Happy Peanut Butter Jelly Independence Day!
A common thread running through the various behaviors associated with autism is a sense of helplessness or a tendency to achieve certain developmental strides later than peers. Without exception, this has been true in our household.
Sometimes I feel that I enable these developmental delays, as so many day to day activities can be a struggle. Parents are human; I am soft.
Allowing our son to be in charge of when to take on a new responsibility has been, for us, more effective than attempting to control the situation ourselves. This is typical of children on the spectrum; they like to chart their own paths – be the creators of their developmental time frames.
But it doesn’t mean that we continue to do things for him until he suggests otherwise. Usually, I have a fit of exasperation followed by a calm down let’s make a plan scenario. And this is how the idea of a Peanut Butter Jelly Independence Day began.
Now, I’m a little embarrassed to tell you that our son eats a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (He also eats salmon, broccoli, peas, green beans, hamburgers, chicken, and I think you get the picture.) Sometimes these sandwiches languish during the lure of an exciting computer game or during the quest to research the element Gallium.
So this is how we put and end to the PBJ Restaurateur Dance and other similar dances. Plenty of others reside in the wings, waiting for the mom to have a melt down or for the child to simply take over.
First, I expressed how making so many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made me feel, especially seeing them wasted. Just as he doesn’t like to be constantly interrupted, the same also holds true for me.
Secondly, I let him know, with kindness, the expectations for his age – the other sorts of activities that his peers perform independently. This had a greater impact than step one. I don’t like to be too rigid, as we all grow and develop at different rates, but still, a little peer pressure provides a powerful motivator.
Lastly, he set the date for taking over the PBJ Dance, after which, there could be no turning back except for during times of illness; however, for some tasks, flexibility and a gradual transition to complete autonomy may be necessary. For example, we’ll be practicing making PBJ sandwiches today, and for a while, I’ll continue to make them at mealtimes but not for snacks.
Following through becomes easier when we all know what to expect and plan ahead accordingly, while working on one challenge at a time makes the task feel reasonable, adding fuel to the whole process.
After all, he wants to be more independent; it’s just that transitions can feel overwhelming.
Pausing to uncover a more protected path that allows him to make as many decisions as possible, sustains the harmony and warmth in our household.
Now, I would like to hear from you. What kinds of strategies have you used to help your child achieve more autonomy?
Blessings to all of you, and Happy Peanut Butter Jelly Independence Day!