Aloof, Behavior, Conversation, Different
A Is for Aloof
Kids who have Asperger's are often onlookers, not participants. They seem aloof but, in reality, their lack of social skills is holding them back. Because "play" is an abstract word, autistic children are better at games with step-by-step rules that involve taking turns rather than free-for-all games without structure.
Nick: Sometimes kids think I don't want to play, but I do. I just don't know how to ask to be included, so I'm waiting for an invitation. Other times I'm not sure what other kids are doing, so I'm watching to see what the rules are.
B Is for Behavior
Most people think those on the autism spectrum have a behavior problem, but this isn't true; they have a medical problem. When their brains get overstimulated or they get frustrated, they often act out, sometimes with aggression.
Nick: My brain gives me too many messages at once. It's like having 10 people telling me to do different things at the same time. When I get confused, I might knock things off the table, shout "Stop talking," or walk away. I need a few minutes to get my thoughts organized. My teacher lets me take a "chill" break in the hall for a minute when I need one.
C Is for Conversation
Conversation may feel awkward and lack the usual give-and-take because "small talk" is something a child with Asperger's doesn't understand. For that child, the reason for talking is to share information by asking or answering questions. An adult may ask, "How was Disneyland?" and get a one-word answer, such as "Fine," or ask, "What did you like the best?" and get an answer of "Everything." You can keep prompting but get no more responses.
Nick: It's hard to start or continue a conversation because I'm not sure what I should say when I don't have a question. I often just answer "yes" or "no" to a question. But ask me about trains, planes, computers, electricity, or tornadoes and I will talk until you walk away. Please try to start a conversation with me anyway.
D Is for Different
Around age 7, a child with Asperger's usually becomes aware that he is "different" from the other kids in the class. He might struggle with filtering out the teacher's voice from all the other things vying for his attention. Visual learning tools that work for other kids (such as colorful, attention-grabbing bulletin boards or interactive blackboards) can be the very things that causes confusion and distress because of sensory overload.
Nick: My teacher treats me differently than the other kids now that she knows about my problem. She knows that my being in the middle of the row is confusing and makes me nervous, so she lets me sit at the end of the row. She knows I feel crushed standing in line if someone is in front and behind me, so she lets me be first or last.