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My 20 year old with asperger’s is having issues meeting people and making friends. He goes to the community college but does not have the skills needed to make friends. He really enjoys history, libraries and traveling. He likes to watch wrestling and the ghost hunter shows on tv.
–Ready for Suggestions
I share your distress that there are not more helpful programs for adults on the spectrum. Does your 20 year old understand and accept his or her diagnosis? If so, you could start by sending him/her an email with the video below (of an adult discussing how Aspergers affects him socially in professional and academic settings).
Before you write your email, read our handout on written explanations, and gather your thoughts. I suggest something like, “This video reminded me of you. I’d like to help you make and keep some friends if you want to. Here is what I think we could do:
If we meet anyone we like at these clubs, we can see if they ever would want to come over and watch ghost hunters on TV.
Is it OK with you if we try these things?”
I hope this helps! Let me know how it goes. –Sylvia
You can ASK SYLVIA by clicking on ‘ASK’ above.
My son is 7 years old in the second grade, and at school is takes too long to copy assignments and complete his work . How can I help him improve? He also randomly forgets to pack up all that he needs to bring home from school.
I have seen many many kids (with and without autism) go through this same phenomenon. First, I’ll ask this: Is he capable of copying them down with a little more time? Could he have some formal accommodations at school (through his IEP) to receive a list of assignments or already-copied out handouts? Could he be officially responsible for doing a few less problems, or shorter writing assignments? Can you negotiate with the teacher for him to complete assignments at home each night?
Many kids on the spectrum take longer to complete their work, and do not want to stop part way through. If they will need to stop partway, I suggest using a written explanation in advance, so they will be prepared. When you get to the homework part of the day, I suggest using a list or schedule of assignments so that your son will know when he will be finished. Feel free to schedule breaks in there if he has a lot to complete.
As for packing the correct things: Are the items he needs based on what day of the week it is? For example, does he always need his reading book on Mondays or is it random? Does he generally need the same basic items? I’ve seen good results from people making a laminated tag on the outside of a kid’s backpack with a picture of something they like, and a list of what to pack up. See this example.
Let me know if this works!
Thanks for writing,
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We have been attempting to teach our son to do some household chores. He uses a picture schedule and after completing three tasks he gets a reward (usually a milkshake from McDonalds). The problem is that he comes home from school, rushes through the chores not doing a complete or very good job (example: he only washes one little spot on a window and then puts “wash living room windows” in the finished envelope). If I try to make him go back and finish he gets upset and angry and tends toward self-injurious behavior. Should I just let it go? –Frustrated in Franklin
It sounds like you guys have a really great system for planning and rewarding chores. I commend you for setting something like that up–it will serve you and your son well for a long time to come. It also sounds like MOST of the system is working really well, so do not be too discouraged. Here are a few things you might try to tighten up the system a little bit:
1. Add a beginning level to the system where your son ‘learns’ to do the chores (you might have to invent new ones while you introduce this). Take all the chores he does poorly out of the chores list. Start 2 chore boards, where one is full of chores he needs to ‘practice’ and one has chores that he is independent with.
2. Plan a procedure for teaching the ‘practice’ chores. You might consider using a Jig, or another method of visually structuring the task so that he completes it properly. For washing windows, you might put 3 washable marker stripes down the length of the window and teach him to wash all three areas (including the stripes). Then fade out the stripes.
3. Create a ‘check off’ list of the chores he is still learning. He can get a chore checked off the list when it has been inspected by you. Then that chore can get moved to the independent list. If he starts backsliding, you can always move it back to the ‘practice’ chore board.
4. Start a routine using your picture schedule where he does one ‘practice’ chore each day with you, and you walk through the specific steps of that chore (using a schedule if you want). If there are chores he is independent with, he can do those too. The practice chore can be one of the chores he uses to earn his reward.
5. If he becomes angry with you for changing the routine, STICK TO YOUR GUNS! You won’t be doing him any favors by accepting a standard that nobody else in his future will accept. If you can explain the chores clearly, and reward him for doing them right, he will come around. See this handout on managing behavior for specific techniques for sticking to your guns
6. As always, you may have to explain this new chore system to your son in a visual format.
I really hope this helps! Please email or call me with any further questions. SYLVIA
You can ASK SYLVIA about autism by clicking on the ‘ASK’ tab above.
My daughter is 10 and I am already worrying about puberty and especially the onset of her menstrual cycle. How can we prepare? She doesn’t really tell us when she gets hurt and she is already unimpressed with showering, tooth-brushing and other hygiene routines. –Scared for Her
This is a very common concern, and I’m really glad you wrote in. Many kids (with and without autism) are confused and unprepared for puberty. It’s great that you want to help your daughter be ready. Here are some things to try:
1. Get this book: Taking Care of Myself: A Hygiene, Puberty and Personal Curriculum for Young People with Autism
2. Read this free HANDOUT FROM THE AUTISM SOCIETY OF AMERICA
3. Use the written explanations in the book to help explain about puberty and periods to your daughter. Set a time each week, or each day to work through the book, and put it on your daughters schedule.
4. Write down an action plan for you and your daughter for the first time she notices her period. Make sure to include specific step by step instructions such as ‘wipe, get dressed, and tell the adult who is helping you (Mom, staff person, teacher, etc)’. Also mention that she will not be in trouble.
5. Continue to practice the hygiene routines you already have in place, and do not be afraid to add new standards early (such as wearing deodorant daily). Stick to your guns about your hygiene routines so they become second nature. It will not get easier to fight those battles during puberty.
You can use your established weekly or daily check-in’s about puberty to move into speaking about sexuality issues as she gets older. I hope this helps! Please email me with follow-up questions if you have them.
This is the second edition of Ask Sylvia, and I’m having a lot of fun with these! You can submit a scenario by clicking on the ASK tab above.
Whenever I want my teen to leave to go somewhere, he will say he is ready, but when it is really time to go he is not ready. He thinks the appointment time is when you start getting ready. If an appointment is at 2pm, then in his mind, that is when you get ready. How do I get him ready for events and appointments? This happens even when it is something he really wants to do. (He can read and understand a paragraph without help—I’ve tried nagging him, giving him responsibility, and taking things away). –Expecting More
Dear Expecting More,
Understanding the concept of time (and applying it in a practical way) is a common challenge for folks on the autism spectrum. You could try changing the way you speak about appointments, and refer to the time you start getting ready (“We’re going to get ready for school at 6:45am” instead of “We go to school at 7:15”). I would also start presenting a written outline of what needs to be done to get ready. Here is a photo example of what I mean. Present the schedule earlier in the day and go over it. Tell your teen that you will tell him when it is time to start getting ready, and see if he will check off the items as he works through the schedule. You might have to write him a note explaining about ‘getting ready for appointments’. See this handout for examples of written explanations, and maybe this one about teaching schedules. GOOD LUCK! I’d be excited to hear how it works! –Sylvia
So, I get a lot of questions from families about helping their children with autism. Sometimes people want to know about changing behaviors, improving school performance, finding friends, dealing with puberty, or clearer communication. I know that for every question someone asks, there are additional folks who want to hear the answer…so I added a feature to the website where you can submit your questions, and I will answer them online. I will not include names and I will edit out identifying information. If you click on ASK above, you can see the form.
Here is the first question:
How can I get my 9 year old son to complete daily activities like homework and cleaning his room without fear of provoking a backlash or even a meltdown? He does well in school when he finishes his assignments and I know he can clean his room and do other chores because he has done them in the past. Lately he just refuses to take directions from me. –Tired of Walking on Eggshells
Dear Tired of Eggshells,
Sounds entirely frustrating! I agree that your son should be able to accomplish some daily explanations without melting down. You mentioned in your submission that your son uses a schedule in the morning and earns time on his DS on the way to school if he finishes his morning routine. Have you tried a similar system for the afternoon? You might make him a list of stuff to do when he gets home (including some downtime) and let him earn some stuff he really likes such as videogame time. The schedule and the reward-earning could take some of the power struggle out of the afternoon, and add some predictability. Check out these handout on Structure in the Home and Rules and Rewards for a place to start brainstorming.
For example, his afternoon could go like this:
get off the bus
30 min choice time: draw, go outside, play with trains (no TV or video games)
–Homework done? 20 min of video games
–room clean? 20 min of video games
You may need to present this new system to him in writing so he can get used to the idea. Here is handout on written explanations<.
GOOD LUCK! --Sylvia