Asperger Subtype: "The Emotion Boy"
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This child differs from all other types because he has no coping strategy. While every other type experiences anxiety to some degree, they cope with it through rules, rituals, obsessions, or fantasy. The Anxiety Boy has never figured out how to deal with problems. As a result, his anxiety overwhelms him and he shuts down, hides under furniture, cries, wants to stay at home, acts silly, wants to stay inside, and tries to avoid people and places outside of his small comfort zone. In other words, he becomes a mess. He is very rigid but doesn't really know the rules of the world. His anxiety comes from his confusion and lack of understanding of how the world works. He just doesn't get it.
He usually needs much more time to handle even the smallest issue. You cannot give him too many issues to deal with at once, even if they are all small, or he will be overwhelmed. Bigger issues are too much as well and he falls apart. Sometimes the issues are so small that you think they cannot possibly cause a problem. Not true. Even the smallest change can result in upset if his anxiety is too big. The degree of anxiety varies, and not all children have the same amount, and not all situations produce the same degree of upset. He can be upset if it's picture day at school, his teacher is absent, someone comes to visit his parents at home, he has to get his hair cut, you give him the orange cheese and not the yellow cheese this list can be longer than any other list we've talked about because everything has the potential to be upsetting. You'll know you have an Anxiety Boy because he cries quite a bit, clings to you in new situations or with new people, doesn't want to leave his house, and when away from home often tells you he wants to go back home immediately. His tantrums end when he is allowed to be alone in his room under the covers. Once he gets used to something he can often do better. So once he is desensitized to school, he can be okay if he sees it as a structured, calm, and safe place. He, too, may then act better at school than at home, or he may be the same in both places.
Recommended Approach: This boy or girl needs a great deal of structure, routine, and explanation about every possible troublesome situation. You need to explain the rules of each situation, including what to do and what not to do, before he experiences the situation. You need to give him lots of warning on what is going to happen, preparing him for change. Never overwhelm him. Go slowly and don't try to accomplish too much at one time. Help him get past each issue that has occurred, to "get over it" and move on, or they will build up and the next small one will cause him to fall apart. These are the prevention aspects of dealing with anxiety. That is, you will try to prevent situations from overwhelming him. However, that will never be sufficient and he will need to learn how to cope with it as well. Teach stress management skills: stress resiliency, stress immunity, learned optimism, and "theory of mind." Teach him emotional regulation skills: anxiety management, self-calming, being okay, and the like. Medication may be needed if these skills are difficult for him to learn.
More on: Asperger's Syndrome
From Parenting Your Asperger Child by Alan Sohn, Ed.D., and Cathy Grayson, M.A. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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