We all know that adults with Asperger’s syndrome often are not very social…and this may be true in spite of years of therapy and treatment to improve social skills. But is your child at risk of becoming a recluse?
There are many teenagers and adults with Asperger’s who almost never leave the house for any reason. They may be on the computer a lot, play video games, or just watch TV. This is often a result of an intense amount of social anxiety.
Several members of an Asperger’s syndrome message board said that they were afraid of running into people they knew, or people from high school. And the fear of unexpected social situations creates so much panic and anxiety, that these young adults would rather avoid people all together.
They are not confident about their social skills at all, and have such high anxiety about meeting other people and having to talk to them, that they can’t even bear the idea of leaving their house, where they feel safe. What will they say if they run into someone?
So what can you do to reduce your child’s reclusive behaviors?
- Try to identify the root cause of the behavior. What about the outside world is your child afraid of? What would allay his anxiety? Since social anxiety is so often a cause, you might want to try roll playing common interactions that your child might have with others in the outside world. Antidepressant medication might help lessen the anxiety, as well as therapy, if you can get your child to go.
- Daily family dinners. If you haven’t already, implement daily family dinners so your family can have a chance to check in with each other and foster a sense of connection. Also, being able to talk informally in a safe environment allows your Asperger’s loved one to practice the back-and-forth of social interaction…and learn how to simply carry on a conversation.
- Plan low key family outings on a regular basis. Going to a restaurant, a movie, a walk in a nature preserve. Try not to make it anything too overwhelming; you need to keep in mind the sensory issues of your child.
- Have them go with you when you do errands if possible; if you have to bribe them with offers of buying them something small if they go out, so be it. You want them to get used to and become more comfortable going out in public…and dealing with people they may meet.
The older your child is, obviously the more difficult this will be, especially for adult children. The truth is, when push comes to shove, there isn’t a lot you can do to make your child be less reclusive. This has to be a choice that he or she makes on his or her own. (And some adults with Asperger’s do report growing out of it after a certain period of time.)
The important thing is to try to maintain connections with your child, so they know they always have someone to go to. Reclusive behavior is not always a bad thing; all that time spent on the computer could be your child socializing online, in their own way. If their needs are getting met, this is not necessarily a problem. But if you are concerned about your Asperger’s child becoming a recluse, then the tips mentioned above may help you work through it.