Change is very hard for the Asperger child. Parents need much foresight to prepare for new things. Preparation ahead of time is the key to preventing meltdowns brought on by change. Some changes can’t be avoided, so we do the best we can to help them work through it. An established routine is helpful, but life is full of changes.
Elizabeth a very intelligent Asperger 14 year old, went to her middle school cafeteria one day and discovered that the cafeteria tables had been changed around. She ran out of the cafeteria and couldn’t eat. That bothered her terribly. She couldn’t focus or function for days. It seems like such a little thing to us. What seems rather insignificant to us, can cause a major meltdown for the Asperger.
My children went through a major change when my husband was killed 15 years ago. It turned our world upside down. They went through another big change 8 years ago when I remarried. My first family of children lost a brother almost 20 years ago. Devastating changes! Those things happen and there was no way to prepare.
It almost seems to me that they can handle the big changes easier than the little every day changes. My 16 yr old came home from school one day, very distraught. She was used to sitting on the back seat of the bus. A new boy got on the bus ahead of her and sat in her seat. It ruined her whole evening. She was upset at everybody and everything, escalating into another meltdown. It bothered her for the whole week.
Scheduling is important for the Asperger child. Our week goes much better during school time because everyone knows what to expect. We have to get up at a certain time, get on the bus at a certain time, arrive at school on time, and the school day is very scheduled. They arrive home at the same time every day and I try to follow through with our evening schedule. That leaves no time for social gatherings through the week. We miss out on the church functions unless it’s on a weekend night. School nights are out for everything but the routine.
Christmas vacation can be chaotic and traumatic. The schedule if off, more candy and sugar around, and a time of surprises. It seems like it takes siblings about two weeks to get acclimated to being together. When we finally begin to fall into a new schedule it’s time to start back to school again. Summer vacation is also a hard time. A break in the routine can throw an Asperger child into a meltdown. During Christmas vacations we try to “hang lose.” I let them sleep in, read books, eat when they got hungry and I kept plenty of healthy snacks around. We try to work together to plan and prepare for the big Family Christmas. Preparation ahead often makes the difference is a successful occasion or chaos!
Little changes are hard. Switching gears from a thought to an alternative way of doing something is almost too big to handle sometimes. Maybe the Asperger child had her heart set on wearing her red shirt. She discovers it’s in the wash machine. Something so little might seem insignificant to us, but it’s a BIG thing to my girls. Unable to switch gears and go for the white blouse, they might pull the red one out wet, and wear it to school anyway. Someone not sitting in their right spot at the supper table, not finding a favorite spoon to eat with, handing them a glass of milk when they had their heart set on taking a pill with orange juice, can’t find the favorite teddy bear etc. can be enough to result in a meltdown. To those of you not dealing with Aspergers, this may sound like a very spoiled child. Remember, this child’s brain can not process things like yours.
If you can explain, what is going to happen ahead of time and what they can expect, transition will go much more smoothly. Allow plenty of time to get ready for an occasion. The times I suddenly realized we had a doctor appointment in a few minutes and everyone need to be ready to leave in 5 or 10 minutes and I’d get excited and say, “Ok guys, we have to leave for the Dr in 10 minutes, you need to stop what you’re doing NOW! and get ready!! PANIC! My girls might shut down and do nothing or dig their heels in and refuse to cooperate until things escalate into major meltdowns. So for everyone’s sanity, ALWAYS allow plenty of time, explain when they need to stop what they are doing and start getting ready and when you need to leave and where you are going and why. It does help! Happy transitioning!
How do you deal with life’s changes?