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.]