This summer I decide to take a step back. My son is 13 years old now and I felt it was time (long overdue) for him to start figuring things out for himself. For years we have catered to his every need all the time all day long. I had to ask myself why? Because he has autism is the only answer I could come up with.
I started to think that this is not helping him at all. He’s always been pretty self-sufficient. He can get dressed, clean his room, organize his belongings. But what happens when something is broken? What happens when he is hungry? What happens when he is not paying attention?
So I decided to put it to the test. My goal was to let him problem solve one thing a day, if the opportunity presented itself, which it usually did.
When we were up at our cottage and he wanted to go swimming, I was on the dock. Normally, I would go up with him and help him find his bathing suit, remind him to get his towel and then come down to the lake. Well, I decided to send him up alone and see what happened. Pleasantly, to my surprise, he did just great. He found his suit, got dressed and brought his towel down with him. He left his clothes in a mess, but that’s a totally teenager thing to do anyway (lucky I have another teenager to compare him to).
I realized that I can’t be so controlling that I can’t let him figure things out by himself. Of course, don’t all kids do that anyway? So for the rest of the summer, I tried my best to let him work on this skill every time he wanted to swim. By the end of the summer, he was a pro!
I was unaware of all the things I was doing for him until I took a step back.
Another thing, I let him do was to find his clothes and get dressed. He always gets dressed on his own, but usually I lay out his clothes for him. By doing this, he had to figure out what he wanted to wear and where to find it. Since we were between home and the cottage, it was good as the clothes were in different locations. One time he put pants on and it was 35 degrees outside, but at least he did it and I didn’t say a word. This one is a little harder for school. He wears a uniform which is easy, but he is not a morning person, so we will have to see how it goes. At least on weekends, he can continue to do this and feel confident.
I think these are some basic lessons for me as a parent to recognize. It’s not about being perfect, just about being aware of all the things he can do on his own and helping him achieve success in these areas. This builds his confidence and prepares him for bigger things.