Asperger’s syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. Children with Asperger’s syndrome will display certain unusual behaviors to varying degrees. One of the most common of these behaviors is an unusual dependence upon routines. As a result, children with Asperger’s syndrome can become very upset when things change.
Asperger’s and Routines
In order to understand what happens to these children when there are unexpected changes, it is important to know why they require routines in the first place. Children with Asperger’s syndrome can process their environment much better if they know what to expect. They tend to have excellent rote memory skills, notes the Autism Society, so remembering an established routine is easy and comfortable.
Reactions to Change
If an expected routine is disrupted without notice, children with Asperger’s syndrome can become very anxious or upset. Young children may throw a temper tantrum and older children may even become violent, throwing objects and lashing out at people. Since another hallmark of Asperger’s syndrome is difficulty with expressive language, anxiety in these children often manifests itself in physical ways, according to a 2012 article on the website, Medical News Today.
Helping Your Child Deal with Change
Change is inevitable, so parents of children with Asperger’s syndrome need to be able to help their child deal with interruptions in routine. If possible, notify the child ahead of time that there will be a change. Be specific, and walk the child through the steps that will lead to the change. Identify those parts of the routine that will stay the same: “You will get up, get dressed and have breakfast like you always do.” Then describe the specific change: “Then, we’ll go to the doctor’s office before you go to school. You will get to school just before lunch instead of getting there at homeroom time.”
When an unexpected change occurs, explain to your child exactly what is happening and why. Let him know that you know this is a change, and you know that it may be upsetting. Let him know that the change is specific and will not impact the rest of his day. For example, you might say, “The restaurant is out of cheeseburgers today, so we are going to have macaroni and cheese instead. I will have it too. We will still sit at the same table and have the same drink like we always do.” Depending on the situation, it may be helpful to offer a choice: “If you don’t want to have macaroni and cheese, we can go home and eat at home today.”
Self-Regulating When Things Change
It will also be helpful to talk to your child about dealing with change. As he grows up, he will need to deal with change on his own. Explaining changes before or as they happen, and explaining how you are going to help your child deal with the change, will help him develop these skills for himself.