Generalization is a b!tch

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One of the most frustrating things for me as an Autism Dad, in regards to my kids with Autism is generalization. 

Merriam-Webster defines generalization as the act or process whereby a learned response is made to a stimulus similar to but not identical with the conditioned stimulus. 

In layman’s terms it means that if something happens once, it always happen again. Kids with Autism tend to apply this concept to just about everything in their lives. My kids are no exception. In fact, my kids are the poster children for generalization. 

Let me give you a few examples from recent history, most of which center around Emmett. 

  1. If something tastes funny this time, it will always taste funny. Even if the reason it tastes funny is because you just brushed your teeth. 
  2. If someone makes plans with Emmett and cancles the plans, Emmett will always be worried that it will happen every single time after. 
  3. If we watch the first episode of a new show, and Emmett doesn’t like it, he will never watch it again. It doesn’t matter how good the show gets, he will assume it’s the same as the first episode he watched. 
  4. A general example would be picking out a snack when we go to the store. If we do it once, it will be expected every single time. 
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I’m really tired and these are the best examples my sleep deprived brain can come up with at the moment. Hopefully, you understand what I’m trying to say. 

The point I’m trying to make is that when you have a child with Autism, you have to be extremely careful what you say or do around them. Not only that, but you have to worry about what the people around them say and do, because it doesn’t matter where it comes from, kids will generalize many experiences, both good and bad. 

If you have a child with Autism in your life, keep these things in mind because generalization can be a bitch for Autism parents to deal with. It only takes one time to set a trend that causes chaos. 

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It’s not easy and I’ve stepped on many a landmine in my tenure as an Autism parent. All anyone can do is their best. It’s probably a good idea to live by the rule, if you are unsure, ask….. ☺ 

How many of you can relate to these issues with generalization? What’s your experience and how do you deal with it?