By Dan Coulter
You’re right. You know you’re right. You know what’s best for your child. You also know he’s not buying it. She’s got her own ideas and your logic won’t penetrate her shields.
If your child has Asperger Syndrome, this can easily escalate from an irritating frustration to a serious issue. An Asperger-influenced brain works differently than typical brains and can have its own logic.
That’s when compromise can be essential. In today’s political climate, some people are trying to make compromise a bad word. As in, “he compromised his principles” rather than “he found a solution through compromise.”
As I discovered when my son who has Asperger Syndrome was little, and re-discovered when he was a teenager, and had to learn all over again when he became an adult…wait…what was I talking about?
Oh yeah, I learned over and over in different ways that I needed to compromise on some things to make progress on others. Make no mistake. I was compromising on things that I knew were right and would improve my son’s life if he’d just see things my way. But trying to make progress on too many fronts diluted my efforts to help my son manage his Asperger challenges. My wife and I learned that we could accomplish more by compromising to set priorities. Our son is 28, and we’re still compromising.
And we’re not alone. I’ve talked with lots of parents and teachers who’ve learned they can accomplish more by seeming to ask for less. They’re not asking for less, of course. They’re just finding a less direct, but more effective, way to get results.
If your child is impulsive, maybe you work on safety issues first. Learning the importance of not running into the street trumps learning to not interrupt adult conversations.
Each lesson can take time, because you have to find a way to appeal to your child’s unique flavor of Asperger logic. “Because I say so” doesn’t hold a lot of weight in Asperger land. You may have to approach a lesson from a number of directions before you find one that makes sense to your child. You also may have to walk your child through some steps to make a behavior into a habit.
Let’s say your child chafes at having to stay with you when you’re shopping in the mall. He wants to be off on his own, but you’re concerned with his tendency to break into strangers’ conversations to make comments and his history of talking salespeople’s ears off. Also, you know he tends to lose track of time. You might negotiate a compromise where he can go off by himself if he agrees to certain ground rules.
First, he’ll work hard to not speak to anyone except store clerks to ask questions and make purchases -- unless someone talks to him first. Second, he’ll work to keep his conversations short and to the point. Third, you and he will have a trial period where you follow him and observe from a distance to see how well he’s doing. You also agree that you will not rush in to intervene unless it’s obvious he’s in a difficult situation and really needs assistance. After each trip, you will have a review session were you praise what went right and suggest ways he can get even better results next time.
Once he’s shown you he can manage on his own for a short period, you will allow him longer and longer periods with less and less supervision. He can keep a cell phone handy to call you if he has a problem. He also can set an alarm on his phone to alert him when it’s time to meet you to leave.
If you show him you really want him to succeed, he’ll be more likely to work with you willingly on bigger projects as he grows older and the stakes grow higher.
When you make agreements with your child, you each need to have the same understanding of the pact’s terms and conditions. Be clear about what constitutes success at every stage so you don’t risk arguing about whether conditions have been met.
Suppose your child agrees to take a life skills class to help him learn to manage money before you give him an allowance. He thinks attending the class is the requirement. You assume he knows you expect him to demonstrate that he’s learned about dealing with money before he flies solo at the mall. Silly you.
Thinking your conditions through carefully, negotiating them with your child and writing them out will help ensure an agreement’s success.
When we imposed conditions on our son, he often had difficulty following through. He’s become much more successful at reaching our goals for him as we’ve learned to compromise, include his input, and get his buy-in so they become his goals.
At first, this may seem like a detour when you can see a clear route to what your child needs to do. But if your child doesn’t think like you do, this detour might be the only route that gets him where he needs to go.
Success is not about what should be. Success is about what works.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the author of the book, "Life in the Asperger Lane" and the DVD, “Asperger Syndrome at Work: Success Strategies for Employees and Employers.” You can find more information and articles on his website at: coultervideo.com.
© Dan Coulter 2012 Used by Permission All Rights Reserved