Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sand, Saltines and Consequences

The other day I walked into Josh's room to find that he had taken an entire sleeve of saltine crackers and had crumbled them up into fine, sand-like granules all over the floor of his room.  Playing with sand has always been a favorite activity for Josh.  Particularly, he loves to watch sand falling through his fingers.   He could sit for hours lifting a handful of sand up to eye level, watching it fall, then laughing like crazy. It must be wonderful and beautiful in a way that my non-autistic brain just can't understand.  I let him do it at playgrounds and at the beach because it makes him so happy and it keeps him busy while his sisters are running around.

While I'm glad for Josh's ingenuity in recreating this beach-like scenario in his own bedroom, I have to admit that I was livid when I found the cracker crumbs covering the floor in his bedroom and his bed.  The moment I walked into his room, Josh must have known that I would be upset.  Before I could say anything, he echoed something I have said in exasperation many times, "Ohhh, sweetie!" (except with a more loving, compassionate tone than what was about to come out of my mouth).

Now, usually, when I find a shocking mess in Josh's room (in the past it was poo on the walls or coffee poured into his desk drawers) I usually get him out of the way and use my massively pumping adrenaline to power me through a vicious, dragon-mama cleaning process.  Miraculously, this time I had the presence of mind to make my son deal with the consequences of what he had chosen to do.

I took a deep breath and said, "Josh, you need to clean this up."

"No" my almost-adolescent said to me.

"Yes, Josh.  You need to vacuum."

Josh sat there silently, not looking at me but clearly waiting to see if I would really make him face the consequences of his mess.  He has never used the vacuum before because he has had a strong negative reaction to the sound of the vacuum.  Along with lawn mowers, blenders and crying babies, vacuums have always been his auditory kryptonite.

I took his hand and walked him to the garage.  I pointed to the hand held mini-vac.  He knew exactly what this meant.

After he tried the mini-vac on his carpet (which didn't work) I made Josh go get the regular big vacuum.  I'm proud to say that we cleaned that room up without my ever touching an implement of cleaning.  I just gave verbal prompts or pointed and waited for him to figure it out.  It took a loooooooooong time but he did it!

Through this experience, I realized the following things:

1)     I still do way more FOR Josh than I need to.  I do things reactively, just to get them done when I should be letting/ making Josh do things for himself.  I need to curtail my motherly impulse to do things for my child and make him learn to do it by himself.

2)     All children (even kids with special needs) need to learn that there are consequences for the messes that they make.  If we don't give them some sort of immediate consequence that they understand, they will keep making those messes.  Since Josh is going to be living with me for a lot longer than when he turns 18, I am very motivated to train him to stop making messes like this.

3)     Josh can accomplish things that I often don't imagine him being able to do.  I had no idea until this day that he could handle the auditory challenge of the vacuum noise.  I wouldn't have guessed that he could wind the cord back up onto the back of our vacuum.  Josh can figure out how to get the vacuum back to the garage and he totally knows where it goes.  I could have gone a long time without realizing these things because I always do the vacuuming in our house.

So now, there is one more chore that I can get help with around our house.  A stumbling block has been turned into a stepping stone to something new!


  1. I needed this reminder today. I do far too much - not only is it making me a little crazy, but it does nothing to help prepare my son for real life.
    Thank you from a fellow momma,

  2. I love this, Susan. Anna can do so much more than we (especially my husband) think she can. Never misses a trick, actually, but is quite happy to have things done for her. I am pleased for you and for Josh--it's a fantastic milestone. thanks for writing this post; I follow very, very few blogs (3, I think), and yours is the one I always read immediately. love & prayers.