Spontaneity and autism are not usually things that go hand in hand. In fact, kids with autism usually have a very difficult time with being spontaneous, though it is something that is enjoyable for the rest of us. The reason is that it is hard for them to not know what is happening and extremely anxiety-provoking. This is why they insist on routine, rules, and strict regimens and parents and teachers enforce this most of the time. But does this mean that a child with autism will never learn spontaneity or can’t be more flexible? Of course not. It just means teaching it to them slowly, as they become receptive to new things. Here are 5 ways to help your child with autism be more spontaneous:
1. Model spontaneity yourself in your daily life: Ok, this is a tough one for parents who are more rule bound and like a routine themselves, like me. J Still, it’s not impossible. Make small changes to the familiar routine every day. For example, take a different direction by car or foot going to their favorite park or store. You could also change their place setting at the table. Mom or Dad could also try wearing a funny hat, a bright top if they are always in dark colors. These things introduce change slowly, and will help your child’s flexibility on thinking things have to be a certain way.
2. Get up in the morning and choose a new place to drive to: Do a family drive by a lake or river. If the child is doing well in the new surroundings next time introduce a lunch or early supper.
3. Encourage turn taking with tasks in order to introduce flexibility in thinking: This is something I am doing currently with my son. We take turns opening and closing the house, car and other doors, turning on the radio. These are things he insisted on doing all the time when we went out, and it used to make for a lot of fights and difficulties. Now he will ask me whose turn it is. Sometimes, I’ll “forget” and do it, and he is ok with that. He’ll say thoughtfully, “Ok Mom. I guess it was your turn.”
4. When things don’t go as planned, react calmly and happily if possible: It is important to be able to show your child that sometimes a change is good for us, especially if we didn’t see it coming. The other day our day went completely differently from our plans, but we went with the flow, and had an even better time. Use humor, stay calm and collected, and with time your child will mirror those emotions too.
5. Have a safe place for them to retreat when they get home: Another sure fire way to help out with anxiety due to changes, is to make sure that whatever effort your child made to be more spontaneous gets rewarded by hugs, praise, and reminding them of their calm corners or safe places to chill out in. This has helped my son and many of his friends regroup better, especially as they get older and there are more demands placed on them by school and society.
No matter what you do, just remember like with everything else, your child needs time to learn a new skill like spontaneity, and with your patience, love and understanding, they will go far and develop great coping skills at their own pace.
Joanne Giacomini is a writer, speaker and parent coach, at “Exceptional Parenting/Exceptional Balance,” www.exceptionalparenting.net. She also blogs about how her son with autism is raising her at “Exceptional Mom/Exceptional Child,” www.exceptionalmomchild. com. She writes regularly about parenting and autism at “Huff Post Parents Canada”, “M List by the Suburban,” and “Parenting 101” by the Suburban. She has also been featured on “BlogHer Family-Special Needs,” “Yummy Mummy Club Canada,” “Scary Mommy”, “Her View From Home”, “Romper”, “KidsOutAndAbout,” and many other publications. She writes about parenting and lifestyle issues at “The Things” and “Baby Gaga.”