Sometimes it’s easier to choose a path of comfort that doesn’t trigger anxiety, particularly for those with high sensitivity to stimuli.
I’m not sure anyone likes to be called inflexible. I’m thinking that those on the autism spectrum just want us to understand how they feel in this world and need us to be patient as they learn to stretch and expand their daily life activities.
If your senses (sight, touch, sound, smell, hearing) received too much stimuli or conversely, too little stimuli, you might be cautious about new and novel experiences. Furthermore, if you didn’t know what to expect in a new situation, would you be keen to jump right into it? If you couldn’t read people’s emotions and intentions very well, wouldn’t you prefer to be with those around whom you felt safe and secure?
Is that being INFLEXIBLE, or is it taking care of yourself by seeking some type of order and predictability? Let’s take a closer look at how you can introduce a new and novel experience to an autistic individual, whether a friend or family member.
Tips for introducing new and novel experiences:
- Have the person Google the new place you would like them to go—it could help to see actual pictures of it.
- Have him/her walk by new and novel activities, take a peek, and observe before engaging.
- Tell him/her the “rules” of the new place—take him/her when there are less people at first.
- Give him/her an outline of what you will all do first, followed by the second, third, and final activity.
- Tell him/her the approximate time you will leave the activity.
- Try not to surprise him/her with a change of plans—give him/her some warning, verbally and visually. Mark a date on his/her calendar at least a week in advance. Put reminders on his/her phone to tell them the new action is coming up (a move, a party, a movie). Have him/her mark off days on a calendar to see time passing.
- Try to introduce new ideas, activities and thoughts that are related to his/her interests.
- Have him/her bring sensory supports to the event (such as ear plugs, a hat, sun glasses, or food he/she prefers).
This article was featured in Issue 120- Epilepsy: High Risk for ASD Kids