Much has been made in the literature about the rigidity of the Aspie. A good example of this is their "resistance to change". Often the observed behavior isn't a resistance to change, but a binding to a particular rule or rule set.
The aspie is, to a certain extent, controlled by rules. The impact of these invisible rules on their behavior should not be underestimated. It is often a source of conflict and can also be the source of aspie depression.
Where do these Rules come from?
The majority of the aspie's rules come from their own environment. They can be communicated directly or implied. In some cases, the aspie will completely misunderstand directions and create an internal rule that isn't necessarily in their best interests. Changing these rules is difficult, especially when they've been in force for an extended period.
When I was quite young, a grandparent saw a boy give me a "suck" on his chupa-chop (a lolly on a stick). Obviously, to an adult, this is quite disgusting. I was called inside immediately and lectured at length about germs and sharing food. As a direct result of this discussion, food non-sharing rules came into being and over time they grew in strength.
This caused quite a number of social problems at school. The other kids would ask me for food if my mother had given me lunch money. I was unable to even share chips. I would point out to the other kids that I never ever asked them for anything but it still caused a lot of problems and I lost quite a few "friends" because of it.
The longer the rule stayed in force and unchallenged, the stronger it got. I quickly got to the point where I couldn't eat food from someone else's plate (I still have great difficulty doing this). Worst of all, it kick-started a period where I couldn't eat my food if it had been "looked at" by a sibling. My mother told my poor sister that she wasn't allowed to look at my food at breakfast.
The worst of these rules disappeared after a couple of years, but I still struggle with the oldest parts of them. I still have difficulty if one of children tries to take something from my plate.
Rules in the Adult Aspie
Adult aspies who are aware of their condition can use their rules to great advantage.
For example; if there is a need to lose weight and the adult aspie creates sensible rules about eating, they will not be able to break them easily. Note: This can be dangerous if the rules aren't well thought out and malnutrition could result.
Other rules could include priorities at work. These are the sorts of rules which are seen by practitioners as "resistance to change". Contrary to opinion, they're not a result of the aspie clinging to the old ways because they want to.
What can Parents do?
Recognize the power of rules and help your aspie children to recognize them too. Understanding these rules is the key to using them wisely.
Try to figure out what rules are in place. This must usually be done by observation as the younger aspie child probably won't realize that they are following rules. Even aspie adults don't have a list of rules handy.
Foster a belief that rules sometimes need to change.
Watch rules carefully to determine if they are "tightening" and challenge them if they appear to be having any negative impact. If possible, try to redefine the boundaries of the existing rule.