Sylvia Rimm's Parenting Advice
Wednesday March 18, 2009
Asperger's Child Doesn't Need Special Treatment
Q. My 8-year-old son has Asperger's syndrome and doesn't do well with change. How will divorce affect him?
A. It's true that Asperger's children struggle more with change and also they're typically not very good at reading people's emotions. Your son will require simple, clear explanations, but so would any child. What's most important for your son's adjustment is your and your ex-partner's adjustment. If you're respectful of each other and reasonably similar in your parenting, it will help your son to adjust. So while your son needs help adjusting, his needs aren't very different than what all children need.
For a free newsletter about helping children cope with divorce, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or read "Helping Your Children Cope With Divorce" at www.sylviarimm.com.
Son May Have Problems With Special-Needs Sibling
Q. I have a 14-year-old son and three daughters who are 10, 7 and 5. My 10-year-old is nonverbal and developmentally delayed -- she does, however, understand most of what goes on around her at home and in school. My son has absolutely no use for her at all and has told us on many occasions that he's embarrassed by her and her behaviors. I've recently gone back to work part time and about once a month he has been asked to get her off the bus because I've a meeting. Yesterday was one of those days, and the bus driver reported to me that she refused to get off the bus, and when she did, she ran from him and when he caught her, the bus driver witnessed him "smacking" her. I'm absolutely heartbroken, and I don't even begin to know how to handle this situation! My fear is that he'll blame her for the trouble he's in and it will simply continue the cycle. What are your thoughts and or suggestions?
A. There are difficult sibling rivalry issues that often occur when children have special needs. Although sometimes siblings learn to be especially kind, other times they feel unusually jealous -- particularly the child who lost attention or is the one just older than the special-needs child, namely your 14-year-old son. The special-needs child gets a different quality of attention with which the older child can never compete. Your son has probably felt rejected and has held in lots of anger about being displaced by his very needy 10-year-old sister. Obviously, this last occurrence is likely to increase his anger. It also increases the risk for your daughter and she cannot be safe unless you can change your son's attitude.
You can have a one-to-one meeting with your son and explain that you understand how he could feel frustrated and angry, but that it's not acceptable for him to take his anger out on his sister or hurt her. You can review some strategies he can use for getting your daughter to cooperate and tell him how much you'll appreciate his efforts. You can even explain that because it's a difficult job to guide his sister, you want him to know how much it means to you, and then ask him if he thinks he's up to helping you with her in the future. If he agrees, you can let him try again and you can thank him sincerely for each time. If he prefers not to and just feels too embarrassed, you'll have to make some other arrangement. Punishments will only worsen the situation, but your special appreciation may work. Counseling for your son could also help him cope with his anger and frustration.
For a free newsletter about sibling rivalry, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or read "Tips for Reducing Sibling Rivalry" at www.sylviarimm.com.
Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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