Constant Monitoring

“It seems like we are never able to relax,” commented the parents of a fourteen-year-old with autism. “We need to constantly keep watch our son to prevent him from hurting himself or from breaking or tearing up items around the house. He pulls clothes from closets, items from drawers, food from cabinets, and books from shelves. We feel like all we ever say to him is, ‘Don’t touch’ or ‘Leave that alone.’ We need some ideas.”

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It is certainly challenging to monitor what a person is doing 24/7. Many families, school personnel, and residential staff face similar situations and are searching for solutions. Every individual and every living situation is different, but any effective strategy will require a three-prong approach that (1) removes temptation and opportunity, (2) provides a safe place that doesn’t need monitoring, and (3) systematically teaches an alternative for destructive or harmful behavior. Today’s podcast will focus on the first step in the process, removing temptation. Tomorrow’s podcast, “Safe Haven,” will discuss the second prong of this strategy, and our “Hands Off” podcast will focus on training more appropriate behavior.

Inaccessibility is the key to success until your son learns to leave items alone. For the time being, it would probably be best to put all fragile or potentially dangerous items in a place where they are out of reach of your son. This strategy might involve putting a lockable door on the kitchen and on bedrooms of other family members. You might also need to 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 you have two bathrooms, you can store all cleaning supplies, medications, mirrors, hair dryers, and other potentially dangerous items in one lockable bathroom and only allow your son access to the second, virtually empty bathroom. Your 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 your house and yard that can be accessed by your son. Not every person needs such extreme measures, so you can customize this “removing temptation” strategy to your son’s situation.

Check out our podcasts for the next two days, “Safe Haven” and “Hands Off,” for more strategies and tips for decreasing your need to constantly monitor your son to prevent him from touching items that are fragile, irreplaceable, or potentially harmful.

Note to listeners and readers: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. You can click on a button to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solutions. Check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

Published on: Oct 30, 2007

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