Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Children and Aspergers

I have now been looking into Aspergers for a couple of years and noticed that in the adult population, there are many self-diagnosed individuals.   This can be for a number of reasons.  Firstly, it is extremely difficult to get medical help with such a diagnosis (in adults).    Secondly, autism in general was considered to be a male issue and all the studies involved males. 

When I first started reading about Aspergers, I could see all the traits my brother has but could not really relate to many myself.  I have mentioned in previous blogs the help4aspergers.com website which is where I tripped over the female traits and realised that I had about 98% of those listed. 

Now this is really about children growing up.   No-one really knew about autism or Aspergers when I was growing up - a child was retarted, difficult, challenging or any number of other things.   In this way, my parents and many others like them just dealt with the child they were given.  

Now my brothers traits are far more obvious than mine.  I was mute as a child but considered to be 'painfully shy'.   My brother still appears anti-social whereas I can 'work a room' if I have that attitude.   Far more is expected of females particularly socially (I hope that isn't too much of a generalisation).  

It is believed that women are capable of mimicking social situations better than men and as a result, women as they get older start to 'mask' symptoms to the point where they can appear quite 'normal' (apologies) for short periods of time. 

What I really want to say is this - my parents had no idea what was 'wrong' with me (or my brother).   Throughout my childhood, my brother's eccentricities were more accepted and he was able to 'indulge' his quirks to a large degree.   On the other hand,   I was 'encouraged' to push myself on and on and I think I have achieved a lot through years of repetition and having to survive (I left home at 16).   The upshot of this is that he is not as independent as me - and I would say I am happier than he is.

So what does this mean for parents who are aware that their children are on the spectrum?    My personal view is that anyone on the spectrum should be encouraged to be the best they can be and not held back by over protective parents (naturally so - that isn't a criticism).    Aspies are capable of so much - sometimes their special interests can be developed into useful skills at work and so on.  But on a purely personal level, I think parents expectations should not diminish just because of a diagnosis.   Every child should be treated as if they will accomplish total fulfillment.  It is the driving force of a loving parent that will push the stubborn AS boundaries.  I do not pretend this will be successful in every way as with any other child but surely it's better than sitting back and telling a child that they 'can't do'?

Now, realistically, there are some things Aspies just can't do without it causing serious grief.   But actually, all children are like that about some things - it's silly to deny it.   As a parent, you are aware of your child when they are not sleeping, picky eaters, socially awkward, violent, sensitive and so on.   But not all parents 'give in' to these things.  They get a bed time routine worked out, they encourage children to 'try food', they organise social events their children are comfortable in  - they manipulate, encourage, shout, rant, chat, beg and bribe.    They don't say 'shame, he just can't help it' and put up with it.  If you wouldn't do it with any child, don't necessarily have to do that with an Aspie.   Help them to help themselves as with any other child.  It might take longer, it might need to be done in a different way - it might never happen, but at least you tried.

Maybe I am wrong.  I can't be sure.  I am just saying as I see it.   

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