Learning self-help skills (When?)

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-2006
Learning self-help skills (When?)
Mon, 05-24-2010 - 2:50pm

David (12, AS) gets hungry often, and his latest preferred snack is Ritz crackers with peanut butter and a chocolate milk.

Off and on, throughout his life, I've tried to help him learn how to make the chocolate milk and how to spread the peanut butter. The problem is that he gets frustrated, with a severe "I can't" attitude immediately. If I insist that he at least give it a try, he'll slam a cracker onto the counter, jab the knife into the peanut butter, slam it onto the cracker, and stomp out of the kitchen, saying, "See, I can't do it." At that point, he's unreachable. I always tell myself that we'll work on it some time when he's more receptive to learning. He never is.

Last year we managed to get him qualified for Regional Center. He's got a case worker who, I thought, was supposed to work with us on this kind of stuff. But in reality, all she has done is come to the house and help us set goals. So now he's got this official goal to be more independent and make his own snacks, but that's it. Making the goal happen is up to me. Well, I guess that's what being a parent is all about, but it's hardly any help. I was under the impression that someone would come to our house and help teach him these things. I'm not sure what I was thinking, though, because surely a total stranger isn't going to have more success at it that his own mother.

Anyway, the older he gets, the more I feel like a failure. It's like it takes a whole days' energy to get him to do the most basic cleaning up after himself. I feel resentful when I'm standing in the kitchen making him a snack for the third time that day, and it's only 10am, while he sits on the couch with a comic book, grumbling because no one has wiped the crumbs off from last time.

I understand that these should be teaching moments. Like, here's how we sweep or vacuum the crumbs off the couch (always his crumbs). But he absolutely refuses to touch the little vacuum cleaner or the dustpan and brush. If I "make him" do it, he goes into one of those autistic/can't-handle-anything modes, which always ends up with him in tears, and a big mess that I have to clean up. DH and I both find ourselves being short and sarcastic with him, and speaking to him as if we expect him to get his own snacks like every other 12 year old. I realize that's not helpful, and we first need to teach him the skills, but we can't even do that.

I hate to call him lazy. I really do understand that some things might be harder for him than for some other people, but I just wish he had some drive to learn skills. He insists he doesn't care if he is never able to spread peanut butter on his own cracker or put something on a hanger. Ugh, don't get me started on the hanger thing. Hardly any of his clothes need to be hung up, but he won't even spend five blooming seconds trying to calmly, carefully, work out how something goes onto a hanger. He wads his jacket into a bunch, stuffs it into the opening of the hanger, then smashes it into the closet, knocking other stuff down. Just like with the snack preparation and a hundred other things, I don't want everything to be a fight, so I tend to just do it myself.

Once in a while, I tell myself that I need to put up with the fight so he can learn stuff and experience a few successes. It almost always backfires, though. He has no concept of pride in a job well done. Well, he does for things like his creative projects, but not for things like tidying up or preparing a snack.

I'm not sure what to do, to be honest. It'll be my fault if he becomes an adult who can't wash his own cup (or whatever) but how do you teach your kids to do something that they absolutely refuse to even try?

Sorry this is so long. :) In fact, to make it even longer, this is part of the reason I've lost touch with all of my IRL friends. I can't even talk about the fact that we have these issues, because it's like "oh, well, that's why we insisted that little Johnny clear his own plate when he was three." I don't feel like anyone understands. I know you ladies will, but we can't exactly invite you over for a cup of coffee, can we?



iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2003
Tue, 05-25-2010 - 3:42pm
It's the spreading PB that's the main issue? Can he/would he practice on easier substances than crackers? Say, onto the countertop, even, and then move up to a frozen slice of bread (best way to spread PB thin), and then normal bread & then crackers? Just suggesting since it sounds like if HE thinks he can do it, he can, but otherwise...
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-13-2008
Tue, 05-25-2010 - 3:55pm
we are currently battling the same problem, but my child is only 5 ! Although im already close to giving up hope that she'll ever do anything for herself! If we ask her to do anything ie pick up a toy, she says "that will make me tired"..!!

siggie1-1.jpg picture by mommaboo06


iVillage Member
Registered: 02-24-2004
Tue, 05-25-2010 - 7:02pm

EVERYTHING makes Nathan tired, unless it's something HE wants to do...lol!!!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Tue, 05-25-2010 - 10:44pm

DH and I were just discussing this over the weekend.


iVillage Member
Registered: 01-07-2008
Wed, 05-26-2010 - 5:41am

You've had lots of replies so I am hoping that you will definately see that YOU ARE NOT ALONE :-) I'll chuck our experiences into the hat, because Euan (11, Aspie) is a complete Master of the Universe at the "I can't do it" frustration thing but there are some things I have found that work a bit.

One is that, away from the task, I've had long conversations - like teenage social stories - about the need to perservere at some tasks, and the need to help with chores. Why being independent is a good thing. Why everyone has to pitch in, and not just for the immediate benefit of the person concerned. And Euan is bright so he 'gets' this, particularly if we have long and interesting conversations related in some way to astro-physics that make the point (eg collective endeavour makes bigger, more exciting scientific discoveries than sole endeavour, small parts add up to the whole, being able to make your own snacks quickly frees you up for more interesting tasks, you don't want to starve whilst you are at university discovering why anti-matter exists, it's physically unpleasant when you are hungry and can't concentrate on stuff...)

THEN when we get to the breaking crackers screaming heebies at the cheese (Euan's particular thing is trying to get slices of cheese onto crackers without slicing off his thumb..I'm just not even going to introduce him to the world of peanut butter, my life is too short LOL) I can remind him of the conversations, and the things he AGREED with at the time, and then it seems like *his* idea and he *might*, just might, see the point and calm down.

The other thing is that I use small rewards. Computer time when you've had your snack....and just sort of under-the-wire thing is that he makes his own snack...and also gradually building on to the routine, so that 'making your snack' automatically includings putting stuff away afterwards. he's getting better at this. But slowly. We have gotten to the point where asking him to clear his plate away does not ALWAYS result in full on screaming fits.

I would seriously go back to your regional centre person and explain to the doofus that you don't need help setting goals, you need help with the physical and pyschological aspects of ACHIEVING those goals. Honestly, does this person have any kind of qualification that she had to study for?? I'd fail her for Basic Uselessness.

Oh, and the poster who thought there was no level below 'pig sty'? There is, - it's called Barely Above The Dysentery level, and it's my house :-) But please come over anyway because we can always find a coffee cup to disinfect :-)


Kirsty, mum to Euan (11, Aspergers) Rohan (7, NT) and Maeve (4, NT)

, mu

"My definition of housework is to sweep the room with a glance"

Follow my blog on http://mumsnet.com/blogs/kirsteinr/


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Wed, 05-26-2010 - 7:39am

"Barely above Dysentery"