Archive for the ‘Asperger’s’ Category
Social skills or lack thereof, is a key element of the diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder. Children struggle with understanding the ebb and flow of conversation and developing relationships are often a struggle and very painful for children. Here are a few simple tried and true ways for a child to start a conversation:
- “Hey”, “How are you doing?”, “What’s up?”, -something simple to get the conversation going. Even adults have to do this
- “How was your weekend?”, “Did you do anything or go anywhere?”
- “What did you watch on TV last night” or “Have you seen any good movies?”
Discussions with adults are a little trickier, but should start with something like, “Hi, Mr. Williams, how are you?”
Yes, these sound very simple, however starting and ending a conversation for an Asperger’s child is not that simple, so we have to start with something simple and work our way up slowly. To end a conversation, it should be just as easy. Some things that your child can say, which should be rehearsed with you the parent at home before they try them at school could be:
- “I have to get to class, so I will see you later”
- “I gotta go and get some homework done”
- “I have to catch the bus now”
Other things to start and end a conversation can be added to this list and whatever is on the list should be age appropriate. By rehearsing these starting and endings to a conversation, your Asperger’s child will feel alot less anxiety when they are faced with social interactions with their peers. A very good idea would also be to develop social starters and endings that your child can use in any situation such as at school, with adults, when out in public, ie… the grocery store.
School for the Asperger’s Child
By: Kara T. Tamanini M.S., LMHC
The school environment often presents a unique challenge for the child with Asperger’s syndrome. School is truly a balance between learning in class, class assignments, homework, and children socializing with each other. How teachers communicate information to them is of extreme importance, as is the school environment itself. The best way for a child with Asperger’s to learn is by breaking down assignments visually and structuring the classroom environment both aesthetically and by the way that assignments are presented to him/her. Understanding that communicating needs easily (especially when your child does not understand what is being taught) is often difficult for the child with Asperger’s.
Making sure that your child’s teacher understands the unique way that your child learns, whether it is through visual or verbal instruction in the classroom is of extreme importance to your child’s success in school. If your child’s teacher understands what your child’s individual strengths are in as far as learning and retaining information, then his/her teacher can build on that in the classroom. Often seen in children with Asperger’s syndrome is that they do better with instruction that is very concrete and literal rather than with concepts that are abstract in nature. Often when information is presented with visual aides and when the information is broken down in smaller pieces, the tasks seem less daunting.
Homework and class assignments can often be a source of extreme anxiety and frustration to a child with Asperger’s syndrome. In an effort to please and have everything “perfect”, they become anxiety-ridden in their attempt to complete assignments and homework without error. They will often also become anxious when a number of assignments are given to them and they are unsure of what and where to start first. Utilize your child’s teacher by having him/her break down the tasks on a chart and map out the times that assignments are due in class and also at home when homework is given. For example,
9:00-9:30- work on math problems in class
9:30-10:00-read over vocabulary words and memorize for test tomorrow
3:30-4:00-write down spelling words in agenda and study for spelling test
When class assignments and homework are marked down and they are able to see the work visually in their own “special folder”, the tasks become structured and the work and amount become less daunting.
The school itself for the Asperger’s child is often a big source of their anxiety. All schools for children with Asperger’s are filled with SENSORY experiences that will often put the child into “overload” by the end of the school day. This is often a common complaint reported by parents with children with Asperger’s syndrome. Often seen in Asperger’s children as well as children with Autism, is that they have significant sensitivities to noises, being touched by other students or by teachers, certain smells at school, and visuals. By the end of the school day, the actual combination of trying to conform to all of the social rules (remember they are very often “people pleasers”), complete class work, and the sensory overload often puts the child into meltdown mode.
There are a number of strategies or interventions that can be used that are highly effective if conveyed properly to your child’s school and teacher/s.
- 1.) Visual aides of the social rules or mores in the classroom are often helpful ie… respect each other, wait your turn, do not tease or make fun of others
- 2.) Students in class are given a written schedule of the day’s assignments and any changes to the schedule are conveyed to them in advance
- 3.) Keep the classroom door shut to cut down on the amount of noise in the classroom (remember children with Asperger’s are often very sensitive to loud noises
- 4.) Organize the classroom to be less cluttered so there are less distractions
- 5.) Have the intercom, phones, class bell in class turned down to a lower volume
Above all, keeping a structured environment whenever possible will provide your child with Asperger’s with the least amount of stress to bring about school success.
A common problem also seen in children with Asperger’s as well as seen with children with Autism are sensitivity to sensory experiences. A child with Asperger’s is often very sensitive to loud noises such as an airplane or an ambulance going by and they will often cover their ears. Some very common sensitivities seen in children are in smell, taste, sound, visual, and in touch.
A child with Asperger’s will often cry when they hear very loud sounds, certain smells will make them sick to their stomach, and they often become overwhelmed when they are trying to process too much visual information such as seen when they go on a shopping trip. Children with Asperger’s often are very sensitive to a lot of light and they often do not want to be touched and a hug or being patted on the head or on the back is often aversive to them.
A child with Asperger’s may also have difficulty making friends as they often miss social cues that are often inherent in children who do not have ADHD. They do not seem to understand nonverbal communications such as another child’s facial expression or the body language of the children around them. Social skills are often lacking and other children will often perceive them as abrupt and insensitive to others feeling. In addition, they are often very passionate about one or more particular areas, however can not relate when children talk about something that does not interest them. They do not accept change well and often seem inflexible to those around them.
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM IV (4th ed., text, revision), Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
Asperger’s syndrome, which is categorized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), under the Pervasive Developmental Disorders differs from Autism in the following ways.
1.) There are no significant delays in language
2.) There are no delays in their cognitive development
3.) No clinically significant delays in development in self-help skills
4.) No clinically significant delays in adaptive behaviors
5.) No delays in curiosity about the environment in childhood
The diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s syndrome are that the child must demonstrate impairment in social interaction as shown by at least two of the following:
- Impairment in the use of nonverbal behaviors(such as eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures) during social interaction
- Lack of development of relationships with their peers
- Failure to seek enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (ie.. a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people
- Failure to reciprocate emotions or social gestures
The child must also demonstrate restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
- Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal in intensity or focus
- Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
- Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (ie.. hand flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements
- Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects