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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The Difference Between Asperger's and Autism

"What is the real difference between Asperger's Syndrome and Autism? When I tell people that my daughter has Asperger's, they usually ask me, 'What is Asperger's exactly?' And I say, 'It's a form of Autism.' But that doesn't really help them to understand Asperger's since there is supposedly a big difference between the two disorders."

There is a great deal of confusion when it comes to the differences between Aspergers (high functioning autism) and Autistic Disorder. It seems that even medical professionals have difficulty determining a clear line between the two disorders. Often, it boils down to simply categorizing children according to the specific traits they exhibit, such as how they use language. However, there are some professionals who assert that Aspergers and Autism are actually the same disorder and should both fall under the heading of Autism.

Click here for more information on the new criteria for Autism as described in the DSM 5.

It's important to understand Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) when trying to determine the differences (or lack thereof) between Aspergers and Autism. PDDs are neurobiological disorders that include a wide spectrum of conditions, including Aspergers and Autism. PDDS are marked by much delayed or significantly lacking social and language skills. A child with a PDD will usually have problems communicating with others and understanding language. Often, children with these conditions ignore or fail to understand facial expressions, and they may not make eye contact as most people expect in social situations.

Autism is the most well known of the disorders classified as PDDs. Autistic kids look just like everyone else. It is their behavior that is different, and they appear withdrawn and often resist to change. They tend to throw tantrums, shake, flap or move their bodies in odd ways, and laugh or cry for what seems like no reason.

Kids with Autism may play in a way that it considered odd and exhibit obsessive attachments to certain objects. They may act as if they are deaf, ignore verbal cues, repeat certain words over and over again, or be entirely non-verbal. In those who are verbal, a lack of ability to start a conversation is often evident.

Aspergers is often considered within the spectrum of Autism. A child with Aspergers may exhibit odd or abnormal verbal communication skills. He may also avoid peer relationships, lack interest in others, fail to return emotional feelings, form obsessive attachments to subjects of interest, and have repetitive behaviors. He may exhibit repetitive movements, such as flapping or twisting. Interestingly, children with Aspergers generally do not experience delays in language or cognitive development, and they are often very curious about their environment.

It is important to note that not all children with Aspergers and Autism lack the ability to function normally. Some are considered highly-functioning and are capable of caring for themselves and interacting socially. However, these young people are usually seen as odd or eccentric because they still have behaviors that don't mesh with what most people consider normal.

Since Aspergers and Autism are seen as so similar, some people draw a line between the two at language development and social awareness. It seems that those with Aspergers typically have more normal language development, though many still have disordered language and communication skills. Kids and teens with Aspergers also tend to be more interested in - and aware of - social interactions than those with Autism. However, social skills must be taught and even practiced, as they generally don't come naturally to young people with this disorder.

My Aspergers Child: How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums


 COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... According to the DSMV, there is no difference. It's now High Functioning Autism at level 1 -2.
•    Anonymous said... Going thru the same situation with my 16 year old son and his school. They wont acknowledge his aspergers diagnisis.
•    Anonymous said... I don't bother getting into a lot of details, I just say "In her case, her main struggles are _______, but others may have different difficulties" With the school, teachers etc I go into more detail.
•    Anonymous said... i think its hard for people to understand autism and talking... they hear autistic and think oh well how cause she can talk and look at me and has friends... i just tell people she has high functioning and still struggles with a lot of the same things as a severe autistic child but in a less severe form... most people tend to understand that.
•    Anonymous said... It is on the Autism spectrum and is high functioning autism.
•    Anonymous said... It's a social delay. The way in which they relate to others. That's what I tell my son about himself. Then I give him examples of his behavior and he understands it. He can't control it yet, but, I'm giving him awareness of it so he can be mindful of his actions.
•    Anonymous said... It's not hfa. Hfa usually involves speech issues, meaning not talking. Not unable to talk just introverted in a way. Aspies generally talk, and quite well. From my experience anyway:)
•    Anonymous said... People seem to get Autism for the most part. I just tell them my son has high functioning Autism and it affects things like his social skills, eye contact and coordination.
•    Anonymous said... That's a good question. I have a 9 year old with Asperger's and go through the same thing. It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't understand Autism at all.
•    Anonymous said... The individual is their own unique self, and their needs are their needs, just like anyone else. It really doesn't matter what anyone wants to call it. The only real usefulness for either label is as an indicator that says, "we need to keep looking".
•    Anonymous said... With the dx coding changes I just say he's HFA now. It's easier for most to understand that and the school works with it easier

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Aspergers in Females

From A Woman's Perspective:

A young lady who has participated for several years in a social group for adults with high functioning autism and Asperger’s Syndrome sponsored at our TEACCH Center in Asheville, recently remarked, “There aren’t a heck of a lot of ladies who have Asperger’s Syndrome or autism. The majority are males, and although we get along with the guys, there are some issues that they are never going to understand. I wish there was more information specifically for ladies who have autism.” Her comment prompted the initiation of the first ladies’ group at the Asheville TEACCH Center. 

While talking with this lady, who is in her 20’s, I was reminded of my own early adulthood. I remember the strong support of “ladies’ consciousness-raising groups” that sprouted up on college campuses and in living rooms in the 60’s and 70’s. While struggling for and demanding equality between the sexes in the society at large, we discovered that there were important distinctions that needed to be honored. Together we explored and defined what “being a lady” was about, in the company of other young ladies searching for self-awareness. Being a member of a ladies’ “CR” (Consciousness-Raising) group was educational, exciting, exhilarating, emotional, relevant…and never boring.

According to Tony Attwood and other professionals in the field, ladies with high functioning autism and Asperger’s Syndrome may be an under diagnosed population. If this is true, some of the reasons may be attributed to gender differences.

Are there behaviors that are seen in females with Asperger’s Syndrome, but not in males, that we haven’t yet identified as part of the profile… or certain gender-related behavior that might fool us into ruling out the diagnosis? What about the “pretend play” that has been observed in many young females at our center, which on the surface appears to be quite creative and imaginative? There seem to be many females (on the spectrum) who are enamored with princesses, fantasy kingdoms, unicorns, and animals¬¬. How many diagnosticians observe these interests and skills as imagination, and rule out a diagnosis based on these behaviors? Might this interest in imaginary kingdoms and talking animals be more common among females than males, yet still exist alongside other autistic/Aspergers traits?

And what about one typical response to confusion or frustration--hitting or other such outward expressions of frustration? Does this type of acting out occur more often in males with autism than in females? Is confusion or frustration simply easier to identify in males than females because we already look for it? Among the general population, it is commonly thought that males do “act out” more than females. (You sometimes hear teachers complain there are too many males in his or her class, and its impact on the class’ personality!) Is it easier to identify males as having autism because these behaviors are more obvious, than females who may experience inward or passive signs of aggression?

Professionals whose task it is to diagnose individuals with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome need to learn more about the full range of qualities and personality differences unique to females and ladies on the spectrum.

And what about the females’ and ladies’ route to self-understanding? Indeed, several ladies I have worked with who have Asperger’s Syndrome have talked about the unique challenges they experience because they constitute a “minority” within this special group of society.

I believe that in order to gain self understanding, each person with - or without - autism needs to see his or her own reflection in the world. I call this ‘seeing one’s place.’ For people with autism or AS, who already are challenged in this area, it becomes imperative that they meet, listen to, talk with, read about, and learn from others with autism. What happens as a result of this coming together is that they are able to see their ‘reflection’ and better understand their own unique styles of thinking and being. Ladies with autism, although benefiting greatly from getting to know other people with autism, often find that they might be the only female (or one of a very few ladies) in the group.

When I asked the ladies we see at our center if they would be interested in being in a ladies’ group, I had hoped that the group could fill a gap in our services. I also hoped that I would learn more about what it means to be a lady with autism. The more I meet with these ladies, the more I realize we have far to go in understanding the unique challenges that ladies with autism or Aspergers face.

One lady explained that, from her perspective there is subtle interaction between two sets of issues. “Problems related to the [autism] spectrum are combined with problems of society’s expectations of ladies. How one looks, what one wears, how one is supposed to relate socially, that a lady is supposed to have a natural empathy towards others, expectations about dating and marriage…” Ladies are affected by autism in the same ways as are their male counterparts; however, they are doubly challenged by the added assumptions that society places on the female gender.

At the risk of stereotyping, any man who is a rational thinker, and not emotionally in tune with others, is often thought of as having “typical male behavior” (think of the TV show “Tool Time”). A female exhibiting these same personality traits might be regarded as odd, annoying, cold, or depending on the situation, even mean-spirited. Autism, with its particular effects on personality, causes one to appear more rational and less emotionally responsive or empathetic to others. Ladies with autism note that these expectations indeed may weigh more heavily on them, just because they are ladies.

At the first meeting, the group members requested specific topics for discussion, topics that they encounter in daily life or ones which they are currently pondering. These topics included issues that are relevant to ladies at large such as personal safety; dating and sex; or being taken advantage of when your car needs repair. Other issues they raised were felt by group members to possibly be more significant for ladies with autism, but common to all--being pressured to conform by getting married; to “act like a lady”; and issues about one’s appearance--to have to “look a certain way”.

However, there were topics that all agree are a direct result of being a lady with autism, such as common behavioral and social expectations by the society at large. At the top of the list were the expectations of being sensitive to others and displaying empathy.

Ladies with autism have expressed that they feel that more is expected from them than from their male counterparts, simply because of their gender. Members of the group felt these expectations to be sensitive and empathetic, typically attributed to ladies, are unfair and difficult to meet. Discussion centered on how these behaviors require skills like the ability to accurately read and respond to body language, along with the inherent desire to “take care of others, emotionally”. Interestingly, after discussing these issues, the first requested topic to explore was reading body language and how to tell if someone is trying to take advantage of you.

The topic that generated the biggest emotional response from the group was the personal experience of feeling like one was “being treated like a child”. Parents, in general, are often more protective of their daughters than their sons. Daughters with autism talked about feeling overly protected into womanhood. In many cases, this is needed, although without understanding the parent’s perspective, the adult daughter can feel unfairly babied. Some ladies talked about the resentment they felt toward people, who for many years had been trying to teach them “socially appropriate” ways of acting. “Enough already!” was a common response.

The desire to be respected as an individual, and as a lady, was voiced clearly and strongly. Although this desire is probably equally shared among grown men with autism, the ladies voiced these desires clearly, with deep emotion and passion, when talking with other ladies.

What To Do When Your Child Has Been Diagnosed With Asperger's Syndrome

"What are the first steps parents should begin to take when they believe their child may have Asperger's?"

For many moms and dads, finding out that your youngster has Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism can be a mixed blessing. On one hand, a positive diagnosis gives rise to the prospect of management and greater certainty as to the factors at play in your youngster's life. On the other, most moms and dads are unprepared for the changes having a son or daughter with Aspergers invariably brings.

We've compiled a list of the top 10 steps to take if you think your youngster may have Aspergers, or if you've had your youngster diagnosed with the condition:

1. Be honest with yourself. At times, rearing a son or daughter with Aspergers can cause you anger, sadness, anxiety, frustration and depression. Be open to understanding that you will, at times, feel all these feelings, and allow that authenticity to give rise to the possibility that you will take care of your own needs. In doing so, you can more effectively tend to the needs of others. Don't feel the need to explain or justify your actions to others. However you cope with the situation is exactly the way you are supposed to.

2. Contact community services and inquire as to whether you are eligible for some type of family benefit as a parent of a youngster with Aspergers. Your doctor should be able to advise you on this.

3. Contact your local Autism Association and ascertain what services are provided through the service. Make use of private and government resourced services.

4. Permit yourself to take stock of your situation from a place of positivity. With diagnosis comes some certainty, as you and your youngster are now dealing with a known quantity. There's nothing wrong with taking each day at a time, and understanding that you can now make a difference to your youngster's life, which you could not in the absence of a diagnosis. You're youngster has always had Aspergers. The day your son or daughter receives a diagnosis is the first step in the right direction.

5. If your son or daughter is in school, contact the Principal and advise him or her of the diagnosis. Many schools are aware of – and, in fact, provide information on – Aspergers. School counseling is designed to assist with the condition. In addition, ask your youngster's school whether they are aware of any parent workshops for Aspergers children. If your child is older, home study and tutoring may be an option. It is important to be assertive in ensuring that your school can properly advocate for your youngster's needs, and ideally this can be achieved by working within the school protocols. There is no need for you to underestimate your youngster's potential, and certainly this attitude should be reflected in the educational institution. Involve yourself where possible in your youngster's educational and learning environments.

6. Invest in your own education. There is a vast quantity of information on Aspergers available, both online and in the form of medical literature. Sign up for information seminars, online e-courses, and if you are looking for immediately available information, give consideration to investing in an ebook written by an expert on Aspergers. Knowledge is power.

7. Involve your family in the process, and do your best to maintain objectivity. Kids with Aspergers have certain special needs; however, they are (for the most part) high-functioning children who can thrive with appropriate and measured care. Try and maintain a balance between focusing on providing that care, and being a spouse and parent to the rest of your family.

8. Make inquiries with your doctor for a referral to someone who has experience with Aspergers. Having professional assistance can make an enormous difference to how effectively you can help your youngster cope with Aspergers. Permit those professionals you consult to guide you through the process and make the most of their advice.

9. Make inquiries within your local community as to the support groups available for those with Aspergers and for moms and dads of kids with Aspergers. Sharing your situation with others who are in a position to fully appreciate it can make an enormous difference.

10. Remember to smile. You have a special child. One day, he or she just might be the one looking after you.

Changing Unwanted Aspergers-related Behavior

“It is very frustrating not being able to change or modify the rigid behaviors that my Asperger’s son exhibits, for example, picky eating, rudeness to others, lack of motivation …just to name a few. Is there anything that can be done to help him be more open to change and flexibility?”

Most kids with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism struggle with social skills, communication, and a limited diet, which can cause any of these issues:
  • behavioral problems
  • communication problems
  • desire for isolation
  • lack of incentive
  • sensory issues 
  • social problems
  • dropping into a state of depression, thus making the original problems that much worse

Social skills and living skills therapy may be the most popular areas of concentration when treating kids and teens (and even adults) with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism. These therapies are widely available and do bring about effective progress in most cases.

Providing incentive is the key to improving your youngster’s circumstances. Actually, incentive is a factor anytime you are seeking to modify anyone’s unwanted behaviors. Incentive in itself is definitely an old concept, but using incentive in a new way will create the wanted result for your “special needs” son.

Old Incentive—

As moms and dads, we often use “set motivators” to achieve the behavior we feel is appropriate. The concentration has been placed on the behavior, which sets a negative tone to the process of change. You can’t blame a youngster for reacting negatively to a negative tone.
  • Punishment: “If you don’t do ______, then you will get ______!” We have all used this at one time or another, and over the course of time, it has proven to be an ineffective motivator.
  • Rewards or bribery: “If you do ______ today, I’ll buy you a ______.” We’re guilty of this one too. This probably creates more confusion and greed than incentive over time.

New Incentive—

Motivators should be positive. It feels good to see your youngster happily learning or cooperating in desired behaviors. Motivators that appeal to the individual boy or girl should be used for maximum results. Incentive is definitely personal. What motivates one youngster will not work for every youngster.
  • Positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is “catching” a child doing something you want them to do and rewarding it. The youngster gets attention and reward as positive reinforcement for doing the right thing and will focus on repeating that behavior. Positive reinforcement works because it gives kids positive goals to work towards instead of only focusing on negative consequences to avoid. Positive reinforcement fulfills strong basic psychological needs of every boy and girl, as well as setting a more positive and healthy tone for the parent-child relationship.
  • Routines: Keeping your youngster’s routines constant will improve his outlook. He’ll know what to expect at any given time, lessening the stress he feels.
  • Special Interests: Using your youngster’s special interests both at home and at school can generate positive responses in all situations. For example, your youngster’s love of trains can be used to encourage eating at home. Train themed dinnerware or even themed foods may be used to entice the reluctant eater.

By practicing positive reinforcement, establishing solid and consistent routines, and identifying special interests, you should be able to implement a social skills and living skills “parenting-plan” that will get the results that so desperately desire.



COMMENTS:

Anonymous said... Another thing to keep in mind is patience Rome was not built in a day : ) . It might take 21 days to eat that piece of brocoli or 2 years to master those social skills. Hang on to the picture in your mind of the finish line not the starting spot : )

Anonymous said... My 9 year old son has just been diagnosed with Aspergers is diet associated with it? That would explain why its so hard to get him to eat what is good for him

Anonymous said... I think it's the food texture or something that they seem to only prefer certain foods, which in my case, it's not very much. The older he gets though the more he tries and actually likes. He is 12.

Anonymous said... My son, who is 10, just tried a hamburger for the first time a few weeks ago. He had three bites before he decided he was done. I was so thrilled. It was such a major accomplishment for him! I know he probably wont touch another one for a very long time. But thats ok because he tried something new!!! Just keep showing him all of the good things you enjoy and he will decide when he is ready to try it.

Anonymous said... Couldn't agree anymore. I also literally "laughed out loud" when you said how thrilled you got, one of those "been there done that!!" I love those moments!!! :)

Anonymous said... I wanted to do the happy dance!! Every day is a struggle with food around here. I almost whooped out loud when he ate that burger! =)

Anonymous said… You will be able to work with it as they get older. Once they are old enough to understand that we all have certain norms to conform to, my son at least, has started to see the value in modifying his behavior. It's not perfect but who is! I love my son and he's found others who feel the same way along his path.

Anonymous said… Yes Bianca... very familiar. i've just read the article . very good read. and i think for us, we have to set a common strict routine he follows at both houses. i feel he needs that stability n consistency. he's a good, very intelligent kids, but unfortunately with bad habits we need to change. we have to work closely together for his sake.

Anonymous said… We deal with the exact same thing!

Anonymous said… Oh I hear you load and clear... My son is almost 15 and we deal with it every day!!!

Anonymous said… My son is going on 13. Only recently has the word Aspergers been mentioned regarding his 'issues'. All in all though, he is not an extreme case. So it's hard to actually "diagnose". But what I want to share it that all through the years of speech therapy for Apraxia, we never treated him any different than we would any other child. He had the same responsibilities, demands, chores, and punishments as his brother. The biggest difference was how we presented it to him. He needed to understand the logic of why he was being asked. And the logic behind the punishments - letting him know upfront what his punishment would be if he did not do something. This goes with behaviour of all sorts. From what I understand, these children have to be taught to think and feel like we do. "taught" is the key word here. They will not 'feel' it like we do, but they can be taught. Reinforce everything you ask them to do and follow through. It takes a lot of time, but time will reward you. I sometimes have to ask him, was that the correct way to behave, speak, act? He'll hang his head and say no... So than I ask, what was the better way. He'll answer, I'll confirm, and we'll practice it the proper way. I hope this little bit helps.

Anonymous said… My son is 3 and a half and everything is no these day's, putting our foot down is met with a violent outburst that doesn't stop until something distracts him if we get angry it only makes him worse. He is still young and our first so we're still getting to grips with parenting let alone parenting an aspergers child but sometimes (we'll most times) he's hitting, kicking us we don't know what to do, he won't stop and will chase us down if we try to get away, will not stay in his room, couldn't care less about taking things away he just keeps going and we're at a total loss on how to deal with it.

Anonymous said… I knew we were making progress using the Masgutova Method when once I had to change what we were doing and he let out a huge sigh, thought about it and then said ok.

Anonymous said… i feel very much the same way. I too have more than 1 under the same roof. Definitely 3 maybe 4. My 10 yr old sounds very much like your daughter with the mood swings and the foul mouth. She too used to be so quiet and easy going ( maybe that was a sign) but she's undergoing many tests at the moment because she has many difficulties dealing with everyday routines and socially. My question is; how do we manage a home with so many different needs. How do we make sure all their needs are being met and nobody is left behind. I feel like I'm not doing a good job at this anymore!

Anonymous said… Familiar?

Anonymous said…  hmm sounds like my 15 yr daughter not flexible at all, very rude to others, picking eating seems to eat the same thing all the time, lack of motivation. I have a 18 yr son who also has it but he actually got better with age but my daughter it has been a total nightmare. The rigid behaviors, the complusive behaviors the other morning instead of getting dress for school she emptys her dresser drawers and starts to refold each one in a certain way and piles it on her bed. But she never finish because I told her she had to stop go get dress if she has time before the bus comes she can finish but this is something she can do on the weekends or no school day. So frustrating and the she takes 3 outfits to the bathroom to get dressed and leaves them all the bathroom floor and her room was a big mess. So she thinks she is doing something good like organizing but instead she made things worst a bigger mess. Then you add bipolar into the mix you got one moody child like walking on egg shells or riding a roller coaster ride. I dread after school time as it is the worst time for her. She will walk in good mood then boom 5 min later better watch out. The mouth on her and the swearing, rude and disrespectful. She use to be this sweet little girl now you don't know who she going to be next. She is in the hate my mom and dad. She tells me I am kick the F out tells me I am dead, etc She has in home therapist and crisis worker too. If it wasn't for working out the gym I don't know how I would deal with my daily stress. 3 bipolars under one roof, daughter, son and husband. Then add both of them with PDD-nos, anxiety, adhd. I didn't think I would have to go thru this with her. I went thru this with my son for many years but as he got older he got better he was very aggressive when he was younger. Been inpatient 11 times from ages 7 to 11 half. My daughter had 2 inpatients this year never been in the hospital before that. But they seem to hold together there and would never show there behaviors there. They know how to play them and how to get out of there if they behave they can go home. These kids are not dumb they are smart in so many other ways.


Anonymous said... You have to put your foot down. Yes they have certain issues but you have to make it clear that certain behavior will not be tolerated. They good things is many times they are so rule orentied that my son now all I have to do is talk sternly or give him a very stern NO. But we have been very strick with him for 2-3 years now. He is 8. Just because they have "issues" don't mean you excuse disrespect. As far as the food with my son if he doesn't way what we serve him he doesn't eat. It sounds harsh but he eats his dinner. It's not going to kill him

Anonymous said... Some things we should insist upon, but I believe it's important to pick our battles. After all many of our kids have issues with self esteem so punishing them all day long can cause even more damage. Disrespectful behavior and behavior that is self harming or harming to others of course should not be tolerated. Positive reinforcement can work wonders.

Dealing with Difficult Aspergers-related Behavior


"I need some advice on how to handle behavior problems in my child with Asperger syndrome, such as how to use the right discipline, dealing with his obsessions, sibling issues, sleep problems, school-related problems, and acting-out behavior in public. Thanks!"

Disciplining kids displaying Aspergers-related behavior will often require an approach which is somewhat unique to that of "typical" kids. Finding the balance between understanding the needs of a youngster with Aspergers - and discipline which is age appropriate and situationally necessary - is achievable when applying some simple, yet effective strategies. These strategies can be implemented both at home and in more public settings.

General Behavior Problems—

Traditional discipline may fail to produce the desired results for kids with Aspergers (now referred to as "high-functioning autism"), primarily because they are unable to appreciate the consequences of their actions. Consequently, punitive measures are apt to exacerbate the type of behavior the punishment is intended to reduce, while at the same time giving rise to distress in both the youngster and the mom or dad.

At all times, the emotional and physical well being of your youngster should take priority. Often this will necessitate removing your youngster from a potentially distressing situation as soon as possible. Consider maintaining a diary of your youngster's behavior with a view to ascertaining patterns or triggers. Recurring behavior may be indicative of a youngster taking some satisfaction in receiving a desired response from peers, moms and dads, or teachers. For example, the youngster may come to understand that hurting another classmate will result in his being removed from class, notwithstanding the associated consequence to his peer. The solution may not be most effectively rooted in punishing the youngster for the behavior, or even attempting to explain the situation from the perspective of their injured peer, but by treating the root cause behind the motivation for the misbehavior (e.g., maybe the Aspergers youngster can be made more comfortable in class so that he will not want to leave).

One of the means to achieve this may be to focus on the positive. Praise for good behavior, and reinforcement by way of something like a Reward Book, can assist. The use of encouraging verbal cues delivered in a calm tone are likely to elicit more beneficial responses than the harsher verbal warnings that might be effective with "typical" kids. If necessary, when giving directions to stop a type of misbehavior, these should be framed as positives rather than negatives (e.g., rather than telling a youngster to stop hitting his brother with the ruler, the youngster should be directed to put the ruler down).

Obsessive or Fixated Behavior—

Almost all kids go through periods of development where they become engrossed in one subject matter or another, but kids with Aspergers often display obsessive and repetitive characteristics, which can have significant implications for behavior. For example, if an Aspergers youngster becomes fixated on reading a particular story each night, she may become distressed if this regime is not adhered to, or if the story is interrupted. Again, the use of a behavior diary can assist in identifying fixations for your youngster. Once a fixation is identified, it is important to set appropriate boundaries for your youngster. Providing a structure within which your youngster can explore the obsession can assist in then keeping the obsession within reasonable limits, without the associated angst which might otherwise arise through such limitations (e.g., tell your youngster that she may watch her favorite cartoon for half an hour after dinner, and make time for that in her routine).

It is appropriate to utilize the obsession to motivate and reward your youngster for good behavior. Always ensure any reward associated with positive behavior is granted immediately to assist the youngster recognizing the nexus between the two.

A particularly useful technique to try to develop social reciprocity is to have your youngster talk for five minutes about a particularly favored topic after he has listened to you talk about an unrelated topic. This serves to help your youngster understand that not everyone shares his enthusiasm for his subject matter.

Bridging the Gap between Aspergers and Discipline and Other Siblings—

For siblings without Aspergers, the differential - and what at times no doubt appears to be preferential - treatment received by an Aspergers sibling can give rise to feelings of confusion and frustration. Often they will fail to understand why their brother or sister apparently seems free to behave as they please without the normal constraints placed on them.

It is important to explain to siblings of Aspergers kids and encourage open discussion about the disorder itself. Encouragement should extend to the things siblings can do to assist the Aspergers youngster, and this should be positively reinforced through acknowledgement when it occurs.

Sleep Difficulties—

Aspergers kids are known for experiencing sleep problems. Kids with Aspergers may have lesser sleep requirements, and as such are more likely to become anxious about sleeping, or may find they become anxious when waking during the night or early in the morning.

Combat your youngster's anxiety by making her bedroom a place of safety and comfort. Remove or store items which might be prone to injure your youngster if she decides to wander at night. Include in the behavioral diary a record of your youngster's sleep patterns. It may assist your youngster if you keep a list of her routine (e.g., dinner, bath time, story and bed time) in order to provide structure. Include an image or symbol of her waking in the morning to provide assurance as to what will happen. Social stories have proven to be a particularly successful tactic in decreasing a youngster's anxiety by providing clear instructions on how part of her day is likely to play out.

At School—

Another Asperger characteristic is that kids will often experience difficulty during parts of the school day which lack structure. If left to their own devices their difficulties with social interaction and self management can result in anxiety. The use of a buddy system can assist in providing direction, as can the creation of a timetable for recess and lunch times. These should be raised with teachers and implemented with their assistance.

Explain the concept of free time to your youngster, or consider providing a separate purpose or goal for your youngster during such time (e.g., reading a book, helping to set up paint and brushes for the afternoon tasks, etc.).

In Public—

Kids with Aspergers can become overwhelmed to the point of distress by even a short visit in public. The result is that many moms and dads with Aspergers kids simply seek to avoid (as much as possible) situations where their youngster is exposed to the public. While expedient, it may not offer the best long-term solution to your youngster, and there are strategies to assist with outings.

Consider providing your youngster with an iPod, or have the radio on in the car to block out other sounds and stimuli. Prepare a social story or list explaining to the youngster a trip to the shops, doctor, etc. Be sure to include on the list your return home. Consider giving your youngster a task to complete during the trip, or having him assist you. At all times, maintaining consistency is a key concern. It pays to ensure that others involved in your youngster's care are familiar with your strategies and techniques and are able to apply them.

Lastly, don't hesitate to seek support networks for parents with Aspergers kids, and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge those who have dealt with the disorder before you have developed. The assistance you can gain from these and other resources can assist you in developing important strategies to deal with problems in a manner most beneficial to your youngster.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums


COMMENTS:

Anonymous said... Yes, I found that my son used to really freak out when young if he got in trouble, he didn't really know what was up or what he did wrong - he has very little understanding of some of his behaviors and why they are not OK at times. When he was a toddler, I discovered the strong connection between dairy products (even Goldfish crackers) and his wild behaviors, so a dietary change did a lot of good. Then as a teen, when he became extremely aggressive when his testosterone surged with puberty, and they tried many meds to help him calm down a bit. Finally Trileptal (Oxcarbazepine) and a small dose (don't use larger ones, they can cause obsessions) of Abilify, plus Clonidine .1mg at night to sleep was the perfect combo. He has been able to reduce some of these as he got older, but if we take him off the Trileptal he gets really frustrated and explosive, so he may be on it for life, but it's not a really bad drug - it's an antiseizure med that they use to help bipolar patients also. And the cool thing when he took it is the meltdowns cut WAY back and his mind changed where he could actually form expressions about what he liked, didn't like, talk about his day, tell stories, make jokes, laugh, etc. His counselor was thrilled because he usually never said more than a few words during sessions, and suddenly they were having conversations. I also find this interesting because I read a story last year about some children diagnosed with Autism being found to be having small seizures on a constant basis, and when they were given antiseizure meds they were suddenly able to come out of it and begin to function neurologically - amazing. He still is very much an Aspie and quite a handful and has many challenges, but at least we don't have to call the police to try to get him to stop wrecking the house and attacking people and yelling - that was awful. My poor child, I really do try to see what he goes through, too. And as a foot note - the greatest challenge in dealing with the changes and improvements these meds brought about was when he moved on to new teachers, counselors, etc, for whatever reason, and they would get confused about his diagnosis at first because he didn't "appear" as an Aspie nearly as much as he did without the meds, and could make eye contact, talk, etc. - I kept trying to explain to them that it's like someone with say, schizophrenia - they can take their meds and appear quite normal, but take them away and then you can see their diagnosis. Sometimes I wondered if they even had a clue - but I guess they didn't see very many Aspies at all on this treatment my son is on and it was not something they were used to being presented with.

Anonymous said... My son either laughs at us if we try to discipline him or he screams at the top of his lungs at us. Ugh. We've started a reward sticker chart which is working right now, but with everything else, he loses interest in things over time and then we have to come up with a new system.


More comments below...

Dealing with Aspergers Employees: What Employers Need to Know

Your new Aspergers employee has the skills you were looking for and is dedicated to doing the job well. The challenging part for a person with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism is the less structured, more social aspects of office culture. Small talk, picking up what others are thinking, and being imaginative about solving problems are challenging for these individuals.

Here are some straightforward tips to help them thrive:
  1. Be open to someone who may be a support person in the personal life of your Aspergers employee. Some moms and dads stay involved a little longer in the life of their adult Aspergers child as an advocate in the background. Until your employee initiates the conversation about bringing in his advocate, remember to build trust through messages that convey you value his work. Some young people with Aspergers want to do it on their own, while others would welcome their support person to coach or help them get independent with some of the more interpersonal aspects of being on the job.
  2. Be precise and specific with your instructions. Slang and expressions of speech may not translate to what you want to communicate. Details and examples help (e.g., "This is how it should look when it is done").
  3. Don’t let the "diagnosis" be a defining characteristic of your employee; it is one aspect of who this person is. The diagnosis becomes important for you to know when it helps you to help her shine on the job.
  4. Encourage co-workers to have a collaborative office culture when it comes to helping out each other. Your Aspergers employee will have strengths that will be an asset to your team. Helping others in the office by lending a hand with one’s own talents helps everyone bond socially with fellow employees.
  5. Encourage your Aspergers employee to come up with some process strategies for doing her job. For example, she might work well by recording tasks on a template she creates with visuals, spacing or organization that makes good sense to her.
  6. Help your employee relax about asking for help on the job. "Disability acts" encourage individuals to discuss the modifications they need in the work place. However, there is often hesitation because of the fear that disclosure will be a stigma or put the job in jeopardy. You want to be receptive should your Aspergers employee want to ask for an accommodation that will help her work better.
  7. Try to give a personal "heads up" if there is a schedule or routine change that your employee may not pick up on automatically. An individual with Aspergers will need some extra "signaling" at times. Keep the focus on the person's gifts, which brought him to your work place and motivated you to hire him!
  8. To set up for office place success, you will find it pays off to invest in some training time early on in some of those skills unrelated to the primary job, but fundamentally important to navigating the day at the office.
  9. Be prepared to give your input with some of the smaller steps you may not typically think of stating. Gradually transfer responsibility and accountability to your Aspergers employee, withdrawing your level of involvement as you see him catching on to the rhythm of the office environment.
  10. Be very specific about what you expect in general office matters. Help your employee to know where more and less flexibility is in order and appropriate in the daily flow of the work place. What routines must be done one way only? Observe, make notes and plan for periodic feedback time.
  11. Create a "cheat sheet" for phone coverage. If you want your Aspergers employee to "pinch hit" on the phones, have a few generic phrases that work for your workplace (e.g., “Can I have someone get back to you with that information?”).
  12. Don’t be afraid to be blunt. It will be helpful. There is a distinction between "blunt" and "rude." Your employee will appreciate and understand directness and clarity. If you are finding yourself repeating requests, you can say, “What plan can we come up with to help you establish routines that I have been reminding you about?”
  13. Have a set routine for evaluation and feedback sessions. Start the meeting by talking about the positive qualities you see in your new Aspergers employee (e.g., “Here’s where your work is very well done”). Then move on to the areas that need some re-adjusting. Be sensitive to feelings of past failure with social and organizational issues. Your employee is probably quite familiar with her weaknesses, having heard about them and struggled with them in some other past setting. You can say, “Here’s where we will work together.”
  14. Help your employee become comfortable with the social culture of your workplace. Individuals with Aspergers tend to want to stay focused on tasks they enjoy for extended periods of time. Being specific about when to go for breaks and lunch will be a cue for him to personally connect with co-workers.
  15. As you see a routine or task that requires daily attention, log it on a list. Explaining the purpose behind the task may help it to become automatic. Individuals with Aspergers like to make sense out of things.

Therapy for Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

"How can parents tell if their child has Asperger Syndrome rather than classic Autism? Also, what therapies are available for Asperger kids?"

The main difference between Autism and Aspergers is that the youngster dealing with Aspergers retains his/her early language skills. If you have a son or daughter that is having a greater degree of social difficulties than other kids, or has diminished communication skills and exhibits a restrictive pattern of thought and behavior, he or she may have Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism.

The peculiar symptom of Aspergers is the youngster’s obsessive interest in a single object or topic to the exclusion of any other ...she wants to know ALL about this one topic.

Sometimes the child's speech patterns and vocabulary may resemble that of a little professor. Other Aspergers symptoms include the inability to interact successfully with peers, clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements, repetitive routines or rituals, socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior, and last but not least, problems with non-verbal communication.

Aspergers kids find difficulty mingling with the general public. Even if they converse with others, they may exhibit inappropriate and eccentric behavior. The Aspergers child may always want to talk about his singular interest.

Developmental delays in motor skills (e.g., catching a ball, climbing outdoor play equipment, pedaling a bike, etc.) may also appear in the youngster. Kids with Aspergers often show a stilted or bouncy walk, which appears awkward.

The therapy for the Aspergers concentrates mainly on 3 core symptoms: physical clumsiness, obsessive or repetitive routines, and poor communication skills. It is unfortunate that there is no single treatment for these kids, but therapists do agree that the disorder can be treated successfully when the intervention is carried out at the earliest possible time.

The treatment package for Aspergers for kids involves medication for co-existing conditions, cognitive behavioral therapy, and social skills training. Aspergers treatment mainly helps to build on the youngster’s interests, teaches the task as a series of simple steps, and offers a predictable schedule.

Although kids living with Aspergers can manage themselves and their deficits, personal relationships and social situations are challenging for them. In order to maintain an independent life, the Aspergers individual requires moral support and encouragement to work successfully in mainstream jobs.

Studies are on the way to discover the best treatment for Aspergers, which includes the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify the abnormalities in the brain which causes malfunction of the same, which in turn result in Aspergers. Clinical trials are being conducted to identify the effectiveness of an anti-depressant in people Aspergers. Even the analysis of the DNA of Aspergers individuals and their families may cause a breakthrough in treatment. 

What is a "meltdown" exactly?

"You refer to 'meltdowns' quite frequently in your articles. Is it not the same as a tantrum, and what can be done to prevent them?"

A meltdown is not identical to a tantrum (although there is an overlap on occasion). From a biological standpoint, a meltdown is an emotional outburst wherein the higher brain functions are unable to stop the emotional expression of the lower (i.e., emotional and physical) brain functions. Kids who have neurological disorders are more prone to meltdowns than others (although anyone experiencing brain damage can suffer from meltdowns too).

From a psychological standpoint, there may be several goals to a meltdown, which may or may not be the "rewards" that are consciously desired by the youngster. To many parents and teachers, these goals may seem irrational, inappropriate, and sometimes criminal. To kids familiar with - or trained to recognize - the psychological causes of such behavior, however, there are clear emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and biochemical correlates to meltdowns.

The three major interventions that are usually most effective in preventing a meltdown from manifesting in children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism include (1) managing emotions, (2) a sensory diet to maintain optimal sensory regulation, and (3) visual supports.

1. Managing emotions:

Most often, the Aspie’s feelings are way too big for the situation. Managing felt emotions does not come automatically, but can be learned over time with systematic instruction. CBT is one example of an effective therapy for managing emotions.

2. Sensory diet:

Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism usually do not have sensory systems that regulate automatically; rather, they must discover how to keep themselves regulated. This is most often accomplished by employing a sensory diet.

Just as a youngster needs food throughout the course of the day, he needs sensory input – and opportunities for getting away from stimulation – spread out over the whole day. A “sensory diet” is a carefully designed, personalized activity plan that provides the sensory input an Aspergers child needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day. In the same way that you may soak in a hot tub to relax, Aspergers kids need to engage in stabilizing, focusing activities, too.

Each Aspergers youngster has a unique set of sensory needs. Generally, a youngster whose nervous system is causing him to be hyperactive needs more calming input, while the youngster who is more underactive or sluggish needs more arousing input.

The effects of a sensory diet are usually immediate and cumulative. Activities that perk up your Aspergers youngster - or calm him down - are not only effective in the moment, but they actually help to restructure your youngster’s nervous system over time so that he is better able to (a) handle transitions with less stress, (b) limit sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors, (c) regulate his alertness, (d) increase his attention span, and (e) tolerate sensations and situations he finds challenging.

3. Visual supports:

 “A picture is worth a thousand words” is the absolute truth. Although each child with Aspergers has a unique experience, processing written and spoken words is not considered to be her “first language.” Visual supports can be anything that shows rather than tells. Visual schedules are often used successfully with many Aspergers children. Having a clear way to show beginnings and endings to the activities shown on the visual schedule helps the child to have smooth transitions, thus keeping a meltdown from gathering momentum. For the best results, visual supports need to be in place proactively rather than waiting until the child's behavior unravels to pull them out.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns


COMMENTS:

Anonymous said… Meltdowns are not always "temper tantrums." I am a certified Aspie and my meltdowns usually have nothing to do with temper to anger. Meltdowns are the result of overstimulation in some area. It could be related to sensory issues such as a certain noise, or certain colored lights, or it could be a reaction to an emotionally charged situation (we don't understand emotions so when emotions are high it is unnerving and we can't handle it). I recently wrote about a meltdown on my own blog The Christian Aspie. It is a first hand account, through the eyes of an Aspie. It is horrible to experience. There is a lot of anxiety and stress, an out of control feeling. I have had milder meltdowns when people lie to me. I have also had rather serious meltdowns when I have just been overloaded in one way or another (usually sensory related). The thing to remember is that 1. We can't help it. Sometimes I have to stomp or flap my hands to release the pressure. 2. There is nothing you can do about it except to try to get the person into a sensory friendly (low sensory input - low lights, muted sound, isolated, etc) area.

Anonymous said… I think a lot of it is semantics. The closest term to describe a 'Meltdown', is a severe temper tantrum, altho a temper tantrum in a 'normal' child is generally caused by a child that is simply not getting his way and has learned that if he pitches a big enough fit, he will get his way. No Aspie or Aspie parent wants that perception to be used to describe an Aspie meltdown. I think there is also a big difference between a 'meltdown' and a 'shutdown', depending on how the aspie deals with the anxiety and often overwhelming experience of trying to navigate the 'normal' world. Some aspies INternalalize their feelings and emotions, and some EXternalize them. An internal 'meltdown' I would describe more as a 'shutdown'. They may be just as devastating to the child, but don't have the same outward effect on those around them, as a full-blown 'meltdown' can have. Especially if it happens in public. In my opinion, the term 'meltdown' has become way overused by some parents to describe anytime their child, aspie or not, cries or doesn't behave perfectly. I often want to tell these parents, "you apparently have never seen a real meltdown". In our experience, Mark Hutton described a meltdown perfectly, and I think the overuse, and misuse of the term minimizes what Aspies and their caregivers deal with daily. Thank you Mark for clarifying this. 


Anonymous said... A meltdown can be very subtle. Essentially they are overwhelmed with emotion or sensory input. Early on this can be expressed as irritability (early in the meltdown). It can go into a tantrum/screaming fit or just as easily into what I call a shutdown (retreating somewhere "safe" and trying to block the world out).

Anonymous said... A meltdown is NOT the same as a tantrum. A meltdown is involuntary, it is not under the child's control, and it is usually due to sensory overload, something important getting changed unexpectedly, or some kind of "straw that broke the camel's back," when somebody's been under chronic stress and there's a final incident that they just can't take anymore. Good ways to avoid one are to tell a child in advance if something in their plans or schedule is getting changed--not waiting until the last minute. Figure out what kind of environmental/sensory stresses cause them sensory overload, and avoid those, or make sure they have a way to escape if they need to.

Anonymous said... I found my meltdowns used to occur mostly in social situations that were noisy -- too much noise, too many people talking, too much input. I have learned to handle them by staying to the side of a room, so it is not all around me and occasionally having a time out (from the noise) where I would go outside or to the bathroom & just breath and calm down. But them I am over 50 and have had many years to figure out what works. It is not a tantrum which, as I understand it, comes from anger and not having ones own way; it seems to be a sensory overload which explodes.

Anonymous said... Tantrums are typically from not getting their own way. Meltdowns or at least with my son are usually because he got overwhelmed with something and doesn't know how to properly express it to me. Kudos for finding something that works for you!
 

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Aspergers Meltdowns in Public

"How do you suggest dealing with an Aspergers child's outbursts in public?"

Emotional outbursts are very common in kids with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism. These episodes can be frightening for the youngster as well as everyone present. They can also be embarrassing to the parent when they happen in public places. 

Kids of all ages – and even adults – with Aspergers should take precautions to help prevent reaching the state of losing complete control. There are several Aspergers-related characteristics that can cause these emotional outbursts. To help your child control himself or herself (whether they occur in public or at home), you’ll have to discover the reasons behind them. The solution will depend on the cause(s).

Possible causes:
  • Lack of emotional awareness: Kids with Aspergers do not always understand their own emotions or feelings about people, things, and situations.
  • Sensory issues: Hyposensitivity and hypersensitivity to light, sound, touch, smell, and visual activities can quickly become overwhelming, sending the youngster spiraling out of control.
  • Social issues: Kids with Aspergers have problems with social communication and situations. Being in a social situation can be extremely uncomfortable and can lead to an emotional breakdown.

There are a few things you can try that may help with your child’s problematic behavior:
  1. Start by contacting your doctor to discuss the child's general health.
  2. Your child may need help with anxiety and depression or other emotional issues that can be improved with the appropriate medicines.
  3. Family and individual counseling can help you understand the feelings your child is struggling with and can give you the knowledge you need to develop a “meltdown-prevention plan.” Counseling can help your child understand why he or she loses control, which can lead to better control and prevention.
  4. Help your child pinpoint any stressors that cause the outbursts.
  5. Adopt the use of redirection to avoid an outburst.
  6. Create a "safe zone" that is a calming place to relax and regain control.
  7. Use rewards to encourage self-control.
  8. Look for your child's "silent seizures" (i.e., little indications that he or she is becoming agitated).
  9. Always remember to think in terms of "prevention." Attempting to "intervene" after the child's outburst is well underway is too little - too late. The episode will have to run its course at that point.
  10. There are ebooks available that will increase your understanding on the issues your child experiences on a daily basis. “My Aspergers Child: How to Stop Meltdowns” by Mark Hutten, M.A. is a great resource for you to utilize. You can find it here: My Aspergers Child. This ebook offers solutions and practical advice for home and for school and helps children with Aspergers, as well as those around them.

Educating yourself on the causes and treatments for these extreme emotions will benefit both you and your child.


COMMENTS:


o    Anonymous said… Good to hear other stories and experiences! I often feel alone and overwhelmed. Well-meaning advice is often the last thing I need to hear on a bad day/week...
o      Anonymous said… If I can get her to put on her headphones at some point, the meltdown might not last as long.
o    Anonymous said… I'm grateful those days are over ! But boy oh boy do I remember them ! Lol I took it like a man / mommy ... And kept on keeping on and after a while it didn't bother me what anyone thought . In that moment the ONLY thing that matters is YOUR child . He / she needs you to help them ASAP . Pick him up and remove child if possible or get to a quiet place . Don't argue with child or ask why are you doing THIS right now ?!!!!! Gotta diffuse the situation . And later when things are calm and if child can talk ... Go over what happened and teach them ways to signal you or avoid the situation . My son flipped off a deacon in the church at age four . ( ex husband favorite road rage move ) Yea ... Pretty embarrassing . And after that he ran out the church and into the parking lot crying . From that day on I got permission to stay with him in the nursery and I listened to service on the TV in there while my other 3 children attended church . When it's your child . You find a way to do what needs to be done . The public may judge not understanding the " bad behavior" ... I don't blame them at all ... However , I'm the one going home with the child not them so find a friend to vent to . Treat yourself to a Starbucks after an embarrassing trip out the house , and pat yourself on the back ... Your doing a great job and to your child your a hero !
o    Anonymous said… My 6 yo daughter has Aspergers and meltdowns in public are so frequent (at least 3 an hour). I tend to go into denial and think that I will be able to prevent one, but I never can. I just do as the situation demands: if it can't be fixed, I comfort her; if it has to do with not knowing a social rule, I wait until she's calm to explain; if it is that she forgot a rule, I remind her how well she's doing. I try to take her to a calm spot.
o    Anonymous said… My child had a meltdown in Target when 4... We have always been told to remove the child from the situation so my hubby took our screaming child out to the car. well when he got to the doors, he was stopped by a lady and asked for his ID. He said no problem and showed it to her. Well 20 minutes later while sitting in the car, he gets a tap on the window and finds a cop there. He was told that they received a call that there was a discipline problem. My hubby said well yeah there is and I removed the child from the store because of it. The officer looked at my child and asked if my hubby was the dad, my child looked shocked but nodded yes and the officer walked back to his car and left. Needless to say my hubby NEVER took our child out of the store screaming again, it was my job from then on...we eventually learned what triggers to look for and was able to avoid situations like that again..
o    Anonymous said… My son has had meltdowns at Target and once while on vacation when he was younger. I remember a lady scolding my husband because she thought he wasn't helping take care of the situation when I had specifically told him to go back inside where his cousin was having his wedding reception and it was during the toasts. A couple of times at grocery stores, people have threatened to call CPS on me because "a child never screams when they are with their parents". Um yeah.


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Asperger’s and HFA Students: Crucial Tips for Teachers

Tips for Teachers with Students on the Autism Spectrum

In this post, we will explore the following categories, and how teachers can effectively guide and instruct the child with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:

1. Social Aspects

2. Communication Difficulties

3. Clumsiness

4. Stress and the Environment

5. Intellectual Functioning

6. Obsessional Interests

7. Special Arrangements for Examinations
  • The examination room
  • Extra time
  • Presentation of examination papers
  • Use of language in question papers
  • Prompting of the student when it is time to move on to the next question
  • Word-processing and handwriting
  • Oral tests

==> Click here for the full article...

Asperger’s Syndrome & Meltdowns: Guidelines for Parents & Teachers

Asperger's Children and Temper Tantrums

In this post, we’re going to look at temper tantrums in children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA). Tantrums should not be confused with meltdowns. There does seem to be a fine line between tantrums and meltdowns, so if you’re not sure which is which, view this video first: What is the difference between a meltdown and a tantrum?

Temper tantrums range from whining and crying to screaming, kicking, hitting, and breath holding. Aspergers and HFA kid's temperaments vary dramatically — so some Aspergers kids may experience regular temper tantrums, whereas others have them rarely. They're a normal part of development and don't have to be seen as something negative. However, unlike “typical” children, Aspergers kids don't have the same inhibitions or control.

Imagine how it feels when you're determined to program your DVD player and aren't able to do it no matter how hard you try, because you can't understand how. It's very frustrating! Do you swear, throw the manual, walk away and slam the door on your way out? That's the grown-up version of a temper tantrum. Aspergers kids are also trying to master their world, and when they aren't able to accomplish a task, they turn to one of the only tools at their disposal for venting frustration — a temper tantrum.

Several basic causes of temper tantrums are familiar to mothers and fathers everywhere: The Aspergers youngster is seeking attention or is tired, hungry, or uncomfortable. In addition, temper tantrums are often the result of Aspergers kid's frustration with the world. They can't get something (e.g., an object or a parent) to do what they want. Frustration is an unavoidable part of their lives as they learn how people, objects, and their own bodies work.

Temper tantrums are common during the second year of life for all kids. This is a time when kids are acquiring language. However, Aspergers kids generally understand more than they can express. Imagine not being able to communicate your needs to someone. That would be a frustrating experience that may precipitate a temper tantrum. As language skills improve, temper tantrums tend to decrease.

Another task that all kids are faced with is an increasing need for autonomy. However, even though Aspergers kids want a sense of independence and control over the environment, this may be more than they may be capable of handling. This creates the perfect condition for power struggles as an Aspergers youngster thinks "I can do it myself" or "I want it, give it to me." When Aspergers kids discover that they can't do it or can't have everything they want, the stage is set for a temper tantrum.

Avoiding Temper Tantrums in Aspergers Children—

The best way to deal with temper tantrums is to avoid them in the first place, whenever possible. Here are some strategies that may help:

1. Aspergers kids are more likely to use temper tantrums to get their way if they've learned that this behavior works. Once the young people are school age, it's appropriate to send them to their rooms to cool off. Rather than setting a specific time limit, mothers and fathers can tell them to stay in the room “until they've regained control.” This option is empowering, because Aspergers kids can affect the outcome by their own actions, thereby gaining a sense of control that was lost during the temper tantrum.

2. Aspergers kids have fairly rudimentary reasoning skills, so you aren't likely to get very far with explanations. If the temper tantrum poses no threat to your youngster or others, then ignoring the outburst may be the best way to handle it.  Continue your activities, and pay no attention to your youngster – but remain within sight. Don't leave him or her alone, otherwise he or she may feel abandoned on top of all of the other uncontrollable emotions.

3. Aspergers kids may be especially vulnerable AFTER a temper tantrum when they know they've been less than adorable. Now is the time for a hug and reassurance that your youngster is loved, no matter what.

4. Aspergers kids who are in danger of hurting themselves or others during a temper tantrum should be taken to a quiet, safe place to calm down. This also applies to temper tantrums in public places.

5. Consider the request carefully when your youngster wants something. Is it outrageous? Maybe it isn't. Choose your battles carefully, and accommodate when you can.

6. Distract your youngster. Take advantage of your Aspie’s short attention span by offering a replacement for the coveted object or beginning a new activity to replace the frustrating or forbidden one. Also, you can simply change the environment. Take your youngster outside or inside or move to a different room.

7. If a safety issue is involved, and the youngster repeats the forbidden behavior after being told to stop, use a time-out or hold the youngster firmly for several minutes. Be consistent. Aspergers kids must understand that you are inflexible on safety issues.

8. Keep off-limits objects out of sight and out of reach to make struggles less likely to develop over them. Obviously, this isn't always possible, especially outside of the home where the environment can't be controlled.

9. Know your youngster's limits. If you know he or she is tired, it's not the best time to go grocery shopping or try to squeeze in one more errand.

10. Make sure your youngster isn't acting-out simply because he or she isn't getting enough attention. To an Aspergers youngster, negative attention (a parent's response to a temper tantrum) is better than no attention at all. Try to establish a habit of catching your youngster being good ("time in"), which means rewarding him or her with attention for positive behavior.

11. Occasionally an Aspergers youngster will have a hard time stopping a temper tantrum. In these cases, it might help to say to say, "I'll help you settle down now." But, do not reward your youngster after a temper tantrum by giving in. This will only prove to him or her that the temper tantrum was effective. Instead, verbally praise the youngster for regaining control.

12. Set the stage for success when your son or daughter is playing or trying to master a new task. Offer age-appropriate toys and games. Also, start with something simple before moving on to more challenging tasks.

13. Temper tantrums should be handled differently depending on the cause. Try to understand where your youngster is coming from. For example, if he or she has just had a great disappointment, you may need to provide comfort. If he or she is simply a sore loser at games and hits a playmate, then you may to provide a consequence.

14. The most important thing to keep in mind when you're faced with a boy or girl in the throes of a temper tantrum – no matter what the cause – is simple yet very important: Keep your cool. Don't complicate the problem with your own frustration. Aspergers kids can sense when mothers and fathers are becoming frustrated. This can just make their frustration worse, and you may have a more exaggerated temper tantrum on your hands. Instead, take deep breaths and try to think clearly.

15. Try to give your "special needs" child some control over little things. This may fulfill the need for independence and ward off temper tantrums. Offer minor choices, for example, "Do you want orange juice or apple juice?" or "Do you want to brush your teeth before or after taking a bath?" This way, you aren't asking "Do you want to brush your teeth now?" …which inevitably will be answered "no."

16. Your youngster relies on you to be the example. Smacking and spanking don't help. Physical tactics send the message that using force and physical punishment is acceptable. Instead, have enough self-control for both of you.

17. You should consult your child’s pediatrician if any of the following occur:
  • tantrums arouse a lot of bad feelings
  • tantrums increase in frequency, intensity, or duration
  • you keep giving into your child’s demands
  • your youngster displays mood issues (e.g., negativity, low self-esteem, extreme dependence)
  • your youngster frequently hurts himself/herself or others
  • your youngster is destructive
  • you're uncomfortable with your responses to the child's tantrums

Your doctor can also check for any physical problems that may be contributing to the tantrums (e.g., hearing or vision problems, chronic illness, language delays, learning disability, etc.).

Remember, temper tantrums usually aren't cause for concern and generally diminish on their own. As Aspergers kids mature developmentally, and their grasp of themselves and the world increases, their frustration levels decrease. Less frustration and more control mean fewer temper tantrums — and happier mothers and fathers.

References for MyAspergersChild.com


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