“Asperger’s is like a vise on your brain. And each unexpected event is like another turn on the vise…it just keeps building until you feel like you’re going to explode! Sometimes when you explode, it comes out the wrong way.”A 13-year-old with ASD describing what it feels like to “get stuck”
Flexibility is an executive function that is often impaired in students with autism. The inability to be flexible makes it difficult for these students to move from one activity to another or to veer from a routine or predictable schedule. This inability to be flexible can also manifest in difficulty with the following behaviors:
- adjusting to unexpected events
- accepting different interpretations of the rules
- coping with strong feelings
- responding to the needs or interests of others
- negotiating and compromising
- accepting different viewpoints
- changing behavior when a situation is not going well (Kenworthy, et al., 2014).
Rock Brain is a character included in the Superflex curriculum by Stephanie Madrigal and Michelle Garcia Winner. Rock Brain gets stuck on his own ideas. He is unable to be flexible or adjust to find solutions to problems. Rock Brain doesn’t consider other people’s points of view or feelings. This program teaches students how to practice skills to become more flexible like Superflex!
Bubble Gum Brain, by my favorite Julia Cook, also teaches students skills to be flexible thinkers. Bubble Gum Brain likes to “chew on my thoughts, bend and stretch my brain. I make great mistakes that help me learn.” Brick Brain is similar to Rock Brain. He has a fixed mindset and doesn’t like to try new things.
Solving Executive Function Challenges by Lauren Kenworthy and crew (2014) is a great resource for teachers and parents with information and tips for teaching executive function skills. This book in combination with the Superflex Curriculum and Julia Cook’s fabulous books are incredible resources for teaching executive function skills.