I learned how to play chess as a little girl. At that time, it took all I had to think a step or two ahead and remember how all the pieces moved. As I got better at the game, I learned how to think quite a few steps ahead. When I played opponents regularly I got the hang of their moves too.
Nowadays as I plan activities for Peter, I use chess-like strategy; thinking ahead. I debate the sounds, smells, sights and distractions. I make sure Peter is not already overtired. I think about what he has to do before and after to be sure he can handle it all.
I try to prepare Peter for the unexpected, but I have to decide how early to do that. One day, for example, someone told Peter about having to go to the doctor before school. I had planned on waiting until after school. The before school plan gave him too much time to think about it and also stressed him out at school. That made his teachers’ day more difficult.
Sometimes if he does not have enough time to process what has him worried that can work against us, too. When life changes, which it often does, he will get upset because he has not had time to think the activity all the way through and prepare himself.
Now that Peter is more verbal, I find giving him a little more time gives him the chance to ask questions or tell me what he needs. Once he even said, “Mom, tell me, ‘Peter, remember when we went on Buzz Lightyear and you thought you couldn’t do it?’” He was giving me my own trick to help him through a new activity. (I have used the Buzz Lightyear ride many times. When he did go on he liked it so much we did it about half a dozen times.)
Slowly, Peter is creating his own chess game. He knows what moves to make to keep ahead of his own anxiety. Now he just has to learn how to take those steps on his own. Hopefully, I can stay a move or two ahead to help him.