And what about Aspies? (Part III: How Parents Can Help With Peers And Classmates)

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Prof.Dr. Hanna David 876   -   09-10-2021

The “Aspie brain” is uniquely wired and in spite of the extensive research done in order to find ways to change it this hope does not seem to be materialized in the immediate future. Thus parents should focus on what should be done rather than on future different situations, circumstances, opportunities or aspirations. Here are some important advices that might be helpful. 1.    As our Aspie child might not be particularly interested in remembering the names of his or her peers, we can simply ask “with whom did you speak/play today?” If the answer is: “I did not speak/play with anybody” we can go on: “what did you do during the 10 or 12 o’clock break?” We might find out that the answer is not consistent with the previous one, namely, the child will say: “I played football” or “someone wanted to see my new App”. Please, remember that at this point you should be happy that your child made a social interaction with someone in school, and avoid any remarks such as: “why did you say you did not play”? There are many reasons a child with Asperger’s Syndrome might seem to lie when asked questions that he or she rather avoid. For example: when they do not remember the name of the peer they played with, they tend sometimes to deny the existence of the interaction altogether. Or when the Aspie was engaged in his or her new computer-game and did not pay attention to a peer who was watching – from their point of view nobody was there. By stimulating our Aspie child when asking questions about social connections or interactions and praising her or him when they remember what happened, who was involved, what was the result and even how it felt you practice numb social skills that will eventually become a part of the child’s available repertoire. 2.    Many a time an Aspie will not feel lonely if there are people around her or him, even without actual interaction with them. But please remember: as parents we must stimulate the child’s socially even if the child feels no inconvenience because of being alone. Thus it is highly advised to help the Aspie child invite friends. Please note, that the window of opportunity for parents to do that is very narrow when the child is either in a regular or a gifted class. While in special- education classes parents tend to organize their children’s social activities even when the children are capable of doing this by themselves, in regular or gifted classes a 4th grade child, for example, is expected to arrange visits of friends without parental involvement. Thus, if you delay the beginning of the process of inviting friends through their parents it might be too late to start doing it before you notice: “regular” children might be very intolerant when parents of another child interferes with their afternoon activities long after they plan their time by themselves, and thus refuse even to consider coming over to your house. 3.    When friends come over to the Aspie child many a time parents feel very disappointed because “the children did not play together” or “my child did not pay attention when the guest wanted to do something else”. Please remember, the aim of arranging afternoon meetings is helping your child rather than fulfilling your wishes. Had the child have the ability to entertain friends without help, had he been sensitive to others’ needs, he would not have needed your mediation. When a peer comes over to your house you should be happy that this happened, you should offer food and/or candy, you should make sure the quest has access to a computer, books, TV, or anything that might “fill the gaps” if there are hardships in the children’s conversation, or you Aspie child “forgets” there is somebody else in the room. But you cannot – and should not try – to play with the children. There is no “failure” even when such a visit seems to you far from being perfect. Its very existence is a success. 4.    It is much easier to have control over your Aspie’s child social interactions when they happen at your home. Please remember that when you expect in vain to get an invitation from the peer who had spent a whole afternoon at your home. Your child’s behavior might be unexpected in a strange environment, were different rules, customs and behaviors are regarded as normal. So when your child is not invited to the house of the peer who had just visited you, try to be glad rather than disappointed or insulted about this, and re-invite the child over. It is not too high a price to pay for helping our child develop socially without worrying all the time… The fourth and final post about Aspies will be about “How parents can help in extra-curricular activities”.

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Prof.Dr. Hanna David Written by

Hanna David received her PhD, "magna cum laude", from Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München and was a college lecturer in Psychology and literature. Dr. Dav


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