Mini-maps can be highly effective in dealing with work avoidance behaviors at school and at home. Let’s now take this same strategy and apply it in community settings. Remember, a mini-map takes an event or task and breaks it down into smaller, more doable steps.For a family that has difficulty with seemingly simple shopping trips, a mini-map might be a good tool for the Aspergers family member. Mini-maps help to stay focused on the task at hand while preventing intense preoccupation with specific aspects.
As many people in the Asperger’s Community understand, aspies often have trouble dealing with emotions. The emotional intelligence of a child’s mind is not much different from an aspie’s mind. Unfortunately, without useful tools, this emotional thinking carries into adulthood and can lead to poor decision making.
If an adult aspie has a low EQ (Emotional Quotient), then impulse control, critical thinking, voice control, behavior self-modification, and problem solving fail to appropriately play their roles. In school, this means a bad reputation for the aspie with ramifications that make it worse for everybody. A low EQ could affect the relationship of the aspie student with the school faculty and also result in peer bullying. In the workplace, this usually means a write-up or an immediate layoff. At home, it means family tension.
Even before the official diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, we knew our son Sam walked apart from the crowd. His early intense interest in a subject matter, and not in his peers, was the perfect mix for oddity starting the early sociable elementary years.
While we, as Sam’s parents, grew to walk alongside (and later celebrate) the unique perspective Sam had on the world, it was me who was shocked to be set apart from the crowd.
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.
My son, now 30yrs old has had difficulties since childhood, and we know he has Aspergers. During his teens he was extremely angry and sad but he came through this period. Today he lives independently, has his own home and car but for the past year he has not spoken at all to anyone. His life is restricted to his job, which is in jeopardy because of his refusal to speak to his co-workers. He was visiting me on Sunday but now that has ended. He literally speaks less than a “Yes” or “No” to anyone. We have been to social service, doctors, clinicians, speech therapists, psychologists, and he refuses to see any of them. Everything I read online is about children. Any advice?
Recovery may involve time to do nothing at all. For some students the recovery phase involves a process that takes him or her from a semi-agitated state to a fully calm state.
Consider the following steps:
- Allow the student to engage in the highly preferred/calming activity without setting the timer until he/she appears to have recovered as fully as possible.
- Once he/she is calm, then set the timer for 5-6 minutes. If he/she remains calm and is able to transition to the next activity, then do so and watch for early signs of repeated escalation.
- If he/she requests more time [by giving the timer to the adult], then honor the request and set the timer for 3 or 4 more minutes. Continue until he/she no longer requests more time or staff feel she is ready for a positive transition to the next activity.
Once the person is fully recovered, then it might be possible to debrief and make a plan to prevent future escalation. Pictures and words can help to paint a clear picture and develop a workable plan.
By Lisa Rogers
We went on an extended road trip with kids. hmmm? Not bad. Better than I expected and better than it has been in the past, but kids on the spectrum are not really spur of the moment, go with the flow types of kids. They need to know what is coming next, and that is something my husband and I are not really good at. The kids both kept saying something really “normal” for 9/10 year-olds. “Are we THERE YET?” and “Can we go home now?” Strange how I have never imagined I would want them to be less “normal” for once.
My husband and I often refer to our days together “before Kids” or BC. We spent a lot of time being vagabonds, traveling and exploring. He is a photographer and I am a writer. So we would sit for hours, he taking pictures and me writing or reading. We also moved to a wonderfully scenic area of the country and have often attempted to continue this way of life, with kids in tow. But it just hasn’t worked out in this way.
I remember one time, around the time the kids were first diagnosed. We visited the very beautiful city of Moab, Colorado.
Many school students carrying the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome exhibit challenges in the area of social interactions and social skills. These social difficulties are worrisome for parents and family members who look for supports to address these challenges. Struggles in the school setting often center on their child’s inability to “fit in” with other students or an inability to grasp social expectations from their teachers and peers. Additionally, their child’s feelings of high anxiety and stress can make the learning environment challenging for them and the people around.
Over time, I’ve listened to concerns from parents and teachers regarding a student’s lack of understanding when it comes to social situations in the classroom environment. This often leads to isolation and the need for behavior support.
There is information in the literature that suggests both adult and peer mediated techniques to teach and build social skills in children with autism. Strategies that are directed by an adult include reinforcement of shaped social skills where the child is reinforced when he or she demonstrates closer and closer approximations of a desired behavior. Peer mediated strategies incorporate the use of proximity, prompts with reinforcement and teaching peer initiation. The literature also supports using social scripts to capitalize on visual learning methods (Krantz and McClannahan 1993).
In my experience, I’ve observed how visual supports can be very beneficial in producing non-transient messages for the student to follow and use during social situations. When paired with direct instruction using applied behavioral analysis techniques like shaping and reinforcement, social skills training can be accomplished.
Like many times in life, you come upon a fork in the road. One choice leads you down a certain path and the other choice leads you down a very different road. Finding out your child has autism is complex enough, but eventually we all come to the same fork in the road. Do I choose my child or do I choose to please the surrounding neurotypicals, those judgmental people around me?
This sounds simplistic, but parents realize almost immediately after the diagnosis that you are judged, alienated, and sometimes even rejected by your peers and perhaps even family. It hurts because you know your child cannot help the ‘tantrums’ when the baby in the grocery store won’t stop screaming. Or that your child’s complete lack of athletic skills will never match the soccer mom’s expectation of a friendly neighborhood soccer game. So eventually you and your child are excluded.
When these and many, many other similar situations would arise I realized my son would elicit these judgmental looks from people as a certainty because the autism was not going to be going away. So, we chose our child over others’ perceptions of what we should be.
As soon as our family as a unit took that path everything became easier! I no longer worried about others’ lack of knowledge when it comes to sensory issues or brain function. We as a family would have our own fun. Quirky doesn’t bother me anymore, in fact it’s almost cool and definitely a relief.
Together our family is a strong unit accepting and excelling in my son’s unique interests. Our family weekends are no longer with people that make for awkward or unforgiving situations, but we welcome anyone who would like to be with us just as we are! Now, many years later, the same families who alienated us for the differences, have surprisingly praised our strong family unit, ’hiccups’ and all!
By Jennifer Allen