When I’m talking about accommodating an Autistic child, I get this one question more than any other…
How do I know if I’m accommodating them or am I just coddling them?
Where do I draw the line with accommodations?
Am I preparing the path for my child or preparing my child for the path?
It’s a legitimate question.
As a parent, it is our job to meet our child’s needs and accommodate them, and advocate for them.
As a parent, it is also our job to challenge our kids and help them grow into the adults they’ll become.
At times it feels like those are two completely opposing ideals, but they don’t have to be.
So how do you know, then, if you are accommodating or coddling your Autistic child?
Are You Accommodating or Coddling Your Autistic Child?
Before I jump in, let’s talk about coddling for a moment.
Coddling officially means: “to treat in an indulgent or overprotective way.”
And I can see why this comes up so much with accommodations.
As parent-advocates, are we being overprotective when we fight for our child’s accommodations at school?
Sometimes kids have to do things they don’t want to do.
Sometimes they have to do things that are difficult for them.
Sometimes they have to try several times before they succeed.
And I’m not discounting any of that.
But I challenge you, friend, that meeting your Autistic child’s needs is not coddling them or being overprotective.
You aren’t keeping them from growing by accommodating.
In fact, Autistic children grow best in an environment where they can thrive, and accommodations are how you make that happen.
What is Accommodating?
So now let’s get really clear about what accommodating actually is.
Accommodation is defined as: “a convenient arrangement; a settlement or compromise.”
And in the case of accommodating Autistic children, accommodating means providing things that Autistic children need in order to reach their goals.
Accommodations can look like a variety of things:
- Sensory tools
- Extra breaks
- Visual instructions
- Smaller, chunked assignments
- Speaking instead of writing
- Extra Reminders
Almost anything can be an accommodation for an Autistic child as long as it helps them to meet their needs, access something equally, or reach one of their Autistic-led goals.
Where is the Line Between Accommodating and Coddling?
So where does that leave us as parents? Where is the line between accommodating and coddling?
Whenever I am finding accommodations for my Autistic child or whenever I am coaching my clients…
The line between accommodating and coddling boils down to one specific question.
What is the Goal?
You have to ask yourself, what is the goal here?
Let me give you an example…
Let’s say your child has a history assignment and is supposed to write two paragraphs on the civil war.
What is the goal of this assignment?
To prove knowledge of history.
Now any tool or strategy that doesn’t take away from that goal is an accommodation, not coddling.
So typing instead of writing? Accommodation.
Verbally sharing knowledge of the civil war? Accommodation.
Writing a list of civil war facts instead of using paragraphs? Accommodation.
Because the goal of the assignment is a knowledge of history, not the way it’s shared.
When you start with the goal in mind, it becomes completely clear what things can be accommodated.
Here’s another example: A writing assignment to write two paragraphs.
First, what is the goal?
Because if the goal is to prove an understanding of paragraph structure, typing instead of writing is a reasonable accommodation, but writing a list instead of paragraphs would not be.
If the goal is to prove an ability to write with proper grammar and spelling, spell-check is not a reasonable accommodation, but perhaps a shorter assignment length would be.
Are you starting to see how this works?
And one more (friend, you know I love examples): A math worksheet with multiplication facts.
If the goal is performing multiplication with accuracy, using manipulatives is an accommodation, while using a calculator may not be.
If the goal is to prove the memorization of facts, answering the facts verbally is an accommodation, while using manipulatives may not be.
So there you have it, my friend.
The line between accommodating your Autistic child and coddling them is simple: What is the goal?
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