Can my son with ASD truly understand love?

"My son is 8 yrs old. He is fairly high functioning. Here's the problem. I don't feel like he loves me. Can he truly understand love at all. He does not hug, kiss or cuddle. He never has. He likes to have his back scratched at night, but that's it. He struggles emotionally at school- a lot of anger. But at home you would notice anything out of the ordinary, until supper. Same meal every single night. He has no problems sharing emotions every once in a while with his father (who lives outside of the home). How can I help him to open up to me?!"

Many emotional concepts are difficult for kids with ASD. Love is probably one of the most complicated emotions of all. The lack of empathy and inflexibility that many kids on the spectrum live with will definitely make understanding the concept of love difficult – difficult, but not impossible.

It is sometimes hard to separate the idea of a person with autism loving someone from the true source of difficulty, which is the concept of theory of mind. People with autism feel a full range of emotions: anger, sadness, joy, and yes, love. 
However, the problem lies in connecting these feelings to the feelings of others. Theory of mind is understanding that another person's thoughts and feelings are their own and how they can coincide with ours, even though they are not reliant on what we are feeling.

The possibilities are there for your son with high-functioning autism. Love is an emotion that he can come to understand. Here are some things you can do to make sure that happens:
  1. Behavioral therapists can use play therapy to enhance your son's theory of mind. Pretend play can be difficult for kids with ASD due to the close connection with understanding other's feelings. Play skills are important for developing relationships on many levels.
  2. Social skills therapy can help him work on social cues, facial expressions, and basic communication, which in turn, will enhance his theory of mind abilities.
  3. Practice facial expression and recognition with pictures in books or family photographs. Explain the emotion and the cause. Using the ‘say, see, hear' approach to enhance his understanding.
  4. Social stories and comic strips can also be used to show situations that cause different emotional responses. Use these to explain why other people may react in various situations.

The process of developing theory of mind is ongoing in kids on the autism spectrum. Love is only a small part of this very complex equation. While love may be a tricky emotional concept for kids with ASD, the basic idea of love is very real. 
Balancing the feelings of love within a relationship is what will bring on a variety of experiences, both positive and negative. With straight forward discussion about feelings and emotions, your son should be able to understand love, and be successful at it. 

1 comment:

Fermin said...

That is not the point. Or it's not that simple, because...
Can anyone really understand love?
People should not separate between autistic/aspergers and neurotypicals on this issue.

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