Being a mom is tough, and being a new mom is especially tough. Which is why this coffee shop in Sydney decided to put a sign in the window inviting breastfeeding moms to come inside and have a free cup of tea and some relaxing downtime.
“breastfeeding mums,” reads the sign at The Willows Cafe in the Sydney suburb of Willoughby, “pop in, have a free cup of tea if you need a pitt stop…no need to eat, no need to ask – please relax : ) Willows”.
The sign has been a hit with toddler-toting moms, and many have made the most of the chance to pop in and relax while they feed their little ones. In a time when breastfeeding woman are often told to cover up in public (as highlighted by recent cases in Australia and England), we’re glad that this awesome coffee shop is focusing on what’s really important.
Dealing with the Deceptive Genius of Asperger’s Syndrome
Children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome were called little professors by Dr. Asperger. This hearkens back to their ability to focus in on one subject and then learn all there is to know about it. They may read, study, hypothesize on their own, or simply take ownership of the topic in a variety of different ways. This unfortunately also points to the deceptive genius of Asperger’s Syndrome: learning by rote.
Those diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome have the singular ability to learn long lists of facts and even complex items simply through memorization. Unfortunately, they may not actually understand what they have learned, and therefore no real learning took place. Instead, the process could be compared unfavourable to someone learning a complex issue by rote in a foreign language. Although she or he may sound very knowledgeable and come across very convincing, the individual most likely does not understand what it being said.
Dealing with the deceptive genius of Asperger’s Syndrome requires a bit of savvy and also a good knowledge of the student. As a teacher you must learn to look past the unusually large vocabulary that so many students with the condition possess, and you also need to understand that the distinct way of speaking is not synonymous with expertise. Instead, it is simply one of the symptoms of the condition and a by product of the mechanics of the disease.
To this end, teachers need to know to ask for information in a number of different ways. For example, you may laud your student’s ability to recite the exact phrasing in the text books, but then ask what this means. Conversely, when explaining a subject matter, use two or three different ways of looking at the situation and then explain it in as many different ways. This fosters the understanding that there are different ways to look at a problem and if one way does not reward the student with success, another way might actually make a problem a lot easier to understand.
On the other hand, a mistake often made by novice teachers who have never encountered a child with Asperger’s Syndrome is to assume that genius in things mathematical automatically transfer to other subjects. Such teachers are frequently quite surprised to find out that instead of also dealing with a genius at literature, they are instead finding that they are face to face with someone who is not able to draw even the simplest conclusions from a fictional passage. This goes back to the inability of an Asperger’s Syndrome child to read between the lines and establish social clues, but at the same time it also points to the fact that children with this condition have one or two topics with which they will do exceptionally well while the others lag behind.
The skilled teacher will seek to draw out the child with Asperger’s Syndrome by connecting areas of interest with those in which the child shows a weakness. This of course offers a whole new possibility for class work.
Elementary School Students with Asperger’s Syndrome Face Uphill Battle
Even as parents have been alerted to the fact that Asperger’s Syndrome will make their child’s education more difficult, they may have breathed a sigh of relief when junior made it through preschool and kindergarten relatively unscathed. After all, there were few incidents and overall your child seemed to be doing remarkably well. This of course is a rather deceptive relief, especially since the real problems do not usually show up until the elementary school years, when social interactions are compounded with a more demanding academic schedule.
Elementary school students with Asperger’s Syndrome face an uphill battle in that they must now learn to contain themselves and their potential for hyperactivity and also emotion outbursts during a rigorous eight to ten hour day. Needless to say, this is where the first chinks in the armour will occur, and before long the child may realize that it is indeed markedly different from the peers and those who surround her or him. Even as intelligence is not an issue and the speech development is considered normal, the fact that Asperger’s Syndrome precludes the accurate understanding of non verbal clues renders the children almost helpless in a world that to an increases extent seems to be made up of such communications.
This is where the advocacy of parents comes to the forefront. Working together with teachers and school administrators, parents of Asperger’s Syndrome children may succeed in having the teaching methods changed to such an extent as to warrant adaptive technologies, altered curriculum studies, and even a difference in playground supervision. There is little doubt that elementary school children dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome do not have to be the odd man out they so frequently become when unskilled teachers and uninvolved parents fail to prepare them and their peers for successful interactions.
Although this only focuses on the social skills, they are a major factor in the life of any elementary school child, and wise is the parent who focuses her or his attention on this aspect of the scholastic life their child leads. The academic skills will take a bit of work as well, but most likely there it is a matter of helping the child to express their interest in certain subjects without actually disrupting the classroom setting, such as it may happen if the child calls out questions or even answered without being called upon and even after the teacher has already moved on to a difference subject matter.
Teaching a child with Asperger’s Syndrome does not have to be a complicated undertaking, but it does require some preparation, knowledge, and the support of caregivers. To this end parents and teachers are often urged to cooperate fully in the attempt to make the elementary school years as rewarding and positive for the child with Asperger’s Syndrome as is possible, and while it is simplistic to assert that there will be no problems, the fact that many of them can be nipped in the bud makes it a hopeful undertaking for those who do not want to put the child into a special education setting.
Hans Asperger and the Syndrome Named After Him
Who was Hans Asperger? His name is famous since one of the autism spectrum disorders is named after him, but what else does history teach about this great physician? Perhaps the quickest facts that sum up his life deal with his lifetime spent in Vienna where he worked as a paediatric physician at the University Children’s Hospital.
Considered a pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome – as it relates to the umbrella of disorders under which it falls, autism – was officially defined in 1944. Dr. Asperger worked with four test subjects who exhibited similar symptomatic psychopathic behaviour. He notated that they had an apparent unwillingness to interact with others and actually befriend peers, suffered from an insufficient ability to empathize with others, tended to be clumsier than other children their age, yet excelled academically in subjects that captured their interest.
He was known to refer to them repeatedly as his little professors. What sets apart Hans Asperger from contemporary physicians dealing with autism is his optimism. While his professional peers had only the direst outlooks for those individuals diagnosed in childhood with the condition, Dr. Asperger considered them uniquely able to put their special interest or talent to good use.
As other physicians sought to recommend institutionalization to parents who were unable to deal with children so different from their peers, Dr. Asperger opened the very first school for autistic children. Sadly, his early efforts were lost when the school and much of his written research burned during a bombing raid toward the end of Word War II.
Some suggest that the hospital was to help children who might have exhibited the same latent form of the disease which researchers now believe may have plagued him as a child. Although highly functioning, he might very well measure on the autism scale himself, based on some early records that describe him as a withdrawn child with an early penchant for language.
Success of his theories and recognition of his findings occurred posthumously in 1981 when his writings were translated and served another researcher to take on Leo Kanner and his rather negative slant on autism and the outlooks for individuals suffering from any form of the disorder.
A scant 10 years later his works exploded on the North American medical scene and since then he is one of the most revered autism disorder researchers recognized by families of sufferers and physicians alike, even naming a form of the disorder after him.
Now internationally recognized as denoting a highly functioning form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome is a diagnosis that sets a child on the path to getting the highly specialized help required so as to enable her or him to lead a full and happy life. It is known that one of Dr. Asperger’s patients went on to correct a mistake made in Newton’s calculations of astronomy, while another won a Nobel Prize in literature.
The differences he made in these lives when the individuals were still children are most likely contributory to their later adult success.
Facing the Facts of Asperger’s Syndrome
Whether you are a parent of a young child only recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, or the parent of a child who seems to be struggling with the symptoms of the condition on a daily basis, facing the facts of Asperger’s Syndrome is a crucial exercise for anyone who is a caretaker to an individual affected with the condition. It does not matter how the person is, how long they have lived with the diagnosis, and what the strength of the symptoms might be, the fact that this is an incurable condition that some consider a disability while others simply find it a matter of being differently able does mot make life with it any easier.
Making matters worse for the caregiver are the many misconceptions about the condition which of course cause some people you and your child will interact with to act in wholly inappropriate ways. Much like some people will speak slowly and pedantically to someone who speaks a foreign language, they also adopt annoying and downright offensive mannerism when interacting with a child diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Facing the facts of the condition will help you clear up some commonly held misconceptions and also enable you to hang on to your cool, should you begin to take a lot of offense at what you and your child are enduring.
Perhaps the most important fact about Asperger’s Syndrome is the lack of mental retardation. It is uncertain where this misconception comes from, but a good many people assume that the condition is synonymous with a lowered IQ, which simply is not medically accurate. Granted, children with Asperger’s Syndrome do show a shorter attention span and find may have a harder time concentrating in the classroom, but they also have the power to learn vast amounts of information by rote and often have a much larger vocabulary than their peers.
Another fact that needs to be drilled into a good many people is the notion that someone suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome is not normally reclusive but more or less resorts to this kind of behaviour as a coping mechanism to escape taunts and bullying. Too often it is assumed that leaving the child alone is the best course of action, when dealing with the bully is instead the better way of handling the problem. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome are just as eager to have a vibrant social life as those considered “normal” but because of the social backlash they experience when their symptoms expose their condition, this is sometimes not as easy.
When caregivers and parents face the facts head on, are willing to advocate for their kids in the school setting and in any other setting, and also find ways of educating teachers, family members, and parents of peers, the effect is stunning. A little bit of education goes a long way and soon the inappropriate reactions to the child’s Asperger’s Syndrome go by the wayside. Since you have nothing to lose but everything to gain, you will be wise to implement an aggressive education program that makes it possible for your child to have meaningful interactions with others.
How Do I Know If My Child Has Asperger’s Syndrome?
If you notice that something just does not seem right with your child, you are most likely quick to rush it to the paediatrician. When you notice that this something might actually be behavioural in nature, you might wonder if there is a chance that your child may be exhibiting signs of Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). There are many stern warnings that strongly urge parents to refrain from at home self diagnosis of any condition, and Asperger’s Syndrome is no different.
Rather than guessing at what could be little more than a developmental in between, you will be wise to seek out the help of a trained physician or specialist who deals in the intricacies presented by kids with AS.
Yet, how do you know if it is indeed time to visit your paediatrician and ask for an evaluation with respect to Asperger’s Syndrome?
First and foremost, you most likely noticed that the child is not as interactive with you her siblings or as you had imagined she should be. In addition to the foregoing, she may be very quiet, refrain from pointing, and has not a lot of interest in sharing things with you. In some cases your snuggling and hugging may also not be welcomed. If this child grows a bit older to show a marked difficulty in interacting with other children of her own age, you know that there is more to the problem than meets the eye. Although you cannot rule out that there are other diagnoses at hand, Asperger’s Syndrome does sound like it might be a viable solution.
Even as the child grows older, a noticeable preoccupation with one item or subject area may turn your youngster into a veritable authority on bus schedules or lions, but may prevent her from picking up other information that is common to children of her age group. She may converse at length about the feeing habits of the African lion, but not realize by virtue of the body language of her listeners, that the meticulous description of the activity is not welcomed by other little girls. This, of course, is a premier sign that your child may quite possible be a candidate for the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and you should get her evaluated at this point.
After a tentative diagnosis is made, other behaviours you may have disregarded in the past will also fall into place. There is the repetitive nature of some gestures or words and phrases, the need to rock back and forth or perform other movements for an extended period of time, and of course the child’s unwillingness and inability to deal with changes in routine.
These are the hallmark of children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and while these symptoms alone do not make for a complete diagnosis, they do point toward an emerging picture that might quite possibly make your child a patient for the treatment and management of AS. The sooner you can get the diagnosis made, the earlier you will have the opportunity to begin a regimen of adaptive assistance that will make your child’s integration into the classroom setting a lot easier.
Helping Your Child Overcome Asperger’s Syndrome Related Apathy
Parents who have a child diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome become quite familiar with the apathy that threatens to overtake their child’s day to day activities. While it only appears once in a while, when it does become obvious, it is more or less a showstopper. The child with Asperger’s Syndrome who suddenly suffers from apathy is unable to comply with even the simplest requests. Initially parents may believe their child to be disobedient or defiant, but before long it becomes obvious that instead of disobedience, it is the condition that is to blame for the sudden lack of compliance.
There are steps parents can take for helping your child overcome Asperger’s Syndrome related apathy.
* Become a calm cheerleader. It may seem odd to applaud your child’s effort at making it from the bathroom to the kitchen table, but when you consider that for the child with Asperger’s Syndrome apathy this may be a huge and seemingly insurmountable hurdle, the necessity of a cheerleader soon becomes obvious. Remember that your child cannot be rushed at this point, but even the smallest advance can be lauded. Doing this has the added benefit of not causing a further shutdown in the individual, such as it is likely to occur if you, as the parent, suddenly vent your own frustrations on the subject.
* Understand that stress is the reason for apathy for those with Asperger’s Syndrome. Gaining a better understanding about what it is that may have caused the stress will go a long ways to helping you and the child understand the sudden occurrence of the apathy. In some cases the child may actually know why she or he does not wish to engage in a certain activity, but instead of sharing the feelings, the youngster may simply resolve to solve them alone by refusing to do certain things. To this end, dealing with the apathy on a verbal level may actually lead you to a number of underlying issues that also require your attention.
* Make the most of tactile stimulation. This is to be used carefully and advisedly but when you and your child work out a system that works, you will find that it is enormously effective. Combine a predetermined touch with a simple set of instructions. You may squeeze your child’s hand while suggesting that she close the closet door, if you notice her spacing out in front of the closet for a length of time.
In some cases you may have to go with your gut instinct. By and large the deceptive calm of the child with Asperger’s Syndrome who is seemingly frozen in apathy in the hallways is actually the home to a nervous and anxious mind. Help your child to relax and recuperate from the fear and anxiety he is experiencing. Suggest breathing exercises or simply massage his back while speaking to him in a calm voice. Although this is not a cure all, it goes a long way to simply ignoring the behaviour, or worse, becoming frustrated and unloading this parental frustration on the child.
Six Reasons Why Asperger’s Syndrome Is Not a Disability
There has been a buzz to change the terminology that governs the topic of Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). For a long time there has been a movement underfoot to reclassify Asperger’s Syndrome as a condition of being differently able rather than disabled, and although parents and advocates of AS children may beg to differ, those in favor of changing the classification do make some compelling points.
The top six reasons why Asperger’s Syndrome is not a disability gives an inside glimpse at the workings of the condition and also the struggles individuals facing it have to endure on a daily basis.
1. The mere fact that children are seen paying attention to those things for which they have a general interest, as opposed to those that teachers and behaviorists believe they should notice, does not make Asperger’s Syndrome a disability. Instead, it may be viewed as a tacit nod to absolute honesty in one’s desires and therefore is simply an ability to overcome social conditioning.
2. What has been referred to as latent anti social behavior so often exhibited in young children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome – characterized by their inability or unwillingness to interact with parents or caregivers extensively – is found to be an expression of their desires to pay more attention to the world of objects as opposed to subjects. This may be attributed to a simply matter of preference, not a disability.
3. What earned children the description of little professors during the experiments that convinced Dr. Asperger of his theories, may not be a disability but could be much more aptly described as a strong interest in a given field of study. This causes the individual to notice nuances others do not and thus renders her or him differently able and perhaps even superior in perception.
4. The systematic organization of things and items may be of unique interest in a child diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. It does not really matter if this is the means of taking a picture with a camera by holding down a button, turning on and off a light, or delving into the intricacies of a physics equation. The problem arises when the system in which the child shows interest is simple, and soon has some clamoring at needing to be outgrown.
5. Routines are another symptom of Asperger’s Syndrome and it has been documented that children have the hardest time functioning in a classroom setting where such order is frequently interrupted or even missing. This may be seen as a disability to some, but others simply believe it to be a sign that the child has a very serious affection for that which it can control versus the unknown.
6. Perhaps the most convincing fact used by those suggesting that Asperger’s Syndrome is not a disability rests in the fact that the mere decision to value one trait or situation more than another is one of personal preference, not one born from a lack of ability. Therefore, a person who does not interact well with others but instead finds it far more important to invest time in physics and other subjects she deems important, may be considered eccentric, but it does not render her disabled.
Teacher’s Asperger’s Syndrome Guide
As a teacher you know that each classroom is filled with children who come from a variety of background. You also recognize that some of them will have learning challenges which may or may not be adequately addressed in the home. Yet are you prepared for the situations that arise from having a child in your class that has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome?
A child with Asperger’s Syndrome is well known for the intelligence with which she or he can converse on a topic that is of interest to the youngster. Dr. Asperger himself used to call them the little professors he would work with. At the same time, such children may display an extraordinary reticence at shifting gears in between different activities, leading teachers to sometimes experience something like exasperation.
It is important for a teacher to understand what it is like teaching a child with Asperger’s Syndrome and if you follow this guide, you are well on your way to integrating this child into your classroom and teaching.
* Recognize that simple acts, like forgetting homework, is not an affront toward you, but simply might be an expression of the child’s inability to remember a routine task.
* Behavioral skills are not transferable. If your science minded Asperger’s Syndrome student is able to go ahead and do the research on a complex science matter, it does not automatically mean that he is able to transfer this research ability to a much simpler social studies project. If the topic does not appeal to the student, he will not know how to do the same things he did for science.
* Positive reinforcement is a must with your student. While many students may do well with negative consequences and actually learn from their mistakes, the Asperger’s Syndrome student will get frustrated. Work hard to notice the good behaviours, and gently work with the parents to correct the bad choices the student makes.
* Asperger’s Syndrome children will have meltdowns. The younger the student, the more prone to meltdowns he will be. Even older children will still showcase this behaviour, although in many cases they will have learned how to handle the frustrations that set them off a bit better. If you have younger kids in your classroom, offer a safe spot away from the other children where the child may cool off. During such a meltdown there is little you can do for the child other than acknowledging his feelings and giving him some time to regroup.
* Understand that an Asperger’s Syndrome child is considered odd by his classmates. If you do the group approach to teaching, assigning the groups rather than letting the kids do the picking is crucial. Otherwise you will end up with the child consistently being the odd man out.
* The child has parents. Do not fall into the trap of trying to parent the child during school hours. Work together with the parents to help him during class time and make yourself available for help within the confines of your schedule, but do not try to correct or undo what the parents do at home.
Supplemental Guide for Teachers of Children with Asperger’s Syndrome
There is little doubt that teaching a child with Asperger’s Syndrome can be an intimidating prospect. After all, they do not call these children little professors for nothing. At the same time, their proverbial hair trigger temper is all but legendary, and those who do not work on providing a safe and also structured environment for students with the condition will soon find that their classroom will have a lot of problems. Mind you, these problems are not the fault of the student with Asperger’s Syndrome, but they are the responsibility of the teacher who failed – in spite of being alerted to the child’s condition -- to prepare for teaching properly.
In the hopes of minimizing the problems your classroom faces this year, here is a supplemental guide for teachers of children with Asperger’s Syndrome.
* Underestimating the frustration a child with Asperger’s Syndrome faces is easy, in part because their verbal skills are far advanced ahead of their peers. This leads to repeated overestimation of their academic prowess, which in turn places a lot of pressure on the child. Pressure turns into frustration, and frustration may lead to unwanted acting out. Avoid this vicious cycle by accurately assessing the actual learning rather than inferring skills.
* All peer interactions are stressful, and bullying can happen even if you do not personally believe any of the kids in your class to be able to engage in such behaviour. Work closely with playground supervisors to know what is going on when the children are not under your watchful eye. Adopt a zero tolerance policy for bullying and nip even the earliest signs of this kind of behaviour in the bud.
* Remember that students with Asperger’s Syndrome often have a hard time when forming their words on paper. This causes them to fall behind in activities and makes the classroom experience one of intense frustration. Counteract this problem by limiting the amount of writing the children need to do in class, and instead focus on other activities first. If you can schedule the writing activities to be done toward the end of class, this offers an open end that other children who are already done with their writing may use to read or get a start on their homework, while it will not allow the child with Asperger’s Syndrome to fall behind the rest of the class.
* Consider a foray into typing. Typing is a normal motor skill that children with Asperger’s Syndrome can easily learn and it will make their homework preparation a much simpler task. Work with parents and caregivers to establish proper typing techniques and then let all your children choose to either type or handwrite their homework assignments.
* Whenever possible test orally. This flies in the face of a lot of common school wisdom, but when teaching a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, you will find that the old school wisdom does not always work. Additionally, you may find that this mode of testing also helps your other kids do better on their evaluations and learning. You may be surprised how many actually are auditory learners as opposed to visual learners!
Is Special Education the Best Way for Children with Asperger’s Syndrome to Learn?
In the past, special education used to be the catchall term for all those kids who did not learn as well in the regular classroom environment as other kids. This led to those with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, developmental and also cognitive disabilities to be lumped together in huge classrooms where precious little learning actually took place. Chronically underfunded, these special education classrooms were scrapped, and gave way to the educational model that would put all kids into the same classes.
This, too, is a recipe for disaster as it leaves those who are differently able to flounder while children who are considered normally enabled find a curriculum almost exclusively geared toward them. Parents who kids diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome have been wondering for some time if there is a good way of educating their youngsters, and since neither the all inclusive nor the special education classroom experience seems to have worked, there is some confusion and frustration evident.
It is important to recognize that Asperger’s Syndrome in no way affects a child’s IQ. As a matter of fact, while children with the condition may have a hard time in their social development, their ability to learn and even excel in some studies is well documented. Unfortunately, it is there that some run afoul those educators with a specific agenda that would see them once again crammed into special education classrooms where – under the guise of having their special abilities catered to – they are kept separate from other kids with different abilities.
Parents must be vigilant in their efforts to keep their children in educational environments that combine those with Asperger’s Syndrome and those without the condition. At the same time, teachers trained in the fine art of teaching students with all levels of abilities should make up the majority of the faculties of education facilities. The separation of differently able children who have the cognitive wherewithal to learn alongside their peers is a process that presents more problems than it solves while at the same time failing to properly help children to integrate and interact with those who might be slightly different.
There is, however, a bona fide venue for special education when it comes to teaching children with Asperger’s Syndrome to interact with others. Lacking of course are social skills and the ability to read and understand verbal nuances and nonverbal body language clues. A form of special education that promotes interaction between children with Asperger’s Syndrome and those without, for the express purpose of teaching the former how to interact properly, is a great idea that should find a lot of support on the neighbourhood level as well as on the national level.
Of course, until both parents and educators understand that there is no IQ driven reason for separating students with Asperger’s Syndrome from other kids progress will be rather slow in coming. Once again, parents must be the educated advocates who will push on for their children’s proper education and socialization, and moms and dads simply cannot afford to remain inadequately informed on the issue.
The Connection between Asperger’s Syndrome and Mental Illness
Hotly debated ever since being introduced into mainstream America, the connection between Asperger’s Syndrome and mental illness is a tenuous one; different psychiatrists and physicians have varying opinions not only with regard to the presentation of the various forms of mental illness but also whether they are caused by syndrome or simply exist coincidentally. On the other hand, the appearance of so many difference forms of mental illness does make a compelling case for an increased presentation of such ailments in individuals suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome concurrently.
Misdiagnosis of mental illness plays a huge role in these discussions. It has already been established that peer rejection of the Asperger’s Syndrome child will lead to a general distrust of peers and therefore a withdrawal from interactions. Clinical psychologists may misdiagnose this behaviour as paranoia or paranoid psychosis, when it truly is little more than a self imposed defence mechanism against taunts and negative peer interactions. This of course is hard to prove and even harder to dispute.
In the same vein, the child with Asperger’s Syndrome whose primary hobby is a love of all things having to do with a bus may be diagnosed – mistakenly – as having delusions with respect to the immense of a bus stopping at a particular locale, when in reality he or she is simply reciting a bus schedule.
Diagnosis of mental illness in conjunction with Asperger’s Syndrome should not be attempted until the full extent of the Asperger’s symptoms has been charted. On the other hand, there is a very fine line in Asperger’s patients where a preoccupation with an idea turns into wishful thinking. It is then that the rudiments of mental illness may well take hold.
Another condition that has given rise to much speculation is the repetitive nature of many movements and verbalizations of Asperger’s patients. It is most difficult to differentiate these from those brought on obsessive compulsive disorders. Withdrawal and introversion have been considered part and parcel of a depressive illness as well, but at times they are the simple protective mechanisms against a group of peers that would not readily accept the patient as a child. Once again, diagnosis cannot be reached conclusively unless a complete history of the illness and the patient’s life is available.
Quite possibly the best course of action is a watchfulness with respect to signs and symptoms of mental illness and consultation of a psychiatrist familiar with Asperger’s Syndrome and the workings of the disorder. Whenever possible, a copy of medical records should be provided as part of the interview. This might not completely prevent false diagnoses, but it will greatly curtail those mental illness claims that are not entirely grounded in clinical reality and are more an expression of a behavioural coping mechanism.
The latter are the workings of a sound mind seeking to protect itself and the body it inhabits from harm brought to it by peer groups, while actual mental illness does not usually have this kind of foundation and instead seems to be almost random.
The Early Differentiation between Asperger’s Syndrome and Infantile Autism
Dr. Hans Asperger was adamant that the condition bearing his name and the one considered infantile autism should not be considered one and the same. Although later physicians are actually questioning this logic, at the time of the initial discovery in 1944 it made a lot of sense to draw a severe and dividing line between the two conditions.
At the heart of the matter is Dr. Asperger’s suggestion that the syndrome was a trait of a developing personality that made it stable. In the 1940s, autism was regarded as a psychotic illness that began in infancy and worsened over the life of the patient.
Later physicians recognized that Dr. Asperger felt way too many children were randomly grouped into a niche with a distinct label, no matter the severity or lack of symptoms. Much like the recent rush to medicate children who would not sit still, back in the 1940s those diagnosed with autism would be routinely shunned and even given up to care homes by their families, even if they could have been cared for perfectly well within a loving home under the supervision of a skilled doctor.
In the same way, later on there was a brief period in the 1960s when the term “refrigerator mother” was coined in an effort to lay the blame for an autistic child on the shoulders of women deemed not affectionate enough with their children. This led to an avoidance of parents seeking out medical help for their children or counselling for their families, and as a result there was a time period when diagnosis and treatment was virtually at a stand still. Making up for this failure was the use of the phrase Asperger’s Syndrome which was sufficiently like autism to make diagnosis possible while insufficiently similar to attach the same societal stigmas.
At the same time, the social withdrawal that marks both autism and Asperger’s patients is a point of contention, although those suffering with Asperger’s Syndrome are usually quickly identified because of the inappropriate comments they make while regularly autistic children will prefer quiet. There is little doubt that the lines between both conditions are fluid and as social mores change, and also the understanding of the psychiatric and medical communities, there is little doubt that the overall modes of treatment of children and adolescents with both autism and Asperger’s Syndrome will also undergo a further change.
Patients and their families are urged to maintain strong vigilance and uphold advocacy for those in their care to ensure that they will always be at the cutting edge of new medical discoveries and also treatment options.
The Struggle over Body Language for the Patient with Asperger’s Syndrome
It is a well known fact body language is the bane of existence for many patients suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome. Although they might work hard with family members and caregivers to work around the need for body language and also the correct interpretation of body language, it is still an area where many fall short. If you are a caregiver and find that you simply do not understand the far reaching consequences of the problem that an incorrect interpretation of body language brings with it, consider the facts associated with this form of communication.
* Body language involves hand gestures, overall carrying of one’s person, but also facial expressions. Even eye contact is governed by body language! Not having the tools needed to properly read or convey the right kind of body language and response makes regular conversing challenging.
* Body language becomes a point of contention for those who cannot really understand it. This leads to insecurity in social situations. Ultimately, it may cause a patient with Asperger’s Syndrome to isolate from social setting, simply because of the fear that they may be shown inept.
* There is a very real chance that a patient with Asperger’s Syndrome will display the wrong form of body language at the wrong time. This might lead to laughing at the wrong time, using an inappropriate gesture, and not combining a statement with the proper form of eye contact. This makes interactions sometimes awkward and even downright embarrassing.
* The failure to show proper body language has led to some Asperger’s Syndrome patients to be considered cold and lacking in empathy. Although to a certain degree that is one symptom of the condition, it is not necessarily the condition that causes this perceived lack of empathy.
As you can see, the problem with body language has led to numerous difficulties for the average individual and although skills differ greatly between individuals, there are a good number of them who see this as perhaps the single greatest challenge in their lives. They are forever trying to affect a new, better way of communicating but fail in doing so simply because they do not understand the non verbal clues offered by those with whom they are conversing. In the same way, those with whom they are interacting also do not understand the fact that they are speaking to someone not able to respond adequately to their clues.
High school kids in particular are trying desperately to fit in, and reading body language is a crucial aspect. When it is lacking, some have reverted to an attitude made famous by Clint Eastwood. Portraying the cool and acting the part of the non emotional hero, they try to affect an exterior that is actually considered desirable because of the lack of emotion. This of course does not work in the long run and before long the individual with Asperger’s Syndrome is painfully aware that the condition makes fitting in a hard idea indeed. Parents and caregivers are urged to help the youngster with their body language.
The Symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome in Interpersonal Interactions
It is always said that individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome have a hard time with their interpersonal interactions. Do you know what this looks like?
* Eye contact is an essential part of interpersonal interactions, but for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome even the simple tasks of creating and maintaining eye contact is Herculean.
* Attempting to create a healthy mix between staring and furtive glances, the individual dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome is unable to make sense of the subtle clues brought on by a conversation that signal to everyone else when it is time to look in the speaker’s eyes, when to express surprise with the eyes, and when to look away.
* The tone of voice is another way that those with Asperger’s Syndrome sometimes showcase their inability to adequately comprehend the interactivity of the conversation. Usually not modulating their voice, it sometimes makes the speech of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome rather monotone. In addition, there is a good chance that the lack of inflection makes it hard for hearers to determine if the individual is done talking or still adding more facts.
* Telling a joke is not something that you will hear from someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, unless it does not require a modulation of voice or any form of body language. Online, you will be surprised at the wit and sense of humour, but in person this is a lot harder.
* Metaphors and other expressions add vibrancy to communication but they are hard won for a person with Asperger’s Syndrome. There are several good books that list many common metaphors but they do not help with the delivery of these word pictures. This leads to sometimes hearing someone use them and having it sound stilted.
* Paying compliments is hard to do when metaphors escape do not make any sense. One might think that someone is using an odd phrase and then try it out on someone else; only to be told that what was just said is rude, nonsensical, or even suggestive.
These are but a few of the situations that the average individual with Asperger’s Syndrome has to weather. When encountered in the company of those with whom the individual feels at ease, it becomes a learning experience. Yet when correction is made by those whom the person does not know well or is easily embarrassed by, it might become a social nightmare for the individual, especially when she or he is still young.
Parents and caregivers are urged to role-play with their youngsters and to ensure that they understand certain nuances. While it is not possible to completely inoculate the youngster against the occasional mistakes that may result in laughter or sneers from peers, there is a good chance that early role playing games will make all the difference in future interactions the child will experience. In addition, it will also provide the save situation that enables the child to try out some metaphors, make first stab at humour, and even practice eye contact.