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How hard should parents push autistic child to try new activities?

Marni Goltsman, whose son is autistic, says she and her husband have pushed the boy to take part in activities against his wishes because over time, he has come to enjoy and learn a lot from those experiences. But now that he’s five, she asks, should they begin respecting his preferences?

[T]here are two problems with this approach. The first is a new problem: Brooks is getting older. It’s one thing to ignore a toddler’s protests—it’s quite another when a increasingly verbal 5-year-old describes to you exactly what he doesn’t like, and asks you point-blank why he has to do it. And the second is a an old problem that’s been around ever since he was diagnosed: How far can we push him without sacrificing his self-esteem? If this is simply too challenging for him at the moment, which may very well be the case, then why are we torturing him by having him face his deficits in front of us and his peers week after week? Should we instead be taking a break from soccer and working on something else? Or should we design a more appropriate intervention, like having his physical therapist work on ball skills with him one-on-one?

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