HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Sensory Integration Therapy and Occupational Therapy for HFA Children

“What does sensory integration therapy entail? And is it effective for children with high functioning autism?”

Sensory integration therapy is often used alone or as part of a broader program of occupational therapy for kids on the autism spectrum. The goal of this particular therapy is not to teach specific skills or behaviors, but to remediate deficits in neurologic processing and integration of sensory information to allow the youngster to interact with the environment in a more adaptive way.

Unusual sensory responses are common in young people with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism (HFA), but there’s no good evidence that these symptoms differentiate HFA from other developmental disorders. The effectiveness of sensory integration therapy has not been demonstrated objectively. “Sensory” activities may be helpful as part of an overall program that uses desired sensory experiences to reinforce a desired behavior, help with transitions between activities, and calm the HFA youngster

Occupational therapy is often provided to promote development of self-care skills (e.g., using utensils, personal hygiene, manipulating fasteners, dressing, etc.) and academic skills (e.g., writing, cutting with scissors, etc.). Occupational therapists also may assist in modifying classroom materials and routines to improve attention and organization, promoting development of play skills, and providing prevocational training. However, research regarding the effectiveness of occupational therapy in autism spectrum disorders is lacking.


The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Gastrointestinal Problems in Asperger’s Children

“Is there a correlation between gastrointestinal issues and Asperger Syndrome? Our son seems to be very sensitive to certain foods, especially bread and milk (they cause him to cramp).”

The relationship between gastrointestinal problems and Asperger’s (high functioning autism) is unclear, because most studies have not examined representative groups of kids with Asperger’s compared with appropriate controls. Surveys published in the gastroenterology literature have stated that gastrointestinal problems (e.g., constipation, diarrhea) occur in 46% to 85% of Asperger’s kids. Lower rates in the range of 17% to 24% have been reported in other population-based studies. One case-control study in the United Kingdom found that only 9% of young people with Asperger’s had a history of gastrointestinal complaints. Conversely, in one cross-sectional study that used structured interviews and matched control groups, a lifetime history of gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., abnormal stool pattern, frequent constipation, frequent vomiting, frequent abdominal pain, etc.) was found in 70% of Asperger’s kids compared with 42% of the kids with other developmental disabilities and 28% of the kids without developmental disabilities.

In young people with Asperger’s undergoing endoscopy, colitis, duodenitis, gastritis, high rates of lymphoid nodular hyperplasia, and histologically subtle esophagitis have been described. Evidence suggests that some immunohistochemical features may be unique to inflammation associated with Asperger’s.

The existing literature does not support routine specialized gastroenterological testing for asymptomatic “Aspies.” However, if a youngster on the autism spectrum presents with symptoms (e.g., chronic or recurrent abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, etc.), it is reasonable to evaluate the gastrointestinal tract. Gastrointestinal discomfort also should be considered in a youngster who presents with a change in behavior (e.g., outbursts of aggression, meltdowns, self-injury, etc.). Radiographic evidence of constipation has been found to be more common in young people with Asperger’s than in controls with abdominal pain (36% vs 10%).

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Teaching Students with High-Functioning Autism

Students with High Functioning Autism (HFA) exhibit difficulty in appropriately processing in-coming information. Their brain's ability to take in, store, and use information is significantly different than other developing children. HFA students can present a challenge for the most experienced teacher. Here are some important tips that teachers with HFA students will need to be aware of:



Teaching Students with Aspergers and HFA

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually. Thus, the best treatment for Aspergers children and teens is, without a doubt, “social skills training.”

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But...

Don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

If your child suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, expect him to experience both minor and major meltdowns over incidents that are part of daily life. He may have a major meltdown over a very small incident, or may experience a minor meltdown over something that is major. There is no way of telling how he is going to react about certain situations. However, there are many ways to help your child learn to control his emotions.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing a child with a neurological disorder. Violent rages, self-injury, isolation-seeking tendencies and communication problems that arise due to auditory and sensory issues are just some of the behaviors that parents of teens with Aspergers will have to learn to control.

Parents need to come up with a consistent disciplinary plan ahead of time, and then present a united front and continually review their strategies for potential changes and improvements as the Aspergers teen develops and matures.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

Although they may vary slightly from person to person, children with Aspergers tend to have similar symptoms, the main ones being:

=> A need to know when everything is happening in order not to feel completely overwhelmed
=> A rigid insistence on routine (where any change can cause an emotional and physiological meltdown)
=> Difficulties with social functioning, particularly in the rough and tumble of a school environment
=> Obsessive interests, with a focus on one subject to the exclusion of all others
=> Sensory issues, where they are oversensitive to bright light, loud sounds and unpleasant smells
=> Social isolation and struggles to make friends due to a lack of empathy, and an inability to pick up on or understand social graces and cues (such as stopping talking and allowing others to speak)

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent?

Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Parents face issues such as college preparation, vocational training, teaching independent living, and providing lifetime financial support for their child, if necessary. Meanwhile, their immature Aspergers teenager is often indifferent – and even hostile – to these concerns.

As you were raising your child, you imagined how he would be when he grew up. Maybe you envisioned him going to college, learning a skilled traded, getting a good job, or beginning his own family. But now that (once clear) vision may be dashed. You may be grieving the loss of the child you wish you had.

If you have an older teenager with Aspergers who has no clue where he is going in life, or if you have an “adult-child” with Aspergers still living at home (in his early 20s or beyond), here are the steps you will need to take in order to foster the development of self-reliance in this child.

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