Autism Sweeps

Jennifer Byde Myers

I get a note each afternoon from my son’s
teacher. She emails me and let’s me know what Jack did that day, any struggles he had, and
provides information about what’s happening in the classroom, and around
the school. It’s efficient, an easy way for me to catch up on what he’s doing in
school, and a great way for each side of the equation to have context
for conversation with Jack. 

When we go out to dinner at Jack’s favorite
restaurant, I write his teacher, then she and the aides can ask him
questions about what he did the night before. It’s also great that the
email goes to both my husband and me. So many times in the past I would
read Jack’s little school journal, or talk to the teacher when I picked up
Jack from school, and that information would never make it all the
way back to my husband. It is fantastic for my two favorite guys to have
something to ‘talk’ about.

There is the usual update about OT and
PT, and how well he walked on their social outing. I love hearing about
his art projects, because art isn’t something he likes to do at home, and I’ve never been a big fan of messy paint projects.
And while I know that they have a yoga class every week, I know that
they adapt a lot of the moves for him because he doesn’t really like to
sit still, and doesn’t like his body being manipulated in any way. But
I’ve seen him stretch out across the lawn, so I know that some of those
moves are probably familiar to his body
with those hypermobile limbs. These are all things that he really only does at school, but I know we could do them at home if we wanted to.

the thing I can’t get over, is that lately I’ve been reading that he
“did chores at the end if the day.” Chores? Yes, chores. At school he
clears his plate after snack. He wipes down the table. He pushes in his
chair. Of course he’s doing all of this with help, physical prompts,
vocal prompts, and more commonly hand-over-hand– but he is still doing
chores. He never does any of that at our house.

This chores thing has actually come up recently, with my daughter noticing that she is held
to a different standard when it comes to cleaning up her messes, and
participating in the daily maintenance routines of our house. She hasn’t
exactly complained, okay, maybe she has, but she knows that Jack doesn’t have any chores at
home. On my best day of parenting, I would create one standard, then
adapt that to help Jack meet that standard too.

So now I’m thinking, well why doesn’t
he do chores? Shouldn’t he be doing the same things at school and home,
so we can reinforce learning? It’s not the first time that he has been
capable of a skill in one location but not another. For consistency, I
believe he should have benchmarks and milestones that are similar to those that are set
for him at school, and as he learns in one environment we should see the
behavior both at school and at home. This transfer of skills can take
time, and I’m aware that Jack is on his own schedule of development. 

I have tried a few times
to help Jack carry his plate to the sink after dinner at home, but with
no success.
He turns into a pile of boneless chuckles, melting to the floor.–sweeping brings on skipping through the dust piles.

But perhaps, couldn’t there be another thing at play here? Maybe this isn’t entirely about
skills. Perhaps he just doesn’t want to do chores at all, because what
12-year old really wants to clean up anything? ever?

A version of this essay was previously published on