It's hard enough to keep the average child busy during the summer or over a long weekend. It's doubly difficult if your child has Asperger's Syndrome. Asperger's Syndrome is a developmental disorder within the autism sectum. Children with Asperger's Syndrome are usually highly intelligent but think differently than others. They often do not enjoy the same things as their peers. They also appear antisocial and are often looked upon by others as being unusual. Keeping an Asperger's child busy is important, not only for their development but for your peace of mind and sanity.
Steps to Keep Your Asperger's Child Busy
Brainstorm a list of activities your child enjoys doing. Include other things that he should do or needs to learn. For example, practicing his multiplication tables, reading a book, or cleaning his room. Include at least one thing to do that involves going out such as a trip to the library or local playground.
Look through the local newspaper or other local magazines for events going on in your area. Many events sponsored by churches are free, such as a weekly movie night. During the summer, many organizations set up activities with children in mind. Pick one or two events that you would like to do with your child.
Hang the calendar in a place that is readily accessible and near a clock. Fill the calendar with daily activities. The activities should encompass the entire day from the time your child wakes up to the time she goes to sleep. Do not forget the mundane activities such as eating. If you do, she may assume that those things will not occur. As part of the activities, add several pages from the activity books for her to complete and specify each day's pages. Put activities she needs to do at the beginning with things she enjoys included later on in the list. That way, it can be considered a reward to do the fun things after the "chores".
Spend the first few days making sure that your child is following the events on the calendar. If he balks at doing the necessary things, explain that more time can be allotted for him to complete those things but that could cause the things he wants to do to drop off the calendar. Correct the activity pages after he completes them and have him fix errors. After he seems to have the routine down, you can leave for a few minutes, but check back frequently to make sure the things on the calendar are getting done. Do not assume he will follow your directions or the calendar without you there.
Modify the calendar during the first week and as necessary. Which activities required more time? What things just didn't work out the way you planned? Adjust times as needed. Asperger's children work best when there is routine so do not change the calendar dramatically from one day to the next.
Get siblings in on the act. They can suggest and be involved in the daily activities, and it probably wouldn't hurt for ones close in age to your Asperger's child to follow a similar schedule. Older siblings can periodically take on the responsibility of making sure the calendar is being followed and the activities are being done.
Things You Will Need
- A daily calendar broken in to half hour increments and large enough to be posted on the wall. A paper calendar is okay, but you will need a new calendar for each day. The best are magnetic and come with little activity magnets and a washable writing surface. These can be found in many parenting stores.
- A newspaper or other local publication that contains activity postings for your area
- Age or grade appropriate activity books
The calendar can be altered from day to day or hour to hour if things are not working out but don't be surprised if you face some opposition. It's important for your child to realize that things do not always occur on schedule.
If your child sees you change the schedule, he may assume he can change it, too. Make sure the schedule you created isn't altered when you step out of the room. It is okay, however, for him to make suggestions to you. If you say you are doing a weekly activity, your child will hold you to that. Asperger's children have difficulty accepting change. If you know ahead of time that you are not going to do an activity that week, let him know so he can mentally prepare himself. He, however, will not forget and he will remind you of it the following week. Do not schedule activities involving computer, television, or video games too late in the day. Those types of activities are known to increase sleeping difficulities.