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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Aspergers & Picky Eating

"My son was diagnosed with Asperger’s in January. His eating habits are not that great. He will only eat about 3 specific foods which are not at all healthy. How can I introduce something new to him if he doesn’t like to try anything new? Unless he has eaten it before, he will not try it."


This is a common problem with people with Asperger’s. Some AS adults will eat only three or four foods for months at a time. For AS kids, many foods taste terrible to them (but not to others) or have disgusting textures or smells. They can’t help these reactions; they are a part of Asperger’s. Unfortunately your son’s three choices are not healthy ones, so he isn’t getting a balanced diet. For that reason, his diet must change.

Your son’s diet should include protein from eggs, milk, cheese, fish, beef, and chicken, pork, even hot dogs. He needs grains, which provide B vitamins, from breads, hamburger and hot dog buns, corn, and cereals. He needs vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, from juices, fruits, and vegetables. He requires calcium and vitamin D from milk and cheese. Getting him to eat these foods is the challenge.

You will have to eliminate the three items he will eat from your home and offer him a variety of other healthy foods, letting him choose what he will eat from them. Prepare for a battle royal when you do this! He may scream, cry, and have “meltdowns” at every meal. But, when he gets hungry, he will try at least some of the new foods. Whatever you do, don’t give him any of his preferred three foods, or they are all that he will eat and he will never try any of the new foods. Needless to say, the rest of the family must not eat his preferred foods, either.

Perhaps he would try some whole grain cereals. Many children like Life cereal or Cheerios (with or without milk). If he’ll eat the cereal, see if he likes a sliced banana on it. Use Splenda to sweeten cereal, fruits, and baked items. Try popcorn (a whole grain). Don’t load it up with butter. 

Fruit juices may appeal to him. There are new ones on the market that are delicious and have a serving of fruit and one of vegetables in each glass. Try hot dogs and hamburgers. He may like scrambled eggs. If he will drink milk (even chocolate milk or a milkshake), it will give him protein and calcium.

Try mixing rice or noodles into a cheese and chicken casserole. Most children like macaroni and cheese. See if he does. Try tacos made with whole grain tortillas, hamburger, and cheese. Will he eat fried chicken or chicken nuggets? How about fish and chips?

Many fruits may taste sour to him. Canned peaches and pears are sweet and may appeal to him. Cut fruits into bite sized pieces so they are easy to eat. Don’t chastise him if he doesn’t eat them; maybe in the future he will. Make small apple or blueberry muffins. Yoghurt with fruit is an option you could try.

As far as vegetables are concerned, it may be an uphill road! But, sometimes vegetables can be hidden in other foods, for example, in those juices mentioned above. How about putting some onion in his hamburger? Potatoes are vegetables and he might eat oven-fried French fries. Blend some cooked cauliflower into mashed potatoes. He may not notice the difference. He may like sweet potatoes. He might like creamed corn or cornbread. Does he eat any soups? You could try tomato soup made with milk; he might like it or chicken noodle soup. 

It’s very important not to make “a big deal” about what he doesn’t eat. If you do, eating will become an even worse power struggle than it’s going to be. Offer various new foods at each meal. If he doesn’t like them, don’t make an issue of it. He’ll eat something when he gets hungry! Avoid serving soda pop and sweets so he doesn’t fixate on them. When he finally accepts a new, healthy food, offer it often, but not at every meal, so he has to keep trying new foods.

My last suggestion is to make sure he has a multivitamin each day. Get one that is chewable, tastes good, and has a cute shape. Also, drinking Ensure or Pediasure is a good way to supplement his diet with vitamins and minerals.

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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. 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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