HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

Search MyAspergersChild.com

Help for Sensory Sensitivities in Aspergers Kids

"Is it possible that my AS (high functioning) son’s sensory problems contribute to his meltdowns? What are some of the things I should be aware of that may set him off?"

Kids with Aspergers (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often have to deal with extreme sensitivities to everyday sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch. They also may have problems with balance. Some experts believe that while sensory sensitivity may cause AS and HFA kids to experience meltdowns in the first place, after a while such behaviors become learned. Nevertheless, studies indicate that between 40% and 80% of boys and girls on the autism spectrum do experience sensory sensitivities.

1. Proprioceptive and Vestibular Disorders— These are about orienting yourself in space, keeping your body in balance, and maintaining good posture and movement. In “typical” kids, a complex network of nerves works together with their senses naturally (e.g., they can sit down without looking at their chair, they know where their feet are, they know how to straighten their shirt without looking in the mirror, etc.). But AS and HFA kids have problems with such abilities that operate on the unconscious level for “typical” kids. This makes simple activities like climbing stairs skills that must be learned. Activities that involve complex movements, changes in speed, or hand-eye coordination (e.g., handwriting, playing basketball) become nightmares for many young people on the spectrum.

2. Sight— Visual problems are less common. Only about 1 in 5 children with AS or HFA has them. However, some of these kids get upset by certain pictures, colors or bright lights. Some experience colors as sounds. They often stand too close to others or stare at them inappropriately. They can search for an object and not notice that it is right in front of them. And the majority of AS and HFA kids have problems making eye contact with other people.

3. Sound— Hearing problems are the most common. Some AS and HFA kids seem to hear sounds others don’t. They can be driven to distraction by noises everyone else filters out (e.g., the buzz of fluorescent lights, sirens off in the distance, etc.). The inability to filter out background noises makes it hard for many of these young people to follow conversations or listen to their educators' directions. Some sounds seem actually painful to AS and HFA kids. For example, the youngster may scream at the sound of the vacuum cleaner, or cover his ears at the sound of a police siren. Auditory sensitivity makes it hard for moms and dads to take their special needs child to noisy places (e.g., video arcades, restaurants, movie theaters, etc.).

4. Taste and Smell— Many experts conclude that AS and HFA kids rely more on their senses of smell and taste than sight and hearing. They have strong memories of smells (e.g., they may be able to recognize peers by their unique body odors). Certain smells (e.g., food, cleaning fluids, perfumes, shampoos, lotions, etc.) can make them nauseous. Even everyday substances like toothpaste can make them sick to their stomachs. This makes it hard for them to handle routine places (e.g., school cafeteria, shopping mall, fast food restaurant, etc.). The child’s acute sense of smell and taste may also create eating problems. He may limit himself to certain foods, eat one food at a time, or not allow certain unwanted foods to touch on his plate.

5. Touch— AS and HFA kids may be overly or under-sensitive to touch. If overly sensitive, he may find tags on clothing very irritating, only wear certain fabrics or clothes that are old and soft from washings, refuse to work with certain textures like glue, and so on. He may scream in the shower because he can’t stand the feel of water on his skin. Hyposensitivity can cause AS and HFA kids not to feel or report pain. They may not react to temperatures.

Treatment for sensory sensitivities...

Young people on the spectrum often have problems processing, organizing and using information received by their senses. This is called Sensory Integration Disorder. There are many therapeutic techniques to help AS and HFA kids with sensory integration and sensitivity. And early intervention is crucial.

When “typical” students sit down for the day’s lesson, they filter-out background stimuli. The vast array of sights and sounds (in the classroom, outside the window, in the hallway) don’t distract them. They zero-in on what the teaching is saying and take fairly accurate notes. But many AS and HFA students often over-attend to some stimuli (e.g., the pattern on the teacher’s dress) and under-attend to others (e.g., the teacher’s comment that an assignment is due tomorrow). This creates problems in the classroom, but also difficulties in completing routine tasks (e.g., sitting in a chair, understanding the intentions of fellow classmates, remembering what to do for homework, etc.).

Because of Sensory Integration Disorders, kids with AS and HFA are often easily frustrated. They may shut down emotionally when they feel overwhelmed or throw tantrums. They can fail at school because little things like a student's sharpening a pencil distract them. This distractibility combined with hypersensitivity to noise, lights, touches and smells often means that they can’t process new material fast enough to produce a normal workload.

Kids with AS and HFA will not outgrow Sensory Integration Disorder. Moms and dads can’t cure it by telling their youngsters to ignore whatever is distracting them. Therapists and educators who work with AS and HFA kids use many techniques to help them cope with Sensory Integration Disorder. Some are as simple as playing background music or increasing the youngster's exercise time. Aromatherapy, art therapy, object manipulation and massage help some kids. Some benefit by working one-on-one with a personal coach.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is an important therapeutic technique used with all forms of autism spectrum disorders. Its main principle is to break tasks into tiny steps and to reward correct responses with treats, stickers or small toys (e.g., if a youngster manages to keep working despite a distraction placed near his desk, his therapist may give him a reward). ABA therapists praise the child specifically (e.g., saying, "You did a good job answering the phone" ...rather than just saying, "Good job"). ABA therapists also help kids who don’t know how to break jobs into small steps (e.g., if the child needs a book, it may never occur to him to ask his mother to take him to the library as a first step).

Another method to address Sensory Integration Disorders is called Dialectical Behavior Technique. The therapist helps the youngster learn how to tolerate higher levels of frustration and to control his emotional responses to conflict or frustration.

Another technique to address Sensory Integration Disorders involves moms and dads keeping diaries of their kid's frustrations in terms of sensory issues. There are usually three columns in the diary. The first is a record of the incident (e.g., parent writes, "Michael had a meltdown getting dressed"). The second column is the possible reason for the meltdown (e.g., "Michael says he can’t tolerate tags on clothes"). The third column is the intervention (e.g., "Cut off tags on all of Michael’s shirts).

Another therapeutic technique is occupational therapy. Many kids with AS and HFA go through this type of therapy. They learn through "hands-on" methods how to translate visual and auditory input into motor tasks (e.g., handwriting, tying shoes, opening a milk carton, sports activities, etc.). Therapists often use specialized equipment (e.g., Thera-putty, camping pillows, T-stools, inflatable discs, etc.) to help these young people better orient themselves in space.

Lastly, many kids with AS and HFA benefit from prescription drugs that reduce their anxiety, increase their concentration, and help them fall asleep.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook


 COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Definitely. Sound and smells play a huge role in behaviors. And the person usually doesn't realize that is what's troubling them.
•    Anonymous said... Florescent (where's spell ck when I need it?!) Lights bother my son horribly; when in elementary school, two teachers (2 different years) brought lamps from home for the classroom & turned off the overhead lights; the other years, he wore sun glasses in the classroom.
•    Anonymous said... Noise definitely gets to my son. Sometimes it's the specific noise itself, and sometimes he just gets overwhelmed by all of the different noises that are going on at once.
•    Anonymous said... yeah i agree. my son always had a problem with supermarkets, the bright lights the tinny music, the overload of smells. ive known other kids and adults with similar issues dom even had a problem with one teacher in particular and it was down to the guys aftershave.

Please post your comment below...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hilary Ann Baird
alot of things can factor into a meltdown, sensativity, social anxiety, bullying etc, when a child with austim has a melt down its often bc they are experiancing panic and anxiety, and if they dont understand that its just anxiety it can make them feel upste, they dont have tantrums bc its fun, or to get attention, its linked to panic disorder. Im 24 and have aspergers and I had meltdowns as a child due to panic attacks, and these things cause them.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here to read the full article…

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."

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here to read the full article...

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

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

Click here to read the full article...

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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

Click here
to read the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content