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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From Anxiety to Anger to Meltdown: An Aspergers Dilemma

Can an Aspergers child’s anxiety play out as anger, and then morph to a meltdown?  Watch this video to find out:

Finding Hidden Meaning Behind Problematic Behaviors in Children on the Autism Spectrum

Many parents of children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have discovered that some of their youngster’s behaviors make no obvious sense and do not serve any clear purpose. But when AS and HFA children engage in “odd” or confusing behavior, they are also sending the parent hidden clues about things that are important to them. Thus, it’s the parent’s job is to break the code so she can interpret the clues.

By becoming more like a “detective,” parents can begin to notice coded messages they didn’t see before, and as a result, find more effective ways to help their “special needs” youngster. Becoming a good detective also helps parents respond more carefully to peculiar behaviors so they don’t unintentionally reinforce or reward them.

Parents of AS and HFA children can begin to develop “investigator skills” by recording problematic behaviors, similar to how Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees. For example: 
  • Is the child attempting to avoid a demanding task?
  • What activities or interactions take place just prior to the problematic behavior? 
  • Does the same thing often happen first?
  • What time do these events most often happen?
  • Are there any settings where the behavior does not occur?
  • In what settings is the behavior observed? 
  • Is the behavior problem associated with certain social or environmental conditions? 
  • What usually happens immediately after the behavior? 
  • Who is present when the behavior occurs?

Most difficult behaviors are triggered by an event. Just as you might suddenly feel thirsty as you walk past a lemonade stand, there are “triggers” in your youngster’s life that elicit certain behaviors. Use a diary to try to identify these triggers for your youngster’s most challenging behaviors. Instead of getting upset with your child when he or she acts-out, look for how the context is out of synch with him or her. View the incident as an opportunity to learn more about your child.

Here is a good example of items to list in your diary:

Behavioral Investigation—

Date: ______
  1. Describe the behavior of concern: _______________
  2. How can I tell the behavior is about to start? _______________
  3. How intense is the behavior? _______________
  4. How long does it last? _______________
  5. How often does the behavior occur? _______________
  6. What behavior(s) might serve the same function for my child that is appropriate within the social/environmental context? _______________
  7. What conditions are most likely to precipitate (“set-off”) the behavior? _______________
  8. What does my child get or avoid? _______________
  9. What is happening when the behavior occurs? _______________
  10. What is the likely function (intent) of the behavior (i.e., why do I think my child behaves this way)? _______________
  11. What usually happens after the behavior? _______________
  12. When/where is the behavior most/least likely to occur? _______________
  13. With whom is the behavior most/least likely to occur? _______________
  14. What other information might contribute to creating an effective behavioral intervention plan (e.g., under what conditions does the behavior not occur)? _______________

Here are some crucial things to consider when doing your investigation:

1. As with any child, being hungry, thirsty, or tired can make your youngster grouchy. A chronic illness or low-grade infection can cause behavioral issues as well. Try to discover any – and all – possible sources of pain (e.g., abscesses, broken bones, bruises, cuts and splinters, gut, infections, acid reflux, sprains, teeth, etc.).

2. Consider sensory and emotional regulation. Your youngster’s sensory experiences are very different from the “typical” child. He is likely easily overwhelmed by information coming in through the senses (e.g., loud noises) and isn’t getting enough input from the senses responsible for self-awareness and regulation. We all know about the five senses: taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight. But there are two additional senses that are important to understand: the vestibular sense (controls balance) and proprioception (the sense of one’s body in space). In many AS and HFA children, some of the information from these senses is too little, too much, or distorted –  leading to feelings of anxiety, physical pain, or disengagement. As a result, the child may “act-out” behaviorally as a way to cope.

3. Coordination problems can contribute to stress and behavior issues. For example, as anyone who has ever been picked last for a team knows, gym class can be nerve-wracking. If your youngster has trouble undoing zippers or buttons, the short time allotted for bathroom breaks or locker room changes can add tremendous pressure. Also, if the child walks awkwardly, negotiating a crowded hallway between classes is anxiety-producing. These issues often influence “acting-out” behaviors that, unfortunately, may result in the child receiving some form of punishment.

4. Peer-rejection is a big contributor to difficult behaviors. For example, maybe your son realizes he has no friends, so recess time is particularly tough for him. Also, do some investigation to see if bullying or teasing is an issue.

5. Attention-span difficulties can influence behavior, resulting in unwarranted punishment from teachers. For example, your youngster may “tune-out” during class because the teacher or the subject matter isn’t engaging enough. Talk with your child’s teacher if this appears to be an issue.

6. Some problematic behaviors, especially those that seem abrupt or particularly odd, may be due to seizures. If you think this could be an issue, keep a very careful record of what you observe. Also, see if your youngster’s teacher has similar observations.

7. Changes in home-life can contribute to behavior problems (e.g., health crisis, job change, move, new sibling, mom and dad going through a divorce, etc.). Often times, well-meaning parents think their “special needs” child is handling everything fine, so there is no reason to be concerned. But if parents are stressed about something, chances are their youngster will be, too – especially if she is powerless to do anything about it.

8. Try to identify any food sensitivities or allergies that could be troubling your youngster. Look for the signs of a problem in this area (e.g., red/flushed cheeks or ears, diarrhea within a few hours of eating a particular food, etc.). Food sensitivity is often one of the biggest contributors to “mysterious” and sudden changes in behavior.

In summary, rather than viewing your child’s behavior as “misbehavior,” look attentively for the clues that he or she is sending by conducting your own investigation. With a little good detective work, parents can narrow down exactly what initiates certain unwanted behaviors. Then, once the problem has been identified, parents are in a much better position to employ effective prevention and intervention strategies.

How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's and HFA Children

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.

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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.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA 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.

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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."

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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