Your Asperger Child: Preventing Problems Rather Than Reacting to Them

With an Asperger child, it is wise to anticipate the occurrence of a behavior and then plan for it.

Anticipate and prepare

Sooner is better than later. Most people tend to wait until a problem arises and then attempt to deal with it through the use of a consequence. Consequences can be positive (gaining something) or negative (losing something). At times, consequences are discussed prior to an event, but usually in terms of a motivator: "If you do this, you will gain (lose) something else." More often we use consequences in the middle of a problem, such as, "If you don't stop that, you're going right to bed." Or, "You won't watch any TV if you don't leave your sister alone." Or, "You're in time-out right now. I've had it." All of these statements are made when the behavior is out of control. You have given many warnings and you are now acting out of frustration. However, none of these comments will lead to positive change in the short or long run.

With an Asperger child it is far better to anticipate the occurrence of a behavior and then plan for it. Many problem behaviors are repetitious, especially in the same situation. Even when they don't occur every time, they may still be frequent enough to warrant this approach. A rule of thumb is if a behavior repeats itself at least half of the time, you need to prepare for it. For example, if homework, bedtime, or dinnertime have been frequent problems in the past, chances are very good they will continue to be so in the future.

Future vision is the ability of an individual to know what is going to happen in an upcoming situation because of its constant reoccurrence. When you know what is going to happen you can prepare your child for the event prior to its occurrence by discussing what usually occurs and what needs to occur. For example, going out to dinner is often a problem time. So talk with your child about what normally happens, how he acts, how you do, and then follow that up with a discussion and see if you can get a firm commitment from your child that he is going to follow these new behaviors. If he responds in a positive way, you have increased the likelihood that things will go better when you go out for dinner.

If you happen to miss the opportunity to prevent a problem, there is often a small "window of opportunity" in which you can still salvage the situation. In the example above, suppose you have forgotten to say something before you left for dinner. As events begin to unravel, you have a very brief period of time – sometimes only a minute or two – before you'll be in a messy situation. Seize this opportunity. It may be the last best one in that situation.

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