Living with Asperger Syndrome - Parents of Children

Parenting AS children can be challenging. Many parents call AANE and start a conversation with, “I have the most wonderful child but…”. You can feel the tension and anxiety in their voices. Parents know that their children are smart yet they are missing some social or other skills that prevent them from being happy or fitting in with others. The whole family is affected. Some children may not respond to the parenting skills that have worked so well with your other children. They can frustrate and confuse parents with behaviors that are hard to understand. Because AS presents very differently from one child to the next, there is no single strategy that works with every AS child. However every parent can develop strategies that work well with their own child by following some basic guidelines described below.

Parents want to do everything they can to help their child and will need to take special care of themselves along the way. They may feel quilt that they might have caused their child’s problems or should have gotten help sooner. Guilt is universal but never helpful. Parenting difficulties are not the parents’ fault. Instead, many of the difficulties are due to the different neurological makeup of the child and how they view and understand the world as a result. It’s important for parents to take breaks and refuel themselves as individuals and as a couple. Time alone to talk can be a great support.

The more knowledge parents have about AS, the easier they can change their expectations about their child. Parents need to appreciate how hard childen with AS are working every day to understand and function in this neurotypical world. Their behaviors are generally not intentional or manipulative. Because of their difficulties interpreting their world, they can become overwhelmed, frustrated and exhausted living an average day. Parents need to change their expectations of how the whole family can participate in any extended family gatherings and in the community (e.g. which activities, how much time, who attends, what previewing or processing needs to occur for the child to participate). Siblings will need help to understand their brother or sister and how and why their needs will impact the family. Parents who get emotional support and guidance are better able to balance the needs of all family members. Parents can then talk with other people in their lives to explain AS and how they can support the child and family.

Here are some home strategies that will help.

  • Learn what your child needs—become an expert of your child.
  • Teach them to understand themselves and appreciate who they are.
  • Use “thinking out loud” as your method of teaching your child to problem solve.
  • Be prepared with your response to a difficult behavior or cycle that will calm the situation so you can react from your plan and not from your emotions.
  • Provide your child with more support (often visual charts, photos, examples) to help the child learn to do organizational tasks (e.g. clean room, pack backpack, get ready to leave the house).
  • Model and teach your child how to do tasks or how to understand social and physical cues in the home environment.
  • Set up structures and supports so home can be predictable and comfortable. Then teach a procedure for tolerating a change in the day.
  • Be patient with your child and yourself and prioritize what to focus on first. Just focusing on today builds a better tomorrow.

If you are seeking help, or would like connections to other parents, AANE can help you find a support group or practitioner near you with the expertise you need. Our website also lists funding opportunities for families to pay for outside services for your child. No matter what age your child is, let AANE help you on your family’s journey.