We’re fortunate enough to make a living helping people with Asperger’s and their families. We’ve been doing this since 2012, and have gotten a LOT of questions.
(Over 43,000 questions so far… but who’s counting?)
So here are the answers to the most common questions we get. Figured I would save you some time googling and looking through our materials.
Without further ado, lets get started!
Where do I start? What do I focus on?
Not social skills. Seriously. Everyone (including a lot of therapists and doctors) thinks that Asperger’s just means lack of social skills. You and I know better. For someone with Asperger’s, learning social skills is a SIDE EFFECT of what we call “getting them out of Defense Mode”.
Once they are out, they will start to pick up social skills on their own.
We once had a 23 year old client client who we were working with for a few months when she told us this amazing story:
After her most recent session with us, she ended up going to a Chili’s for dinner with her family. As she usually did, she got the crayons to color with, and stayed silent, in her own world. Then she looked up and asked her father “So dad, how was your day?”.
Everyone stopped and looked at her. And then she realized that she has started a social conversation, and asked about someone else’s day. Without any social skills training. She just spontaneously did it. And she did it because she had started to get out of Defense Mode.
The point being, start with getting out of Defense Mode. THEN you can move to teaching social skills and everything else.
You have a few options to learn about Defense Mode:
Do they need to be on meds?
Obviously, I am not a doctor, and we have no doctors on staff here at AE, but here’s our philosophy on medication:
Medication in general is a great stepping stool. Take Tylenol as an example. Tylenol is amazing at making it so you don’t feel pain as much. Does it do anything to resolve the source of that pain? Absolutely not! Does it make it easier for you to focus on finding the source and fixing the problem, instead of focusing on the pain? Absolutely!
Same thing goes with medication that may help with Asperger’s symptoms. Let’s be clear though: There is no medication to help with Asperger’s. There ARE meds that can help with focusing, anxiety, depression, etc. But again, we see those as stepping stones. By all means take an anxiety medication so that you can feel safe enough to work through your anxiety issues with a therapist.
In our opinion, once you have gotten to the point where you have resolved enough of your anxiety issues, it may be time to talk with your doctor about slowly getting off of certain meds.
Where do I go for help & services? Which types of help work best?
Without sounding biased, this website is a great resource! But other than this website, here’s what we recommend:
Tackling Asperger’s in an effective way requires a team. You’ll generally need a competent therapist or psychiatrist, someone from the school that is onboard, and a giant support network for yourself (AE+ offers such a support network with thousands of parents all sharing stories and best practices)
The best information we’ve found always just comes from talking with other parents to get referrals, advice & help. The specific services you need may vary based on your child’s specific needs.
As far as which types of help work best, here’s our opinion: Anything that is body/somatic centric is, in our opinion (having lived with Asperger’s), the most effective. That means things like Somatic Experiencing Therapy. We haven’t found much good out of traditional Asperger’s therapies like ABA.
Here’s our thoughts on ABA:
How do I get my kid to…?
Short answer: You don’t. Get implies control & force. A much better, easier, and more effective way is to lay a foundation of love & trust. Then you don’t need to force your child to do anything. They clearly see why it is in their best interest to do what you’ve invited them to… and then do it.
As someone from our Asperger’s/Autism Parent Support Network (part of AE+) said:
For more on taking this different approach, learn Deep Listening from this video:
What do I do when they get angry?
First off: Back off. Assuming they are not hurting themselves, the environment or other people, give them space. Obviously, that changes if they become a danger or a threat. Then please take appropriate action.
After they have calmed down, REALLY focus on doing what the “Super Soul Sunday” video up there ^ says. Then focus on getting them out of Defense Mode.
How do I tell them they have Aspergers?
The how is easy. Just tell them how you arrived at that conclusion and what Asperger’s is. What a lot of our members struggle with is the “When”.
If they have not expressed an interest in knowing why they are different, then there’s no need to tell them yet. Same goes if their life is still relatively good. If, however, they are beginning to notice that they are different, having struggles in school, and asking you about those struggles, then I would tell them.
Why don’t they want to take a shower/do hygiene?
It’s not necessarily that they don’t WANT to take a shower, brush their teeth, comb their hair, etc. They may just have higher priorities. People with Asperger’s are generally always operating at a state where they are slightly stressed (or very stressed). This state continues until you get them out of Defense Mode.
What happens in this state is that their priority list is already 80% full with just managing the day and getting by. They simply don’t have the emotional availability to do everything they would like to. So certain things that are higher priority TO THEM get done, while things they would like to eventually do, but simply aren’t as high of a priority do not.
In order to help them move hygiene up the priority ladder, you’ll need to do 2 things:
- Help them feel safe, secure & loved at home as much as possible. This is their place to calm down, let off some steam, and process the events of the day. The more you do this, the more capacity they will have for more items in their mental priority list.
- Teach them, using a complete logical path statement, why taking a shower is a high priority. That means explaining to them, in a complete way, logically what will happen if they don’t… and why they should.
Why do they play video games so much? (or obsess about other special interests)
When I was growing up, I was EXTREMELY into video games. I played them for every waking hour I could. Sound familiar?
I did it for a few reasons:
- It was fun.
- It allowed me to relax, and be entertained in an environment that I had complete control in.
- It allowed me to socialize with others in a safe way.
The biggest reason was simply that it afforded me the opportunity to screw up without any social repercussions. If I was on an online game and said something awkward, I could just make a new character and no one was the wiser.
Here’s the complete story:
How do I get the school to understand?
Getting the school staff to understand can be one of the most frustrating things about raising a kid with Asperger’s. Especially when they aren’t trained properly. It sucks. A lot.
However, there are some things you can do right now to help:
1) Work WITH the teachers & staff, instead of against. This means leveling with them on THEIR perspective of dealing with more than 1 kid. Show them why helping your kid in an appropriate way will make their life easier.
2) Send them our materials. Specifically, this page is a great page to send to them. (It shares our big picture philosophy on Asperger’s). In addition, we have a “Give this to teachers” audio that is specifically designed for this purpose. It comes with our School Success course.
3) Last resort: Look for another school or homeschool. There are times when you have done all you can to attempt to educate the school staff. If you find yourself in this situation, you might want to consider looking for another school, or exploring alternative schooling options like homeschooling or unschooling. (Our AE+ members are always happy to give advice about specific schools and types of schooling that has worked for their kids)
What does this mean for their future? Will they have a full life? Is there a chance that they will have a normal life?
This means their future will be awesome! A lot of people with Asperger’s act like adults already, and they are just waiting for their body to catch up. I was that way. The good news is they won’t be burdened by the rules of society, and will forge their own path. The bad news is that they won’t be burdened by the rules of society… and will forge their own path.
Your job is to let go of all of your expectations for what they “should” be doing, and simply love & support them through their journey. We’ve worked with hundreds of thousands of people, and there is absolutely nothing stopping people with Asperger’s from achieving a full & normal life.
It is never too late. There is ALWAYS hope.
Here’s the story of one parent who lost hope that his daughter (who is in her mid 20’s) would ever move out of the house, get a job, or live on her own…. until it happened:
What did I do to make this happen?
Absolutely nothing. Let’s clear this up right now: Asperger’s is not a bad thing. It is the equivalent to being left-handed. You need to make some adjustments to what is common in life, but that doesn’t mean you are broken or bad.
Yes, there are difficulties. But there are difficulties with anything. Asperger’s just has its own set of difficulties.
On the topic of what actually causes Asperger’s/Autism: In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter. Here at AE, we focus on helping people with Asperger’s and their families learn to use their unique gifts, perspectives and abilities, and get out of Defense Mode.
We don’t focus on what caused it… because frankly it doesn’t matter.
Why doesn’t it matter? A few reasons:
1. Even if we found the source of the “issue”, it would be like curing people of being left handed. There’s nothing wrong. There’s nothing to cure.
2. Even if we found the cause of Autism, it won’t generate a magic pill that people can take to make them non-autistic. Every single person out there living with Asperger’s and Autism still has to learn to live their life.
On the other hand, that DOES NOT mean you shouldn’t focus on making life better for someone with Asperger’s. By all means help them with their anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, etc. We’ll be here supporting you through that journey. Just know there is nothing morally wrong with the person, so there is nothing to fix.
In short: Accept them for who they are, and help them overcome their challenges.
Want more? Want to ask the Asperger Experts team your questions? Get help from thousands of other parents? Get access to a private, moderated Minecraft server? Join AE+.