Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders


Aspergers-Anxiety Overload

"Our child gets quite worried and anxious about most things that fall out of his comfort zone. Problem is, we are never really sure what is in - and what is out - of this zone. Any tips for a very anxious little Aspergers boy?"

Autism spectrum disorders and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. Aspergers and High Functioning Autism may affect a child’s ability to communicate effectively with others and to understand the world around him -- and that’s bound to cause anxiety. Anxiety can become even worse when there is a change in the child’s routine. Even positive and “fun” changes (e.g., school field trip, visit to the zoo) can increase anxiety and aggressive behaviors.

For parents, the best course of action is to anticipate upcoming changes and help the child prepare for them. Many moms and dads find it helpful to use social stories and pictures to prepare their Aspergers child for impending disruptions. If it’s a field trip to the zoo, for example, use pictures to show your child what he’ll see at the zoo, what the zoo will be like, and what sort of things to expect. Do this each day for three or four days prior to the trip. That way, when the trip actually happens, the child won’t be entirely out of his element, but will already understand and appreciate some of what will be happening.

Other changes in routine are less enjoyable, but still necessary. Getting a new teacher can be traumatic, as can moving to a new house. If at all possible, try to spread out the major changes. If you move to a new house, try to do it during the summer, so that your child won’t have to deal with the added anxiety of getting a new school and new teacher mid-year.

You can also introduce your child to the concept of “change” in a positive way by practicing with non-negative things. For example, just for practice, give him a little extra TV time instead of homework time one night, to show that changes in the routine can often be fun and good. Then practice with a neutral change (e.g., homework after dinner instead of before dinner), then with a negative one (e.g., changing play time into chore time). This process can help your child grow accustomed to the idea of change and learn to adapt without becoming anxious.

For continual, severe anxiety, some parents have begun using anti-anxiety medications for their Aspergers children. Usually, the medications are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (also used for obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression). Prozac, Luvox, Zoloft and Anafranil are all common medications for anxiety in these children.

Medication should be the last resort for anxiety, not the first. You and your doctor should monitor your child’s progress very closely, using the lowest dose of medication possible, to see if what improvements it makes and whether there are any adverse reactions. There are a number of natural remedies available if you don’t want to go down the drug route. But try behavioral and dietary modifications first, to see what improvements can be made naturally.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management


•    Anonymous said... Aspergers is lifelong and anxiety in childhood manifests itself very differently in adulthood. with a family member on the spectrum, my sense is professional guidance is crucial. The sooner the better.
•    Anonymous said... This is an ongoing issue that you will face as he gets older, over comes certain anxieties, and acquires new ones. Get professional help.
•    Anonymous said... We have two boys, one diagnosed, and one suspected. They both have different triggers for anxiety and both have very different personalities. We find they need more preparation in advance, they need to know it may make them uncomfortable, and that it will end. We suggest coping strategies beforehand, and sometimes we have code words so they don't feel singled out by our suggesting coping strategies for them in the situation. Sometimes, the only solution is to take them out of the situation and trying another run at tit another time.

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Anonymous said...

our son uses squeeze toys to relieve anxiety...they vary from day to day, but are usually pocket sized and either bean bag material or cotton batting.

Anonymous said...

just rolling with it. let him guide you. he is the driver in his world quite frankly. my child is the same. he gets very nervous and anxious about trying new things like sports, which he is very great at, but he's afraid people are watching him and picking on him, so he wont participate. maybe some confidence boosters of some sort will help. mines 13 and still this way. he sure would make one heck of a basketball player, but just wont do it.. and I dont make him. I let him drive his life. and with gentle loving guidance he does ok.

planet_my said...

social stories and plans do the trick for my son. we use plans also to become familiar with the fact of change: we put them up together on a piece of paper for the activity in question. and he takes it with him. if something changes he notes it down on the plan. we do this often as a game: he is the news reporter and takes notes during the activities and tells me all about afterwards.

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