I just got back from an informative weekend conference on Autism. I heard from many experts on many subjects. One of the experts that I appreciated the most – kids with autism. There were some children who chose to attend the conference themselves, most between the ages of 10-22. I heard from these kids when I attended a breakout where they had the opportunity to introduce themselves and talk about a time when they had the opportunity to be a self-advocate. If they didn’t know what that was yet, they took a pass and then the rest of the session was spent talking about what that meant. I also got to hear three kids ages 10, 13 and 14 present during a breakout called Talking About My Autism. I was touched by so many of the things they said. For the purposes of this specific post I will narrow in on one girl, age 14, and one of her comments in particular:
“Organization is hard for me. When I was little I’d dump out my toys and then I’d be too overwhelmed to clean them up.”
Wow, this is my son! Light bulb… over my head! Ding ding ding! You know, I’d heard this before – that organization is hard for kids on the spectrum. But you kind of undermine that when they are still young (my son is 8 now). When I think about organization in terms of children I think about their schoolwork, getting it home each day, remembering to return it, library books, keeping track of mittens and hats and boots at school, and so on. And let’s be honest, the requirement for organization is much less enforced when they are young.
When she related organization to her toys and how she gets overwhelmed when she has to clean up, I was really surprised. Sometimes us expert moms – we just really need an expert kid to set us straight! =) My Owen shuts down when he has to clean up his room, he cannot break that job down into parts. When I look at his messy room I think ‘no big deal – this is doable’. Start with all legos, then do your books, then throw away papers, then pick up crayons, and so on. But he just sees something all together different and he becomes paralyzed.
And he often plays differently than his siblings – I find that he’ll take toys out and use the parts to create things (mazes, games, a BIG mess!). I’m going to head into this next summer with a different outlook – keeping in mind how Owen plays differently (because that can sometimes be the start of some neighborhood and sibling squabbles). I’m also going to keep in mind Owen’s struggles with cleaning up and I am going to use whatever strategies are necessary to make that easier for him – visual schedules, checklists, etc.
I highly encourage you to take the time to attend trainings or conferences from time to time. Once a year really would be very beneficial to our children. When their major support systems are refreshed, reminded how their children process their world, and taught or sometimes re-taught the strategies and tools that can help them to be successful – our children are that much more able to flourish!
(Image courtesy of Soilbedust/FreeDigitalPhotos.com)