5 ways to help your Asperger’s child achieve their best.

Print Friendly

5 ways to help your Asperger’s child achieve their best.

A guest post by FiveHiver Judy

Asperger’s children and high functioning autistic children are sometimes rejected by others or bullied because of their under-developed social skills and poorer self expression. Futhermore, parents of these wonderful children often feel powerless to do much other than take their child to spech therapy and let the early invervention teachers do their work. I have a boy that was diagnosed with Austism Spectrum Disorder and was struggling in lower primary school until the age of 7. My 5 points below helped him become a confident, articulate and happy A-grade student by the time he finished primary school. If your child is in primary school, here are 5 ways to startlingly improve your child’s self development – the earlier the better.

1. Enrol your child in piano lessons

Often, Spectrum children are very bright and greatly benefit from learning a musical instrument, and often develop high musical ability, even if they show no musical talent initially. Learning a musical instrument creates new connections in the brain which greatly help develop other things, such as reading, language development, mathematical skills, social skills, manners and confidence. It also helps you feel empowered in helping your child gain a skill that will be appreciated and admired by other children, which in turn will increase your child’s self-confidence. Piano is an easier intrument to learn than most others, and if you don’t have one, an electronic keyboard with 88 weighted keys is a lower cost alternative. The AMEB offers a structured approach to learning to read music, and this structure seems to appeal particularly to Spectrum children.

2. Have your child join a Choir

Singing with a Choir develops important new skills – co-operation within a group. The feeling of belonging when singing with a choir is appreciated by all children, but particuarly by spectrum children who may lack peer acceptance in their normal school environment. Furthermore, the type of child that joins a choir is generally of a gentle and friendly nature, so your child is unlikely to feel threatened in any way and may make friends more easily than at school. Learning to control the voice and sing in harmony as an ensemble also assist with language development. Choir camps offer a perfectly safe environment to nurture strong friendships that will extend well beyond primary school years. Most choirs take children on audition – it is well worth a try, and if unsuccessful, try a choir such as Choir Victoria, which will welcome any child who makes the effort to turn up to Audition Day!

3. If your child is bullied, give them “comeback coaching”

Spectrum chidren are particuarly susceptible to bullying because they have lower pragmatic language skills and thus poor defences against bullying. Crying or over-reacting simply encourages the bully to continue. A short-list of short, smart, come-backs empower the Spectrum child to respond quickly and more appropriately, and often results in the bully giving up and going elsewhere. Ones that worked with my boy were very simple, and included: “Get lost!” “Act your age!” “Grow up!” and “Go and annoy somebody else!” He was so confident with his new armour, he actually went to school eager to try ou this new lines! Michael Grose’s excellent article here on FiveHive: “5 ways to help kids when they are bullied at school” was pretty much what we did to achieve success. http://fivehive.com/2011/02/10/5-ways-to-help-kids-when-they-are-bullied-at-school/

4. Play strategic board games

Spectrum chidren are not always easy to chat with (they either don’t talk much, or talk too much and don’t listen!) but board games teach valuable lessons in turn-taking, being good winners and losers, and encourage appropriate conversation. Better examples include “Cluedo”, and a rather whacky “Simpsons” game that encourages the player to imitate, act or sing. If your child’s school has lunchtime Chess Club, then encourage him or her to join – they love new members, and will teach the basics fairly quickly!

5. Don’t tell your child about their diagnosis

If you haven’t yet told your child about their diagnosis, then don’t. What use would it be to know that they have any kind of “disorder” or “disability”? While a parent may think that this knowledge will help a child understand themselves better in the long run, in the short turn, the child is more likely to think there is something wrong, and may withdraw from their peers. One such child announced in my presence that he had to go to a “special school for mental kids” because he had “something wrong with his brain”, to which his mother snapped, “you have nothing wrong with your brain – you have autism”. Children don’t understand the difference, and can struggle with the information. Schoolwork is a challenge for any child, but if a child also knows they have a “disorder”, it can discourage them from trying, even if this disorder doesn’t affect the child’s learning capacity. If they already know, then emphasise the positives – Spectrum children often display increadible depth of knowledge in their own interests. Try to find more areas of interest, such as foreign lanuages for them to explore. Don’t put labels or limits on your child – chances are that your child may be gifted in areas yet to be discovered!

[Ed: thank you so much, Judy, for taking the time to write this post. It is delightful and will assist not only those parents with Spectrum children but those of us who KNOW parents who do.]

  • Bsp

    Don’t tell your child! You think they don’t know they are different? There is a book called All Cats have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman. It’s a great book for kids who have just been diagnosed, to help normalise and retain their dignity.
    You could probably help your child by spelling Asperger’s Syndrome correctly too!

  • http://www.fivehive.com Yvonne

    Thanks so much bsp. I had no idea we had the spelling wrong.. we posted the article as we’d received it from an Asperger mum.. we will change it immediately. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment on the post.

  • http://www.fivehive.com Yvonne Adele

    thanks Bsp – I corrected the spelling. I hadn’t realised it was spelt incorrectly.. we’d posted it as we’d received it from an Aspergers mum… thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this post. Y

  • Judy

    Ooops! I’m so sorry I spelled Asperger’s incorrectly. Thank you, Bsp.

    Yes, my boy knows he is “different” because he can do things other kids can’t seem to, such as pick up the piano incredibly quickly, spell better than the average adult (including me!), achieve high marks in maths and learn foreign language phrases easily. His ability to count to 10 in over 100 different languages helped him to establish relationships between languages. During a short European vacation he was able to use many simple phrases (such as ordering an ice cream or a meal or asking where the toilet is) in three different languages, and helped us enormously! A linguist we met in Vienna was astonished at my son’s range and depth of knowledge, his flawless pronunciation, and his exemplary manners and humility.

    Oh, yes, my son definitely knows he is different, but is very happy with who he is. Why tell him now that the reason for his amazing achievements and abilities is due to Autism Spectrum disorder? It may even devalue his efforts made in music, academia and languages.

    Having said all this, some children might indeed benefit from knowing, and Bsp is certainly kind to recommend a book for kids to read who have just been told of their diagnosis, to help normalise and retain their dignity. – J

  • Katherine Louise Hunt

    NOT telling your child they have aspergers or autism is like not telling them they have blue eyes or brown hair! They already know something is different and by hiding it and refusing to acknowledge it you are implying that is something to be ashamed of and that you yourself are embarassed to have a child with this diagnosis. As for using it as an excuse not to try, that is more down to the attitude of the parents than of the child. You should bring any child up with pride in themselves and their achievements, whether they have aspergers, autism, short sightedness, diabetes, a wheelchair.

  • Judy

    I haven’t told my boy that he has blue eyes either. He figured that out himself. My husband told me recently that he now realises that he is probably autistic. I did an on-line test for autism and found that I could well have it too. Important? Not at all. It is only an issue to those who need to make an issue of it. We both grew up OK. I am not ashamed of anything other than not starting my son on piano lessons when he was four, and I am dismayed at the person who diagnosed my son for not being able to give me one single helpful piece of advice other than teaching my son to read street directories “so he can learn something useful”. Now that my son is 12 and doing just wonderfully, I thought I’d share what I have learned with others. If you are absolutely sure that telling YOUR child they have a disorder will make them happier and better adjusted, then please go ahead. I simply haven’t seen any evidence of this in the other kids I’ve come across yet, and I want my son to stay happy and confident.

  • vegemitemum

    With all the psychologist appointments, learning support and integration aides, I felt it necessary to inform my son of his Aspergers status.

    The explanation I gave was that people’s brains have different ways of working. There is not one model that is better than the other, however most of society functions in a certain way, therefore we need to go along with the model provided ie schooling, jobs, shopping etc

    My point is that Aspergers is not a disorder, just a different way of brain functioning. So my son certainly doesn’t think there is anything wrong with him, he now understands why some things are a challenge and require effort, whilst other things are easier. And he is ok with this.

    After our discussion he had insights into the person that he is and understood more about how he functions. This awareness allowed him to come forth with insights into his own inner world that I was previously unaware of and we discussed them.

    Since the initial discussions over 2 years ago, when he was10, the issue is very much in the background for him (not for me as his mum though!) Having opened the door to understanding facilitates the supportive environment I provide him with.

    One parallel life situation that can be used as guidance is that of adopted children. Those that know from early on that they were adopted accept it and get on with life. Those that find out later in life have a harder time adjusting.

  • Judy

    Hi Vegemitemum, I liked your response. Your point that Aspergers is not a disorder, just a different way of brain functioning is spot on. If only the word “disorder” was completely removed from the formal name of the condition! We did take our son to speech therapy when he was 4 until he no longer needed it (according to his therapist), and he did have integration aides in his classroom, although they seemed to spend more time with children with (undiagnosed) behavioural issues, so my son didn’t realise that they were there for him. We haven’t ruled out ever telling our son, and if and when we need to, it would certainly be similar to the way you describe in your comment. Thank you for your post. -J

  • http://twitter.com/MomofAspieSon Mom of Aspie Son

    This was very helpful — thank you!

  • Homemade

    Not telling them is a shocking suggestion, they need to be aware so they at least try to understand why people are affected when they say/do something that might be considered different. Hiding this from them will most definitely create problems for themselves and people they interact with.

Warning: Unknown: open(/home/content/58/7160158/tmp/sess_49r01ubib17ft3uub7oqi7vih7, O_RDWR) failed: No such file or directory (2) in Unknown on line 0

Warning: Unknown: Failed to write session data (files). Please verify that the current setting of session.save_path is correct () in Unknown on line 0