Now Reading: 10 Things I’ll Never Try To Teach My Son w/ Autism

10 Things I’ll Never Try To Teach My Son w/ Autism

10 Things I'll Never Try To Teach My Son w/ Autism

(originally written & published on September 23, 2014)

This is meant to be a funny post. So if you were looking for profound things like “I’ll never teach my autistic son to lie” or something noble like that then maybe isn’t the post for you. Although if I can’t think of enough I may just throw in one of those profound ones just to round it up to ten since that’s what I promised.

But for the most part these are a bunch of things that my 11 year old severely autistic, non verbal son doesn’t do now.

And if he hasn’t grasped by age 11 maybe that is a blessing in disguise…

So here goes…

I Will Never Try To Teach My Autistic Son …

1) How to Unlock Doors
My son doesn’t currently have the fine motor skills to unlock a door and he’s never shown any interest anyway.  Yes he is working of fine motor skills all the time.  But unlocking doors?  Why should I teach him that?  Way too many autistic kids are bolters & run away at the first chance they get. And many are Houdini’s who can break out even with multiple locks in play. Now my kid is not a bolter…yet. So why introduce the idea of unlocking doors to him… yet…  I know what you’re thinking. What if there’s an emergency. Well we are always with him. We’ll unlock the door.

2)  How to Get Into Our Basement
Because he can’t unlock doors my son has never once set foot in our basement. And that’s a good thing because it’s not really a basement it’s more like a cellar with way too many dangerous things down there. Yes our washer & dryer are down there and it would be nice to teach him to help with that someday. Maybe that someday will be when I find the money to turn it into a sensory gym for him (or a man cave for me)…  But for right now there’s a magic door across from the downstairs bathroom that he’s never been behind.

3) That His Mom & Dad Aren’t Cool
At the age of 11 is when most kids start rolling their eyes at their nerdy parents, right?.  But I think he still thinks his mom & dad are cool.  And I think we are still cool because he is somehow keeping us young.  I’ve said before & I’ll say again that for better or worse we’ve been kinda living like the movie “Groundhog Day” and raising a toddler for 9 years now.  And when he was actually a toddler we were in our early thirties and we were cool.  And that is where we are gonna stay.  If he is gonna stay a toddler then we are gonna stay in our early 30s.  And we’re gonna eat dinner on the couch in front of the tv, and go out as often as possible, and try to live life to the fullest!

4) How to Cut With a Knife
Yeah we’re working on fine motor skills and we’re working on using a fork appropriately but he hasn’t come close to graduating to a knife yet… And I’m not rushing it.  🙂  He can do enough damage with a fork. During his aggressive days, his summer of rage in 2011 he did this to me with a fork.

He’s currently not very aggressive but we know that it could return at any time so why give him a sharper weapon?  LOL 🙂

5)  What Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny Are
Ok, so he may be too old for it now anyway.  But he never really got it.  And in the early days that made wifey and me sad.  But if he never really got it, what are you gonna do?  If he never really got it, then that probably means he’s never gonna care about materialistic things.  And I’ve written before that he’s still thrilled to get the same 5-10 toddler books over and over and over.  And he can take joy in playing with a toy in the packaging for months… and then when the toy is out of the packaging he is thrilled and treats it as if it’s a new toy!  🙂

6) How to Make the Volume Louder on the iPad
Ok so maybe I’m kinda kidding about this one. We are THRILLED that even with his limited fine motor skills he has had success navigating the iPad and opening up apps that he wants and choosing videos he wants, but he currently doesn’t know how (or doesn’t care how?) to make the iPad volume higher (or lower, but that never really comes into play now does it). I’ve showed him quite a few times, but for now he’s content to hand it to me and mand for me to make it louder. And if I say no for whatever reason he’s somewhat ok with it.  So for now I’m gonna leave it be.

7) How to Work the TV Remote
As with the iPad, the same is true for the tv remote. The buttons on these remotes are smaller & smaller and he doesn’t have the fine motor to navigate it properly nor has he shown any interest.

In fact I think only recently has he made the connection that the remote controls the tv. So every once in a while when the tv is off or when we are watching one of our shows he will hand one of us the remote which is a huge step for him and something we are proud of. But his shows are almost always on, so I’m not sure I want him that adept at working the remote control anyway, especially when the Yankees are on…

8) What Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel Are
We are a simple family.  We are a Sesame Street, Dora, Jake’s Big Music Show, Laurie Berkner family.  We’ve had a DVR from before he was born.  We DVR all of his shows.  So he doesn’t know any of that other Nickelodeon or Disney Channel crap.  And for that I am glad.  I know way too many typical kids his age who are addicted to the Disney tween programming.  I will not let that happen to my son!  If he ever moves away from toddler programming I will graduate him directly to adult programming, starting with the classics like Seinfeld & 30 Rock!  🙂

9) That He Can Easily Climb Over These Baby Gates


We still have a safety gate / baby gate at the top & bottom of our stair case and we have one on the door frame going into our home office.  And no, the king doesn’t yet have the fine motor skill to open either of these gates… but he is now way tall enough that he could easily climb over them.  He’s climbed over the home office gate a few times if he saw a toy or something he really wanted, but thankfully never the staircase gates.  He some how still respects the gates and I don’t see any reason ever to clue him in to the fact that he’s tall enough to climb over.  The day he figures that out I will be extremely proud & extremely scared… 🙂

10) How To Lie

You knew I had to add this one didn’t you…  🙂

UPDATED 10/23/14


Soon after this blog post came out, wifey helped me think of an 11th thing!

11) How To Dive Into the Pool
Many of you know that the king is a great swimmer.  Or better yet, a great treader.  He can tread water for hours.  Anyway, a couple of years ago one of his swim instructors tried to teach him to dive into the pool, but it wasn’t going very well and they put it aside for awhile… But now we are at a point where we don’t want him to learn how to dive because we are not sure that he’ll be able to differentiate between deep water and shallow water.  And if he dives head first into shallow water… well that wouldn’t be good at all.  So, for now, I’m probably for ever, diving is off the table.  The Special Olympics allows jumping in, right?




Written by

Frank Campagna

I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).

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30 People Replies to “10 Things I’ll Never Try To Teach My Son w/ Autism”

  1. Anonymous

    I always feel that as a parent you can judge all to well the things your child is ready to learn and at the same time you can judge perfectly all the things you are not teaching your child for numerous reasons. Always relying on your gutfeeling on whats best for your child.

  2. Anonymous

    I love your blog. You are kind of describing our life.One thing that I wish he had not figured out is how to open the refrigerator and get a soda. He use to ask but now he will get his own without asking. He drinks way too many and we are trying to cut down the amount he consumes. He is also very rigid when it comes to food he will eat. But he doesn't know how to use a remote. In fact he hates TV very much. So he never watches it. Just videos on his tablet.

  3. Anonymous

    3, 5, 10 & 11 are all we have left to hold onto… The rest he had licked before he was 2.

  4. Anonymous

    Forgot the biggest one of all. How to use the stove. My son is 7 and although he knows that fire can "bite you" he still has an infatuation with fire and still tries to touch it including boiling water.

  5. Anonymous

    How about bike riding? With motor skill issues, I wonder if he could manage? We are working with our 6 year old on bike riding, spreading with a butter knife, and using a fork correctly. He is verbal, and can communicate what he wants pretty good. I just want to say thanks for the laughs, and I really appreciate your sense of humor, and what is really important.

  6. Hi there! I just came across your blog and I have an autistic son (6) who began having 30min only stopped with meds seizures last year. Just wanted to say thank you for reminding me that life with my little dude is really great- sometimes it's easy to wallow about things that he's not doing (like going potty) but you have reminded me that we haven't got it that bad! To just be thankful when they are happy!

  7. Anonymous

    How about #11: How to pull the fire alarm 🙂

    -The Caregiver Space

  8. Sharon

    A thought on bolting. Well, a few. My youngest daughter is the one with autism. We were lucky enough to live on a military installation, so I knew she would never get past the gates at least. I am SO thankful she has two older sisters. Whenever she would run off (ages 2-6 mostly) we would send out our older kids and all their friends with cell phones, each in a different direction. It go to where she'd start screaming when she saw a teen with a cell phone coming! And….the kids always always found her before the police did.

    My oldest daughter was a sleepwalker. Our home at the time had those sensors that beep when an outside door is opened. At 3:00am one night, I got up to see why the damned door was beeping. Found my daughter in the back yard in her pajamas. In winter. Went out the next day and got swing latches and installed them at the tops of all the doors. Sleepwalking, she (probably) wouldn't have the motor skills to move a chair over and open the latch, but awake, she could do it if she had to.

    Something I won't teach my daughter? Even though she's high functioning, I won't teach her how to answer the home phone. I mean, sure I could teach her "this is the [ ] residence, can I help you?" or something similar, but if it were an aggressive telemarketer, she would totally meltdown. She's also prone to giving out WAAAY to much information to anyone who will listen, so I'd rather not have Jake from State Farm or whoever, knowing that "Mom's IBS is acting up and she's in the bathroom *again* but you can't talk to Daddy because he's away on a trip right now, and no, there isn't anyone else home right now. Guess what, the cat threw up on the stairs and someone stepped in it, and I bet you can't guess what school I go to….." Yeah. That's why we have answering machines.

  9. Great list! One of the most chilling things I think I ever heard was my daughter calling up in warning to me from the basement, "Mom, Daniel is climbing over the gate…" Things became much more complicated after that!

  10. BC of you I have started my own blog. Its called Motherhood, you can find it on fb . check it out give me some hints on what to do to make it better

  11. Anonymous

    I am teaching my daughter all of these things and how to chop veggies with a sharp knife, how to use matches (she has a Yankee Candle fixation), how to unlock the doors. I'm doing this because I want her to be more independent, also though I know that she will never live on her own. But right now, although she is 13, my word is still law and she learns how to do these things with me and doesn't attempt them on her own. In the functioning labeling department, my daughter is probably somewhere in the middle.

  12. Anonymous

    Sadly, my son is a wizard with the remote, but he sticks to his videos (Sesame Street, Muppets, Beatrix Potter and yes BARNEY). He doesn't unlock doors; he locks them ! (when his dad forgets). However, we can relate to most of yours. He doesn't use utensils for the most part (finger food) and we are OK with that. He LOVES You Tube, but he sticks with his favorites (I have noticed he became fond of all of these before age 5. He doesn't go for newer episodes usually). He is meh about the I-Pad as I have mostly used learning apps. (He likes LIttle Writer, ABC and 123 Genius because he can trace letters and numbers with his hand. He is not great with fine motor either and has always had trouble with a pencil. He hasn't written anything original, of course and I don't think he will-but he is very pleased with his ability to trace).

  13. Anonymous

    I agree with all of those. OT at school, many years ago in all their wisdom, DID teach my child how to unlock a door. Best we don't discuss that! Also, after much thought and discussion, have convinced people she's better off just using a spoon- just safer and easier for all. She will not climb over anything. My philosophy is don't teach what they don't need to know- my young lady will always be a 'child' let's treat and expect her to be an adult with a child's capabilities. Keep writing!

  14. The list is awesome I really like it about the gates wat are the ones u using for the king my lil girl is 4 she already knows how to push our gate out or climb over it she won't stay in her room during the day not even for n hour on the doors I hit childproof locks she tries to open them thankgod she can't yet so really I'm over my head here I don know wat baby gates well b safe for her a lil advice please thankyou

    1. Anonymous

      Our gates are metal… ordered from amazon. I think they are meant for large dogs. They are 3 ft… and the latch requires you to press a button on the top and bottom at the same time to open it. It took my DH & I a few minutes (and me looking at the instructions) to figure out how to open it!! They were a pain to install (attached to the walls)… but, we figured our son will probably need them for a long time… so it was worth the time and money.

    2. Try the really old ones that pull out like an accordion and have this spring latch that even m my husband has trouble undoing. I got it on Amazon

  15. Anonymous

    10. How to take off her seatbelt in the car
    11. Wish I never taught her to take off her hat (winter or for sun)

    1. Jennifer Dinsmore

      That would be awesome..but then it would be too expensive..

    2. agree with the seatbelt!!!! why dont they make a five pint harness carseat for older kids???!!!

  16. unique2chicdesigns on etsy

    Hopefully, this doesn't post twice!!!! Love your posts AD. My son thinks it is hilarious if I fast forward or rewind his dvds….=) Silly boy!!!

  17. Frances

    I love this list! #5 and #8 are the same for us. You are very fortunate that he doesn't unlock doors – my Houdini learned how to unlock and undo all the babyproofing on the first try before he was a year old…and he was a runner, too. He'd wait until I was sitting on the toilet, then he'd run out naked into the snow! This lifestyle is full of wild thrills.

  18. Under Medicaid waiver NYC if you own your house your entitled to one time home modification you can always use that money to make your basement into sensory gym for the king.

    1. Anonymous

      Would this work too in New Jersey?

  19. I once got "yelled at" by a parent for teaching her kid to open screw top jars. What did I know? I was a young teacher, and so excited to be building fine motor skills. She said "sometimes the only way we can keep things out of his hands is by using a cleaned out peanut butter jar (or something like it)"

  20. I think this list is a great list, and I wish my mod/severe ASD daughter didn't know how to unlock the doors…. She is a bolter and I sleep lightly every night…. I actually agree with all 9 of your examples!! Great work yet again… although I am pretty sure that great work is the only kind you are capable of! Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Anonymous

      I had a friend that had this issue… they put inexpensive 'slide' locks on doors… too high for their son to reach (I'm not sure he ever realized they were there). After a while… he stopped trying to unlock the regular lock. My son (severe ASD) hasn't figured out locks yet… and we try not to let him see us unlock the doors… not a skill we want him to know!!

  21. Anonymous

    It's like a page from my life. Lol

  22. I enjoyed reading these! They gave me chuckles and they are all excellent points! And I can only imagine that each family of a child with autism has their very own unique list of 9 things. It all depends on their family! I completely agree with iPad volume! I have 3 and 4 year olds in my classroom who I WISH didn't know how to control this! Always enjoy your posts!!

    Creating & Teaching

  23. Great list! We're not teaching my daughter most of these things either. Although she has learned how to use the remote (mostly) and it has enhanced her video-watching enjoyment as she can pause and rewind and fast-forward at will. She enjoys watching her videos "fast"! ��