Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
Asperger’s Syndrome Treatment – Teaching Organizational Skills
One key part in Asperger’s syndrome treatment is teaching organization skills. “How do I get him organized?” is one of the most common questions therapists and special educators hear. Many kids with Asperger’s syndrome have what is known as executive functioning deficits. This means that planning ahead, or remembering information that is not personally relevant to their interests, tends to fall by the wayside. They get distracted easily and forget what they need to be doing.
How Can You Help Teach Organization Skills?
Asperger’s syndrome treatment consists of many different treatment methods and forms. This is something that your speech therapist, your occupational therapist, and whoever else works with your Asperger’s child can all take a part in across the board. Of course, it is very important to reinforce and practice these skills at home every chance you get.
Most kids with Asperger’s syndrome are visual learners. You should have a calendar on the wall of all the family’s events so that everyone knows what is happening. But you should go a step further. Have your child with Asperger’s syndrome help you to make the calendar.
You may not think of this as an Asperger’s syndrome treatment, but it is. Anything that helps your child practice organizational skills is helpful. Tell her the event and have her write it down in the appropriate place in the calendar. This models planning out one’s days and weeks.
Every week, print out sheets that have the days of the week on them. Have your child write down their events and activities (hopefully if they are older, they will be aware of the ones that affect them, but if they are younger or are not, you can help them, or they can copy from the master calendar). Again, this helps children with Asperger’s syndrome visualize their week. This way there are no surprises. And always remember, children with Asperger’s syndrome hate surprises and thrive on routine.
The hardest thing for children with Asperger’s syndrome can be getting organized on a day-to-day schedule. Each night, you should have your child write out a list of things they have to do the next day (history paper, band practice, geography homework, family dinner, etc.) to get them in the habit of planning ahead.
What Will I Need to Have to Do this Activity?
For every event, ask your child what they might have to do to get ready for that event. For example, if they have ice hockey practice, they might say “Have my skates and uniform ready.” If there is a birthday party for a classmate, you might remind them that you need to get a present (together, depending on the child’s age). If the child, for example, wants to go to the movies with a friend, you might remind him to save enough money from his allowance–anything to focus on the concept of knowing what’s coming up and what you want to do to prepare for it.
What Do I Need to Do to Get Ready?
Another key part in Asperger’s syndrome treatment and organization planning is knowing what you need to do any given task. Have your child write out what textbooks or other material for school they may need for their assignments. If you’re going on a trip, have them write down ahead of time everything they think they are going to need to pack–and then check the list. Teach them that lists can be your friend.
Also have them plan out in their mind the sequence they need to take to do a desired activity. Did they use the bathroom before they left the house? Did they have something to eat so they won’t be hungry when they reach their destination? If necessary, have them write a list of steps that need to be taken before leaving the house.
This may sound like an awful lot of lists and preparation, but this is what is required to live in the adult world. You need to be able to plan ahead. One of the most common statements said to people with Asperger’s syndrome – “What were you thinking?” can be largely avoided if you make every effort to teach them to think ahead. Usually, the answer is that they weren’t–or that they were distracted by something else.
Eventually, after a lot of practices with the lists, the lists may no longer be necessary. It may take some time, but it is entirely possible to teach your child or young adult to become more organized. A lot of Asperger’s syndrome treatment is simply rote repeating of behaviors or mental sequences until they become more naturally ingrained in the person’s head.
A great source of valuable tips and information can ge gotten from other parents with children on the autism spectrum. My books include a great many practical tips for helping your loved one thrive with Asperger’s syndrome.