Today, I’m going to discuss my views on the 3 Things We All Want for Our Children with or without autism.
I fell into the autism world in 1999 when, my son, Lucas was diagnosed with autism. At the time, my other son Spencer was 18 months of age, so they’re 18 months apart. Now, they’re both young adults, and Spencer is at college. Over the years, both as a parent of a son with autism as well as a parent of a typically-developing son and as a professional, I think it boils down to the same things that we all want, no matter if a child or an adult has autism or doesn’t have autism.
The three things that we all want are:
1. We want our children with and without autism to be happy. I did a few video blogs about happiness in the recent past, and I know that happiness comes from the ability to make choices. It also comes from having work or demands that are at the appropriate level and reinforcement that is dense enough to provide a good atmosphere for the child or adult. I’m a big proponent of counting smiles, counting laughs, taking data on affect to see which activities (if the child can’t verbally tell you) what they like best, what their favorite activity is and what their favorite movie is. We need to be good observers and document where the child is going to be happiest.
In my 2007 book, The Verbal Behavior Approach, I write, “if I gave you a thousand dollars for your child or client to have a good day, free of problem behavior, what would you do?” The answer to that is you would give them a lot of reinforcement, a lot of things that they like with very few demands. Basically, this is what makes the child happy.
Now, some people say, “Well, I can’t do that because they can’t run around school naked,” or, “They can’t eat unlimited amounts of candy,” or whatever, and that’s true. There are some demands that just have to be, but if we can think about making reinforcement really high and demands really low to get the child in a good state, then we can start systematically increasing the demands and lowering the reinforcement.
I believe that is one of the keys to happiness, but in terms of my typically-developing son, I want him to be happy too, and that will involve making good choices to have reinforcement coming in and providing him with enough reinforcement to keep him happy.
2. We want our kids with and without autism to be safe. Safety for Spencer (who’s in college) involves making good choices, and safety for Lucas involves a lot of oversight and supervision. I did a blog recently about crossing the street and how that’s just not feasible. Even if you have a teenager, if they’re functioning below an age 10 child, cognitively, language-wise, developmentally, they simply can’t be left to cross streets. It’s not safe. We need to keep our kids with autism safe, but we definitely desire all of our children to be as safe as possible.
3. We want children with and without autism to be as independent as possible. My college-age son is totally independent now. He’s flying on airplanes alone. He’s responsible for all his school work, coordination of when he has tests and everything. For Lucas, he’s become a lot more independent over the years as we’ve taught him to be independent with many of his daily activities like showering, tying his shoes, getting dressed, making small meals. We’ve taught him systematically to be as independent as possible.
Those are my three things I think we all have in common, that we all want for our children and even our adult children. We want them to be happy, safe, and independent.
To get you started turning things around for any child with autism, you can download my free three-step guide, which covers three steps you can take today to start turning things around. I hope, if you like this video, you’ll give me a thumbs up, leave me a comment, and I’ll see you right here next week.