Tucker has a great memory. He can recall the NCAA March Madness bracket (in its entirety) from 2009. He can cite Vikings statistics. He can break down the win/loss numbers for our family’s fantasy football league this year. He can tell you the numbers and names of all Minnesota Twins players. These are the things he loves…
In my years of mom’ing sweet Tucker, I have decided that patience is the most important parenting skill. Well that and planning, and patience, and communicating, and patience, and a soft voice, and patience, and reasoning, and patience…see a pattern? Children on the spectrum need directions repeated often. They have difficulty understanding, remembering, and acting upon what they heard. So, we work off written lists. Even the simplest of tasks used to require lists.
I’m not joking. I used to have lists like this all over the house-in the bathroom, in his bedroom, in the kitchen, on the door to go outside. I decided to start having these lists when I was getting frustrated because I was having to help him do everything and was getting VERY tired of cleaning up messes (including overflowing sinks because he forgot to turn off the water).
The lists have changed over time because repeating the same task over and over and over eventually leads to learning how to do the task. It just takes more time and PATIENCE than it does with NT children.
So what used to be: Get Dressed:
Became part of another list (after nearly two years).
Getting Ready for School
1. Get dressed.
2. Eat breakfast.
3. Find school bag.
4. Make sure all supplies are in bag.
5. Find jacket.
6. Put on shoes.
7. Wait for mom.
Why did he need these lists? When he was young ‘get dressed’ was too big of a thought. His brain would ‘flood.’ “Where do I begin? Which drawer? What if my shirt feels funny? I wonder if my pants are clean?” So, we had to break it down. Keep at it. Patience. It will come. Patience. They must practice, practice, and practice until the flooding thoughts of ‘what next’ and ‘what might go wrong’ disappear and it becomes second nature I have very few lists left.
Although, at the beginning of a new school year, the lists always return. Usually within a month we’re back in the groove. What can you do? Be patient. Meet frustration with love, understanding, and compassion. We’re finally to the point that our lists are minimal.
Now we have a quote (thanks to The Great Debaters) written on our wall, “We do what we have to do, before we do what we want to do.” We often repeat this in our house – brushing teeth, getting dressed, and getting stuff for school ready before iPad play.
Using this quote as a constant is quite helpful – and actually for all of us, not just Tucker. It’s not that he doesn’t forget anymore. He does.
When he does I am very careful to meet his forgetfulness or frustration with love, compassion, and patience.
Frustration met with equal frustration never equals growth.