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YOUR CHILD'S SAFETY LINE
By Dan Coulter
Thereís a great Gary Larson Far
Side cartoon about optimists and pessimists that shows four people, each
separately looking at a glass with some water in it.
The first person says, "The glass is half full!"
The second person says, "The glass is half empty."
The third person says, "The glass is half full...No! Wait! Half
half...What was the question?
The fourth person says, "Hey! I ordered a cheeseburger!"
Larson titled this cartoon, "The four basic personality types," but
I sometimes think of the fourth responder as a guy with Asperger Syndrome.
Heís got a completely different viewpoint that others may not understand or
And it can cause him no end of trouble.
I recently read about a Swedish study of people with Asperger Syndrome
published in the September 2011 issue of Research in Developmental
Disabilities. The study involved 54 willing adults with a clinical diagnosis
of Asperger Syndrome. Their average age was 27 and they were evenly
split among males and females.
Among the key findings: Seventy percent of the study participants had
experienced at least one episode of major depression, and about half had
recurring depression. Fifty-six percent met the criteria for at least one
Whatís the connection between Asperger Syndrome and these problems?
I think itís mostly the cheeseburgers: unexpected, out of the norm
Parents know these behaviors can cause others to reject, ridicule or ignore
children with Asperger Syndrome. And routinely getting rejected, ridiculed or
ignored is enough to make almost anyone anxious or depressed. Of course, there
can be other causes for depression or anxiety. Parents should seek
professional help for a child who shows ongoing symptoms of either, but there
are things you can do that might prevent things from ever getting to that
They say the best defense is a good offense. So, if you want to try and
protect your children with Asperger Syndrome from negative feelings, I
recommend relentless optimism.
Act enthusiastic and positive when youíre with your children. Donít always
feel positive? As a friend of mine recommended, "Fake it til you make
it!" Be a motivator. Not with false praise, but by focusing on your
childrenís strengths and praising even small successes. Praise is addictive.
Iíve seen enthusiastic, happy kids with Asperger Syndrome return home from
school hurt and frustrated after trying to fit in and getting rejected. And it
can be worse than you know. Your child may not be telling you all the negative
things that are happening at school. Thatís not uncommon.
Even without access to all the details, parents can help children cope by
making home a safe haven of encouragement and support. One key form of support
is teaching kids social skills that can help them when theyíre flying solo.
My parents had no clue I had Asperger Syndrome when I was growing up, but they
were always positive and encouraging. I always knew they believed in me.
Whether itís a parent, a teacher, or a friend, knowing that someone believes
in you can create a safety line that helps keep you from being dragged into
anxiety or depression.
Whoever else your child sees with a hand on his safety line, imagine how
powerful it will be for him to know youíre always anchoring the other end.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the author
of ten DVDs about Asperger Syndrome and autism, including "Asperger
Syndrome for Dads." You can read more articles and offer comments on them
at the article blog on his website:
Copyright 2011 Dan Coulter Used
by permission. All rights reserved.