Remember that a mini-map is a visual strategy that takes a chunk of time and breaks it down even further. This seemingly simple strategy can be highly effective to address “rough spots” in different environments. We have seen how this can prevent work avoidance behaviors at school and now we will shift the focus to an overlapping struggle that is common at home: homework!
Many students with Asperger’s struggle to navigate the waters of school life only to come home and face more academic work. It is probably safe to say that most students, with and without Asperger’s, would rather not deal with homework in the evenings. However, the difference is that the student with Asperger’s has worked harder all day long to deal with not only academic stress, but also the added challenges of social interaction and sensory overload, creating a cumulative effect with different possible results.
It is difficult for neuro-typical persons to truly understand this internal struggle that persons with Asperger’s deal with on a daily basis. I found myself in a situation recently and thought it might be a glimpse into what going through a stressful day as a person with Asperger’s might feel like:
I had finished a long day at work and was driving home. However, home was 150 miles away and I started my trip at 6:00 in the evening. So, I’m tired and have a bit of a drive in front of me. Oh well, I’ve got to get home tonight.
Then, it starts to rain heavily. I slow down and pay more attention. Then, a caravan of big trucks starts speeding past me. Now, I have to work much harder to stay in my lane and see where I am going. I notice that I have both hands on the wheel now and am sitting straight up to see the road better. Then, a construction vehicle moved into my lane directly in front of me. The lights on this truck were not only very bright, but were flashing in a random pattern at every corner of the truck, creating a disco effect.
So now, I am tired on a rainy night with my windshields wipers moving as fast as they can against this sea of bright lights. I wanted to look away, but realized this could be catastrophic on a highway. So, I took the next exit and stopped at the first gas station. Some might call this “driving avoidance”, but I call it survival. I think that might be how some of our children feel.
So, at the end of a long and stressful day, a student might have to face homework. A mini-map of the evening activities may be all it takes to help them get started. Couple this with the child knowing that their favorite activity takes place right before homework time, right after homework time or both.
Some children might benefit from a mini-map/checklist of the homework chunk of time itself. For instance, the homework mini-map might read:
- Get your materials ready
- Reading assignment
- Math problems
- Review with Mom or Dad
*Next: Have fun on the computer for 30 minutes
Mini-maps can also help with other rough spots at home. Some examples include household chores, personal hygiene routines, and shopping trips.
One family found mini-maps to be helpful even for car rides. Their son would take off his seat belt repeatedly, causing many stops along the way. A mini-map was created that included pictures and words that directed him to:
- Buckle your seatbelt
- Keep it buckled
- Listen for Mom or Dad say it is time to unbuckle
No more unplanned road stops for this family.
By Lisa Rogers
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