The Importance of Rules for a Child on the Spectrum

Rules - FamilyRules, rules, rules.  We follow them without thinking and occasionally break them, but for you and me, they’re simply guideposts by which we live. For a child on the spectrum, rules establish the framework which governs his/her life.  As I read Dr. Joe Barber’s blog, Rules Are Important, I thought about the role that rules have played in Ryan’s life.

For Ryan, everything is black or white and there is no in between.  As a two year old, the rule was ‘clean up your toys after playing.’  As a prompt I might sing the “Clean up Song,” but soon he automatically completed the task when he finished playing.

As a preschool student I introduced the Ten Commandments in simple-to-understand terms.  He had a commandment notebook with pictures illustrating each commandment.  The fourth commandment, Honor Thy Father and Mother, meant to him follow your mom’s rules.  The significance of following the commandments, of course, is heaven.  We also kept the rules posted on the refrigerator as an ongoing reminder.  Often he would point to the rule, read it and tell me how he followed the rules.

As he grew older, new rules were added and subtracted.  He would hear the news about someone breaking the law and was quick to ask what the consequence was.  He had difficulty understanding that he should not correct his peers when they were breaking the rules nor report to the teacher that rules had been broken.

Ryan working

Ryan working at BNI

Rules provide structure for Ryan regardless of his age.  To this day he will ask which commandment the rule follows.  He will tell me if one of his peers at Transitional Work Services did not follow the rules and the consequence.  He is well aware that if you don’t follow the rules at work, you will be fired.  He definitely does not want that to happen as he truly enjoys his responsibilities and the money he earns.  Too few people have such a strong work ethic.

Summer school ends for us tomorrow and the children will be enjoying their free time until the end of August.  I’d encourage parents to embark on the next few weeks remembering the structure that rules provide will foster a smoother transition for your child back to school.  I wish you a safe, happy and healthy summer.  In Erie we are hoping for a return of the sun and warm temperatures.

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2 Responses to The Importance of Rules for a Child on the Spectrum

  1. Autism Mom says:

    My son came home from 2nd grade one day, absolutely furious because the other kids were not following the rules for tag, even after he told them! He is going into 4th grade and we still need to tell him that he is not the playground police, the teachers are. Sweet and funny boys! 😀

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