Like many autistic children, our son could be very literal and sometimes had a hard time with idioms and expressions.

Once he was reading and I asked him where he was in the story.

Suggested,” he answered, after looking first at the page.

He thought I meant the actual word he was reading, not that I was asking where he was on the story arc.

He later asked me: “What does ‘beside herself’ mean?” (the expression for an intense feeling).

He was unable to derive the meaning for himself from the context of where the expression took place in the story and had imagined the character as two people, one standing beside the other.

Another challenge he faced was with his executive function skills for planning, organizing, and breaking down large jobs into small tasks.

This is a skill housed in the frontal lobe of the brain which enables people to make plans and engage in step-by-step task completion, etc.

Challenges in this area could cause him anxiety when doing math problems, and difficulty managing schoolwork and homework.

We used routine, checklists, and explaining why he needed to do things so that he had a logical foundation as context for the tasks, and a first-this-then-that system.

Struggles with executive function also affected his ability to clean his room. Cleaning up what appeared to be a huge mess was overwhelming to him and he had difficulty planning, organizing, and making decisions about how to do it.

We came up with a way to make it easier for him using painter’s tape to mark off a grid on the carpet. 

He then put away his toys, one grid square at a time, which helped to make the job manageable and easier to understand its start and finish.

We let him clean up a square or two, then take breaks, sometimes spacing it out over a couple of days. This also taught him how to break down a large project into smaller pieces.

There were aspects that we had to deal with related to his being literal – such as toys straddling the lines – but overall the strategy worked fairly well.

Here is a brief video tutorial of the strategy worked for us.