Children with Asperger’s face a unique set of challenges. Aside from professional therapy and medication, there are lots of things parents can do to help improve quality of life for their child.
1. Be patient. While it’s not likely to be intentional, kids within the spectrum seem to know how to push their parents’ buttons. What you must realize — and remember when you feel frustrated — is that these children’s minds just operate a bit differently. It is up to you to set the tone for conversations and to create the overall mood in your home. An Asperger’s child will pick up on frustration and tension, which will cause them to become stressed. Their reactions to you will be more intense and negative behaviors will escalate more quickly.
2. Make dietary changes. Be observant and see which foods affect your child in different ways. Many parents find that switching to a natural, clean diet and eliminating processed foods helps immensely with their Asperger’s child’s behaviors.
3. Change your routine. Dad Ron Howell notes that all kinds of things that would go unnoticed by other kids can prompt severe reactions in children with Asperger’s. For instance, having certain colors around can create dramatic mood changes. Watch for the ways different colors, music, and other factors affect your child. Be observant about the times of day when your child has the most trouble and switch things up a bit. If you don’t already, make physical exercise an important part of your child’s day. This can help kids to relieve stress and get rid of excess energy.
4. Help them develop empathy. Empathy toward others is one of the most important things for any child to learn. Being empathetic often involves recognizing what therapist and author Robert Brooks calls “social cues.” Children with Asperger’s often don’t pick up on these kinds of things. According to Howell, the best way to educate your child about empathy is to find teachable moments. Try not to lecture. Simply discuss the concept with your child in the simplest terms possible. The capacity for empathy is necessary in building true friendships. Children who grow up having healthy friendships are more resilient and happy than those who don’t.
5. Help them make friends. Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson, psychologist and author, says that it’s a common and unfortunate myth that spectrum kids are antisocial and prefer to be alone. Like any other kid, these children want to have friends! They may not have the tools to initiate friendships with others, though, and will likely need some extra help to learn how to do this. Parents can help by talking to their kids about ways they can make friends, and by providing them plenty of opportunities to do so.