What can you do?
Make a timetable and calendar for the wall, so that each child can check for himself what is happening and when something will change. The timetable should give a lot of detail [starting school, lessons, morning, lunchtime etc etc] and should allow for flexibility: if you suggest a picnic, give an alternative for if it rains. If you suggest a time, allow ten minutes each side. Warn the child – all children – if teacher will be off or the hall is being used for singing today.
Try and do things in more or less the same way.
When you want to change an activity, change lesson or get ready for lunch, count the child out. ‘I’m going to count to 5 and then we’re finishing, 1,2,3,4,5’. You can then use this counting to change or prepare for other activities
Use the child’s name when you call for him – small children with Aspergers don’t realise that they are ‘all the boys’ or ‘the green table’, they need a name in order to tune in to what is being said.
If there is going to be a change, explain and plan for it, especially when children are young. Go to the new classroom and take fotos, meet the new teacher, discuss the new routines. If something different will happen, explain that this will happen. Use your timetable to remind you both.
If you need to change the display, there may be upset
Insist on things you need to do, like going to a different room, but promise him something he really likes at the end, and stick to it. If he finds the noise too much, consider whether headphones and his favourite music would help him to cope with the situation.
Explain things carefully, so that he is not confused by your language – there is a new dictionary for Asperger people explaining some of the more common, very odd phrases we use: at the end of the day, it’s raining cats and dogs, spend a penny, spit it out, I could eat you up, I could take you home he was crying his eyes out,etc. [all the last three have terrified young students]
Teach him that he can talk about his favourite thing for only twenty minutes maximum, and how to seem to listen to other people.
Show him how to make eye contact: look at other people sometimes, but don’t stare into their eyes without sometimes looking away. I usually suggest that children look at someone’s mouth if they find it too hard to look at their eyes, and that they look away briefly about every twenty/thirty seconds. Looking at the bottom of the ear looks reasonable to other people too.
Help him to play sport – Aspergers does not make for good team players, except perhaps as goalie. But he might excel in an individual activity – ski-ing or swimming or running or tennis.
Be ready to translate the world for him sometimes; expect to explain him to each new teacher.
Remember that he will not make very close relationships, though he may have relationships, they seem not to matter as much and he is less likely to be devastated if it all falls through.ASD children often make good friends with others on the spectrum.
Some children on the spectrum are very precise about time and count if you say Two Minutes, and then tell you ‘you are late’.
Many ASD children have genuine sensitivities. They do not cope well with some textiles [labels have to be cut out, some clothes are uncomfortable]; sound can be too loud or too quiet [they may make noises at the table and disturb the others but this seems to be so they can control the sound levels]; they do not eat or drink enough OR too much; don’t cope well with numbers of people; struggle with touch – may notice the slightest touch or be impervious to pain; may not recognise the signals for needing the toilet – world expert animal behaviourist Temple Grandin sets her watch so as to go to the toilet appropriately; they often don’t need much sleep.
Part of the definition includes a lack of empathy – so there is little consideration for others. They must be taught how to comply, but it doesn’t come naturally.
Very, very many ASD children find it stressful trying to stick to the rules. It is really helpful to give them a short break two or three times a day, ideally in a quiet space where they can be quiet. Often the kids are fine in school but blow-up at hometime. Often, they don’t even manage a day in school.
The way that many ASD people deal with situations is to determine what will happen and plan for it – this means they can get seriously disappointed and upset if things don’t go their way. If you can, enable the person to plan for alternative scenarios so that a failure for things to happen is less devastating.