Sharing And The Autistic Child... Why "Sharing" Does Not Come Naturally!
A topic often associated with a child's social abilities was that of sharing with others. For a very long time, issues with "sharing" in the autistic child had been seen as "problems with socialization". In reality, however, it was my opinion, that this issue was very much also tied to the autistic child's inability to understand the whole without first understanding the parts that made up the whole.
I had often noticed that Zachary was fine with "sharing" food from his plate and putting it in my mouth, or with sharing his lemonade and allowing me to sip some too. His issues with "sharing" were more with things like the sharing of pencils, play dough, or anything else that involved the actual "splitting in parts" of objects, then, Zachary broke down and was unable to "share". I noticed that his issues with "sharing" had nothing to do with whether or not something belonged to "him" verses his sister... they simply had to do with "things" that were being "pulled apart"... in other words, with "sharing" that involved the separation of "parts" from the "whole".
To Zachary, all pencils belonged together... as did all play dough... etc. His issues with "sharing" consisted of the making of "different piles" for the same thing. For more on this issue, I encouraged parents to read the section on "Odd Behaviors".
As such, I now saw that the issue was not with his lack of "sharing" but rather with his need for order...and his inability to cope with the "part" of the "whole" being separated from the whole. Sharing involved "creating a part", "taking a part from the whole" and giving it to someone else... and that was something that was just "not doable" for the autistic child... his brain simply would not want to allow that!
To the autistic child, "all these things belonged together" and should not be "separated"... they were part of a whole. Again, teaching the "in between" situation with sharing was like anything else with autism... the child had to see how the parts made up the whole and how it was ok to separate the parts and give some to others. The concept of "fractions" was one I truly believed would help many children to understand how "parts made up a whole" and how those parts could be separated. Words to help the autistic child deal with this issue of "sharing" were found under: Words That Teach Quantity. These could help all parents address a multitude of issues dealing with parts of the entity - the whole.
In working this issue of sharing, I found play dough helped. I gave some to Zachary, and then showed him that mom needed some too, to make fun things.
I had seen Zachary share crayons, etc., just fine, as long as they were all in the same "container" and we each "took some" from there, and then "put them back where they belonged - in the one container". If, however, I tried to take some of the same objects and "split them up" in separate containers or piles - one for him and one for me - well, that did not go over well at all. Zachary seemed to have no problem sharing objects that were "different" from those he wanted. For example, he was fine with having all the pencils and I could have all the play dough. It was the separation of "like things" that was an issue.
So, again, I strongly believed the issue behind "sharing" per se was simply that for autistic children, like things simply "belonged together" and that was all there was to it! :o)
It had been easy enough to work on this issue… when Zachary ate, I would tell him to put 5 pieces of some cfgf snack he had at my “spot” on the table… by making him “count them out” and put them apart from the rest of his pile, he was much better about creating that “partiality”. At first, he ended up eating my pile too, but, I simply told him: “no, that’s mommy’s pile” and then he was fine!
I found, over time, Zachary was much better able to cope with sharing as I labeled this “activity of splitting things apart” as “sharing”, always saying: “thank you for sharing” was a phrase I used a great deal.