With the right support, a child with Asperger's can go far.
I should know. I have Asperger's, but thanks to the support of my parents (and some hard work), I have overcome many of the challenges of Asperger's.
If your child has Asperger's or a similar condition, you play a pivotal role in leading your child to success. Read on to learn how my parents helped me, and how you can help your child succeed too!
Don't try to make them “normal”
Many parents want their Aspie children to be 100% normal – no stimming, no quirky jokes, no special interests. This forces the Aspie children to fit a mold that was not made for them, and can lead to conflict between parent and child.
Instead, work with your child to figure out when they can express their Aspie side and when they need to be more like other children. For instance, my parents helped me learn that learned that stimming at home is ok, and in public is not. Or they helped show me the difference between times when my quirky Aspie humor is appropriate (like with friends) and times when it was not (with a teacher.)
In other words, work with your child to learn appropriate behaviors, while still giving them opportunities to indulge their Aspie quirks.
Make learning social skills fun
Studying is often a bore – and social skills are no exception. Nobody wants to spend their time looking at flash cards for facial expressions when they could be playing.
But you can help your kid enjoy learning social skills – just make a game of it. My parents would watch movies with me and let me pause the movie to ask questions about social undertones that I did not understand. This let me combine a fun experience (watching a movie) with a learning experience. Create a similar fun/learning combination for your Aspie child, and they will be much more invested in learning social skills. For instance, you might practice conversation while building a yummy sandwich together.
Be careful of sensory overload
Have you ever had a dream where you are back in school and you can't find your classroom to take your final exam – and by the way, you didn't study all semester? The intense stress and fear you felt in that dream is what a sensory overload feels like for a kid with Asperger's.
If your child is misbehaving because of sensory overload, don't discipline them or tell them to behave – they literally can't. Instead, remove them from the source of the sensory overload. Go sit in the car, or in the restroom, or give them earplugs. Don't get upset, and give them time to calm down.
Sensory overload can be overcome – tolerance can be built up by exposure to moderate amounts of stimuli that increase over time. But when your kid is having a meltdown, that's not the time to tell them to shape up or tough it out – give them some grace.
With these tips, you'll be better equipped to help your Aspie child achieve social success. But of course, this advice is only the beginning. Share your own ideas in the comments -- what has worked for you and the Aspies in your family?