How to Talk to a Child With Asperger's Syndrome
Asperger’s Syndrome is a high functioning form of Autism. Children with Asperger’s have many social challenges including difficulty communicating, relating to others, and empathizing.
Mean What You Say
When having a conversation with a child with Asperger’s it is important to say exactly what you mean. Kids with Asperger’s have a difficult time picking up the social cues most of us are so accustom to we don’t even notice them. Such as, tone of voice, facial expressions or body language.
Frequently subtext like sarcasm and passive aggressive remarks go unnoticed and they will take what is said to them literally. Metaphor’s and analogies are wonderful ways to demonstrate a point when having a discussion with someone without Asperger’s but for these kids, it will make the conversation that much harder to follow.
Be Willing to Repeat and Reword
Children with Asperger’s often have a hard time focusing on what is being said to them. Their mind frequently wanders and it appears as though they are simply waiting to talk instead of actually listening to what is being said to them. It is really helpful to them when someone is willing to repeat instructions or requests worded in a slightly different way than the first time.
When they are asked if they understand what was said they will usually say yes in an attempt to end the conversation and move on to something they like. If you ask the child to tell you what they heard, you will find out whether they actually absorbed what was said to them or not.
Don’t Get Offended
Many kids with Asperger’s Syndrome have a distinct and very involved interest in one or two areas. Some examples include sports statistics, maps, cars etc. They spend a lot of time analyzing and learning about these areas of interest so it is very difficult for them to talk about anything else.
When someone is trying to have a conversation with them about another topic, they might interrupt to share some information about their area of expertise. If the topic at hand isn’t interesting to them or doesn’t directly involve something they want to do, they will abruptly switch the topic mid-sentence. This is offending to many people for obvious reasons and is perceived as simply inconsiderate.
It doesn’t occur to the child that they are being rude or hurting someone’s feeling by dismissing their thoughts or desires. They simply don’t give it much thought one way or the other.
It’s all a Learning Process
When talking to a child with Asperger’s don’t be surprised if their response doesn’t match the information you are giving them. If you are telling them bad or sad news they may laugh or tell an inappropriate story. Some kids are aware that they don’t pick up on emotional cues so they may ask if what you’re saying is bad or sad.
Children with this Syndrome have to learn how to appropriately respond to people and situations much like the average child would need to learn another language. Each situation and social interaction is taught. For example; when an average child starts school they realize very quickly that when they want the teacher’s attention they need to raise their hand. Either they heard the teacher mention it once or they just emulate the other kids and learn quickly that is how it’s done. The child with Asperger’s can’t connect the dots between the other kids raising their hands and the teacher responding to them. The cause and effect doesn’t translate as well in their minds and they will continue to speak out freely and it can be very disruptive. Frequently they will need to be taught that particular social skill by someone explaining it verbally and many times showing them illustrations. This needs to be repeated for all the social situations that come so easily to others.
Many children with Asperger's have distinct issues with boundaries with personal space. These issues seem to vary greatly.
They either want to be very physically close to the person they are interacting with or they need to keep a safe distance. It isn’t uncommon for a child with Asperger’s to touch or hug the person they are attempting to engage when it isn’t necessarily appropriate. There is never anything sinister or suspect in their motivation, they just express themselves physically. Whether these kids are happy or upset, you know it!
On the other hand, some kids don’t want to be touched at all. They may get very uncomfortable if someone comes into their personal space. When people lean towards them to speak or gesture, they will lean back or take a step backward. The person speaking with them should not get offended because this is not a personal refection on them. Both extremes are physical expressions of their need to feel control over themselves and their immediate environment.
Do you know anyone with Asperger's Syndrome?
When talking to a child with Asperger’s it is important to keep your tone soft and calm. Although many of these kids can’t pick up on facial cues they will definitely react to audio cues.
If someone speaks in a calm and steady tone, the child will be calm and have a better chance of absorbing what is being said.
If the person speaking with them gets loud or high pitched, they will react by getting very anxious and frustrated. They chance of them being able to focus on what you’re saying in minimal at best.
Many kids with Asperger’s don’t have a filter when it comes to their emotions. They get anxious or frustrated very easily and organizing their thoughts and communicating them clearly becomes nearly impossible.
Children with Asperger’s talk very quickly and articulately. Their verbal skills are frequently well above average. The challenge they face is organizing the words in their heads and forming appropriate responses. Many time if you restate what they said, using the proper words and sequencing they will appreciate it and learn from it.
- How To Help A Child With Asperger's Syndrome Succeed In School
All of the social challenges that are present with Asperger’s Syndrome lead some to believe that these kids aren’t capable of excelling academically. That is far from true! Most children with Asperger’s have average or above average IQ’s. The ability
Children with Asperger’s Syndrome have difficulty in social situations and conversations with them can sometimes be a challenge. There are a few different things one can do to assure the conversation goes smoothly and is as productive as possible.
- Speak in a calm and peaceful way.
- Be prepared to repeat and restate what you’re saying to make sure the child has absorbed and understood it.
- Don’t get offended if the child interrupts you or gives an inappropriate response to what you’re saying. Remember that they are more than likely in the process of learning how to react to people and it takes a lot of time and practice.
- Respect the child’s personal boundary issues if they need you to refrain from standing too close and clearly state your own boundaries if they are attempting to hug and touch you throughout the conversation.