Irreplaceable Five More Minutes

 I don’t remember where I heard or read about this simple tool of easing transition from one activity to an other. I don’t even remember when I started using it or even when I noticed that it worked.  I believe it was the pre-ABA period but I am not sure.

It used to be that when we tried to wake up Robert in the morning, he reacted with anger and/or frustration.  He made angry noises or even kept hitting quickly his face.

Now, responding to  our first attempt of waking him up, Robert says, “Five more minutes.” We give him these five minutes.  A few minutes later, Robert might get up on his own (rarely), or he  gets up after hearing from one of us, the parents, that five minutes are up.

So much easier.

In the afternoon, Robert watches TV in the basement or movies on his IPAD.  I say, “In five more minutes we will study.”  Usually, I don’t even have to repeat that.  A few minutes later Robert sits at the table and examines worksheets prepared for that afternoon.

Of course it works other way around too.  When Robert asks for something he wants and I am busy, I respond with, “I will do that in five minutes.” And since I usually do, Robert accepts that response.

The hardest thing in teaching Robert to appropriate that tool, was to believe that Robert would understand it…. eventually.  At the beginning, he did not have a clue.  The words did not mean anything.  It did not help that at that time, Robert did not have any receptive labels.  Still, I kept telling him, “In five minutes the pool is all done”.  “In five minutes swing is all done.”   And after a few minutes, I took his hand, or picked him up, if necessary, and walked or drove home pretending that I did not pay attention to his protests or vehement protests.

But it was not until Robert understood that he also could use this tool, that this phrase  seemed to make the biggest difference.

A few years ago,  I entered Robert’s bedroom prepared for unpleasant protests in response to, “Robert get up, get ready for school.”

Sure enough, Robert made angry noises and began to  hit his ears in quick, short movements.  I could react the way I reacted previously by repeating in a stern, commanding voice, “Get up, get up. You will be late for the bus” and watch Robert continue screaming and hitting himself on the way to the bathroom.  I could, but instead I said, ” Robert, do you want to sleep a little longer?  ”

“Little longer” answered/repeated Robert and put his head on a pillow.

“Do you want to sleep five more minutes?”

“Five more  minutes.”  Repeated/answered Robert.

I don’t remember if that day I did not give him a couple extra five more minutes, but I do know that from that day on, Robert’s quality of life improved significantly as did mine.

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