Ask Andrew: Flexible Thinking

Ask Andrew: Flexible Thinking

Today Andrew answers: How can I help my 5-year-old who is on the spectrum with his rigid thinking? Once he makes his mind up about something there is no changing it!

Hi! I’m Andrew from Generation Mindful's newest recurring weekly feature, Ask Andrew. In Ask Andrew, I’ll be taking any and all questions regarding the autism spectrum with particular emphasis on childhood development as an authentic autistic adult. Let’s get started!

For our tenth Q and A, you can watch the video and/or read my response below.

This is an interesting topic because it allows me the chance to discuss what I personally feel is the trait I have observed the most frequently in autistic folks such as myself. Namely, a massive stubborn streak. This has its pros and cons.

It is difficult to accept massive changes to the status quo. With the pandemic a lot of my social plans were forcibly abandoned. A former teacher’s baby shower? Fugetaboutit. Seeing movies with my best friend? Squished to the small screen. Getting to hold my then girlfriend’s hand? Only one brief final squeeze at the airport before she was flown back to her home state for her own safety to be with family.

I’m not proud of how this dissatisfaction has at times taken over my better judgment. And since stubbornness can often be found picking flowers with impatientence, that has gotten me into trouble more than once. Short-temperedness on my part I attribute to allowing a hurt and/or scared person to make my decisions for me. This does not excuse rudeness, but if you keep this in mind, it can assist in being mindful to yourself and others. Who’s really talking here?

On the flip side of that, I’d say my willpower is pretty darn strong. I get damaged from negative social experiences like anyone else, but I think at times I am better at viewing the bigger picture. That this is just a bump in the road, I still have a lot of personal strengths and an active support system. Stubbornness can also be a huge friend to autistic folks in that they have a strong sense of justice and they have a certain eye for detail so their work can truly be something to behold.

My sister’s girlfriend is also autistic. And when I see their artwork, I am truly gooped by how creative they are. That this comes so naturally to them, that they have such a strong vision and made it happen so quickly. By comparison, in high school, I always drew my humans with sunglasses because my interpretation of their eyes was somewhat frightening. And considering with this installment I’m double digits into Ask Andrew, I’d say my special talent has been paying off and then some.

As for your five-year-old, I’d say the best strategy is to keep them informed on what will happen as a result of their actions. Find the benefits of doing something they might not automatically be interested in and emphasize that. Continue doing this, and I have no doubt they’ll be more flexible in their thinking.

When I was a very young child, I loved Christmas Eve with my Dad’s side of the family. Still do! But my childlike wonder was only matched by my childish hatred of the dinners that preceded them. Not because I disliked them or that we ate food of poor quality, but because I was so impatient to get to my grandparents’ house and open presents. It made me a very impatient little man in a very cute sweater very worthy of Santa’s naughty list.

But with some gentle prodding from my parents and the image of coal in my stocking, I became a very precocious little man in a very cute sweater likely to be found on Santa’s nice list. I still wanted nothing more than to open my presents and have the adults talk afterward, but I became far more patient and, as a result, happier at the most wonderful time of the year.

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larger photo of blog article author Suzanne Tucker

Suzanne Tucker is the founder of Generation Mindful, a physical therapist, a parent educator of 27+ years, and a mom of 4 (including twins!). Suzanne has been studying the art and the science of connection-based parenting for decades. Her life's work is to help families around the world find more joy and connection in their relationships.