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How to Talk to a Child With Asperger's Syndrome

Updated on January 20, 2013

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.

Young boy with Asperger's organizing baseball cards
Young boy with Asperger's organizing baseball cards | Source

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.

Personal Space

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.

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Speaking Tone

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.


Summary

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.

  1. Speak in a calm and peaceful way.
  2. Be prepared to repeat and restate what you’re saying to make sure the child has absorbed and understood it.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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    • JulieMProvost profile image

      Julie Provost 3 years ago from Tennessee

      My 7 year old has Asperger's and these are all spot on. I sometimes struggle with feeling offend by him even though I know I shouldn't. This is a great resource for those who know someone with Asperger's,

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      I can't wait to check it out, thank you! ;)

    • samowhamo profile image

      samowhamo 4 years ago

      Hey if you are interested I wrote an article here you might like. I changed the title of it so don't let it put you off it's not anything biased.

      http://samowhamo.hubpages.com/hub/Aspies-vs-Neurot

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      The great thing about hubpages is that you have freedom to write whatever your heart desires. I'm sure you will reach people who have had similar experiences and will find comfort in hearing everything you have to offer! :)

    • samowhamo profile image

      samowhamo 4 years ago

      Hey Roxanne just curious but can people write their own biography's and personal stories on here I would like to.

    • samowhamo profile image

      samowhamo 4 years ago

      Hey Roxanne I have written an article about feminism you might want to read.

      http://samowhamo.hubpages.com/hub/Radical-Feminism...

    • samowhamo profile image

      samowhamo 4 years ago

      Thank you roxanne. The woman who asked were all past men abusive oppressors she also asked were there no loving relationships between men and women. Well how would we know those men and women are all dead and besides I am certain they were not all like that for very good reasons.

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      Trust your instincts on this one Samowhamo! The people who would suggest such horrible things are monstrous! Feminism was originally intended to provide women with a voice so they may be seen as equal contributors. Women deserved the right to vote, establish their own credit and make their own choices. The intention got grossly misguided with certain groups and individuals unfortunately. The paradigm shifted and certain people began portraying men as useless ogres that are constantly made fun of in cartoons, jokes and even the commercials we see today. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Men and women are equally important in society as they both have valuable strengths and qualities. I think some people forget that it is ok for men and women to be different. We don't process information the same or react the same to things. Sometimes women get unintentionally caught up in trying to make men like them. They want men to view sex, emotions, children, success and many other things as women. The problem is, they aren't women. When men and women begin to accept themselves and find value in their natural abilities and strengths, they will hopefully begin to accept the opposite gender for theirs as well. We each contribute a great deal in our own way and when we are secure enough to do it together, it's amazing! Point is samowhomo, don't ever let anyone make you feel ashamed of being a man or anything that goes with that. You stand proud and be the best man you can be and remember that not all women feel that way. (avoid the ones who do) :)

    • samowhamo profile image

      samowhamo 4 years ago

      Hey roxanne this may not be the right place to put this but I don't know where else what do you think of feminismand gender studies because there was this woman on the internet who asked were all past men abusive oppressors and one woman said yes and another who was a man aso said yes and he said gender studies. The woman who said yes also came up an idea she said feminists I have an idea that could end most rape cases all males will be jailed until they turn 70 they will be escorted by armed guards to have sex with women to continue the human race I think we might have a shot at world peace. The man from earlier agreed with her and said gender studies again and a couple of commentors said why bother letting them have sex with the women just make them masturbate (on a side note her page had a quote on it I don't remember the whole thing or if she was talking about men and women but it said something about the foolish and wicked) and oh no don't let them have sex because the women may not like it and it would still count as rape. I don't know if these women were joking or not there are a lot of hatefull feminist out there and I have heard them say and do things that scare me I believe in gender equality but feminism these days is all about hate (both the female feminists and the male feminists who agree with them some of the things they say and do are monstrous).

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you for your comment habee!It means a lot. :)

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      I really like the way you explained this. I didn't know much about Asperger's until now. Voted up!

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      algarveview, If anything in this article helps then it's all worth it! Thank you for your comment. :)

    • algarveview profile image

      Joana e Bruno 5 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Very well written, informative and interesting. I know a child with Asperger's and these are very good tips to better communicate with her. Thanks. Voted up and all the best!

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Marcy, people who have social challenges are often difficult to deal with even when you do understand why they do what they do. Boundaries are necessary and people with Asperger's often appreciate it when someone is willing to help them with social rules. I have no doubt that you had a positive and lasting affect on that young person.

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Clive, there is no doubt that these kids can be try your patience and sanity! My 11yo son has Asperger's and we have been through many challenges to say the least. At the end of the day, it's all worth the gray hair and frazzled nerves if they learn a new life skill they didn't have before. Just like any child, the goal is to teach them to be productive, well adjusted and happy adults. The road is just bumpier in some spots. :)

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      I recently met a young adult with Asperger's, and the individual is very difficult to deal with until you understand what's going on. I had to draw some boundaries due to inappropriate behavior in a group where I was the facilitator. I wish I'd had this excellent resource to turn to when I first encountered the situation. Great job! Voted up and useful.

    • Clive Donegal profile image

      Clive Donegal 5 years ago from En Route

      The poll didn't seem to have an option for me. We know families with children who have Asperger's. From the interactions I have seen between parents and children, your suggestions seem on target.

      You did not mention another aspect that I have observed: The parents are saints. I am amazed at the patience and love my friends demonstrate when they are dealing with children who have distressed me in a brief period. That they can sustain that kindness and patience over time is unadulterated love and unconditional acceptance.

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      You are so right teaches12345! My son is 11yo and has Asperger's Syndrome. He is doing amazing things and growing every day. The reason is no mystery. The support staff he has at his school is exceptional! I will never be able to fully express my gratitude for everything they do for my son but I will definitely keep trying.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I am so glad that children with this disorder now receive a better education due to training of professionals. Enjoyed the educational information and will keep this in mind when meeting children with Aspergers. Voted up for the valuable aid it is to many people.

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you veggie-mom! I had to lay out some of the challenges of Asperger's in order to get the message across but, it really has it's benefits too.

    • veggie-mom profile image

      veggie-mom 5 years ago

      This is incredibly well laid out and easy to understand hub, Roxanne. Voted up and useful. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience about an often misunderstood condition.