Working Ahead and Chunking Tasks
As I mentioned before, executive function skills must be explicitly taught. Don’t leave it up to the school system to do this task. It needs to be reinforced daily by the parents. It needs to be modeled by the parents as well. It can feel like a broken record at times but it is crucial to the Aspie’s development.
Last week, Noah came home from camp. He would only be home a total of 8 days. He had many assignments to complete. It felt overwhelming for me, so I knew it would be mind blowing for him. He needed to work on his UC essays, his questionnaire for the college center, read his summer book, and start his journal for the summer book. This can be an overwhelming for anyone. Honestly, I didn’t expect for the reading and the journal to be completed. My goal for Noah was to complete the UC essays.
The tool that works best for Noah is to plan together. So, we sit down with the items and a calendar. We systematically plan each item some have start and end times, while others have a certain number of items to complete. In addition, we discuss ample break time limits. Noah loves to sleep. So, we plan to start after 9am. Then, he feels he has a voice. Once he is awake, I remind him we will start work after 9am. He sometimes grumbles. He is a teenager. But, he does get to work.
The first task began answering the college center questions. These are three pages of questions that need to be answered in order for the college center to write a letter of recommendation for you. Chunking the questions into smaller sections over several days seemed more digestible for Noah. Click this link to read an article about what it means to chunk tasks. Even though this article is based on chunking for adults, the same principle applies to children. Here is how Noah and I chunked his tasks: each day, he sat and answered 10-12 questions. I think the entire questionnaire was completed in three days. The only part he needs to complete is typing the answers. This can be done when he comes home in August.
The next task was working on the UC essays. I had prearranged three different sessions with the tutor for Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. The tutor’s goal was to help Noah brainstorm with an outline for the questions. Then, Noah would create a draft from the outline the next day. Noah focused on one essay at a time. For example, Noah and the tutor created the outline for essay #1 on Sunday. Noah then wrote the essay on Monday. On Tuesday, the tutor and Noah edited the essay and began the brainstorming and outline for Essay #2. On Wednesday, Noah wrote essay #2. On Thursday, Noah and the tutor would edit the essay #2. By Thursday, Noah finished both UC essays.
Now, Noah still must complete the summer reading. I chunked this too. I asked him for 20 minutes of reading each day. He actually become engrossed in his book and read for more than 20 minutes each day. While he read, he needed to highlight 10 quotes throughout the book to discuss in his journal assignment. I explained how much easier it is to highlight as he read instead of going back after the fact. By Wednesday, he was done with the book and had his 10 quotes. So, I said let’s put the quotes into the journal outline. I helped him set up the template in the word document. He completed 5 quotes on Wednesday and 5 quotes on Thursday. On his own, Noah wanted to start inputting the literary device the author used. The next thing I knew, he even inserted the commentary without being asked. What a proud moment! Now, Noah can revise and edit the journal when he returns in August, but the tough part is over.
The key to working ahead and chunking is to allow your child down time. This is the “buy-in”. The child feels the tasks are doable as long as he/she has down time. Down time is important for the child to reboot the system in order to continue working. In addition, give your child a “heads up”. Don’t spring things on the Aspie child. Aspies do not respond well to surprises.
I love my son. He has taught me as much, if not more, as I teach him. Aspie’s Rock!!!