How to get your kids with autism to ask you for help

One thing our twin boys have in common with apparently most people in the world is their love of computers.  Our early riser especially likes to play with it before the rest of us are even awake!  The last few days the computer he uses hasn’t been working. Surely he MUST want to use it. He LOVES it. But, will our child with autism simply ask us for help to get back to one of his favorite activities?

This is a question that goes back eight years.  As toddlers they would stand at the gate by the stairs screaming  even though they knew the words, and/or signs, for up, down, open, and help. At least we knew what was troubling them, which was not always the case.  Their adamant avoidance of language left them alternating between screaming and being mute.

I remember when one of the boys ate five waffles in one sitting.  I didn’t even know he was hungry. I felt so sad. The psychology and sociology classes I took in college made me think indicating needs such as hunger and pain is what made us human.  They never mentioned autism.

Here are some of the things we did to get our kids with autism to ask for help:

Modeling: “Say, I need help zipping my jacket.” And have them repeat it.

PECS (picture exchange system): Have them point to, or bring you, the picture of what they need. You can take your own photos of their favorite food or toys.

Hiding: Put their backpack, or other necessary item, out of sight to try to engage them.

Prompting: “If you need help getting the computer to work, you need to ask Dad for help.”

One of the issues we had with their early success was just trying to recognize the success. They both had a problem of projecting their voices, which may be a problem for your child with autism.  They would say ‘help’ for example, but even the people standing very close by couldn’t hear them.

Another issue is time.  This all may sound simple, but for kids with autism, practicing how to ask for help is a goal for the long haul.  In the beginning, if we hid their favorite stuffed animal that they slept with every night, they would simply go to bed without it.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Eventually, they asked for their animals.

This morning one twin prompted the other to ask Dad for help.  We’ve waited a long time for today.

What have you done to get your child with autism to ask for help?

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