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Six Tips for Parents of Children with Asperger's Syndrome
Being a parent is one of the most important jobs in the world. Parenting a child with Asperger’s Syndrome is not just an important job, it’s a hard one. Children with Aspergers present us with all the usual parenting challenges, plus a whole lot more.
In my work as an Aspergers psychologist, I have found six key solutions to the challenges of parenting children who have Asperger’s Syndrome.
1. Early Intervention
It is better to find out that your child has Aspergers now than to wait until later. There are many things you can do to make your child’s future successful, and the sooner you understand what you and your child are facing, the better off you will be.
It is well known that development in children can more easily and effectively be influenced in earlier stages than when children are older. Indeed, studies have shown that intervening as early as three years of age has more impact on children with Aspergers than waiting until later, even as little as two years later.
2. Become Educated
Some parents have a hard time coping with their child’s condition. However, the best thing you can do is become educated about your child’s strengths and weakness, about what works and doesn’t work for children with Aspergers and about the resources available to you as a parent.
Parents with knowledge can do a lot more for their children than parents without knowledge. Luckily, Aspergers has become more recognized in recent years and resources for parents who want help have increased dramatically. Don’t ignore the help that is available.
3. Establish Routines
Consistency and routines will help reduce your child’s negative behaviors. Daily routines create stability and comfort for children with Aspergers. When you establish a routine, you eliminate some of the situations in which your child is confused, anxious and afraid, as well as demanding and aggressive.
Routines also provide opportunities to give your child more direct attention. This often reduces the need for your child to use aggression and manipulation to get your attention.
4. Try Behavior Modification
Behavior modification is not simply rewarding positive behavior and applying consequences for negative behavior. It is also about determining what needs are being fulfilled by your child's negative behavior. When you have established what those needs are, you can then teach your child replacement behaviors that will satisfy those needs.
Some parents make the mistake of trying to control behavior without taking into account the reasons for that behavior. When you understand why your child is behaving a certain way, it is easier to determine a preferable behavior that will successfully meet your child’s needs. Always consider how to help your child achieve what is necessary for success by thinking of more effective actions.
A specialist, such as an Aspergers psychologist, can help you find the right methods for modifying behavior and implementing more effective ways for your child to meet his or her needs.
5. Be Concrete
It’s okay to tell your child what is inappropriate behavior, but be specific. Talk about behaviors and why some are acceptable while others are unacceptable without using generalities or technical terms.
Your child needs to follow structured, consistent rules that will assist in modifying behavior. Your child can only comply with your expectations when you use language that is clear and refers to specific behaviors (rather than abstractions and generalities).
6. Take Care of Yourself
At the end of the day, parenting a child with Aspergers could take up all of your time and energy, if you let it. However, it's critical that you take breaks from the stress of child rearing to take care of yourself.
Parents of children with Aspergers are likely to feel burned out on a constant basis, which only reinforces the need to take a break every so often. Obviously, you want to care for your child, but you can’t do that if you are constantly exhausted.
Occasionally, take a day off to yourself and enjoy life. Don’t ignore your child, but give yourself a break. Get a babysitter and enjoy a night out, join a support group for parents whose children have Aspergers, find a hobby, spend time with your friends, and look for ways to rejuvenate and refresh yourself.
Your child will succeed in life to the extent that you are successful in taking care of yourself. Your child needs a happy, satisfied parent. It’s okay to do things that will make you content and allow you to devote yourself to the hard work of parenting.
As an Aspergers psychologist, my number one piece of advice to parents is this: take care of yourself first. Everything else will follow.
Dr. Kenneth Roberson is an Aspergers psychologist in San Francisco with over 20 years of experience. To schedule a free initial consultation, please call 415-922-1122.
© Copyright 2014 by Kenneth Roberson, therapist in San Francisco, California. All rights reserved.