Routines and Visuals: Part 2
First and Then Card Visual
As I have spoken about previously here, we also used a First and Then card. This was a visual to help our children cope with a task they found particularly hard or we would use to try and get the next task done quickly/avoid meltdown. Once they completed the First, they could have the Then (the motivator). The Then side could change as many times as necessary but the First card could not, until it was achieved. This is how we used visuals and routines to help them combat difficult tasks.
As they got older, there are still tasks they don't want to do but the first and then card was not appropriate as it was not a one off situation, so we would use Reward Charts. Although its harder, I was not going to let them not do chores/look after themselves, for an easier life. I wanted them to learn how to do things for themselves as I want them to be able to cope in the real world when they are older.
We used a reward chart for our children to complete their routines and their chores. This was especially useful as they got older and more was expected from them. They learned the routines and were given a point for completing it. As they got older, they knew they would get breakfast before leaving the house so this became less of an incentive and whilst they do not care to be clean for themselves, they were keen to get a point towards something they wanted. The points were totalled up at the end of the week and were used then or saved up for bigger rewards. We never took away from the reward points because these were earned from completing routines.
Reward charts can be tailored to your child. For our children, 10 points would equal sweets from the shop, 15 points equals 30 minutes extra on the computer, 45 points equals Pokemon cards/magazine and 60 points would mean a treat outing with mum or dad. We wanted them to earn the points because we wanted them to do the routines.
When they were growing up, they loved gaming so I implemented a 30 minute gaming time and an option to earn more time or use reward points. Now they are even older, I want them to learn to self manage their time and they know they have to do chores first before I sign them onto the computer.
The majority of parenting is spent training. Training my children how to behave in different situations and learning to make the right choices. There would be times when discipline was needed because behaviours that are unacceptable in society eg lashing out and hitting another person, are still unacceptable when you have autism and they need to learn this. The law is the law. This is when discipline should be used, training should be used at other times. Discipline would be time taken away from their computer time. If I took away all their time, then their behaviour would seriously decline (as they would see no point in anything) so it was taken away in 5 minutes, as they could just about manage this. I could not use the naughty step method, as my child was too anxious when separated from myself. Even if in the same room, he became too distressed and could not process what he had done wrong due to these anxieties. This is also why I could not send him to his room - he had previously tried to climb out of top floor windows and had no fear, so it was unsafe to leave him anywhere on his own, when he was younger.
Implementing routines and reward systems was hard work but far less than dealing with the meltdowns. My eldest's meltdowns have always been violent and in particular aimed at myself. I knew as he grew, it would become very hard to manage so I needed a way to help him before this happened. Once he was at meltdown stage, there was no way I or anyone else could communicate with him until he had calmed down. This is because once he hits meltdown stage, he completely shuts down all communication. He is unable to process any information given nor is he able to communicate back. As my son has grown, his cognitive abilities and understanding has improved, he has learned techniques to deal with his feelings and has found new ways of coping, meaning he has far less meltdowns. When he was younger everything was so raw
Before I was able to implement the routines and adapt my approach to living/parenting, I had to understand my children's autism well. If you want to learn more about what is autism - please read here. I had to have empathy for how they were feeling, to learn it was not personal but it was just how their brain worked. I had to learn to see things from their world, as they are unable to see it from mine. Once I understood their difficulties, it was easier for me to implement the changes and our new way of living. Persevering through this transition, whilst not easy, we did reap the benefits and our household became calmer.
I would recommend attending the Earlybird Plus course run the National Autism Society. They gave me great support whilst learning all about my sons diagnosis. It gave me hope that I would not be living under a dictatorship and hope for our future. They gave me confidence to parent in a way that was kind and effective to my children.
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