Updated: Oct 7, 2019
What is the meaning in terms of everyday life for our kids in reference to these four words. These words often used in describing our homes, our classrooms, and our therapies, and what does it look like with our children?
We want our children to limit the obvious blatant behaviors that cause disruptions in various environments. We want our children's behavior to reflect age approximations, and socially accepting mores. We, as educators and parents of children with Special Needs also know very well that most behavior is communication for our kids, and must be accepted as such in order for our children to connect with us and their environment.
We also understand that the act of "behaving" or the reality of control of the body with Autism is quite difficult to master for the majority of a long day. There will usually be a breaking point, just like everyone else, where the behaviors sneak up on us, or our children, and they do what they do.
Another concern we have is with compliance. In the classroom or therapy session, we need the child to participate in the therapy, therefore we need compliance. We use prompting to engage the child in the task at hand to gain such compliance.
We all comply with one thing or another in our everyday life whether we like it or not, this is just the way it is with work, with relationships and with life.
My point in writing about this topic is that when our children with Autism develop a compliancy, and prompt dependency in order to communicate that they are behaving, it can cross some lines. It can be too much looking to another person for the next step, when the child is perfectly capable of making that next step decision independently.
For example, in routine, brushing teeth, getting out of the shower, getting dressed are all tasks that my daughter has the skill set for. She can do it completely by herself, but often she will look for me to signal her to the next step in the process. Why do our children do this? In my book, Connections: A Journey of Love and Autism, I discuss the importance of generalization of skills. This is vital to the transfer of learning across all environments. Still, this is only a part of pulling back with the prompt rich environments we constantly put our children in. This space between direction and response from a caretaker or therapist must be stretched to allow for growth and independence. Often with my daughter, I can try to wait her out and see how long she will stand with a towel before getting dressed or if a prompt is necessary, I might say something like go ahead. I am still painfully aware of how dependent she is on me to give her the green light for the next in the sequence of many daily tasks.
I never said it is easy, the work is continuous, but when we stop for a minute to see what is happening, we can prepare for better teaching for our children.
In summary, to myself, and others in this position, I say, give processing time as needed. Allow the environment to encourage independence. Reinforce with positive praise in an age appropriate manner for demonstrating new skills . Behavior, compliance, prompting and communication are all important cornerstones, but we have to leave room for autonomy.
Have a great week everyone. Be purposeful in your relationships including yourself.