Rajat Soni explains the disorder called Asperger’s syndrome and the life coaching methods which help to improve the patients’ quality of life
“Remember, everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehaviour or defiance. Nine times out of 10, the story behind the misbehaviour won’t make you angry. It’ll break your heart…”
— Annette Breaux
Icame across this acronym somewhere, which I feel has quite everything that can describe someone with Asperger’s syndrome.
A - advanced vocabulary
S - sensitive to criticism
P - particular obsessions
E - endless talking
R - rigid
G - gifted
E - easily distressed
R - regardless
S - socially weak
Asperger’s syndrome, also called Asperger’s disorder or Asperger’s condition, is a neurodevelopmental disorder, a cluster of symptoms, that affects one’s social, interpersonal, and intrapersonal daily functioning. Named after the Austrian child specialist Dr Hans Asperger, this disorder is primarily characterised by a significant reduction in empathy and social intelligence of the person. Asperger’s syndrome previously came under the umbrella of ‘autism spectrum disorder’. It came into existence as an individual diagnostic condition after the fifth revision of the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorder (DSM-V).
The parents of such children often worry how their child would manage his life in the absence of crucial social and interpersonal skills. But such children can be made considerably self reliant by life-coaching.
Symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome Symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome are often noticed during the early years, typically when the child starts schooling. Though the symptoms may range from mild to moderate or severe, some common patterns are noticed among these kids:
Difficulty in conversing or interacting with people. An inborn lack of social skills, which makes it difficult for them to make friends. Preference for spending time on their own.
Difficulty making eye contact while speaking or being spoken to. Might also display some unusual gestures while communicating.
Sensitivity to certain sensations, for instance, to certain foods, clothing, or sound. Exposure to those sensations evokes intense emotions that might be overwhelming.
Maintaining a monotonous routine resistant to change. Introduction of any change might have an adverse effect on their mental condition.
Enjoying doing a particular thing or playing the same game over and over again.
Clumsiness and disorganisation in their daily lives.
A monotonous voice tone in some. In others, fast speech that it is hard to understand.
While medicines and other forms of therapy help in addressing specific symptoms that manifest in a person suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, life coaching gives a shape to their entire lifestyle.
Navigating Asperger’s syndrome with life coaching
According to Norm Ledgin in his best seller book Diagnosing Jefferson, many eminent personalities like Albert Einstein, Mozart, Marie Curie, and Benjamin Franklin have had Asperger’s syndrome and yet could achieve reasonable success in their lives, as we all know. The prognosis of Asperger’s syndrome is much better than other disorders in the autism spectrum list, and one of the main reasons for this is that the IQ level of children with Asperger’s syndrome is average, or above average in some cases. Life coaching is extremely advantageous for these children. Especially for adolescents, who are already struggling with immense physical, psychological, and social changes, life coaching gives them a vision, support, and a vast arena for improvement.
An Asperger’s syndrome client, who was under life coach Kristina Sullivan, said, “I always come away from our sessions not only with a clear, succinct understanding of the underlying issues that are holding me back but also with specific actions I can take immediately to address them.” Medication often proves to be futile for supporting Asperger’s patients in the long run. While medicines and other forms of therapy help in addressing specific symptoms that manifest, life coaching gives a shape to their entire lifestyle. With the support of parents, teachers, and the child themself, a life coach helps in bringing about the desired changes in behaviour and maintaining them, to flourish in life.
Role of a life coach
A life coach is more than a therapist, counsellor, or guide. To a person with Asperger’s syndrome (and their family), a life coach is the bridge from despair to hope, the road that leads to achievement and acceptability. The International Coach Federation (ICF), along with the ADHD Coaches Organisation (ACO), has been working with such individuals and their families for several years and has effectively helped them reach their goals. The job of a life coach is to render full power to their clients and help them believe in themselves. Life coaching is less about changing, and more about improving. Working round the clock with multifarious techniques, life coaching helps in bringing about the desired changes in behaviour in a relatively short duration. It nurtures improvement in the academic field, social development, communication skills, and overall personality development.
Life coaching methods
Social skills and NLP coaching: A basic training in social skills with speech and language training helps to improve the social skills of children with Asperger’s. They might have strong language skills but what is more important is that they should be able to express themselves in an appropriate and better way. And that is what a life coach does. They help children to correct their awkward behavioural patterns and guide them to communicate in a better way with friends and family.
Coaching parents: Educating the parents of the child suffering from Asperger’s can be very beneficial to the child’s improvement. Life coaching guides the caregivers in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the child. They are allowed active participation in individual and group sessions where they are guided on how to implement the best habits in the child’s daily life.
Behavioural coaching: Cognitive behavioural techniques are an integral part of life coaching for Asperger’s syndrome. They help children to regulate their emotions, improve their behaviour, and develop a control over their impulses, fears, and anxiety by bringing changes in their thoughts and perceptions of situations.
Applied behavioural analysis: Applied behavioural analysis (ABA) has been used by hundreds of therapists since the 1960s and is now used as an essential aspect of life coaching too. The main purpose of this is teaching communicative skills, academics, self-care, community living skills, and work.
Sensory and motor coordination coaching: The sensory and motor coordination techniques are used by life coaches to stabilise kids’ senses and their reactions to external stimuli. This method is known to reduce clumsiness by gaining a good control over physical activities and increasing the hand-eye coordination. Having a better control over the senses helps the children have a better control over their emotions and movements too. This reduces awkwardness and increases social skills.
As Tony Attwood has beautifully put it, children with Asperger’s syndrome are “the bright thread in the rich tapestry of life.” We must remember that each child is unique in their own way and guiding them to focus on their strengths should be the prime focus of a responsible parent. Teaching a child to love themself can do wonders when fighting with Asperger’s syndrome. So love them, guide them, understand them, and never judge them.
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