Essential Tools of Survival
In the movie “Ocean Heaven”
where Sam decided to make use of his remaining time to be with his autistic son and train him on his daily skills and basic tasks. One of the very important skills shown in the movie was how he trained his son to recognize the concept of money and make use of it.
In fact, it’s never too late to train your autistic children. The most important thing is to persevere all the way. My wife had started training my son since he’s seven and it took us about one and a half years to get him recognize the meaning of money.
Learning About the Concept of Money
We had trained my son using methodology of ABA application. It’s being structured in a step by step basis. I will try to note down the steps and hopefully it will be of some helps to parents who would like to try out the method. Treat it like a game and encourage your child to engage playing it.
First create the correct environment where your autistic child would be sitting down quietly and start learning. Make sure that there’s no distraction from the surrounding.
In order for the child to start learning how to use money, they need to recognize what are dollars and cents. For autistic children, it’s important to let them know what are the notes and the coins meaning.
Differentiating the Values of the Coins
Step 1: On the empty table, place a piece of A4 size paper with column marked with different value of the coins.
Step 2: Show the child one piece of coin at a time. Put it on the child hand and ask him to place it at the correct location. Use verbal reinforcement to show the child what’s the object (coin) meaning. Prompting maybe needed to show which location should the child places the object.
Do not just place a cluster of coins in front of the child and encourage the child to start sorting the coins to the correct value location. This will only confuse them. The cluster of coins should be done at the later part of the training once the child has a better idea what’s going on.
Repeat the process couple of times till the child able to sort the coins correctly. Praise the child if he got it right. If he hasn’t understood the rules, do not give up. Let him take a rest after 15 minutes of practice and start the process the next day.
Do not give up. We had been doing it for couple of weeks before my son understands how to sort the coins. Remember; do not start arithmetic operation at this moment.
Step 3: Now, once your child is able to identify the values of the coins, remove the paper and change to a different environment. The purpose of the action is to enable generalization of the skill. Practice it in supermarket or restaurant etc. Parents are reminded to bring extra coins and try not to use credit card in front of the child.
For example if there is an opportunity, when buying a can of drink which cost $1.50, tell your child that you need a one dollar coin and a fifty cent coin. Show him the handful of coins and ask him to pick the correct ones. Ask him to pass the amount to the cashier. Take your time and slowly guide him. Do not aspect him to be correct in the first time as he may still require the paper guiding method. Remember, at this point of time, the arithmetic operation have not yet started.
Teaching Your Child Arithmetic Operations
Once the child is used to handling the coins, you may start telling them how to perform arithmetic addition. Use back the same paper method but this time, you will draw “ten columns” and label them from 10 cent, 20 cent, 30 cent…till 100 cent which is $1.
Step 1: Work with the smallest value of coin first. Show the child two 10 cents. Instead of asking him to perform sorting, tell him that two 10 cents coins are equal to 20 cents.
This is going to be very tough for an autistic child to understand. Be very patient with them. Put the two coins in his/her hand and ask him to put in the 20 cent column. Verbal reinforcement and prompting if needed. Slowly increase the number of coins till he is very familiar with 10 cents coins. Remember, at this stage, we are only using 10 cents coins.
Step 2: Once your child able to understand the addition of 10 cent coins, you may start to pass him couples of 10 cents coins and ask how much is it. Ask him to place at the correct column.
Step 3: Once the child is able to perform efficiently on the counting, change the value of the coins and start from step1 and 2 again.
Step 4: After being able to recognize all the values of the coins, you may start using mixture of coins, example passing three coins which comprises of one 10 cents, one 20 cents and one 50 cents coin to the child. The child should be able to count and understand that it belongs to the 80 cents category.
Generalize the training by showing and training your child how to read the price tags or labels in supermarkets or shopping malls. The above mentioned training took us couple of years before my son can go to the food court and start buying orange juice. As mentioned above, we are talking only in coins and cents. When buying bigger ticket items where dollars, paper notes are involved, it’s again back to step one of
differentiating the values of dollars.
Till today, after more than four years of training, we are still constantly practicing the method with my autistic son. Everyday, after back from my work, I will ask my son what he had for lunch in school and how much was it. Subtraction or getting change after paying still require another effort of training which my son had not acquired it. To
many people, this maybe a nightmare but for me, it’s another journey that love bring me together with my son.
Merging with Society
As most parents wanted their autistic children to merge back to the society, they need to know that the most essential tools of survival will be the ability to make use of money.
The world of Autism is often so pure and naive and to have your child handling one of the most sought after component in the world is going to be a tough challenge.