Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Yes, When Pigs Fly! Helping Kids with ASD Deal with Hearing the Word "No"

Many kids with ASD have a difficult time hearing the word "no."  In my experience, it's not necessarily that they can't deal with getting what they want.  They simply get very upset when they hear someone say "no."  This may be because they think the "no" means "no forever."  Here's an example:  One of my former students called me one day to ask for advice with her student with autism.  He would have a meltdown everyday that chicken nuggets weren't an option for lunch.  She would ask him what he wanted for lunch each day, and he would say chicken nuggets.  If the cafeteria was not serving nuggets that day, she would say, "No, you can't have nuggets today," then give him the choices.  He would proceed to scream and tantrum for quite a while.  When I was speaking to her I said, "I wonder if he just thinks you're being a big witch and YOU won't let him have chicken nuggets." I suggested creating a lunch calendar that showed the days that chicken nuggets would be served. This way, when he asked for chicken nuggets, instead of saying "no," she could show him the next day that he could get chicken nuggets.  Happy to report: It worked!  Not always so easy, but in this case, it was.  This reminds me of a workshop I went to when I was still an undergraduate preparing to be a teacher back in the day.  It was called, "Yes, When Pigs Fly!"  The premise of the workshop was teaching educators to say "yes" as much as possible, and when the answer is "no," say, "Yes, when..." letting the child know when they can get what was requested (you don't really say, "when pigs fly" :)  It's a great approach for teachers and for parents.  For kids with ASD it helps avoid excessive amounts of anxiety and feelings of being powerless.

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