HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

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Organization Skills for Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

"Any tips on how I can help my child get more organized? He loses and misplaces many things, including homework and school books, which is now affecting his grades. Help!"

Children and teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often have deficits in what we call “cognitive function” (i.e., the intellectual process by which we think, reason, understand ideas, and remember things). So a child with Aspergers may have difficulties with:
  • “executive function” (i.e., he/she may be detail-focused and less able to see the whole picture)
  • predicting the consequences of an action (e.g., “If you do this, what will happen next?”) 
  • processing information 
  • understanding the concept of time

One or all of these four examples can affect Aspergers kid’s ability to organize, prioritize and sequence (e.g., if they struggle to understand the concept of time, they will have difficulty planning what to do over the course of a week).

Below are some ways in which children and teens with Aspergers and HFA can organize and prioritize daily activities and tasks. At first, parents may need to have a lot of involvement introducing the techniques and helping their child to get used to using them. Also, the techniques can be used in more than one place (e.g., at home and at school). Therefore, it is important that everyone who is using them (e.g., parents, babysitters, teachers, friends, etc.) uses them consistently. Over time, most children and teens with Aspergers will be able to use the strategies independently (although some may always need a certain degree of support).

Organizations Skills—

1. Be a coach: For the best results, you'll want to be a low-key coach. You can ask questions that will help your child get on track and stay there. But use these questions only to prompt their thought process about what needs to be done.

2. Color coding for tasks: Colors can be used to indicate the importance or significance of tasks (e.g., chores, homework, etc.), and therefore help to prioritize tasks and work through them in a logical sequence. For example, a note on the child’s bulletin board written in red could mean “urgent.” A note on the bulletin board written in green could mean “pending.” And a note written in blue is not important or has no timescale attached to it.

3. Lists: Lists, both written and pictorial, can help children with Aspergers in the same way as color coding. Lists can also be a good way of (a) registering achievements (e.g., by crossing something off when he/she has completed the task) and (b) reassuring the child that he/she is getting things done.

4. Make a plan: Decide on one thing to focus on first. You can come up with three things and let your youngster choose one (e.g., if homework or a particular chore has been a problem, that's the natural place to begin).

5. Praise progress, but don't go overboard: The self-satisfaction children will feel will be a more powerful motivator.

6. Sell your youngster on the idea of “staying organized”: Brainstorm about what might be easier or better if your youngster was more organized and focused. Maybe homework would get done faster, there would be more play time, and there would be less nagging about chores. Then there's the added bonus of your youngster feeling proud and you being proud, too.

7. Set expectations: Be clear, in a kind way, that you expect your children to work on these skills and that you'll be there to help along the way.

8. Social stories and comic strip conversations: Social stories and comic strip conversations can be a really good way of illustrating the consequences of an action and can help children to understand why it's good to be organized (e.g., what might happen if the child doesn't get his/her homework done).

9. Task boxes, envelopes and files: Children can store work or belongings in set places, so that they aren't misplaced or forgotten.

10. Teaching materials: You may find that certain teaching materials (e.g., sequence cards, games, timers, clocks, etc.) help some Aspergers kids to understand the concept of time and sequences. Materials like this can be adapted and used in different places (e.g., home and school).

11. Times of day, days of the week: It may be easiest to use times of day (e.g., morning, afternoon or evening) or days of the week (e.g., Sunday through Saturday) to help the child plan and organize tasks, social activities and other events (e.g., 5:00 PM is “homework time” … or Monday is “laundry day”).

12. Visual supports: Using pictures, written lists, calendars and real objects can all be good ways of helping Aspergers kids to understand what is going to happen – and when! For example, the child might have a daily timetable with pictures of a shower, clothes, breakfast, their school, dinner, a toothbrush, pajamas, and a bed to indicate what he/she will be doing, and in what order, that day. This can help children plan their day and organize themselves.

13. Get feedback: Be sure to ask your youngster's opinion of how things are going so far.

14. Start thinking in questions: Though you might not realize it, every time you take on a task, you ask yourself questions and then answer them with thoughts and actions. If you want to unload groceries from the car, you ask yourself:

Q: Did I get them all out of the trunk?
A: No. I'll go get the rest.

Q: Did I close the trunk?
A: Yes.

Q: Where's the ice cream? I need to put it away first.
A: Done. Now, what's next?

Encourage your child to start seeing tasks as a series of questions and answers. Suggest that he/she ask these questions out loud and then answer them. These questions are the ones you hope will eventually live inside your youngster's head. And with practice, he/she will learn to ask them without being prompted. So, work together to come up with questions that need to be asked so the chosen task can be completed. You might even jot them down on index cards. Start by asking the questions and having your youngster answer. Later, transfer responsibility for the questions from you to your youngster.

15. Digital devices:
  • Computer calendars can have important dates stored on them, or reminders about when to complete a certain chore.
  • Mobile phones can be used to store important information, or to act as a reminder.
  • Radios and televisions can be set to come on at a particular time as a reminder to do something. 
  • Instructions can be sent by text. Text messages lend themselves to this especially well since parents should keep instructions brief and simple. 
  • Hand-held voice recorders can be a useful auditory reminder of tasks, work, events or deadlines.


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

The best thing my mom did for me as a kid was thinking out loud in questions, like the example you gave here. Thanks for the reminder that I should do this with my child also!

Anonymous said...

Good ideas! (Although we can't assign specific times to things bc if plans happen to change, my aspie gets extremely upset)

Anonymous said...

Love this site...has a lot of pratical solutions
2 hours ago · Like

Anonymous said...

you have got an awesome blog here! would you like to make some invite posts on my blog?

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