Getting Out the Door


You know that mom who’s using the car seat to restrain her child as piercing screams soar through the parking lot? That was me, on too many days. Often, I would have to haul my child out to the car, shove him into his car seat as he flailed and wailed, and I sobbed in frustration.

My son has autism and getting to the many appointments he needed and running errands could be an exhausting and soul crushing experience. But the worst part was my constant worry, “What happens when he’s too big to force into a car seat?”

I won’t pretend there was a magic solution to this intermittent problem. But through establishing a routine, simplifying our days, things did get easier. Still, there were times when no amount of advanced preparation or even bribes worked. And then I discovered something.

My son loves numbers. He’s a little math whiz and by adapting a common parenting tool, I discovered a way to motivate him and help him through transitions. I simply counted down.

  • First I made my request, “We need to leave in five minutes.”
  • Then I set up my expectations, “In three minutes you need to put on your shoes, and we’re going to get in the car.”
  • I’d follow up with a warning, “You have one minute and then you need to stop x activity so we can leave.”
  • And finally, “It’s time to go.”
  • Then I’d wait ….
  • “OK, I’m going to count to three. And then I’ll have to pick you up. One… Twoooo…”

Usually in the middle of a long “two” my son would look at my held-up fingers and before the third one could pop up, he’d move. Never wanting me to get to three.

Rarely, I would have to follow through on the consequence of picking him up. But that has faded over time. Now we can get out the door, usually before I even start the count-down. And for that I’m grateful, because today, he’s way too big for a car seat.

Author: Shannon

Shannon parents a son on the spectrum, lives in MN and writes to stay sane. She is passionate about connecting families to the services that will transform their lives. Read her full bio here.

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