Unstructured School Environments
Many children with Asperger's thrive during those portions of the school day that are structured by routine. Yet those same students may socially flounder during the many unstructured school events that occur throughout the day. These include:
Hallway socializing between classes
Riding the bus to and from school
As noted in Chapter 5, your child may also benefit greatly from having a repertoire of conversation starters, enders, and slipins. Wherever possible, your child will be best poised to weather the awkwardness of unstructured school situations if she can volunteer for, or be assigned, a responsibility or role during the activity. For example, many kids with Asperger's are not as physically graceful as they'd wish to be. Playing on a team in gym class can get confusing and uncomfortable, but this can be tempered if she is also in charge of keeping score.
Nowadays, it is entirely acceptable for all kids to spend downtime engaged in inconspicuous, solitary activities like reading, privately listening to music on an iPod, or playing small, handheld computer games to maintain focus. Determine from your child's school what is acceptable to use on campus, when, and where.
Likewise, if teachers provide an optional structure for specific playground activities, it may make the duration of time bearable for any number of kids, including those with Asperger's. As discussed, an alternative to being swallowed up by the lunchroom environment would be to establish “lunch bunch” discussion tables in a quieter corner of the cafeteria. Some schools assign seating on the bus, which helps quell anxiety in children with Asperger's, especially if seating is a daily “free for all” and the child must compete for seats with older children. One drawback to the concept of role assignment is that a child may become so rigid and unyielding that she is inflexible when it comes time to pass on the responsibility to another student. This should take place incrementally to transition the trade-off of responsibility wherever possible.