Extremely Reasonable Suggestions for
“Typical” Parents, Family, and Teachers on Behalf of Kids With Asperger’s
By Jennifer McIlwee Myers,
try to make us “normal.” We’d much rather be functional. It’s hard
to be functional when you have to spend all your time and energy focusing on
making eye contact and not tapping your feet.
overprotect, indulge, or cosset us. We already have enough social problems
without additionally learning to be spoiled and self-indulgent.
us social skills according to how you wish the world was, or even how you
think it is. Look carefully at what is really going on and teach us real
and/or act as if your life would be perfect or soooo much easier if you had
a “normal” child. We don’t thrive on knowing that we are the children you
the mistake of thinking that teaching us typical behaviors and successful
masking means we are “cured.” Please remember that the more typical our
behavior seems, the harder we are working. What is natural, simple behavior
to you is a constant intense effort for us.
punish us with rewards or reward us with punishments. For those of us who
find recess to be the most stressful part of school, any action that will
keep us in from recess is one we will learn to repeat ad infinitum. Getting
rewarded for good behavior with fashionable but really itchy clothing will
train us to NOT behave too well!
assiduously train us to imitate and conform to other children’s behavior,
don’t be shocked if we learn to curse, whine for popular toys, dress in ways
you don’t like, and eventually drink, smoke, and attempt to seek out sex as
teenagers. Those “nice kids” you think so highly of do a lot of things you
don’t know about – or don’t you remember high school?
give us information about autism/Asperger’s early on at a level we can
digest. We need to know what’s going on – and we will figure out that
something is “wrong” with us whether you tell us or not.
a diagnosis or help for us because you are scared of us being labeled.
Without that diagnosis and appropriate support, our teachers, family, and
fellow students will give us plenty of labels – and we might just
believe them if we hear them often enough.
us to do things we can’t do. A forced social situation won’t teach us
social skills any more than dumping us in the middle of the Pacific Ocean
will teach us to swim.
us for what other kids do. The fact that other kids tease and torture us
for benign “autistic” behaviors doesn’t mean we need to change, it
means they do. Needing to bounce or swing for the whole recess is
not morally wrong; tormenting someone for having a neurological disability
attempt to use humiliation or public embarrassment to “teach us a lesson.”
We get way too much of that from other people, and the only lesson learned
is that we can’t trust you either.
DO punish us
(or give us “consequences,” heaven help us) when it is necessary to do so –
but make the connection between cause and effect very, very clear. We often
need visual aids to understand how our behavior can cause an unwanted result
DON’T cut us
too much slack when our behavior is potentially dangerous to us. For
example, adolescent pre-stalking behavior should result in serious
consequences -- because not treating such behavior seriously when we are
young can lead to problems involving law enforcement when we’re older!
untrained camp counselors, “typical peers,” or youth pastors to be able to
deal with Asperger’s. Often their answers to our problems involve highly
destructive phrases like “try harder,” “you could do it if you really wanted
to,” and “snap out of it.”
one thing and teach another. If you yell or hit when you’re mad, we will
too. If you rage at us, don’t be shocked at our “autistic rages.” And
DON’T lecture us about our stims while you smoke, tap your foot, pick at
your manicure and down your third double-latte today.
require us to be wildly successful at something because your ego has been
wounded by having a “flawed” child. We can’t all be Temple Grandin.
Remember, all honest work is noble, even if you can’t brag about us to your
time with our siblings, even if you need to arrange for respite care to do
so. Schedule something special for them without us along, even if it’s just
lunch at a fast-food joint once a week or so.
DO ask for
help for yourself as needed. Take advantage of respite care when you can.
Get cognitive-behavioral counseling and/or medication when you are
depressed. Don’t try to do it all alone. Remember: it is much more
important that you get a nap and a nourishing meal than that we have a tidy
important: please, please, please DON’T wait until we’re “cured” or
“recovered” to love and accept us. You could miss our whole lives that way.
J. M. Myers 2005
Reprinted with permission.
author is based in Orange County, California, and is available for
presentations around the USA – she is also available for overseas locations
given sufficient lead time. You can contact her at:
PO Box 156
Placentia, CA 92871