I have reread my "Welcome to Autism Awareness Month" and realized i failed to mention a few things. Here are six things Aspies in particular have problems with:
1) Difficulty with Reciprocal Social Interactions
Those with Asperger's syndrome display varying difficulties when interacting with others. Some children and adolescents have no desire to interact, while others simply do not know how. More specifically, they do not comprehend the give-and-take nature of social interactions. They do not comprehend the verbal and nonverbal cues used to further our understanding in typical social interactions. These include eye contact, facial expressions, body language, conversational turn-taking, perspective taking, and matching conversational and nonverbal responses to the interaction.
2) Impairments in Language Skills
Those with Asperger's syndrome have very specific problems with language, especially with pragmatic use of language, which is the social aspect. That is, they see language as a way to share facts and information, not as a way to share thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The child will display difficulty in many areas of a conversation processing verbal information, initiation, maintenance, ending, topic appropriateness, sustaining attention, and turn taking. The child's prosody (pitch, stress, rhythm, or melody of speech) can also be impaired. Conversations may often appear scripted or ritualistic. That is, it may be dialogue from a TV show or a movie. They may also have difficulty problem solving, analyzing or synthesizing information, and understanding language beyond the literal level.
3) Narrow Range of Interests and Insistence on Set Routines
Due to the an Asperger child's anxiety, his interactions will be ruled by rigidity, obsessions, and perseverations (repetitious behaviors or language) transitions and changes can cause. Generally, he will have few interests, but those interests will often dominate. The need for structure and routine will be most important. He may develop his own rules to live by that barely coincide with the rest of society.
4) Motor Clumsiness
Many individuals with Asperger's syndrome have difficulty with both gross and fine motor skills. The difficulty is often not just the task itself, but the motor planning involved in completing the task. Typical difficulties include handwriting, riding a bike, and ball skills.
5) Cognitive Issues
Mindblindness, or the inability to make inferences about what another person is thinking, is a core disability for those with Asperger's syndrome. Because of this, they have difficulty empathizing with others, and will often say what they think without considering another's feelings. The child will often assume that everyone is thinking the same thing he is. For him, the world exists not in shades of gray, but only in black and white. This rigidity in thought (lack of cognitive flexibility) interferes with problem solving, mental planning, impulse control, flexibility in thoughts and actions, and the ability to stay focused on a task until completion. The rigidity also makes it difficult for an Asperger child to engage in imaginative play. His interest in play materials, themes, and choices will be narrow, and he will attempt to control the play situation.
6) Sensory Sensitivities
Many Asperger children have sensory issues. These can occur in one or all of the senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste). The degree of difficulty varies from one individual to another. Most frequently, the child will perceive ordinary sensations as quite intense or may even be underreactive to a sensation. Often, the challenge in this area will be to determine if the child's response to a sensation is actually a sensory reaction or if it is a learned behavior, driven mainly by rigidity and anxiety.
It is important to know that not all those with Asperger's experience deficiencies in the same areas, or to the same extent as other Aspies. Each Aspie is unique in the areas that they struggle with, and where they have learned to cope. I have a few friends, and many more acquaintances, and i can tell you from personal experience - no two of them are the same. Like my beloved likes to say, "If you know one person with Asperger's, you know one person with Asperger's."
While observing my son (DS2) and other children, it seems that Aspies seem naturally to be drawn together, and not always in a good way. Adults with Asperger's also seem to be drawn together, but the intolerance of the other seems to be dulled. Either to age or coping skills, i am not quite sure. If the two adults find each other too "difficult" to work with they will tend to just ignore or avoid the other, instead of acting out which is common among Aspie children.
Parents with Autistic children: PLEASE pay attention to your child! Learn their specific 'triggers', and be wary for how they are interacting, and being interacted with, in social situations. I was with my family at a Chick Fil-A during a fund raising night, when i realized my son was having issues with another little boy. I did not interact with the other little boy, i only worked on removing my son from the situation (without blaming either child). When the other boy moved to follow my son from the play area, i held up my hand at chest height (of the other boy) who then proceeded to walk right into my hand. At that point all i said was, "you are antagonizing him". Then this boy's mother comes running across the restaurant screaming at me to leave her son alone, and that he was autistic. I replied to her, "So is my son". She then she threatened to contact the manager, etc. to which i told her, "Yes, please do so." Then she left the restaurant. I then apologized to the Owner/Operator who happened to be there. She told me it was alright, and that she had seen the entire interaction. "Triggers" can happen in an instant and the parent or guardian has to be on constant guard to be there to assist.. This is one reason the parents of Autistic children appear to be so haggard.
One of the most effective ways to work with Autistic children, both for parents and those whom oversee and care for them, are Social Stories. There is no one guideline on how to craft effective Social Stories, but the one thing that must happen in order for them to be most effective is to be proactive with them. it does not good to take the young man (or lady) aside and explain to them how it should have happened, or what they should have done. Here is an idea of what i am talking about:
Social Stories are a tool for teaching social skills to children with autism and related disabilities. Social stories provide an individual with accurate information about those situations that he may find difficult or confusing. The situation is described in detail and focus is given to a few key points: the important social cues, the events and reactions the individual might expect to occur in the situation, the actions and reactions that might be expected of him, and why. The goal of the story is to increase the individual’s understanding of, make him more comfortable in, and possibly suggest some appropriate responses for the situation in question.
By God's grace i have had friends who have been very understanding, who have tolerated, and learned to work with me. I have a good career (although i still struggle with etiquette and learning new material strictly using texts), and co-workers who are also very understanding. Fortunately my career field is full of those who are like me. Both a blessing, and a curse. ;-) I am grateful for who i am, what i have experienced, and what/where/when God has brought me to. It is no mistake that i was born when i was, where i was, and my path through life. Just like His Word says; "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." (Romans 8:28-30, ESV emphasis mine) What a glorius thought.
I almost forgot... one more book i would like to recommend - Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's by John Elder Robinson. That, along with Temple Grandin's books (i.e. Thinking in Pictures and The Way I See it: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's) are excellent insights and perspectives, written by people who live it everyday.