Back in the old days, when Will was young, we were having to constantly figure out motivator treats for good behavior (remember the ABA days?). If Will did something right, we would give him some Skittles. When he was beginning elementary school, I would write on his hand the Mighty Bean that he would receive later when he returned home if he managed to accomplish whatever goal it was that he was working on that week. I remember that I never felt all that comfortable with the idea of these "motivators," in that it felt a little too Pavlovian, like handing out treats to a dog.
But the older Will gets, and the more I see Will and his friends at his social skills classes, I realize that these kids can do fantastic things if the motivation is strong enough.
Will's latest motivation is that he LOVES to perform. I actually have to kind of yank his chain to control his desire to get up on stages at Barnes & Nobles and either read to an audience, or perform for them. He has been in band and chorus this year, and loves those end of year concerts. He likes performing in a group, AND as an individual.
Will performed a song on his trumpet at the cub scout talent show last night. We've heard him practice at home, and although he is good, there usually are the typical "beginning music student painful noises" to listen to. Much to our surpise, at the talent show, when he got up to play his song, he played a rather long song with almost no mistakes in tone or notes. I had no idea he could play like that. My husband and I talked about it later, and both of us agreed that it is his desire to perform and impress people that makes him want to do that well.
If only we could bottle that moment and use it for other situations . . .
It's my humble opinion (well, maybe not so humble) that these kids of ours are strongly motivated to do well, but it has to be their choice of what they like to do or they will dig in their heels and not accomplish something that is another's persons choice. If we could just figure out what it is that will motivate them, whether it is academics, eye contact, manners, socializing, whatever, if we could logically figure out why it is to their benefit to work at these various things, then they would be able to be successful at them. I like to think that if you could relay to them that knowing these skills will help them to be in control (which is important to anyone, but especially to Aspie kids), then maybe that would be motivation enough. For example, a truly socially skilled person enters a party, and he has everyone eating out of the palm of his hand by pure force of his personality. That's CONTROL. Aspie's don't really care about the social aspect, but if they could ever learn how it feels to have that kind of CONTROL, they might be more motivated to learn the social skills. I think this is why Will likes to perform -- he likes to have a whole room of people watching JUST HIM, and thinking that he is the most skilled trumpet player/singer/comic there is. That's CONTROL.