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Guest Blog: Chores… A Simple Name Change and a Little Collaboration get the Job Done

This guest blog is reposted with the express consent of the author exactly as it appeared on her blog
By: L. Mae Wilkinson
NB: This blog post was originally written for parents. We really enjoyed this article and Mae’s suggestions for how to help children on the spectrum think differently about chores. Please print out and share with the parents of your kiddos.
Figuring that Connor, my seven-year old, was ready for more responsibility, I approached other moms to see what their children were doing in the Chores department. My heart sank to my toes as I realized that once again I was late to the task. Many moms had been watching their children happily scrubbing, dusting, making beds and cleaning bathrooms for years.
Sorting through all of their wonderful suggestions, I settled on having Connor unload the dishwasher, so I asked him if he would put the forks and spoons away. He tried his new chore, and didn’t like the fact the silverware still had drops of water in the basket. Undaunted, I realized that I’d have to bring Connor into the decision process. “We’ll find a new chore that’s just right for you,” I comforted him.
I then talked about the importance of doing chores. Connor responded “I don’t do chores.” I explained that we all have to do chores. It is part of life…Dad does chores, Mom does chores… Connor answered, “Yes, Dad goes to work at the office, you work in your home office and I work at school.” Momentarily distracted, I celebrated his comprehension of the importance of a career. Perhaps he won’t be a professional video gamer after all.
Then it was back to the task at hand. “Honey, we all have jobs to do, but we also have chores to do, too.” Connor thought for a moment and then beamed, “I do chores for my teacher at school.” Good one, sweetheart. I admired his cleverness and marveled at the special talent of teachers to get children to perform tasks that they would otherwise have no interest in doing.
Patiently, I tried again. “Connor, we all like to help out at school and at work, be we also help out at home.”
“No, I don’t want to help out at home. I do homework at home. That is my chore.” Oh boy. Once Connor gets it into his head that he doesn’t like something, it is easier to move a mountain than to change his mind.
Suddenly, I have a brainstorm. “Connor, don’t you remember how you helped gather items for the garage sale?” Yes, he did. “And Connor, don’t you remember how you helped the customers that came to the garage sale?” Yes, he remembered that as well, and beamed, “I did a good job.”
“Yes, you did, honey, and can you now see that chores don’t have to happen all the time, and they don’t have to be difficult, and they can actually be fun?” He nodded, albeit a bit tentatively. And then, using one of the most effective tools in a mom’s arsenal, a simple name change, “Connor, I have a great idea. Your chores are going to be… SPECIAL PROJECTS!”
Special projects? He looked interested (and a bit suspicious), so I charged ahead before he figured out he was being maneuvered. I explained that special projects are important, like helping to wash the car. “Oh I like to wash the car!” This was going great. I had him in my sights. Victory was near.
Trying to appear nonchalant, I said “Maybe laundry would be a special project. You know that mom and dad both help out with laundry.” Connor thought about it for a minute and said, “I’ll throw the clothes in the laundry room.” Now we’re talking. Emboldened, I suggested that “maybe you could do something else with the laundry.” He looked doubtful, so I pushed ahead. “Perhaps you could put the clothes away after they were clean.” Connor looked down his nose. “No, I won’t do that.” Uh oh. A set back. How was I going to handle this one? It turned out that I didn’t have to do anything. A moment later, Connor looked up and said, “But I’ll take the clean clothes and hang them up in the closet.”
Mission accomplished. Perhaps with his gift for negotiation, he’ll be an excellent attorney, possibly one with a specialty in labor relations!
Featured Publication/Website: Autism is not the Boss
L.Mae Wilkinson is a reluctant housewife, moderate mom, volunteer parent mentor and quiet advocate for people with disabilities. She has a son with a PDD-NOS diagnosis who is fully mainstreamed at his school and within his community. From Mae’s website: “I am a huge fan of all families who have children with autism; I am pro inclusion and self-determination. I like just about any organization that brings understanding/resources/research about autism. I am neutral on vaccines/supplements/diets/gene debates. I started Autism is Not the Boss in order to gather and share practical parenting tips to prepare children with ASD for a life filled with good relationships, good options and great futures, and that means raising confident and happy kiddos”

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