remind myself often is that all of our children have some kind of need, whether they have autism or not. They are children first. They will never learn to how life works if we do everything for them. Even a child like Cash’an, who will always need supervision and directon in his life, has the independent skills to care for himself and his surroundings to some degree.
My job as a parent is not to cripple him, but create opportunities for him to master those skills, just like our other children must to survive when they leave the nest.
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