In my last post, I wrote about Carol Dweck’s research and her 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Her ideas are relevant for everyone, but they have a special impact for children and teens with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Many children with Asperger’s have exceptional academic talents and skill in analytical thinking or memory abilities, yet they have difficulty tolerating their own or others’ mistakes. They have fixed mindsets, meaning they feel their own skills and skills of others are given from birth and cannot be developed.
People with Asperger’s are exceptional at some tasks (often analytical ones) and can’t do other things well, such as listen or communicate well. They may feel they are superior to others, and they may not value the effort of learning if it doesn’t come naturally. I have seen a child with Asperger’s pound his head after making a mistake. Children with this diagnosis may resort to cheating to feel they are continuing to succeed or to keep their self – image intact. Frequently, they say they are just not good at some things so “let’s not try those stupid tasks”.
For elementary and middle school students with Asperger’s to develop a growth mindset, the parents must first develop one themselves. That means focusing less on what your child already does well and more on encouraging your child to explore something new. The idea is to cultivate your child’s curiosity in many areas including new school subjects, hobbies and new experiences.
Reinforce the new area of interest by saying:
“Yes, let’s explore that.”
“It’s great that you are showing a new interest.”
“I’m glad you were willing to try something new.”
“Thanks for trying that suggestion.”
“Thank you for listening to my thoughts.”
High school and college age students can learn about growth mindset strategies at the same time they develop their communication and social skills.
Brain training can improve skills, but it can’t always change motivation. That’s something a growth mindset can do. Having a growth mindset allows people with Asperger’s to build confidence in studying new fields and trying tasks that aren’t automatically good at. They learn that effort is valuable and will bear fruit in the future. Combine this willingness to trying new things with brain training skill development and the result is powerful gains.