One refrain that we hear frequently when dealing with children who have Autism is that we should limit the choices we offer them. It’s meant as a constructive mechanism to ensure that they’re not overwhelmed with trying to decide, and helps to encourage verbal communication with children with language delays.
It’s also something that, after an entire day stuck in the house with the Monster, I’ve discovered that both the wife and I suck absolutely at.
Logically, it should be fairly simple to apply – give him two or three concrete choices for food, et cetera. We know what he likes to eat, and we know that he’s not going to eat certain things. Instead, therefore, of the open ended “What do you want to eat for breakfast?”, it should be “Do you want pancakes or fruit for breakfast?”
Yeah… no. We keep seeming to forget each morning that the open ended question is just not a good one, and end up bargaining with him (or just making him something and giving it to him and assuming he’ll eat it).
This morning (non-snow) was a good example. I came downstairs to find the wife trying to find out what he wanted to eat (he was insisting on a hamburger bun, when given the open ended question) after apparently having once said something that sounded like ‘berries’. She brought him berries after we agreed that a burger bun was not an appropriate breakfast… which he never ate. He proceeded to insist on a burger bun, or animal crackers, which wasn’t appropriate for the meal.
It’s just really setting both him and us for failure, since he’s going to get frustrated at being told no, and we’re going to go bonkers trying to get him to eat and drink.
(Granted, there are also things that we know we can offer him that won’t get a single word of argument, but that’s easier at dinner time to be fairly honest. And so, for instance, I know that we’re not going to have any struggles if I suggest pizza to him tonight… )
Likewise, I’m sure there’s any number of places where we’re just causing our own problems by not working with his language deficiency, instead of against it in an attempt to foster more language use. Now, if we could apply what we already know…