Summer slump. Chunks of time when kids have the house to themselves. Downtime becomes a void. Hours will slip by as the children disappear into technology. They will meld with the computer and all chance of talk is dropped.
Good use of free time? Well, some time to zone out is helpful, and people who are sensitive to sensory input or change can need additional time to decompress. The computer world can offer that. But in reality, there is too much computer time going on. Let’s give imaginary names to some imaginary children: Bobby or Kayla should be out with friends or holding down a job (if old enough). Teena or Lee could be cleaning your house, making you dinner, getting to know the neighbors, or working on self-improvement. Wait, what is that noise? Oh, it’s you, laughing…
No kid does this over the summer. Well, some get jobs, but many do not. Some children may promise to complete a list of tasks in a timely fashion, but then put them off until the end of summer (when you remind them). Teacher speaking here… we do this as well!
It appears that there is an epidemic of slothfulness spreading among the tribes of the dependents of this nation. When I started teaching in 2007, students of mine expressed plans to work, go on vacations with family, and see friends. Things have changed over the years. The growth of online computer games has not helped.
There is a lot of reward in making friends over the internet. Children will have chat rooms to talk to friends about topics you could never dream of. In addition, their insecurities and frustrations can be overcome by their successes in their imaginary worlds. They can have the coolest avatar and acquire many virtual delights such as amazing homes, vehicles, and material goods. They can battle and win fights in imaginary lands and feel better about reality where they may face bullying for their social difficulties. However, they need to move away from computer land and into reality.
It is harder for children with autism and related neurodivergent differences, because of such challenges like initiating conversation, starting and sticking to a task, handling boredom or frustration, and trouble with achieving goals. The online world provides solutions to all of these and other difficulties. In addition, many young folks who often lose in real life are heavily reward driven. Video games offer multiple chances to win, whether with tokens or moving up in a rank.
A way to decrease this undesired behavior is to join them where their interests lie so they do not feel excluded and alone. Show some interest and learn what their virtual world is all about. This is similar to getting on the floor with a child and playing with their toys. In the online world, you can create your own avatar in their favorite online game and play along with them. Get into their favorite anime show and watch an hour or two with them. Then, ask them to join you with a task they need to learn.
You can do this! Make something draggy seem fun. Play their music while they help you with a chore. Put on a timer so they know when it is over. In addition, provide rewards. Start small with the tasks (such as sweeping the floor) so they can easily accomplish the task and feel good about it. Give rewards that are also small. Kids will respond to anything. No need to spend money on the rewards. You can offer verbal praise to start with, and add physical tokens such as stickers or cheap toys. Tell them that the reward represents their accomplishment. Make each reward a big deal so they learn to associate achievement with feeling good about themselves. Eventually, you will not need to reward them at all. They will learn to find satisfaction in completing a task as a reward in itself.
How to start? Talk to them a few times about your plan. Show them some of the tasks so they see it modeled. Then, try a schedule and put it up in a few places in the house so your child can see it. Give them ownership in helping create the schedule and allow them to check off tasks as completed. As they get into it, step back and see what they will start to initiate. Raise the stakes with chores and other independent tasks. They may surprise you by asking when the next chore session is.
About the Author
Mary Janca is a teacher and coach for students of all learning differences. She has been teaching for twenty years, has a Master’s Degree in Teaching, Behavioral/Emotional Disorders, and is certified in multiple subjects from first grade to high school. She coaches youth and adults with life skills and academics. She is currently working on a client base to serve students in Greensboro and Raleigh. She also works with clients nationally and overseas. You can find her on LinkedIn.
Mary has Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD. She has faced many struggles in life due to these differences but is proud of her desire to get back up, learn, and keep going. She loves to help others succeed with whatever challenge they are facing.
Tags: ASNC, autism, autism asperger parenting tips, autism behavior, autism communication, autism resources, autism social skills, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism spectrum, autism support