How to Raise a Teen With Asperger'sby Jennifer Oster
Asperger syndrome is a neurological disorder on the autism spectrum and is characterized by several main issues, such as social and communication deficits and fixated or obsessive interests. As a child with Asperger syndrome grows into a teen, he may face social and relationship challenges due to the nature of the syndrome. You may help your teen work through these problems by preparing a plan of action to equip him with the skills necessary to cope with his disorder.
Practice patience. Teens with Asperger syndrome are typically emotionally immature and display themselves as a child much younger than their actual age. Because of this, you need to be patient and realize that this is a symptom of the disorder and not something that your teen can help.
Teach your child basic social patterns, such as eye contact when talking to someone, greeting people upon entering a room and general manners. There are social skills classes that may be available through the school system or through other resources. First impressions are everything, and if your teen can pull off the basic social skills, his peers will feel more comfortable and, in turn, he'll feel socially competent.
Teach your teen about the importance of personal hygiene, such as brushing teeth, bathing and using deodorant regularly. Many teens with Asperger syndrome may suffer socially because of hygiene issues.
Foster your teen's interests. Because many teens with Asperger syndrome have fixated interests, you may find specialized groups that he can attend. If your child is interested in photography, for example, have him join a local photography club or attend photography classes. Not only will he be engaging in something that is important to him and gaining self-esteem, he may find a social outlet that he's comfortable with.
Enroll your teen in an Asperger syndrome support group. He will find like-minded teens who will accept him for who he is and will understand his struggles. Friendships may blossom, and social skills will improve.
Educate others about the disorder. Sometimes children with Asperger syndrome are misunderstood and many times, peers mistake them for being odd. Teachers may be able to help the educational process by informing other students of your teen's disorder or you may tell your teen to be honest and explain the situation. Peers who understand tend to be more accepting.
Stay positive and supportive. Some teens with Asperger syndrome may feel depressed or isolated. Even neuro-typical teens struggle with social issues, so remember to be positive and supportive rather than getting frustrated with your child's behavior or actions. You may be the only positive support in his life if he's receiving negativity from peers.
Stay consistent. Teens with Asperger syndrome need consistency and routine. Have specific times for homework and bedtime.
- Reward your child for positive behaviors -- all children, even those with Asperger syndrome, respond well to reward.
- Always consult a mental health professional before making changes to your child's routine.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Asperger Syndrome Fact Sheet
- Asperger's Association of New England: Tips for Parents of Teens with Asperger Syndrome
- AboutOurKids.org: The Child Study Center: What Does a Student With Asperger Syndrome Need in a School Program?
- My Aspergers Child: Raising an Aspergers Child: Tips for Home and School
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