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Asperger's Parenting: Common Issues

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 3/23/2011

If you have a child with Asperger's syndrome, you may struggle day-to-day with parenting your child effectively. Common issues that crop up during Asperger's parenting include communication problems, inadequate social skills, inflexibility, and special interests that take over your child's life.

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    Communication

    When it comes to Asperger's, parenting can be accompanied by a slew of concerns. One of the most common concerns involves the child's communication issues. When you say something, no matter how clear you think you're being, your child may truly not understand your message. This is especially true with common metaphors and other turns of phrase that you may use without even realizing them. As a parent, this can be frustrating, until you realize why the miscommunication is occurring. To fix this, try to explicitly discuss what specific metaphors or idioms mean, and refrain from using any that you have not yet explained. Also, be as precise as possible when you speak to your child, and use pictures instead of words for explaining complicated tasks whenever possible. For some younger children, you may find that saying your words in a singsong manner can help them pay closer attention and understand what you have said.

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    Social Skills

    An outgrowth of the communication problems that a child may have is insufficient social skills. For example, your child may see to be talking "at" you instead of "to" you, and this can turn off his or her peers from initiating interactions. Your child's body language or facial expressions may seem odd to other children as well. More importantly, they may not be able to read the social cues that other kids send out, which means they respond to those cues inappropriately. They may not even see the need for friends, seeing them as merely objects in the environment rather than people to share information and experiences with.

    To help them with social issues, try to model taking turns as much as possible at home, both in games and in daily life. Explicitly discuss with them different strategies they can use in various social situations; for example, explain to them how to interact at a birthday party before they go or give them words to respond to teasing with. Social skills groups can also be helpful to people with Asperger's syndrome. (See Resources section to find out about these groups.)

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    Inflexibility

    Parenting children with Asperger's syndrome means making and sticking to schedules, or paying the price. Children with Asperger's often insist on a rigid routine, and something as simple as the "wrong" cereal for breakfast can send them into a tantrum or a slump. In order to help them become more flexible, try to warn them ahead of time when changes are going to occur. Stick to a routine to keep them feeling secure, but don't shield them from changing situations; doing so will strengthen their belief that the details of life should stay the same.

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    Obsessions

    Many children with Asperger's syndrome also obsess about one specific topic - from computers to dinosaurs to sewer systems. Parents of children with Asperger's may have a hard time enjoying the time spent with their children if all that they are hearing about is how the city sewer system works. You can try to limit the time that they spend on this interest by carving out some time each day that they can talk to you about it, and banning the subject for the rest of the day. This may also help children be more social as well, since they will be able to focus on other matters besides their overwhelming interest.

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    Where to Get Help

    When it comes to Asperger's, parenting is toughest when it is experienced alone. You may feel like the only person going through these struggles, and knowing that there are other parents out there that share the same issues can help you get through the situations that crop up. That's where a support group - meeting either in person or online - can come in helpful. The site childrensdisabilities.info has a list of support groups that run the gamut, from more general groups for parents of Aspies to specific groups that deal with one or several issues that Asperger's parents might have, such as helping your child through diet changes.

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    References

    OASIS@MAAP. "Asperger Syndrome."http://www.aspergersyndrome.org/Articles/Asperger-Syndrome.aspx

    Your Little Professor. "The Asperger's Teen." http://www.yourlittleprofessor.com/teen.html

    http://www.childrensdisabilities.info/autism/groups-autism-asperger.html

All About Asperger's Syndrome Children

People are often confused about how to help kids with Asperger's syndrome. Children with Asperger's syndrome require specialized techniques. This series of articles discusses how to address several issues with your child who has Asperger's syndrome.
  1. Asperger's Parenting: Common Issues
  2. Using Anger Management for Kids with Asperger's Syndrome