Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Cleaning and Autism



Everyone probably has a room or rooms in their house in need or spring cleaning!  Anyone with kids knows that things can collect and build up that really should be sorted through and given away.  A challenge for any family is convincing the kids to let go of some of their stuff and give some away to other children.  

Children in the autistic spectrum can have particular difficulty keeping their space organized and free of clutter because of executive function and sequencing difficulties.  Executive function is a primary difficulty within the autistic spectrum.  This includes abilities such as figuring out how to start a multi-step project, initiating behavior, and attending to both the details and the big picture.  In addition, many individuals in the spectrum are very particular about their belongings in the sense that they may have collections, prefer to arrange certain belongings "just so" while other belongings are on the floor, and may resist change (such as changing the location of an object at home or throwing things out that aren't important any more).

One approach that I use with my son in the autistic spectrum is to go through the house while he isn't home, and gather things that I don't see him playing with or using.  Then I store them in boxes and bags out of site. If he notices something is missing and asks for it, I can return it.  But if months have gone by and he hasn't noticed that something is missing, I give the items away.  

I also encourage him to choose some items to give away. Sometimes his school has a charity drive for example that kids can contribute to.  This is a way to focus on the teaching part about having a generous spirit, why that is important, and how to live that out.  

How do you help your autistic child sort through and give up some of their things?  Do they have trouble tolerating the changes?