Saturday, November 21, 2009

one track mind, perserveration and the game "what else could it be"

For me the greatest challenge in living with ASD in the family has always been the one track mind and inability to see any other solution or point of view.

You know the times when they are stuck on one way of doing something and it is enough to trigger a meltdown if you try and get them to see another solution. Or the times when they are trying to do something but their approach is not working and they simply cant change tack to try something else.

Tony Attwood describes an average brain as if thoughts were four wheel drive vehicles and if the person strikes an obstacle there is the ability to forge a new track or action or way of thinking to enable a solution to be found. Yet the ASD mind he described as a train on a track and if an obstacle occurs it leds to a great big train wreck (Meltdown) the rest of the day is ruined for the child and their carers as we struggle to comprehend why the bomb blast went off over something so simple that could not be seen or understood by the child who is trying so hard (too hard?).

Things like unexpected changes of plan, trying to find solutions for unexpected problems, the little things that drop into your lap and force a change in action or thoughts make life incredibly hard for our kids.

So is there a solution? Yes. You can teach your child flexible thinking. It is not easy. Takes a great deal of practise and small steps at a time but by teaching the skills of flexible thinking you are building more traintracks to be built that allow a change in direction, thinking and imagination.

Tony suggested a game called "What else". It's an easy game. You can play it anywhere any time, driving in the car, going to bed, at breakfast. Do it often and in little bits and watch their minds grow and their flexibility increase. The side effect of reduced meltdowns is wonderful to behold.

Tony's suggestion was to take an object and think of all the things it could possibly be. Take for example a house brick.

What is it? It is used to make buildings.
What else could it be or do?

Now an Aspie/auti's brain will likely say it could build a house, library, fire station.

A Neurotypical brain might say it could be a paperweight, a measure of weight of other things, a door stop, a boot scraper, a wheel chock for wheel changing, ballast in a boat, the basis for a book case, and so on.

When playing this game with your child dont push too hard. Allow the child to come up with as many or as few ideas as they have available and then add on one or two extras when they have wracked their brains. Those additional things can be really wacky and way out they dont have to be serious. The funner the better really anything that gets a laugh happening.

Other ways of teaching creative thinking can be found at your local book shop. Edward De Bono is an education specialist who has books published on how to teach creative thinking. Worth getting hold of a copy and having a look to see what you can do to teach this more flexible way of thinking. It will have such an impact in improving your childs thinking.

Dont make it a chore. You dont have to teach flexible thinking in 2 days. You have all the years it takes to teach this skill but what you will notice is that the child starts to come up with solutions for themselves instead of getting stressed and even more rigid in their thinking.

Oh and when you hit those tuff days when the lack of flexibility is causing grief to you and yours hang in there. It wont be this bad forever.

1 comment:

  1. another game that teaches flexible thinking is the matching game.

    Sounds strange I know that matching teaches flexible thinking but the key is in what it is you are matching.

    Get a pack of cards with different images on them, a fireman, ambulance officer, different birds and animals, astronauts, plants anything, any clip art images you can find.

    The cards need to be the same size and shape.

    Now the game is for the child to fip over two cards and tell you how many ways they are the same.

    Easy enough if you flip over two pictures of birds, but if you flip over a picture of a bird and a pencil that is far more difficult.

    This game can be used in groups of children if they are into competition but if your kids like mine dont like loosing then they are better off competing against their personal best.

    This is a fascinating game. I thought my kids would do incredibly well in it as they always excelled in school up to this point (Primary school is more a regurgitation of facts then using imagination) but the difference between ASD thinking and neurotypical thinking really showed up profoundly here.

    Then when the game gets too simple you can look for how many differences.

    There are so many games out there that use imagination and our kids find them very very difficult. You need to keep the amount of time that you do them short as they use such a lot of brain power and you may only get one or two answers at first. Be gentle with these games they are very difficult. Even if they only find one similarity or difference it is teaching their brain there are more possiblities out there.