APE – the Asperger Parenting Experience

The Life and Times of one Asperger Parent

The Economy of Asperger’s Syndrome

Posted by Patrick on 23 December 2007

Here’s something that we do in my household with our children. My older son has AS as my loyal readers know, so this exercise is mainly for him, but this is an effective tool for all children; “synaptically normal” regular children would hopefully catch on at least as quickly as an AS child and be able to be influenced by it.

We use a full-scale economy with our two boys – by this, I mean that we have a serious collection of fake money (that we got from the Lakeshore store at Park Meadows) that our boys can earn with their good behavior. By that same token, they can certainly be issued citations and lose money for poor behavior; yes, we actually write citations out (we also got them from Lakeshore) so that we have a written record of why each child lost some of their money. The point is, our children can use their money to buy from our special prize vault.

Things in the prize vault aren’t always toys. Think of things that your children like enough that they’d be motivated to earn money for buying them. These could be toys, but they may also be things like a trip to somewhere they like, or it may be some movie they want to see or even small prizes like candy – use your imagination but don’t spend a lot of money building up vault.

What I recommend to get something like this up and running are a few things:

  1. Buy your prizes in advance.
  2. Let your children see what you’re buying, and let them know that those things are going in the prize vault. By no means do you let them play with, open, or otherwise get accustomed to what you’re buying – that detracts from their motivation to “earn” it.
  3. Let your children help place a price on the items you’re buying. If you’re using currency-style fake money, you may choose to price items at their actual register price; but if you’re not spending much, that means they’re not earning much to get the things you’ve bought. In our house, the minimum is 4x cost for anything <$1 when the kids don’t place a higher value.
  4. Keep the prize vault somewhere that children cannot get to, for obvious reasons.
  5. Don’t spend a lot of money.

The key to this system being effective is to enforce it. What we have done is made a very short list (our children are very young) of tasks for which money will be lost. My recommendation is 1 list item per year of age, so that the list is easily remembered. This is where your parenting skills are tested — when it’s time to subtract money, don’t be rash, upset, scornful, or mean; all you must do is notify them that they’re losing money and then show them that you are taking it out of their storage bin. Once your kids begin to realize that they can’t buy the things they want, they begin to understand the value of their behavior.

Granted, AS children don’t deal well with failure; they don’t deal well with negation and they don’t often understand what about their behavior warranted the demerits. That’s where the list of bad actions is critical; that’s where the tone of your voice is critical; that’s where you need to show that you love your children but that you also have to be fair. Sure, there might be some whimpering and some pent-up anger the first few times; in fact, there is likely to be some with any AS child regardless of the failure’s severity. Stay the course; this system is working wonderfully.

My favorite book for AS parenting tips is still Brenda Boyd’s Parenting a Child with Asperger Syndrome; in this book there is a pretty detailed list of things that one family put in their prize vault – it includes a range of toys, sweets, and special visits/trips like what I described.

What’s in our prize vault? Here’s my current list. As a side note, we are set up to let our boys earn about $1/day if there are no setbacks; more if they are especially good/helpful. For times when they are well above and beyond their years (I mean 3 and 4), we give them a blindfolded, free pick from the bucket-o-stuff.

8x hotwheels cars @ $5
2x tonka trucks @$15
3x Thomas train cars @$10
4x activity books @$5
1x (grand prize) hot wheels play city @$50

12x charms blow-pops @ $1
dove milk chocolates @ $0.50
m&m fun packs @$0.50
ice cream drumsticks@$2

1x trip to chuck-e-cheese’s @$25
1x trip to cici’s @$20
1x family movie night (at the theater) @$20
1x mystery prize (it’s a coloring book) @ $10
2x lunch at papa’s office @$10


One Response to “The Economy of Asperger’s Syndrome”

  1. Pleasantly logical. 🙂

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