APE – the Asperger Parenting Experience

The Life and Times of one Asperger Parent

Asperger’s Syndrome and Changing a Routine

Posted by Patrick on 26 January 2008

Oh no; it’s inevitable. Parents realize the onset of an AS meltdown about 2 thoughts before the AS child self-realizes that their routine – their woobie – isn’t going to be there this time or beginning with this time through some course. One of the hardest things to do as an AS child’s parent is impart change. Yet, change happens all around us every second undeterred. What is it with this one routine which makes it an impossibly-hard challenge to adjust, even if the adjustment is a small one? Let’s think about this for a minute.

I’ve said this before – but I have a lot of new readers (and thanks for reading) – let’s consider the mind of a child with AS versus a “normal” child. A “normal” child’s mind is quite like a car; it drives on a road from point A to point B, and often realizes that there is more than one way to get from A to B, but chooses a preferred route understanding that other routes offer different opportunities along the way. If the preferred route is unavailable, a secondary route can be taken with minimal interruption and may prove to be better than the original. So, what about a child with AS? Their mind functions quite like a train; they are quite capable of getting from A to B in a timely fashion, but there is only one real path to accomplish it. Changing the route somewhere in the middle often causes a cascading effect if it is even possible; but, rarely the train is able to switch onto a different line and still arrive with little impact.

Let’s use this to discuss children’s routines and use the start to finish of a routine as A to B. AS children have one method that they will use for any activity, though in some milder cases adaptability is a moderately-developed skill and this is less true. AS children do not want to comprehend change – they are stepping out of their safety zone into some vast unknown realm of chaos, much like a train jumping its line. How do we impart change as parents?

I’ve talked to many parents who have tried either brute force or bribery to no avail. I’m also guilty of trying the bribery approach with mildly-successful results. But in trying to be a parent who wins over the hindrances of AS, I wanted to find a way that’s both effective and not based in false-pretense. I’ve learned that demonstration is the best way for my aspie to accept a change. What works for me is what I call the “watch papa” approach.

Ok, so that sounds well and good, but my kid’s already tuned me out and is melting down so I can’t try that. Yes, I hear you; yes, it happens. I deal with that all the time – using the method of small decisions I described in my last post, first I aim to get my child calmed down enough to listen to what I’m saying. If I am trying to enact something simple, I break down the changes themselves into the decision process and get it done that way. However, this is also effective in a proactive manner – and this is how I recommend doing it to prevent said meltdown. Parents normally know in advance that they’ve got to make a change to a kid’s routine. The key here is to introduce it to the child before you actually need it to be accepted whenever that’s possible. A good time to do this is immediately after something that they enjoyed doing, or alternately whilst they are playing – you should always try to choose a happy time. Right when kids wake up is not normally a happy moment for them, so don’t try it then.

So, in review – change happens. Be proactive. Make kids make decisions if necessary. Don’t be fake.

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