"Why doesn't my child listen to me?... Why do I have to tell him to do something five times before he does it?...Can't he understand that I'm upset and I want to be left alone?... Why does he keep pinching me, even when I shout at him and ask him to stop?... He's learned to say many words, but why doesn't he use them?... I know he's intelligent, but why does he not use his intelligence for studies?
As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, do you find yourself asking these questions?
You know that something is missing. But you can't quite put your finger on it. You know your child's potential, for you have seen the intelligence. And sometimes you've seen sparks of brilliance too...
Make a firm resolve to bring about a positive change in your child's life by creating an environment where s/he can flourish.
The reason may not be evident upfront, but mainly revolves around intrinsic motivation. When your child is engaged and happy to participate in activities with you, learning becomes faster and easier. This ability to adapt, to constantly monitor one's surrounding and oneself, is called dynamic intelligence. Here are some activities which you can deploy to take the first steps towards building intrinsic motivation in your child.
1. Build a tower of blocks by taking turns
Take your turn, wait and see what your child does. Add pauses and keep it nice and slow. It's not about imitation, about the fun associated with it. It's about what your child comes up with. Use the 45-second rule--do not prompt your child for up to 45 seconds. Let him/her process a step and respond. If the tower crashes, laugh about it together.
2. Make a collage
Gather different materials--craft paper, fancy paper, sequins and stones--and make a collage. Have clear roles for both of you. For example, hold the paper while your child cuts it. You can apply the glue while your child does the sticking. Do focus on process--there is no right or wrong here. This will empower your child to go with the flow.
3. Jump on beanbags
Hold hands, count to three and start running towards the beanbags together. Stay connected. If you stop in the middle, what happens? Does your child realize and stop too? Wait for him to come back to you. Use head nods and head shakes. The key is to build in the anticipation. For older children, you can substitute this with any kind of race that you could start together.
Do focus on process--there is no right or wrong here. This will empower your child to go with the flow.
4. Look at pictures and read together
Sit alongside each other and look at interesting pictures or a book that your child enjoys. Use minimal language, focus on facial expressions. Does your child shift attention to look at you or to check on you? For children who like to listen to stories, you could read a story from a book. Pause at an important point, and see if the child shifts attention from the book to you. Slow down and enjoy the togetherness.
5. The fragrance-bowl game
Have a little bowl that is covered with foil paper. Add a variety of spices/fragrances into the bowl without your child's knowledge. Things like cotton balls dipped in vanilla essence, peppermint oil, perfume work well.
You can use garlic and other strong smelling spices too (if your child is not allergic to them). Pass the bowl around, and let every family member smell it. Remember they can't open it to see what's inside. Their facial expressions have to show whether they like the smell or not. This works out beautifully as a family game!
Make a firm resolve to bring about a positive change in your child's life by creating an environment where s/he can flourish. Spend just 10 minutes each day working on the activities mentioned above. Within two weeks, you can expect to see the following developments:
- A deeper emotional bond and understanding between you and your child.
- You will not have to repeat instructions as much.
- Your child will soak in your perspective and listen to what you say.
From where I stand, I can see a bright light shining for you and your family. It's time to take the first step. You are the captain of your ship. I wish you all the best on your journey. And remember, you are not alone.
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