Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
Asperger’s Syndrome in Children – Tips
for Dealing with Crowded Spaces
Asperger’s Syndrome in children presents many challenges; one of them is dealing with crowded spaces. Crowded spaces are notoriously difficult for people with Asperger’s and high functioning autism to manage.
There is so much stimuli coming to them at once, and it is hard to process it all at once.
Asperger’s Syndrome in Children – Why are Crowds a Challenge?
Not only are there a lot of stimuli, in terms of noises, smells, sights, but these stimuli actually want a RESPONSE too!
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to cocoon in your own world and get through a crowded place only to then be pulled out of it by having to respond to what is around you.
In a crowded space, like a busy grocery store, you have to figure out how to walk so that someone does not hit into you and you do not hit into them.
This requires having some understanding of what the other person is going to do next or where they are going to go next, which is not always easy for a person with Asperger’s or high functioning autism
Here are some tips to make dealing with crowds easier for your kids who have Asperger’s or high functioning autism.
Asperger’s Syndrome in Children – Tips for Dealing with Crowds
1. Asperger’s Syndrome in Children – Bring your Walkman/MP3 Player
One tip that an adult with Asperger’s told us is that she has been wearing a radio Walkman since she was in high school, whenever she is out in public. She says that it helps give her something to focus on when the crowds of people around her get overwhelming.
She says, “I never go anywhere without my Walkman. I feel vulnerable and exposed to the world without it. When I have it on, I can listen to the music on the radio and the honking horns, the conversation of other people, the sound over the loudspeaker, the people near me; it just doesn’t register as much.
Without it, I am constantly on alert as each new stimulus jangles my nervous system, but with it I have a buffer that allows me to function and even enjoy being out of the house.”
There are many different types of music players. Get one, with headphones, for your child and put their favorite type of music or other audio recording on it. Have them wear it whenever you go out, especially to grocery stores and other very crowded environments.
Tell them to focus on the music whenever they seem to get a little tense. Have them close their eyes if they need to and sing the song they are listening to. Anything that makes them feel more secure and less aware of all the stimuli around them.
2. Asperger’s Syndrome in Children – Stimming
You may have heard that it is a good idea to stop your child from “stimming” whenever possible. “Stimming” includes self-stimulatory behaviors like repetitive motions, strange hand gestures or movements and vocalizations like saying the same thing over again.
The thing is, while these might look/sound weird, all behavior is communication and all behavior has a purpose. The purpose of these behaviors is for the person doing them to focus on something else – their stims – instead of whatever is making them anxious or nervous. See?
People with autism have a built in coping system, but since the people without autism don’t always understand what they’re up against, they will often mistake “coping mechanism” for “symptom that needs fixing.”
There are some places that stimming may not be welcome at though, more formal settings for instance. You want to work with your child to develop quieter, less obvious forms of coping mechanisms so your child can blend in when they need to.
Back to our example of the grocery store, here it is okay for your child to hum/sing to themselves, to move back and forth a bit and be fidgety if they have to – as long as they’re not seriously bothering the people around them.
And if people are bothered by a little fidgety behavior or soft singing or humming, then they’ve got bigger problems in their world and don’t mind them!
3. Asperger’s Syndrome in Children – Focus Attention Elsewhere
We cannot stress enough how important it is to teach your child with Asperger’s or high functioning autism to focus their attention elsewhere when stressed by their environment. Asperger’s Syndrome in children means that you are going to get a lot of situations like this.
Teach your child to focus on something visual in the environment that interests them. Something on the wall of a store, a duck in a pond or a piece of nature outside, etc. Point out interesting things in your environment in an attempt to get them used to doing this.
These days, a lot of kids have iPads and other electronic devices with games and other applications that can offer distraction. If you have access to such a thing, bring it with you in crowded environments and have your child use it.
Crowds can lead to overwhelm, meltdowns, screaming and bolting. When the child is not aware of the crowds, calmer emotions will be more likely to reign.
4. Asperger’s Syndrome in Children – Be Prepared
It is always a good idea when you plan to be in a crowded environment to have your time there well planned out.
Figure out exactly what you need to do, and how long you think it will take.
Have toys or items with you that can be used as distraction.
Know where the exits are.
Bring someone along with you if you need help with your child.
Learn the times when your destination is less busy and try to go then.
Prepare your child ahead of time with what you are doing and warn them that it will be crowded.
Asperger’s Syndrome in children can be challenging at times but if you try these tips you will find that crowds will become easier for your child to deal with.
Also, read the Craig Kendall book, New Hope for Autism, for many more tips for kids with Asperger’s Syndrome.