In order to be in the best position to help children with Asperger’s, parents/teachers/therapists must be able to understand some key issues that these children deal with.
This article is a reprint of a post I wrote for Ezine Articles. You can find more of my articles here.
Theory of Mind
This phrase means the ability to recognize other people’s feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and intentions, and to be able to respond to them appropriately. Children with Asperger’s have a particularly hard time ‘reading’ the other person’s mind/intentions, and therefore struggle in social interactions and relationships. It is because, practically, the child with Asperger’s has no way of predicting how another person might respond to them, and what that person might do next in a given situation.
Many people with high functioning autism and Asperger’s have difficulties in executive functioning. This is a technical term referring to a person’s abilities to:
- plan and organize tasks
- monitor one’s own performance
- inhibit inappropriate responses
- utilize feedback
- ignore distracting stimuli
Because of these difficulties with executive functioning, children with Asperger’s can experience major difficulties accomplishing school/work assignments and self-help tasks.
Instead of seeing the big picture, the child with Asperger’s tends to see all the details of the picture, but has difficulty piecing those details together into a meaningful whole. So, while children with Asperger’s may be almost wizard-like in their mastering of details that interest them, they often fail to understand abstract or metaphorical concepts. An example of this might be a child looking out the window to look for small pets falling from the sky after someone remarks that it is “raining cats and dogs.” Because of their difficulty with abstract thinking, children with Asperger’s may have a very hard time doing school assignments that require them to identify a story’s main idea, or to compare/contrast two events.
Recognizing and Coping with Emotions
Depending on the person, children with Asperger’s often have trouble identifying, quantifying, expressing, and controlling their emotions. To you and me, they may appear not to have many emotions because they don’t show emotions outwardly the way the average person would. On the other hand, there may be children with Asperger’s who express emotion out of proportion with the way they actually feel. For example, annoyance might be expressed as fury, or mildly happy might be expressed as overjoyed.
When you put all of the challenges demonstrated above, I hope that you and I will be more empathetic and compassionate when parenting, teaching, and treating children with Asperger’s. Here’s a way of understanding what living as an individual with autism spectrum is like: it’s like sending an English speaking person without any knowledge of Chinese language or culture to China and telling them to start work as an executive. Nothing will make sense, unless they are given tools to learn the language and understand the culture. It would be truly remarkable if a child with Asperger’s did not suffer with chronic stress, given their struggle to understand the most basic social/communication skills; cope with problems of organizing/planning; and dealing with difficulties understanding and regulating their emotions.
Through understanding, we can help them understand, and we can be in a better position to impart hope.
Did I leave anything out? Please share your thoughts!