Our son was diagnosed with autism last year. At the time he was relatively calm and somewhat inactive. Now he is beginning to be more aggressive. Among other things, he has started escaping from the house and from his seatbelt, and he rips books and magazines to shreds. We know we need to address these issues now, but don’t really know where to start.
So many families struggle with the overwhelming task of managing difficult behaviors. One parent said she sometimes feels as if she is in a downward spiral. She said, “Every time we begin to see progress in one area, another serious issue pops up.”
Among other pro-active steps, frustrated family members can take some immediate actions to change the changeable. So, for example, if your youngster screams whenever he hears your cell phone ring, change the ring tone or set is on vibrate mode. If the labels on his clothes are extremely irritating, causing him to strip in public, then cut the labels out. If your youngster always tears books and magazines, the keep them out of his reach and give him cloth books or laminate the pages of magazines for him. If he sneaks into the kitchen and eats an entire gallon of ice cream or two boxes of cookies, don’t keep ice cream or cookies in the house.
It is sometimes necessary to take rather drastic measures when dangerous behaviors emerge. For example, if your youngster with autism escapes out open doors in your home, install hook locks up high and make a plan with family members to have constant monitoring. If he always puts small items in his mouth, then remove all small items from his living environment. If your youngster with autism plops down in the middle of the street and refuses to budge, don’t walk across a street with them. Drive instead. Extremely dangerous situations sometimes call for radical action.
If a youngster diagnosed with autism calms down when he plays with cards or holds a tattered book, then, by all means, let him carry those things around. One youngster was a bit obsessed with small toy cars. His dad let him pick out one Matchbook car from his collection every day to hold in his hand or keep in his pocket. Picking a different car every day allowed for a sense of security without the danger of a major explosion if just one car was accidentally misplaced.
Changing the changeable will not solve all problems, but even small steps forward can make a real difference in the daily life at home or in a classroom. We hope you will send ideas about small “change the changeable” steps or about frustrating situations you have encountered. Just click on the comments button or send an e-mail to talk@FAQautism.com.
NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. Send email to talk@FAQautism.com And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com