Knowing what to do when your child is diagnosed with Asperger’s isn’t easy. However, it is possible to find the right path for your child.
It’s never easy to hear that something’s wrong with your child.
Though I sensed something wasn’t quite right, I still wasn’t prepared to hear the diagnosis–Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism, as it’s now called.
But here I was, in the psychologist’s office, being told my son had Asperger’s. He was 9 years old, sitting in the room with us, playing with magnetic blocks. He didn’t appear to hear our whispered conversation, but I knew he had heard everything.
It was a mix of emotions–relief that I wasn’t just imagining that something was different with him, and sadness that he now had a label and a diagnosis I didn’t quite understand…yet.
Who really knows what to do when your child is diagnosed with Asperger’s?
And so my journey to understanding began.
What is Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism?
It used to be called Asperger’s until 2013 when the American Psychiatric Association “replaced Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders with the umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).”
Many psychologists and psychiatrists still note the differences between the Asperger’s diagnosis and HFA, so I use the term Asperger’s since it more closely relates to my son’s diagnosis.
Asperger’s syndrome was first described by Viennese pediatrician Hans Asperger in the 1940s. He observed autism-like difficulties and behaviors with social and communication skills in boys with normal intelligence and language development.
The difference between Asperger’s Disorder and classic autism is its less severe symptoms and the absence of language delays.
What are the signs of Asperger’s in a child?
No two cases of Asperger’s syndrome are exactly the same. Children and adults experience a wide variety of symptoms. But knowing the common signs and symptoms of Asperger’s can help parents get an accurate diagnosis.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Asperger’s
There are a number of signs and symptoms of Asperger’s. A child may display just a few, several, or all of the classic symptoms. They can be classified by social symptoms, language and speech issues, cognitive behaviors, and physical symptoms.
I’ve highlighted just a few from each category below. For a more complete listing, you can visit this article by Everyday Health.
Common symptoms of Asperger’s that may affect social or communication skills include:
- Problems making or maintaining friendships
- Poor eye contact or the tendency to stare at others
- Inability to recognize humor, irony, and sarcasm
- The preference for a strict schedule or routine
- Inappropriate behaviors or odd mannerisms
- Problems expressing empathy, controlling emotions, or communicating feelings
Language and Speech Concerns
A child with Asperger’s may experience the following concerns:
- A scripted, formal, or “robotic” type of speaking
- Lack of inflection when talking
- Repetitive speech
- Trouble using language in a social context
Here are some of the common cognitive traits in people with Asperger’s:
- Ability to understand technical or factual information
- A superior rote memory
- The tendency to focus on details, which may result in missing “the bigger picture”
Children with Asperger’s might experience physical symptoms, such as:
- Sensitivity to loud noises, odors, clothing, or food textures
- Awkward movements
- Delay in motor skills
- Problems with coordination
What to do when your child is diagnosed with Asperger’s
My first question to the psychologist when she gave me the diagnosis was, What do I do next?
I needed a gameplan. I needed action steps or I feared I would fall apart.
So she shared some of the following action steps with me:
1. Seek treatment
You may be wondering like I was, what is the best treatment for Asperger’s?
Treatment plans will differ from child to child. Work with your child’s psychologist or doctor to ensure your child gets the right help.
Types of treatment can include:
- Social skills training where therapists teach your child how to interact with others and express themselves in more appropriate ways.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy to help your child change his way of thinking in order to better control his emotions and repetitive behaviors.
- Speech-language therapy to improve your child’s communication skills, including lessons on how to keep a two-way conversation going and how to understand social cues.
- Parent training and education to help you navigate this new reality. You’ll learn many of the same lessons your child is taught so you can help him with his social skills at home.
- Applied behavioral analysis is another technique that encourages positive social and communication skills in your child while discouraging those behaviors you’d rather not see.
Getting the right treatment can really help your child learn to control some of the social and communication challenges he faces.
2. Establish a daily routine for your Asperger’s Child
So just how important is routine for a child with Asperger’s? Very. One of the main diagnostic criteria of ASD is that “the individual shows restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.”
Routine is important to children with Asperger’s because it creates a safe and secure environment, relieves stress, provides order from chaos, and is a powerful learning tool in the ASD environment.
The Asperger’s child experiences stress when their world is not predictable enough. Having a visual routine schedule, using colorful and clear images, can alleviate the stress. This will also have a positive impact on the entire family.
Visual Daily Routine Planner (Printable)
To help you with this step, I’ve created a Visual Daily Routine Schedule for your child’s activities and tasks. This is a very practical aid to reduce stress and anxiety for you and your child, as well as provide a clear visual schedule of all activities and tasks during the day.
3. Stay positive
Our goal as parents is to raise children with strong self-esteem, which leads to a “can-do” attitude in adult life. This begins with always seeking to build your child’s confidence. To get you started, here are some phrases you should say to your child every day.
Keeping a positive attitude will do much to help you and your child adapt to and thrive in this new reality. There are options and many success stories to keep you inspired.
Though autism as a diagnosis didn’t become mainstream until the 20th century, history is full of people who experts (both medical professionals and those who experience autism first-hand) consider to be or have been somewhere on the autism spectrum:
- Albert Einstein – Scientist & Mathematician
- Thomas Jefferson – Early American Politician
- Steve Jobs – Former CEO of Apple
- Bill Gates – Co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation
- Emily Dickinson – Poet
- Michelangelo – Sculptor, Painter, Architect, Poet
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Classical Composer
- Sir Isaac Newton – Mathematician, Astronomer, & Physicist
- Jerry Seinfeld – Comedian
- Tim Burton – Movie Director
- Lewis Carroll – Author of “Alice in Wonderland”
- Henry Cavendish – Scientist
Let this list inspire you that your child is in good company and capable of accomplishing great things. Focus on providing them the support and resources they need to thrive.