People with Asperger’s Syndrome have difficulty with the social aspects of life and often have inappropriate responses to social situations. One of the major problems for children with Asperger’s Syndrome is understanding social cues in a given situation. Parents often struggle trying to find the best ways to help their Asperger’s child; it takes time, patience, practice and compassion.
While many parents notice something unusual in their child quite early, most try to explain “unorthodox” behavior of their child by all possible reasons except for the most likely one. When the fact that something is wrong becomes obvious, parents bring their child for psychological assessment. Accepting the diagnosis is a very difficult step. Denial that your child has Asperger’s will not help, the sooner you accept the reality, the better for you or your child.
The following tips can be useful for parents of Asperger’s children:
- Do not coddle or shelter your child from any situation that might set him/her off. Exposing your child to social situations will allow opportunities for both of you to work through them. With your guidance and over time, your child will be able to learn what the appropriate behaviors are in various situations. In addition, learn what your child’s triggers are to better prepare yourself to diffuse or alter a possible meltdown or display of undesired behavior(s).
- Be clear in your explanations of expected and/or desired behaviors when the situations arise. Do not expect that your child should know how to behave in different social situations and settings. Walk them through (thoroughly, but with the use of age-appropriate language) appropriate behaviors as well as emotional responses in accordance with the given social situations. You will have to repeat your explanations, but with time, your child should have a better understanding of the social skills necessary to achieve positive social interactions in diverse situations.
Behavioural difficulties are common in children who have ASD, but with the right strategies and support, they can often be mitigated through effective management. There are myriad reasons for these difficulties, such as issues with communication, sensory processing, social interaction, and balance issues which affect active play. It’s vital that parents and caregivers understand these behaviours are not their “fault”, they are merely symptoms of the underlying difficulties the child with ASD is facing.
Understanding the Causes
The root causes of behavioural difficulties are generally as follows:
Difficulties with communication: Children with ASD typically struggle with expressive language, understanding what is being said to them, and picking up on non-verbal communication cues. This can, understandably, become quite frustrating and provoke problem behaviours.
Difficulties with social situations: The difficulties presented by social situations for a person with ASD go beyond just communication; people with ASD also struggle to understand other’s points of view (inflexible in their opinions), and grasp the “unspoken rules” of social interaction that state when to, for example, end a conversation. Due to all of this, children with ASD may shun social contact, and they are more likely to experience bullying.
Difficulties with unstructured time: People with ASD have a hard time dealing with situations where there is no set schedule, as their brains have a hard time sequencing activities on their own. For this reason, children with ASD are more likely to act out during recess or other break times, as they feel confused and frustrated.
Difficulties processing sensory information: Those with ASD often have over or under-sensitive senses, leading to a tendency to get overwhelmed or to seek stimulation to a problematic degree. They may react strongly to touch, be very picky eaters, get overwhelmed by loud noises (or be unable to concentrate over background noise), etc.
Additionally, one should always remember that people with ASD do not easily adapt to change; always be on the lookout for things in their environment or schedule that have been altered, as this may trigger problem behaviours. Illness (especially seizures, which ASD individuals may be prone to) can also trigger acting out, as the child with ASD cannot easily vocalize his or her pain. Consider using diagrams to help children express where they are feeling pain.Continue reading →
For a child with ASD, school can be a scary place. There is a lot of sensory information being thrown at the child from what feels like all angles, a high level of social interaction is required, and unstructured times (such as between classes, or at recess) can leave the child feeling lost. As such, many children with ASD develop a strong resistance to attending school, and owing to the rigidity of those with ASD, it can be very hard to convince the child to do otherwise.
No parent enjoys sending their child to a place he or she hates, and every parent wants their child to succeed at school, and to enjoy it as much as possible. To that end, it’s important not to give up on the concept of a child with ASD enjoying school; instead, if your child is resisting school attendance, try the following strategies to get him or her turned around to the idea of school again:
Try to discover why the child does not wish to attend school; remember that bullying is a common experience for those with ASD, due to their socially awkward behaviour. Always begin by making sure the child is not being picked on. Also check for:
- Unstructured times being a subject of stress and confusion.
- A specific unpleasant event which the child may now be avoiding, but has been unable to vocalize (or possibly even able to identify that he or she is so upset about it). Remember that even minor events may seem very confusing or upsetting to someone with ASD.
- A lesson or class the child is struggling with. He or she may have become so frustrated at not getting it that the entire idea of school has become upsetting.
- If your efforts come up empty, contact the school to see if any of the staff have observed something that may have motivated the child’s resistance.
If your child is having a difficult time expressing his or herself, you may want to use visual supports to facilitate communication.Continue reading →
For many people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), obsessions, repetitive behaviours, and routines that might appear overly rigid or unhealthy to neurotypical individuals are actually a source of comfort and self regulation. Like all things, however, when used too much, these behaviours may detract from other things or cause distress to the person with ASD, so understanding these needs and knowing where to draw a line is important. To help a person with ASD learn how to manage these issues, it’s vital to understand the behaviours’ function and how to respond to them.
Why People with ASD Develop Obsessions and Repetitive Behaviour
People with an ASD may have any number of obsessions (some of them as common as certain TV shows), but often they center around a “technical”, academic, or mechanical skill-set, such as computers, trains, historical dates or events, or science. Obsessions can become quite odd and particular, however, involving specifics about numbers or certain shapes (things like car registration numbers, for example, or bus or train timetables, and the shapes of body parts or stones). People with ASD can feel quite strongly about these things, no matter how mundane they may seem to others.
Children with ASD develop obsessions as they help to give them a sense of structure, order, and predictability, which counterbalances the chaos they may feel is inherent in the world around them. They also give a solid, sure base on which to begin conversations and break the ice with others. For these reasons, it’s vital to not label these obsessions as unhealthy by default, but rather to allow the child with ASD to explore them. One should try to understand the function of the behaviour and remain observant for signs of things going too far. Such signs include the seeming distressed while partaking in their chosen hobby, signs they wish to resist engaging in it but cannot (it’s become a compulsion), or signs it is making the child withdraw socially more than he or she normally would. Similarly, it may need to be managed if it becomes seriously disruptive to others.
Repetitive behaviour (such as hand-flapping, finger-flicking, rocking, jumping, etc.) develop quite early and may likewise appear unhealthy or troubling, but serves a therapeutic role for the child with ASD. Many suffer from sensory distortions (over or under sensitive senses), so may need the stimulation or distraction this kind of activity provides.
Understanding Routines and Resistance to Change
Those with ASD often feel confused and frightened by the complexity of life around them, due to their susceptibility to sensory overload and difficulty with understanding complex social dynamics. Developing set routines, times, particular routes, and rituals to handle daily life helps the person with ASD moderate their confusion and anxiety by making the world feel like a more predictable place; as such, people with ASD develop a strong attachment to routines and sameness.
How attached the person is, and how much distress is caused by a breach in these routines, varies with the individual; he or she may be upset by minor breaks (even as small as changing activities, or the layout of a room being changed), or need a larger, more chaotic upset, such as the disruption and stress of the holiday season. As a general rule, the more unexpected the change, the more upsetting it will be; warning those with ASD about upcoming changes and keeping calendars and timetables is often helpful.
Likewise, one should expect those with ASD to rely even more heavily on their routines during times of change or stress; as with obsessive behaviours, this reliance should be allowed, but managed so it does not become unhealthy.Continue reading →
Having a romantic relationship with someone with Asperger’s Syndrome can be engaging and rewarding, but it can also be very challenging, especially as the major life changes that often accompany relationships (marriage, home ownership, parenting) shake up the routine of the person with Asperger’s Syndrome and introduce stress and complex dynamics that he or she may be ill-equipped to deal with.
In order to get the best out of your partner with Asperger’s Syndrome, it’s important to keep the following points in mind; remember, however, that all people with Asperger’s Syndrome are different, and thus, so are all marriages with Aspergers partner—Some points may therefore apply more than others. The most fundamental thing to remember is that, like any other marriage, a marriage where Asperger’s Syndrome is present will only work if both partners share a willingness to communicate and understand each other’s needs.
When conversing with your partner who has Asperger’s Syndrome, you should try to:
- Be as clear and concise as possible; rely on logic and reasoning to reach your partner, not emotion.
- Be consistent; mean what you say.
- Be upfront with what you expect and need; “hinting” and other more subtle methods will not have any positive effect on your partner.
Be prepared to deal with extra challenges if you start a family. Those with Asperger’s Syndrome struggle with child-rearing at times because:
- It’s demanding and stress levels are raised by increased responsibility. Asperger’s Syndrome traits are often aggravated and made more prominent by stress.
- Established routines become more difficult to keep
The term “neurodiversity” was first pioneered in the late 1990’s by two forward-thinking individuals: journalist Harvey Blume and autism advocate Judy Singer. Blume and Singer both believed that the ‘Neurologically Different’ deserve their own political category, standing alongside the familiar ones of class, gender, and race and working to augment the rights and redefine common perceptions of the neurodiverse.
It was Blume and Singer’s wish to see the neurodiverse perceived in light of their strengths as well as their weaknesses. They noted, for example, that those with dyslexia often show above-average visual thinking abilities and entrepreneurial knack. Those with ADHD have a penchant for creative problem solving on the fly. They are typically very imaginative and excel in holistic problem processing that is based on imagination rather than working memory. People on the autism spectrum often show an unusual affinity for mathematics and computer programming. Those who struggle with mental illness, though their challenges may be many, often come up with unique and insightful ways to cope, and frequently exhibit heightened creativity.
Those who believe in the concept of neurodiversity do not advocate ignoring the many problems and hardships faced by those with aforementioned conditions, but rather that we should not frame these conditions in the negative alone. Instead, individuals who are neuroatypical ought to be respected, celebrated, and honored for their unique skills and achievements. It should be more understood by the public at large that those who fall under the umbrella of neurodiversity are every bit as capable of achieving great things as those who are not.
The Seven Key Points of Neurodiversity:
When attempting to understand what neurodiversity is and how those with it can best adapt and thrive while remaining true to their authentic selves, it’s wise to keep the following seven points in mind:
- The Human Brain Functions Like an Ecosystem more so than like a Machine. How many times have you heard the brain likened to a computer? This is, as it turns out, too simplified a view. The brain functions more like the internet, or one of the many biological ecosystems we can observe in the natural world around us. It is a complex network of interrelated systems, all working together.
- Human Brains Exist Along Spectrums of Ability. Disability categories are not discreet entities, not boxes that entirely separate people off from the mainstream of cognitive ability. Dyslexia, for example, has been shown to be part of a spectrum that includes normal reading ability.Many people on the autism spectrum may behave and function in a way that is outwardly “normal”. Cognitive abilities like literacy, sociability, attention, and learning, all exist on spectrums, and we as people are more connected in this than we realize. There is no hard line between the cognitively “normal” and the disabled. Instead, there are many shades of grey, many different mental landscapes.
Most of us desire to make the best first impression possible when entering into any important social situation; being able to do so is vital to thriving in our society, as it facilitates us effectively applying for jobs and resolving difficult conflicts around us. In order to do this, we have to be able to calculate our responses to people using observations about their facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. Through doing so, we can determine if our actions are making them happy, sad, angry, etc.
Now, imagine having an illness that affected your ability to read all of those vital social cues; how hard would it be to effectively communicate with others? Such is the struggle faced by those with Asperger’s syndrome, one of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
What is Asperger’s syndrome?
This mental health disorder is named after Austrian pediatrician Dr. Hans Asperger, who was the first to research and describe this disorder in 1940s. As mentioned prior, Asperger’s syndrome is a less severe form of autism, a disability one is born with and which presently has no cure (nor known cause). This disability affects cognitive functioning, namely how an individual processes information about the world and other people around them. Asperger’s is often said to be on the “autism spectrum”, as autism is highly variable, affecting different individuals in many different ways, and with many different degrees of severity. Asperger’s is relatively common, affecting around 1 in 165 people in Canada. According to Asperger’s Society of Ontario, more than 70000 people in the province live with Asperger’s syndrome. This disorder can affect people from all walks of life, but is more frequently seen in males than females (it’s not yet understood why this is the case).
Asperger’s is typically considered to be an invisible disability, as it is not immediately apparent. As one gets to know someone with Asperger’s, however, one will typically see them struggle with the following:
- social communication;
- social interaction;
- social imagination.
Asperger’s syndrome does not, however, necessarily affect intelligence; many who have the disability demonstrate IQs that higher than average — unlike autism, which frequently causes learning disabilities (though it should be noted that people with Asperger’s are prone to ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, and in extreme cases, may also have epilepsy). Moreover, Asperger’s syndrome is often confused with giftedness, thus resulting in gifted children being diagnosed with Asperger’s and vice versa.
As those with Asperger’s are not severely impaired, they often go on to lead happy and successful lives, if they have access to adequate support; there are many forms of social, behavioural, and communications-based therapy that can help a person with Asperger’s.Continue reading →