Understanding the Aspergers Child - Part 2

The way kids with Aspergers (Aspies) perceive the world makes sense to them, and for the most part, they can’t change the way they think or act. However, with assistance, they are able to adjust their behavior so as not to cause conflict and confusion with parents, teachers, and peers.

Here are some common issues that will need to be dealt with when working with an Aspergers (high functioning autistic) child:

• Aspergers kids don’t take much notice of the reaction of the people listening to them and may ramble on regardless of the listener’s interest, thus appearing insensitive to other’s wants, needs, and feelings.

• Aspergers kids look just like their peers, and they often have average or above average intelligence, but they have difficulty understanding and relating to others in a way other non-Aspergers kids of their age do.

• Aspies can be assumed to be selfish, because most would just rather play by themselves with a special interest of their own.

• Aspies do not see themselves as a member of a particular group. They follow their own interest rather than that of the other kids at school, which can lead to total social isolation.

• Aspies often take everything others say in a literal sense, and as a result, they may be frightened by statements such as “she bit my head off.”

• Kids with Aspergers can get quite confused when they listen to other people who are telling jokes, or using exaggerated language and metaphors.

• Non-Aspergers kids usually don’t understand -- or tolerate -- Aspergers-like behavior. As a result, the Aspies is often ostracized from the peer-group.

• Often times, parents, teachers and peers don’t understand why Aspies have a lack of desire to interact with others and why they have an inability to understand simple social cues.

Social issues that Aspies experience include:

• Are inflexible and incapable of coping with change
• By school age express desire to fit in socially
• Described as being "in their world”
• Described as operating "on their own terms"
• Difficulties making social connections
• Easily stressed and emotionally vulnerable
• Frequently described as "odd" or selfish
• Highly frustrated by their social awkwardness/alienation
• Lack effective interaction skills
• Lack understanding of human relations and rules of social convention
• Na├»ve and lack common sense
• Preoccupied with own agenda
• Seldom interested in other’s interests/concerns
• Unable to "read" others’ needs and perspectives
• Unable to appropriately respond to social cues

Language issues that Aspies experience include:

• Concrete language rather than abstract
• Difficulty understanding humor
• Excessively formal or pedantic language
• Highly developed vocabularies
• Hyper-verbal
• Laugh at the "wrong time" with jokes or interactions
• Many have good sense of humor
• Misused or not used cultural slang or social idioms
• Problems with taking turns in conversations
• Prosody (i.e., speech volume, intonation, inflection, rate) is frequently deficient or unusual
• Repetitive phrases or language or stock phrases from memorized material
• Rote skills are strong
• Some have normal or early language development while others have speech delays, then rapidly catch up, making diagnosis between Aspergers difficult
• Typically revert to favorite topic area
• Usually like word games and puns
• Weak pragmatic -- conversational -- skills

Some of the areas that Aspies can be obsessed about include:

• astronomy
• dinosaurs
• extraterrestrials
• geography
• history
• machines or machinery
• maps
• math
• metereology
• music
• reading
• science
• social studies
• space travel
• trains
• weather

Practical suggestions for parents and teachers include:

• Be sure that the challenging behavior is no longer effective in getting the Aspie’s needs met (e.g., ignore problem behaviors; provide prompt for the "new" appropriate behavior; if the Aspie screams to avoid situation, prompt her/him to use an appropriate phrase; do NOT allow him/her to leave the situation while he/she is screaming

• Create cooperative learning situations

• Educate peers 

• Encourage participation in conversations 

• Help the Aspie develop appropriate ways of conveying requests/needs

• If screaming when confused by a task, teach Aspie to raise hand, ring a bell, or say "I need help with this...this is too hard"

• If the Aspie asks to leave the situation, provide him/her with immediate break

• If the Aspie needs attention, stop what you’re doing and provide some time/interest

• If the Aspie requests help, assist immediately

• Know that insensitive or inappropriate comments from Aspergers children are usually innocent 

• Model more appropriate phrase or nonverbal signals, have the Aspie practice the "new phrase" or behavior, and during the situation, remind (prompt) child to use new phrase or behavior 

• Model two-way interactions 

• Praise classmates when supportive 

• Promote empathy and tolerance 

• Rehearse proper response repertoires 

• Shield them from bullying and teasing

• Teach and support proper reaction to social cues

• Teach WHAT to say, WHEN, and HOW to say it

• Teach/model correct emotional responding

• Teaching WHY & WHAT response is appropriate is necessary

• Use the Aspies strengths in exchange for liabilities to foster acceptance 

• When the Aspie becomes overwhelmed or over-stimulated, try reducing the amount of time in the situation, or avoid it in future

• When the Aspie gets confused, consider how to make the situation easier to understand – make it more concrete, routine, or predictable

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook


Unknown said...

Fantastic summary! With my Aspie son I find there are so many seeming contradictions, some that you've mentioned here -- most humor escapes him BUT he's great with puns, he's happiest playing by himself BUT he really wants to fit into the playground groups. With 20-20 hindsight, I now recognize one of his earliest Aspergers signs was a tendency to love everyone. He just had old friends and new friends and would hug complete strangers (much to their surprise). http://www.ParentingAspergersChildren.com

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mark. Our Josh (10) was diagnosed Aspergers this September. He is failing miserably at his private Christian school (we sought to get a smaller classroom for him than the public schools) so we are making the move to home school. He is a bright child but the frustrations we have at times have been difficult. I am praying your Handbook gives us some answers. Wow, over 1200 pages.

Raising Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parents' Grief and Guilt

Some parents grieve for the loss of the youngster they   imagined  they had. Moms and dads have their own particular way of dealing with the...