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Your Asperger Child: Preventing Problems Rather Than Reacting to Them

When using language to teach new responses, developing and writing the keywords or phrases to be used when introducing or generalizing these new concepts will be important. In the above example with Mitch, "the middle school way" was a keyword for behaving in an age-appropriate manner. By making the words and phrases visual, you guarantee both greater understanding and usage of the phrases. Remember, using the phrases, not simply writing them, makes them effective. The words or phrases can be developed by you or by your child. Unusual phrases, ads, or catchy sayings are often attractive and easy to remember. The first step is choosing the area you want to work on with your child. Then select (or have your child select) a word or phrase to be used as a quick reminder for appropriate responding. With use, the key word or phrase alone will convey the concept and what appropriate responding will look like. This will allow your child to generalize a skill more easily. When the phrase is used in a new situation, he will know what to do, because the phrase corresponds to the new behavior. After one has been mastered, add other phrases as needed. Below is a sample list of phrases we have found to be effective:

Sample List of Key Words and Phrases

  • Off the topic (said to the child when his response is not on the topic being discussed)
  • Say one thing (when answering questions or discussing a topic with too much detail – this skill should be practiced)
  • In your head (refers to statements that should not be said aloud, usually statements about a person's physical appearance or statements that would hurt another's feelings)
  • MYOB ("mind your own business")
  • Good choices/bad choices (this will be explained in chapter 8)
  • Problems and solutions (refers to a technique used to either prevent a tantrum or assist the child in regaining control during a tantrum)
  • School sitting, school walking, etc. (refers to a specific manner of doing something that has been demonstrated to the child previously).
  • Just do it (refers to times when the child must quickly respond in a particular way without question; especially useful when the child is involved with peers or when returning to mainstream settings from special education)
  • The rule (It is very helpful for the child to have appropriate responses described as the rule; it appeals to their sense of seeing the world in black and white. Often simply stating that a desired response is "the rule" brings immediate compliance.)
  • Drop the subject (refers to talking on and on)
  • Stick up for yourself (refers to the type of response the child must make when being teased or taken advantage of by others)
  • Keep your problems small (used when the child's behaviors are just beginning to escalate in a negative way; serves as a reminder to maintain control)
  • Bumping (refers to interrupting others when they are speaking)
  • Stretching the topic (attempting to go off topic by trying to make your new topic – usually a special interest – appear related to the original topic)
  • Being okay (getting yourself together to handle a situation)
  • Use your words (controlling yourself by using words when you are upset or frustrated, rather than responding with a meltdown)
  • Get your control (key phrase used during a crisis)
  • Switching/substitutions (key words used to remind the child about being flexible)
  • Being flexible (it is very important that this concept is taught early, even to a child as young as five – in my classroom this is as important as reading and math)
  • Making changes (variation of the previous two above)
  • Eyes up here (key phrase to help with attending and focusing)
  • This is a choice/This is not a choice
  • That doesn't make sense (used when the child says something that is inappropriate, for instance: fantasy talk, mislabeling another's or their own feelings, giving misinformation on a topic)
  • Don't be a "me first" (used with those children who have an obsession about always being first: in line, when playing a game, being called on, etc.)
  • Conversations go back and forth (used as a reminder when learning how to converse with others)
  • Respond quickly and quietly (often referred to as Q and Q)
  • Looking and listening (often referred to as L and L)
  • The preschool way, the elementary school way, etc.
  • Show me (add the phrase for what you want the child to do)
  • Tell me what you have to do (often used after giving directions)
  • Dealing with disappointments (refers to what to do when something doesn't go the way we thought it would)
  • Personal space (not hugging, touching, etc., others when it is not appropriate)
  • Thinking with your body (learning to use your body to communicate)
  • Thinking with your eyes (learning to use your eyes to communicate)
  • Lower/raise your volume (to help the child to modulate voice volume; often paired with a hand signal)
  • The way (used to let the child know that you don't like the tone of voice they are using; e.g., "Can you try another way of saying that?")
  • Salvage the rest of the day (refers to not allowing a problem to ruin the rest of the day)
  • Kiss ("keep it small and simple")
  • Don't get stuck (refers to not allowing a problem to control you or stop you from moving on; this skill is taught)
What you say is important, but how you say it can be the difference between success and failure. Sometimes a calm, even voice is needed; other times, a more dramatic tone may be called for. When you change the tone of your voice, point it out to your child. He doesn't use varied tones of voice to convey different meanings. By pointing this out, you communicate your meaning and you increase his awareness of the importance of paying attention to vocal tone. This should also be done with facial expressions and body language – two other modalities Asperger children don't use when communicating to or processing communication from others. Vary your facial expressions and body language, and explain and show how it helps you to understand what others are saying. Below are illustrations of incorporating key words and phrases into your interventions.

<< Previous: "Acting your age"

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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