"My daughter was recently diagnosed with Aspergers, so I am new to this whole thing. She is very picky, for example, will only wear certain clothes, only eat certain foods, doesn't tolerate loud noises, and on and on. Is this normal for children with Aspergers?"
The occurrence of sensory issues and intolerance is very typical for children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism. Parents of these children often recognize early that there are some "odd" problems with their child. The child may have a hyperactive startled response to various kinds of noises, and some of these children walk around acting deaf because they have had to tune out the excessive noise around them. Some children report auditory problems and find themselves unable to listen to someone speak or carry on a conversation in noisy or busy places.
Aspergers children also have difficulty with tactile stimulation. They may exhibit a startle response when touched or feel uncomfortable when held. They may be overwhelmed when dealing with the wearing of new clothing that their body hasn’t become accustomed to. The child may prefer certain textures of clothing, such as soft, loose cotton.
There can be difficulty tolerating certain textures or tastes of food. Parents need to be aware of this when trying new foods or when the child enters a new eating environment, such as school lunches or eating at the homes of others.
Coping with some of these sensory difficulties often means having an understanding of the common problems and trial and error regarding the specific problems your child has. For example, new clothing may need to be washed a few times until they are softer and easier to wear. Some female children cannot tolerate the rubbing of their legs together and so need to wear pants and not dresses.
The proper middle ground between sensory deprivation and a noisy, chaotic environment needs to be found and maintained whenever possible. Exposing the child to dozens of screaming children at daycare may not always be the best option for the child with Aspergers syndrome.
Parents also need to find the most effective way to give affection to their child without creating more anxiety. Cuddling with your child may be less of an option than just verbally showing approval. Parents can show their affection in ways that are less stressful to the child yet still give the same comfortable message.
As your child ages, he or she may have greater insight into what kinds of things they can tolerate and which things they cannot. Until then, parents need patience and creativity in finding the right middle ground that leaves the child as comfortable as possible.