Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Asperger Perfectionism (sigh)

A trait that we often see in our kiddos who have Asperger's, High Functioning Autism, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the need to control everything going on around them.  You know the kids I am talking about.  Here a few examples of things they might do...
  • The teacher (you) or other student is reading a book and mispronounces a word, skips a word, or doesn't pause long enough at a punctuation mark (or whatever the child is currently being instructed to do at school).  This child will blurt out with authority, "You skipped a word..."
  • Another child does something such as getting out of his seat, talking out, etc.  This child is the self appointed 'rules police'.  He will immediately call attention to the faux pas. (But he usually misses his own behavior lapses and will argue to the death about why he was not in the wrong - in his own mind he would never break a rule so he likely has some legitimate 'rationalization' to excuse such an unthinkable indiscretion).
  • The assignment is to quickly sketch a picture of ....  This is the child who continually erases his picture, asks for a new sheet of paper so he can start over, or takes 3X as long to finish because he has to insert every minutia of detail into his 'quick sketch'.
  • Unfortunately this can also be the child who is so overwhelmed at a task, because in his mind making it perfectly requires herculean effort, that he will often quit before he even tries to begin.
As I typed that last example, I recognized a bit of myself in that one... does anyone else reading this have some of these traits of perfectionist?  Of course we all share some traits with our kids on the spectrum.  We and they are both cut from the same human cloth.  The difference between neurotypicals and those with ASD is the degree to which these traits affect their lives.  We can recognize the problems in ourselves, most of the time, and then we can exert self-control, employ self-talk, put the issue back into the proper perspective, and go forward to do what needs to be done. Individuals with ASD have a much more difficult time navigating this process.

How do we deal with this issue? 

I have not conquered this at all but I will list some of the tools and resources I have employed or am planning on employing to help the children I see with the issue of perfectionism.

Social Thinking Curriculum:  There are many pieces of this curriculum that are ideal in helping the child understand how constantly correcting others is perceived or received:
  • Unexpected Behaviors: It is unexpected behavior to correct the teacher or parent over minor issues. It is also unexpected behavior to correct classmates; that is the teacher's job, not your job.
  • Problem Scale:  How big of a problem is it that the teacher skipped a word?  If it is a #1 or #2 sized problem then you do not need to call attention to it, just ignore it because it does not really make any difference to the outcome.  If the omission will result in a bigger problem (i.e. doing the wrong homework, etc.) then it is okay to point it out in the correct way.
  • Thinking of Others: This is a perspective-taking task. How would you feel if someone pointed out every small mistake you made?  Would it make you feel sad or angry or embarrassed?  Then it probably does the same thing to others.  It also interrupts the lesson or distracts others. 
  • Social Behavior Map: Construct this map to show the sequence of consequences and the negative outcome of constantly correcting versus the more positive outcome of overlooking minor mistakes.
Children's Books:


Beautiful OOPS! is a book about turning mistakes into positives.  A small tear, a drop of paint, a crumple all become an interesting part of the creation.         

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes: Beatrice never makes mistakes...never ever... until one day when she makes a very public mistake and learns that mistakes are okay.
Amelia Bedelia Books:  Amelia constantly makesmistakes but in the end everyone laughs and still loves her!

A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue: Picture book about tattling and the negative aspects associated with this behavior.  Again, picture books serve as excellent pre-packaged social stories.  A social story typically only describes the desired outcomes.  Whereas a picture book usually adds a moral or lesson learned.

Visual Supports & Social Stories:

Other Resources & Links:

This is a great tool to help learn to gauge size of emotional responses.  It works along with the problem scale.  Rate size of problem then rate size of reaction or emotion.  Try to teach children that making a small mistake is a #1 or less size problem and we need to learn to overlook those things. 
Autism Teaching Strategies by Joel Shaul:http://autismteachingstrategies.com/autism-strategies/flexibility-rigidity-cards-and-panels-downloads-page/ Cards to print and cut out for teaching about being more flexible.  Though these cards deal more with being rigid in routines, they address the core problem of being inflexible in thoughts, ideas, and activities.  This website has many great resources for those who work with individuals with ASD.
 Joel Shaul Resources 
Another resource by Joel Shaul: Correcting others and tattling too much: Social skills activities to teach kids with autism who have these problems

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cool Ali

Cool Ali, by Nancy Poydar,  is a story set in the city in the heat of the summer.  A girl who loves to draw goes outside to escape the heat in her apartment building.  There she begins to draw with her chalk on the sidewalk. She draws pictures that serve to distract the attention of all the neighbors from the heat of the day.  As she draws scenes of cooler seasons, everyone suddenly feels refreshed. 

It is a cute and clever story well suited to our current hot summer.  This book is fun for all of my speech therapy clients.  Here are some of my therapy ideas for this book:

Articulation:  Pull targets from the story and create carrier phrases. 
/k/ initial - Cool
/l/ medial - Ali
/l/ initial - "likes to draw"
/r/ blend - draw
"ch" - chalk
Any sound can be addressed as you and the client "draw" your own "chalk" (crayon, marker, map pencils) targets on cards or paper.  It would also be a fun activity to go outside and make chalk drawings on the sidewalk, if it is not too hot. Here in East Texas it is usually too hot.

Language & Processing: 
  • Sentence Structure:  N-V-Obj: Ali draws an umbrella; cut apart sentences either word by word or in chunks (for lower functioning children) and have them reorganize the sentences.  For higher functioning clients, throw in some sentences that can be reordered in two ways; this way you can work out their mental flexibility skills as well.
  • Verb tense: Ali is drawing... / Ali drew / Ali will draw / Ali has drawn; for younger clients you may only pick one tense to work on or the tense they have as a target; for the older kids you could have them work on changing sentences to reflect all of the tenses.
  • Pronouns: She is drawing... Can also work on referent pronoun understanding: Ali drew an umbrella.  She colored it yellow and white. She=Ali / it= umbrella
  • synonyms: hot, heat, sweltering; see how many words you can generate to replace a target word or ways to reword a sentence to convey the same idea.
  • antonyms: hot / cold; Ali draws cool pics in the summer heat but she draws sunny pictures while it is raining.  This could lead to an "opposite day"...
  • Predictions:  What will she draw?  How will it make the person fell? What do you think the person will do?
  • Reasoning: Why did they feel cooler?  Were they really cooler? Were they pretending? Did they feel better in some way after Ali drew her pictures? Why/How?
  • Figurative Language: mop their brow, chilled to the bone...
One of the applications that I really like about this book involves helping children with ASD or abstract reasoning problems process the ideas in the story.  It requires them to think beyond the surface structure of the pictures and words to realize that the "coolness" the people are feeling is a state of mind contrary to the reality of the heat.  Also, at the end of the story it begins to rain and Ali's wonderful pictures are washed away.  This event can serve as a model for helping the ASD child to process change and disappointment without becoming emotionally upset. At first Ali appears concerned about her drawings but then she enjoys the rainbow of colors streaming down the pavement and contentedly takes up her drawing on paper in her apartment while the rain cools off the heat of the summer; now she draws sunny pictures.

I have found several nice resources online:

The Teacher's Guide lists lots of online games, links, printouts to address vocabulary, matching, spelling, word searches, etc.

Harcourt for Second Grade Teachers  scroll down until you find Cool Ali

Julian Beever's 3-D Chalk Art - Truly amazing art that will "blow your mind".  Great for discussing perspective and illusion (helping kids to understand things are not always what they seem).  What is real in each picture?  How does the artist make the pics look 3-D? What are the people doing that add to the realism in the drawings?...

Great video that shows the artist at work creating his 3-D chalk art.

This video shows the ways spectators interact with the drawing after it is completed.

Extension activities to chalk art:  3-Dimensions, perspective in drawing.

Other extensions to the story itself:  temperature, weather, drawing.