Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Helping Siblings Cope with Aspergers

"My AS son is 11 and my youngest son is 4. My 11-year-old verbally attacks my 4-year-old and my 4-year-old just stands there looking dazed and confused. How can I get my 11-year-old to stop doing this and how can I protect my 4-year-old from it? It is really starting to take a toll on my relationship with my husband. (The 11-year-old is his stepson and the 4-year-old is ours together.) Not to mention the toll it is taking on my 4-year-old. He loves his brother so much and wants nothing more than to spend time with him. His feelings get so hurt when his brother yells, screams, calls names, and tells him he hates him. I have tried sending 11-year-old to his room, talking to him, taking things away, watching the situation and trying to stop it before it happens, but it happens so quickly, it’s hard to see it coming. What can I do?"

First of all, find a time when you and your husband can sit down and have a talk with your 11-year-old, without the 4-year-old being present. Calmly, each of you should tell him how sad and upset you feel when he yells and screams at his little brother. The goal is to make him feel guilty about this behavior and to understand that it is unacceptable. Point out to him how awful it would be if you and your husband acted that way toward him. Ask him how he would feel if you yelled, screamed, and called him names. Be specific describing such a situation to help him understand how bad he would feel. Then make the point that his little brother feels the same way.

Tell him that he cannot continue yelling, screaming, and calling names and that if he does, he will be punished. The punishment should be “time out” in a room (other than his bedroom) alone for 15 minutes with no fun activities available to him, following by apologizing to his brother. Do this every time he acts inappropriately. Each time after his time out, sit him down and explain again why he must not act this way and that it is unacceptable. Find out why he had “a meltdown.” Help him find an alternate way that he could have handled the situation. Have him practice it. You may have to do this many, many times.

To stop verbal abuse, you may need to use other forms of behavior modification as well. You must determine the need that your son’s behavior fulfils and teach him a replacement behavior. For example, if he yells when his brother uses his things, teach him to come to you with a single code word, and when he does, help him handle the situation. This takes time. If the youngster is severely out of control, then removing the youngster from the situation is required. As you know, this may be easier said than done.

Behavior modification should be started early. You may need the help of a counselor or psychiatrist to help you deal with this now before it escalates into physical abuse. Hopefully your 11-year-old will learn to communicate the cause of his anger and get his needs met by doing so. Unfortunately, kids who get what they want because of misbehavior are likely to continue and escalate such behavior.

Your son may have Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or another disorder in tandem with Aspergers. Some theorists claim that ODD is a result of incomplete development; the ODD youngster has never completed the developmental tasks of normal kids. The youngster is stuck at the 3-year-old level of development and never grows out of it. In this case, medical intervention may be necessary.

Another theory about ODD is that it is a result of negative interactions, possibly interactions that occur away from home. This theory states that having successfully used anger and abuse as a way to get needs met, the Aspergers youngster continues to use it.

ODD does not usually occur alone. About 35% of ODD kids have an affective disorder and 20% may have a mood disorder, such as Bipolar Disorder. Other ODD kids have personality or learning disorders. It is imperative that your son is evaluated for other disorders.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children on the Spectrum 


*   Anonymous said... Social stories on sharing, correct behavior, controlling outbursts, etc.. are a good start. it seems the communication level is way off between the brothers. the age difference is the most obvious, but also, how they approach one another. It's hard for the 4 yr old to understand AS, so he'll approach his brother when the mood strikes, not knowing if his older brother is even approachable at that time. I see this with our 15 yr old son & our 6 yr old son w/AS. I would suggest that you ask your son's doctor/therapist about Parent Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT). We did this for 6 months & it made a world of difference. It teaches you & family how to communicate with an AS child, how to set rules/boundaries & discipline efforts that really work!! I was amazed at the positive changes in our lives!! It takes a month before you see changes, but stick with it... positive changes will come!! Praying for your family!!
•    Anonymous said... I have given my daughter a trashcan and told her to say her words in it.That way everybody knows that it is not intended to hurt them,just an Aspie out of control.So when she needed to say things she could grab the trashcan.Incidentally I don't think we have need of the trashcan much anymore.Same thing when I taught Kindergarten many years ago and the potty mouth years emerged.I just told they kids they could only say those words in the bathroom and to feel free to go to the bathroom and say them to their hearts content.When they figured out it wasted their playtime they quit.Of course,there were not Aspie kids but the daughter and the trashcan are.
•    Anonymous said... Recommend reading and applying 'The Explosive Child' by Dr Greene - explains why rigid, chronically inflexible, easily frustrated children have meltdowns & how to handle situations
•    Anonymous said... This is one of my biggest struggles with my 13 yr old and 8 yr old. This has always been very difficult to deal with, and hard to figure out where to even start. For me it is not his choice in words, but seeming apathy and dislike for her. She asks often why he hates her, and has begun to take every word he says personally.

•    Anonymous said... About protecting your 4-year old- watch for the pre-signs that your son is having a hard time, or escalating- sometimes they go from 0-10 with no warning, but try to find out what his triggers are and remove them. For example, the trigger may be video games, so remove all electronics preemptively. If he becomes escalated- remove your 4-year old immediately to another room, and back away from your son- do not give him any verbal, as he most likely cannot process verbal information when he is escalated coming at him. Give him space most importantly, and remove your other children from the room to protect them. We have been fortunate to have home ABA services and it has changed our home environment completely, we have 2 other young children which their lives have also improved since the therapy in the home. This is long-winded, but I really hope your son gets the services he needs smile emoticon
•    Anonymous said... My 12 year old aspie will verbally attack his 11 year old sister. She has learned over time to (with our direction) that he doesn't mean it, and doesn't have control. When he triggers, she's trained herself to walk away. When she was younger we used hand signals. So when her brother would start to escalate we'd give her the signal and she would walk away. It took some time for her to understand the signal, but once she was old enough to understand her brothers behaviors she walks away before he escalates. They play together extremely well now! There are still times when she has to walk away, but she knows what will trigger his behaviors and is in more control.
•    Anonymous said... Thank you so very much for all of the invaluable information! I am on the site and I am also going to post more here on the page.
•    Anonymous said... We use many strategies from Michelle Garcia Winner on to help our son know what is expected, what is unexpected and that other people form their opinion of you based on your actions within social situations. Writing it down in a chart helps our son "see" it. Hope the information is helpful for you.
•    Anonymous said... You need to get a home ABA therapist to help your son, this is not done intentionally and is not in your son's control- he needs to be taught these things explicitly and in a supportive, understanding, therapeutic manner. Your school system is required under IDEA to provide these services to you as part of his IEP- they will typically give you a bank of hours, such as 25 hours at a time. But, the important thing is- not all BCBA's are the same- you need to have someone who knows what they are doing, i.e. experienced, Master's degree prepared at a minimum and with the BCBA certification. Hope this helps, but just remember that your son is not doing this on purpose.

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Anonymous said...

I have two kids on the Autism spectrum, both have co-concurring conditions. ADHD, Autism, cognitive deficits... my youngest has the majority of diagnosis, further going into ODD, and PTSD, etc. The situation we face is actually reversed where my youngest is always beating up on her bigger sister, and verbally abusing those around her, etc. She has always been fussy, and tempermental since she was born. I can't say she's ever been any different, but we discover new behaviors all the time with different meds we try. Some of them are helpful, some are not. Her behavior for a long time was controlled with Risperdal, but we are now at a point where the Risperdal no longer works on it's own. She does take Focalin, and tenex in conjection with the Risperdal right now, in the hopes that we can take her off the Risperdal completely and perhaps get her on a different medicine all together. All I have to say is that changes in routine from school, differences in our day, not warning her about something- anything being different can set her off. She keeps things together at school but explodes at home, typically at her older sister. Just recently she did it out in public and tried to go after her sister in our therapist's waiting room. While her therapist said there are a lot of meltdowns out there, it did not make me feel any better. To date most of our issues have been contained to the house. Now life is very unpredictable because we have no idea where or when the next behavior is going to occur. I do sympathize with the above because this is a dynamic we deal with all the time. Mostly though the hurt feelings come from when my older daughter rejects my younger daughter (who has the majority of issues) because of her behavior, and all her little sister wants is to interact with her. Life is never dull.

Anonymous said...

I have this problem every day of my 11 yr olds life,he has aspy and his little brother is 10. he has always got the brunt of his big brother's tantrums, daily, it breaks my heart..I have actually consider residential treatment for my aspy child just to give his little brother a break. I don't know what else to do, I am single at this time and it has got physically abusive towards me if I interfere with one of their aurguments, I just try to keep them apart as much as I can, but that is not always practical...ODD is also a problem...Lord, help me and all you parents out there!

Anonymous said...

My daughter is 11 and she is the same way with her sister who is 9. Have you taken away your aspie childs free time? I have taken all free time away and give it as a reward, this stops the behavior right in its track. This is a huge step for parents but the younger child does not deserve it and it will help them grow, trust me!

Anonymous said...

As mentioned, removing the tantruming child is a challenge; another option is to remove yourselves (you, and 3 year old). When your older daughter is behaving inappropriately rush to your 3 year old, go over the top lavishing her with tender comfort "I'm sorry your sister is treating you so mean, lets leave" - and then leave the room while continuing to console her loudly enough for your other daughter can hear. If there are 2 adults available when this happens, both adults lavish 3 year old and after a couple min. one returns to briefly explain the disappointing behavior and to begin the time out as described earlier - and leaves.

The other half is to find opportunities to REWARD the older sister for using "kind and loving" words and behaviors toward her younger sister. These can be orchestrated with activities the 10 year old enjoys that the 3 year old can do. Start very brief. A compliment. A request to pass a dinner table item. The reward must be meaningful to your 10 year old and should also include specific wording for the desired behavior. "You asked your sister for the noodles using your kind words, thank you. Here's a ticket you can use for extra wii time (or whatever token/reward system you have in place) later".

Replacing the unwanted behaviors with the desired ones is necessary or your 10 year old may skip to another undesirable choice of her own. Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested to meet parents who have the reverse dynamic- the younger child is out of control and just as abusive and manipulative and mean towards the older child that it is severely damaging the sibling relationship. It's the same dynamic, just reversed in age. Both of my kids have ASD but the youngest has the ODD, and it gets so frustrating.

Anonymous said...

My 11 year old has two older brothers...he has thrown forks at them..and broke their stuff..yells at the is older two are at college and they hate coming home because of him
about an hour ago · Like

Bryan Hoff said...

My daughter is 17 and my Aspie son is 15. They absolutely hate each other as my oldest daughter has had privacy violated & the screaming outbursts embarrass her. I urge EVERYONE to get a grip on this early as behavior modification must occur consistently. My wife & I have since divorced & to this day my son suffers from his mother & I not being able to work together for his future. Please use the professional resources available & help your other children know that your Aspie child is just wired differently & why they need more help to show love to their siblings. Best of luck to you all as a Christian faith will help you more than anything & in many ways. Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

I have similar problems as crystal, i am single mum an i have a 14yrold son who has aspergers an learning disabilty an conduct disorder, i have 3 yunger girls one who is 4yrold an gets upset an scared by his abuseive behaviour, i also hav a 13yrold with learnin disabilty an a 11 daughter who has nothing wrong, im at point now where i have thought about care away from the home to give us all some respite, he has been abusive mentaly an physicaly to us all, + i have lost friends an some family members dont like having in thur homes as he steals etc.. it is now a very lonely way x

Anonymous said...

I have it both directions. My oldest daughter is 10, My Aspie son is 7, my other son is 5 and I have a 2 yr old daughter. My aspie and his older sister have a major love/hate relationship. There are times he adores her and they get along great. Then there are time when he hits her and destroys everything she owns. Same thing goes with the little ones but they get along even less. For the most part the 5 yr old looks up to his brother and even acts like him at times. However for the most part both of the little ones seem to get on his nerves and is mean to them when they won't go away.

Leanne Strong said...

I also have Asperger's, and am the oldest child in a family with only 2 children. I used to feel like my brother was being mean to me first, and would be mean back as retaliation, to show him how it feels. Maybe your son who has AS feels like his brother is being mean to him, and is trying to show him how it feels. I also thought, "that's not fair! I got more (and harsher) discipline when I was his age, than he does!" Maybe your son is thinking the same thing.

Also, you mentioned your son with Asperger's is 11. The tween to teen years are tough for most kids, but they can be especially tough for children on the Autism Spectrum, because that's about the time when kids start to notice how they are different from their peers. Also, children with Autism are often very concrete thinkers, who don't easily see the grey areas. They may become very upset when they see someone do something differently from how they were taught to do it, or how they feel it should be done. They will most certainly start to notice this more around the tween or teen years.

Maybe it will help your son with AS if you and your partner (if you have one) could each spend one-on-one time with your son with AS, without his little brother there. I always enjoyed spending one-on-one time with a parent, without my brother (like going out to eat with my mom, or playing a board game with my dad), because it gave me a break from him.

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.

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here for the full article...

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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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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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