Flexible thinking is hard for children with autism. You have to incorporate activities to help build flexible thinking in children with autism. This has to be an essential part of your at home occupational therapy or just activities that you can add into your homeschool day. Flexible thinking allows your child to be able to react to small changes in their environments with minimal stress. Working on this skill allows for a better quality of life for everyone which makes for a better family atmosphere.
Children with autism don’t like change. Change makes them feel out of control as well as incompetent. It could be a little change like mom got a new haircut. It could be a big one as in Mom bought a new car or changed the bedroom around. It’s not that they don’t like these changes . It is simply too much for them to deal with so meltdowns ensue over seemingly trivial things. Imagine if you were having trouble navigating the world as it kept changing. Teaching Logan to roll with the punches so to speak makes him more comfortable with his surroundings and interactions which makes him want to try new things.
Activities To Help Build Flexible Thinking In Children With Autism
- Serve peas instead of carrots for dinner
- Change where people sit at the dinner table
- Drive a different way home
- Ride in a different seat in the car
- Breakfast for dinner
- Backward Day where you do everything in the morning that you would do in the evening and vise versa or wear your shirt backwards
- Color a picture with the sky green instead of blue
- Eat peas with a fork
- Go on a walk and take a different route home
- Buy a completely different brand of chips
- Send Dad to do pick up from an activity instead of Mom
- Sleep in different rooms
The caveat to this is that you have to start slow. For some children, these activities can be brutally hard. As your child begins the process , there will a lot of self talk by you. “We are going to have carrots or peas for dinner.” This allows them to know the choices but have the uncertainty of which one until dinner. If having a different brand of chips is upsetting then try just one. Just like with every other interaction with your child with autism, you want to end it on a successful note. Progress may be excruciatingly slow . Slow progress is still progress. You want to push them just past their comfort zone but not so far that they completely shut down. Don’t attempt to do all of them at once or change everything in your child’s life in one day.
One day, Logan’s occupational therapist decided to play Battleship with Logan for part of the time. There was only about 5 to 10 minutes left of the session. Logan quickly put his ships on and they began to play. After several turns, Mrs. Amy announced that it was time to go. Logan looked at her perplexed and this encounter ensued.
Logan: We still have ships left.
Mrs. Amy: It’s time to go but since you sank one of my ships already then you win.
Logan: Sighs and says OK, let me help put it up.
This from a kid that just a year ago, we steered away from anything competitive because he simply couldn’t handle it. Yes, it probably would have been different if he was losing. I’ll take any accomplishment in any form. He was able to handle an unexpected change of events and regulate himself even though he was disappointed.
Nothing is ever easy in autism. I am not promising that these activities will be either. What I am promising is that by taking the time to do them, you will exponentially increase the quality of life for not only your child but your family as well. By being able to exhibit flexible thinking , your child will be far less likely to exhibit aggression or have a meltdown over the unknown. This fact is enough to make me work on this trait diligently as Logan grows into adulthood.