I Don’t Know What to DO with My Child

Autism: A New Perspective
Autism: A New Perspective
I Don't Know What to DO with My Child

In this episode, Dr. Gutstein talks about activities with children and the problems parents can have coming up with ideas to engage their children with autism.

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Full Transcript

I think the message they’re really saying is this child is not willing to be an apprentice.Once that child is involved in a guiding relationship these are not an issue of what do we do. That is a statement of we do not have a guiding relationship. This child is not engaging, because I have to worry about the perfect thing to do. Now I’m not saying my grandson will do anything, he won’t do it any moment in time but there’s enough stuff that we do. And we’ve developed a shared, the thing is we developed shared things that we both know to do, that we do together, this is our history, this is what we do. And it changes but you know it’s a consensual thing right that we do. Ummm and it becomes very affirming of our relationship.

Now I think the the message is, what that parents really saying is if they’re really worried about activity is my child doesn’t really want to be participating with me as a apprentice. They want, it’s the activity that has to be important right, not me and that person, that child. Because we do mopping, sweeping.

I mean I have to, my, I’ll tell you my cat kept peeing on the floor and I had to keep spraying it. The rug, finally we are getting hardwood cause we can’t stand it anymore and he want, you know we were participating together in spraying the pee stain killer, whatever the pee killer. I mean that was fine too, it didn’t matter right. I mean you do what he wants to do cause he wants to be more competent, he wants to, you know he basically wants me to help him be more you know, the vacuum the cleaner, turning the, he is still a little bit scared of it but he will turn it off when it’s on. He learned to push the button to turn it off. And he really gets, he is learning how to twirl the umm cord to put it away and he’s learning how to push it himself into the closet. 21 months. So vacuuming you know it’s like right, who would think that that would be a collaborative activity right.Well it’s not a gimmick. See that’s the other thing, It’s not like, it’s not like you know, it’s not some weird thing, it’s a thing that he’s excited about. It’s not like I say we are going to do vacuuming today, NOO no I don’t want to, you know.

Image if that’s what you’re dealing with as a parent then you’re going to think, oh only if I had the right activity, right, he won’t say no no no no no . But the paradox there is of course if you have to search for the right activity, you’re not important, it’s the activity. You’ve lost before you’ve started right?

And you know with my grandson, I tell him something new we are going to do and he’s wow oh ha he doesn’t even know what it is yet, he has no idea what the words mean, We’re going to go do this. And you know as long as it’s not overwhelming for him and he has a role where he can be somewhat competent, it’s fine, no matter what it is, it could be the most mundane thing in the world. You know ummm right.

And that’s what people have to understand, again it’s back to those expectations that if you have a experience what you should expect as a parent, what, how , you know if your child is involved in engaging with you, seeing you as their guide , as the road to being competent, as the road to growth, then you’re going to get worried about activities right? And I used to be silly about it and I used to say here is one thousand activities you can do and I would try anything I could think of in the world , I would just put down. Which was true and people didn’t get it or they thought I was mocking them and I stopped doing that. And now I say well, I say this instead, I say I think you’re fine, I think you know exactly, whatever activities you have are more than enough. T

he problem is not the activities, that that child is not enthusiastic and they’re not just excited to learn from you right, participate with you, and grow from you. Grow from you, and to see the little pieces of growth and I’m able to do that with my grandson and say oh look what you did today, this little tiny thing. Little tiny thing he did you know and because I’m with him enough times in the week I can see those little pieces right of growth. And it’s an ongoing story that we’re creating. That’s the other thing, we’re creating a story together and I want to emphasize this.

We are creating a narrative together, he doesn’t have narrative yet, he’s to young but we are creating a story of our ongoing time with each other. It’s a story of what we used to called becoming, of growth, of where we are, where we were, where we’re headed and he’s aware of that even at that young age. That we get together and there’s a continuity, it may not be the same exact activity although sometimes we do do the same types of things that are more retained things. That, we make a little bit of movement here and he grows in this and he’s able to do a little bit more of this now.

You know you certainly don’t want to change those activities, I mean if you change them up you will never get to see his growth, you’ll never get to see if he’ll take on more responsibility of more things. But we’re creating a joint narrative, a history together right, and I think we’re talking about parents who haven’t been able to do that with their child yet and so you know their thinking that if I just add enough activities, different ones, which would be the opposite of what I tell you to do right.

The thing I tell you to do is find a few things that you can grow with. Like our, you know like our box right, we have done other things other than the box, we built the, he likes to cook, we built the little holder for his tools with hooks on it, just at his height where he can take and he’s learned how to take his little tools, his chef tools out of the thing, off the hook cause that was hard for him to learn to do and you know we’ve made other things as well. And we buy it, we shop for the materials, we look for the specific things we need, that’s all part of it you know. And we learn how to use the tools and we learn you know, there’s a lot of different pieces of it but umm imagine if we just doing all these weird activities all the time. There would be no continuity, there would be no story, it would just be a bunch of things we’re doing right like exercises we’re doing, it would be random and it would be meaningless right.

So how many things do you need ? So you know, me and my grandson, we do our box, he calls it box. We do box, we cook we do the garbage , we do that, we do household cleaning. He wants to do it, I don’t make him do it, you know whether its vacuum, sweeping, that stuff. Let’s see what else that we do.Shopping, we shop for stuff we need ummm and then you know we do other stuff, he watches Thomas the Train and we do blocks and puzzles and trucks.

But I am going to tell you something, the most important things are the things I just said, those few mundane things. Those are the things that we remember and we’re excited about being with each other to do and umm they have the continuity. And you know, I think, if you think of it that way you don’t have to worry about activities, you worry about the child being ready to be an apprentice and having that enthusiasm and excitement and then the activities start to emerge.


  1. Deb Smith

    Just wondering if you have any guiding video’s for adult children.
    Deb Roffe

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