Yesterday I dragged my son with me on some errands. It’s summer and, well, he needed to get out of the house. And I needed a helper. Our first stop was the local food bank. We had a few bags of donations and I asked him to handle it. When he got back in the car, he said, “It makes me feel good about what I just did. We helped about 25 people, didn’t we?” <Proud mom moment.> So we took a few minutes to discuss his public service and gesture of kindness.
Our next stop was the recycling center. We had lots of cans and plastic bottles. We got our receipts redeemable for cash, and went back to our car. In that time, two older guys on bicycles came up carrying big bags of the bottles they had scavenged. I asked my son who he thought needed the $6.75 more—us or the men on the bikes. “Well, I could buy some Legos with it.” An honest statement from my guy. “Yes, true,” I said. “But I said need. Who’s more in need?” OK, he got it. So I said I’d give my receipt to the tall guy and he could give his receipt to the other one. The next question was interesting: “Do you do that every time, mom?” I said that it depends on a lot of factors and you just have to be aware of what’s going on and what feels right. This is tough for individuals with ASDs—they want a hard and fast rule. But there is none.
From there we went to the market and at the checkout stand, there was no one helping the cashier bag our items. So my dear son piped up, “Do you need some help?” as he proceeded to load the bags into our cart. <Another proud mom moment.>
When we got to the car, he said, “Did you see what I did? I was aware and saw that she needed some help.” So for the drive home we reviewed all the ways he was kind, responsible, caring—and aware.
It’s important to me that my son be familiar with the feelings and actions involved with helping others. It takes us out of ourselves and just makes us better humans. I know he’s getting the hang of it. My helper is learning to help others.
There’s a lot we need to teach our kids who are on the autism spectrum. We need to teach them how to play, how to interact with others and yes, how to help others. But once they learn it—and receive positive feedback and support—they will continue because that positive input is motivating.