How to help your child with Aspergers who is withdrawn at school
As the writer of a newsletter for parents of children with Aspergers and other Autistic Spectrum Conditions I receive a number of questions from parents who need help with their children. I was recently asked by the grandparents of an 8 year old with Aspergers: "How can I help with the situation of school for a child who is withdrawn (not disruptive) therefore the teachers don't seem to have a problem?" The answer that I gave to them was that a child with Aspergers who is withdrawn and does not join in with the rest of the class is just as much of a concern than one who is 'acting out'. The problem is that schools and teachers will often ignore this as they associate problems with poor behavior. So obviously for quieter kids they may be less concerned.
This is not meant as a criticism of many teachers as they are often so busy just trying to teach the other students and control the class. There are several reasons why this may be happening for the child. One possible reason is that he may be bored and just 'zoned out'. If this is the case his interest and motivation to engage will need to be captured by the teacher better.
So for example if the child has a particular focus or interest (such as collecting match boxes) then this area of interest should be used to help teach the child. An example may be that if he is doing math then counting and multiplying match boxes could be used. Another possible reason for withdrawal is chronic low self esteem and lack of confidence. Many Aspergers kids know they are 'different' and don't want to stand out from the crowd.
They are often afraid of being laughed at or teased. This is particularly the case for the child as he gets older. As this happens all of his peers are growing older and generally developing much faster at social communication, daily living skills etc.
This becomes very obvious to the child and so can make them feel low and lacking in self esteem. These are just several possible reasons for the problem. But it is important to get to the root of the problem whatever it is. So that you can then begin to help the child to move on.
One approach to take would be to gently encourage him to talk about what changes he would like to make to the classroom environment to make it a better place. He may well tell you what some of the problems are. For example he may find it too noisy, certain pupils hard to deal with or he may not be understanding some of the things that the teacher is trying to communicate. You should also arrange an appointment to see his teacher and discuss your concerns with them openly and honestly. It may be that his teacher hasn't even noticed that there is a problem! Because as I said before it is likely that the teacher is having to look after another 20, 30 or even 40 other children. It's really important to keep the channels of communication between home and school open so that you are both working together and are seeing the same picture.
It is through such partnership working that a consistent way forward can often be found to help improve the quality of life for the child. To summarize the main points of this article I would say that if you are concerned that your child appears too quiet and withdrawn to the detriment of his education; you need to speak up. There may be any number of reasons for this but if you can get to the bottom of it all with your child, and successfully involve the school, you should be able to do something about it.
Dave Angel is a social worker with families who have children on the Autistic Spectrum and is the author of a new e-book that answers the 46 most asked questions by parents of children with Aspergers. To claim your free 7 day Mini-Course for parents of children with Aspergers Syndrome, visit http://www.parentingaspergers.com today.
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