Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Merriam-Webster defines consequence as:

1. A conclusion derived through logic: inference
2. Something produced by a cause or necessarily following from a set of conditions
3. Importance with respect to power to produce an effect

As like a lot of autistic kids, Meghan has a very hard time understanding the consequence of her actions. Sending her to her room wasn’t enough of a consequence (or punishment) for her to stop the undesirable activity or behavior; and as a consequence, I had no way of properly mothering her and keeping her safe, other than constantly racing after her and hovering over her.

Many years ago, one of her teachers (the one I really hated) told me, and the rest of the team, that Meghan could successfully be disciplined by keeping her locked in her room and installing a peephole in her door. Yeah, right. Instead of “services,” I should get a lock and a peephole; instead of a bus monitor, I should get her a leotard (a long, frustrating story). Let me just add, holding her in her room has never worked. She doesn’t mind being in her room, and the one time that she did mind, she threw a toy at the window and broke the window. I got to her just in time before she could play with the shards of glass—which she found most intriguing!!

The bottom line: Meghan didn’t care about being sent to her room or not getting dessert (which she would just find unfair) or not going to the playground; she didn’t understand how not getting these things were in relation to what she did wrong, even if the consequence followed the negative behavior.

I’ve even tried rewarding her for her positive behavior. For instance, she would never sit in her seat belt in the car, so in order for me to drive anywhere, I would give her a piece of her favorite candy (like an M&M) every few minutes for rewarding her for sitting in her seat belt. Unfortunately, doing this just proved to be a desperate attempt to keep her busy while she sat in her seat belt. Either she didn’t understand that she was being rewarded for the “appropriate behavior” or she simply didn’t care, because, when she got full or bored, she would be out of her seat belt like a hyperactive child on a sugar high (hmmm)--and I would be screwed!

One Christmas when Meghan was around 5, my sister bought her a preschool toy that taught cause and effect. The toy was big, bulky, and required the youngster to push a small plastic ball through the top to watch it come out through a door at the bottom: a consequence to the action, place the ball in the top, get it back at the bottom. I thought it was insulting.

Today, I want it back, because Meghan still doesn’t get the consequence of her actions theory. And no matter how much I try and trust that she does, it is always thrown back in my face.

Take, for instance, her ipod. She first borrowed Nick’s even though he told me he didn’t want her to use it because she would bite its shiny glass surface. I told him that I would supervise, and did, until I trusted her with it, and then she broke it.

So we go out and buy them new ipods (a consequence to my misguided actions and a second chance for Meghan) and all is forgiven and good again, until she decides to chew on the plastic earphone cord, and now the earphones no longer work.

And no more ipod for her until she learns that biting the cord will get her “no ipod.”
And how do we exercise that experiment? By eventually giving her new earphones and trying again.

And again…
And again…

Do you see the vicious cycle here? This is not parenting 101 (like it was/is with Nick); this is super parenting for the parents who are destined to go insane!!

And I know in some way she can’t help it; she has sensory integration issues and when she is in the presence of a soft, pliable piece of plastic, she can’t help but chew, chew, chew to her hearts content. And, yes, I have tons of chewing tubes for her to use for this very need, but, apparently, these, too, get boring.

As for the ipod, Meghan is still none the wiser, for she cannot understand the concept: that due to her actions, she can no longer listen to her ipod; just as much a mechanical consequence as it is a behavioral one.

So she bites her hand and kicks me. And still no ipod. And I walk away.

Hmm, there’s always next time, I guess.


Danna Banana said...

You have articulated the last 12 years of my life succinctly. Parenting these kids is so tough. You are a great role model!

Shea's Mom said...

Yes, Holli, you really got it on this one.

Shea doesn't get this either. If he hits someone, he will get in trouble. But, none of the "consequences" really bother him. He too likes his room. He doesn't really mind staying in and helping the teacher clean the classroom, etc. I guess, finding the stick that will work with them is the key. But, so hard!!!

And, for the person who said you should lock her in her room and install a peephole??!!! I think Child Protection Services would have something to say about that.

What an absolutely unhelpful and potentially evil thing to say!!

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Wow - the peephole. Unbelievable!

Some consequences Nigel understands and some he doesn't. I guess the only thing we can count on as parents of ASD kids is inconsistency!!

Anonymous said...

The room with the peephole idea is no different at all from the time out closets they use in centers. No difference whatsoever and they love to use them.

Holly Nappi Collins said...

Gee anonymous, why do you like to antagonize me, have I ever done anything to upset you? You certainly try to upset me. If you don’t like my blog, then stop reading it.

Otherwise, stop attacking me and offer something useful--we are all raising autistic kids together.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried putting the chewy tubing over the earphones? If they are reinforced, maybe it won't break. Or, she won't chew on them bc she can!

(different) anonymous

Holly Nappi Collins said...

Thanks for the suggestion, anonymous, that is a good idea, I will try it or something like it...but Meghan is good, though, very good... if you know what I mean!!