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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Seizures in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

“Is it common for children with Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism to have epileptic seizures? What signs should parents look for if they think their child may be having mild seizures?”

Some of the brain irregularities that are associated with autism spectrum disorders can contribute to seizures. These irregularities can cause changes in brain activity by interrupting neurons in the brain. Neurons are cells that process and transmit information and send signals to the rest of the body. So overloads or instabilities in the activity of these neurons can result in imbalances that cause seizures.

The reported prevalence of epilepsy among children on the autism spectrum disorders ranges from 11% to 39%. The prevalence of epilepsy was higher in studies that included teens and young adults, because the onset of epilepsy in autism spectrum disorders has 2 peaks: one before 5 years of age and another in the teenage years.

Epileptiform abnormalities on electroencephalography are common in kids on the spectrum, with reported frequencies ranging from 10% to 72%. Due to the increased prevalence of seizures in this population, a high index of clinical suspicion needs to be maintained, and electroencephalography should be considered when there are clinical spells that might represent seizures.

Characteristic symptoms include:
  • Facial twitching
  • Involuntary jerking of limbs
  • Marked and unexplained irritability or aggressiveness
  • Regression in normal development
  • Severe headaches
  • Sleepiness or sleep disturbances
  • Stiffening of muscles
  • Unexplained confusion
  • Unexplained staring spells

There are several types of seizures, each with somewhat different symptoms:
  • Absence seizures can be difficult to recognize. Also known as petit mal seizures, they are marked by periods of unresponsiveness. The child may stare into space. He may or may not exhibit jerking or twitching.
  • Atonic seizures involve sudden limpness, or loss of muscle tone. The child may fall or drop her head involuntarily.
  • Clonic seizures involve repeated jerking movements on both sides of the body. 
  • Myoclonic seizures involve jerking or twitching of the upper body, arms or legs. 
  • Tonic seizures involve muscle stiffening alone. 
  • Tonic-clonic seizures are the most common. Also known as gran mal seizures, they produce muscle stiffening followed by jerking. Gran mal seizures also produce loss of consciousness.

If you suspect your child may be having seizures, find a neurologist that specializes in seizure disorders. The neurologist will order an electroencephalogram, which is a non-invasive process that involves the placing of electrodes on the child’s head in order to monitor activity in the brain. By analyzing the activity patterns, the neurologist can determine if the child is having seizures.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Getting Inside the Head of a Child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA)

Don't over-estimate your Aspergers of HFA youngster's understanding of social situations just because of his high intellectual ability. He is a boy who needs to figure out how the real world works, one example at a time. 



Click here to use Mark Hutten, M.A. as your personal parent coach.

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

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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