Nurturing Your Asperger’s Child

by Phyllis Wheeler

You want to find out more about Asperger’s Syndrome, which is more and more common these days. You are learning about what doctors are calling the autism spectrum, which ranges from odd-normal on the one hand to seriously impaired, especially socially, on the other. You desperately want to help your child move toward normalcy on the spectrum. Do not give up! It is quite possible that he can. You need to provide him with situations that will give him self-confidence. If you don’t, the world will deal him the opposite.

How do you increase his self-confidence? You can encourage his musical gifts. He may have exceptional musical talent–people on the autism spectrum often do. He may even have perfect pitch. If your child can enjoy music, or even excel at it, it will give him joy for the rest of his life. Now, how do you find the right teacher? The typical piano teacher may be intimidated by your child. But a music therapist wouldn’t be intimidated. Or perhaps you have a family member or family friend who knows the child and has the patience to teach him. You can build a requirement for daily practicing into your system of rewards for your child. You need to create such a system to encourage your child to do chores and homework.

Your child probably tends to isolate himself, and may love to talk and talk about one subject. Patience! During the middle school years, your child will probably begin to be more aware that he is being rejected socially. Finally, he may be motivated to try to change his ways! Look for this developmental stage, and when it arrives, do everything you can to teach your child social acceptability.

This might include:

* Social skills groups with other Aspies taught by a professional. (Speech therapists are stepping into this need; so are social workers specializing in coaching kids with learning disabilities.)

* Teach him skills yourself, planning the session out beforehand. You can set aside time every day to work on conversation skills, for example.

* Enrolling him in a school for kids with special needs. Such a school can teach him social skills in a supportive environment. Your child desperately needs coaching. If he is mainstreamed in a regular school, he may be exposed to bullying and may not get the coaching he needs.

A child who is bullied can feel the damage to his self-worth for the rest of his life.

Your child if mainstreamed may be getting a lot more negative interactions than positive ones. To find out, you may want to volunteer at your child’s school. If your child has an aide shadowing him, you can talk to the aide and ask him or her to protect your child from negative interactions with peers. Unfortunately, some negative teasing and bullying are tolerated in our culture. But they will be especially bad for your child, who can’t defend himself.

* Homeschooling may be another option for you. There is plenty of information on the Internet available for this.

* A private school for children with special needs may be available for you. Such a school probably tries to control most interactions between students.

To summarize, be sure to do all you can to protect your child’s feelings of self-worth.

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