Leave That Alone

It is certainly challenging – if not impossible – to monitor what a person is doing 24/7. Parents, teachers, and others report the need to keep a constant watch on some individuals with autism in order to prevent injury and to protect breakable or potentially dangerous items around the house or school.

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For example, one family reported their inability to relax because, when left unmonitored, their 14-year-old with autism pull clothes from closets, items from drawers, food from cabinets, and books from shelves. His mother said, “We feel like all we ever say to him is, ‘Don’t touch’ or ‘Leave that alone.’ We need some ideas.”

Inaccessibility is the key to success until the teen learns to leave items alone. In many cases, it is simply not enough to just tell a person to leave something alone or to say, “Don’t touch.” For the time being, the family needs to put all fragile or potentially dangerous items in a place where they are out of reach.

This strategy might involve putting a lockable door on the kitchen and on bedrooms of other family members. Store computers, printers, television and VCR, remotes, and other electronic equipment in lockable cabinets or in separate rooms that can be locked. Breakable knick-knacks, pictures, or other valuables can be displayed in glass-front cabinets or displayed in a separate lockable room.

If the family has two bathrooms, all cleaning supplies, medications, mirrors, hair dryers, and other potentially dangerous items can be stored in one lockable bathroom. The son with autism must only be allowed access to the second, virtually empty bathroom.

The garage also needs attention. Store dog food, tools, plant food, and potentially dangerous items in locked storage areas. These same guidelines for removing the opportunity to touch or move items apply to every single corner of the house and yard that can be accessed by the teen.

TIP FOR THE DAY: Not every person needs such extreme measures, but the only guaranteed way to prevent injury and damage is to make potentially harmful items completely inaccessible. Only then can everyone in the house, classroom, or workplace relax and say something to their friend with autism other than “Leave that alone!”

Once we take the first critical step to ensure safety by removing temptation, we can systematically teach alternatives for destructive or harmful behavior. How can we develop effective strategies for teaching new skills and decreasing challenging issues? Just click on the Toolkit tab on our website for a wealth of practical, easy-to-utilize resources: http://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 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

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