Humans cannot exist without having relationships. Let the relationships be intimate or mainstream, but we do need them to live and depend upon. This requirement gets overwhelmingly high when we talk about kids and particularly the ones suffering from Asperger’s syndrome.
For decades, we have failed to understand that these kids are not abnormal.
No, not at all!
These are just different and tend to perceive everything differently. But now is the time to overcome the traditional thoughts and inculcate a decent deal of friendships within these kids to make them feel more comfortable and loved.
Everyone needs attachments. Some need to pass their time while some just want a sincere shoulder to keep their head upon. If we talk about the individuals (kids in particular) affected by Asperger’s syndrome, the necessity to have sincere friends is quite grave.
This stage is specifically for the children ranging from three to six years old. Asperger’s affectees of this age are usually found playing with the toys. But even at this tender age, they have a clear aim in mind. They know exactly what they are doing and what they are striving for.
Therefore, they tend to show a dominant behavior even in play activities. As soon as we apply the same theory to playing grounds, we end up with the same conclusion. Since these kids are target-oriented, they tend to control the field and dominate their peers.
This attitude has a very dangerous tendency to cultivate negativity in the minds of others. Therefore, we are going to explore an array of strategies to promote healthy friendships.
Adult Acting as a Friend
A lot of chaps affected by Asperger’s might not be interesting in playing with their age mates. Often, their age mates are not even comfortable in playing with them because of an awkward behavior. However, an adult could understand the situation better.
Here, the duty of an adult is to act the same way as a peer and indulge the child into same activities as he might perform with his peers. However, special emphasis must be given to sabotage any effort of showing dominance. The most suitable adults in this regard are the parents who are close to the children and observe any change very efficiently.
The adult must play a role of good friend and should not try to overcome or rule the situation. However, the medium of communication should be oral as it would cultivate the habit of listening to peers in practical situations.
Children suffering from Asperger’s enjoy watching the videos multiple times, and you should take advantage of that. Quite often, parents are frustrated by their kid’s habit of watching a particular video over and over again, but usually, they are so attached to a specific element within the video that they cannot help at all.
So, you should add a lot of videos on the tablets and phones to show their peers playing in outdoors and communicating with each other. Since they often face problems in perceiving instructions and elaborating their point of view as well, you could provide them some videos that contain questions and answers session.
Instead of focusing these videos on being high definition, you should spend more time in finding content that could dish out the concept of collaboration and tolerance.
Unfortunately, children with Asperger’s syndrome receive a significantly low amount of appreciation from peers and the general public, but that is what demotivates them. So, to promote healthy friendships, the habit must be promoted on a general level just to ensure that the child does not get frustrated and confines himself within a very small territory.
Here, a sheer responsibility falls on the shoulders of teachers who are supposed to carry out activities inside and out of the class. Teachers must realize that whatever the kid is doing, involves an element of creativity and lots of thought processes that should never be sabotaged by leaving unappreciated.
For instance, if an activity requires him to solve a jigsaw puzzle, he might not be able to complete the entire thing in a go. So instead of bombarding on him, you should be kind enough to accept his efforts and promote them.
These are small but elegant acts of promoting friendliness that could have a profound effect on an individual’s personality and enable him to coordinate with the peers and appreciate their input as well instead of just dominating the environment.
Furthermore, if you find a child playing rugby with his peers, you should pay him a visit at the end of the game and tell him which actions were friendly and which were not. Only by talking to him and taking him in confidence, you could exhibit and promote a friendly attitude.
This stage particularly caters to the demands and psyche of children falling in the age bracket of six to nine years. However, unlike the previous stage, they have already undergone a lot of practices that their minds could correspond with some advanced activities in this stage.
Here, the kids with Asperger’s finally begin to realize that they are not the only living beings and they surely need peers to get things moving around. Moreover, they also develop a very positive attitude of taking an interest in playing those games that are equally liked by their mates.
Grabbing the concept of ‘best friends’ is quite important at this crucial stage. Fortunately, at the age of (approximately) 8, a child learns the importance of having a best friend. Not only in the ground where he could play, but for sharing emotions as well, which is quite necessary at this tender age.
However, it should be noted that it is not important for every child to have a best friend at this age.
Now, we shall explore an array of practices that could be used to inculcate the positive attitude of developing and maintaining an advanced level of friendship in the children affected by Asperger’s.
Activities Involving Role-Play
The programs and activities under this category make a kid aware of communicating verbally and non-verbally with the peers. Since a child of this age learns most of the things in a playground, you should focus on that area.
For instance, while playing with the peers, a child with Asperger’s must be encouraged to realize his body space, conveying constructive criticism and receiving it as well, and most importantly, the realization of signals that could possible bring about an event of embarrassment and a sheer ability to intervene and sabotage any such forthcoming, politely but strategically.
Since there is an urge to promote harmony at this stage, videos of their peers receiving and delivering compliments to everyone should be recorded and incorporated into their routines such that they get ample time to view the videos and learn something from the source!
There is a huge deal of emotions involved when we talk about the involvement of an Asperger’s affectee with the normal peers.
Therefore, the elders must make sure that even though they should be provided with a decent ground for being independent, initially, they should not be given the liberty to decide who is wrong and who is not. For teaching them this core of upbringing, elders must intervene and assist.
At this age, kids begin to understand the importance of achieving common goals. However, if they get violent while aiming at the target, emphasis should be laid on promoting peaceful means of negotiation.
Sense of Humor
At this stage, kids often seem to be asking themselves and even the elders, that whom should they be friends with?
One of the most appropriate answers for a kid with Asperger’s is to make a friend who has a very reasonable sense of humor. See, quite often, we discard this sheer element while making new friends. But it is very important not only to maintain a healthy relation but because it promotes creativity, as well as the kids, start inventing their puns.
Furthermore, if a kid with Asperger’s wants to be a friend of someone who loves Mr. Bean just as much as he does, that should not be halted. Mainly, because they would be able to spend quality time together and learn a lot of communication and comprehension skills while watching humor.
In rare cases, children do not tend to laugh at jokes because they cannot find the element of humor. In that case, elders should provide assistance and make them aware of what a decent humor is.
What Not To Say
Kids at this stage, particularly the ones affected by Asperger’s syndrome are quite honest. Even though the elders should promote an environment and habits that demand a kid to utter the truth, some strategies must be taught.
They should be taught when to stay quiet and when to say the truth. I do not mean that you should teach them to lie. But, you must inculcate some strategic habits to protect them from any harm because speaking the truth in front of everyone is not something that brings all good.
However, they must be taught to report to the responsible elder whenever they feel that someone is breaching their privacy or is making unfair use of their innocence and honesty.
An Anthropologist in the Classroom
I have already mentioned that the individuals (especially the kids) with Asperger’s syndrome tend to confine themselves within a limited territory. They live in their World and tend to perceive our normal society very differently.
It is pretty same as an anthropologist living in place A and coming into contact with a tribe B, hundreds and thousands of miles away.So, how would he explore the uniqueness and fundamental practices of this new tribe?
Yes, that is the question we should ask ourselves while dealing with the kids suffering from Asperger’s. Even if that anthropologist is well experienced, he would need the services of a guide which is already a part of that tribe.
Therefore, if we just consider these kids as anthropologists visiting our tribe for the first time, an experienced and responsible person should take responsibility of connecting that child with our customs.
Probably the best practice in this regard, when we talk about handling kids of approximately eight years, suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, is that the teachers should take responsibility. More specifically, a teacher’s assistant should work closely with the child to make him aware of this rational World.
Initially, a peer of the same age should be assigned to collaborate with the kid suffering from Asperger’s and make him comfortable in this environment. However, the assistant should monitor this process carefully.
Social Skills Group
As a matter of fact, we should not promote the act of being judgmental, particularly at this young age. Because on the long run, it cultivates a hidden feeling of hating someone who (apparently) does not accord with your definitions of certain things.
However, kids must be encouraged to gauge and interpret the body language of someone. Therefore they must be indulged in activities related to social dealings. These activities should be done in a group and diversity of individuals must be the core concern of anyone conducting these activities in a group.
This would enable an Asperger’s affectee to coordinate his social skills and determine what is liked by the society and what they do at different instances.
The programs in this stage typically hover over the kids aging from 9-13 years old. At the beginning of this stage, you would realize that as a result of stage 2, kids have started calibrating their peers and their choice of friends has become way more substantial than it was in the previous stages.
At this juncture, kids do not only seek friendships, but they want to indulge into a lasting relationship and to achieve that, their friendships somehow become gender biased.
Furthermore, in the earlier stages, they used to consider those peers as friends who were good at playing but now, the reasons are much more rational. They want to be involved in practical situations, and they want their positive actions to be appreciated in that situation. Which implies that like everyone, they want appreciation from the peers and whoever does that, earns their trust!
By this time, they have also become mature regarding emotion handling. There might have been several clashes between them and the peers in the past but now, they know how to handle situations and gauge any forthcoming unpleasant situation.
Their mode of communication also changes from being physical to using tongue professionally and indulging into less heated arguments.
Let us leave everything to the playground to give you a clear idea of the situation. It is quite observable that kids with Asperger’s syndrome might have difficulties in tying laces, catching a ball, and other coordination techniques usually required in the playground.
They also know that if two teams decide to play something on the ground, they would not be anyone’s priority and would be added to a team at the end. Not only that but if a kid with Asperger’s is found alone by a bunch of boys, they would never let the opportunity slide. They might approach him and start teasing or do something that the kid may not like at all.
At these instances, girls are usually the first ones to offer their kindness and make the affected kid adjust in their teams. These acts of kindness never go unnoticed on the part of an Asperger’s suffering kid, and he clearly differentiates for who could be the real friend.
Contrary to this, boys at this stage are often found passing se*ist and other insulting remarks to the girls, so the difference in nature is quite obvious for anyone who notices and kids with Asperger’s are very good observers!
However, it should be noted that this type of attitude in maintaining friendships may come at a cost. For instance, if a boy with Asperger’s syndrome stays in the company of girls for a significant amount of time, he might end up being teased by male peers for being girlish.
Moreover, even if no one says anything and taunts them, they would find that their body language has turned girlish, which is not something positive, particularly at this stage. Because whatever habits an individual develops at this stage tend to last for the lifetime.
Therefore, special emphasis must be given to promote gender-balanced friendship. This would inculcate a diversity in kid’s personality and would enable him to maintain a moderate nature.
An Alternate Friendship Group
Since the children suffering from Asperger’s often find ridiculed in certain groups, there is a very high probability that a less popular and least socially acceptable group in their surrounding overtakes.
Because it knows how to tap the weaknesses of an individual and make him feel comfortable. Trust me; he would certainly feel comfortable there. But when it comes to his grooming, then indulging with that ‘sick‘ group could sabotage his personality and upbringing.
Therefore, the utmost responsibility falls on the shoulders of teachers who should identify different caring groups and the ones who could cater to the needs of such children. Once she identifies that, she should select the most reasonable individual from that group and ask him to mentor the ‘odd one out’!
Furthermore, if there is a group having the attributes as possessed by an individual with Asperger’s, then a coordination is quite likely. It does not mean that the members of that group should also be having Asperger’s syndrome, but their likes and interest must coincide with the concerned kid.
By this time, kids have already developed a substantial amount of knowledge for developing and maintaining relationships. This stage mainly refers to the children with Asperger’s aging at least 13.
This is the time when these kids begin to realize that there might not be a single friend to depend upon. Rationally, there needs to be a different friend or group of friends for need A and different combination for need B.
I mean you cannot share your emotions with everyone you get to meet on the playground or who shares the same interest in soccer with you. Contrary to this, you cannot even play soccer with someone you share almost everything with.
Previously, it used to be a problem as the kids were not groomed enough to tackle these situations but now, at stage 4, they know pretty well how to handle this instinct and they even pursue it to maintain diversity in friendships.
Animals as Friends
A friend is someone who accepts you for who you are and not for what he or she wants you to become. This ideality is quite difficult to find in humans because of the presence of selfishness, but the case is different when we talk about animals.
So whenever you feel uncomfortable in a group of people, and you cannot even find a substitute, you should get close to the animals. They would never judge or discriminate you from any perspective, and that is often wanted.
The Internet is the new club! Just take an example. How often do you find it difficult to express yourself in words than on messages? Quite often! It is human nature to find different modes of interaction that could deliver the messages.
In this technologically sophisticated era, kids with Asperger’s find internet as one of the most appropriate means of getting their message across. Even if they are very frank with someone, it would be difficult for them to share certain feelings and thoughts explicitly and for that, they need internet.
However, as I said earlier, these kids are quite honest, and you need to make them tackle their instances of being honest.
There are a plenty of crocs roaming in the swamp of Internet, and you need to make these innocent kids realize that when it falls to their personal space and particularly the personal information, do not share it with anyone online, even if the trust rating is unbelievably high.
Probably the main advantage as to why these kids tend to make online friends is that the internet friends do not judge someone on their appearance. They solely judge them if the verbal communication and mental level coincide. That’s all that a kid wants, particularly if he belongs to the Asperger’s club.