Denny is only 5 years old, but he has a plan and long-term vision. His 11 year old brother Louie talks non-stop about elevators and skyscrapers. Louie also asks the same questions over and over, “Denny, are you 5 years old? Denny, are you 5 years old? How old are you, Denny?”
Denny just wants someone to build complicated Lego sets with him, someone to play board games with him, someone to play with him while Mom is cooking dinner and Dad is out mowing the lawn.
Step 1: Match your interests
Denny knew he needed to tap into his brother’s interests, talents and endless energy. So he took charge. He thought about his brother’s interests. Then he matched them up with his own interests. Denny showed his brother a picture of a castle with 4 levels in the Lego catalog. The height of the building got Louie’s attention. Denny explained, “Look, Louie. It has architecture. You like architecture. We can build it. Write a letter to Grandma. She will send it for Christmas.”
Step 2: Re-direct behavior
Then Denny figured out a way to help calm his brother. Louie is tall enough to reach the games on the high shelf, and a lot of the games involve building, which Louie likes. The games gave Louie something to focus on instead of repeating questions and phrases. And Denny got to choose the game.
Step 3: Sharing goals
Sometimes Louie and Denny work together to plan a family vacation. They both like water slides – Louie says they’re like skyscrapers with water – and hate big family parties during holidays. So they asked their parents for an overnight trip to an indoor water park during winter break.
The answer was yes.
Denny’s new trick was a treat for the whole family.
Karen Wang blogs about disabilities for the Friendship Circle. You may have seen her at Cedar Point carrying a kid who’s way too big to be carried or at Trader Joe trying to find food that will be accepted by the extremely picky eaters in her home. Her hobbies are preventing epic meltdowns, studying obscure ancient languages and sleeping. She has been living on Planet Autism since 2001 with her husband Oliver and sons Louie and Denny.