"Go clean up!" involves a lot of abstract concepts for individuals on the spectrum. Clean up what or where? What does clean mean? How do I know it is 'clean'? If you think about your idea of clean it can be quite different from someone else's. It often is a judgement that we each make with this abstract description. Many individuals with autism feel overwhelmed when they are asked to complete tasks that they don't fully understand. Trying to just know where to start can be hard to determine.
We are constantly looking for new ways of making the abstract more meaningful and understandable for those on the spectrum. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Use a visual system (objects, pictures, written list) to break down the activity.
- Simple directions that are to the point.
- Organize items so that there is a system to follow (ex: Labeled bins for toys so they know where to put things, pictures on clothes drawers for items, etc)
- Make it obvious when something is clean. It takes practice to learn how to determine clean so initially we have to make it very clear what isn't.
- Lots of patience, practice and persistence!
Make a List: Short directions with exactly what to do and add pictures to help with understanding.
o Make bed
o Books on Shelf
o Dirty clothes in hamper
o Legos into box
o TV time
Organize Toys and Clothes: Use pictures on bins or drawers so the individual knows what goes where. Also, taping an 'example' of what is in the box on the outside; for instance, taping a lego on the outside of the lego box.
Baking soda on carpet helps to also make it clear where to vacuum and when it is done.
Simple Responsibilities: Even the most basic of chores or responsibilities can teach contribution to the family. Think about breaking down activities so that the individual can do it on their own and feel that pride in their accomplishment.
Even something like pouring premeasured pet food into a bowl can be considered a responsibility. Think about making activities less complicated and therefore less frustrating.
These are only a few examples of activities individuals can complete on a daily or weekly basis to help feel that sense of responsibility. Trying to make the chores/tasks less complex is important to meet each individual's level of understanding.