APE – the Asperger Parenting Experience

The Life and Times of one Asperger Parent

Aspie children are inflexible; parents must be hyperflexible

Posted by Patrick on 17 November 2007

One thing which many Asperger parents usually learn the hard way is that AS children are particularly inflexible and are deeply rooted in routine. Brenda Boyd describes this in her book Parenting a Child with Asperger Syndrome as a consideration of trains versus cars; whereby an aspie’s mind is much like a train on its rails compared to the average mind that is much more like a car driving on a road.

This is really a great analogy, I’ll provide a little bit of context. The average (we’ll say “synaptically normal”) child has a mind much like a car going from point A to B. There are many possible routes, and various speeds which can be traveled along the way; often a car’s driver needn’t know where their precise destination is, because they can usually navigate to that point using several previously known points of reference and then using some discovery to get to point B.

AS children are much more like little mental trains. They require a specific route, a specific timetable, and often a specific set of rules for the journey from A to B. Unpredictability is not something that many aspies appreciate – it is widely suggested that the firm, repeatable structure and routine which AS children form in their mind is what makes them secure/comfortable. Interjecting the hand of change for the sake of change is often, as parents have found, a catastrophic event (queue the black hole sounds).

AS children often appear pig-headed, stubborn, down-right rude when they are faced with change. Let’s be honest; they don’t want to step outside their sandbox. Parents in this situation not only need to understand that their aspie child is routine-based, but they need to proactively predict when their child will require a routine.

What I’ve found of my own accord that works well with my 4-year old is to pigeonhole his entire day into a set of routines (I’m an IT engineer, so for me this is pretty easy). Not only do we take specific tasks and break them into checkpoints for him, but we take his entire day and break it into small pieces. When we want to introduce something new to him, usually it requires an obscene amount of enthusiasm on our part to get him started and an equally obscene amount of praise required to keep him focused and to allow him to believe he’s doing something correct.

So, parents, never forget that your aspie doesn’t believe that he/she is doing something wrong by presenting as stubborn towards change. They are merely trying to protect themselves — and that is not to say that AS children don’t find protection in their parents (quite the opposite is true), but merely that they want you to help them feel secure by allowing them to do things in their sturdy, structured way.

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2 Responses to “Aspie children are inflexible; parents must be hyperflexible”

  1. I totally agree. There’s many things my husband and I do that helps our children receive the comfort they need while expanding their emotional and social horizons. I’ve found having a big family (we have five children)has greatly helped my two Asperger children (boy and girl). Many times, they’ve found comfort not only in the routine we keep, but also the interactions with their sibblings. The world is harsh enough. Let’s give our children a soft place to land and feel safe. In their own time, they’ll blossom and I’ve watched it before my eyes.

  2. I remember once in my AP US History class in high school, the teacher just one day randomly decided to assign us new seats. Okay, so I might have been okay with that, maybe, but he stuck me in the farther back corner behind two monstrous guys. That kind of knocked me over the edge, so to speak.

    I rebelled by sitting on top of my desk for three days until he let me move back to my seat.

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