Ninja Cat, if you’ve read my About page you already know, is a high functioning autistic. He’s almost nine, but essentially has the social capacity of someone who is 6. This makes it hard for him to make or keep friends, understand what to do in situations and conversations and generally connect with the people around him. It goes so far that I have to tell him I am disappointed in his behavior and he is about to be disciplined. (I *never* tell him I am disappointed in him. He knows that no matter what he does or says I love him and always will.)
At school he receives Cognitive Behavioral therapy. The way I understand it, it is basically a Pavlovian style of learning that teaches a correct behavior and gives a reward for it. It’s been used for years in all sorts of deficiencies. I think this is great. Kids naturally want attention/rewards/treats, so rewarding positive behavior and ignoring most negative behavior is a great way to show people like Ninja Cat the way to maneuver through his relationships – not just in school but as he grows.
Part of this is learning about compassion for others. It’s taught in school and in our church. We go to a NACC affiliated church and use only the Bible as our authority. No extra texts, no creed but Jesus, no dogma. And part of that is to be compassionate to one another, especially those that are less fortunate than ourselves. Fortunately, Ninja Cat has taken this to heart; albeit, in his own way. His favorite way is to cheer up crying babies when we are our doing our errands. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. So there are times I explain his autism, there are times I do not. It depends on the vibe I get from the family.
So it made my heart swell recently when his compassion extended to people he’s not even seen.
We were in Wal-Mart recently. It was 7:30 in the morning. I was picking up 44 dozen donuts for our regular honor’s breakfast. Honor’s breakfast stresses me out in the first place and shopping with them usually does in the second. Gratefully, Danger Boy was able to find the napkins without me having to all but take him there while Ninja Cat stayed with me and helped count the dozens and dozens of donuts. Let’s just say I’m in my own world and hoping the kids just keep up.
Then we head to the check-out line. I could have used the self-check I guess; but, I ended up in the 20 items or less. Before you scream that I had 46 items (44 dozen and 2 pkgs. of napkins), the donuts were on one UPC label. I’m swiping my card and Ninja Cat finds a nickel on the floor. He turns to the gentleman behind us and asks if the nickel is his. The gentleman says no and it’s ok if he keeps it.
But this is the part that gave me chills and almost made me tear up, honest. He tells the gentleman that it’s OK he wants to use the money to help the sick kids. Then, he promptly goes over to the LeBonehur Children’s Hospital bin and drops the nickel in the slot. Now mind you he’s been looking for ways to save money for varying items and projects. But he decided to give it away ‘to help the sick kids’.
What possessed him to do this? I don’t exactly know. I am hoping that the therapy he’s been receiving at school and the reinforcement he’s getting at home and church is part of it. I’m also hoping most of it is his fire of compassion igniting and lighting the way to make connections with more people along the way.
Autism parents, what are ways you teach compassion in your children? I’d love to know and I’m sure other parents in our situation would love the ideas.