Teenage years can be extremely awkward for youngsters with Asperger’s syndrome. However, there are a number of ways they can improve their social skills and learn to fit in.
Teenage Culture and Asperger’s Syndrome
Young people with Asperger’s are disadvantaged in a teenage world that is largely about social groups, interaction, acceptance and fitting in. Teaching social skills for Asperger’s teens is a vital part of helping them through this stage. This can be done through therapy, by family members working with them, and teens with Asperger’s helping themselves by working on their weaknesses.
Improving Social Skills for Asperger’s Teens
There are a number of areas where Asperger’s teens display weaknesses in social skills. Here are some suggestions of how a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome can learn to cope socially, make friends and feel as though they fit in:
- Teenage friendships are often based on shared interests. These can include anything from sports and hobbies to academic interests and charitable causes. A teen with Asperger’s often has a specific interest that may border on an obsession. This interest is a good starting place to look for friends. The teen could join clubs and groups that are based on the interest and will often meet a like-minded person who they can develop a friendship with.
- Teenage conversation is animated and involves a lot of arm movements, gestures and facial expressions. They also put a lot of emphasis on certain words when speaking. One of the symptoms of Asperger’s is the inability to understand body language and facial expressions and this will set them apart from other teens. However, it is possible for them to learn the meaning of different tones, postures and expressions convey. This can be done through formal training, observation, and interaction with teenage siblings. The result will be improved social skills – even though these will be more academic than intuitive.
- Allowing an Asperger’s teen to have a pet can be helpful. Animals, especially dogs are accepting and responsive and a teen can build a close bond with them. The pet becomes a friend at home and can be cuddled, talked to and even when ignored will still be faithful to its owner. This seems to help Asperger’s teens with human bonding and friendship.
- Online friends are becoming more and more common and although one needs to be careful, this can be an ideal way for Asperger’s teens to socialize. Social networks such as Facebook and Bebo are becoming more popular and there are hundreds of online chat rooms. Online interaction does away with the issues of body language and speech problems that are a part of Asperger’s syndrome.
- Fashion is a part of social skills for Asperger’s teens. Every teen group has its own fashion code and certain items of clothing are part of this. A wise parent will encourage their Asperger’s teen to dress fashionably and will provide some basic items of clothing that will help them to fit in. A pair of branded jeans are a good starting point, and accessories and makeup will add to the effect. Many stores offer fashion makeovers and will advise on cosmetics and hair as well. Asperger’s teens can benefit greatly from these services which are often free.
Social skills for Asperger’s teens are extremely important and can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. With practical help and advice, most teens can improve the way they interact with their peers and can also learn to dress fashionably. They may not have a large group of friends but even one or two companions can make a huge difference to their self-esteem and enjoyment of life.
The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007