Discussing aspergers in children"I had no idea!," or "You'd never know!" is the top response I get when I tell someone that Abby is an aspie.  The comments that follow are usually some variation of the following:

  • "She seems completely normal to me!"
  • "Maybe it's just your parenting style."
  • "She just needs to be spanked." (when she was younger)
  • "She's just like all other kids her age - you worry too much."
  • "Oh, she's just unique!"

While some people are trying to be encouraging, and I truly appreciate that, others clearly disapprove.  I'm thrilled she's so high functioning (and she wasn't always) that it IS harder to see the aspie stuff if you're not around her much!  However, many people just don't recognize the hallmark mannerisms of aspergers in children.

I struggle with how to respond to these reactions.  Sometimes it's easier to smile and nod, but then I walk away feeling dismissed and Abby ends up being very misunderstood.  I've often felt the need to defend myself, and realized afterward that I threw Abby under the bus and made her seem worse than she is.

So, how do you discuss aspergers in children with others?

As a counselor, I often worked with aspie families who had similar experiences, so I developed a few responses for discussing aspergers in children:

Reaction:  "She seems so normal - not aspie!":

Response:

  • Thanks!  The team of professionals that have worked with her since she was a baby have done a great job then!  I usually go on to explain that she has come so very far, and that there was a time when it was very obvious that she has an autistic disorder.  If possible, I'll tell them about all the different types of professionals (occupational/speech/physical therapists, psychologists, nutritionists, etc.) that have worked with her over the years.
  • Fortunately, she's come so far that it's hard to tell unless you spend some time with her.  Then you'll start to see some of her little quirks.  If I can, I'll go on to note some of those quirks such as poor eye contact, difficulty handling change and managing her emotions.

Reaction:  "It's a parenting thing, not an aspie thing:

Response:  (after taking a deep breath!)

  • I wish!  If only I could just change my parenting.  However, the hours of testing she's had and the team of professionals who have worked with her are all in agreement that she has aspergers.  I will go on to say that we are constantly looking for ways to alter our parenting style in order to help her, but that aspergers is more about how her brain is wired versus how we parent.

So, if you're an aspie parent give these a try.  Many of you may have developed your own responses, and I'd love to hear them!  Please share them with us in the comments section.

**Although this post is mostly about having children with aspergers, adults and teens with aspergers often face similar challenges.  Click here for an interesting discussion on this.