Solving problems with your child is a long term journey

I speak at groups about autism and ASD sometimes, mostly in general terms about what it's like to live with a child with ASD and some of the challenges we face. I usually take questions and almost invariably I end up with a specific question about someone's own child who has an issue of some kind. It's usually a problem solving question, something along these lines:

"My daughter won't flush the toilet because she's scared of the noise of the flush. How can I teach her to do it so she'll do it at school next year?"

I flounder a little bit with answers to problems like these because there's no simple solution. If it were a case of 'step 1, step 2, step 3', believe me, someone else would have already written that book and would be cashing in.

A lot of times what we parents focus on is the immediate, surface level problem. In this case, it's flushing the toilet and being able to cope at school. But dig a little deeper and ask questions about why this is a problem. You end up with bigger issues like: sensory integration problems, high anxiety, lack of awareness of social mores, which could be due to all sorts of things.

My answer is usually that if you work on lowering the anxiety across the board, you'll get progress in every area. If you do some sensory integration work with an OT you might improve the sound sensitivity. If you work on improving communication and relationships in general terms, the child will be motivated to flush the toilet on her own.

"But how do I do that?" is usually the question back. And the answer is this. Enrol in RDI. Do LOTS of reading and learning about how children think and learn to think. Change everything you do. Work at length and with great expense with your child. Make this the focus of your life for the next three years. Get a consultant who'll help you.

But all of that is daunting and terrifying, so then I give this answer: 

"Break every part of that episode or task down in 25 smaller pieces. Work at it tiny step by tiny step, doing each one for ages until the anxiety is down. Go in and stand in the bathroom 10 times together. Then start talking about the flush. Then practice touching the flush button. Then look at the poo and imagine where it might go, and what might happen if it stays there. Then get someone else to flush while you listen to it outside the door. Then get ear plugs and listen to it in the bathroom. Then take one earplug out and listen to it. Then take the other earplug out and listen to it. Then get a recording of it while you touch the flush button. Then, and only then, flush it together. Then, do it all again but just her this time."

There is no problem like this that can be solved in a week. It's all long term, and it all requires changing the way you approach things and the way you guide your child. And seriously, the best way to do this is with RDI.