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Your Asperger Child: Preventing Problems Rather Than Reacting to Them

Mrs. G.: Mitch, are there things you can do now that you couldn't do when you were a baby?

Mitch: Oh yes, lots of things. I couldn't use the computer. Also, did you know I couldn't talk?

Mrs. G.: Yes, that's true for all babies. I bet it is also true you couldn't walk or hold your own utensil when you ate.
Mitch: When you grow up you learn more things.

Mrs. G.: You're right. That also happens at school. I call it "the preschool way," "the elementary school way," "the middle school way," and "the high school way." For instance, when you were in preschool you scribbled, but in elementary school you learned to color in the lines. When you were in preschool you had quiet time, but now in middle school you go out on the playground.

Mitch: You know what else? In preschool, and sometimes even in elementary school, I didn't raise my hand, but now in middle school I do. Now I know about interrupting.

Mrs. G.: Well, there are other things, Mitch. In preschool you just had a snack at school. In elementary school you packed your lunch and you brought almost the very same food every day. In middle school, the rule is, you start trying different foods by buying your lunch. Students in middle school don't pack lunch every day. Do you like hot dogs? [I knew he did.]

Mitch: Yes, I do, but I never bought one at school.

Mrs. G.: The school sells hot dogs every Tuesday, so that would be a good first day to buy your lunch, since we already know you like hot dogs.

A social story and cue card with "the middle school way" were also created. Initially, Mitch bought the school lunch only on Tuesdays. Once this went smoothly, we met again to choose the next new food to try. Providing him with the visual of a weekly lunch menu helped to lessen his anxiety. Every Friday we outlined what he would eat each day of the following week. We also wrote down on which days he would bring a packed lunch and on which days he would buy lunch and what he would buy. Initially, to allow Mitch some choice, he had complete control over his packed lunch.

After a new food had been introduced and accepted by Mitch for two weeks, another new food would be introduced the following week. The same pattern was repeated, unless he initiated a change (for instance, he wanted to try a new food sooner, which he sometimes did after success with the second new food). His middle school goal was to eventually buy school lunch three days a week and pack lunch two days a week. Once this was established, we began to work on the foods he brought from home. This task became quite simple, because buying lunch had generated many new and appropriate food choices for Mitch that he could also bring from home.

Throughout this period, "the middle school way" was mentioned as frequently as possible. Whenever Mitch did something new or was successful in any new area, I labeled it "the middle school way" and pointed out he could not have done this in elementary school. This intervention, though presented as a whole, had three distinct parts:

  • A system was developed to pair eating new foods with a rule ("the middle school way").
  • A gradual step-by-step approach was used to introduce the eating of new foods.
  • A reframing of Mitch's thinking about new foods was reinforced at every opportunity.


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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