Monday 30 November 2015

Why sharing shortbread is truly amazing

Why sharing shortbread is truly amazing - sharing hands

Have you seen the episode of 'Friends' where Joey doesn't share food? Joey is going on a second dinner date with a pretty lady and orders an extra portion of fries 'for sharing'. He has adopted this as his strategy to avoid sharing his dinner with his date. If course it all goes wrong as it always does in sitcoms. Joey not only knocks his dinner on the floor, his system backfires when he wants to eat the dessert ordered by his date. Our son David has a strategy that's far less complicated. Try to take food away from David and he might attempt to scratch your cheeks off. That's why I nearly fell over when he handed a shortbread stick to his little sister the other day.

David was diagnosed with autism a bit earlier than his older brother. Possibly this is because we were familiar with some of the signs but looking back I had a gut feeling that David was going to be more affected than his older sibling. All kids find sharing difficult sometimes but just how do you explain sharing to a child who doesn't listen when you talk and has fundamental difficulties in seeing things from another persons point if view. Even more than that and as the Theory of Mind suggests, David may actually expect others to see things from his point if view.

This can be part of the reason children with autism see little point in communicating. David would just go and stand by the biscuit cupboard as he simply expected me to know he wanted a biscuit. After a while, if I didn't manage to guess that he wanted a biscuit then he'd start to get upset. This was particularly the case with things like biscuits or iPads. These are high value items for David. A high value item isn't dependent on financial cost but how much David wants them. These are also items he finds difficult to give up. The only real way to help him learn to cope with going without something is to practice giving it up. Start slowly by offering another high value item in exchange. Then move to switching for a lower value item, like switching a biscuit for an apple. Finally offer help giving up the high value item for nothing, we use a countdown strategy to give David time to deal with loosing what he wants.

We and the school have also recently been working with David in his ability to follow instructions. This has followed something similar to an ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) type activity where David has been rewarded immediately when he follows an instruction. Then he is rewarded after following two instructions, then five and then any given number so that he doesn't expect a reward after completing a specific number of requests. I think this work combined with David's greater ability to give up high value items came together when he decided to share his shortbread with his sister.

David had just asked for shortbread by combining the Makaton signs for biscuit and stick. Having retrieved the box of shortbread from the cupboard, Jane his younger sister declared she also wanted one. David had two shortbreads. I asked David to give one to Jane and used the sign for 'share'. I fully expecting him to either ignore me or understand what I was asking and therefore run away or cheat and give his sister a new one out of the box.

But he didn't. He shared his shortbread, straight away without fuss or tears. I could barely believe it. And I reminded myself that if I don't constantly help David to use the skills he learns he won't use them and I won't get the opportunity to be amazed when he does something like sharing shortbread.

Our blog - Theory of Mind, double rainbow and breakfast
Our blog - Conversing about broken gingerbread men (ABA)

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  1. Sounds like a lovely breakthrough moment, sharing is a difficult concept for anyone but what a treat to see it happen so freely from David. Popping by from Small Steps Amazing Achievements

  2. That's amazing. How lovely to see that development, and strategies you are using helping David. #SSAmazingAchievements

  3. I tried it again a few days later with a custard cream... Less successful! Course I don't blame him, I'm not sure id be up for sharing a custard cream either ;-)

  4. Bless him :) well done David!

  5. What a lovely moment for you all, even if it doesn't happen again for a while, you all have that memory that it has and maybe will sometime again.
    Thanks for linking up with #SSAmazingAchievements

  6. I love those unexpected milestones!


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