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Aspergers Communication - How can I understand the way my son thinks?
Children with Asperger's Syndrome may have underdeveloped areas in the brain that cause problems in: communication, learning appropriate social skills and responses, understanding the thoughts and feelings of others, and focusing on "the real world," as opposed to becoming absorbed in their own thoughts and obsessions.
Those with Asperger's are often extremely literal in their interpretation of others' conversations, for example, they may wonder if cats and dogs are really raining down or think there are two suns when someone talks about two sons. They are unable to recognize differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of what others' say. Your son may not understand a joke or take a sarcastic comment literally.
Learning social skills for children with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) is like learning a foreign language. A child with AS is unable to recognize non-verbal communication that other children learn without formal instruction. Some examples are: not understanding the appropriate distance to stand from another person when talking, how to tell when someone does not want to listen any longer, and how to interpret facial expressions. Many AS children will be highly aware of right and wrong and will bluntly announce what is wrong. They will recognize others' shortcomings, but not their own. Consequently, the behavior of those with Asperger's is likely to be inappropriate through no fault of their own.
Children with AS need routine and predictability to give them a sense of safety. Change can cause stress and too much change can lead to meltdowns (tantrums). Changes that are stressful for them are: a different teacher at school, a new routine, doing things in a different order (e.g.; putting pants on before a shirt), going to the bathroom at someone else's home, changing a bedroom curtain or the color of the walls, to name a few. Routines and predictability help them remain calm.
Your son's thinking may be totally focused on only one or two interests, about which he is very knowledgeable. Many children with Asperger's syndrome are interested in parts of a whole (intricate jigsaw puzzles), designing houses, drawing highly detailed scenes, astronomy, the computer, insects, Pokemon, trains, and many more. Because his brain is obsessed by his interest, your son may talk only about it, even when others are carrying on a conversation on a different topic.
AS children notice details, rather than the "whole" picture. The importance of the detail prevents the AS child from understanding the bigger picture, so instructions may get lost in his focus on a single detail. A lesson at school may be totally ignored in favor of a fly on the wall. Multiple instructions are extremely difficult for these children to retain and follow.
AS children are not able to access their frontal cortex or prefrontal lobe efficiently, so they must call on social skills from their memories. If a social skill has not been taught, they won't have it. Consequently, turn taking, imagination, conversation, and other's points of view cause AS children great difficulty. The AS person may be unable to realize consequences outside his or her way of thinking. In addition, they cannot recognize when someone is lying to them or trying to take advantage. Some get into trouble with the law as a result.
Anger in AS children often occurs due to over stimulation of the senses or a change in routine. It is often the only response the AS child knows. Anger management presents problems. They see things in black and white, which results in tantrums when they don't get their own way, feel threatened, or overwhelmed. Some children with Asperger's bottle up anger and turn it inward and hit or bite themselves, never revealing where the trouble is. Many people with AS are perfectionists reacting with anger when things don't go as they wish.
One of the most difficult thinking patterns of Asperger's is mindblindness. Mindblindness is the lack of ability to understand the emotions, feelings, motivations, and logic of others and not care that they don't understand! Consequently, they behave without regard to the welfare of others. The only way they will ever change their thinking or behavior is if it is in their own interests to do so. Even then, convincing a child with Asperger's to change his mind is an uphill battle.