We received on email an article written by a parent of a child with Aspergers syndrome. It describes the common characteristics of children with this condition and ways in which parents and teachers can help.
“I am the parent of a child who has Aspergers syndrome – a form of Autism. I thought you might be interested in looking into our world for a short time.
My son, Victor, is 8. He was diagnosed with Aspergers eighteen months ago. It is common for children to go undiagnosed for many years as this disability is unseen and the symptoms can be similar with other difficulties e.g. dyslexia. He now has a statement and goes to an Aspergers unit which is attached to a mainstream school.
All children are different in some way and children with Aspergers are also very different but they will share a communication difficulty – an adult with Aspergers once described it as feeling like being an Alien from another planet.
Perhaps examples may help explain………….Victor’s main difficulties are poor concentration; a lack of understanding of social norms; obsessional behaviour, especially when stressed. When he was three years old, I took him to a local park and tried to play football with him. However, everytime he received the ball, he would pick it up and run away. I remember thinking…….perhaps he is going to be a rugby player! At 6 years old, Victor was taken to the local football fun club and placed in a team. As the children began to play, Victor stood still like a statue and moved only to shrug his shoulders……he didn’t understand the rules. He began to cry and I took him home. At Christmas school concerts I have seen him opening and closing his mouth in fish like movements because he realises the other children are singing yet he doesn’t know the words. Victor is also near the top of his class in science and maths, so his behaviour is not linked to any lack of intelligence/ability. School can be very difficult for children like Victor as teachers and parents try to help them to “fit in” to our world and despite a lot of effort, the child is often unable to change their behaviour dramatically. With care and effort, it has been discovered that Aspergers children learn visually rather than by reading. Victor therefore has a pictorial timetable which he can understand. When the teacher wants him to turn to page 10 in a book, as well as saying the command she holds up a sign with a number 10 on it. Victor can then go to page 10.
The best way that Victor has been helped, has been when someone has taken the time to go into his world. When I stopped trying to “help” him to learn football he was happier. I watched what made him happy. Instead of fitting him to my world I am learning from him. He asks the most interesting questions sometimes and his insight is honest and straight to the point.
Victor has a lot of abilities and really his main disability is how other people treat people who are different. The parents who do not invite him to their children’s parties because he is “odd” – who give out party invitations in front of him but not to him. I think difference should be celebrated! it makes the world more interesting.”