YMMV: Your Mileage May Vary

Hi SendChocolate readers! Tina has bravely trusted me to guest post for her this week while she's off enjoying some waves and tunes up North. When I'm not guest blogging, I write for califmom dot com.

One thing that Tina and I have in common is parenting children on the spectrum. My 11-year old son was diagnosed with Asperger's when he was six. It wasn't a shocking diagnosis, in fact it was a relief to finally have something official to call Bug's mix of unique behaviors. However, there's a saying among the Aspie community, "If you've met one kid with Asperger's; you've met one kid with Asperger's." There are many similarities, but each child and person with Asperger Syndrome is utterly unique. It is not a one-size-fits-all world.

With that in mind, I'd like to offer some of the tricks-of-the-trade that have worked for solving various dilemmas in our family. As the title says, your mileage may vary. Heck, my mileage varies on some of these. It never fails that as soon as we think we've got this all figured out, Bug throws us a curve ball.

  • White Noise -- A Godsend for sensory issues. We use a fan in Bug's room. It blocks out the sounds from other family members, and helps him relax at bedtime. In earlier years, we used a sound machine.
  • Shorts Without Pockets -- Bug went through a phase of putting EVERYTHING in his pockets. It was a major compulsion, which included enormous quatities of condiment packets from hot-lunch. One laundry load was treated to an exploding packet of soy sauce. That day, I went to Target, bought 5 pairs of shorts without pockets and the problem was solved. Without the pockets, he didn't think to hoard things on his person (just in his backpack, which was much more manageable). Eventually, he outgrew this and is back to pocketed pants.
  • Multiples -- Whether it's a favorite stuffed animal, underwear or book, buy multiples.
  • Display Collections -- Bug is a hoarder. He likes to collect things and keep them. One way to make your hoarder into a collector is to group like items and display them. I bought 3 shadow boxes from IKEA, painted them to match his room, mounted them above his desk and filled them with Bug's collection du jour.
  • Elastic and Velcro -- fine motor skills, aside from those associated with LEGO building, elude my son, so elastic waist pants and Velcro fastened shoes have been essential to him being self-sufficient.
  • Visual Cues -- Bug is on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, but he still benefits from visual cues. When he was younger, this meant charts showing pictures of each step of an activity. Now, it means I show him physically what needs to be done, with little to no verbal explanation. If I combine verbal and visual, he usually tunes one of them out.
  • Giant Suitcases -- Sometimes, when you travel with a kid who is very regimented, you need to bring it all with you. We have a giant blue suitcase that is Bug's. When we take a vacation, he can pile all of his stuff in there--his latest LEGO creation, unfolded clothes, Pokemon cards, his special pillow, a herd of Webkinz, and whatever else he's perseverating on at that time. If we're flying, we check the bag. If we're driving, we have a minivan with plenty of room.
  • Headphones -- Parents can tire of hearing that Nintendo DS, and the world can get noisy, so a set of headphones that your child can wear to prevent you from hearing their games, and allow them to tune out the often overwhelming sounds around them can be a real lifesaver. Bug uses his headphones when he needs to hear something that's annoying to others, or when the sounds of others annoy him.

Having been Bug's mother for 11+ years, I could go on with this list, but I'd love to hear comments from some of you about the tricks and solutions you've come up with to help your child. I'm am forever intrigued by the creativity our kids inspire in us.

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