"Leaving the house"
"Leaving the house." Three little words that can strike fear into even the toughest parents of children with ASD. Anticipating outbursts, meltdowns, tantrums, public ridicule. Followed by the predictable tears (the parent's) and recovery time afterward. "Leaving the house" is what separates the parents from the "experts". This is where the real battle lies. Everyday life.
Oh, how I envy parents whose children coo and cuddle, learn and explore with curiosity and excitement when they leave the house. I've heard it said that nobody's life is easy and everyone will face trials and tribulations in life. But when I'm in line at the grocery store, and my son is screaming, "bloody murder" as one bystander described it; as I ignore his behavior (the only strategy I can remember at this stressful point), and as I ignore the stares, disapproving scowls and comments, I am certain that there is no way anyone knows the tribulation I am facing right now. Frustrated, angry, helpless, inadequate and desperate, I can't wait to get my guys strapped into their car seats, so that I can climb into the driver's seat, put my head down on the steering wheel and breathe. Maybe even cry a little. Some days I'm stronger than others.
So if you've experienced the "Leaving the house" terror, trust me, I have too. And guess what? With the right planning and supports, it can change. First, let's remember that ASD does not affect I.Q., just our ability to test I.Q. So, let's assume that your child can learn. Then, let's remember that anything can be taught, if you make it a priority, focus on it and be consistent - it can be taught. When I say consistent, I mean doggedly so. Now it's time to roll up those sleeves, and get down to business. To be successful at anything, you need a plan. Here we go...
Step 1. Make a short list of priorities. Short meaning, three items max. (Don't try to address every behavior at the same time.)
Step 2. Make a plan and ask for help. Is there someone who can help? Therapist, family member, friend. Identify your support team.
Step 3. Don't even think about setting a deadline. It could take a day, a month, 6 months, a year. Just do it "until."
Step 4. Hit it from all sides. Use every strategy you know: visuals, music, motivation, consequences, and a social story to name a few.
Step 5. Build on success. Once you've hit the first goal, increase the quantity and/or complexity.
Step 6. When you see the progress, get a hug, and shed a few tears if you need to. Then watch a comedy. It helps.
Let's start with a goal list. These are three community outing things that I wanted to work on with my boys.
Grocery Store: I would like my child to tolerate trips to the grocery store.
Specialty Store: I would like my child to cooperate at the Specialty Store
Sit through a movie at a theater: I would like my child to cooperate, and hopefully enjoy
going to the movies.
Click on one of the boxes below to view the plan.