Let’s talk about perseverating on a topic – a characteristic common to Aspergers Syndrome. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome often have an area of interest that is all-consuming e.g. dinosaurs, sharks, horses, astrology, computers etc. and they are passionate about it. These high interest areas can remain constant or change every couple of months or so.
Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome usually develop an in-depth knowledge of these high-interest topics, often amassing an astonishing recall of facts and data on their favorite topic. This renders Asperger children experts on their chosen topic and their expertise should be commended and respected, whilst directing them to appropriately make use of their knowledge in social situations.
Children with Aspergers Syndrome will need very specific direction as to when and how they may appropriately talk about their high-interest topic in the classroom or in the playground, (this should be part of an on-going Social Skills program involving both children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and their neurotypical peers) so as to learn about turn-talking and following topic-shifts in conversation.
As the ASD child matures their friends and family can use a ‘signal’ word to let them know if they are tending to run on too long about their topic. E.g. bananas. Also, give them some specifics to look for signs of boredom or disinterest in the listener, and encourage them to use these cues to stop talking about their favorite topic.
E.g. listener breaks eye contact, or turns their shoulders/body away. However keep in mind that while you may have heard it again and again, the new listener may find their knowledge interesting and engaging. Everyone’s star deserves to shine brightly sometimes!
Smart educators will use this favorite subject or topic to actively engage Asperger Syndrome children in the classroom, keeping their interest and motivation levels at a premium across all curriculum areas E.g. in a Math’s lesson Addition may be a problem area, but for a child interested in dinosaurs ‘2 Diplodocus in a field, and another one came along, how many Diplodocus altogether?’ Addition takes on meaning.
To encourage children to focus on subjects other than the high-interest area, draw similarities, or point out differences E.g. High-interest topic – Dinosaurs. ‘Unlike Dinosaurs which were reptilian, sharks are cartilaginous fish.’
As the child matures their knowledge base can be used as an example of preferred learning styles or methods, by examining the Asperger child’s information categorising technique. (Note: you will have to carefully refocus attention back to the task to avoid hearing all about dinosaurs, but if you can make the connection it’s worth the effort!)
Within the classroom Asperger children should be acknowledged as experts on their topic, and their peers should be encouraged to refer to them for assistance in that area. Over the years our son has amassed vast amounts of knowledge on a variety of very unrelated subjects and always the fascination was taken to the nth degree. This has given him expertise in many areas, and we often refer to him for definitive answers to our queries. We always squabble over whose team he should be on when we play Trivial Pursuit or other general knowledge games!
So I recommend nurturing your Asperger child’s thirst for knowledge, in a supportive and directed manner. In this way you may manage to turn their ‘obsession’ into their source of income in their adult lives, otherwise referred to as their “bread and butter” specialty.
While there is no specific treatment or ‘cure’ for Asperger’s Syndrome, there are many interventions that can significantly improve the functioning and quality of life of people and children with Asperger’s. It is important to properly classify the condition and remember that it is not Asperger’s disease, but rather a syndrome. Herbal and homeopathic remedies can be viable alternatives to synthetic drugs and may be just as effective, with far fewer risks and side effects.
It is important that you only use natural remedies from a reliable source, as the quality of herbs used as well as methods of preparation may affect the strength and effectiveness of the remedy. Depending on the symptoms that need treatment, certain herbal ingredients such as St. John’s Wort, Melissa officinalis, Passiflora, and Chamomile, among others, may be recommended as part of a holistic treatment plan.
About the author
Nelle Frances is the mother of a 15 year old with Asperger’s Syndrome, a Special Needs Educator and Author of the Ben and His Helmet series of books for Asperger children. She is also an active member of 5 Asperger’s Syndrome Support and Advocacy Groups. For more information and Support Strategies visit http://www.nellefrances.com
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