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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Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Children on the Autism Spectrum

“Are there any natural or non-pharmaceutical ways to treat symptoms of high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome?”

Alternative approaches to treating symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorders do exist. One such approach is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), which is defined as “a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine.” CAM therapies used to treat Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have been categorized as “biological” or “nonbiological.” Let’s look at each of these in turn…

Examples of biological therapies include:
  • detoxification therapies (e.g., chelation)
  • dietary supplement regimens that are supposed to act by modulating neurotransmission or through immune factors (e.g., vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and magnesium, folic acid, folinic acid, vitamin B12, dimethylglycine and trimethylglycine, carnosine, omega-3 fatty acids, inositol, various minerals, etc.)
  • gastrointestinal treatments (e.g., digestive enzymes, antifungal agents, probiotics, yeast-free diet, gluten/casein-free diet, vancomycin)
  • immunoregulatory interventions (e.g., dietary restriction of food allergens or administration of immunoglobulin or antiviral agents)

Examples of nonbiological interventions include treatments such as:
  • music therapy
  • facilitated communication
  • dolphin-assisted therapy
  • equine-assisted therapy
  • craniosacral manipulation
  • behavioral optometry
  • auditory integration training

Moms and dads of kids with AS and HFA will understandably pursue interventions that they believe may offer some hope for symptom-relief, particularly if the therapies do not have any adverse side-effects. Unfortunately, parents are sometimes exposed to unconfirmed theories and related clinical practices that may be ineffective or, in worst case scenarios, lead to physical, emotional, or financial harm. Thus, always consult with your doctor before starting any new or unorthodox treatment approach.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder versus Autism Spectrum Disorder

“What is Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder? And how does it differ from Autism Spectrum Disorder?”

Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder (SCD) is characterized by “a persistent difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication that can’t be explained by low cognitive ability.” Symptoms include:
  • inappropriate responses in conversation
  • difficulties with academic achievement and occupational performance
  • limited effective communication
  • difficulties in the acquisition and use of spoken and written language
  • complications in social relationships

Also, these symptoms must be present in early childhood (even if they are not recognized until later when language, speech or communication demands exceed abilities).

The new diagnosis of SCD more correctly identifies children who have significant problems with verbal and nonverbal communication for social purposes. These problems lead to impairments in their ability to perform academically and occupationally, participate socially, maintain social relationships, and effectively communicate.

Previous editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders didn’t provide an appropriate diagnosis for children with such symptoms. As a result, inconsistent treatment was initiated in various clinics and treatment centers, and a lot of children were lumped under the “not otherwise specified” category of Pervasive Development Disorder.

While previous editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders included diagnoses with related symptoms, the SCD diagnosis is needed to address the special needs of SCD children (e.g., while Autism Spectrum Disorder does include communication problems, it also includes restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities, and gives equal weight to both communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors).

Research shows that communication disorders are very treatable. Thus, identifying distinct communication difficulties is a crucial first step in getting these children appropriate care. The SCD label helps them get the services and treatment they need.

As a side note, Autism Spectrum Disorder must be ruled out for SCD to be diagnosed.

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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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