The ‘All Done’ Box

  • Laurie

  • Parent to 5 year old with ASD

  • My son used to hide things behind closets, throw thins into bushes and over the fence into our neighbor’s yard. The things could be anything – his toys, hats, clothes, spoons, forks, keys, etc. I don’t know why he did this. I tried to observe his expression as he did these things, even as I tried to stop him. He just looked very determined to get the item out of his sight. His therapist told me that maybe he needed ‘closure’ with the item. He was just done with it for some reason and didn’t want to have anything to do with it. So she encouraged me to use an ‘All Done’ box.

  • We set up a tub with a solid lid in the backyard (which is where this behavior mostly occurs, right next to the fence). We put a big sign on it with bold letters that said 'ALL DONE'. I would then wait and watch. When he took a toy to the fence, I would redirect him to put it in the box, close the lid tight, and say 'Toy all done!'. Then he would cry and I would have him leave the backyard and try to engage him in a different activity that he enjoyed.

  • After doing this consistently a few times, he stopped crying, and would leave the backyard willingly, to engage in something else. Then one day, the ultimate learning happened. As he took the ball toward the fence, I started walking toward him, to redirect him. Before I could reach him, he put it in the 'All Done' box himself, closed the lid, and went back to playing with something else. I didn't have to make him leave the backyard that day. Ever since we've used this concept for many things - like leaving behind toys he loved playing with at a friend's house, putting away favorite activities before bedtime, leaving the park to go home (we put away sand toys in the all done box), etc. Previously I would give lots of verbal warnings - they didn't seem to help much - nor did picture cards or blowing the whistle - nothing worked for us like the all done box. He needed this big solid object to put away things in - I can see after doing so, he feels very relieved.

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