Autism and Chores

25 Mar

Lets face it, household chores are really not much fun. We all need a little encouragement every now and then to get going.

My son, who’s now 11 and has a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome quivers at the word housework or chores, but then so does my 9-year-old daughter. Little man just needs a hard dose of motivation that’s all!

This isn’t only down to the fact he despises any housework related activity, though this does account for the majority of his reluctance, it’s also other factors, such difficulty following instructions, doing things in sequence and that of poor sensory processing.

As Little Man’s mother I’ve admittedly at times thrown in the towel and given up, though this maybe the easiest option at the time, it makes things a whole lot more difficult later on! This is part of life and as my mother still tells me to this day, “Life sometimes requires us to do things we don’t like, but that’s just life!”

In order for the little man to grow up and become fully independent, he will need to require simple skills such as these to make it on his own in the big real world. He must learn how to do the basics accruing more complex skills as he grows older! Another important factor in this situation is the fact he will also need to learn the value and importance of helping other people… So what if you didn’t drop those wrappers on the floor, helping shouldn’t be an issue non the less!

Firstly, I must say before rambling on any further, I’m just a mother, and I don’t have all the answers, in fact I’m unsure to whether I actually have any! Though I will always try to find answers, when I succeed, or even partly so, then I’ll share with you all, in the hope it helps you too!

So… here’s some suggestions on how to encourage a child on the autism spectrum to actively engage in household chores without all hell breaking loss and then regrettably freezing over. These tips may work for one child and not the other, you may be required to try a number of different techniques or maybe just the one, every child is different regardless of abilities and diagnosis. Note: I’ve also tried this with my 9-year-old daughter who isn’t diagnosed with the condition and she’s actually done brilliantly with many of them.

1) Children on the autism spectrum tend to be visual learners, they may use written or symbol prompts as to plan events, following instructions in completing a set task, or just to alert them as to what happens next. Little man has been using both a visual schedule at home and school keeping it consistent. He likes to know what’s planed and this is the same with chores, so, if he has chores as well as homework etc, these are added to a chore chat which he helps to devise on a weekly basis.

2) Don’t give rewards for every completed chore as this then doesn’t become a normal daily routine but instead a way to gain rewards. If one week you wasn’t in a position to provide the promised reward, failure could result in undesired meltdowns. Rewards can be given as a weekly treat and you should ensure its done for all children in the household.

3) Help your child to chose their weekly chores as in number 1, however try to encourage some weekly chores in-which you can both contribute in together, making it a fun bonding experience.

4) Don’t change the chores without giving a warning to your child, keep them consistent in the way in which you and your child devised them. Also try to agree on a time your likely to keep too, as this will only cause problems otherwise.

5) Do the same as in part 1 and 4 but remember to not make your child overly reliant on his routine, so try to adjust times for different weeks, but as mentioned in part 4, stick to them for that entire week.

6) Teach your child how to have a focus, this works fantastically for Little man. An example would be if vacuuming, say the living room, point out the half way mark highlighting how his almost there, then point out the finishing post. You will find that even though the break is offered at half time, 9x out of 10 they’ll keep pushing themselves all the way.

7) Don’t keep asking as it drives children like little man round the bend. If your child fails to look at the chart remind them to do so, if they just refuse then you may need to decided if a sanction may need applying. Stick to your guns and be consistent, as you will be in an even worse position for next time.

8) Don’t bombard a load of request upon your child at once, example, take up washing, put shoes under stairs, hang coat up then run your bath…. overloading will produce the undesirable. Remember children on the spectrum tend to be unable to follow instructions if not given time to process the information given, this is why I’ve suggested the chore chart.

9) Have something nice to look forward too! I’m not talking a treat as such, more like something you’ll be sitting to watch as a family that evening. Talking about the film etc why doing chores with your child, will help them complete without the dragging boredom.

10) If like little man, your child on the autism spectrum doesn’t do well in supermarkets (despite how much he protest he wants to join you) ensure you have prepared distractions and you are aware of any sensory triggers, avoiding where possible. I get Little man helping me write the list, this helps his handwriting and spelling skills, reading the list while we shop also helps reading skills (so they don’t know they are doing chores and a fair bit of education based work too). Little man is also fantastic at maths which he actually enjoys too. To keep his mind from distractions that may cause sensory overload or some type of social anxiety episode I ask what’s best value for money when deciding if to buy a product (example, buy one get one 1/2 price coke or that of the 50% extra free priced at 10p more) His actually quicker than I am and has on occasions save me some money.

Another thing that Little man loves is the “Self Service Checkout” I guess he feels independent. It’s a great way to distract your child or engage in a little social skills training.

11) Little man loves music and despite sensitive hearing (he can hear a pin drop, or a buzzing freezer sends him barmy) music however doesn’t have the same effect, he loves music, and the louder the better.

If you can tolerate a bit of loud music then its an awesome way to motivate both child and adult into doing the chores and it really does do well to speed things up.

12) Since being in special school little man’s become a dab hand in the kitchen. He cooks or bakes at school every Tuesday and has brought home some delightful dishes. I do think its the Italian in him as the kitchen isn’t my favourite place to be. Because of this I ensure he is appointed jobs that he really enjoys, like helping prepare a meal under supervision. He loves this and it’s simply not a chore in his mind at all.

13) One thing extremely important for the child on the autism spectrum, is that of prise, your child should be praised for the smallest accomplishments as these will eventually lead to those bigger ones, plus you’ll find over time that your child is setting out to please you.

14) Little man love’s some items that many other children have considered strange and undesirable. On little man’s christmas list, I’ve found all sorts such as juicers, smoothie makers, blenders and even a chip pan (don’t ask). His always begging to get his mitts on some type of appliance. This can be used as reinforcements, allowing your child to use the popcorn maker to create a movie snack under your supervision! However, your child will need to clean up and wash any dirty dishes (making sure sharp objects and blades have been removed first).

15) Occasionally, surprise your child with something nice. Do not directly state that it’s a reward for his engagement in chores but prise him for how his displayed good skills and is a good role model for younger siblings and now seems more grown up. This kind of thing makes Little man very proud, he then thinks about other ways of impressing me, not just for treats but the overall confidence boast he receives.

16) Don’t overload chores, give little on Saturdays and none on Sundays, allowing them some chill out time and space. They will continue their chores more efficiently once rested or having had some fun.

17) If your child has hygiene difficulties due to sensory reasons, then you should work with him to remove or reduce the trigger if at all possible, adding these activities to the chores chart also.

18) Encourage your child to recycle by speaking about the fascinating things that it involves and how certain objects can cleverly be used to make something completely different. Do a scavenger hunt, encourage your child/children to collect as many newspapers as they can as well as other recyclable items that can each be placed in its own boxes, example…. Glass, Paper, cans etc… making this a fun afternoon game.

19) If your child has their own pet (little man has Bella our pregnant cat) get them involved in feeding and grooming making it a responsible job and good practical chore.

20) Take the chores out into the garden this summer. With the beautiful sunshine and longer days. Little man and his sister enjoy the garden, and along with their father they are already planting and getting there fingers all green, which is perfect for me, given I hate gardening.

So, there you have it, a nice long list of 20 things that may help your child on the autism spectrum to complete their chores.

If you’re a parent of a child with or without autism, I’d love to hear of any tips with in your comments.

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2 Responses to “Autism and Chores”

  1. clairelouise82 March 26, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    I find organisation a big difficulty of little mans, he has lots of difficulty organising his school things without help and gets himself in a bit of a muddle most mornings.x

  2. mum in Meltdown March 26, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    I find with my eldest ( who has mild Asperger traits) that lists help a lot! He will work down a list systematically and do all of what I need him to do. I am moving on to him trying to make the lists himself in order to help with his school organisation- he goes to a grammer school which he is capable of the work but he struggles with being organised!!

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