Asperger syndrome is sometimes called an ‘Autism spectrum disorder’ because in some ways it is a bit like autism. Asperger syndrome is not a disease and you can’t catch it from anyone. The person’s genes have something to do with it, and maybe something happened before the child was born.
Children with Asperger syndrome can think well and learn about lots of things as easily as other children, but they have problems:
When They Try to Communicate with Others
Children with Asperger syndrome can talk well, hears what other says, and know the meaning of the words. However, they still don’t get the full message since they cannot pick up the ‘non-verbal’ part of communication. In short, children with this condition have problems in understanding especially the feelings of other people.
With Social Skills
The following may be some of the challenges that children with Asperger syndrome encounters when it comes to their socialization:
- They may have problems making friends. They often want to have friends, and they can feel very lonely, but they don’t know how to be a friend.
- They may choose to play alone and stay away from other kids because they may find talking with other kids confusing. They may feel more comfortable talking to adults.
- They may like to be playing with a computer rather than with other kids, as they don’t have to communicate socially with the computer.
- They may find it hard to understand the feeling behind a facial expression.
- They may take a long time to understand the ‘rules’ about not interrupting when someone is talking, or how to take turns, or how to share.
- They may be surprised when people do something they haven’t expected. For example, if someone laughed because of something amusing, they might not know it was funny.
- They may think that other kids have done something deliberately to hurt them when they have accidentally bumped into them.
- They can be targeted by bullies because they can easily be upset.
- Some may do the wrong thing to try and make friends and this can get them into trouble. They might take something that belongs to another kid because they have been told to by someone who enjoys seeing them get into trouble.
With Their Behavior
- They are often really interested in some things, like computers, reading and making things.
- They can be obsessive about something they are interested in and don’t understand that others are not as interested.
- Their behavior can seem a bit ‘different or unusual’, or it can be really difficult and sometimes they get very upset and aggressive. They might be called ‘eccentric’, which means a bit odd, and different to other people.
- They may be upset by some noises or smells, or by what some things feel like or look like. For example they might hate the feel of shoes on their feet, how sand feels or refuse to wear anything that is red.
- They like things to happen the same way all of the time, so they may get upset when lesson times are changed, or they have to move to a new desk in the classroom.
- They can get angry or aggressive when things don’t happen as and when they want.
- They tend to have rules and ways of doing things that they think everyone else should follow.
- They don’t do ‘small talk’. Chatting about things like who won a sports match is not likely to be of interest to them.
Asperger syndrome is not a disease so it can’t be cured. However, people with Asperger syndrome do learn more about other people as they get older.
- Some become experts in their area of interest.
- Some marry and have families of their own but some always have problems with relationships.
- Some always need things to be done exactly their way, and get very upset if someone does something ‘wrong’ such as putting things in the ‘wrong’ place.
Many people who have Asperger syndrome belong to groups with others who also have it and they are able to understand and support each other.
If someone in your family or in your class at school has Asperger Syndrome then you can help by:
- Being friendly– You may include them in your group, do not bully them, or stand up for them if others are unkind.
- Being helpful– Help them when they have trouble understanding, like understanding rules. You may also help them to practice skills like talking to class. And also, make them learn that they must be kind to other people as well.
Being kind and understanding– Praise them when they do well or let them know you like them. You must understand that they may get upset with unfamiliar things and noises.