The Inappropriate Use Of Stairs

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My theory on the autistic child's inability to understand the whole without first understanding the parts also explains the inappropriate use of stairs I came to see in Zachary.   He had previously used stairs properly, however, after a time, I noticed the only way he now went down stairs was by taking BOTH feet and jumping on ONE step at a time... all the way down.   Gone was the use of alternate feet and alternate stair.  

Again, if you think about it, the appropriate use of stairs would require each step (the parts) be identified as part of the whole.  In addition, as the child goes down the stairs, the feet may be perceived as a "part" to the process in that they "integrate" with the stairs as one moves down stairs in the appropriate manner.   Jumping down stairs, one at a time, using both feet at a time would not allow the child to perceive this "union of his feet with the stairs"... this addition of a new "part" (a foot) to the whole (the stairs).   The brain of the autistic child, in my opinion,  necessitates complete accuracy in everything - and hence, everything must fit together perfectly to avoid frustration.    The introduction of "new parts" - feet going down stairs one at a time - would introduce frustration to the autistic child as, in my opinion, he would be unable to "integrate" those "new parts" with what was previously a "whole" in and of itself (the unit stairs).   This is why, in my opinion, labels are so important to the autistic.  In this particular situation, the child would first have to perceive the "unit of stairs" and understand those stairs as an entity in and of itself... with multiple levels.   The "multiple levels" of stairs, in and of themselves, in my opinion, pose a special problem for these children.   Anything on the stairs, such as shoes, etc. would also introduce a variable to be dealt with and understood as would the introduction of the "feet" themselves as they went down, in the normal alternating foot, alternating step pattern.    

In my opinion, once again, to obtain "flexibility" with this task, the key is to come up with the "correct labeling".   For example, to say to an autistic child:  "go down the stairs" would be an inaccurate label.   The stairs are comprised of "steps"... and as such, the steps should be labeled as "steps" and the child should be told that "steps put together make stairs".    Individual steps, in my opinion, are not perceived as parts to the whole entity until labeled as such... as steps.   Perhaps, since so many autistic children seem to love counting, that labeling the steps as "this is step 1", "this is step 2" and so on, all the way down and then showing the child that "step 1 + step 2 + step 3 and so on = STAIRS" (to specifically, verbally give a child such an equation defining the "parts" as steps and ending with the definition of the whole as  "= stairs"  would be helpful in solidifying this concept for some children.

I do believe there may be sensory issues at play also in the inappropriate use of stairs... that the "banging" on the soles of the feet may create a sensation the child likes.   For Zachary, encouraging the proper use of stairs was as simple as labeling the steps, counting them for him,  and "showing him", physically, how to use the stairs properly and telling him to "do it this way" as I showed him the proper way to go down steps and defined his "right foot" and "left foot" as each hit the appropriate alternating step.   Once I did that, he caught on fine and started "practicing" using the stairs properly on his own.  I also think that auditory issues may come into play in this one.   When Zachary "practiced" going down the stairs on his own, I found him to be "rather shaky" and not well balanced.     I thus wondered if perhaps there were auditory issues at play also that interfered with his actual physical balance as he went down the steps.  Since he has been on enzymes, Zachary's auditory issues have greatly improved... as has his use of stairs.  :o)

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DISCLAIMER - The statements here mentioned and/or found in my materials have not been evaluated by the FDA or any other government agency or person in the medical field or in behavior therapy and are not meant to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any illness/disorder and/or behavior.  This information is not intended as medical advice or to replace the care of a qualified healthcare physician or behavior therapist.  Always consult your medical doctor or behavior therapist.  All information provided by Jeanne A. Brohart on her website is for INFORMATION PURPOSES and to GENERATE DISCUSSION ONLY and should not be taken as medical advice or any other type of "advice".  Information put forth represents the EXTENSIVE RESEARCH and OPINIONS of a mother based on her experiences and research and provides information as it relates to one family's journey with autism in hopes that other families may benefit from this experience and/or research.  The creator of this site is not responsible for content on other sites.

DISCLAIMER - PART II - Now... for those of you who think "mother at home researching" means "uneducated person with unfounded information"... I have 10 years of university... 3 degrees... and over 30,000 hours of research into these areas.   For anyone who thinks my research is "unfounded"...  read the RESEARCH FILE posted on my home page... with its over 1,000 references ... for your reading pleasure... because... quite clearly... you haven't read it yet!   Breaking The Code - Putting Pieces In Place!