This post originally appeared on Homeschooling with Heart on October 19, 2017 here.
My youngest daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s when she was six years old. The diagnosis both saddened me and gave me relief. Finally, I knew why my daughter behaved the way she did! I set out to educate myself on how to help her, both socially and educationally.
Learning About Asperger’s
Reading all those books made my head hurt. Meanwhile, my daughter insisted on going with me everywhere I went, even running down the street, chasing the car, when I left without her. I took her to pet stores and she stood in the dog toy aisle, rubbing the fuzzy toys against her cheek. She never answered me when I called her, even though she knew her name.
I took her to live plays and she struggled with me, screaming because she couldn’t rush the stage when the show ended. The bright costumes dazzled her. It frustrated me that she didn’t engage in more imaginary play herself, but thank goodness for her siblings who included her in their pretend games. She loved to create scenes, down to the minute details, but her brother invented the storylines to go with them.
One day, I heard terrified screams from the basement. My little girl sat on top of a table, tears streaming down her cheeks while her siblings looked on, puzzled. I asked about what happened. They said that there is boiling lava all over the floor and we have to leap from table to table to stay safe. My little daughter believed that there really was lava down there.
Three Big Tips
Usually, a child with Asperger’s who is not homeschooled needs to attend social skills groups and life skills classes. Sometimes they also need accommodations in literature and math as well. My experiences with my daughter showed me that because she was home, these things were unnecessary. Here is what I learned.
Social skills are best learned in real situations.
My daughter is now thirteen and nearly indistinguishable from non-Aspies. I believe it is because she has been homeschooled. My daughter went with me everywhere I went—the grocery store, the bank, the post office, the restaurant, the café, the library, the theater, etc. That means that she learned what to say and do in the context of that social situation. As part of a family of four children, she also learned sarcasm and idioms, phone etiquette, argumentative logic, and tons of other social skills that she has been able to take outside the house and use them develop meaningful friendships with other girls her age.
Pay attention to sensory issues.
My Aspie daughter experienced issues with overheating and being sensitive to touch. This affected her eating, her clothing, giving and receiving affection, and yes, how I taught her. She loved to touch things, but didn’t like tight hugs. She loved cut and paste, clay, and pretty much all art projects, but wouldn’t wear socks with seams.
I have a little boy who has sensitive hearing. This issue caused him to bolt every time we went into a crowded theater or noisy museum. He ran away or thrashed on the floor, screaming. I didn’t want to stop taking him places, so I chose to take him to smaller museums and outdoor environments.
Sensory integration also plays a significant role in how much frustration your Aspie can tolerate and how well she deals with transitions. Being aware of these issues can also improve your relationship with your child.
The literal nature of Asperger’s affects reading and math
My daughter didn’t have trouble learning to read. That doesn’t mean that she understands the storylines in novels. Novels describe the actions and emotions of characters, but they don’t tell readers how to interpret what is going on. A good novel leaves it up to the reader to become part of the story as she feels what the characters feel. However, Aspies aren’t usually very good at interpreting their own or others’ emotions and body language. This means that they often need help getting the most out of their reading. Guided book discussions can remedy this.
Aspies also can have difficulty with abstract math. My daughter often memorized math formulas or computation strategies but didn’t understand how it related to real life problem-solving. It was better for her to use alternative teaching methods, as mentioned here.
Keep your Aspie home and don’t sweat the small stuff! Family life is the best environment for these very special children.