For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had trouble with transitions and Asperger’s. Transitions (a change from one thing to another) I did not do well with.
Since I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 37. Many things were always just label as uncanny or unique about me. The foundation responsible in finding out the evident was in respect to the continuum of what Asperger’s is moving on into a different level of Autism and returning back into a HF reality that i went through. I didn’t know why I’d have so much anxiety and meltdowns at what most people thought were perfectly innocuous moments. But after getting my diagnosis and doing some research, it became perfectly clear to me. It became clear as to why I was so deeply impacted in profound ways. Each experience was imprinting me with a positive or a negative download; which of course is a whole other discussion.
I will try to help shed some light on why transitions can be so difficult for people with Asperger’s. First, let me say that no two people with Asperger’s are alike, and this will not apply to every single person on the spectrum. But it will likely apply to a lot of them
“What Is Coming Next?”
I always had to know what we were doing next. I was abstract in my thoughts and had a way of viewing reality. I did well if I knew when, and for how long, and what the exact details would be. It didn’t seem weird to me, it just seemed necessary. The details and questions, so many images and ideas would fly through my head that I wouldn’t be able to process them nor have enough time. I could not identify with any point of reference to bring ease into what may seem simple to the NT.
In order to help with transitions and Asperger’s you need to take the time to tell your child with Asperger’s the plan way ahead of time. At the very least tell them the day before!
Your child needs time to process their thoughts and feelings about the upcoming activity. They need time to ask questions, and they need to know the plan in detail!!!
Switching Between Activities
One major issue that most parents will have with their child with Asperger’s is transitioning between activities. You will often experience resistance, anxiety, anger, plain out refusal and meltdowns. Let’s look at why…
Anyone, whether adults or children with Asperger’s and high functioning autism get extremely into whatever they are doing and have a hard time switching gears.
An Asperger’s brain is not as fluid as the typical person’s. It can excel at individual tasks, but it focuses on these tasks so intently, with so much energy and absorption and focus, that it needs some time to rest and reset before it can switch to another activity. In my expression of this experience I literally reach a threshold. Then nothing occurs if I cannot regroup exactly when I know I need to or when I have a lot advancing me at once.
In some cases people with Asperger’s take in so much information during an activity or interaction, especially emotions, that they’re not able to process it during the activity.
I know aspired adults that can hold off this need for processing until after the activity so that they can remain engaged and a participant.
As soon as the activity or social interaction is over however, all that extra information needs to be processed or the person will feel overwhelmed.
Let’s Talk About What Mean When I Say “Process”
An Aspie feels everything so intensely, that they almost have to turn away from some of it or not receive some of it in order to remain functioning. For me, I have what I call a block that occurs. Where I am just temporarily unavailable to absorb what is occurring. If it is more of an emotionally or sensitively based intensity it may be more of a protective response. Many Aspergers can attest to what this point of reference is as well and what it looks like for them in how they feel and the availability they have to filter any information and form it is put forth. All in all this extra information has to go somewhere, and after a certain amount of time of trying to ignore all this extra information, it needs to be dealt with.
Anxiety About What Is Next And How To Get From Here To There In A Space Of Clarity.
Sometimes, anxiety is about the activity that is coming next. And trying to figure out how to calibrate to the gap that is the “gap “in between where we are and where we need to get adds to the challenge.
If there are sensory aspects of the activity that can be changed to make the environment more favorable, this is something you should try to do. Like me I needed a quiet, routine environment. That I could anticipate in a space of ease and familiar constants. I need to know the steps of whatever is going on in an itemized way of identifying the process.
Preparing ahead of time and anxiety and stress reduction techniques should be practiced to help deal with this aspect of transitions and Asperger’s.
Now you know why transitions can be so difficult for people with Asperger’s. More often than not, those with Asperger’s syndrome react to their environment, and sometimes the reaction can be negative. They may be reacting to a sensory issue, and other times they may be reacting to a feeling of fear. The Aspie feels fear because of a lack of control over his/her response to the environment or because of a lack of predictability. More over the Aspie does best with clear structure and routine. A visual schedule can be helpful. Prepare for a schedule change in advance of the actual day of the change. Some possible strategies a teacher, paraprofessional, or parent can use: visual schedules, role-playing or preparing the student by discussing upcoming activities. Appropriate strategies are dependent on the age of the student and his/her abilities. Each will calibrate to this at their own rate of identifying, connecting, and understanding
As a teacher, paraprofessional or parent of a child with Asperger’s syndrome, it’s important to recognize the child’s gifts as well as limitations. Students with Asperger’s syndrome present a challenge for the people who work with them, but these children also enrich our lives. This child will grow up and make a contribution to our world in some way we can only imagine, and you can help this child.