Ask Sylvia – Preventing Meltdowns
So, I get a lot of questions from families about helping their children with autism. Sometimes people want to know about changing behaviors, improving school performance, finding friends, dealing with puberty, or clearer communication. I know that for every question someone asks, there are additional folks who want to hear the answer…so I added a feature to the website where you can submit your questions, and I will answer them online. I will not include names and I will edit out identifying information.
Here is the first question:
How can I get my 9 year old son to complete daily activities like homework and cleaning his room without fear of provoking a backlash or even a meltdown? He does well in school when he finishes his assignments and I know he can clean his room and do other chores because he has done them in the past. Lately he just refuses to take directions from me. –Tired of Walking on Eggshells
Dear Tired of Eggshells,
Sounds entirely frustrating! I agree that your son should be able to accomplish some daily explanations without melting down. You mentioned in your submission that your son uses a schedule in the morning and earns time on his DS on the way to school if he finishes his morning routine. Have you tried a similar system for the afternoon? You might make him a list of stuff to do when he gets home (including some downtime) and let him earn some stuff he really likes such as videogame time. The schedule and the reward-earning could take some of the power struggle out of the afternoon, and add some predictability. Check out these handout on Structure in the Home and Rules and Rewards for a place to start brainstorming.
For example, his afternoon could go like this:
get off the bus
30 min choice time: draw, go outside, play with trains (no TV or video games)
–Homework done? 20 min of video games
–room clean? 20 min of video games
You may need to present this new system to him in writing so he can get used to the idea. Here is handout on written explanations