Wanted: Personal Assistant For Absent-Minded Aspie

At our annual IEP meeting a couple weeks ago, Justin’s teacher began the conversation with, “He’s going to be very successful.”

She was nice enough not to add, “which is good, because then he can hire a personal assistant to collect his coat, pack his bag, update his day planner and tell him where he’s supposed to be.”

Justin has always been an organizational train wreck. One of the pitfalls of Asperger’s is the impairment in executive functioning skills – all those mental processes that let us plan our actions, remember instructions and juggle multiple tasks.His desk is such a disaster that his teacher got him a whole separate bin to store his duotangs so they wouldn’t disappear into the abyss. He has 200 pencils in his room because they get buried under his mountain of papers and so he gets a new one every time he wants to make a new list. He left his gloves in his classroom on Friday, and when we went to retrieve them he also found the water bottle, gym clothes and math homework he’d neglected to put in his backpack. ARGH.

When he was younger, we had a written list posted in the kitchen of all the steps he was supposed to follow when he finished breakfast (get dressed, brush teeth, make bed, etc.) We had another (laminated) one for how to take a shower, one for how to tie his shoes, and so on. Eventually we could take the lists away and he would remember the routines. The terminology stuck, though – even now, when I want him to get dressed, I tell him to do his steps.

But he’s in fourth grade now, and his teacher puts a big emphasis on personal responsibility. The kids even get marked on their use of their personal agendas – they’re supposed to use the agendas to record their reading minutes, keep track of due dates and generally stay organized. You can guess how well that’s going.

He has learned something new, though. At swimming lessons the other day, Brayden complained that Justin walked out of the change room and left his stuff all over the floor instead of putting it in the locker. So Justin offered to pay Brayden in leftover Halloween candy if Brayden would clean up his stuff for him.

Delegating is an important skill, right? (Sigh…)