When we make mistakes in during our daily lives we can often atone for them, but we cannot erase them and make them disappear. The mistake, once made, never goes away which can be a very difficulty concept for many people with Autism to accept I'll address that issue another time). The beauty of putting your finger on the piece is you have a chance to realize your mistake before it happens and take measures to prevent it.
Preventing actions that have potential negative outcomes can be difficult, but is achievable with practice and instruction, just like chess. When a thought or urge comes to mind, that is the initial move. It is usually a reaction to something else you experience and typically not preventable. However, just because that thought or urge is there does not mean you have to act upon it. While it may be easier to go ahead with the thought or urge, like the chess player, you can tell yourself "Stop" "Wait" "What might happen to me if I do this?" "Will it be good or bad?" "Is there something else I could do or say?" These little messages can you save a lot of heartache. Even if you do decide to go ahead with the urge or thought, at least you know what you are getting into. Knowing what to expect is also very important for people with Autism.
The final aspect of this approach that is needed to be successful is time. Time is needed to process these thoughts and make a decision. The person making the decision needs to allow themselves enough time to make the choice and others around that person need to provide that time as well. For the person with ASD, this means requesting the time you need to think things through. For the parents, caregivers, and educators that means allowing the person the time they need or asking the person with ASD "Do you need some time to think about it." Sometimes I find it help to provide visual cues. Single words such as Stop, Wait, and Think can often be good triggers for the process. They can be printed on index cards or saved on a phone or tablet. This approach can be especially helpful for people who more impulsive. While quick decisions may be better for simpler decisions, you will gain more benefit by keeping your finger on the piece before making a complex decision or important move.
Steven C. Altabet, Ph.D