5 Tips for Raising a Happy and Well-Adjusted Child with Asperger’s Syndrome
Parenthood looks a little different when you’re raising a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. So much more than some label, Asperger’s Syndrome colors how a child sees and experiences the world. For these children, nothing is obvious or to be taken for granted. And it’s up to parents to be sensitive and mindful of these unique challenges.
Asperger’s Syndrome changes what it means to be a parent. This condition forces parents to accept that they’re preparing their child for a world that may not always understand them. The good news is that many with Asperger’s Syndrome do go on to lead fulfilling lives.
Diagnosing Asperger’s Syndrome
Asperger’s Syndrome is often dismissed as high-functioning autism. This dismisses the uniqueness of the condition. In 1994, Asperger’s Syndrome was officially added to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder. This was the first time there was an official acknowledgement that Asperger’s Syndrome is its own condition separate from autism.
However, this all changed in 2013 when much to the dismay of many with Asperger’s Syndrome, the DSM-5 decided to redefine autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and other developmental disorders with the blanket diagnosis autism spectrum disorder. This makes collecting accurate data about Asperger’s Syndrome difficult as the condition is sometimes diagnosed as autism or autism spectrum disorder but other times as Asperger’s Syndrome.
It isn’t always easy to diagnose Asperger’s Syndrome largely due to a lack of standardized screening. While the condition is often identified in childhood, many only receive a diagnosis as adults. Often the condition is diagnosed in adults looking for treatment for other health issues like depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. With early intervention and the correct behavioral management strategies, most people with Asperger’s Syndrome go on to lead independent lives. Many do manage to adapt to the challenges of daily life, find employment, and even enjoy fulfilling relationships.
What’s the difference between Asperger’s Syndrome and autism?
Children with Asperger’s Syndrome often don’t have the same developmental delays or difficulties as those with autism. This is why children with the condition are considered to have high-functioning autism. What’s interesting about children with Asperger’s Syndrome is that they tend to have a high IQ and can learn new things with ease. They also often have good language skills unlike people with autism.
Tips for raising a child with Asperger’s Syndrome
Parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world, and perhaps the only one that comes without a guidebook or well-documented protocol. Parenting a child with Asperger’s Syndrome is doubly challenging, and while we don’t claim to have all the answers these tips may come in handy. At the very least, our hope is that these tips will give you the peace of mind to know that you’re doing everything you can to raise a happy and well-adjusted child.
1. Teach practical social skills
Children with Asperger’s Syndrome find social interaction particularly challenging because they’re often unable to understand the subtleties of body language and tone of voice. More often than not, these children will misread these situations, appearing awkward and even socially inappropriate.
It’s important to teach children to correctly identify social cues and body language. In addition, these children need to spend time practicing the social norms that govern social interaction. This includes maintaining an appropriate social distance and making eye contact. It’s also important to work on understanding nonliteral language as this makes up a large part of daily interaction, and is something people with Asperger’s find especially challenging.
How can I help my child improve their social skills today?
Teach your child a few conversation starters to help them interact with others. This can include things like What is your name? or Can I sit with you?
2. Work on your child’s problem solving skills
Problem solving skills can help a child better understand social norms and how to react in difficult social situations. A large part of enhancing a child’s problem solving skills involves helping them to correctly identify what’s wrong in different situations. This is a good way to teach your child about cause and effect and the power that actions can have in the world.
Parents should keep in mind that while there isn’t only one way to solve a problem, this is a skill that children with Asperger’s Syndrome need to practice as often as possible. By incorporating problem solving as part of your child’s daily life, your child will develop the confidence to respond calmly when they have to problem solve in real life.
How can I help my child improve their problem solving skills today?
Read your child a simple story and ask them to identify the problem. Have a discussion about the different ways to solve the problem and what the most effective approach would be.
3. Teach your child to be self-aware
It’s important to help your child develop different strategies for coping emotionally. Self-awareness is an important part of managing emotions effectively. You can start by teaching children to correctly identify their feelings and emotions when in different situations. It’s also important to make sure your child knows how to manage these emotions so that anxiety and stress doesn’t trigger a meltdown.
How can I help my child be more self-aware today?
Show your child a picture and ask them to identify what it makes them feel. Once they’ve identified the emotion, ask them what other situations in their life make them feel this way.
4. Encourage your child to develop socially appropriate behavior
One of the best ways to help your child understand what appropriate behavior is, is to avoid criticism. Instead, find something positive to reward and praise your child for. This could be something as simple as the way your child is playing with their toys. The behavior you reward is what your child is most likely to repeat.
How can I help my child behave better today?
Challenge yourself to notice your child’s positive behavior and reward them for it. Perhaps they made eye contact during an interaction or didn’t shout. Draw your child’s attention to what they’re doing right.
5. Help your child develop a routine
Not unlike children with autism, those with Asperger’s Syndrome thrive on routine, structure and predictability. It’s up to parents to help their children develop a routine that remains unchanged from day to day. It’s a good idea to actively involve your child when deciding on the daily routine so that they feel part of the process. Be sure to factor in downtime and activities that will help your child manage transitions.
How can I help my child develop a routine today?
Some children respond well to seeing a written schedule. You may even want to create a daily chart which clearly outlines the day’s activities so your child knows what to expect. This makes it easier to stick to the routine and may even make it easier to plan for the unexpected.
It takes patience and understanding to raise a happy and well-adjusted child with Asperger’s Syndrome. It also requires the acceptance that no two children are alike. Your child’s condition does not define who they are. What parenting tips did you find most effective when raising your special child? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.
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