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Your Asperger Child: Preventing Problems Rather Than Reacting to Them

To make interventions effective you need to create an environment in which your child feels comfortable, anxiety is decreased, and your child has an understanding of the events taking place around him. The environment needs to provide consistency, predictability, structure, routine, organization, logically explained rules, and clear rewards/consequences in response to these rules. When this is in place, your child will begin to feel competent. I am reminded of a student who had been expelled from his kindergarten class as the result of unmanageable behaviors – even with one-on-one support. After his first week in my class of eight Asperger students, without any additional support, he said, "Hey, I like this new school. I know the way." A number of things must be in place to create "the Asperger world."

Physical Environment
First, the physical environment must be consistent. In all locations you need to identify consistent areas where specific activities are completed, such as that homework is always completed at the desk in his bedroom or at the kitchen table. These areas/activities should also have consistent behavioral expectations, which are explained to your child, such as, "At my desk I do calm sitting." Calm sitting is modeled and practiced. You need to identify clear physical boundaries, such as a planned seating arrangement in school or a planned play area at home. Use consistent materials that are clearly marked and accessible, like toys that are within easy reach and stored in or right by the area they will be used in.

In addition, expectations, such as the rules, rewards, and consequences, should be visually available. Once again, these must be clearly described to your child. After this has been completed, use charts with stickers or stars to keep track of reward systems. Use the letters of your child's name placed on a chart to keep track of consequences. Throughout the day, if letters have been received, they can slowly be erased for positive responding. This provides a wonderful visual response for appropriate behaviors, and you can deliver this feedback, depending on your child's needs, every ten minutes, fifteen minutes . . . three hours – you decide what works best.

Interpersonal Environment
Second, your relationship with your child must also be consistent in both word and action. He must see you as a predictable person, a person in control, a calm person, and, finally, a person who keeps his word. Being "easy" or giving your child a "break" will hinder your effectiveness. You make rules and stick to them. You make requests and follow through; you don't make second requests, and you don't plead. Your interactions must be stable, allowing your child to anticipate how he will respond. He must see you as someone who can help him understand the world around him. The highest praise I can receive from a child is being thought of as his helper or problem solver – "Ask Mrs. Grayson, she knows how to help." "Mrs. Grayson is a problem solver." "Did you know Mrs. Grayson's job is to help me figure things out?" If you are only seen as a problem causer, your effectiveness will be minimal. You must be highly organized and pay attention to details as you create a structured environment for your child. However, you must be able to remain flexible within this structure. By doing so, you will provide the structure your child needs to learn to be flexible.



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From Parenting Your Asperger Child by Alan Sohn, Ed.D., and Cathy Grayson, M.A. Copyright 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


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