Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders


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How To Teach Social Skills to Your Aspergers Child

"I would like to know how to advise my Aspergers son on social skills, such as making friends at school without being insulting to others." 

One of the behavioral traits seen in kids with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism is a lack of "demonstrated" empathy (i.e., they can empathize, but may not show it). They don’t realize that other people have thoughts and interests that are different from theirs. They’ll interrupt a conversation and start churning out facts about their pet interest (e.g., medieval history, Star Wars’ trivia, Math, etc.) even if it has nothing to do with what the other kids are talking about. This and their lack of other social skills (e.g., looking others in the eyes when conversing, responding appropriately to greetings and questions, understanding fads and the interests of peers, etc.) makes making friends very difficult for Aspergers kids.

With some Aspergers kids, social abilities remain intact or aren’t really noticed until around age eight. It is around this time that their peers begin perceiving them as “different.” The "Aspie" is singled out for teasing. In addition, he may be seen as oppositional because kids with Aspergers take words and gestures very literally. Communication with Aspergers kids must be “concrete” (i.e., brief and easily understood).

Your son can be taught most of the same social skills that youngsters without Aspergers learn on their own. You can work with your son’s school to produce cards or posters with facial expressions that define feelings. Also, full-length mirrors can be used to make these kids aware of their facial expressions and overall body language. You and his teachers can role play social situations with him to help him learn appropriate responses and actions.

On a related note, it is critical that schools become fully equipped to help children with Aspergers. The number of schools with diagnostically appropriate services will increase when parents, doctors, and social service practitioners lobby educational institutions for assistance in teaching these students. 

Until the school provides more assistance with your son, there are a number of things that you can do at home. For example, surround your son with friends and family so he will have familiar people around on a consistent basis. If your son is intimidated by a large number of people, just have one friend over at a time.

In addition to friends, you can train your son in appropriate social and perceptual skills. He can learn to perceive and interpret nonverbal behaviors, process visual and auditory information, and become aware of social/behavioral conventions.

To help you help your son, go on the internet and look for Aspergers support groups. Also, look for a group in your area. If there is none available, there are people who stay in touch via the internet. Whether in person or over the internet, they can give you advice and support which will help you help your son.

When attempting to share information with schools about Aspergers, help teachers and other staff to understand the following:
  1. Aspergers is not mental retardation. Some autistic people may be very intelligent — there is a lot of evidence that Albert Einstein may have been autistic.
  2. Aspergers is not "savant" syndrome. Some autistic people are "savants," (e.g., instant calculator, etc.) but most are not. Other autistic people are "gifted," however, and have high "general" intelligence. Many autistic people have normal intelligence, and some may be retarded.
  3. Aspergers is not an emotional problem. Aspergers is a neurological condition which people are usually born with. Psychological trauma doesn't cause it.
  4. Aspergers is not a psychosis or lack of reality contact.
  5. People do not choose to be autistic.
  6. Aspergers is not "a fate worse than death." Autistic people have some disadvantages, but some live very happy and rewarding lives. Many autistic people wouldn't want to be "cured," as this would be like erasing them and replacing them with different people.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management


•    Anonymous said... Hmmmmm,there is no answer.We show them the proper ways and the kids of today are so far off that they cannot handle our kids with very graceful manners.I feel like it is a lost cause.I have seen too many people look at my daughter as if she were from Mars.
•    Anonymous said... My 5 yr old grandchild is already getting bullied in our neighborhood. She just started kindergraden and Im afraid of how they will treat her in school. She doesnt react the same way as other children
•    Anonymous said... Not sure if this helps but early on ...I put my child in a GirlScout group and helped the group (using role play) to identify different ways they could demonstrate with their body exclusion or how to ostracize someone from a group. For example: Crossing their arms and turning away from their friend, rolling their eyes, not answering their friend when they spoke to them. We then talked about how this affected the person and if they ever felt this way or saw this happen to someone else. Group behavior changed immediately when we talked about ways to include with body language and words. Most children are learners and don't even realize what they are doing when they are younger. This group of girls (from what I'm told because we moved) have continued to be "helpers." If you can get your child in a group with other children and teach them social skills that is your answer. If all schools incorporated this into their program at the elementary school level it would cut down on a lot of bullying behavior.

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Anonymous said...

I have a seven year old daughter, and we role play or reverse the conversation to show her how she sounds to others. Sometimes it clicks for her, sometimes it takes time. I know there are some kids that avoid her, maybe because she offended them, or something. She has a core group of friends, I think even having one good friend who understands him is fine. I've had to learn to make every single awkward moment a learning moment for her, sometimes it's exhausting, but when you see the results, it's worth it!

Anonymous said...

Another suggestion I received was to have your child watch a show with the sound off (muted)and then ask him/her what they think the person is feeling based on the expressions the child is seeing. And then you can discuss what those feelings are all about.

Anonymous said...

I dont know what other people think about Big Bang Theory, but my 11-year-old son sometimes sees that he does some of the annoying things still-loveable Sheldon does... like insisting on 'his' spot on the couch. Having seen it (a visual thing) and recognised it, he seems to be able to think about that and then change his behaviour (he very suddenly moved places at the dinner table-the night of that episode!!)

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content