Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Using Activity Sticks to Reset an Asperger's Child

This post is a small departure from my normal "Preschool" themed talks, but relevant to the world of homeschooling and one many parents may find helpful.

My 10-year-old son has Asperger's and has been doing school at home for two years now.

The first two years were very much a time of survival:  just get through the day, just get through the coursework.

This year I am doing a lot of reading and experimenting, trying in my feeble way to do the best I can for my son.

I am by no means an expert; I'm just getting started on this road, but I did hit on an idea this year that, so far, has been pretty successful, even if my Aspie would tell you otherwise ;)

One thing with Tyler is that he needs frequent breaks.  Not necessarily a timed thing, more of an "amount of input".  Once he has reached a certain amount of input, he needs a break, or it's not pretty.

Because his activity of choice right now revolves around everything Mario, just telling him "take a break" doesn't work, because he'll just get right back on the computer to play a Mario game, or research about Mario, or...

He won't independently do a physical activity or a "play" activity.

So, I decided to make some activity sticks for him to pull when he needs a break.

For ideas, I referenced a list of sensory therapies that his OT gave me back when our insurance was still paying for Tyler to have OT.  I also checked out the book The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun from the library.  I complied a list of assorted activities, some fine motor, some gross motor, some calming, some energy releasing, and wrote each activity on a craft stick.

Each week I put a few of the activity sticks into a cup labeled "Take Out to Do".

The plan is for Tyler to pull an activity stick every time he finishes a school subject, however (and this is a good thing!), Tyler has been so focused on getting his schoolwork done lately that he has not been taking as many breaks.  I am monitoring him, however, and when I sense that he needs a break, I tell him to go pull an  activity stick.

This is usually met with grumbling and resistance, as that's just Tyler's way.  But I've noticed that usually by the end of the activity he's managed to reset and can resume his schoolwork with a better attitude.  I've also used this at other times, just when I think he needs a break.

When he's done, the stick goes into another cup labeled "Put in when done".  That way, he is getting a full assortment of activities and not just picking the same one over and over.

To start out with I have had to pick activities that utilized what we have on hand as I can't go out and purchase extra materials right now.  I have dreams, though.

Here is what's in his cup right now:

  • Play with playdough
  • Hang upside down on the recliner

  • Have Mom wrap you up like a burrito.  Can be read to, or read a book, if desired.
  • Draw lazy 8's on the board, 10 per hand, 10 together
  • Play with stress ball, 5 minutes
  • Play Hyper Dash
  • Make 3 bomb bags
  • Do 10 jumping jacks
  • March and Tap knees 10 times each and opposites
  • Use the massager for 5 minutes
  • Play with bubble wrap
  • Do 2 animal walks
  • Play with cold spaghetti
So far the favorites are playing with bubble wrap and using the massager.  The bubble wrap especially calms him down effectively.

The other day he got angry so I made him pull a stick.  He grumbled and complained the whole time and announced that his pick of "Play Hyper Dash" was "stupid".  But he obediently set up his targets and began to play.  By the end of the game, he was smiling and happy (although he would never admit it).  I deemed it successful.


  1. Haha!! I'm am smiling right now. I love this pic! Aspie kids are so literal. It's exhausting sometimes. "What should I do?" UGH! Whatever you want! Too vague. I love the idea of activity sticks. Great job, mama!

    1. Thank you!! Hanging upside down is a favorite thing to do for him. My daughter posted this picture on her blog, too, and it was funny how many people said "hey, I do that, too!"