Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Applied Behavioral Analysis

"I've heard that ABA therapy is very effective for children with high functioning autism. Is this true, and how does it work?"

It is often difficult to understand why the child with Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism behaves the way he does. However, there is a reason for his behavior, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) helps us understand the behavior and determine a method of support for the child so that he no longer needs the behavior to meet his needs.

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How To Teach Social Skills to Your Aspergers Child

"I would like to know how to advise my Aspergers son on social skills, such as making friends at school without being insulting to others." 

One of the behavioral traits seen in kids with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism is a lack of "demonstrated" empathy (i.e., they can empathize, but may not show it). They don’t realize that other people have thoughts and interests that are different from theirs. They’ll interrupt a conversation and start churning out facts about their pet interest (e.g., medieval history, Star Wars’ trivia, Math, etc.) even if it has nothing to do with what the other kids are talking about. This and their lack of other social skills (e.g., looking others in the eyes when conversing, responding appropriately to greetings and questions, understanding fads and the interests of peers, etc.) makes making friends very difficult for Aspergers kids.

With some Aspergers kids, social abilities remain intact or aren’t really noticed until around age eight. It is around this time that their peers begin perceiving them as “different.” The "Aspie" is singled out for teasing. In addition, he may be seen as oppositional because kids with Aspergers take words and gestures very literally. Communication with Aspergers kids must be “concrete” (i.e., brief and easily understood).

Your son can be taught most of the same social skills that youngsters without Aspergers learn on their own. You can work with your son’s school to produce cards or posters with facial expressions that define feelings. Also, full-length mirrors can be used to make these kids aware of their facial expressions and overall body language. You and his teachers can role play social situations with him to help him learn appropriate responses and actions.

On a related note, it is critical that schools become fully equipped to help children with Aspergers. The number of schools with diagnostically appropriate services will increase when parents, doctors, and social service practitioners lobby educational institutions for assistance in teaching these students. 

Until the school provides more assistance with your son, there are a number of things that you can do at home. For example, surround your son with friends and family so he will have familiar people around on a consistent basis. If your son is intimidated by a large number of people, just have one friend over at a time.

In addition to friends, you can train your son in appropriate social and perceptual skills. He can learn to perceive and interpret nonverbal behaviors, process visual and auditory information, and become aware of social/behavioral conventions.

To help you help your son, go on the internet and look for Aspergers support groups. Also, look for a group in your area. If there is none available, there are people who stay in touch via the internet. Whether in person or over the internet, they can give you advice and support which will help you help your son.

When attempting to share information with schools about Aspergers, help teachers and other staff to understand the following:
  1. Aspergers is not mental retardation. Some autistic people may be very intelligent — there is a lot of evidence that Albert Einstein may have been autistic.
  2. Aspergers is not "savant" syndrome. Some autistic people are "savants," (e.g., instant calculator, etc.) but most are not. Other autistic people are "gifted," however, and have high "general" intelligence. Many autistic people have normal intelligence, and some may be retarded.
  3. Aspergers is not an emotional problem. Aspergers is a neurological condition which people are usually born with. Psychological trauma doesn't cause it.
  4. Aspergers is not a psychosis or lack of reality contact.
  5. People do not choose to be autistic.
  6. Aspergers is not "a fate worse than death." Autistic people have some disadvantages, but some live very happy and rewarding lives. Many autistic people wouldn't want to be "cured," as this would be like erasing them and replacing them with different people.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management


•    Anonymous said... Hmmmmm,there is no answer.We show them the proper ways and the kids of today are so far off that they cannot handle our kids with very graceful manners.I feel like it is a lost cause.I have seen too many people look at my daughter as if she were from Mars.
•    Anonymous said... My 5 yr old grandchild is already getting bullied in our neighborhood. She just started kindergraden and Im afraid of how they will treat her in school. She doesnt react the same way as other children
•    Anonymous said... Not sure if this helps but early on ...I put my child in a GirlScout group and helped the group (using role play) to identify different ways they could demonstrate with their body exclusion or how to ostracize someone from a group. For example: Crossing their arms and turning away from their friend, rolling their eyes, not answering their friend when they spoke to them. We then talked about how this affected the person and if they ever felt this way or saw this happen to someone else. Group behavior changed immediately when we talked about ways to include with body language and words. Most children are learners and don't even realize what they are doing when they are younger. This group of girls (from what I'm told because we moved) have continued to be "helpers." If you can get your child in a group with other children and teach them social skills that is your answer. If all schools incorporated this into their program at the elementary school level it would cut down on a lot of bullying behavior.

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Game Obsessions in AS and HFA Children

"How can I get my son (high functioning autistic) to focus less on his favorite video game (Call of Duty) and spend more time doing other things? He is truly obsessed with war games. It's all he ever talks about."

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Aspergers Summer Camps for Teens

"I am interested in summer camps or programs for teenagers with Asperger’s. Can you tell me where I can find out about them and what things I should consider before sending my son there? (He’s 15.)"

Summer camps for children with Asperger’s Syndrome and/or other developmental disorders have been designed to provide enjoyable, educational experiences. You will want to consider many of the benefits that the camps offer. The camps provide help, safety, and education for children who also benefit from therapeutic recreation. At a summer camp, your child can build feelings of competency, success, confidence, and self-esteem. An ideal camp will have both indoor and outdoor activities for children, ideally in small groups.

Most camps now employ behavioral specialists to supervise and counsel the children about any issues that might arise during their tenure at the camp. They help with teaching children life skills in an environment that reduces stress and encourages learning and self sufficiency. Their goal is to offer a learning experience while maintaining health and safety standards. These individuals are knowledgeable in adaptive therapeutic programs, and they assist the children with relational or motor activities. Noted courses include Adaptive Physical Education, Art Therapy, Group Therapy, Movement and Dance, and Literacy Development.

Academics are an important part of many camps. Children who have individual educational plans (IEPs) can work through the assignments and goals while enjoying themselves at the camp. The child can follow a curriculum that has been designed in conjunction with his teachers and parents. In a sense, the camp can act as a ‘summer school’ for the children, and they can get a head start studying subjects that they will focus on during the academic year. The child with Asperger’s will acquire new skills and advance in cognitive abilities.

If your son has never experienced an extended vacation or camp experience, he will have many questions. He will want to know how long he will be gone, what will be expected of him, whom he will be meeting, how he will be expected to behave, and when he will be returning home.

When he is at camp, he might want to stay in contact with you. He can be given a cell phone to take with him, and most camps now have computers with internet access available to the children. He will want to know what days and times he can contact you and how long, if applicable, he can speak with you. Maintaining contact with you during his stay at camp will help minimize feelings of homesickness and dependency on you. This experience will be a significant step toward maturity and self sufficiency that all children must take.

Famous Autistic People

Autism has no boundaries and is not prejudiced. It can occur in any family. Many people have become very successful, despite a diagnosis of autism.

Dr. Temple Grandin is well known for her writings on autism, "seeing in pictures," and for her inventions in the area of animal science.  She understands the challenges of autism, but for herself, understands it more as a gift. She believes it has given her the ability to visualize things that others could not.

Along the autism spectrum, there are many creative geniuses who are speculated to have had autistic tendencies or Asperger's syndrome. Here are just a few:

Bill Gates, creator of the Microsoft corporation, is speculated to have personality characteristics similar to Asperger's syndrome.

Dylan Scott Pierce is an American born wildlife artist with autism.

Donna Williams is a best selling author from Australia. Her works include 'Nobody Nowhere' and 'Somebody Somewhere'.

Michelle Dawson is an autistic individual who actively works as an autism researcher and autism rights activist.

Lucy Blackman, Australian born, is a University educated author.

Jonathan Lerman is an American born artist.

Some people, such as Temple Grandin, suggest that autism and genius are closely related. Dr. Grandin believes that autistic individuals have an ability to see things beyond what the average person sees. Because of this, they have the ability to excel in areas that are commonly reserved for individuals who have proven to be geniuses.

Certainly there are challenges in both communication and social skills for autistic individuals, but they have the ability to succeed in ways that many neurotypicals do not.

The Parenting Autism Resource Guide: A Complete Resource Guide For Parents Who Have Children Diagnosed With Autism

Telling Others About My Aspergers Child

"My 6 year old son has just been diagnosed with Asperger’s, and I’d like to know what to tell friends, neighbours, teachers, and extended family to help them understand his behaviour."

Asperger’s was first noticed in 1944, and it was first seen in children that had been diagnosed with autistic personality disorder. A researcher by the name of Asperger worked with children and saw that they exhibited delays in social maturity, social reasoning, and social abilities. He found verbal- and non-verbal impairments in communication, especially when the children attempted to converse. Asperger also observed that the children had difficulties controlling emotions, but they could intellectualize their feelings.

Further research by Asperger found that the children became preoccupied with various interests and these would dominate their thought processes. Asperger also found that some of the children were having learning problems, difficulty with coordination, and that they exhibited a marked sensitivity to certain smells, sounds, and textures.

You can start sharing information by giving friends and relatives an introduction to Asperger’s using the above paragraphs. This will provide them with some history and context. Sharing information on any illness or diagnosis requires tact and discretion. You might want to tell the people in your life on a “need-to-know” basis.

It is very important to stress that a diagnosis of Asperger’s does not make your child “weird” or inferior. Make sure you stress the positive elements that can be found in people with Asperger’s. There are actors, authors, researchers, and scientists who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s, and they have achieved seemingly insurmountable life goals. When your friends and relatives are aware of these facts, it will help dispel the mystery and confusion that surrounds Asperger’s.

When you discuss Asperger’s with children, you can use classroom materials that have been developed to assist children in understanding this diagnosis. Look for a local group that helps people and their relatives cope with Asperger’s.

After you have shared some of the above information, ask the people you are talking with if they have any questions or concerns about anything that you have discussed. Let them know that any question or concern they may have is valid, and you are not going to be offended by their inquiries. Not only will this ease communications, it will prove you to be a mature, open-minded individual who loves your child and cares about friends and family.

The Parenting Aspergers Resource Guide: A Complete Resource Guide For Parents Who Have Children Diagnosed With Aspergers Syndrome


•    Anonymous said... I'm having the same issue but with Boy Scouts.
•    Anonymous said... in school give the diagnosis to the head diagnostician and fight for everything you can get. Get involved in Apsie mom support groups and maybe even take an advocate with you to help walk you through the process. I typically don't say anything until I get a look or mostly they ask. I figure why introduce him with a label. and when they do I just tell them right out, he has aspergers so he has issues with social skills. Mostly that is all you have to say if they want to know more tell them. and yes, look me in the eye when I am talking to you is a GREAT book to read and pass along to friends and family members.
•    Anonymous said... Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robinson is a great book to buy and loan out to friends and family. It is an autobiography by an "Aspie". Be sure to meet with the school and get an IEP. Good luck,
•    Anonymous said... Once my son was diagnosed I was able to understand him better which then made me handle situations better. If I think anything is going to upset him I remove him from the situation or we just don't do it. I've learned to "read" him and his actions in a way. I don't feel the need to explain his behavior. Close family, friends and the school know. His teacher, resource teacher and school counselor discussed him and his behaviors prior to school starting. We also met with his teacher the day before school started and discussed ours and his concerns. His teacher and I are in close email contact. I also have a autism tattoo on my fore arm that seems to strike up a lot of conversation in public. I don't want him to be "labeled" he struggles enough without a label.
•    Anonymous said... Professor Tony Attwood is a clinical psychologist known world wide for his knowledge of Aspergers Syndrome.
•    Anonymous said... The first instinct is a preventative strike to prep people for the "not average" social challenges presented by our children. But at the same time labeling before someone gets to know your son could be used improperly by well meaning but uninformed people. The fine line when to notify and when not to should be crossed when an adult will have behavior judgments over your child. Teachers, club leaders etc. They need to know that Aspergers is not a behavior problem but a problem interpreting external stimuli. Their intervention for young children living with Aspergers to help them cope with change and discomforts is what we need for our kids. If someone accidentally began assigning punitive measures for responses that are not the child's choice would be harmful.

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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.

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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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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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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content