Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders


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

Asperger’s and Family Support: Tips for Health Care Professionals and Parents

Effective management of Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) should focus not only on the affected youngster, but also on the family. Although moms and dads once were viewed erroneously as the cause of a youngster's Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is now recognized that they play a major role in effective treatment.

Having a youngster on the autism spectrum has a significant effect on a family. Parents and siblings of autistic kids experience more stress and depression than those of kids who are “typically developing” – or even those who have other disabilities. Supporting the family and ensuring its emotional and physical health is an extremely important aspect of overall management of AS and HFA.

Doctors, therapists and other health care professionals can provide family support in the following ways: 
  • assisting parents in advocating for their AS or HFA youngster's special needs
  • assisting parents in advocating for the sibling's needs
  • assisting parents in obtaining access to resources
  • educating them about Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • providing anticipatory guidance
  • providing emotional support through traditional therapeutic techniques (e.g., empathetic listening, talking through problems, etc.)
  • training and involving parents as “co-therapists”

In some cases, referral of moms and dads for counseling or other appropriate mental health services may be required. The need for support is longitudinal, although the specific needs may vary throughout the family life-cycle.

One of the main techniques for assisting parents is to help them access needed ongoing supports and additional services during critical periods and/or crises. Such assistance includes natural, informal and formal supports.

Natural supports include: 
  • extended family members
  • friends who can help with care-giving and who can provide psychological and emotional support
  • neighbors
  • religious institutions
  • spouses

Informal supports include: 
  • community agencies that provide training
  • recreational activities
  • respite
  • social events
  • social networks of other parents of kids on the autism spectrum

Formal supports include:  
  • in-home and community-based waiver services
  • Medicaid
  • publicly funded, state-administrated programs (e.g., early intervention)
  • residential/living services
  • respite services
  • special education
  • Supplemental Security Income benefits
  • vocational services

The breadth and depth of services vary, even within the same state or region. Few services exist in many rural areas, and public programs may have long waiting lists.

Sibling support groups offer the opportunity to learn valuable information and skills while sharing experiences and connecting with other siblings of kids on the spectrum. Although the research on support groups for siblings of AS and HFA kids is difficult to interpret (due to study-design problems and inconsistent outcome effects on sibling adjustment), these groups generally have been evaluated positively by participating siblings and parents.

Because each state has organized its services and access mechanisms differently, health care professionals and parents must learn their own state's unique rules to access supports by contacting the state or county offices of the states’ Department of Health and Human Services, local mental health facilities, or the state developmental disabilities organization. Also, school district special education coordinators, national autism and related developmental disability organizations, local parent advocacy organizations, and early intervention administrators often are knowledgeable about various programs and their respective eligibility requirements.

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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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content