Mary Cooper in the TV series “Young Sheldon” might have made it look easy, but raising a child with Asperger’s Syndrome can be a very challenging job. As a parent, you feel confused, at times inadequate, and many times just lost because you want the best for your child but do not understand what best is. A type of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger’s, is a chronic childhood development disorder where the child faces difficulties in social interaction along with other issues. For parents, this can become difficult in many ways, but when you understand the disorder and learn ways to navigate it, you can ensure that your child has a good childhood.
What is Asperger Syndrome?
Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder. The name comes from the name of the person who first described it, Hans Asperger . People with Asperger Syndrome usually have average or above-average intelligence, but they face peculiar challenges in social interaction and communication. They also exhibit behavior patterns that are repetitive and seem restricted. Earlier, Asperger syndrome was considered a separate diagnosis but is now included within the autism spectrum .
Another feature of this disorder is that the person or the child shows intense interest in specific subjects, which they may study in great detail. They appear to be experts in these topics, almost like “little professors,” and engage in long-winded conversations around these . For Sheldon in Big Bang Theory, this topic was “trains,” whereas, for Sam in the series Atypical, this topic was “penguins.”
Other behavioral and emotional symptoms may be present, including resistance to change, inflexible adherence to routines, atypical responses to sensory stimuli, heightened emotional reactions, difficulties with attention regulation, and peculiar eating habits . Additionally, some children also show repetitive behaviors, such as hand-flapping or lining up objects.
The difficulties that children with this diagnosis face make it challenging for them to form and maintain friendships and relationships. As parents, you might also notice that sometimes it is difficult for you to understand what they need. Many parents also feel overwhelmed when dealing with a child with Asperger Syndrome.
What are the Challenges in Raising a Child With Asperger Syndrome?
When your child is on the spectrum, you notice that they find it difficult to learn some essential skills such as imitation, communication, social norms, etc. At times, it is also difficult to understand their behaviors and figure out what it is that they need. There are many challenges in this parenting journey; some of them include   :
- Communication Issues: Since children with Asperger’s have difficulties in communication, as a parent, it can be confusing, and you might find it difficult to understand their verbal and non-verbal cues. This becomes especially true in cases of children who have limited or delayed speech. And because the understanding is difficult, this might hamper the overall communication process with the child, who might eventually become distressed.
- Struggles with Symptoms of the Disorder: Communication is not the only issue. There are other symptoms that become a concern for parents. These include, repetitive behaviors, hypersensitivity to certain sounds or textures, and lack of the ability to control emotions in children. At times, parents can feel exhausted while managing these symptoms and ensuring that the environment of their child is not triggering.
- Struggles with Providing Treatment: When the child is on the spectrum, you are almost always running from one doctor or psychologist to another. Depending on the severity, you might need regular interventions, and navigating healthcare systems is not an easy task. At times, parents find it more difficult to search for qualified professionals and coordinate various therapies than take care of the child themselves. Further, these therapies require that you spend many of your resources, including time, money, and effort, on the child.
- Stress and Discord in Family: Given the above challenges, it is obvious that the family as a unit is under greater stress compared to others. You are constantly in the caregiving mode and also have to see your child suffer when things do not help them. This can create stress and tension for the entire family. You and your partner may feel that your needs are not taken care of, and other children in the family might also experience the stress of additional responsibilities. These issues can lead to fights or discord in the family.
- Social Stigma and Isolation: Society does not yet understand when it comes to Asperger’s or Autism. They do not grasp what the disorder is about, and not only the child with the disorder but the entire family might face judgment and discrimination from others. This makes the journey an isolating experience.
Apart from this, you might also be hosting guilt within yourself with respect to your child’s diagnosis. You need to know that your child’s Asperger’s is not your fault, and it is truly difficult to manage all the demands that this condition has placed on you and your child. But there are some things you can incorporate in your life to make this process easier.
How to Overcome the Challenges of Raising a Child with Asperger Syndrome?
While raising a child with Asperger’s Syndrome is challenging, and even with support, the challenges may not reduce, there are some strategies that can make it slightly easier. These include    :
- Learn about Asperger Syndrome: To begin with, learn as much as you possibly can about Asperger’s Syndrome. Knowledge is mightier than any weapon, and this adage works in this situation as well. You will find out that each child on the spectrum but they do share some essential characteristics. You might also wish to spend some time learning the patterns of behavior of your child so that you are able to identify their unique triggers as well as strengths. Once you do this, you will find ways to encourage and support the child’s interests which will boost their self-esteem and might even open future career opportunities.
- Make Home Environment Structured and Safe: Establishing a predictable and structured environment can provide a sense of security for a child with Asperger Syndrome. Setting clear routines and schedules and providing visual support, such as visual schedules or social stories, can help them navigate daily activities. Further, you can make your home a sensory-friendly environment so that your child gets minimal sensory triggers.
- Teach Practical Social Skills: Social skills training can immensely benefit children with Asperger Syndrome. Social skills and communication skills are trainable things, and professionals, such as therapists or psychologists, have various techniques to help your child develop these social communication skills. Once your child learns this, they will be better able to express themselves, and you will find it easier to understand them.
- Develop and Practice Coping Strategies: Despite the above modifications and suggestions, the child might still face situations that overwhelm them. Practicing how to soothe oneself and creating a plan of what to do when one feels overwhelmed or triggered can help the child feel more in control of their issues.
- Build Social Network and Support: Finding social support in terms of friends, family, support groups, and even professionals who understand the condition can reduce isolation and provide resources when needed.
When you are a parent, and your child has Asperger’s Syndrome, it may feel like everything is overwhelming. But despite the challenges, this journey of parenting can be rewarding when you see your child flourishing and reaching their full potential. You will require patience, strength, and support, but you are capable of helping your child. When you begin with knowledge and skill building for yourself and expect that there is going to be stress, you remove many of your obstacles automatically.
If you are a parent whose child has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, contact the parenting experts at United We Care. Our team of experienced psychologists and parenting experts at United We Care are ready to offer you and your family the necessary support to promote your overall well-being.
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