APE – the Asperger Parenting Experience

The Life and Times of one Asperger Parent

Asperger’s Syndrome and the Power of Choices

Posted by Patrick on 25 January 2008

Unruly. Undisciplined. Untameable. Unstoppable. Unbelievable. We all have our un- word to describe our aspie at their worst moments. AS parents also know very well that we can often do little but make the situation worse by trying to actually be a parent in those times. If parenting skills are useless, what do we have left? Ah, but parenting skills are far from useless, at least in my case. What I find useful with AS in my house is the pure power of letting the kids make choices. Let me explain.

I should say up front that I’ve learned first-hand this technique is more powerful with AS children than it is with synaptically normal kids. Why that is – aspie kids thrive on structure, rigidity and order. When they deluge into chaos, this technique is an effective method to insert those qualities which the average AS kid craves. Normal kids may or may not, depending on age and developmental capacity, be able to discern decision making from any other parenting technique because it may not be something they desire.

So, how do I do it such that it’s effective? I’m sure you’re wondering. I do have some tips and advice to share. First let’s set the mindset of the parent before attempting to use this technique.

  • You must, as a parent, abstract your personally-bound emotions from the situation and be an empathetic enabler.
  • Maintain a level head and do not play the emotions of the child.
  • Your child is not weak, and in their own mind they are doing nothing improper. You should understand that very clearly so as not to dole out punishment unjustly. Chances are that the child will not understand the intent or basis of the punishment.
  • Now let’s talk about the actual decision process a little bit. Here are the things that work for me:

  • As with all children, tone of voice is critical – it is the most important element of the message you wish to deliver. If your voice is scornful, you will be ignored or feared, but not heard. If you are airy and hyper-gentle, your message will be heard but lost. Find a middle-ground here. I like to think of the Mister Rogers demeanor when framing my own voice. Something firm but soft, and gentle.
  • Be sincere. This is especially true with kids over 5 who can deduce that they are being deceived. You must present your child with 2 truthful choices, else you will not be effective ever again with this method. AS children often do not forget when they are wronged.
  • Analyze what you’d like your child to do. Break down the end state into smaller tasks if necessary and present more than one set of choices. Here’s an example: kid likes but for some reason doesn’t want to eat broccoli and is having a meltdown because it’s on the plate. First question: “would you like to eat your broccoli or would you like to sit quietly and not eat?” notice that you have an out that’s enforcable. Second question: if the kid chooses to eat, “would you like to use your fork or spoon?” or something similar.
  • Reward them if they fall back in line with your regular expectations, depending on the situation

I promise you this is an effective technique. It gets me through so many chores with both of my children, but especially with AS. What techinques do you use? Have you tried the decision path method described here and had success? Had failures? I’d like to know.

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2 Responses to “Asperger’s Syndrome and the Power of Choices”

  1. TheDeeZone said

    Thoughtful and very interesting.

  2. […] Comments (RSS) « Asperger’s Syndrome and the Power of Choices […]

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