Aspergers Syndrome - Help and Advice
This article offers guidance for families with a child who has been diagnosed with, or is suspected to suffer with, Aspergers Syndrome. It offers helpful ideas on how to support the child, and help them meet their potential.
Aspergers Syndrome is understood by many professionals in the field of child development, to be a form of higher functioning Autism. It is described as a triad of impairments, namely problems with
a) social communication b) social relating c) imagination / imaginative play.
Problems with change, need for routines and extreme anxiety when they are compromised, are also common features of this syndrome. Further signs may be difficulties with reciprocal (two way) conversation and difficulties with empathic responses to others (i.e. lacking emotional understanding).
Usually, a person with Aspergers Syndrome can be supported to find ways of adapting to the challenges of their diagnosis. They tend to progress within a context where pro - social activity and peer relationship building can be gently encouraged, over their developing years. Such individuals can benefit from;
1. social skills training, to learn about how to establish, maintain and (where required) repair friendship situations. Where this occurs as part of a group of children with similar social needs (not necessarily having ASD diagnoses), this can be most helpful. Being in a group situation, the child can be supported with learning how to co - operate and take turns.
2. For younger children, small playgroups may support the child with Aspergers to meet peers and persist in socialising behaviour. Thought should be given to make free time at school feel like a more enjoyable experience. Children will need encouragement to play with others, rather than spend time playing alone.
3. Parents can be supported to explain and model to their child how to play/share with siblings or other children in the extended family. All too often, parents may feel embarrassed by their child's behaviour, and feel they have no option but to isolate their child so that problems are managed. However, this comfort zone serves only to take away important opportunities for practice.
4. For example, if the child behaves in a hurtful manner towards others, there is an opportunity to offer a consistent consequence (e.g. a few minutes time out) during or soon after the hurtful behaviours are observed. Alternatively, pro - social behaviour can be praise and rewarded.
5. On a similar point, parents can explain to their child what is desirable behaviour and what is unacceptable behaviour. By using rewards and sanctions, with pictorial targets, desirable behaviour can be shaped, and unwanted behaviour can be reduced. Such boundaries and rules often help the child feel less anxious, and by extension, help them behave in a calmer manner.
6. Children with Aspergers can also benefit from anxiety management training, and guidance in terms of how to develop and use self - soothing strategies, at times of distress. Relaxation tapes, with soothing melodies and sounds, are readily available in bookshops on the high street.
7. Skills training in the recognition and expression of emotions (particularly hurt feelings, anxious feelings and angry feelings) can also be greatly beneficial. Books and posters with feelings faces, can be an invaluable aide. By asking the child to point at a face that shows how they feel, emotional communication can be encouraged.
8. Children can be prompted to maintain eye contact during conversation, whilst giving or receiving information. A gentle hand on their shoulder, or calling them in a reassuring manner to look towards you as you speak, can be helpful.
9. Parents should access the National Autistic Society for further information, or to be placed them in contact with local support groups.
Dr Bobby Sura Consultant Clinical Psychologist www.clinicalpsychologydirect.com
About the author:
Dr Bobby Sura is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, specialising in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. He works both in the public (NHS) and private sector, being the proprietor of Clinical Psychology Direct. Dr Sura is Chartered with the British Psychological Society (BPS) and is also registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and Association of Family Therapy (AFT).