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How to Encourage Your Autistic Teen to Help with Chores
Let's face it, you and I both know as a parent of a teenager it's hard to get them to do anything, especially when it comes to chores. But as a parent with an autistic teen, it's an even greater challenge. Teens with autism often struggle with household chores and those of us who are a parent of an autistic child, know this all too well.
Of course, there are days we want to give up and throw in the towel, what parent doesn't? But, teens on the autism spectrum are capable of helping with chores, even when the battle seems to be hopeless.
My youngest son, who is on the spectrum, is no stranger to battling me over chores every Saturday morning. In fact, it has gotten to the point that he will try to completely blow off his chores leaving us both drained from trying to keep a clean home.
But as a mom, I also know that I won't be around forever and cannot foretell what my son's future will hold..
Yes I know there are many fantastic resources available to help guide him, along the way to his adulthood journey, but as a mom, I worry and it's only natural.
I often wonder, will he have a great caregiver who will help when he needs it, or will he be in the care of someone who doesn't really care about him or his needs at all.
Because of my worries, I know it's always best that our children know and understand as much as possible on how to live an independent life as an adult with autism. And I know I am not alone as a parent.
After some much-needed research, trial and error, I discovered what solutions worked for him. My hope is that as a parent some of these solutions will work for your special needs teen as well.
Let's face it, what teen doesn't want the freedom to be able to be in charge and make their own choices. Teens with autism love to be able to have that very same freedom to make choices for themselves even though we can be very protective as a parent.
This idea was very hard for me because once my son turned 18, he expressed to me his desire to have more control over his life! At first, I stressed and worried. I questioned whether it was a good idea to allow him to be able to make his own choices in a world that he doesn't always understand. But then I realized he was never going to learn for himself and make choices right or wrong if I kept a tight hold on him. And I have to admit, it's still really hard as a mom at times to watch him grow up!
Yet what I have learned from my son is that when I give him that control he deserves, he is almost always willing to do his chores without a battle. For example, I give him the option of what chores he would like to do, what areas he wants to start first, and so forth.
Years ago, I had a conversation with one of my favorite aunts when my boys were younger about the battle with chores. She suggested doing chores together as a family, but it wasn't until my youngest son was old enough to help with chores that I took her advice.
What I have learned is, I should have taken her advice a long time ago! When my son sees that I'm vacuuming the living room rug, cleaning the bathroom, and cleaning my bedroom, he's more willing to clean as well.
We also cook dinner meals together and dishes, which is often a chance for us to poke fun at each other or talk about serious topics. If he's not up to cooking, then he knows he is in charge of the dishes and cleanup. If he does the cooking, then I'm in charge of dishes and kitchen cleanup.
We as parents can always choose to be involved in everything our teens do and over the years I have learned that chores are no exception!
I don't know of anyone who doesn't enjoy listening to music while doing a tedious task like household chores, and Autistic teens are no exception. Teenagers on the spectrum like my son, love music! Music is one of his favorite hobbies that he enjoys learning about everyday.
He has even gone as far as teaching himself how to play popular songs from one of his favorite bands Bruno Mars, on his keyboard, Ukulele, and acoustic guitar through YouTube videos. YouTube music teachers have been a blessing because I must admit, I cannot play any instrument!
Give your teen the option to create a playlist of their favorite songs to listen to while doing house chores. Just make sure your source for music isn't a distraction. This was one of my biggest battles with my son because I made the mistake of allowing him to use Pandora Radio on the living room tv to listen to music.
Instead of doing chores, I would find him stopping constantly to stare at the television while his favorite songs were playing. So I tried an MP3 player he could attach to headphones and carry around. It was another big fail because I would find him stopping every second to flip through songs instead of focusing on his chores.
The solution I found that worked for my son was to help him create a playlist for a music player such as a stereo, that only I had access to and could only be heard.
When my son was in grade school, one of the most important tools his teachers used was a visual chart that showed him step by step what he needed to do in class for the day.
I realized that If a visual chart was working for him in school, why not incorporate a similar chart for chores at home? This works especially well for, special needs teens who have moderate to severe autism and can understand a picture easier than words.
Your teen can even help create the chart by choosing photos from magazines or printed pictures to make it his or her own.
You could even take it one step further by snapping photos of your son or daughter as they are doing the chore or areas of your home that allow them to see what chores need to be done.
Don't just stop at a visual chore chart, however. Think visual for keeping their bedroom closet, dresser drawers, and toy bins organized by taking a photo of each area organized, so that they know where each of their items belongs.
If you have a teenager who doesn't need a visual chore chart, but could still benefit from organizing their bedroom and remembering where everything goes, try using labels to help them keep their room tidy and clean. Use labels like pajamas, socks and underwear, shorts, and t-shirts to organize each of their dresser drawers. You can even label containers for electronics, shelves for books and video games, and so forth.
One final note. As a parent, being picky over how a chore is done or how perfect your home looks isn't always a good thing. And as a mom with ADHD, I can tell you it's a struggle not to be. Yet nitpicking over every little detail or re-doing our teen's chore, organizing their bedroom for them can result in low confidence about themselves and in their abilities to do well with daily life. It's especially hard for autistic teens who are already struggling with low self-esteem.
I know it's hard, I know you don't really want to, but just let things slide. Hold your tongue, walk away and silently scream in frustration if you must. As long as they tried their best, be proud of what they have accomplished, not what they haven't mastered! It's not the end of the world and as long as your son or daughter is trying, then that is all that truly matters!