Learning self-help skills (When?)

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-2006
Learning self-help skills (When?)
18
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?

Evelyn

Pages

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-28-2008
Mon, 05-24-2010 - 3:19pm

We have a little less of an issue with Graham but it happens with other things. And I totally get the slobbiness thing. I've got 4 of them around the house since DH is challenged in this area as well. Most of the time, I don't bother cleaning up too much and just live with the disorder until I feel like tackling it which happens about once a week at least. I pick at the edges of it otherwise.

I'm wondering how much of this might be teenager type stuff too - wanting to maintain a little connection with you even while he acts like he wants nothing to do with you. Just a thought since we are having regression here at our house as Graham approaches entering middle school - mouthing everything and extreme flakiness.

As much as you will hate to hear this, perhaps this isn't the time to push the issue. You may have to wait until you see more signs of wanting independence before you request more independence. I had to wait until almost 5 with my youngest to potty train because of resistance to the process. Again, this is just a thought.

But I do empathize with your situation. Care taking at this level is exhausting and you look forward to your offspring taking more initiative and such as they grow up. Unfortunately, spectrum kids take more time to grow up and may never reach total independence depending on the severity of it.

You can whine here as much as you like, we live it too with varying degrees of tolerance depending on the day. It's frustrating and in some ways despairing as you wonder what the future is.

Andrea, mom to

Graham
Miles
Anson

Andrea, mom to

Graham
Miles
Anson
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-09-2009
Mon, 05-24-2010 - 5:04pm

What would he do if you simply refused to get it for him? Would he just go without food or would he choose a snack that is easier for him to make. I've had to be kind of harsh with my 13 yo (ADHD, fine motor issues, lots of Aspie-like behaviours) and basically say to him, "If you want it badly enough then figure it out". And he did...generally leaving an ungodly mess (crumbs, peanut butter smeared on the counter, and a knife left very thickly smeared with peanut butter), but he did it and every time he gets his own snack, he gets better at it. I knew that my DS would not starve if left to do it on his own, even if he opted for plain crackers in the end. You need to gauge your DS' likelihood of just going without (to the point of malnourishment) and then take it from there. I figure that I provide three square meals a day, and if my DS wants to skip snacks because he doesn't want to even attempt to put them together, then he's still not going to starve.

As for chores, if I wanted my DS to, say, vacuum crumbs he's left behind after eating a snack, then any screen time would be postponed until it's accomplished. Period. And if my DS were to, say, destroy his room out of rage at my rules, then he'd have to fix that too before having his beloved screen time.

Maybe these techniques would only work for my kid, and not yours, but it's something to think about and maybe try.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-25-2007
Mon, 05-24-2010 - 5:05pm
When my late husband was alive he would literally do everything for both kids. Elaborate breakfasts, even though he didn't have much time in the morning. If they wanted a drink he would bring it for them. Clean up their messes. Everything. If they wanted seconds of a particularly yummy meal and there was nothing left he would give them his. I frequently argued with him that he wasn't helping them, he was hurting them. Kids don't learn selflessness by being put on a pedestal, they learn it by watching everyone being treated fairly. Since he died, I simply do not have the time to do everything and I expect both kids to do their share. My aspie has chores and if he doesn't do them, he loses video game time. I even taught him to set up the coffee maker for the next morning so that while my daughter and I clean the dishes and kitchen after dinner, he too can help in his own way. It's not a big job but it helps. It's also important because he doesn't drink coffee : ) which means he is doing something that doesn't benefit him directly (unless you count mom not being
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-25-2005
Tue, 05-25-2010 - 8:51am

We have the same problem with internal motivation. If it's not fun or doesn't somehow benefit them in a way they care about, then there's no reason to do it. Often there's absolutely no positive or negative consequence that will motivate my kids to do something differently.

You made the comment "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."

Actually, I think that IS the point. My kids will often perform better for a total stranger than for me. The therapist has gotten dd to do stuff she wouldn't do for me, even tho' the therapist explained it exactly the same way and helped come up with the exact same rewards I'd offered. Dd just performed better for her.

I get the impression, though, that your "total stranger" isn't trying to be helpful enough. We don't need the strangers to help us think of goals -- we have plenty we already know need work. We need the strangers to help our children become better motivated and to understand why it's important to do daily living tasks even if they're not fun.

Besides the problem with lack of internal motivation, the other problem my family has is the inability to see filth. They can be sitting in it, wallowing in it, and not notice it. It just doesn't bother them. If they don't see it, and it doesn't bother them, why should they change it?!

My family still has a looooong way to go for improvement (people who haven't seen my house keep telling me I need to relax and lower my standards; they don't understand that there is no standard lower than "pig sty"), but my kids have made nominal improvements over time. My 11yo still doesn't care about messes, but my 15yo is becoming more socially conscious about some of her messes. I'm hopeful they'll continue to get better, even if I don't see the small improvements until hindsight.

As far as snack prep goes, I liked the idea of listing the process step-by-step. Once the steps are listed, you can work on having ds accomplish just one tiny task per day (today he gets the crackers out of the cupboard then you make the snack, tomorrow he gets out the crackers and the plate, then you make the snack, etc).

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-01-2006
Tue, 05-25-2010 - 10:40am

Hello Evelyn,


this is so familiar. in fact, Im gonna print it out and show it to my husband, cause when my 9 yo son does this. DH makes it seem like he is the only kid doing it. And Ive tried to explain that its more of a Aspie thing.

Photobucket 

&n

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-24-2004
Tue, 05-25-2010 - 1:03pm

Evelyn,


Nathan is 11, and I'm going through the same thing with him.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-2006
Tue, 05-25-2010 - 1:30pm

Wow, I don't know what I'd do without you guys! It's great to have people who get it.

Yesterday evening, and again this morning, I made a bit of a fuss about David making his own peanut butter and crackers. Well, maybe "fuss" isn't the right word. I attempted a lot of positive encouragement. The issue, for that particular thing, is that he is sure he can't spread the peanut butter properly. So I got everything ready and invited him to do the spreading. I had no success, though. He immediately went into panic mode. He tried it a few years ago (and also trying to frost a cake) and had a lot of frustration. He's afraid to try it again. The more I "insist", the more anxious he gets, until he's got stomach aches and is in no condition to try anything.

The guilt is a big part of it. Either he's going to grow up and say, "I wish my mom had MADE me learn these skills that I still don't have" or "I wish my mom hadn't given me ulcers by constantly nagging me to do things that I can't do."

In all fairness to him, once in a while he does something for himself. Like today, he got a glass of juice for himself. He ended up not drinking it, because he can only drink if he's got food, and no food tastes good with juice. But that's beside the point. :)

Evelyn

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-01-2006
Tue, 05-25-2010 - 1:55pm

I agree, I think its a great comfort to come and be able to relate to other parents.


Photobucket 

&n

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-25-2003
Tue, 05-25-2010 - 2:29pm

Hmmm so he doesn't want to do it unless he can do it perfectly?

Can you demonstrate to him that it is OK to fail? That you can break a cracker sometimes and -not only will the world NOT end, but the bits that didn't go on the floor are still perfectly edible and peanut butter on clean hands is easily licked/washed off.

Maybe aiming to fail is the first step, if you know what I mean.

-Paula

visit my blog at www.onesickmother.com

-Paula

visit my blog at www.onesickmother.com
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-25-2005
Tue, 05-25-2010 - 3:19pm

For what it's worth, my AS dh has NEVER said "I wish my mom had taught me these skills when I was younger." I think he's aware that he never enjoyed doing chores and recognizes his role in failing to develop the skills (and that his AS affected his interest/abilities, too).

The only thing dh has really expressed regret over is not listening to his mom & aunt about what kind of job to get (he was sure he was going to be rich and famous without any effort, so didn't want to pursue education or employment for "real" jobs; he now regrets being so stubborn and having to play catch up after goofing off for the first several years of adulthood).

Although our Aspies may not develop all the skills we want them to, they're at least clever enough to see where we tried to help them.

Pages