Relating to a child with Asperger’s Syndrome

April is National Autism Awareness Month. Autism, or Asperger’s Syndrome, is on the increase. Here’s some advice on how to recognize and relate to someone with the condition.

Individuals who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome are unique in that they usually demonstrate average or above-average intelligence, but they often have problems interacting with others. They tend to have difficulty relating to others, holding conversations, and understanding social cues. However, they want what every other person with a disability desires: to be accepted just as they are. It can be overwhelming whenever you first meet someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome, but with some basic knowledge and techniques, you can learn how to engage with him or her.

What does Asperger’s Syndrome look like?
Asperger’s Syndrome does not have any physical characteristics, so it is strictly a person’s behavior that indicates whether they have an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) such as Asperger’s Syndrome. According to WebMD, there are a few common behaviors that may point to an Asperger’s diagnosis.

1. Difficulty or inability to read others’ emotions.
Someone’s tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language help most people distinguish how that person is feeling. An individual who has Asperger’s Syndrome may not understand basic social vocabulary. He or she may not be able to tell when another person is upset and might have difficulty detecting sarcastic tones.

2. Fascination with a particular subject.
A person who has Asperger’s Syndrome will often have one particular subject that he or she becomes interested in, and this area of fascination might dominate most conversations with others. This is especially true of children because they have not yet learned to incorporate other topics while socializing with others.

3. Reliance on a schedule or particular habits.
For children with an ASD such as Asperger’s Syndrome, habits and schedules are key. They thrive on the consistency offered by a strict routine and can become unsettled whenever there is a deviation from a plan. In some situations, this can be a source of major stress.

Relating to a child who has
Asperger’s Syndrome
If you’re trying to learn how to relate to a child who has Asperger’s Syndrome, remember that he or she wants to be accepted and valued just like you do. Children who have ASD are no different than anyone else. Their behaviors may make them seem like they are uninterested or even rude at times, but this is just how their Asperger’s Syndrome presents itself. With some patience and these tips, anyone can have a normal relationship with a child who has Asperger’s Syndrome.
. Set a schedule and stick to it. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome thrive on consistency, so do your best to not interrupt this.

. Give frequent reminders about any changes–“15 more minutes of TV time”

. Say exactly what you mean, without sarcasm or joking, until you know how he or she will respond. To a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, “I’ll be ready in a minute” means that you’ll be ready in exactly 60 seconds. Not holding up to your promises could cause major anxiety.

. Teach plenty of social cues, and give reminders when necessary. A child with Asperger’s Syndrome or another ASD may not understand that whenever someone asks how he or she is doing, the polite response should be to also ask the same question in return. The child may need prompting during conversations on occasion.

. Have patience! Children with Asperger’s Syndrome will likely talk about one subject repeatedly. Try to engage at his or her level and to see eye-to-eye. If doing so is not appropriate for the situation, explain why it isn’t and help to steer the child towards a better conversation topic.

A child or adult who has Asperger’s Syndrome wants to be understood, and a little effort will go a long way. Remember to be patient and to show interest in him or her whenever you interact. Follow these tips, and you’ll be able to have a healthy relationship with a child who has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Autism: The figures behind the story

About 1 percent of the world population has autism spectrum disorder.

Prevalence in the United States is estimated at 1 in 68 births.

More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder.

Prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68).

Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability.

Prevalence has increased by 6-15 percent each year from 2002 to 2010.

Autism services cost U.S. citizens $236-262 billion annually.

A majority of costs in the U.S. are in adult services – $175-196 billion, compared to $61-66 billion for children.


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