- Parenting Classes for Parents of Kids With Asperger's
- How to Handle Meltdowns in Asperger's Children
- What Happens to Kids With Asperger's When Things Change?
- Social Group Ideas for Kids With Asperger's
- How to Give Consequences to Children With Asperger's
- Effective Teaching Practices for Children With Asperger's
Many of the educational and social support programs designed to help children and teens with Asperger's syndrome learn more age-appropriate behaviors include training for parents on how to support their children at home. The Autism Speaks website explains that these types of programs use highly structured activities to teach social skills and help reinforce the behaviors that will allow a child to achieve independence. Training classes also focus on how to help individuals with Asperger’s control their emotions and repetitive behaviors. The number of resources and hands-on training programs available to help families deal with the needs of an Asperger's child depend on where you live.
The Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support center, known as OASIS, provides information for parents, medical professionals and individuals who deal with the challenges associated with Asperger's syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders. OASIS @ MAPP provides links to local and state agencies and organizations that offer assistance to individuals and families who need help in dealing with issues relating to the condition. The website also helps you find counselors, psychologists, therapists, school, clinics and parent groups near you. The types of government-funded programs and services available for autism spectrum disorders vary from state to state.
Talking to medical, mental health and educational professionals who have experience with kids with Asperger's syndrome can help you better understand your child's needs. Start with doctors and school counselors when trying to find the right programs for your child and guidance for yourself. Many communities offer education and training programs as well as support groups for parents and other family members at local hospitals and mental health clinics. According to KidsHealth, educational programs and training workshops for parents generally focus on teaching you how to support your child’s healthy development by helping her learn the skills she needs to be independent.
Conferences and seminars provide parents with the opportunities to network with medical professionals, educators and other parents. Through its conferences, the U.S. Autism and Asperger Association educates, trains and circulates information about the treatments, therapies, interventions and services available to the Asperger's community. Conferences feature professional experts and researchers who work in the field of autism spectrum disorders. For parents who are unable to attend conferences outside of their home areas, the USAAA provides a video archive of shortened versions of many of its conferences on Facebook and YouTube. You can also order videos of the full conferences. USAAA TV is an additional resource that provides information to parents.
Remove your child from an area that could cause harm or in which your child could harm others. Avoid a room with objects your child could throw or take your child away from glass that could break from a forceful kick. According to the website Autism Causes, avoiding injury should be the top priority for handling a meltdown.
Use physical restraint, if necessary. Some physical restraint methods do not cause physical harm to your child. By swooping your arms over your child's arms from behind, threading your arms between your child's arms and side and placing your hands on your child's back, you restrain your child's arms without causing harm or injury. Hugging your child's legs below the knees allows you to restrain his legs and prevent him from kicking you or another person. Talk to your doctor or your child’s therapist about proper restraint methods.
Hold your child, rock him or put on a weighted vest to help comfort your child. Weighted vests are made for children with autism and other sensory disorders, and they provide a comforting heaviness or "hug" feeling to your child, which promotes calm. According to Care.com, kids don’t engage in meltdowns for attention, and children feel out of control when they are in the middle of a meltdown. Wait for your child to calm down or talk him through the meltdown in a soothing voice -- ask your child to breathe deeply with you or count to 10.
Attempt to divert your child’s attention. As you distract your child with a toy or a puzzle, talk softly to him about his behavior. Stay calm while you talk to your child and remind him about which behaviors are acceptable or not acceptable -- use the same language you use when you explain rules to your child.
Discipline your child with positive reinforcement. Your reinforcement can be as simple as saying, “It only took five minutes for you to calm down. I’m so proud of you!” Consider giving your child a cracker or a sticker in a sticker chart after he calms down.
Things You Will Need
- Toy or puzzle
- Weighted vest or blanket
Avoid meltdowns before they occur. According to Autism Causes, kids learn that they don’t want to have meltdowns -- they sometimes just can’t help it. You will begin to recognize your child’s triggers so you can avoid circumstances that cause stress for your child. If you know you’re going to be in a public place that might trigger a meltdown in your child, prepare your child in advance by talking about the trip. Talk to your child regularly about what behavior you expect of him. You can use this language to remind your child of appropriate behavior when you talk him out of a meltdown.
Asperger’s and Routines
In order to understand what happens to these children when there are unexpected changes, it is important to know why they require routines in the first place. Children with Asperger’s syndrome can process their environment much better if they know what to expect. They tend to have excellent rote memory skills, notes the Autism Society, so remembering an established routine is easy and comfortable.
Reactions to Change
If an expected routine is disrupted without notice, children with Asperger’s syndrome can become very anxious or upset. Young children may throw a temper tantrum and older children may even become violent, throwing objects and lashing out at people. Since another hallmark of Asperger’s syndrome is difficulty with expressive language, anxiety in these children often manifests itself in physical ways, according to a 2012 article on the website, Medical News Today.
Helping Your Child Deal with Change
Change is inevitable, so parents of children with Asperger’s syndrome need to be able to help their child deal with interruptions in routine. If possible, notify the child ahead of time that there will be a change. Be specific, and walk the child through the steps that will lead to the change. Identify those parts of the routine that will stay the same: “You will get up, get dressed and have breakfast like you always do.” Then describe the specific change: “Then, we’ll go to the doctor’s office before you go to school. You will get to school just before lunch instead of getting there at homeroom time.”
When an unexpected change occurs, explain to your child exactly what is happening and why. Let him know that you know this is a change, and you know that it may be upsetting. Let him know that the change is specific and will not impact the rest of his day. For example, you might say, “The restaurant is out of cheeseburgers today, so we are going to have macaroni and cheese instead. I will have it too. We will still sit at the same table and have the same drink like we always do.” Depending on the situation, it may be helpful to offer a choice: “If you don’t want to have macaroni and cheese, we can go home and eat at home today.”
Self-Regulating When Things Change
It will also be helpful to talk to your child about dealing with change. As he grows up, he will need to deal with change on his own. Explaining changes before or as they happen, and explaining how you are going to help your child deal with the change, will help him develop these skills for himself.
Social Group Meetings
A group of six to eight kids with Asperger’s who are about the same age will make a perfect social group. It is best to find kids with differing interests. If you have two or three kids who perseverate on Civil War history, for example, you may find that it is impossible to shift the conversation to other topics. Include both boys and girls in the group, if possible. Since Asperger’s is much more common in boys, you may not find many girls. If you do, try to have at least two girls in the group.
Encourage the group to participate in social events at their school, such as dances. They can practice together and attend the event together, providing support to one another. Local sporting events can provide a way for kids to have short interactions with other kids, and guidance from an adult can often be provided without calling attention to the child.
Taking a field trip to a nearby destination is a great way for kids with Asperger’s to practice their social interactions. The adult leaders of the group can prepare the kids ahead of time so they will know what to expect, and they can role play situations they may encounter. Before taking a trip to a farm, for example, the kids might think about whether they would want to milk a cow -- and if so -- how they might ask the farmer to show them how to do it. Other opportunities for field trips include local historical sites, or factories that give tours.
Events for Asperger’s Kids
AMC Movie Theaters have sensory-friendly film showings once a month. Films are shown with the lights up and the sound turned down, and the audience is welcome to get up and walk around, or even dance or sing. Kids with Asperger’s syndrome or other autism spectrum disorders can enjoy the experience of seeing a movie in a theater in a comfortable, non-threatening way.
Calm your child before giving any consequences, suggests Autism Support Network. If your child is in the middle of a fit, your lessons will go in one ear and out the other. Talk your child through a calming process by breathing with him or instructing him to count to ten. You might want to provide a light touch or hug to give your child a sense of security.
Talk to your child about his behavior in a concrete manner, as suggested by Bright Tots. For example, say, “I see you got upset because you wanted the blue cup, not the orange one.” When your child agrees, ask him what his reaction was to getting the “wrong cup” -- instruct him that next time, instead of throwing the cup across the room, he needs to ask for the blue cup. This process gives your child an alternative to the inappropriate behavior that might come as second nature to him.
Set clear limits and follow through with consequences, according to Asperger's Association of New England. When you notice your child acting inappropriately, first give a warning -- say, “If you don’t stop hitting your sister, you get a time out!” If your child continues with poor behavior, give the time out you warned about. This process teaches cause and effect to your child.
Make your child engage in tangible activities to say “sorry.” According to Autism Support Network, just saying “sorry” doesn’t mean much to a child with Asperger’s. If your child has hit his sister, for example, he must clean up his sister’s room, share a toy or make an apology card. Similar consequences, such as tidying up a room, helping make dinner or washing dishes, are often more helpful than time outs for children with Asperger's.
Outline rules and expectations in a clear manner, as kids with Asperger’s thrive on structure and routines, according to Autism Support Network. Use simple language and short sentences, and consider using visual representations of rules to solidify your child’s understanding. Use rewards to improve behavior -- for instance a sticker chart, or even a simple hug from Mom.
Maintain a Consistent Routine
Children with Asperger's tend to adhere to routines; change is upsetting to them. When teaching these children, it is critical to maintain a routine and to minimize transitions. If a routine needs to change, notify the child ahead of time to prepare him for it. Provide a predictable routine in the classroom, and a predictable routine for homework.
Work With the Child’s Strengths
A preoccupation in a specific area is a hallmark of Asperger's syndrome. If a child has an obsessive area of interest, he might want to talk about it incessantly. In some cases, teachers can use the child’s specific interests as a teaching tool. If a child with Asperger's has an obsession with dinosaurs, for example, using dinosaur manipulatives to teach math will help him focus on the subject. If it is not possible to integrate the interest into the lesson, it might be used as a reward for completing the task. If you cannot capitalize on the obsession, restricting the time at which the child can discuss this topic might help him focus on the day’s learning.
Knowing that children with Asperger's typically have average or above-average intelligence, parents and teachers are often surprised to see them do poorly in school. The reason is not the inability to understand the work, but the lack of organization skills and focus that the work requires. Providing as much structure as possible and breaking the tasks down into smaller parts might help, as may positive reinforcement or a reward for completing an assignment. In the classroom, place the child in the front of the room and have a nonverbal signal that the teacher can use to tell the child that he needs to re-focus his attention.
Be Aware of Social Struggles
Children with Asperger's tend to be socially awkward. They find it difficult to interact with other children, although they might be able to more easily interact with adults. It might help to teach the other children in the class about the disorder, and to employ an empathetic classmate as a "buddy" to watch out for the child with Asperger's. Allowing the child with Asperger's to help his classmates in a subject that is a particular strength might foster his acceptance among his peers.