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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We've been trying to get our 11-year-old DS1, who is currently being investigated for Asperger's (just the ADOS left to go and things are certainly looking that way) to build up a little independence out and about. His direction sense is horrible, so we've been sticking to fairly simple situations where it's easy to get about. Last night we were at the Canada Day Fireworks for our village. It was a biggish event in terms of people (keep in mind biggish to me may be tiny by urban standards), but they were familiar and the geographic area was only covering one baseball field and a small field next to it. Our three kids wanted to split up to see friends. DS1 didn't have any particular friend to see but there were a few people he wanted to say hi to, and as usual he was also saying hi to people's dogs. We showed all three kids the entrance gate to the baseball field and explained that after the fireworks we were to meet there. Then we physically showed DS1 again, asked him to repeat back where to meet. Last minute before the fireworks started I checked in one last time. After the event, one of the adult recreation coordinators he knows brought him to the entrance. Apparently he got confused about whether to meet after the fireworks started (which is actually during) or after they were done, and he became unsure of which entrance gate. He said there were four and they were all the same. Apparently, he didn't gather that we meant the one we took him to and were showing him. He actually handled it OK in that he did go up to the stage area where official people were making announcements, etc, and in fairness it was dark and a bit busy, so maybe he wasn't ready yet. However, I'm wondering if any of you with experience have tips on how to make sure your child understands the directions given and on the best way to explain directions. All I can think of doing is asking him to physically demo where to meet next time. The whole thing was so odd in that he was able to tell me in exact wording afterwards what I had said about where to meet (pretty much verbatim) but he had no understanding as to which gate that meant, and his interpretation of after was something I would have never thought of. Thanks for any tips you might have!
 

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I'd start with something more simply and repeatable -- the grocery store, or a park you frequent -- and a less chaotic situation. The crowd and fireworks can be pretty overwhelming from a sensory standpoint.

We've worked with maps at the zoo and botanical garden. Go on a nice, slow day, and figure out where you and someplace to meet. Make a game of it.
 

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I only have a toddler so maybe this isn't as applicable to your DS's issues, but DH & I both have horrible, horrible sense of direction -- neither of us can tell our left from our right, never mind navigating more complex situations... let's just say we both have frequently ended up driving HOURS in the wrong direction before even realizing we were lost!!

In the situation you described, I could totally see either of us getting 'lost' too. One thing you can do is point out differences... so maybe you meet not at "Gate 1" but at "the gate next to the flagpole" or something. Look for big, unique, highly visible objects that he can use as landmarks.

We both have problems at places like the zoo as well (for some bizarre reason I never knew they had arrow signs and even now that I see the signs are there, I have trouble following them!!) Repetition works well for me, if I go to the same place over and over and over and take the exact same route every time, it gets easier. So you could practice with him (particularly when it's not crowded) and point out signs & landmarks along the route. Depending how his mind works, you could draw a map as you go along or when you get home. For me, actually drawing it out helps me figure it out but I'm also shocked at how different my maps are from the actual maps lol... no one else can follow mine but the process of drawing it out & mentally retracing my steps does help me!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks so much for the suggestions. The grocery store as a good suggestion as it is something we have to do bi-weekly over the summer (we're an hour from groceries so my husband and I tie them in when we're working our that way during the school year- it's too much driving for the kids after a school day). We just have one road with two directions to turn, here, and even the nearest village is a very "one horse town" so on top of the directional sense it's just plain unfamiliar feeling when we are traveling somewhere busier. The landmark idea is good, too. I think I failed to verbalize that it was the gate near the gift shop parking lot - it might have helped saying that out loud rather than visually showing it.
 
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