Children with autism and Asperger's syndrome often take a "glass half-empty" view of life, which can lead to negative language. The causes of this tendency can range from inflexible thinking to feelings of social inadequacy to sensory overload. Your Aspie child's reactions might range from grumbling and complaining, to full-on temper tantrums. Because most kids with Asperger's have a highly developed vocabulary, they can come up with colorful, descriptive and downright shocking verbal rants.
Children with Asperger's syndrome tend to think in black and white terms. They like rules and they crave consistency. They have trouble recognizing that rules must bend in certain situations. This tendency can lead to both negative thinking and negative language if an unexpected change takes place. Use visual schedules and create a predictable routine for your child, as much as possible. At the same time, though, help him learn to deal with the inevitable surprises and changes of life. Michael Powers, author of "Asperger Syndrome & Your Child: A Parent's Guide," recommends playing the "What If" game. Ask questions, such as, "What if the ice cream store doesn't have your favorite ice cream?" or "What if your teacher cancels recess because it's snowing?" These exercises can help your child think of solutions ahead of time and encourage more flexible thinking. Praise your child when he handles a change with grace. (ref. 1, pg. 170-172)
Many children with Asperger's want and crave relationships, but lack the social awareness and language skills to maintain them. These kids are often the targets of teasing and bullying, which can lead to feelings of social isolation and worthlessness. Sometimes, negative language is fueled by anger, fear and resentment. Pay close attention to your child's social interactions. Talk with your child's teacher to learn about the quality of her relationships at school. Then, find ways to improve social interactions, based on your observations. If your child tends to grab or hug other children, for example, talk about personal space. At the same time, find experiences and activities that your child can feel successful in. Look for clubs based on your child's hobbies, such as chess, book clubs or video game clubs. Here, your child is more likely to meet children with similar interests and temperaments. These activities can become havens of peace for your child and reduce negative language by boosting self-esteem. (ref. 1, pg. 175-180)
You've probably noticed that the negative language increases when your child is hungry, tired or facing sensory overload. Many kids with Asperger's syndrome have negative reactions to noise, fluorescent lights or even certain odors and tactile experiences. Seek to eliminate these triggers when possible, and prepare your child ahead of time when a potentially overloading experience is inevitable. Say something like, "We've got to go to the grocery store. You can wear your headphones and help me pick out the cereal. It will be over soon." (ref. 2, pg. 55-65)
Children with Asperger's syndrome face many overwhelming challenges every day that can cause negative language. However, if they're to function successfully as adults, they must learn ways to cope with these challenges. Temple Grandin, autism advocate and author of "The Way I See It," says certain behaviors, such as swearing and rude language, should never be tolerated. Strive to teach skills and reduce sensory overload, but if your child resorts to inappropriate behaviors, calmly intervene. In some cases, just stating that a behavior is inappropriate is enough to keep it in check. In other cases, you might have to impose a consequence for the learning to stick. Make the consequence one that is meaningful to your child, says Grandin, such as taking away a computer game for a day or removing television privileges after school. (ref. 2, pg. 123-125)
- Asperger Syndrome & Your Child: A Parent's Guide; Michael D. Powers and Janet Poland; 2003
- The Way I See It; Temple Grandin; 2008
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