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In the last section, we discussed Four Symptoms of Asperger Syndrome. These included difficulties with social interactions, impaired communication, unusual or unusually rigid behaviors and interests, and unusual responses to stimulation and environment.
Do any of your clients have children with Asperger Syndrome? Do they struggle to teach their children how to respond to unexpected changes? How do they cope?
In this section, we will discuss Effective Parenting to Build Basic Social Skills regarding Structuring Family Life. This will include predictability, responsibility and flexibility. As you listen to this section, think of your clients and their children and how you respond to them.
Julian and Ivy, both age 35, had just learned that their daughter, Adele, age 6, had Asperger Syndrome. Julian stated, "We have two other children, ages 11 and 8. We love them all, of course, but we’re struggling trying to keep it all together."
Ivy stated, "I can vouch for the fact that scheduling grocery shopping is difficult because I have a full-time job, but if I take Adele with me, I can’t be in the store for very long, because she can only behave for short periods of time." Julian stated, "Adele also gets upset when I go on business trips. I can’t stop going on business trips, it’s my job. But she wants to be able to predict them somehow. What do we do about this?" How might you have responded to Julian and Ivy?
Ivy stated, "Yes. She practically taught herself...she’s a very fast learner." I stated, "You might try making Adele a block calendar mapping out each week. Each of your names can be written in a different color, and Adele can have her own color. That way, Adele can see not only her own schedule, but those of her siblings and both of you at the same time. Of course, schedules change anyway, but you can try to give as much warning beforehand as you can."
Julian asked, "How can we teach Adele to take responsibility? We’re afraid to give her chores because we know they’ll have to be heavily supervised, and we’re afraid it will be more time-consuming than it’s worth." What might you have suggested to Julian?
Ivy stated, "Our older two children have responsibilities, of course, but what responsibilities can I give Adele? If I let her help me cook dinner in the kitchen, for example, that assistance would actually delay the process." I stated, ‘Over time Adele’s help might become more effective, but lessons in responsibility can still be learned. Chores can be useful sometimes when they are assigned according to ability rather than the inherent usefulness of the task. I have found that many children with Asperger Syndrome enjoy taking on responsibilities for tasks that are done the same way, such as setting the table, feeding the dog or putting their dirty clothes in the hamper."
Julian stated to Ivy, "You were talking about Adele in the grocery store earlier. What if you let her pick some things from the grocery list? Of course, she would probably have difficulty selecting produce, but she might be very good at picking canned soup or boxed cereal, for example." Ivy stated, "Good idea. I think that could be arranged." I stated, "Chores like that could enable Adele to perform useful work, develop her own abilities and confidence and learn important life skills."
I stated, "Yes, flexibility can be taught. For example, you can teach Adele specific rules for what to do when something happens that wasn’t on the agenda. I call these ‘What-if?’ exercises. You can ask, ‘What should you do if you come home and there’s nobody here?’ or ‘What should you do if the door’s locked and nobody’s home?’ You and Adele can brainstorm answers together, tossing out ideas and then selecting the best response."
Ivy stated, "But you can’t ‘what-if’ for every single scenario out there." I stated, "True, you can’t. But you can branch out from your flexibility rules toward more global critical thinking. You can ask Adele ‘what if’ from time to time, mixing in some familiar scenarios and the unfamiliar. What kind of food does Adele like?" Julian stated, "She loves chocolate chip cookies." I stated, "You might ask her, ‘What if we go to the store to buy the cookies that you like, but they’ve run out?’ You might model how to select options from a menu of choices."
Do you have an Ivy or Julian? Might they benefit from hearing this section?