As a parent of a nine-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome, I can share in the wonder, joy, amazement, and often the frustration of seeing my child develop and the challenges he faces each day.
Simply put, Asperger's Syndrome (referred to also as Asperger Syndrome or simply, Asperger's) is a form of autism. There are various psychological conditions that determine where on the autism scale a particular disorder may be placed. Asperger's is consider highly functioning autism. A child with this particular disorder is considered highly functioning because their cognitive and linguistic faculties are often very much on par with their peers.
However, children with Asperger's Syndrome can have severe challenges in the area of social interaction. In addition, they can exhibit extreme instances of repetitive behaviors and obsessive focus on certain routines. Lack of empathy, poor communication skills, difficulty with social adjustment, trouble with basic life skills, and physical clumsiness are other aspects of the disorder.
Recently, my son expressed great interest in baseball. After playing a baseball video game at home, he began to obsess over baseball equipment, baseball uniforms, watching baseball on television, how runners advance to a base after hitting the ball, where players would throw the ball during a play, etc. Rather than deter his obsession, I decided to embrace it and nurture it in a healthy way.
Over time, I suggested that he might want his own baseball glove and baseball, so I purchased both for him. Before long, we began to practice throwing and catching. From there, his focus moved toitting, so I purchased a bat, and we began to practice batting. I also purchased a baseball hat, pants, and shirt, so he could have his own uniform. We began to discuss how kids could play baseball on a team, just like the players he saw on television. At first, I could tell he was hesitant about the idea, but gradually, he warmed up to it.
Ultimately, my son told me he wanted to try to play baseball on a team. He did this without any solicitation on my part. It was a very natural request related to his introduction to the things he already liked to do. By being able to obsess about the details, he graduated warmly up to the bigger picture.
Of course, we signed him up for a team. He has a great coach that is fully aware of his condition and works well with him. Being on the team provides great structure. My son understands that there are rules that must be followed. Although social interaction is still a challenge, he does reach out to this team mates on a more regular basis, and he operates more independently. He understands that in order to play baseball, a baseball player must dress himself before a practice or a game, for example.
For a child with Asperger's Syndrome, baseball can be great therapy. Nurturing an obsession and allowing it to develop into a more normal interest is key.