How to help a child with Asperger's Syndrome?
This is a question frequently asked by teachers and parents: How to help a child with Asperger's Syndrome, both in their social life and at school?
To answer this question we will provide a brief and clear explanation of what Asperger is and how we can help affected children, both in the classroom and at home and in their personal lives.
What is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger's Syndrome is a neurobiological disorder that is part of a group of conditions called autistic spectrum disorders.
The term "spectrum disorders" refers to the fact that the symptoms of each one of them can appear in different combinations and in different degrees of severity: two children with the same diagnosis, despite having certain patterns of behavior in common, may present a wide range of skills and abilities.
More information: "Asperger's Syndrome: 10 signs of this disorder"
Difficulties and limitations caused by this neurobiological disorder
Males tend to be the ones who most have this disorder and are usually diagnosed between 3 to 9 years of age. The main characteristics can be mentioned in four large areas, each one presents weaknesses, but also strengths. Let's see:
1. Social relations
Difficulty to understand the rules of social interaction, does not usually share their feelings, concerns and it is difficult to develop empathy. Your strength : They tend to show themselves as sincere, objective, noble, faithful and loyal people.
2. Communication and language
Difficulty initiating and maintaining a conversation, the sentences are brief and literal, sometimes seeming rude, and have a hard time connecting with the interlocutor. Your strength : They have a wide technical vocabulary, enjoy the word games and sometimes have great memory skills.
3. Mental flexibility and imagination
Difficulty to be flexible or relaxed, they worry about unusual things to the point of obsessing, they tend to be repetitive in a subject and tend to be a perfectionist. Strength They become experts in what they like, they are researchers par excellence and they are very loyal to their areas of interest.
4. Coordination and fine motor
There is motor delay and clumsiness.
5. Other areas that may present particularities
Unusual sensitivity to sensory stimuli (light, sounds, textures).
Tips to help a child with Asperger
Next we are going to know a series of recommendations focused on helping the child with Asperger's Syndrome in areas that usually present difficulties within the educational center: social relations and work in the classroom.
1. Children with Asperger and social relationships
It must be taught explicitly all those aspects that most people learn intuitively. Social relationships are fundamental so that these children can develop their abilities and their life in community.
Here you have Several recommendations, observations and advice to support in this area .
- Greet : How to use the right tone? What do you pay attention to? What gestural expression to use? This type of skills can be taught through dramatizations where the codes that must be acquired are accentuated.
- Start a conversation : How to give the other person the turn, when is it their turn to converse to end a conversation, how to know if the other person is interested. Which topics can relate to the conversation and which are not conducive. You can use an object or signal that allows them to guide the interventions in the conversation, as well as television programs.
- Hold a conversation : They should be taught to determine when someone is joking, use metaphors, and what to say at that moment, detect how the other person feels about a certain expression or reaction, and what to do about it, how to differentiate if someone does something on purpose (not by accident) and how you should respond. This type of skills can be developed more easily through role play that allows them to think from the other person's point of view. It is important how these experiences can help them in their daily lives.
- Language and oral comprehension Also, they may present a difficulty in understanding colloquial language, as they tend to understand communication in a literal way. Consequently, more "exact" phrases should be used (example: "I am hot" and not "dying of heat").In addition, we must emphasize our messages so that they are understood, using positive rather than negative forms ("we must remain seated" rather than "we should not get up from the chair").
- Create a "circle of pairs" to help them feel more secure to join the group. This requires first, having the collaboration and understanding of the limitations of these people, delegate activities or occupations that allow them to feel more relaxed and willing to interact and, at the same time, encourage couples to serve as models in learning specific skills, such as: how to make a greeting between friends, how they can use their hands, how they can place their feet and body; as well as the use of facial expressions according to the conversation or environment / activity.
- Gradually the degree of relationship and cooperation can be increased For this, work must be done on aspects such as: physical proximity, tolerance, patience. Respecting the "withdrawal" spaces is important. That is, do not force him to stay in a group.
- They learn their communication skills by imitation (intonation, posture, attitude) without having the intuition necessary to adapt it to a specific environment. For example, they can talk to children as if they were adults, because they were taught to talk to communicate with their parents. In these cases, recordings can be used in which, gradually, they are shown what their language should be depending on the variables. And, in addition, propitiate spaces to practice them, can be accompanied by the "circle of pairs" to support them, ensuring that they can observe the areas to be improved. You can exemplify cases where you talk too loud, too slow, too fast, too slow, monotonous ...
- Explicit rules are vital to guide group activities , it must be made clear what the purpose of group work is.
- The conversations should be clear , transparent, without double meanings, irony or any kind of confusion in the sense of the phrase. Ideas must be transmitted without leaving anything "between the lines" so that they can understand us. The purpose to be communicated must be made very clear.
- Explanations or instructions should be simple, short , concrete, and transmitted slowly. We should try to get attention before starting the conversation, try to get the child close and mention his name, thus decreasing the chances of being distracted and not understanding the explanations. We must try to systematize the instructions so that the steps or points to be transmitted are clearly defined. We can help with visual cues, drawings or signs.
- Teach them to detect when they are angry or frustrated to define the behaviors not allowed and the strategies to channel them. Possess an "emergency protocol" with the steps to follow in case of detonating and disruptive situations.
- If we must point them out for inappropriate behavior, let's do it in a neutral way and always making clear to them what is the right way and the consequences. Let's check if you understood the explanation. Do not insist on making eye contact.
2. Help a child with Asperger at school
In the school environment, children with Asperger's Syndrome can present several specific difficulties and limitations. That is why teachers must know this disorder to adapt some criteria to help children with Asperger, always by the hand of educational psychologists and other professionals.
The mission is for these children to be integrated in the best possible way in class dynamics , and that they can follow the courses with the minimum possible obstacles, developing some of their intellectual virtues and potentialities. Here are several tips for this purpose.
- We try to incorporate in your academic curriculum the interests that the person has expressed and we use its fixation for that subject in different areas and subjects (for example, in Spanish we can let it write about spaceships, in mathematics that takes measurements from the spacecraft, etc). When you finish your daily work, you can dedicate yourself to your personal project.
- Let's place it in a place free of distractions , that you can feel that you work individually. Orient it with respect to the materials required for each lesson, preferably making a list and placing it in a fixed and accessible place. Preferably, make it a fixed place.
- Establish short-term goals , clearly defining the quality of the work we hope to obtain from the child. Also, let us inform you about the time you should spend in each activity, helping you with a watch destined only for him. We can use incentives as a reward.
- Remember to use attractive visual material always (pictograms, maps, diagrams, use of the computer, schedules, lists ...). When the child starts work, let's establish a sign (for example, a green circle on the desk and a red circle when it should end).
- When developing material, enter keywords specific symbols or signs that will allow the child to remember the information.When evaluating your work, do not use open questions. Whenever possible, establish closed questions that allow you to remember the specific information to the child and provide the key words or symbols previously mentioned. Employing oral evaluations can facilitate the work. Also, let's give him extra time to finish his work or exams.
- The work material must be expanded , and you must clearly indicate where you should place the answers or the work area.
- Let's make sure you have the necessary and organized work material . Sometimes it is convenient to define the materials with colors that represent a certain material.
- Offer support to the child with Asperger with a partner who encourages him to finish the job , but trying to help him to be able to do it on his own. It is important to emphasize your skills and achievements.
- Pay attention to the emotional indicators , trying to prevent possible alterations in their mood. Let us avoid criticism and punishment as much as possible, and replace them with positive reinforcement, flattery and reward.
- Dorado Moreno, M. (2005). Another way of looking: memories of a young man with Asperger's syndrome.
- Peeters, T. (2008). Autism: from theoretical understanding to educational intervention.