by Jodi Zighelboim
Children with aspergers or high-functioning autism have difficulties with social interaction. These children usually have normal to above-normal IQs and therefore people view them as being very smart. Yet, they have a form of autism that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Many children with aspergers also have other coexisting conditions.
These children are not able to pick up on non-verbal cues. Most of the way we communicate is actually through non-verbal communication. One study at UCLA indicated that up to 93 percent of communication is through non- verbal cues. When average kindergartners play on the playground, they race outside and learn what to do by watching others. Children with aspergers are unable to do this. Treatment for aspergers is geared toward improving communication and social skills and behavior management.
Because they have such difficulty with social interactions, most children with aspergers have few if any friends. The disconnect is that many people actually think that they do not want friends. What child does not want a friend? These children may say that they do not want friends because it is so difficult for them to make friends and even harder for them to keep friends. They do not understand the social world. Everything that we take for granted. They have to learn.
As I mentioned these students usually have IQs in the normal to gifted range. Thus, when these students make a social faux pas, they are viewed as rude. After all, these are bright children–why are they doing these things?
I work with students to teach them social skills. These skills are critical for them to succeed in life: to have friends, interact in school, and learn the unwritten rules of society. I work with them through modeling, play, and activities. They learn skills such as eye contact, taking turns, personal space, and staying on topic during a conversation.
My passion to do this comes from one of the biggest joys and blessings in my life, my own 14-year-old son who also has aspergers. His hard work to overcome his obstacles gives me the joy to continue to help others.
My hope is to make a difference. Raising a child with special needs is very difficult and it really does take a village.
Jodi uses space at Triumphant Love on Tuesdays and Thursdays to teach children with aspergers.