I worked with a student for many years. His favorite verbal expression when he became uspset or distressed was to sing this jingle to me, “what you want is what you get at MacDonald’s today” This was expressed at a very appropriate times which ruled out delayed “echolalic” speech.
Why? Usually because he could not do or have what he wanted and did not have the words to express this to me appropriately. Sometimes children with autism communicate using unusual words, phrases, or jingles.
Children need to learn that what they want is not always on the menu. This is a teaching piece and can be very challenging and frustrating for both teacher/parent and student. However, it is a very valuable lesson worth teaching.
More important to teach with this concept is how to cope with feelings when you cannot have what you want. Choices are very important. Even though you can’t have what you want, you can have one item or another. Providing choices often redirects focus and attending, providing the choices are of interest to the child.
Choices presented in a visual format such as a picture, photo, written word, or even the objects themselves provide immediate, concrete, information. A child may be able to avoid a meltdown or an increase in anxiety.
One way to practice this is to actually set a situation up where the child cannot have something they want. Be prepared with two other items or activities that you know your child likes and be prepared to provide it to them immediately when they do make a choice. Remember to reinforce the idea and label ”good choice”. It is important to teach the meaning and language of choice so that your child begins to learn that the concept of choice.
How often do we take for granted the choices we have throughout our day? Often times children with autism become overly dependent on others for directing them what to do and how to do it. Their world becomes one of demands and commands. Learning about choice and providing choices is one of the most wonderful gifts you can give your child.