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Social Integration as it affects Asperger’s Syndrome

It is vital to help Aspergers Syndrome children with Social Integration.

You may notice early signs of social problems such as: a baby not following voices or you around the room, the baby may not respond to their name and may not smile.

Another early symptom of Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome may be that your child does not show the usual separation anxiety when separated from you.

We adopted our daughter at 8 months old, although we did not realise at the time she appeared to adapt really quickly; within three or four days she was sleeping through the night (bear in mind that she had never seen us, we spent 7 days gradually building up the amount of time we spent with her.

We then brought her into a home she had never seen, she had never spent the night with us). Looking back it is possible that she was never properly attached (because of her Asperger’s Syndrome) to the foster carers.

This attachment is still a problem now although she has learnt to become affectionate and return hugs (she does this in an almost adult manner).

Social Integration as it affects Aspergers Syndrome

These children are said to have little empathy, but our experience and that of other parents is that these children can be very loving, it may be that they have great difficulty in knowing how to show affection appropriately.

Their own body language is clumsy and they can often use inappropriate facial expressions,

Or their faces show no emotion.

Knowing about other people’s space is another difficulty (we had to spend several months explaining to our daughter why she should not be literally in our faces.)

She also has a problem with gaze modulation, she stares at us without blinking or looking away but will not look at other people (including other extended family members).

Children with Autism appear to want to be alone but children with Asperger’s Syndrome are slightly different, in that they want to have relationships and we can do them a great service in helping them with social integration.

Though these children are rejected by their peers, they desire the same social relationships that we all need. This rejection can lead to depression, anxiety, anger and further withdrawal particularly as the children get older.

This makes it vital to teach and practise social integration even to those children who would be happier playing alone on the computer or play station. Social integration is vital for learning about life and about other people.

The lack of social skills may become more noticeable once your child starts preschool (our daughter would not speak)

Children naturally seek co-operative play at around three or four and by the time they enter into school at 5 are able to play with more than one friend at a time. They will co-operate with one another in playing imaginative games even if they argue as well.

Children with Asperger’s Syndrome however, are unable to go with the flow of free play, they tend to want the other children to play a game that they want and with their rules and will get upset when other children don’t want to continue playing “Batman” for instance for hours on end.

This does not help with social integration as these children can be bullied and are easily taken advantage of; they do not believe that others would want to be mean to them. It is thought that they could have a three year delay in emotional development, and therefore social integration.

As these children with Asperger’s Syndrome develop coping strategies you may find that they repetitively rock, fiddle with things, flap their hands and or arms and maybe shout out or scream.

Temper tantrums or meltdowns when they are over stimulated or stressed are another thing that sets these children apart and sets them up to be bullied or looked upon as being different.

Help in social integration can be given through the use of:

Social Stories

Comic Strip Conversations (to visually show how to do something)

Use of Scripts (older children may benefit from the use of written scripts as prompts in certain situations)

Acting out Events (with the child or with family members and the child watching)

Use of TV or videos (to point out behaviours in others, for teaching body language , facial expressions etc.)

These strategies (you will need to find out what works best for your child) will work in teaching your child to share: objects, food, and conversations. Also they will help in teaching your child how to meet people,and how to join in games and conversations.

Your child may have no interest in showing things or pointing out things that are of interest to them. You can help this at home by modellingthis behaviour yourself.

Point out things yourself and explain what you are doing: “Look at that lovely bird, I thought you might like to see it as well, it is lovely if we share things we enjoy” You might need to temper this as another “Aspies”(Aspergers Syndrome Person) thing is to continually talk about their special interest

Teach the social rules for sharing items and conversations.

My daughter went through a time of believing that if she was watching a television programme her siblings should turn away and not watch.

Other areas to teach are: going out –how to manage at the cinema, eating out, at friends houses going to the park etc.

Help them to notice the signs that it is time to leave or that their conversation is boring others (be creative and act out problem areas)

Learning about dealing with conflicts is another area that these Asperger’s children need to learn; as are learning to both ask for help in a safe way and offering help.

Remember that Theory of Mind says that “Aspies” assume that we are thinking exactly the same thing as they are and that we have no separate thoughts of our own.

Hopefully with time and use of techniques we can help our children with social integration and they will live, full and rewarding lives