By Kodey Toney
Taking Care of Business
I had the privilege to speak to a group of parents recently about ways to cope with a child with autism. One of the questions I was asked made me really think and I would like to share my opinion on the subject. I hope it gives a little perspective into what I think about maturity in children on the spectrum. As I have always said I’m not expert, just a father giving his view and trying to help others.
The mother was telling me that her child was really into video games. He was so engrossed by the games that he played that he will role play in real life. He will dress like the characters and imitate them around the house and outside. He is in his teens, and the mom is worried that he shouldn’t be acting like a little kid anymore.
So there are many different things to think about in this situation. We understand that children on the spectrum, because of the lack of understanding social cues, and lack of social skills, can be more immature than other children their age. They are focused on their interests and usually not much else. This is where much of the social awkwardness stems from in children on the spectrum.
So what is the answer? Should we tell our children not to act this way? Should we tell them to quit expressing their likes and act their age? Should we tell them to conform to the way society wants them to act?
Temple Grandin says that we need to limit the amount of time a child has on video games and electronics. I agree with this to a certain extent. What she suggests is using those interests and turning them into other outlets like Lego building, drawing, or other toys.
On the same note, if you have a child that enjoys certain things like trains, which Konner does, then find them a group of train enthusiast and let them hang out with them. There are groups all over the world; you just need to find one in your area. If you don’t have on in your area then you can start one. The age doesn’t matter too much. These kids know just as much, if not more, than most, so they can hang with these experts.
I would ask the parent if what they are doing is hindering their social life. Are they doing this in a public setting that is causing them to be bullied or made fun of by their peers? Are their peers acceptant of this behavior? If it is an issue then I would try using social stories and talk to the child about how they should act in public.
When it comes to the privacy of their own home, who cares? I say let the child do what makes them happy.
I watched a video once about a girl who was in her teens and she still watched Sesame Street. She didn’t care what people thought because it made her happy. I think this is the perfect attitude, and one that we as parents should adopt as well. As long as our children are happy, and it’s not affecting their personal life then what should we care what others think? If we are doing our best to help them have a good life then it’s nobody’s business.