Always an eccentric youngster, your child has now been diagnosed with Aspergers (or high functioning autism). The social world of kids is chaotic enough these days, but a child on the spectrum is particularly challenged. Nonetheless, with the parent’s help, an "Aspie" can find - and keep - friends. Here’s how:
1. Align your own expectations with reality. Know that the Aspergers youngster will probably not be popular, but can be happy and fulfilled with just one or two good friends.
2. Encourage your youngster to notice when other children are interested in him, because he may not pick up on attention. Impress upon him that it's important to remember classmate's names and use them in conversation.
3. Find a therapist who specializes in, or at least understands, children with Aspergers. Your child will have issues around being "different" that he must discuss with someone, preferably a qualified professional. He may need further help in setting social goals.
4. Know that Aspergers is defined as a pervasive developmental disorder on the autism spectrum characterized by a discrepancy between intellectual and social abilities.
5. Know that your Aspergers youngster may appear to be indifferent to his lack of friends. Many of these children care deeply, but have simply given up on having a social life.
6. Limit solo activities such as video games, but know that too much social time can be overwhelming.
7. Locate Social Skills groups in your area. They usually consist of three or more children of the same age who meet once a week to interact socially under the guidance of a therapist. The goal is to take their new skills into the broader world.
8. Support your child in setting up social activities. She may be uncomfortable asking someone to just "hang out," so a movie and ice cream may be more desirable.
9. Understand that those who have Aspergers have difficulty understanding social cues, although they are often academically advanced.
10. Urge him to join school clubs. Many Aspergers children have very specific interests and can parlay their skills in this area into a social activity.