Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism that presents with problems in making friends, social interaction and reading body language. In his book, The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, Tony Attwood addresses the issues that can cause social problems in children of school-going age.
Asperger’s Syndrome and Social Skills
Children with Asperger’s syndrome often find it difficult to function in an environment where there are large crowds and lots of noise. They are more comfortable when interacting one on one but usually need to be taught how to be a friend. Common weaknesses in social skills include the following:
• A preference for adult company
• The rules of sharing and listening are often misunderstood and the child may dominate conversations and play time
• Children with Asperger’s syndrome often have a special interest that may border on an obsession. They are prone to giving long monologues on their interest that will bore most children as well as adults
• Attempts at friendship are often clumsy and may come across as rude and immature
• Asperger’s syndrome is marked by the tendency to interpret everything literally. This means that sarcasm and figures of speech do not make much sense in a social context
Asperger’s Syndrome and Making Friends at School
A child with Asperger’s syndrome is normally at home with his parents for the first few years of life. This means that his social problems may only come to light when he starts school and has to learn to fit into a classroom full of children.
Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum and are academically gifted. With the correct training, they can learn how to behave towards their peers and can be taught how to make friends.
A good starting place for a friendship is having something in common such as a hobby or special interest. Children who are passionate about computers, model trains, electronics or reading can build a friendship based on that interest. They will still need guidance but the common interest will set a good foundation for further interaction.
Problems with Friendship and Asperger’s Syndrome
Children with Asperger’s syndrome will generally find friendship difficult. They tend to like structured play and will find it hard to fit in with children who are more spontaneous and free. Their attempts to control and dominate play may also lead to exclusion in the future.
Children with Asperger’s syndrome are often targeted by bullies. The quirks in their body language, behavior and speech mark them as different and they tend to be loners. Friendship with another child can help prevent this type of problem.
Children with Asperger’s syndrome usually have problems with social skills but these can be overcome to a certain degree. Training and therapy are useful and a friend with similar interests can be a good starting place. Although autism is marked by antisocial behavior, a child with Asperger’s syndrome needs friends and often desires to be included in social activities.
The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2008