Asperger's Syndrome and Learning Body Language
Asperger Syndrome is a developmental disorder that is a part of the Autism spectrum. Individuals with Asperger Syndrome are considered to be the highest functioning of all those that have autism.
But, like all autistics, those with Asperger Syndrome have poor social skills. Part of this is due to the fact that they have trouble reading the body language of other people. Whereas someone without Asperger’s might notice that another person’s body language is subliminally saying they are uncomfortable with a certain conversation, people with Asperger Syndrome cannot.
Many people may perceive this as rude, but people with Asperger Syndrome simply do not have the ability to recognise the body language of others. This makes it increasing difficult for them to interact with others. Because they cannot properly read body language, they may be made fun of and this can lead to them avoiding social settings.
The good news is that it may be possible to teach people with Asperger Syndrome to read body language through practice and role playing.
Teaching Facial ExpressionsIt is almost impossible for a child with Asperger’s to understand facial expressions that people make when they are happy, sad, upset, angry, or surprised. Some parents are trying to teach their children facial expressions by pointing out what their facial expression and telling them how they feel when they are making that expression. For example, a parent that is happy may smile, and then tell their child that they are smiling because they are happy and point out what the smile looks like, even exaggerating the smile to make a point.
It may also be helpful to have the child look in a mirror to see his or her facial expressions. By knowing their facial expressions, it may help the child to identify those facial expressions of others with those specific feelings.
Another technique to teach facial expressions is with books which feature characters with facial expressions and their meanings such as the Pigeon series by Mo Willems.
Teaching Tone of VoiceTone of voice is another type of body language on which people with Asperger’s cannot pick up. It is especially difficult for them to pick up on words that may have different meanings depending on what tone of voice is used.
Sometimes, something as simple as role playing may help a child learn the difference between a playful squeal and a cry of pain. If the Asperger’s child has siblings, teach them to say “No” and “Stop” only when they actually mean it.
Teaching Eye ContactPeople with Asperger’s may find it hard to look someone in the eye, especially if they are talking because it’s their mouth making the sound, so they tend to want to watch the mouth. Never demand that someone with Asperger’s make eye contact. It may be difficult to not get angry with them, but they simply cannot make the eye contact that is normally expected when holding a conversation.
While they may not be able to learn to look someone in the eye when they are speaking, some research has shown that when children with Asperger’s are given something to play with, they often pay closer attention to what is being said.
Many experts have found that people with Asperger’s respond very well to visual learning, so through practice and role playing, it may be possible to better learn the emotions associated with certain types of body language and expressions. By trying to help them learn proper body language and facial expressions, a person with Asperger Syndrome may feel more comfortable in social settings and less likely to isolate themselves.