I remember reading last year that perhaps the most difficult part of Aspergers syndrome is that which is invisible. In her book How to Teach Life Skills to Kids with Autism and Aspergers, Jennifer McIlwee Myers describes Aspergers as “invisible but crippling”. That resonated with me. Whether you call it autism, high-functioning autism, or Aspergers syndrome, one of the hardest things my son deals with is the inability to communicate. Even when my son tried to tell me communication is hard, he couldn’t quite explain it.
Answering why questions is extremely hard for him. I usually have to turn it into a “what about this…” question. Sometimes it seems like it physically hurts my son with autism when I’m trying to get him to explain something. He scrunches up his face, put his hands on his head, asks if he can just not answer.
How can a parent help with that? I can’t get inside his head and do the talking for him. I do my best to help him walk through it, to offer possibilities. Then I wonder if the answers he comes up with are really his, or if I’m projecting what I think is his answer, but not really.
My ten-year old has made tremendous progress. He is now able to deal with unexpected situations much more easily. The other night he dumped some of his food and didn’t have a meltdown. He can handle touch better now. Nowadays if I tell him he needs to do something else, he’s usually ok with that.
People will tell me, “He doesn’t look autistic.” I think they are referring to his coping skills and how far he’s come. I think they mean it in a good way.
However, he is autistic. And perhaps his greatest challenges are the ones you can’t see, including communication.
So, if you ask him a question and he doesn’t say anything, he just stares at you, please don’t think he’s rude. He just doesn’t know what to say, and sometimes he freezes up. In fact, I’m willing to bet there are a lot of people on the autism spectrum who would like your patience in this area. They simply don’t know what to say or how to respond.
If you need help teaching your child life skills, I recommend Jennifer’s book. One of the best aspects of the book is that Jennifer herself has Aspergers syndrom. You can learn more about it here. (Affiliate link. Should you purchase anything, I make a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.)
Does your child deal with invisible challenges? Tell me in the comments!
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