Giving a Child with Aspergers a Break
Be. Let the words pour out of the child. Let the busy thoughts escape the mind. Let him speak as long as he wants about whatever he wants. Set no time limits. Welcome the rambling, digressions, repetitions, and dissertations. Be present, without interjection or correction. Allow time periods with no communication rules, lessons, examples, rights, or wrongs. Let the child release the pressure in his mind. Take long walks and car rides together, and just listen. Let him be himself.
Retreat. Grant her a day of rejuvenation, a full day with no visitors, appointments, outings, sports, or any mandatory doings. Keep the day free of all restrictions, chores, and obligations. Stay in pajamas. Allow escape, isolation, and repetitive activities. Give her the chance to rebuild her stamina. Provide solitude and comfort. Stay home from school one day. Peel away the rules and regiment. Let her retreat.
Environment. Ask about sensory concerns in the environment. What causes you discomfort in this space? How are the lights? The chair? The sounds? The smells? The flooring? The pictures? How do your clothes feel? Your hair? Your skin? Where is there discomfort? How can I help? What does it feel like? Describe it. How is the shower? The bath? Do you hurt? Where do you feel the safest sitting? What is hard to tolerate? Do you need sunglasses? A pillow? Earplugs? Let him create a more comfortable environment for himself.
Active Interest. Show interest in her special interest. Don’t call it an obsession or fixation. Call it an interest or passion. Participate. Explore and collect. Be together. Establish a schedule. Make the special interest a priority. Place the passion in a spotlight of acceptance. Establish a blog, newspaper, journal, comic, drawing, song, rhyme, act, or other creative outlet to express the interest. Let the creativity blossom. Welcome the opportunity for connection. Let go of the need to control, fix, alter, or end the special interest. Replace objection with acceptance. Replace disinterest with interest. Celebrate new discoveries. Use the interest as a therapeutic tool. Allow him the freedom to escape from the challenges of his world.
aKnowledge. Acknowledge characteristics, talents, skills, and intelligence. List positive attributes. Don’t pretend anything is easy. Be a warrior and teach how to be a warrior. Don’t try to change the child. Imagine how scary his world is. Tell him he is very brave. Tell him he is not alone in the world. Share others’ stories. Find an adult with similar challenges who is an effective role model. Watch movies about Aspergers. Know the child wants nothing more than to be good, to do good, and to feel good. Explain that he is never a failure and always a success. Tell him you hope he tries his best, but on the days he doesn’t feel like he can try, that’s okay. Tell him he has a right to hurt and be scared. Tell him he is a gift and that there is nothing he can do to make you stop loving him. Tell him he is perfect. Tell him even though you aren’t him, you can imagine how hard life must be for him. Ask how he is feeling. Never minimize or discount. Never say it’s not that bad or things could be worse. Say you are getting stronger and wiser every day. Believe in him.