I recently reviewed The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger Syndrome by Jennifer Cook O’Toole which my Aspie teen highly recommended.
I therefore was eager to read the original book in the series: Asperkids: An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome. I was not disappointed.
Cook O’Toole has Asperger syndrome, is married to an Aspie, and has three Aspie children. She knows what she is writing about and offers the unique perspective of being an Aspie as well as being the mother of others. She refers to this book as “your Rosetta Stone. Let me teach you how to speak Asperger’s, think Aspergers, play Aspergers.”
As an Aspie, she emphasizes the importance of connecting with Aspies through whatever their special interest is at the time. “An Aspie’s special interest is not a perseveration to be endured – it is the most powerful way into our hearts and minds . . . the child’s passion is the way to get him passionate about learning.” As a mother, she acknowledges this can be hard. acknowledging that at her dinner table, there may well be “concurrent monologues about Athena, dinosaurs, and Spiderman.” Nevertheless, that passion is your ticket into their minds and hearts. “As much as you hear, it is only the tip of the iceberg of the wealth of thought, the seduction of belonging, the sacred-yes, sacred-dimension where we cannot mess up or be excluded. . . .sometimes it is the best friend we have.”
She also acknowledges that Aspies often face some unique learning challenges and don’t always get the help they need in the traditional school system. Her children have both attended traditional schools and been homeschooled. “Many Aspies, who may already battle anxiety, confidence issues, and some OCD tendencies, must also manage real roadblocks like working memory problems, dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, visual or auditory processing issues, hypotonia (low muscle tone), motor planning problems, or sensory integration issues.” Yet, “they are often ‘too bright’ to receive educational or therapeutic support, even if they have legitimate deficits in learning.”
The second half of the book is dedicated to describing practical ways to work around learning challenges and teach both academics and practical life skills. Honestly, even as a homeschooling mom of an Aspie, I found the sheer mass of ideas exhausting. But, this is definitely one of those cases where you can take a couple ideas and try to implement them. Baby steps of progress are much better than no progress at all. Those new to the world of Aspies will especially find this information helpful. As Cook O’Toole states, “understanding has changed everything.” Trying to see and understand the world the way your Aspie child does can only help both your relationship and their educational journey.