Aspergers Children and Attachment Problems

Delays and atypical behaviors related to Aspergers (high functioning autism) are observable in the first 2 years of life. Some babies with Aspergers show less-than-expected interest and pleasure in other people. Infants with Aspergers may share interests and activities less and may even babble less than other infants. Your baby may seem less interested in communicating through sounds or physical gestures, and his speech may be delayed to some extent or robotically copied from books or TV shows.

Kids with Aspergers tend to display better attachment to parents than kids with more severe forms of classical autism. However, you may notice that despite your youngster’s bonding with you, he still has difficulty connecting with her peers. Later in childhood, he may be more likely to engage in conversation (although this often is one-way conversation) with you and other adults than with his peers.

One mother of an Aspergers child recalls:

“My daughter was very much in her own world and I rarely felt that she and I connected; it was an odd feeling.”

Some children with Aspergers often appear to prefer being alone to the company of others and may passively accept such things as hugs and cuddling without reciprocating, or resist attention altogether. Later, they may seldom seek comfort from others or respond to parents' displays of anger or affection in a typical way. Research has suggested that although Aspergers children are attached to their parents, their expression of this attachment is unusual and difficult to interpret. Moms and dads who looked forward to the joys of cuddling, teaching, and playing with their child may feel disappointed by this lack of expected attachment behavior.

How Parents Can Help—

What exactly is it that highly-skilled parents do that helps the Aspergers child form a secure attachment?

Being sensitive and responsive to very young children seems to be the key. This means you are there when the child needs you and that you can be counted on to meet his needs, especially social needs.

Parents who are responsive to young children respond quickly to their needs, and they respond in a way that is in tune to the child. The adults who develop secure attachments with their very young children respond to crying more quickly. They are also more affectionate when they respond than parents who have kids that are not attached. Secure children know that adults will take care of them. This makes them easier to be around and they are easier to comfort.

Sensitive parents are also careful not to over-stimulate their young children. Kids need lots of loving. And they usually enjoy playing with adults. But it is easy for them to get overexcited. Very young children cannot walk away from you when they have had enough. But they do give signals. If the child looks down or won't look at you, it usually means that he is tired and wants to be left alone. A sensitive parent understands this. The mother or father leaves the young child alone for a while to let him calm down.

A sensitive parent reacts to the child's signals. The interaction has turn-taking, like a game of ping-pong. First the child sends a signal. This may be a sound or a look or a movement. The parent notices and signals back -- by imitating the sound, touching the foot that moved, or simply telling the child what she just did. Then the young child responds again, and the adult responds back again. The child and the parent carefully react to each other. Very young children who receive this high quality interaction are more likely to develop a secure attachment. This type of interaction also helps develop children's thinking skills.

Watch yourself the next time you are attending to your young Aspergers child. Are you talking and playing with him while also tending to his needs? If the answer is yes, then you know that you are doing much more than simply meeting the child's physical needs. You are also helping the child learn to trust adults and to feel safe and secure. Taking the time to "connect" with the Aspergers child is vitally important.


Anonymous said...

I've seen this true. My son and I have a very close bond and have no problem relating. But he has major difficulty bonding with anyone else, even his father.

Anonymous said...

My son is very social and wants to be friends with everyone, but he doesn't get along well with other kids. He does try though. It's more the kids don't accept him. Most adults are pretty accepting of him however. He does have a hard time with his dad and some other family members. They just don't understand him.

Anonymous said...

When my daughter was a baby she had kind of a hyper-attachment to me, but didn't like being with anyone else. My brother jokingly called her Not The Mama. Now as a preteen, she is still very attached to me but also has good relationships with other family members and tries hard to make friends (although she struggles with this because she has no concept of social rules and norms). I think that a key point in the article was the idea that kids become attached more easily to parents who RESPOND to them. Many people still hold to the old 'crying it out' idea of forcing babies and toddlers to learn to soothe themselves. I agree with current parenting experts who say that this is a mistake...babies cry for a reason, it is not manipulation or exaggeration. My Asperger child was always attended to, comforted, and given a great deal of affection as a baby and toddler (and even now, of course) and so she recognized very early on that I was a person whom she could trust and from whom she could seek comfort, without fail. The upside to this for the mom of a child with Asperger's is that when she is upset (which is often), I am able to calm her down in a minute or less (even over the phone) whereas others are not able to calm her down for a long time or even at all. The power of a secure attachment!

Billybob said...

My 8 yr old grandson used to be very bonded with his daddy but in the last couple yrs has developed an unhealthy bond with his maternal grandmother. We are glad he loves her so much but its to the point where he doesn't want anyone else but her and will have aggressive meltdowns if he can't be with her and sometimes won't go to school because he wants her. She's all he talks about and always wants to go to her house. Why did this bond with her become to this point and how do we fix it and get it to be a more healthy bond? We have tried everything and nothing works! The meltdowns are becoming worse and he's only happy when with her but it has to be only him with her meaning poppop can be home but his sister can't go or he acts up with her as well. He loves his poppop and does well with him but he doesn't like to share mommom with any siblings. I am his paternal grandmother and I live with my son and his wife and children and I have tried zo hard to get him to bond with me and my son and his wife have tried to get him to bond with them and have tried every program thats been offered, what do we do? We are worried if the aggression gets worse he will have to be placed in the hospital and none of us want that so if anyone has any advice to offer please let me know!!

Billybob said...

My 8yr old grandson has developed a very strong bond with his maternal grandmother to the point she's all he thinks about and will have an aggressive meltdown if he can't be with her. He used to be very bonded with his daddy but a couole of yrs ago it switched to his mommom. We are happy he loves her so much but its become a bit unhealthy because he won't want to go to school some days because he wants to be with her. Does anyone know why this happened and how can we get it to be a normal bond again without the aggregate meltdowns if he can't be with her?

Jennifer said...

My son is very social and wants to be friends with everyone, but he doesn't get along well with other kids. He does try though. It's more the kids don't accept him. Most adults are pretty accepting of him however. He does have a hard time with his dad and some other family members. They just don't understand him.
Jennifer Dominquez

Unknown said...

My little brother is different. He is severely attached to me and does not let me leave my parents home. He will block the entry way and say "hey stop". He loves talking and playing with other children.. He goes as far as to call me "mom" I lately have been correcting him and reminding him I am his sister. He now says " hey mom... hey sister.. or he will call me Sam" I love him dearly and do almost anything I can to help him.. He gives hugs, kisses, cuddles to me and some (very picky) family members. Then some days he freaks out when people try to hug him.. He hates it when I wash his hair in the bath. The only way he allows me to do so is if I sing to him.. (ABC song).
Is this attachment going to last? Or should it be slowly decreased ( unhealthy attachment)?

Unknown said...

My daughter is being diagnosed with aspergers. She has only connected with people she was around 24/7 upto the age of 4. Anyone entering her life after this be adults or children she struggles and prefers to be on her own. Her father has never taken anything to do with her. Seen her a few hours here and there. He's now taken me to court demanding to have her 4 days a week. My daughter hates him. She has melt downs even the mention of him. Can anyone on here give me advice on how sever the damage will be to my daughter if forced to hand her over. Her father has no clue about her diagnosis and doesn't seem to care when I attempted to mention it.

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