Research into the behaviors of some of the world’s greatest scholars and leaders has prompted speculation that many of these individuals could be classified as having Asperger’s syndrome. For example, many researchers speculate that Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Marie Curie, and Mozart could be clinically diagnosed with Asperger’s. Even though a diagnosis of Asperger’s often carries with it some notable social, academic, and occupational challenges, these great individuals were able to overcome these deficits to lead productive, successful, and inspirational lives. What this suggests is that in spite of their deficits, these individuals were able to unlock the benefits of Asperger’s and utilize them to their advantage.
Before the benefits of Asperger’s can be unlocked, they must first be recognized. An examination of the lives of influential people such as Albert Einstein and Mozart does indicate one overarching trait: intelligence. Individuals with Asperger’s often have a high level of intelligence which, if cultivated properly, can be an invaluable resource for the individual. Unfortunately, unlocking this benefit of Asperger’s can be difficult as social deficits and behavioral difficulties may lead educators and parents to believe that intelligence is lacking. With structured support and efforts to develop the social skills of the child with Asperger’s, intelligence can be unlocked. This can provide the child with the ability to achieve goals similar to those of other neurotypical children and adults.
When evaluating intelligence in a child with Asperger’s, it is important to remember that accurate evaluation by a professional is typically needed. Clinical evaluations of intelligence in children with Asperger’s typically indicate that these children have all of the underlying capabilities to learn. As such, the challenge in bringing a child’s intelligence to light requires the supports of counselors, educators, and parents to connect with the child in ways that the intelligence can be accessed. Because each child is unique, this can be a difficult undertaking. While it has been widely accepted that each child has a different learning style, children with Asperger’s pose unique challenges that can make it even more difficult to facilitate learning. The challenge in this case is for parents and educators to remain persistent in their efforts and to continue to work to figure what will be of benefit to the child.
Individuals with Asperger’s also have other unique attributes that are often classified as problematic behaviors. For example, children and adults with Asperger’s will often have narrow and repetitive interests which make it difficult for them to socialize with a wide range of peers. While the constant focus on specific interests is often viewed as a hindrance to their development, individuals with Asperger’s develop vital skills that can be helpful for them in other domains. Specifically, individuals with Asperger’s often develop precise attention to detail and the ability to look at familiar subjects in new and unique ways. These skills can be effective for problem solving, creativity, and innovation.
Again, unlocking the benefits of these capabilities requires recognition of them and the ability to develop activities and supports that will build on the strengths of the individual. A strengths-based approach can be helpful in this process, as it enables those working with the individual to focus on abilities and attributes to refine and strengthen them to create significant advantages. Helping individuals with Asperger’s to use their intrinsic capabilities to their advantages is one of the most important practices for facilitating the success of this group.
The strengths-based approach to intervention can be helpful because it enables the therapist to specifically identify the strengths of the child and to utilize these strengths as the basis for addressing deficits in other areas. For instance, if a specific technique is found to be effective for the treatment of a particular issue facing the child, this same technique can be used as the basis for addressing other needs encountered by the child. Through the process, the therapist learns what is important to the child, what can be accomplished with support, and what limitations exist. This information can be instrumental in helping the child find new ways of coping and improving capabilities in all areas.
What is perhaps most challenging about the strengths-based approach is that it requires parents and counselors to look at the child in a new way. Rather than viewing Asperger’s as a disability, it needs to be viewed as having benefits that can positively shape outcomes for the child.
© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Michael Clatch, PsyD, therapist in Glenview, Illinois
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