Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Aspergers Children and Literal Thinking

Literal thinking in an Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) child goes far beyond the concrete thinking that is associated with young kids or learning disabled children. It results from the underlying communication disorder, which makes "Aspies" unable to understand the shifting meaning of words in changing situations. In addition, they tend to persevere in their first impression rather than discarding it to test other meanings.

Many times, a youngster with Aspergers will have a difficult time understanding that some words have different meanings. For example, my grandson's face was red from playing outside, and I said, "Your face is beet red." He couldn't understand how his face could be like a vegetable.

A good example of a homonym is to use the word "bow." You could mean a violin bow, a ribbon tied into a bow, a bow and arrow. Same spelling, but a different pronunciation is the bow of the ship or bowing from the waist. Same pronunciations, but different spellings are a bough from a tree or a beau. Confusing, isn't it? Imagine how confusing it is to a youngster with Aspergers!

Kids with Aspergers have a very difficult time understanding when it's polite to say something. When an Aspergers child sees an obese person, he thinks nothing of informing that lady that she's fat. He also doesn't understand why his statement would cause such a negative reaction. To him, he was simply telling the truth.

Aspergers children don't understand "white lies" or why we tell them. For example, why would I tell my mother-in-law that I love the tie she got me for Christmas, and then turn around and donate it to Goodwill? So I don’t hurt her feelings. A youngster with Aspergers will be brutally honest upon receiving an undesirable gift, and to say otherwise would be lying.

Since it is impossible to teach Aspergers youngsters every innuendo of speech as well as nonverbal cues and multiple meanings, they may eventually compensate in such ways as the following:
  • By reading extensively for information rather than pleasure, preferring fact to fiction.
  • By developing any nonverbal talents they may have to the point where they can earn the social approval they crave.
  •  By concentrating on subjects in which they can be exceedingly well-informed.
  • By becoming precise in language, seeking words which have a definite concrete meaning.

As a result of their literal thinking, Aspergers children are easy victims of the unkind peer who likes to make fun at their expense. If Aspies react with anger to trickery, their problem is compounded. Even if they are philosophical about being teased, literal thinking is a decided handicap in school and on the job, because most people communicate with a kind of shorthand speech, which is not to be taken literally.

Everyone has a "blind spot" in learning and understanding things. Many of us don't understand algebra or chemistry. And how many of us just ‘laugh off’ the fact they can't even program our VCR? These are deficiencies we can usually work our life around or completely avoid. In an Aspergers child, the "blind spot" happens to be reading social and non-verbal cues – something one cannot work around or avoid.

Learning to say what we mean - and mean what we say - is often easier said than done. You can't just tell an Aspergers youngster, "If you don't do your homework - you're in deep trouble." Otherwise, he envisions himself in a hole - or worse. If you mean "it's raining hard," then don't say "it's raining cats and dogs."

It is important to think about how we, as parents, word things to the literal Aspergers youngster. If you have one of these literal kids, know that he is not doing this purposefully. Be patient and try to learn to think how he thinks. Some of the best minds in the world are very literal. Looking at life through an Aspie’s eyes can give you a whole new outlook on life.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook


Anonymous said...

My son's teacher expressed that when he did < > she felt like it was a "slap in the face" because she had worked so hard.... Well, my son was almost in tears and looked at me and said, I DID NOT SLAP HER IN THE FACE!!! ( my son is 14, btw....)

Anonymous said...

My Son is very literal also. It's hard at times, but can also be a blessing because most of them don't lie. My Son faces the challenge of perfectionism, especially in written expression. He can't just "beat around the bush" on an essay, it has to be just the facts mam, just the facts.
about an hour ago · Like

My son, my husband, my FIL--all very literal. Used to drive me crazy but now I understand it's a brain difference.

Anonymous said...

DS is 3.5. He pointed to a truck parked on our street. I told him it was a moving truck and explained that the neighbors were moving and needed to pack up their stuff and drive it to their new house. He disagreed. He pointed to another truck that drove past the house and said 'see that's a moving truck'.

Joanna said...

Literal interpretation + misunderstanding conversations =
NT son to me "mom, can I have as snack?"
Me to NT son "have an orange, they're delicious, fresh from Araceli's yard..."
AS son, interrupting, to NT son "did you know they have a chihuahua?"
Me to NT son "I just had one." can see what's coming next....
AS son to me "YOU ATE A CHIHUAHUA?!!!"
God, I love that kid.

gina rex said...

As an adult with Aspergers, I have one thing to say: NTs assume they know what's going on with Aspergers children, but they are almost totally wrong. NTs see the world through their social (self-centered) brains and do not understand that we live in a LITERAL universe described by the literal language of mathematics. Literal thinking is a rare talent which ought to be cultivated in Aspergers, not discouraged! NTs have very little understanding of how the world works.

Unknown said...

My asperger's daughter lies all the time and thinks nothing of it. If it gets her what she wants or keeps her out of trouble she'll do it. But she will be brutally honest that she is lying and why if asked.

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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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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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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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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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