“I don’t want to go to school!”
And he meant it.
Many kids will be apprehensive about trying something new or doing an undesirable activity, but it seems that for children with autism – where the world is very black and white – it is near impossible to get them to change their minds.
So just how do you get your child to do something he doesn’t want to do?
When something like this happens, you have two choices:
1. Convince him to want to do it
2. Force him to do it
Max Lucado once said “nothing is won by force” and it has stuck with me ever since reading it. When applied to autism and paired with the Son-Rise Program principles and Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, it only makes sense to me that option 2 is not really an option at all.
Have you really achieved anything by forcing? Go ahead, think about that for a moment. I promise you, you might have immediate gains but it will be an uphill climb to continue this way and will create a wedge in your relationship with your child.
That leaves us with the best option – option 1…CONVINCE.
Repeat after me…
Let’s follow the example of school. We all know months in advance when school is going to start. There is no reason this should be sprung on the child as a surprise. Weave it in to daily conversation. You’re wanting to desensitize him to the stigma of that which he does not want.
This applies to YOUR attitude. You are the model. If you are exasperated every time this topic comes up, why on earth would your child see this thing (he already doesn’t want to do) as something positive.
This is a perfect time to go up to school, walk around while it’s empty, and have your own private “meet the teacher” before the actual “meet the teacher.”
“I’ll give you a piece of candy to walk in the building” is ineffective…and let’s be honest, pretty reminiscent of dog training.
Our kids are quick to catch on and very soon the ante will be upped and you’ll find yourself needing a whole bag of candy by the end of week one. Not only is this daunting for you as a parent, but it doesn’t solve the problem – the child still doesn’t want to go – he just wants the candy. Wouldn’t it be simpler if he actually wanted to go?
I know, easier said than done, but let’s get creative. What would make him want to go? Ask why he doesn’t want to go and strive to provide the opposite. Is there a child in the class he likes? You could ask the teacher to seat them next to each other. Point out decorations he may like in the hallway or library day. Find one thing, just one thing, that will get him in the building and use that as the bridge. Build on this from that point on.
This may take a long time. There may be ups and down as you go. Comfort your child by validating his feelings and let him know you understand him without wavering on what must be done. “Hunny, you must go to school; you do not have a choice. But let’s talk about the choices you do have.” Maybe dad could drop him off instead of mom. Maybe he could pick the music you listen to on the car ride there. Look for any little choice that would help him feel comfort and control over a situation he does not have complete control over.
As for our story, guess what? He looked at me after we went to meet his teacher and said “ok mom. I changed my mind. I want to come.”
How’s that for a storybook ending?
It doesn’t always happen this way, but man is it nice when it does ;).
photo credit: Pixabay