Thursday, February 4, 2010

follow the leader

One of the ways Martin's teachers get him to follow the classroom routine is to put a carrot in front of him. Not a real carrot. But the I'm-trying-to-persuade-you-to-do-something kind of carrot. Usually, the carrot is lineleader privilege. If Martin follows the routine, he can lead a line of kids to gym or the cafeteria or wherever. Martin's teachers find this method incredibly effective.

I'm trying to figure out how to use this idea at home. For instance, when Martin ignores my calls to come to the dinner table, I can tell him that he must come quickly or he can't be songleader. (That role involves picking the song we sing for prayer. I'm willing to let him choose Johnny Appleseed - which I hate - every night if that means he'll listen and cooperate.) I'm trying to figure out how he could be laundry leader, which might involve leading a parade of clothes baskets down the steps to the basement. We could also have car leader, a person who chooses the music in the car and maybe even the roads we take to our destination.

Martin's willingness to compromise so that he can be the leader reminds me that the poor kid is just trying to feel in control of at least one thing in his life. Like typically developing kids, Martin wants to be in charge of his environment and activities. Because of his autism, though, he actually struggles when presented with a full spectrum of choices. So he needs to feel control within a world that's been set up to help him flourish. A world with established routines and predictable people. But that world can't be so predictable and established by adults that he feels no sense of freedom.

I'm taking ideas for other leader opportunities that might incite good behavior. Maybe I'll issue prizes for those who offer great suggestions? Or maybe I'll just try what you say and send out my thanks whenever you've helped me find a strategy that works.


  1. Ooh, I'm so excited to have a challenge. I'll get to thinking about carrots.

  2. A few simple, hopefully usable, suggestions:
    --mailbox leader to check the mail
    --bath time leader to get soap, towels, first in the water, etc.
    --clean up leader for putting away toys
    --table leader for setting the table
    --RTG (Ready To Go) leader for getting dressed, back pack and lunch together, coat on, standing at the door to go to school/church

    Thanks for this idea. I think I'll try to institute some of these "leaders" at my house.