8 Tips for Parents of Kids with Asperger's Syndrome
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD
Children and teens with
Asperger's syndrome often struggle with the social
skills necessary for success in school and social settings. Tony Attwood, a
psychologist and acclaimed expert on Asperger's syndrome, has written books that
can help parents and teachers better understand the nature of this complex
condition. He also offers proven tips and advice to help kids and teens with
Asperger's to bolster their social skills.
Steps that parents may take to help their kids with Asperger's include the
- Teach the child some practical skills to
integrate into social settings. It may be helpful to practice introductory
conversational tactics, like asking if he or she can join in. The child
may benefit from practicing appropriate "openers" such as "Can you help me with
this?" or "Can I play too?"
- Encourage the child to look at what other
children are doing. Many successful adults with Asperger's syndrome report that
they have learned social skills by watching and emulating what others do in
certain situations. Many kids find that it is easy to copy what the other
children are doing, whether it is making eye contact with their playmates,
listening attentively, participating in a game, or taking turns. This can
be helpful even if they do not possess the necessary social understanding to
intuitively know what to do in these situations.
- The Social Stories technique is a method of creating short stories for
everyday situations that help explain the social cues and appropriate
responses for given situations. A social story could be constructed, for
example, for entering the classroom in the morning and saying hi to the
other students and teachers, putting one's supplies away, and hanging up
coats. The Social Story is a detailed description of a routine event that
includes basic social information, such as "I look at my teacher's face into
his/her eyes and say good morning."
- Teach the importance of eye contact. Kids
with Asperger's may resist making eye contact with others. Eye contact is a
skill that can be modeled and practiced at home.
- Identify naturally-occurring situations when
the child used appropriate social skills. For example, you can comment, "That was a very
considerate thing to say" or "You were being very helpful to your siblings."
- Model discussions of personal feelings and
thoughts. It can be helpful to talk about how a specific situation made you feel
and what you thought or felt during your day.
- Teach metaphors and figures of speech. Kids
with Asperger's can be very literal-minded and confused by common expressions.
They often find that learning the meaning of confusing (to them) phrases such as
"stepping up to the plate" is interesting.
- Teach a "safety phrase" for kids to use when
they are confused or unsure. It can be a simple explanation such as "I'm not
sure what to do now" or "I'm not sure what you mean." Practicing this at home
can help reduce the anxiety that kids may feel when they don't know what is
Attwood, Tony. Asperger's Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals.
London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1998.
Attwood, Tony. The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. London: Jessica
Kingsley Publishers, 2007.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/1/2014