In the mental health realm, it is sometimes difficult to find guides that are for people who are not mental health professionals. Many of the books written assume training and extensive knowledge and are not very helpful to people without this training. For parents of children with Asperger’s, it’s hard to find a book that can give clear-cut, realistic answers as to what Asperger’s Syndrome is, and how to best manage it. After reading Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide to Helping Your Child Thrive at Home and at School, I conclude this book is perfect in not only describing Asperger’s Syndrome but in providing real world solutions to helping provide the best environment for your child. The book goes into a description of Asperger’s, how it is diagnosed, and strategies both medical and therapeutic to best manage Asperger’s.
Understanding Asperger’s Syndrome
Melinda Doctor Ed.D. and Syed Naqvi, M.D., begin the book by describing Asperger’s and how one with Asperger’s views the world. Children with Asperger’s are often hypersensitive to sensory stimuli, and will often shut down if over-stimulated. Loud noises, for example, may cause physical pain others would not experience. Many with Asperger’s will have difficulty with how things feel, smell, and taste. This can be difficult for parents, as when the child is young, he may not have the communication skills to express this, and may be labeled as “difficult” or “defiant.”
Communication is a big problem for those with Asperger’s. While they often have average or above average language capabilities, when over-stimulated they can shut down and not be able to express themselves. For example, in the book, a scenario is given where a child with Asperger’s is in a classroom and becomes upset for no apparent reason. When asked what is wrong, the child cannot say and yells and screams. The teacher then becomes upset and punishes the child for being “defiant.” The child may be over-stimulated due to the sounds in the room, or the movement of the children, or a smell in the room. The teacher in this example needs to sit the child down, away from the others, and calmly ask what is wrong, and then place the child furthest from the stimulation that is causing a problem. Yelling at the child or punishing the child will only reinforce the problem and cause more shutdowns in the future.
Diagnosing Asperger’s Syndrome
Melinda and Syed stress the importance of finding a qualified professional in the diagnosis of Asperger’s. Most therapists and Psychologists do not have the training and knowledge to diagnosis or treat Asperger’s. The relationship between professional and patient is of the highest importance, as people with Asperger’s are often misunderstood by most in their lives. Having a professional who understands the syndrome is required for progress to be made. Often children can go years without finding the correct diagnosis and are misdiagnosed with ADHD. A diagnosis is important not only in finding a professional who can make an impact in their life but for the correct services to be given in the school system.
Predicting and Scripts
Stress is a major problem in Asperger’s Syndrome. Change is often something to dread, as anything that deviates from the norm can be devastating for a child with Asperger’s. Like a computer, many are programmed to follow a specific pattern. For example, if the mother is to pick up the child at 2:00 PM, the child learns to expect this, and will depend on this to occur. If the mother does not come exactly at 2:00 PM, the child may panic, and not know how to handle this stress. To change this, a child is best to learn and practice scripts that will best predict possible outcomes. In this example, the mother can say, “I should be at your school at 2:00 PM, however, if there is traffic and I am not there at 2:00 PM, I want you to open your backpack, take out for favorite book, and read it until I come. If I am not there by 2:30 PM, I want you to go to the school, ask the woman at the front desk to use the phone, then call me and I will tell you where I am at”. If the child has specific instructions for most events, anxiety will be reduced, and the child will be able to handle more situations without meltdowns. As the child grows older, fewer scripts will be needed as the child will have many memorized and will be able to handle more events.
Breaking Down Tasks
To prevent over-stimulation and shut-downs, it is best to take a task and to break it down into small parts. Often a child with Asperger’s can shut down if he or she feels a task is too overwhelming. When instructing the child on how to do something new, break it down into small parts, and then give clear instruction on how to complete each part. Do not focus on more than one part at a time, and later when the parts are complete, explain how they work together. It is good to write down these instructions as well and to use clear, precise language. If there is a task, you wish the child to do daily, like a morning routine, write this down as clearly as possible, and put this in a place the child will see it each morning, so they know the exact steps to follow. In time they will not need the list and will be able to complete the task with minimal anxiety.
Syed Naqvi, M.D. goes into the medications she often uses for children with Asperger’s. She describes the medications, how they help and include side effects of these medications. She is quick to point out that medications are not cure-alls, and are needed when most other treatments have failed. She often uses them while another professional provides therapy with the child, as both treatments at once work better than medication or therapy alone. She also works with the parents to see if the medications are needed for long-term use, and at times will take children off the medications to determine if the medications are still needed. This is a technique I wish more professionals would use, as, for some, medications are not needed forever.
As a professional who specializes in Asperger’s, I learned things I did not know in reading this book. I would recommend teachers, therapists, doctors, and parents to read this book if they have a child with Asperger’s Syndrome in their lives. It will help to understand the thinking of children with this Syndrome and will help in providing real world techniques in working with this child. To purchase the book, follow the links below:
Paperback: Click Here.
Audio-book: Click Here.
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