The most important tip in helping a child on the autism spectrum is be consistent. Schedules are such a vital element to helping them make sense of world that often doesn’t. Having said that, I’m going to offer this up, too. Don’t be afraid to be silly with them.
Now I know this sounds like conflicting advice. How can I be focused on consistency, but act silly at the same time? Well let me throw this out there. When you were growing up, didn’t the teachers that you had a good time in class with–connect with you the most? Thought so. Or look at it this way. When you’re on a date, isn’t the person who isn’t afraid to be a little silly, the person who teased you just the right amount, ended up making for the most memorable night? Easy now, take it out of the gutter, I meant this in a verbal way.
Parents and Educators are always trying to help build decision-making skills in kids on the spectrum. As much as a schedule is vital in helping autistic kids learn, life rarely works on a schedule outside the classroom, as much as you might try to make it work just right. I have had a lot of people who have seen me with Maddie say that I am the perfect Dad for her. As much as this isn’t always the case, it is the best compliment someone can give me. Anyone who has spent a lot of time around Maddie will mention that she has a great sense of humor. Nature or nurture? I think both and it serves her well.
In the video I offer up today, let me clue you into a few things to be on the look-out for. In first clip notice how just the singing of happy birthday can be a little bit too loud for her. (She’s not covering her ears because the singing is that bad.) In the next clip I have all my kids blow out the candles. This is something Maddie really struggles with, as she’s still not mastered blowing out well. This is why I have all 3 kids blow, so she doesn’t get publicly exposed for not being able to do it by herself, which has happened to her at past birthdays. Lessons learned.
Now to the main feature. Watch how Maddie initially responds when I do something a bit off-the-wall (throwing my actual gift on the floor and telling my kids I’m so happy they gave me a box for my birthday). It takes her a few seconds to process, but she then figures out it’s just “Daddy being silly.” So often, people on the spectrum have a very difficult time being in on the joke. I have always connected with special needs kids, way before Maddie was born, because I wasn’t afraid to gently mess with them and create an atmosphere where they weren’t going to be excluded from having fun. Look, I’m a trained professional, but if you can do it with a smile and have some positive energy in your attitude, I think you will be surprised how much it connects.
BY THE WAY: MY BE SILLY ADVICE WORKS FOR PARENTING ALL TYPES OF KIDS. Not saying to be silly all the time, but don’t be afraid to act the fool at the right moments. The real fools are the one’s who are afraid to embrace that side of them. You miss out on a lot of life that way.