We are continuing the conversation about deal breakers in autism by looking at that fine line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.
We know we simply do not have time to address every single issue that arises each day in the lives of our friends with autism. At what point to we let some things go? When do we accept that some issues are simply part of autism?
In part 1 of this discussion, we were talking about a common issue in autism, that of rocking back and forth, sometimes constantly. It can certainly be irritating or distracting if someone is constantly rocking, but is it a deal breaker? Remember our guidelines for defining a deal breaker:
1. Is any physical or emotional harm done to the individual with autism or others around them? To what degree?
2. What are the circumstances surrounding the issue? Can we control any of those circumstances?
3. What choices do we have for addressing the deal breaker?
Except in rare situations, rocking does not cause physical or emotional harm. Forcing a person to stop rocking would be as tough as forcing me to stop whistling when I’m mopping the floor or to stop twirling my hair when I read. Except for constantly nagging a person or putting them in a harness, we have few choices for addressing rocking behavior. Since constant nagging or even gentle reminders are just as disruptive and irritating as rocking, it might be best to just have a person sit near the back of a group in a classroom, theater, concert, or other public gathering rather than trying to force him to stop.
If, indeed, rocking is extraordinarily distracting or really stands in the way of a person paying attention, we can sometimes decrease the size and intensity of the rocking. Again, we all know that nagging is not effective, so we might have an index card that says something like “calm” or “good sitter” or “soft rock” as reminders. Some of my friends with autism who rocked vigorously responded well to a soft tap on the shoulder or to my pressing down firmly on top of their shoulder as a gentle reminder.
If we are very serious about gradually decreasing rocking, we can, of course, introduce a full-blown behavior management plan with a stop watch and chart and rewards. The trick is to decide whether all that effort is worthwhile. We need to look at all the pros and cons and decide if a person’s rocking is really a deal breaker.
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 a confidential email at talk@FAQautism.com with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. 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