From Becky: Boundaries

I was recently working with a Mother who is doing The Son-Rise Program with her child.

An issue she had was that her child kept asking to go out of the playroom. He’d turn off the lights, stand by the door and rattle the door handle several times.

This wonderful Mother who is working on language with her child would ask “What do you want, tell me what you want?” To which he would say “I want out”.

Then she would let him out because she wanted to show him the power of his language by giving him what he had asked for. Then the session would be over.

If this sounds familiar to you then here are some ideas.

1) At The Autism Treatment Center of America, we believe in setting clear boundaries for our children. We know that boundaries are useful and will help our children in their lives. One boundary we always set is that when we are in The Son-Rise Program playroom the door stays shut and locked. This is because we know that working with our child in this one to one environment with no distractions for us or our child is absolutely the best way to help them.

2) That it’s ok if our children are going to the door or wanting to get out, the idea is not to try and distract them away from the door but to help them see that in life you don’t always get what you want and help them to work through that.

3) That we can still work on language and celebrate them for talking to us. So even if they are saying “I want out”, we can say “I love that you are talking to me but the door will still be locked because I love you and want to help you”.

4) Offer an alternative. Maybe your child is wanting something that is outside that they don’t know is in the playroom, always ensure that you have fresh snacks, a drink and a way for your child to use the bathroom in the room and have fun showing them all of these things and offering them what they might want.

5) Feel comfortable, loving and assumption free even if your child whines, cries, shouts or tantrums about the door staying locked. If when you don’t open the door your child does this, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is unhappy, they are trying to communicate with you and see what might work to get what they want and they also could be seeking a reaction from you so that you eventually “Cave” and open the door.

6) Having the door shut and locked is an act of love. In this playroom I can accept my child, join my child, give my child much more control than outside of the playroom, I can celebrate my child and teach my child in this room.

3 Responses

  1. This is exactly what we've been struggling with. It's more a difficult issue when we get our son willingly into the room, but then he asks to keep the door "cracked" or to go out. His demeanor and mood totally change when a volunteer closes and locks the door. I am realizing maybe this is ok and is just his way of trying to get what he wants. I've been struggling with whether it is counter to what we're going for or is what we really need to do. I don't want him to anticipate the door closing and locking and resist that so much that he will never willingly go into the room. Thanks and our team just needs to come to a resolution about this!

  2. Hi Colleen, if you love the playroom yourself and believe it is the best place for your child then you will inspire him to want to be in there. If you have even the slightest bit of doubt in your mind that the playroom is not useful for him or are trying to avoid his unhappiness then he will pick up on that and push that button everytime. Perhaps you could create a list of reasons with your team why the playroom is more useful to help him than being outside and go over it together so that you feel solid in your decision. Have fun!

  3. Jackie Griffin says:

    Hi Becky,

    Our son is 2.5 and non-verbal. This is exactly what we too struggle with. Like Colleen, we feel it is counter to what we are trying to do in building his trust in us, building his love for the room and the program, and giving him control in the playroom…

    I've read that we are to try to "help him through his desire to leave" but HOW do we do it? Please help…as much explanation and examples as you can bare!

    We want to make this a positive, inspiring experience for our son!

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