My seven year old granddaughter told me she didn’t want to get dressed up for Halloween this year because something scared her last year. I wasn’t sure exactly what happened, but it left a strong impact. Imagine a negative event that was “so bad” that she remembers it clearly now. . .a year later. This isn’t an “autism thing,” it’s a “kid thing.”
After I dug a little deeper to know what she was remembering, we could talk about it, process it and create a way for her to ”manage” her memory in an appropriate way.
Are memories good or bad?
It all depends. A good memory for me might be a bad one for a child. For one of our students on the autism spectrum, it could be a monumental tragedy. It all depends. Memories can affect how students will handle special events.
Here’s a solution
Providing information can help repair difficulties related to memories. Telling the story of what happened, why it caused a problem or why it won’t be a problem now can help. Writing it down is important so the student can revisit the story over and over again. Here’s an example: But wait. . .there’s more
Here’s another issue. Holidays invite change and that can be difficult to manage for those on the spectrum whether they are very young or teens or even adults. Sometimes unexpected surprises, either good or bad, produce anxiety or stress or fear. Something that others perceive as “good” can result in a meltdown for children who don’t understand what everyone else understands.
Here’s an essential
Avoid unexpected surprises. Preparing students ahead of time for what will be happening or what will be changing can easily make the difference between a successful celebration or a major disaster. The easiest way to do that is to provide information. The challenge is figuring out what students need to know. Here’s an example.
What is “assumed”
Consider what everyone else already knows. It’s easy to assume this targeted student understands what others understand. Maybe not. That is one of the autism difficulties. The challenge for parents and teachers is to anticipate what information to give the student.
Of course, visual strategies work really well. This is another time where writing it down can become a simple solution. Another option is to use a photo. Here’s a situation:
Uncle George is going through a midlife crisis. When he joins the family for Thanksgiving dinner, he will look really different from when we saw him last time. He traded in his traditional clothing and hairdo for something new. Everyone else will know this is still Uncle George. Will the child on the spectrum know? Perhaps a photo of the “new” Uncle George will help prepare the child that someone will look different.
It’s a really simple solution to avoid a possible problem. Many times the solutions for potentially major problems are really simple.
Just remember. . .
The biggest challenge is remembering to prepare the child and making sure to get a picture to share before Uncle George shows up at the front door. Thinking ahead can help avoid fear, anxiety or a major meltdown, depending on how well a child adjusts to new things.