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Life Cycle Events
Life cycle events indicate change. Transition and change are often very difficult for individuals on the autism spectrum. In planning to prepare your loved one for a life cycle event, you must think about how each aspect of the transition will impact the individual and what may make the change easier for him or her to deal with. Also consider how those supporting the individual are impacted by the life cycle event and the emotional needs of all affected by the change in the situation. Certainly a psychotherapist, counselor and any trusted professional working with the individual and the family would be a wonderful asset to help cope and support the transition.
All individuals view life cycle events from their own perspective, but individuals on the autism spectrum may have an especially difficult time taking another's perspective, particularly during stressful times. If the individual you love and care about is on the autism spectrum and has difficulty seeing the world from another's perspective, planning and guidance around the life cycle event must take this into account. Direct, open and explicit explanation must be part of your plan.
A few general suggestions for preparing individuals on the autism spectrum are:
Visual Timeline - Make a chart of the events that will occur and note what will happen at each event. This may help to reduce the individual's anxiety and help him or her anticipate what will happen next.
Calendar Countdown - Mark off the things you have done to prepare for the event on a calendar.
Books - There are a number of books in a wide variety of reading levels that tell stories of others who have gone through similar experiences. However, be aware that sometimes those on the autism spectrum may still have difficulty seeing how their situations are similar to the characters in the stories.
Social Story™ - Consider writing your own Social Stories, using illustrations to support your message, and making them particular to your child. Of course you will need to tailor these to your child's interest, developmental level, and personal situation.
Counselor or Therapist - Enlisting the support of a counselor or therapist especially during this time of stress can be enormously helpful to all involved. Putting aside a special time devoted to discussing and understanding the whos, whys, and wherefores of the life cycle event can ease the experience for all involved.