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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Understanding the Mind of an Aspergers Child

"My 7-year-old daughter was recently diagnosed with high functioning Asperger’s. This is all so new to me. How can I understand the way she thinks? We are definitely not on the same page much of the time!"

Kids with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism may have underdeveloped areas in the brain that cause problems in the following areas:
  • understanding the thoughts and feelings of others
  • learning appropriate social skills and responses
  • focusing on “the real world” as opposed to becoming absorbed in their own thoughts and obsessions
  • communication

Children and teens with Aspergers are often extremely literal in their interpretation of others’ conversations (e.g., they may wonder if cats and dogs are really raining down or think there are two suns when someone talks about two sons). They are unable to recognize differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of what others’ say. Your daughter may not understand a joke or take a sarcastic comment literally.

For Aspergers children, learning social skills is like learning a foreign language. They are unable to recognize non-verbal communication that “typical” kids learn without formal instruction. For example:
  • how to interpret facial expressions
  • how to tell when someone does not want to listen any longer
  • not understanding the appropriate distance to stand from another person when talking

Many Aspergers kids will be highly aware of right and wrong and will bluntly announce what is wrong. They will recognize others’ shortcomings, but not their own. Consequently, the behavior of young people with Aspergers is likely to be inappropriate through no fault of their own.

Kids with Aspergers need routine and predictability, which gives them a sense of safety. Change can cause stress, and too much change can lead to meltdowns (or shutdowns). Changes that are stressful for them include:
  • changing a bedroom curtain or the color of the walls
  • doing things in a different order (e.g., putting pants on before a shirt)
  • going to the bathroom at someone else’s home
  • having a different teacher at school
  • starting a new routine

Routines and predictability help them remain calm. Your daughter’s thinking may be totally focused on only one or two interests, about which she is very knowledgeable. Many kids with Aspergers are interested in parts of a whole. For example:
  • astronomy
  • designing houses
  • drawing highly detailed scenes
  • insects
  • intricate jigsaw puzzles
  • Pokemon
  • the computer
  • trains

Because her brain is obsessed by her interest, your daughter may talk only about it, even when others are carrying on a conversation on a different topic.

Aspergers kids notice details, rather than the “whole” picture. The importance of the detail prevents the Aspergers youngster from understanding the bigger picture, so instructions may get lost in her focus on a single detail. A lesson at school may be totally ignored in favor of a fly on the wall. Multiple instructions are extremely difficult for these kids to retain and follow.

Aspergers kids are not able to access their frontal cortex or prefrontal lobe efficiently, so they must call on social skills from their memories. If a social skill has not been taught, they won’t have it. Consequently, turn taking, imagination, conversation, and other people’s points of view cause Aspergers kids great difficulty. The youngster may be unable to realize consequences outside her way of thinking. In addition, she can’t recognize when someone is lying to her or trying to take advantage of her.

Anger in Aspergers kids often occurs due to over-stimulation of the senses or a change in routine. It is often the only response the Aspergers youngster knows. Anger-management presents problems. They see things in black and white, which results in tantrums when they don’t get their own way, or when they feel threatened or overwhelmed. Some kids with Aspergers bottle-up anger and turn it inward and hit or bite themselves, never revealing where the trouble is. Many young people with Aspergers are perfectionists, reacting with anger when things don’t go as they wish.

One of the most difficult thinking patterns of Aspergers is mind-blindness. Mind-blindness is the lack of ability to understand the emotions, feelings, motivations, and logic of others – and not care that they don’t understand! Consequently, they behave without regard to the welfare of others. The only way they will ever change their thinking or behavior is if it is in their own interest to do so. Even then, convincing a youngster with Aspergers to change her mind is an uphill battle.

1 comment:

Tisa said...

The teenage years will be extremely difficult. Make sure you get into routines. Consistency is key.

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.

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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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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. The hardest part is you feel like you’ll never actually get to know your child and how he/she views the world.

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