Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Here's a Simple Step to Teach Empathy to Your Asperger's Child

The average person is tuned to the following station, WIIFM. This station is called, "What's In It For Me?"

However, the average person is selfish enough to realize that he needs to be tuned into his friend's thoughts, feelings, interests, etc. in order to make and maintain friendships.

I have been reading a great book, called Solutions for Asperger's Adults, in which the author states that many Asperger's individuals actually have 'people blindness'. In other words, they are just as selfish as the average NT (neurotypical person). But their mind is wired such that they are 'blind' to other's thoughts, feelings, and interests. It's almost like the world is out of focus when it comes to other people.

Unfortunately, over time, individuals with mild autism and Asperger's come to realize that they are not connecting with the social world. They may want to, but every time they try to do so, they find themselves isolated.

Michelle Winner Garcia, author of the Social Thinking materials, has come up with a very helpful buidling block to help you teach your child to begin developing the tools necessary to relate to others effectively. And, by the way, this can be helpful for NT's as well!

She encourages the child to draw out a visual web. If you understand the concept of a mind map, this is much like that.

Here is how she designs visual webs for her students.

At the center of a blank piece of paper, draw a circle. In the circle, write the name of a person you are getting to know.: (You may also want to paste a picture of the person's face in this circle). Now draw some spokes, like that of a bicycle wheel, going out from the circle. At the end of each spoke, draw a box.

One box will be: Things she likes to do:

Another box will be: Information about her family:

Another box will be: Information about his school or job:

And another box will be: Types of foods or restaurants she likes.

Since many children with mild autism or Asperger's are very visual thinkers, it will be helpful for them to think of these visual webs as computer files in their brains that help them remember information about each friend. As they continue to get to know their friend, they can add more boxes with more information.

The emphasis here is not rote learning of a bunch of facts to be robotically repeated to their friend. But what it does do is as follows:

a) It helps them realize that people are separate from theimselves, with their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

b) It gives them a set of facts from which to draw upon to engage the other person in conversation or in play.

Since many children with Aspergers are 'people blind' in the way they think, this simple exercise gives them a beginning reference point to start paying attention to the people around them, particularly the ones they want to 'join with' as friends.

I hope you find this material helpful as one of the first foundational building blocks toward teaching your child with mild autism or Asperger's empathy.

About the Author: Stephen Borgman is author of the site http://www.myaspergers.net, which is dedicated to bringing understanding, hope, and solutions to children with Asperger's and their parents. He is a licensed clinical professional counselor with 16 years of experience in the field. He is blessed to work in a field he loves and is committed to.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Steve_Borgman

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