When supporting my children, I ask myself one question… How will whatever I am doing at this moment help them toward self-management and independence? The assumption I do not make is that they will figure it out on their own, or it will somehow evolve with maturity. When we support our children with proven, tested strategies they develop a stronger foundation for learning, communication, socialization and behavior, as they grow into adulthood. I believe this is a vital part of development for children and young adults on the spectrum! Without these supports it is my opinion that our children/young adults sometimes struggle to move forward. Here are some helpful hints:
1. Start today! The earlier we begin, the more we increase their chances of success. It’s never too late…. A toddler is younger than a twelve year old. A twelve year old is younger than a twenty-one year old. A twenty-one year old is younger than a forty-five year old. So, no matter the age, there is always an opportunity to help your child/young adult achieve skills to get them to the next level of development. Just leap in!
2. Start where you are! Any place in your child/young adult’s development is where you should begin. The goal is to help them learn to take control of their feelings/emotions/behavior/actions, in order to self-manage and self-regulate. Whether they are using ABA Strategies or Collaborative Problem Solving, new habits and skills begin to take shape with consistent practice. Enlist the right help for your child/young adult/family!
3. Communicate honestly with your child/young adult. Let them know this support is important to their development. Help them understand and buy-in.
In other communication, be direct and try not to be long winded. For example, when dealing with a behavior challenge, I’d say the same words to my seven year old, twelve year old, twenty year old and twenty-one year old. “You did not give me the courtesy of your time when I was asking. You chose to – tantrum, pout, back-talk, ignore me, etc. – and now I am busy with something else. When I have the time I will get back to you.” If the ensuing tantrum, tears, screaming, sulking, pouting lasts one minute, one hour or more that is all I had to say about the matter. The test for parents is to remain resolved. It is hard at times!
4. Empower your child/young adult. Help them to learn to articulate their needs. Let your interaction with your children/young adults be inclusive. Whether it’s a family meeting, creating a schedule, having a discussion on maladaptive behavior or just goofing off; let it be collaborative in nature. Help your children/young adults find their voice! This can be a very difficult process – finding balance and getting the right results – but it is worth it to see them thrive! It is also necessary for their survival.