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Strategies for Raising a Child with Aspergers Syndrome

Posted by National Autism Network , in Autism Awareness News, Autism Treatment News 26 July 2013 · 2,542 views

aspergers aspergers syndrome
Strategies for Raising a Child with Aspergers Syndrome Asperger Syndrome is a neurological disorder that most resembles High-Functioning Autism (HFA), PDD-NOS, and Nonverbal Learning Disorder.1 The disorder was not officially recognized until 1994, so there are discrepancies between the amounts of individuals with the Asperger’s. The estimated prevalence level for Asperger's is 2.5 for every 1,000 persons, which would make the current estimated total population of individuals with Asperger’s 784,750, based on 2012 U.S. Census Bureau data.2 Since the disorder is marked by social deficits, and by definition is not accompanied by visible language and or intellectual delays, children are typically diagnosed later at an average of 6 years and 3 months compared with 4 years for an autism diagnosis.3-4 These difficulties with social interactions can cause individuals with Asperger’s to isolate themselves from the world. The following are some tips from experts, parents, and individuals with Asperger’s on how to motivate your child to a more rewarding lifestyle.

1. Get Informed!
As a parent you should learn as much as you can about Asperger’s Syndrome as possible before taking any steps to intervene in your child’s social life. Once you have familiarized yourself with the disorder, determine what triggers your child’s disruptive behavior and what yields a positive response.5 A better understanding of your child’s diagnosis will help you to prevent meltdowns, seek out more appropriate treatments, and provide better supports.

2. Nurture Your Child’s Abilities
Individuals with Asperger’s often have normal or exceptional intelligence levels. They are also prone to being obsessed with one subject for hours a day, years at a time.6 When practical, these interests should be nurtured when identified to develop their talents in this particular area or interest. These talents may not only lead to a rewarding career in that specific field, but could also help your child earn the respect of their classmates because of his/her unique ability.6

3. Teach Strategies for Reducing Stress
Children with Asperger’s can often focus on the complexities of a mundane task, such as homework, and focus on it to the point that they cause themselves stress. Danny Raede, co-founder of the site Autism Experts, offers the following tips for possible ways to reduce stressors in your child’s life7:
  • Chunking is the act of taking a list of similar tasks and putting them together under one umbrella term. For example, an individual with Asperger’s may look at their to do list and under homework think about it as having to do thirty math problems, read 55 pages for history, and write a 500-word essay for English. Breaking things down in this way can cause someone to feel like they have more on their plate than they can handle and they start becoming stressed. Utilizing the chunking technique, a child with autism would simply look at their tasks as having to do homework or their chores as a bulk item.
  • Reduce Sensations by avoiding large crowds, loud, uncontrollable noises, bright lights, and overwhelming smells. Children with Asperger’s can be hypersensitive to the environment around them and too much exposure to certain elements can cause them to trigger a meltdown.
  • Be Healthy by doing the typical things any individual does to stay in shape, such as proper dieting, exercising on a regular basis, and sufficient sleep.

4. Use Literal Language/Learn Non-Verbal Cues
Individuals on with Asperger’s often interpret language literally. Until you are positive your child is able to differentiate between the literal and figurative language you should avoid using idioms, double meanings, sarcasm, nicknames, or “cute” name such as pal or buddy.8 Parents may be able to pick up on their child’s nonverbal clues used to communicate any number of messages. Pay attention to the kind of sounds you child makes or the facial expressions they use when they are tired, hungry, upset, etc.5

5. Create a Schedule and Stick to it
Danny Raede of Asperger Experts believes that creating a schedule can help motivate an individual to remain focused, look forward to their day, and even reduce stress. Your schedule should look typical, but should be timed in a way that there is minimal down time for your child’s mind to wander and to get off task.7 During IEP meetings you should suggest that your child’s transitions throughout the day are minimized.8 Within the schedule you should include an hour long “decompression” time after school in which your child unwinds from the day. The team at Asperger Experts recommends you have your child utilize this time by doing non-electronic tasks, such as reading a book, just sitting on the porch or playing outside.7 The schedule should conclude with fun time after dinner, which should help motivate your child to complete their homework and other chores earlier in the day.  This routine may take a little while to get used, but should yield benefits down the road.

6. Reward Good Behavior
Positive reinforcement is a technique that is generally thought of as “the most effective behavior management strategy in dealing with challenging behaviors of children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome.10 Positive reinforcement involves giving a child a reward after he/she completes a task as an incentive to fulfill a desired behavior. A positive reinforcer can be something that has motivated your child in the past and can come in the form of free time, preferred activities, special food treats, privileges, or desired objects.10

Conclusion
The most important thing any parent can do for their child is to love them for who they are—quirks and all.5 The mountain you have to climb as a parent with a child with Asperger’s may seem a higher, but it will make reaching the summit much more rewarding. As a parent you must be patient and work with your child so that he/she is able to develop the necessary social skills to interact as an independent adult in day-to-day life. Teach your child to be proud of their differences and to take the challenges he/she may face one day at a time. Like all good parents, be sure that your child knows that you love them and that you will do everything in your power to assure they live healthy, independent, and productive lives.

Additional Resources/Further Reading:
  • Asperger Experts- This site is co-founded by Danny Raede and Hayden Mears who were diagnosed with Asperger’s at 12 and 5, respectively. The site offers real world advice and tips from individuals who live their day-to-day lives on the spectrum.
  • The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP)- The mission of GRASP is to improve the lives of adults and tends on the autism spectrum through community outreach, peer supports, education, and advocacy. GRASP works at the national and local level with a network of peer-run support and online groups that help adults and teenagers on the autism spectrum.


References:
1.    “What is Asperger Syndrome?” Asperger’s Association of New England. 2013. Accessed July 24, 2013. http://www.aane.org/...r_syndrome.html.
2.    Stöppler, Melissa Conrad. “Asperger’s Syndrome (Asperger Syndrome, Asperger Disorder).” MedicineNet.com. July 11, 2013. Accessed July 24, 2013. http://www.medicinen...ome/article.htm.
3.    Elder, Lauren. “Why the Delay in Asperger Diagnosis?” Autism Speaks, Inc. (Got Questions? Blog), September 21, 2012. Accessed July 24, 2013. http://www.autismspe...erger-diagnosis.
4.    Baio, Jon. “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders – Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, United States, 2008.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), March 30, 2012. Accessed July 24, 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/m...cid=ss6103a1_w.
5.    “Overcoming the Challenges of Raising Apsergers Children.” My Aspergers Child. May 2012. Accessed July 24, 2013. http://www.myasperge...of-raising.html.
6.    Brasic, James Robert. “Pervasive Developmental Disorder: Asperger Syndrome.” eMedicine. April 10, 2006. Accessed July 24, 2013. http://www.aspennj.o...al-disorder.pdf.
7.    Raede, Danny. The 3 Essentials for a Thriving Aspergers Life. Asperger Experts, 2013. Web. Accessed July 25, 2013. http://www.aspergere...ion/1-thriving/.
8.    Williams, Karen. "Understanding the Student with Asperger Syndrome: Guidelines for Teachers.”  FOCUS ON AUTISTIC BEHAVIOR 10, no. 2 (1995). Accessed July 25, 2013. http://www.aspennj.o...rs-syndrome.pdf.
9.    Moreno, Susan and Carol O’Neal. “Tips for Teaching High Functioning People with Autism.” MAAP Services, Inc. Accessed July 25, 2013.
10.   “Positive Reinforcement and Autism.” Synapse: Reconnecting Lives. Accessed July 25, 2013. http://www.autism-he...ment-autism.htm.





Mary Hughes
Jul 31 2013 09:30 AM
So important to just love your child for all of their quirks. It's what makes them unique.
I have definitely found these tips to be helpful with my Aspie.
Having aspergers- I can say these are pretty accurate.
My brother has Aspergers and I definitely agree that using literal language is important.