How to Improve Communication With a Teen Child With Asperger's

Asperger's syndrome, a pervasive developmental disorder, can make it hard for teens to communicate effectively with others 1. According to Cigna, a company of healthcare professionals who provide medical advice and insurance, Asperger’s syndrome -- a lifelong condition with symptoms that may improve over time -- can also involve poor social skills and an aversion to change 1. Teens who are diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome find it incredibly difficult to socialize and communicate because they lack the ability to relate to others as well as the ability to express their feelings 1.

Keep your instructions simple, easy to understand and directly to the point, advises the Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE). Teens with Asperger’s find it difficult to recognize verbal cues, which makes it difficult for them to understand complex directions as well as long and involved conversations. For example, if you want your teen to clean her room before dinner, say “Please clean your room before dinner,” rather than something like, “Sweetie, I need you to clean your room before dinner. I have so much on my plate today between work and keeping you kids on track and I really want the house to be in order before your grandparents arrive. Can you do that for me, please?”

Involve your teen in a few role-playing games to help him understand how to communicate in certain situations, advises Cigna. Teens with Asperger’s have trouble understanding physical cues, such as facial expressions and body language, and role-play can help him learn to recognize some of those. You can pretend to be a teacher who is mad or a peer who is happy to demonstrate how those types of emotions are usually shown through body language and facial expressions. Doing this regularly can help improve his ability to communicate, not only with you but with others as well.

Communicate rules and chores with lists, advises the AANE. Asperger’s syndrome makes the written word easier for teens to understand than verbal communication 1. If you want your teen to have chores or do certain things every morning before school, put it on a list and hang that list in his room or on a bulletin board in the kitchen. Seeing this list regularly will help her remember what is expected of her, without having to ask her repeatedly to do things.

Talk to your teen while you are walking side by side rather than face to face, advises AANE. Teens with Asperger’s are usually more comfortable carrying on conversations when they don’t have to make eye contact with the person to whom they are speaking, which can be uncomfortable and awkward for someone suffering from this developmental disorder. Carry on your important conversations while you are in the car and your teen is sitting in the passenger seat. You have to keep your eyes on the road so eye contact is out of the question. This can help you communicate more easily with your teen.