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Teens and adults with Asperger’s have to face a lot of challenges in their daily life. Their difficulties in social and communication skills can interfere with their ability to get along and work with people in school, college or at work. They can be teased, bullied and misunderstood. In addition they have difficulties if their teachers or employers are not able understand their needs or make modifications and adaptations to help them. This can lead to difficulties coping with stress. As a result, people with Asperger's frequently suffer from depression.
Support groups can address all of these difficulties. They are basically a group of people who meet regularly to support and encourage each other. Asperger's syndrome support groups are of different kinds, and different groups cater to different needs. Some groups may serve more than one purpose. Here are some of the various types of Asperger's syndrome support groups. Find out more about how they help people with Asperger’s.
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Some groups aim at improving specific skills that will help the person with Asperger’s cope better with daily life. These groups are usually lead by a therapist or counselor. Two examples of therapy groups are social skills groups and stress management groups. However, the therapist may conduct other groups also, based on the needs of the Asperger’s clients.
Improving Social Skills:
Social skills training involves practicing and improving social skills. The therapist will help break up social skills into smaller components and practice various skills with a variety of activities. This group will also give an opportunity for clients with Asperger’s to talk about specific issues that they are facing, and find solutions for them. This type of group helps clients cope better with social interaction in their daily life.
Stress is a problem that everyone faces in their life. However, people with Asperger’s find it a lot more difficult to cope with stress. The therapist will teach various stress management techniques in this group like relaxation techniques, journal writing, deep breathing, exercise etc.. There will be many opportunities for the group members to practice the various skills in the group setting. The therapist will help the members to integrate these stress management techniques into their daily schedule. The group members will also be able to share about how they are using these techniques and how it is impacting their lives. This group will help members cope with stressful situations, and not fall into depression easily.
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Groups with Mentors:
Another model for Asperger’s syndrome support groups is a support group with mentors. Each group may have one or more mentors who help to support and guide people with Asperger’s. In the group, the adults or teens with Asperger’s share their difficulties, and challenges. The mentors help the clients by encouraging them through difficult situations and suggesting ideas for change. The mentors may also play an important role in guiding them in the areas of career and relationships. Mentors may just be a friend or supportive family member and can be chosen by the group members. This group helps adults with Asperger’s have a focused and purposeful life.
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Activity groups are Asperger's syndrome support groups where adults and teens meet over an activity that may interest them. The activity could be a trip to a park, a museum, or even a dance class. The activity provides a comfortable environment for the group members to interact without feeling forced to talk. At the same time, regular meetings help the group members to get familiar with each other, and slowly practice various social skills. Such a group can also eventually become a platform for them to share their difficulties and challenges and support each other.
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Groups for Sharing:
These groups are usually a group of Asperger’s adults who meet to share about their lives to each other. These groups may sometimes invite a therapist or counselor for a talk on a specific subject that they feel they need help with. However, usually these groups just provide a time when people with Asperger’s can meet others who are going through the same difficulties, and share. They also share information about local resources including health care resources, jobs, and good employers.
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Online Support Groups
In today’s world, the Internet helps people from far off places to come together on one platform. There are quite a few online Asperger's syndrome support groups that aim to bring people with Asperger’s from different places together. These groups are especially good for people who live in remote areas, or people with Asperger’s who are not yet ready to be a part of a local support group. These online support groups also help to exchange ideas, tips and suggest solutions to each other. Here are a couple of online support groups that might be useful:
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Finding a Local Support Group:
The Internet makes it easier to find a local support group, and meet other people with Asperger’s in your area. Here are a couple of websites to help you find local support groups:
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Lorna Wing, Asperger syndrome: a clinical account, http://www.mugsy.org/wing2.htm
Ami Klin and Fred R. Volkmar, Asperger Syndrome: Treatment and Intervention, http://www.aspergersyndrome.org/Articles/Asperger-Syndrome---Treatment-and-Intervention.aspx
Lawrence A.. Welkowitz and Linda J. Baker, Supporting College Students with Asperger.s Syndrome, http://welkowitz.typepad.com/aspergers_conversations/files/CollegeChapter.pdf
In addition to these reference, the writer has used her own experience as an occupational therapist to write this article.