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How to Support a Child With Asperger’s Syndrome

By Clarissa Vanner

  • While there is no definitive way to parent your child, there are a variety of things you can do to help them be more comfortable throughout life.
  • Some effective ways to support a child with Asperger’s syndrome include developing a routine, teaching them social and problem-solving skills, and encouraging appropriate behavior.
  • Navigating their condition can be a challenge for both you and your child, but it’s important to remember that Asperger’s is not their fault and their condition does not define who they are.

Parenting is not an easy job, regardless if your child has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. That said, parenting a child with Asperger’s syndrome can be even more of a challenge because they often have difficulty with social interactions and understanding social cues. They may also have certain obsessions and unique mannerisms that can make parenting a challenge too.

While there is no definitive way to parent your child, there are a variety of things you can do to help them be more comfortable throughout life. Here are 11 tips to help your child manage, thrive, and be more comfortable in school and at home.

Help Your Child Develop a Routine

One of the first things that can help a child with Asperger’s syndrome at home and in school is to develop a routine. Applied Behavior Analysis Edu explains, children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often turn to routine, sameness, and obsessive repetitive behaviors “as a way to comfort themselves and to bring calm and self regulation to an otherwise anxious mind.”

When creating a routine, encourage your child to get involved so they feel like they are part of the process. Your child may benefit from a written schedule or daily chart where they can clearly see what activities they have lined up for the day. Don’t forget to schedule downtime and activities to help them manage transitions.

Teach Social Skills

Children with Asperger’s syndrome often struggle with social skills. For example, they may find it hard to understand social cues like body language and tone of voice. Because of this, they may misread situations. One way you can help your child is to teach them social skills.

To help your child learn social skills, teach them how to identify social cues. You can teach them how to make eye contact while talking to others, how to maintain an appropriate social distance, and help them understand body language and tone of voice. It’s important that your child spends time practicing these too. You can also help teach your child social skills by teaching them conversation starters (such as “what’s your name” or “can I play with you?”) to help them interact with others.

Teach Problem Solving Skills

Children with Asperger’s also often have difficulty with problem-solving. So, teaching them problem-solving skills can help them manage their condition and thrive in social settings. Angel Sense says that teaching them these skills is a good way to teach them “about cause and effect and the power that actions can have in the world.”

Learning to problem solve takes practice so it’s best to include problem-solving in their daily life. Over time, your child will learn how to respond calmly and with confidence. The source says one way you can teach them is to read stories together and ask them to identify the problems. Then, discuss all the possible ways to solve the problem and help them decide which one is most effective.

Teach Self-Awareness

Another great way you can support your child is by teaching them about self-awareness. Angel Sense notes that learning about self-awareness is important for helping your child manage their emotions and to prevent a meltdown.

Begin by helping them learn how to identify their emotions. The source says you can start by showing them a photo and asking them to tell you how it makes them feel. Once they identify the emotion, ask them what other situations in life make them feel that way. This way they can link that emotion to other situations and learn what it means and how to identify it.

Give Them Helpful Hints

You can also help your child manage by giving them helpful hints. This can be done by either voicing them or leaving little notes in their backpack, lunchbox, or notebook. These little reminders can help your child practice how to respond in social interactions.

For example, The Children’s Mental Health Network says you can wrap a note around their money that reminds your child to say “thank you” to the individual at the register. You can even write down some conversation starters in a notebook that your child can bring to school and they can practice using these on their classmates. There are many different notes you can leave, but the goal remains the same, helping your child gain confidence in social interactions.

Encourage Appropriate Behavior

Along with teaching your child social skills, it’s also important to encourage appropriate behavior. During a teaching moment you might be tempted to correct inappropriate behavior with criticism, however, Angel Sense says criticism really should be avoided.

Instead, the source says to focus on something positive to acknowledge. For example, you can reward your child if they are playing nicely, if they make eye contact during a social interaction, or if they avoid shouting during an interaction. “The behavior you reward is what your child is most likely to repeat,” explains the source.

Don’t Shelter Your Child

We all want to protect our children, and sometimes it can be tempting to coddle or shelter them from situations that may upset them. However, The Children’s Mental Health Network says you should avoid doing this. The source explains, “Exposing your child to social situations will allow opportunities for both of you to work through them.”

Over time, as your child gains more practice and with the help of your guidance, your child will gain confidence and learn how to express appropriate behaviors.

Diffuse Difficult Situations

It’s common for children with Asperger’s syndrome to become reactive to their environment, which in some cases can lead to emotional outbursts. During these situations, it’s important to try and diffuse the situation. If your patience is running low, give yourself a minute and then address your child. Reacting to their outburst by yelling will only make the situation worse.

The Children’s Mental Health Network recommends removing you and your child from the situation, perhaps you can suggest they take a walk with you to help them calm down. Once the situation has been diffused, talk to them about their emotions. Acknowledge how they’re feeling, and then have a discussion about ways they can handle the situation better in the future.

Embrace Your Child’s Passions

Another way to help your child thrive is to embrace their passions. While a lot of time is spent on helping them change their behavior, it’s important to acknowledge and embrace unique traits of their personality. After all, children will notice the negative attention, so it’s important to balance it out with positive reinforcement.

So, how can you do this? You can give them compliments throughout the day and make an effort to point out positive behavior. And be sure to set time aside each day to do the things they really enjoy.

Create a Safe Word

The Children’s Mental Health Network says another way you can help your child manage difficult situations is to create a safe word. This can be one word or a special phrase that you and your child use to communicate that they are having difficulty with a situation.

In the event that your child needs to use their safe word, only you and your child will know what is going on. The source says this can help protect their feelings and avoid any possible humiliation. It also helps you and your child to work successfully together in the moment.

How to Help Children With Asperger’s Be More Comfortable at School

Most of the coping tools we just discussed can also be used at school. Such as establishing a regular routine, practicing social and problem-solving skills, and embracing their passions. Your child may also be more comfortable at school with a customized lesson plan and other special accommodations.

The Cleveland Clinic says parents and teachers should work together to create an individual education program (IEP). Some adjustments to consider may include using headphones and audio lessons, setting academic goals, and establishing self-control techniques. Talk to your child’s teacher or principal about what IEPs and at-school support they offer.

The Takeaway

Children with autism spectrum disorders can often grow up to live happy, healthy, and thriving lives. While navigating their condition can be a challenge for both you and your child, it’s important to remember that Asperger’s is not their fault and their condition does not define who they are.

Getting educated on how you can help your child is the first step in helping them manage their condition. The Children’s Mental Health Network says it really takes practice, patients, compassion, and love for you and your child to live successfully with Asperger’s syndrome.

Junior Managing Editor

Clarissa is the Junior Managing Editor of ActiveBeat. She aspires to live a healthy lifestyle by staying active and eating foods that nourish her body, but she isn't afraid to indulge in a little chocolate here and there! Clarissa loves cooking, being outdoors, and spending time with her dog. In her free time, you'll find her relaxing in her hammock or curled up on the couch reading a book.