It takes Diego’s cousin Eugenia (who’s the same age as him) a few text messages to arrange an outing to a bar with friends in Manhattan.
Should Eugenia decide to work remotely from Mexico City for a couple of months just because she wants a “Latin America experience,” she’s able to make all the necessary arrangements.
She has done both: bars in Manhattan (many times) and remote work from Mexico.
There’s nothing extraordinary about it. The vast majority of 27-year-old adults can do these types of things independently if they can afford it.
Not Diego. Given his autism and cognitive challenges, he needs to enlist the help of an adult to get what he wants, and I’m not talking about living it up in the big city or visiting a foreign country for any amount of time. I mean simple things like going out for ice cream or to see his Abuela, who lives less than three miles away from us.
Diego may have a very low IQ, but he more than makes up for it with his cleverness, persistence and endearing nature -so much so that he has come up with six fairly fail-proof tactics to get others to help him get what he wants.
Read on, then, because these tactics can help you too!
This strategy lays the groundwork. It sets the stage for Diego’s other tactics and gives his asks validity.
When you ask early, people are far more likely to say yes. It’s just so easy to commit when you don’t need to fulfill that commitment in the near future. The future, though, invariably catches up to you and you can’t get away with saying you didn’t have time or save enough money. Asking early eliminates the possibility for any excuse other than a serious illness or an alien invasion.
Diego really, really, REALLY wants a Mr. Freeze (a villain from DC’s Batman) action figure for Christmas. He stated his wish loud and clear at the beginning of September. That’s three months in advance. With this much time to get the purchase done, how could I possibly not meet this want?
By commitment, I mean a specific commitment, the more specific the better.
Diego is partial to getting it down in writing. He used to have me write it down on a piece of paper. Now he prefers to record the agreement via text message. He’ll write (in his own invented spelling), “Get Mr. Freeze for Christmas,” and I must reply “Yes”.
As the fulfillment date approaches, the details of the commitment are fleshed out. First, “Order Mr. Freeze in December,” then, “Order Mr. Freeze on Amazon in December,” followed by, “Order Mr. Freeze on Amazon on December 6,” until he gets to, “Order Mr. Freeze on Amazon on December 6 after work.”
Some desires, like visiting Abuela, just become part of the routine. They turn into ongoing commitments with no expiration date. Doing groceries with his Aunt Lole on Sundays is another ongoing commitment. It is expected that it will be so. If it won’t be so, then it’s on Lole to make up for it.
Repeat What You Want 63 Times
When a pledge is made months in advance, Diego has ample opportunities to remind you of it, sporadically at the beginning and ever more frequently as the day approaches.
First it’s every other day, then daily, then twice daily, until you get to the day before and, finally, the big day, where every other sentence will be about what he’s expecting from you.
Sometimes, you casually agree to something Diego suggests to do in a few hours. Diego will still find ways to turn the “yes” into an indissoluble pact.
One morning, for instance, I agreed that it would be a great idea to go out for ice cream later. Well, Diego found multiple opportunities to cement the plan: “I’m excited to go get ice cream after lunch,” he would remark now and again. “Ice cream at 4:00 pm,” he texted a couple of times even though we were both home.
He wears you out, and it works.
In Diego’s case, the humor is accidental. But one could be deliberate about it.
Diego’s gratitude goes far beyond thanking you verbally. There is the smile and hug, the rapture as he holds the item he so wanted, the pure joy of the experience he so looked forward to.
“My wish has come true!” he might say, and he’ll want to show his new book or action figure to anyone who visits. He appreciates all he has and doesn’t forget who the special giver was of anything received since the age of 12.
Say “I Love You” Many Times
Take that morning I mentioned earlier when Diego asked to go out for ice cream. We went for a run and Diego kept mentioning the plan over and over. I was growing annoyed by the repetitiveness, as I often do. Well, I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but Diego did offset my exasperation with frequent I-love-you’s. “Mom, I love you,” “I love you, mom.” Out of the blue.
And what did I say back to him? Exactly what he wanted to hear, “Diego, you know I love and adore you too, but please stop talking about the ice cream. We will go out for ice cream this afternoon.” He wanted to hear it said, and the ask confirmed yet again.