Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
Transitions and Asperger’s –
How to Deal with Change
Asperger’s Academy is a series of occasional newsletters written by a young adult with Asperger’s about her experiences and tips for living with Asperger’s and high functioning autism.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had trouble with transitions and Asperger’s. Transitions (a change from one thing to another) were my biggest foe.
Since I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 21, we didn’t know why I’d have so much anxiety and meltdowns at what most people thought were perfectly innocuous moments. But after getting my diagnosis and doing some research, it became perfectly clear to me.
I will try to help shed some light on why transitions can be so difficult for people with Asperger’s. First, let me say that no two people with Asperger’s are alike, and this will not apply to every single person on the spectrum. But it will likely apply to a lot of them.
Transitions and Asperger’s – “What are we doing next?”
I always had to know what we were doing next. And when, and for how long, and what the exact details would be. It didn’t seem weird to me, it just seemed necessary.
I remember trips to the amusement park when I was a kid where I would cry so much that I felt this weird kind of numbness when I finally had cried myself out.
Looking back, I’m guessing that while the amusement park might have been an enjoyable destination for me (and it was, sensory issues aside), I was probably not given enough time to process and prepare for the fact that we were going to the amusement park.
So many details and questions, so many images and ideas would fly through my head that I wouldn’t be able to process them. Being a child and having no way to express this feeling of overwhelm, I would cry and cry. To my memory, though, I usually had a good time once we got there.
Transitions and Asperger’s – Plan Ahead
In order to help with transitions and Asperger’s, you need to take the time to tell your child with Asperger’s the plan way ahead of time. At the very least tell them the day before!
Your child needs time to process their thoughts and feelings about the upcoming activity. They need time to ask questions, and they need to know the plan in detail.
Transitions and Asperger’s – Switching Between Activities
One major issue that most parents will have with their child with Asperger’s is transitioning between activities. You will often experience resistance, anxiety, anger, plain out refusal and meltdowns. Let’s look at why:
1. Transitions and Asperger’s – Hard to Switch Gears
Kids with Asperger’s and high functioning autism get extremely into whatever they are doing and have a hard time switching gears.
An Asperger’s brain is not as fluid as the typical person’s. It can excel at individual tasks, but it focuses on these tasks so intently, with so much energy and absorption and focus, that it needs some time to rest and reset before it can switch to another activity.
2. Transitions and Asperger’s – Too Much to Process
Sometimes, people with Asperger’s take in so much information during an activity or interaction, especially emotions, that they’re not able to process it during the activity.
Some people can hold off this need for processing until after the activity so that they can remain engaged and participating in the activity (which in itself is an act of willpower).
As soon as the activity or social interaction is over however, all that extra information needs to be processed or the person will feel overwhelmed.
What do I mean by process?
People with Asperger’s feel everything so intensely, that they almost have to turn away from some of it or not receive some of it in order to remain functioning.
But this extra information has to go somewhere, and after a certain amount of time of trying to ignore all this extra information, it needs to be dealt with
Transitions and Asperger’s – Anxiety about what is Next
Sometimes, anxiety about the activity that is coming next comes into play.
If there are sensory aspects of the activity that can be changed to make the environment more favorable, this is something you should try to do. This wasn’t a big factor for me, but is for many people.
Preparing ahead of time and anxiety and stress reduction techniques should be practiced to help deal with this aspect of transitions and Asperger’s.
Now you know why transitions can be so difficult for people with Asperger’s. In a future article, we will talk more about transitions and Asperger’s and discuss some strategies to make these times easier to deal with.
And for information on treatments and therapies for Asperger’s and autism read the Craig Kendall book, New Hope for Autism.