The Step by Step Process: Breaking down The Metaphorical Puzzle




Matthew Kaiser

Matthew Kaiser

Autism Advocate

This blog has been contributed by author Matthew Kaiser. He is a 24 year old graduate from Marshall University, where he studied creative writing. In his spare time he loves exploring all types of literature, such as film, comics, fiction novels or even writing his own Adult Fantasy World while he works with AAoM’s employment program to eventually find work in which he can use his creative abilities to better the communities around him

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Individuals with autism often learn differently, whether we use visual aids, simplified instructions or have an assistant by our side, we all need something different to succeed. And this is definitely not exclusive to students with Autism, but may extend its reach to any student. But when we are focusing our attention towards students with Autism there is an approach many of us can identify with. It’s the step by step model.

Not every student with Autism will learn in the same manner, but the step by step model is common. The reason this model comes in handy is because we sometimes have a difficult time understanding or comprehending directions. Sometimes it takes a different point of view to understand how to begin and end a project. The step by step model helps us understand projects or school work by breaking down these assignments into smaller pieces, like a puzzle. We may only need as little as three steps, but sometimes a complex process must be split into twenty or more steps.

The step by step model allows us to get from point A to point B with less confusion. To better understand how the model is effective for an individual with autism, I will use an example of my own. I began to understand how impactful a step by step model was just a few years ago when I was still in college. I have used the process many times before when I was younger, but it wasn’t until college when I was able to incorporate the model in my every day use intentionally. I had many projects, essays, exams, assignments all piling up and all due on separate dates and each overlapped with one another. At times there were fewer deadlines, yet larger assignments in which I had to learn to manage on my own. Luckily, I was also a part of the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University (where I went to school). I had a graduate assistant, named Elena, who helped me out with assignments, scheduling and much more to keep me on track.

Elena and I sat down together at least once or twice a week and we took all the assignments I had and broke them down into little itsy bitsy parts that were manageable. Elena helped me separate each individual project into smaller versions. If I had a ten page research essay due by the end of the semester, we would separate the Research into one project and the Essay portion became its own project within itself. If I had three different history books to study, she would help me separate the sections into more manageable parts.

Instead of having to cope with three or four massive projects, I ended up with somewhere between ten or twenty homework assignments due on a specific date which we created for myself. Trying to find that balance can be a difficult task. Usually this means allowing peers, family members, and friends, or in my case “Elena,” to help alleviate the stress of a massive work load for a student on the autism spectrum. While time management and scheduling can be an issue for anyone, it can be especially difficult for those who do have autism because we have a difficult time figuring out these life puzzles without a visual reference or ‘guide’ to look to for structure.

For us we may not see how to unravel the mess on our own, even though the work and success is achievable. Each point from A to B is just one smaller project, or one more step we take to accomplish this great journey, however, it is certainly more encouraging to be able to see the end in sight, and have a path laid out, step by step, when needed.

Read more from Matthew here.

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