• Lisa

Problem Perspective

Young people on the autism spectrum often struggle to deal with problems. An issue that may not be a problem to others, or may not be any sort of priority or actual barrier in the grand scheme of things, can feel in that moment to a person with ASD as if it is an insurmountable and catastrophic event. How your son or daughter views and deals with problems will definitely impact employment and independence. It also impacts your life with them, the way you respond to them, the plans you make with them, and the way you conduct your life. It is possible for you to help shape their perspective and response to problems so that they can face the bumps in the road more positively and confidently!

I suggest that you write the following concrete problem categories in a unique space, such as on separate folders, “pockets” of some kind, or small boxes:

  • These things just happen.

  • It was just an accident.

  • It was my mistake.

  • People aren’t perfect.

  • It was on purpose to hurt or bother me.

Then write the problems that arise on index cards, and decide together in which category/location that problem belongs. Was it just an accident, that is, not done on purpose to hurt or bother your son or daughter? Was it something that "just happens", that is to say, something that could be anticipated or occurs in life, such as homework given at school, criticism by a boss, or a parent setting limits (i.e., individuals doing their job)? Did it just show or reflect that people aren’t perfect? Was it the result of a mistake that your son or daughter made? Or was it actually on purpose to hurt or bother him or her? Sometimes categories overlap, but if you and your son or daughter just pick the one that you think matches the problem best then you will be fine.

I encourage you to model appropriate responses and perspective for each type of problem. ** Please note and stress to your child that blame and a need for assistance and intervention occurs when someone does something on purpose to hurt or bother them. For all other categories, it is usually most appropriate to practice flexibility and forgiveness, and avoid blame. Prompt your son or daughter to practice thinking/saying aloud the following things, according to the problem category:

  • These things just happen-”Oh well, these things just happen”.

  • It was just an accident--”That’s okay, it was just an accident”.

  • It was my mistake--”Whoops, my mistake--I will do better next time”.

  • People aren’t perfect--”People aren’t perfect”.

  • It was on purpose to hurt or bother me--”It was on purpose to hurt or bother me”.

Consider an intensity scale from 1-10 with 1 being the least intense uncomfortable feeling, and 10 being the most. Create this scale as a visual. At which number is your son or daughter? Is the intensity appropriate to the problem? With practice, your son or daughter can become adept at identifying quickly which kind of problem it is, what to say (or think to him/herself) for that kind of problem, and what is an appropriate level of intensity to feel about that problem, even without the visuals.

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