Summer time with five kids means swimming, sleeping in, no homework, longer evenings … and teaching life skills to my two children with special needs. Bet you are thinking, “that sounds kind of fun.” Right?!
Let’s start with my 17 year old with autism. We identified goals at the beginning of the summer: #1 making dinner and #2 learning to use money at the store. So, off we go… recipes with peanut butter for dinner is where he wants to start. We spend three days explaining that peanut butter isn’t the ONLY food that he can eat during the day. We spend another three days explaining why vegetables mean more than corn and we spend the next three days getting through all the recipes that had the immediate response of “ugh”. 2.5 hours, one simple meal — three burned pans — two almost fires — one explosion in the microwave (and a new microwave) and we have success…. tacos for all.
We see confidence – we see a boy who has accomplished something BIG in his life – and we see a kitchen that looks like an Iron Chef has invaded our home for the evening. Pans are everywhere — ingredients are scattered – oil is splattered — cheese is found throughout the kitchen and dinner is served. I went to bed without even touching the kitchen — calling in my back-up crew for cleaning this MESS. I head upstairs with a glass of merlot in my hand and my son on my arm — he hasn’t stopped talking about how much “fun” that was. Objective #1 … check.
Life skill #2: Money. First of all, he truly believes that money falls from the sky when we need it. No matter how much we talk, draw, show, model and talk more … he has no concept of where money comes from. We call this the “birds and bees of cash” conversations with him. He once explained that Santa would bring money if we needed more for him to get a video game … I WISH!
We start with a $10.00 and a little (3 items) shopping list for him. We head to our grocery store that is almost the size of Disney World (I didn’t realize this until this shopping trip!). We start with three bananas — and learning to weigh them. Seems simple, right?! Not with a boy with autism. We find the bananas, we drop the bananas, we almost pull the weigher out of the ceiling and then we drop the bananas again. Off to the bread aisle…. THE NIGHTMARE CONTINUES! I made the mistake in the fruit aisle of talking about squeezing fruits …. WHY?!?!! I came around the bread aisle behind him by 30 seconds only to see him squeezing the shitters out of the bread. I remember a high pitched “STOOOPPPPP” coming out of my mouth — another mistake – a loud, unexpected sound. That loaf was squeezed to the point that it didn’t even look like bread anymore. We now are paying for 4 extra loaves of bread … not part of our $10.00 budget for the day. Nearly worn out… we head to the final aisle … and one that he has to find in the Disneyworld of food store. Cereal. 13 minutes later we have circled the store and learned all about the signing (by the way … it is CONFUSING as hell even for me!). We find the cereal aisle and now I realize I have given my boy the most confusing aisle of all … 1,201 choices in cereal! He is absolutely not going to make a choice until we have looked at all the prices first (of all times for him to listen to me) — one at a time we go down the cereal aisle. Back and forth. Up and down. I feel my legs getting numb from being there so long. He finally narrows it down to 5 cereals and then begins his own conversation with himself … “this has sugar — I shouldn’t have sugar – but I like sugar – I like peanut butter — ohhh this has lots of peanut butter – i like honey – I really like sugar – but I want peanut butter.” Now, a good life skills coach would have stepped in at this point to talk through the nutritional value of each cereal. But, this life skills coach has reached her patience limit and we take 4 boxes and go to the counter. The total: $32.81. I pay with a credit card (not on plan) and we head to the car with my son still talking about sugar or no sugar and how much he likes peanut butter. “Mom, this was so fun.”
My daughter’s plans will wait for another day …. need to find a new pool of patience!