Welcome to the Louden on Autism Q & A. This week, I’m back to answer a question submitted by a website visitors to shed light on some of the most important questions about autism. I receive questions every day, and I want to make sure that the answers to these important questions are being shared with all of you.
Please know that these are my opinions and my answers come from my research and my own personal experiences. Of course, each situation is different. All of us as people are different. And no two people with or without autism should be treated the same exact way.
This week, I received a question about autism and school and why some struggle so terribly with each and every day. Please let me know if you have any questions.
My question is regarding school and discipline with my 17-year-old grandson. He doesn’t do well in high school. He gets mostly failing grades in the classes that don’t interest him and he doesn’t seem to mind. He can make them up in an online credit recovery class, which he has been successful with. He usually misses or is late to about 5-8 classes a week due to various reasons such as having a headache or wanting to get a drink or being hungry or having problems with his phone or because he is afraid someone is going to beat him up, etc. Homeschool is not an option. He is motivated by the promise of money and video games, but this seems unhealthy and unsustainable, and he won’t get rewarded like that in real life. He has a life coach but it seems the autism piece is a big obstacle to moving forward. Any suggestions would be very appreciated!
One thing people often miss when trying to help an autistic person overcome motivational and discipline issues is the other side of the equation. Often for us class, attendance, being around other students, etc, present unique and overwhelming strains on us.
Meanwhile, things like our cellphone, personal time, video games, etc, are coping mechanisms for anxiety. So when you use them as a punishment it’s like being in a situation where someone says “It’s cold out here, but I’m not going in there because it’s even colder!” and you react by taking away their blanket, so then their thought is “well, this is bad, but that makes going in there even worse.”
While discipline is very important, the school, coach, therapist, and others should be looking not for ways to push harder from behind, but rather the smooth the ground in front. Spend more time trying to identify why he’s willing to face the penalties and sees them as “not as bad” as what’s in front of them. It could be issues like pacing, struggles with sensory issues, anxiety or depression that needs other treatments, or a variety of other things.
It sounds a lot like he’s still in the mode where his primary concern is his own mental safety. Until he feels on solid enough ground, it’s very hard for him to go into areas where he’s been hurt before, and take the risks necessary to attend education or develop toward an adult life.
Thanks for reading. Check back soon for another Q&A.