As of May 2013, Asperger’s syndrome and other developmental disorders were rolled into the global diagnosis of autistic disorder. Yet it remains helpful to understand Asperger’s as a separate and distinct disorder that lies on the high-functioning end of the autistic spectrum. Asperger’s kids have above-average, sometimes genius-level intelligence and do not suffer from the language delays common in other autistic disorders. Yet the condition often causes difficulties throughout the life span. While short-term goals are important, you should also consider your Asperger’s child’s long-term prospects.
Asperger’s Strengths and Challenges
All children with Asperger’s syndrome are individuals, and not every child will display every strength or challenge. Nonetheless, some behaviors are extremely common among children with Asperger’s syndrome. Asperger’s kids are generally intelligent, detail-oriented, highly verbal and independent. They are typically nonjudgmental, loyal, honest and direct. They are usually visual learners and are deeply interested in the process of learning. However, they have trouble with communication skills, and often find themselves unable to effectively communicate their message or figure out what someone else is trying to say. They tend to narrowly focus on a few restricted areas of interest. They have trouble showing empathy or understanding others’ emotional states. They may not see the big picture and often have difficulty motivating themselves. Many Asperger’s kids have sensory integration challenges that make them extremely sensitive to lighting, sounds and textures.
Self-Care and Management
Fully-functioning, independent adults are skilled at self-care and self-management. They can soothe their own feelings, maintain their personal hygiene, care for their physical health and seek appropriate medical care when needed. They can manage time and money, create good sleep habits and take care of the errands of daily life. Asperger’s syndrome makes many of these basic self-care tasks more challenging, and some Asperger’s adults are never able to live independently. Integrate these lessons into your child’s long-term goal planning. Make sure your child learns the rules for each task and has plenty of opportunities for practice throughout his teen years.
Career and Hobbies
Many people with Asperger’s syndrome struggle with employment. Sensory issues can make many workplaces feel overwhelming. A lack of motivation for tasks outside the restricted areas of interest can mean that job duties pile up. Difficulty with time management and transitions can mean that Asperger’s adults have trouble getting everything accomplished in a day. However, people with Asperger’s syndrome can also become very successful. As part of your child’s long-term goal planning, help her channel her interests and knowledge into a viable career path. Help her identify work environments that support, rather than challenge, her needs. Also help her determine which passions and interests could be developed into rewarding hobbies to help fill her time outside of work hours.
Social and Community
Many people with Asperger’s syndrome suffer the most in unstructured social situations. This can impact their adult lives in areas ranging from dating to office parties. They may struggle to meet neighbors, feel uncomfortable participating in networking events or even have difficulty volunteering with their kids’ activities. They may have trouble attracting and keeping a romantic partner, making lasting friendships and supporting their children emotionally. Set long-term goals that include teaching your child to manage social situations, project confidence and make small talk. Also focus on active listening techniques, sharing feelings and demonstrating empathy.