Bringing Out the Talents of Autistic Spectrum Kids

Tired young man
Why would a person who is young, brilliant, and talented be incorrigibly lazy?  Everyone tells him he has all the talent he needs to succeed, but he can’t figure out how other people do it.

He’s been told what an action plan is.  But even thinking about planning is already exhausting.  How can he line up his tasks so that the first step in the plan leads to a logical sequence of intermediate steps which would need to be taken in just the right order to achieve his goal?  He knows where he is beginning; he knows where he wants to end up.  The other stuff is just missing.

The first step might be to ask for intensive help with planning and execution, but this first step is also a part of the stuff that’s just missing.  He doesn’t get why he won’t apply himself, and, seemingly, neither does anyone else.  He won’t even try planning for very long.  It wears him down as soon as he starts.

As a child, he may have taken a clinical test called the Tower of London.  The Tower of London is related to the classic problem-solving puzzle known as the Tower of Hanoi, shown below:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The object of the puzzle is to move the tower of discs from the leftmost peg to the rightmost peg.  A player can move one disc at a time onto any peg as an interim step.  No disc can be placed atop a smaller disc.  The skill is planning the interim steps that are required to reassemble the tower at the opposite end.

To see an animated demonstration of the Tower of Hanoi puzzle, click on the link below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Hanoi

To test their ability to plan interim steps toward a goal, children are given a series of simpler versions of this puzzle (called the Tower of London test).  Autistic spectrum children find this test extremely difficult, indicating a weakness in planning skills.  Even as children, high-functioning autistics wonder why planning is so much harder for them than it is for other people.

Young Aspergers adults are frustrated when they try to figure out exactly what anyone, who is trying to help them plan for the future, actually means.

In truth, Aspergers of all ages can learn how to plan if someone respectfully does all the steps with them.  Aspergers can only get their minds around sequences that are concrete.  When parents or counselors execute a plan with Aspergers adults or children, it’s best to remember that, for them, learning the plan will be exhausting.  Take it nice and slow.  Both you and they deserve frequent breaks.

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