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

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Addressing Problems with Time and Space: 12 Tips for Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

“My 5-year-old son with high functioning autism suffers with poor planning abilities and disorganization. It’s feels like the most difficult job in the world to keep him on task. Any tips on how I can help him cope better with the everyday responsibilities and routines that are expected of him, such as keeping track of time, completing chores and homework, not being so messy, and so on?”

Time and space are organizing procedures involved in every aspect of life. However, due to poor organization skills, central nervous system dysfunction, and neural immaturity, many kids with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are very disorganized (e.g., appearing lost in time and space, likely to lose belongings frequently, unable to accomplish even the simplest task in a timely fashion, difficulty following instructions, unable to keep their rooms clean and orderly, etc.).

Difficulties with “sequencing” explain why these young people have trouble remembering things (e.g., the seasons, the alphabet, days of the week, the order of tasks and instructions, etc.). These issues are why they have trouble starting projects, sustaining them, and completing them.

Poor organization skills often affect home life, relationships with peers (who will take only a certain amount of forgetting and lateness), and academic life (e.g., forgetting to bring home their homework, not having the time-management skills to meet deadlines, difficulty establishing priorities, difficulty knowing what is most important to study - and what is less so, etc.). Sometimes, this disorganized behavior can appear to parents and teachers as simple defiance, when actually it stems from the very nature of the disorder.

12 ways to help children on the autism spectrum develop time-management and organization skills:

1. Make use of picture schedules. Kids with AS and HFA prefer having a routine. Having a visual schedule to refer to will make your son more aware of his routine and help him cope with changes when they occur.

2. Developing clear and reinforced routines can help with structuring time. Breaking routines and other tasks into manageable chunks and communicating what must be done first, next, and last is crucial. For example, if the youngster has to read a book and write a report, the manageable chunks would be: (1) locate the desired book, (2) read the book, (3) write down the basic book report information, and (4) summarize the book in writing.

3. Color code items (e.g., put some blue tape on a math text book along with blue tape on the math note book).

4. Set up specific areas for different activities (e.g., homework area, art and craft area, etc.). Also, get the appropriate tools for each area (e.g., a comfortable chair and a bookshelf in the reading area, shelves for puzzles and games in that area, tables for the child to work at in the art and craft area, etc.).

5. Planning is essential to time-management. For example, if you are going to the museum, have your child make a list of what exhibit he wants to visit first, second, third, and so on.

6. Parents - and teachers - can assist these “special needs” kids by engaging them in planning activities (e.g., organizing what needs to be done to collect food for the homeless, planning a garden, planning celebrations, and planning that involves developing lists, going shopping, checking off the lists, and then charting the tasks still to be done - which can then in turn be checked off).

7. Make use of visual timers so your child can see how much time is left. This will teach the concept of time in minutes or hours.

8. Help your child to organize his own stuff by category (e.g., cars and trucks together, specific types of games together, etc.) in large baskets or bins. Label the baskets with pictures so he will remember which baskets are for which category.

9. Every day, set a special time for the child to put things away, make notes in his planner, and clean up his work space.

10. Some AS and HFA children have language learning disabilities (i.e., trouble deciphering language, listening, following instructions, etc.). Thus, it is helpful if parents and teachers limit the number of words used in giving directions (e.g., making use of simple phrases such as “go upstairs” … “close the window” … “come down” …etc.).

11. Get a simple daily planner or agenda book and have the child write down everything each day (e.g., homework assignments, chores, favorite television shows, etc.).

12. Lastly, there's a variety of time-management apps that go beyond simple list-makers. Here are some of the best ones available today:
  • Evernote (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android, Kindle Fire, Nook HD): The child can access his notes, images, lists, sounds, and links from any device or computer with this productivity app.
  • Skitch (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android, Kindle Fire): An Evernote add-on that allows the child to annotate and share images (e.g., maps, photos, original sketches, etc.).
  • My Video Schedule (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch): This scheduling app teaches structure, time-management, and motivation.
  • Remember the Milk (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android, Kindle Fire): A task-organizing app to stay on top of everything that needs attention.
  • TextMinder SMS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch): The sound or vibration of a text message serves as a one-off or recurring reminder.
  • Time Timer (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android): This app teaches time-management skills while encouraging the child to work efficiently and stay on task.
  • Timers4Me - Timer & Stopwatch (Android, Kindle Fire): The child can use his own ringtones and images with this app for multiple timers, stopwatches, and alarm.

All of these apps are useful, engaging, and have the hidden agenda of developing time-management and organization skills.

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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