One of the best strategies that Liam was taught was how to respond when he was told that he would need to be flexible.
Liam (like everyone else) needed to learn to be flexible anytime something was not going his way: when there was a change in his routine, when he was playing with his brother or other kids and didn’t get what he wanted or when they didn’t want to play his game, and when he had a substitute in school. While many kids just “go with the flow,” it helped Liam to be less rigid when he was told that he was going to need to be flexible on a certain day or in a certain activity.
To be honest, this took a lot of practicing between him and his itinerant autistic support teacher. He was taught what it means to be flexible, what it looks like in a situation in which he wanted to be rigid, how to move to being flexible when he was already headed down the path of inflexibility – lots and lots of practice.
By third grade, I could say, “Liam, I really need you to be flexible,” and he would understand what I meant. Sometimes he would sigh, because he knew he was going to have to give up something or not get his way. We praised him a great deal and even rewarded him when he was able to start to think about someone else (Theory of Mind) and what they wanted/needed, that was causing him to need to be flexible.
This practice has served him well. While I can only say this for about the last year, Liam is now someone who hardly gets rattled by a change. This is important, as this year as an 8th grader, he has taken classes at the high school. Sometimes, one school will be on a different schedule. Other times, both schools will be on different schedules. He has learned to leave for the high school when he needs to and he catch up with his teachers in the middle school before the next class.
One day, during high school exams, he missed going over to his class when he was supposed to. While he was upset, he knew there was nothing he could do about it, except email the teacher, explain what happened, and use the additional time had due to the hole in his schedule to work on his homework and studying. He was no more upset than I would have been; probably a little less actually.
His gifted teacher shared that he is someone who just doesn’t get rattled now, even during countdown rounds! I wish that Mrs. Price could read this about him now, after all of the work she did to help him grow to be more flexible in his thinking and in how he responds to others. This is a huge gift to us all.