Children with Asperger’s are seen as odd by others, can be misunderstood, and have difficulty interacting with parents. This article offers strategies.
Imagine Peter, a 5th grader, seated in the front of the class repeatedly arguing with his teacher on why physical education (PE) should take place before lunch rather than after. There is also Johnny, a high school student, who chooses to eat lunch in solitude, reads a book in the corner of the campus then heads off to class. Unfortunately, this is done on a daily basis. What do these two students have in common? They have been identified as having Asperger’s disorder.
Defining Asperger’s Disorder
Individuals with Asperger’s display deficits in socialization, communication, and behavior. These children often have difficulty making friends, show an intense fixation with certain topics, demonstrate repetitive behaviors, and show unusual speech patterns. These children are seen as “odd” by others, can easily be misunderstood, have difficulty interacting with parents and often times are rejected.
It is important for parents to further understand Asperger’s, so they will better support their child. Providing him or her with the needed tools will facilitate adaptation with the world at large. Unfortunately, there are many teachers who do not have the training or knowledge to help the child with Asperger’s. It must start with the parent providing the child with the behavior strategies needed to cope and further develop.
Behavior Intervention – Extinction
Behavior modification can help eliminate unwanted behaviors and teach adequate replacement behaviors. One intervention often used is extinction. With extinction, you are ignoring the annoying behavior while decreasing the unacceptable behavior. You must be persistent with ignoring the disruptive behavior.
An example would be an eight-year-old child with Asperger’s who slams his foot down and yells to get what he wants. When this action is done, you ignore the unwanted behavior by not giving in to his demands. You do not pay attention to this behavior. That is, do not give him eye contact, communication, or gestures. Stand firm.
When he chooses to show appropriate behavior, you then have a discussion with him. The idea is to show him that he will get nothing if he chooses to engage in inappropriate behaviors. If he chooses an appropriate behavior, he will be given attention.
Behavior Intervention – Functional Behavior Analysis
Another intervention stems from the concept of a functional behavior analysis. All behaviors serve a function or a purpose. (Starin, 2007) One of those purposes is to gain attention. Another one is to escape an unwanted outcome. In the case of Peter, he wants to escape from having PE after lunch. With functional behavior analysis, you can teach an appropriate replacement behavior.
If an Asperger’s child is choosing to argue with the parent or the teacher, suggest that he writes his argument down on paper. This will provide the child with the need to explain his position without being viewed as troublesome or insolent. At a later time, suggest that he has a discussion with the teacher/parent and show his viewpoint (ie. why PE should happen before lunch rather than after). Regardless of the outcome, Peter is provided with the ability to explain his stance without being disruptive.
Behavior Intervention – Social Skills
Children or teens with Asperger’s have a hard time developing and maintaining friendships. As in the case of Johnny, he often eats and plays alone. As a parent, you can teach your child what friendship means. Friendship is a give and take relationship. Many children with Asperger’s do not find pleasure in this experience.
Parents can find other children who have similar interests to their child. Encourage your teen to join a club that shares this same interest (ie. Computer Club, Chess Club, etc.). Through engagement in these clubs, they can find other teens with similar interests. Parents can encourage elementary-aged children in such activities as going to the park, movies or on a play-date to one’s house. Encouraging these shared experiences will help children with Asperger’s on their journey to making friends.
It is important for parents to provide strategies to children with Asperger’s to help them cope with the world at large.
Starin, Steven. Functional Behavioral Assessments: What, Why, When, Where, and Who? Wrightslaw.com, May 16, 2007 (accessed November 14, 2010).
Note: We are not medical professionals, we do not claim to know everything about it. Please feel free to research deeper and clarify for yourself where we have gone wrong.