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 World of Aspergers: Advice to Teachers

"I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom... As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous... In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized." - Haim Ginott

Few could disagree with the sentiments expressed by Ginott, at least in theory. Unfortunately, theory doesn't always translate into practice, at least not for kids with the enigmatic and complex disorder known as Aspergers (high functioning autism). Thus, when a crisis occurs, or worse yet escalates, it is often the youngster who is held accountable, and the teacher who is exonerated!

Consultants are rarely asked to look at what the school staff needs to know and do to better understand and address the challenges that accompany Aspergers. Rather, they are all too often directed to focus their efforts on "fixing" the youngster, as though his or her actions are the result of behavioral decisions, rather than the reflection of a neurological impairment.

Could it be that Ginott's words were intended only for educators of typical kids? That is most unlikely. Then what is there about Aspergers that "invites" placing the burden of responsibility with respect to aberrant behavior on the kids who manifest the disability, rather than on those who have the wherewithal to operate with far greater freedom and flexibility (i.e., their educators or caregivers)?

One parent's search for answers to a particularly distressing school situation led her to characterize the plight of her 8 1/2 year old son with Aspergers thusly: "The good news is he's bright, and the bad news is he's bright!" This revealing description makes a poignant, and sadly accurate statement about an educational system that not only fails to understand the youngster with Aspergers, it fails to recognize that such understanding is in fact necessary if positive change is to occur. An analysis of what this parent meant by her statement gives one a window on the topsy-turvy world of Aspergers.

In most disorders, descriptors such as "more able" and "high functioning" are excellent prognostic indicators - hence, the good news. How then can intelligence be considered bad news? The answer to this question lies in the paradoxical nature of Aspergers itself.

Individuals with Aspergers are cognitively intact. That is, they possess normal, if not above-average intelligence. This creates an expectation for success. Further, the pursuit of their restricted repertoires of interests and activities often results in the amassing of impressive facts, and in an expertise beyond their years. Therein lies the problem! Given their enormous strengths, and the expectation that they generate, and given the fact that intelligence is a highly-prized trait in our culture, intellectual prowess in the youngster with Aspergers virtually eclipses the social-emotional and other deficits that are at the heart of the unusual behavior and interests are often seen.

Stated more succinctly, unmindful of their neurologically-based weaknesses, educators and/or clinicians get blinded by the strengths of these kids. This situation inevitably leads to a mental set that can be summed up as follows: "If he/she is that smart, shouldn't he/she know better?" The answer to that question is a resounding "no". In fact, because of the social-emotional and communication deficits, as well as the presence of symptomatology unique to Aspergers, these kids can't "know better" until they are taught simply to know (i.e., to understand).

Consequently, in order to create an hospitable environment for kids with Aspergers in a world that is often inhospitable to their needs, it s vital that educators and other caregivers employ direct teaching strategies to address the following specific areas:
  • Executive dysfunction (i.e., problems in organizational skills/planning)
  • Perspective-taking
  • Problem solving
  • Reading/language comprehension
  • Socio-communicative understanding and expression

Together, these target areas constitute a kind of life skills curriculum for the more able student. Their inclusion in the student's IEP can help to ensure that each of these important skill areas gets the attention it deserves. After all, life skills are far too important to be left to chance! 

Struggling with an Aspergers or HFA student? Click here for highly effective teaching strategies -- specific to the disorder. 


 COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... I think schools should be trained on how to help children with different needs, in England alot of the one to ones and the special needs teacher have been cut because there isn't the funding for them as a result loads of children don't have their needs met.
•    Anonymous said... Thank you. I think that is the worst part of aspergers. My 7 year old was diagnosed with this ADHD and aniexty last year. The worst part is people treat him and me as if he is just a bad kid and a bully. Its can be so hard at time. I keep reminding him that people dont understand what they can see and that he is a good kid. We also talk how he has to try with his behavior and cant use his issues as an excuse. Once he learns to work with it it will be a gift.

*   Anonymous said... We give as much info on our Aspy child (triggers and signs) to look out for when his anxiety is rising and how to prevent the meltdown but when you have so many substitute teachers or teachers that treat yur child as a number and not as an individual he keeps getting suspended over trivial matters that could have been avoided if they didn't contribute to his anxiety...

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HFA Teens & Angry Outbursts

My son is 13 years old; he has been previously diagnosed with high functioning autism, adhd and obsessive compulsive disorder. My son lived with his father for six months while I recovered from a nervous breakdown. When I got custody of him again he was very aggressive, would hit his 6 year old brother and call him names and put him down. My ex gave him no discipline from what I gather from my son, he told me he had to raise his six year old brother for them six months. He blames me for the divorce between me and his father. I have bipolar and he doesn’t seem to understand that I am different too and that I need him to cooperate and help me as much as possible. He’s too focused on his ocd, his adhd and his autism and he uses all of these things for an excuse for all of the negative behaviors he is having. In the last past year he has changed 3 schools, and moved to a new area, which he says he hates. I’m wondering if he will adjust to the new setting and new rules that I have for him. I think some of it is the teenage years; he uses profanity often and shows aggression to get his way no matter what the consequences. I want to help my son but I don’t know what to do. His brother is totally opposite; he does what I tell him and goes by all of the rules. How do I get my son to show me respect and work on his attitude without so many angry outbursts which could get me evicted from our apartment? I go with the flow to keep things as quiet as possible but things get worse, if I threaten to take his games he threatens and has went as far as walking out of the door leaving me to find him. Am I dealing with Aspergers, Adhd, compulsive disorder or just an unruly teenager? I think it is all of them. I was wondering if there is an autism training center that could come in and work with my son. I am desperate at this point and will do anything to help my child to stay on the right track, I worry that he is headed for suicide or prison. I am very concerned for him, he’s happy as long as I cater to him, but when I stand up for what I think is right he rebels and I pay dearly. Please help.

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Teaching Students with Asperger Syndrome: Guidelines for Educators


Teachers can be great allies in keeping the youngster with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism safe and successful in school, but you'll need to make sure you have all the knowledge you need to help...

Five Things Teachers Need to Know—
  1. If there will be any sort of change in my youngster's classroom or routine, please notify me as far in advance as possible so that we can all work together in preparing her for it.
  2. My youngster is an individual, not a diagnosis; please be alert and receptive to the things that make her unique and special.
  3. My youngster needs structure and routine in order to function. Please try to keep his world as predictable as possible.
  4. My youngster's difficulty with social cues, nonverbal communication, figurative language and eye contact are part of his neurological makeup -- he is not being deliberately rude or disrespectful.
  5. Please keep the lines of communication open between our home and the school. My youngster needs all the adults in his life working together.

Kids diagnosed with Aspergers present a special challenge in the educational milieu. This article provides teachers with descriptions of seven defining characteristics of Aspergers, in addition to suggestions and strategies for addressing these symptoms in the classroom. Behavioral and academic interventions based on the author's teaching experiences with kids with Aspergers are offered.

Kids diagnosed with Aspergers (AS) present a special challenge in the educational milieu. Typically viewed as eccentric and peculiar by classmates, their inept social skills often cause them to be made victims of scapegoating. Clumsiness and an obsessive interest in obscure subjects add to their "odd" presentation. Kids with AS lack understanding of human relationships and the rules of social convention; they are naive and conspicuously lacking in common sense. Their inflexibility and inability to cope with change causes these individuals to be easily stressed and emotionally vulnerable. At the same time, kids with Aspergers (the majority of whom are boys) are often of average to above-average intelligence and have superior rote memories. Their single-minded pursuit of their interests can lead to great achievements later in life.

Aspergers is considered a disorder at the higher end of the autistic continuum. Comparing individuals within this continuum, Van Krevelen (cited in Wing, l99l) noted that the low-functioning youngster with autism "lives in a world of his own," whereas the higher functioning youngster with autism "lives in our world but in his own way" (p.99).

Naturally, not all kids with Aspergers are alike. Just as each youngster with Aspergers has his or her own unique personality, "typical" Aspergers symptoms are manifested in ways specific to each individual. As a result, there is no exact recipe for classroom approaches that can be provided for every youngster with Aspergers, just as no one educational method fits the needs of all kids not afflicted with Aspergers.

Following are descriptions of seven defining characteristics of Aspergers, followed by suggestions and classroom strategies for addressing these symptoms. (Classroom interventions are illustrated with examples from my own teaching experiences at the University of Michigan Medical Center Youngster and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital School.) These suggestions are offered only in the broadest sense and should be tailored to the unique needs of the individual student with Aspergers.

Insistence on Sameness—

Kids with Aspergers are easily overwhelmed by minimal change, are highly sensitive to environmental stressors, and sometimes engage in rituals. They are anxious and tend to worry obsessively when they do not know what to expect; stress, fatigue and sensory overload easily throw them off balance.

Programming Suggestions:
  • Allay fears of the unknown by exposing the youngster to the new activity, teacher, class, school, camp and so forth beforehand, and as soon as possible after he or she is informed of the change, to prevent obsessive worrying. (For instance, when the youngster with Aspergers must change schools, he or she should meet the new teacher, tour the new school and be apprised of his or her routine in advance of actual attendance. School assignments from the old school might be provided the first few days so that the routine is familiar to the youngster in the new environment. The receiving teacher might find out the youngster's special areas of interest and have related books or activities available on the youngster's first day.)
  • Avoid surprises: Prepare the youngster thoroughly and in advance for special activities, altered schedules, or any other change in routine, regardless of how minimal.
  • Minimize transitions.
  • Offer consistent daily routine: The youngster with Aspergers must understand each day's routine and know what to expect in order to be able to concentrate on the task at hand.
  • Provide a predictable and safe environment.

Impairment in Social Interaction—

Kids with Aspergers show an inability to understand complex rules of social interaction; are naive; are extremely egocentric; may not like physical contact; talk at people instead of to them; do not understand jokes, irony or metaphors; use monotone or stilted, unnatural tone of voice; use inappropriate gaze and body language; are insensitive and lack tact; misinterpret social cues; cannot judge "social distance;" exhibit poor ability to initiate and sustain conversation; have well-developed speech but poor communication; are sometimes labeled "little professor" because speaking style is so adult-like and pedantic; are easily taken advantage of (do not perceive that others sometimes lie or trick them); and usually have a desire to be part of the social world.

Programming Suggestions:
  • Although they lack personal understanding of the emotions of others, kids with Aspergers can learn the correct way to respond. When they have been unintentionally insulting, tactless or insensitive, it must be explained to them why the response was inappropriate and what response would have been correct. Individuals with Aspergers must learn social skills intellectually: They lack social instinct and intuition.
  • Kids with Aspergers tend to be reclusive; thus the teacher must foster involvement with others. Encourage active socialization and limit time spent in isolated pursuit of interests. For instance, a teacher's aide seated at the lunch table could actively encourage the youngster with Aspergers to participate in the conversation of his or her peers not only by soliciting his or her opinions and asking him questions, but also by subtly reinforcing other kids who do the same.
  • Emphasize the proficient academic skills of the youngster with Aspergers by creating cooperative learning situations in which his or her reading skills, vocabulary, memory and so forth will be viewed as an asset by peers, thereby engendering acceptance.
  • In the higher age groups, attempt to educate peers about the youngster with Aspergers  when social ineptness is severe by describing his or her social problems as a true disability. Praise classmates when they treat him or her with compassion. This task may prevent scapegoating, while promoting empathy and tolerance in the other kids.
  • Most kids with Aspergers want friends but simply do not know how to interact. They should be taught how to react to social cues and be given repertoires of responses to use in various social situations. Teach the kids what to say and how to say it. Model two-way interactions and let them role-play. These kid’s social judgment improves only after they have been taught rules that others pick up intuitively. One adult with Aspergers noted that he had learned to "ape human behavior." A college professor with Aspergers remarked that her quest to understand human interactions made her "feel like an anthropologist from Mars" (Sacks, l993, p.112).
  • Older students with Aspergers might benefit from a "buddy system." The teacher can educate a sensitive non-disabled classmate about the situation of the youngster with Aspergers and seat them next to each other. The classmate could look out for the youngster with AS on the bus, during recess, in the hallways and so forth, and attempt to include him or her in school activities.
  • Protect the youngster from bullying and teasing.

Restricted Range of Interests—

Kids with Aspergers have eccentric preoccupations, or odd, intense fixations (sometimes obsessively collecting unusual things). They tend to relentlessly "lecture" on areas of interest; ask repetitive questions about interests; have trouble letting go of ideas; follow own inclinations regardless of external demands; and sometimes refuse to learn about anything outside their limited field of interest.

Programming Suggestions:
  • Use the youngster's fixation as a way to broaden his or her repertoire of interests. For instance, during a unit on rain forests, the student with Aspergers who was obsessed with animals was led to not only study rain forest animals but to also study the forest itself, as this was the animals' home. He was then motivated to learn about the local people who were forced to chop down the animals' forest habitat in order to survive.
  • Use of positive reinforcement selectively directed to shape a desired behavior is the critical strategy for helping the youngster with Aspergers (Dewey, 1991). These kids respond to compliments (e.g., in the case of a relentless question-asker, the teacher might consistently praise him as soon as he pauses and congratulate him for allowing others to speak). These kids should also be praised for simple, expected social behavior that is taken for granted in other kids.
  • Students can be given assignments that link their interest to the subject being studied. For example, during a social studies unit about a specific country, a youngster obsessed with trains might be assigned to research the modes of transportation used by people in that country.
  • Some kids with Aspergers will not want to do assignments outside their area of interest. Firm expectations must be set for completion of class work. It must be made very clear to the youngster with Aspergers that he is not in control and that he must follow specific rules. At the same time, however, meet the kids halfway by giving them opportunities to pursue their own interests.
  • For particularly recalcitrant kids, it may be necessary to initially individualize all assignments around their interest area (e.g., if the interest is dinosaurs, then offer grammar sentences, math word problems and reading and spelling tasks about dinosaurs). Gradually introduce other topics into assignments.
  • Do not allow the youngster with Aspergers to perseveratively discuss or ask questions about isolated interests. Limit this behavior by designating a specific time during the day when the youngster can talk about this. For example: A youngster with Aspergers who was fixated on animals and had innumerable questions about a class pet turtle knew that he was allowed to ask these questions only during recesses. This was part of his daily routine and he quickly learned to stop himself when he began asking these kinds of questions at other times of the day.

Poor Concentration—

Kids with Aspergers are often off task, distracted by internal stimuli; are very disorganized; have difficulty sustaining focus on classroom activities (often it is not that the attention is poor but, rather, that the focus is "odd" ; the individual with Aspergers cannot figure out what is relevant [Happe, 1991], so attention is focused on irrelevant stimuli); tend to withdrawal into complex inner worlds in a manner much more intense than is typical of daydreaming and have difficulty learning in a group situation.

Programming Suggestions:
  • Work out a nonverbal signal with the youngster (e.g., a gentle pat on the shoulder) for times when he or she is not attending.
  • The teacher must actively encourage the youngster with Aspergers to leave his or her inner thoughts/ fantasies behind and refocus on the real world. This is a constant battle, as the comfort of that inner world is believed to be much more attractive than anything in real life. For young kids, even free play needs to be structured, because they can become so immersed in solitary, ritualized fantasy play that they lose touch with reality. Encouraging a youngster with Aspergers to play a board game with one or two others under close supervision not only structures play but offers an opportunity to practice social skills.
  • Seat the youngster with Aspergers at the front of the class and direct frequent questions to him or her to help him or her attend to the lesson.
  • In the case of mainstreamed students with Aspergers, poor concentration, slow clerical speed and severe disorganization may make it necessary to lessen his or her homework/class work load and/or provide time in a resource room where a special education teacher can provide the additional structure the youngster needs to complete class work and homework (some kids with Aspergers are so unable to concentrate that it places undue stress on moms and dads to expect that they spend hours each night trying to get through homework with their youngster).
  • If a buddy system is used, sit the youngster's buddy next to him or her so the buddy can remind the youngster with Aspergers to return to task or listen to the lesson.
  • Kids with severe concentration problems benefit from timed work sessions. This helps them organize themselves. Class work that is not completed within the time limit (or that is done carelessly) within the time limit must be made up during the youngster's own time (i.e., during recess or during the time used for pursuit of special interests). Kids with Aspergers can sometimes be stubborn; they need firm expectations and a structured program that teaches them that compliance with rules leads to positive reinforcement (this kind of program motivates the youngster with Aspergers to be productive, thus enhancing self-esteem and lowering stress levels, because the youngster sees himself as competent).
  • A tremendous amount of regimented external structure must be provided if the youngster with Aspergers is to be productive in the classroom. Assignments should be broken down into small units, and frequent teacher feedback and redirection should be offered.

Poor Motor Coordination—

Kids with Aspergers are physically clumsy and awkward; have stiff, awkward gaits; are unsuccessful in games involving motor skills; and experience fine-motor deficits that can cause penmanship problems, slow clerical speed and affect their ability to draw.

Programming Suggestions:
  • Do not push the youngster to participate in competitive sports, as his or her poor motor coordination may only invite frustration and the teasing of team members. The youngster with Aspergers lacks the social understanding of coordinating one's own actions with those of others on a team.
  • Individuals with Aspergers may need more than their peers to complete exams (taking exams in the resource room not only offer more time but would also provide the added structure and teacher redirection these kids need to focus on the task at hand).
  • Involve the youngster with Aspergers in a health/fitness curriculum in physical education, rather than in a competitive sports program.
  • Kids with Aspergers may require a highly individualized cursive program that entails tracing and copying on paper, coupled with motor patterning on the blackboard. The teacher guides the youngster's hand repeatedly through the formation of letters and letter connections and also uses a verbal script. Once the youngster commits the script to memory, he or she can talk himself or herself through letter formations independently.
  • Refer the youngster with Aspergers for adaptive physical education program if gross motor problems are severe.
  • When assigning timed units of work, make sure the youngster's slower writing speed is taken into account.
  • Younger kids with Aspergers benefit from guidelines drawn on paper that help them control the size and uniformity of the letters they write. This also forces them to take the time to write carefully;

Academic Difficulties—

Kids with Aspergers usually have average to above-average intelligence (especially in the verbal sphere) but lack high level thinking and comprehension skills. They tend to be very literal: Their images are concrete, and abstraction is poor. Their pedantic speaking style and impressive vocabularies give the false impression that they understand what they are talking about, when in reality they are merely parroting what they have heard or read. The youngster with Aspergers frequently has an excellent rote memory, but it is mechanical in nature; that is, the youngster may respond like a video that plays in set sequence. Problem-solving skills are poor.

Programming Suggestions:
  • Academic work may be of poor quality because the youngster with Aspergers is not motivated to exert effort in areas in which he or she is not interested. Very firm expectations must be set for the quality of work produced. Work executed within timed periods must be not only complete but done carefully. The youngster with Aspergers should be expected to correct poorly executed class work during recess or during the time he or she usually pursues his or her own interests.
  • Capitalize on these individuals' exceptional memory: Retaining factual information is frequently their forte.
  • Kids with Aspergers often have excellent reading recognition skills, but language comprehension is weak. Do not assume they understand what they so fluently read.
  • Do not assume that kids with Aspergers understand something just because they parrot back what they have heard.
  • Emotional nuances, multiple levels of meaning, and relationship issues as presented in novels will often not be understood.
  • Offer added explanation and try to simplify when lesson concepts are abstract.
  • Provide a highly individualized academic program engineered to offer consistent successes. The youngster with Aspergers needs great motivation to not follow his or her own impulses. Learning must be rewarding and not anxiety-provoking.
  • The writing assignments of individuals with Aspergers are often repetitious, flit from one subject to the next, and contain incorrect word connotations. These kids frequently do not know the difference between general knowledge and personal ideas and therefore assume the teacher will understand their sometimes abstruse expressions.

Emotional Vulnerability—

Kids with Aspergers have the intelligence to compete in regular education but they often do not have the emotional resources to cope with the demands of the classroom. These kids are easily stressed due to their inflexibility. Self-esteem is low, and they are often very self-critical and unable to tolerate making mistakes. Individuals with Aspergers, especially adolescents, may be prone to depression (a high percentage of depression in adults with Aspergers has been documented). Rage reactions/temper outbursts are common in response to stress/frustration. Kids with Aspergers rarely seem relaxed and are easily overwhelmed when things are not as their rigid views dictate they should be. Interacting with people and coping with the ordinary demands of everyday life take continual Herculean effort.

Programming Suggestions:
  • Affect as reflected in the teacher's voice should be kept to a minimum. Be calm, predictable, and matter-of-fact in interactions with the youngster with Aspergers, while clearly indicating compassion and patience. Hans Asperger (1991), the psychiatrist for whom this syndrome is named, remarked that "the teacher who does not understand that it is necessary to teach kids [with Aspergers] seemingly obvious things will feel impatient and irritated" (p.57); Do not expect the youngster with Aspergers to acknowledge that he or she is sad/ depressed. In the same way that they cannot perceive the feelings of others, these kids can also be unaware of their own feelings. They often cover up their depression and deny its symptoms.
  • Be aware that adolescents with Aspergers are especially prone to depression. Social skills are highly valued in adolescence and the student with Aspergers realizes he or she is different and has difficulty forming normal relationships. Academic work often becomes more abstract, and the adolescent with Aspergers finds assignments more difficult and complex. In one case, teachers noted that an adolescent with Aspergers was no longer crying over math assignments and therefore believed that he was coping much better. In reality, his subsequent decreased organization and productivity in math was believed to be function of his escaping further into his inner world to avoid the math, and thus he was not coping well at all.
  • Kids with Aspergers must receive academic assistance as soon as difficulties in a particular area are noted. These kids are quickly overwhelmed and react much more severely to failure than do other kids.
  • Kids with Aspergers who are very fragile emotionally may need placement in a highly structured special education classroom that can offer individualized academic program. These kids require a learning environment in which they see themselves as competent and productive. Accordingly, keeping them in the mainstream, where they cannot grasp concepts or complete assignments, serves only to lower their self-concept, increase their withdrawal, and set the stage for a depressive disorder. (In some situations, a personal aide can be assigned to the youngster with Aspergers rather than special education placement. The aide offers affective support, structure and consistent feedback.)
  • It is critical that adolescents with Aspergers who are mainstreamed have an identified support staff member with whom they can check in at least once daily. This person can assess how well he or she is coping by meeting with him or her daily and gathering observations from other teachers.
  • Prevent outbursts by offering a high level of consistency. Prepare these kids for changes in daily routine, to lower stress (see "Resistance to Change" section). Kids with Aspergers frequently become fearful, angry, and upset in the face of forced or unexpected changes.
  • Report symptoms to the youngster's therapist or make a mental health referral so that the youngster can be evaluated for depression and receive treatment if this is needed. Because these kids are often unable to assess their own emotions and cannot seek comfort from others, it is critical that depression be diagnosed quickly.
  • Teach the kids how to cope when stress overwhelms him or her, to prevent outbursts. Help the youngster write a list of very concrete steps that can be followed when he or she becomes upset (e.g., 1-Breathe deeply three times; 2-Count the fingers on your right hand slowly three times; 3-Ask to see the special education teacher, etc.). Include a ritualized behavior that the youngster finds comforting on the list. Write these steps on a card that is placed in the youngster's pocket so that they are always readily available.
  • Teachers must be alert to changes in behavior that may indicate depression, such as even greater levels of disorganization, inattentiveness, and isolation; decreased stress threshold; chronic fatigue; crying; suicidal remarks; and so on. Do not accept the youngster's assessment in these cases that he or she is "OK".

Kids with Asperger's syndrome are so easily overwhelmed by environmental stressors, and have such profound impairment in the ability to form interpersonal relationships, that it is no wonder they give the impression of "fragile vulnerability and a pathetic childishness" (Wing, 1981, p. 117). Everard (1976) wrote that when these youngsters are compared with their nondisabled peers, "one is instantly aware of how different they are and the enormous effort they have to make to live in a world where no concessions are made and where they are expected to conform" (p.2).

Teachers can play a vital role in helping kids with Aspergers learn to negotiate the world around them. Because kids with Aspergers are frequently unable to express their fears and anxieties, it is up to significant adults to make it worthwhile for them to leave their safe inner fantasy lives for the uncertainties of the external world. Professionals who work with these youngsters in schools must provide the external structure, organization, and stability that they lack. Using creative teaching strategies with individuals suffering from Aspergers is critical, not only to facilitate academic success, but also to help them feel less alienated from other human beings and less overwhelmed by the ordinary demands of everyday life.

The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Aspergers Teens and Picky Eating: Questionnaire


Question: "Are you a fussy eater?"



My whole life, I've found that I seem to be more fussy than most when it comes to foods. It seems to be more the texture that bothers me about the food than the taste itself.

My meals consist largely of the same things every day. When I eat a particular thing, I tend to get addicted to it and will eat it constantly for days and days until I finally get sick of eating the food I kept on eating for so many days.

I suspect that it's my Aspergers that has made me fussy when it comes to food.

I've heard of lots of babies/toddlers with Aspergers who vomit when they try to swallow foods of certain textures. This was the case for me when it came to many types of foods when I was a young age. The main food that I remember vomiting after trying to swallow was potatoes. It was simply impossible for me to swallow mashed potatoes without throwing up or gagging until I was maybe ten years old or so.

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Hi,

Yes, I am the most fussiest eater that there is. However, I think that it's related to the OCD part of Aspergers, and the way that we like everything to be predictable and in order. When we are in a restaurant, for example, we feel out of control about what we eat. Sometimes, I can just 'let go' and order anything, but mostly I get anxious about what the chef will make (despite me choosing off a menu). I also have Bulimia. I don't think that the eating disorder + Aspergers issue has been discussed at all on this forum.

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For sure.

My mom has always said I’m the pickiest eater she knows. Texture definitely plays a big role in it. Cheese and eggs, fish and mushrooms, I won't touch. Usually I just won't eat if those foods are on the menu. When I sleep over somewhere I always dread breakfast because it usually involves eggs or grilled cheese sandwiches, so I’ll usually go hungry.

Lately I’ve been living off of ground beef or pork chops with a side of pasta.

I've been to certain fancy restaurants that are big on exquisite foods, and I’ll order a simple hamburger and fries...

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Very similar to me. With me this is structure at first, and appearance, and then smell. I smell everything (food, clothes, other things, skin...it helps me feel things and like them if I smell it, whatever it is), but then it comes to taste. Anyway, I have trouble with trying new things and even as a toddler, so I can't try new food in any way, if I am not psychically prepared. I'd freak out if I am pushed to do it when I am actually not psychically prepared to.

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There are some things I simply can't stand eating, but I would think that's more just to do with personal taste.

My pickiness isn't so much to do with me being picky about what I eat, but more that I tend to stick to what I know. I'm very reluctant to try different foods, and the thought of doing so simply freaks me out a bit.

I also don't particularly like other people preparing food. As soon as I see that someone else's hands are involved in making the food, it freaks me out. But I just force myself to go along with it. I'd look like a complete nutter if I was all, "Nope, I can't eat that... I saw you touching the food while preparing it." BUT, if I don't see the person preparing the food, it doesn't get to me at all.

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This was a big topic with my Psychotherapist. She asked many questions about how I eat and what I eat. She also asked my Mother the same questions when it was her appointment, but geared more towards when I was a toddler, obviously. My Mum told her I would always eat the same sort of food and reject all others. I think it was baked beans for quite a while... Poor me, looking back!

Nowadays I'm no real different; I eat the food I like and do not touch others at all. I don't tend to eat many vegetables, save for carrots and sweet corn. Texture was not really brought up but positioning of food was. Although I can eat it I like all my food to be separate on the plate and on its own - not grouped together. I also tend to eat with my fork far more than my knife. Many meal times I will simply not even use the knife once, and stab/cut the food with my fork.

She also asked if I could tell the difference easily. That is to say if I had chicken soup and then another day was prepared a different make of it (but not told) would I be able to tell? The answer being "Of COURSE."

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When I was a kid I was a very picky eater because I always worried that there were germs in the food and food always reminded me of horrible things, for example, sausages looked like fingers, chocolate sauce looked like dog poo, melted cheese looked like vomit, etc. Also, I couldn't eat in the presence of anyone who didn't look clean. If my grandfather came round I had to eat in my room, because he looked unclean to me, and I couldn't eat anything around him at all. Poor guy! What a monster kid I was. I am okay now.

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I'm going to be the odd-man out here.

No, I have never had problems with foods in that way. I was the easiest child to feed that you could possibly imagine. While other kids were picking candy from the Ryan's buffet, I was going for the broccoli and the spaghetti. So, I suppose I was a bit weird with food... but not in a picky way so much. I'm still like that too. I don't eat much candy or junk, I prefer real food, and have no problem with ~97% of veggies and fruits. There is some food that I don't like, but everyone has dislikes, so I don't attribute it to my AS. I do have my own food quirks though... I don't try to eat the same stuff every day, but it doesn't bother me if I do, if I like the food. I can't tell the number of times I've eaten leftovers, and everyone else was sick of it, and I was still eating it because it was there. What it is doesn't really matter to me; food is food. It all looks the same coming out anyway...

I have one other quirk that is related to OCD, which is that I tend to eat things in a certain manner or pattern. Any cereals with different kinds of pieces deserve its own ritual for consumption. Lucky Charms take me a while to eat because I have to eat the non-mallow pieces first, and then eat the mallow pieces in a certain order. Whenever eating malleable things on a plate, I have to mash the food against the lip in such a way that the food makes a semi-circle pattern. I do the same thing with cereals that consist of one design, but I eat a hole (circle) in the middle, and then mash it against the side to make the half-circle.

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I too would happily eat the same meal for weeks on end. I ate nothing but tuna mayonnaise sandwiches when I first moved out of my parent's house. I started avoiding the local mini market because they were starting to question me about buying the same things every time and it was a little embarrassing. I am really fussy with bread and have to examine it and sniff it before I use it. I will not eat the first or last biscuit in a packet, these have to be binned. If I'm eating chips then the ends must be pulled off.

When I was going through the diagnostic interviews, the psychologist did actually touch on eating disorders. I suppose what I went through years ago could technically be called bulimia though I never thought of myself as having an eating disorder. I simply didn't like eating and couldn't be bothered. I weighed seven stone at my lightest when my ideal weight is actually closer to ten.

Parenting Aspergers Children: How to Cope

Question

It can be exhausting coping with my 9 year old. I often feel like a failure because I struggle to cope sometimes. Is that normal?

Answer

The diagnosis of a serious condition such as Aspergers brings many changes and demands to the family. It is not uncommon for family members to feel depressed and the NAS Autism Helpline receives thousands of calls a year from families who are under many pressures. So you are not alone!

Having a child with Aspergers has the potential to place a great deal of strain on families. Couples struggle with issues of blame, whose fault is it, and guilt. Daily routines are a constant challenge. A special needs child often comes with additional financial costs to the family.

Dealing with the school can seem like a full-time job. The time that it takes to care for a special needs child can leave other family relationships with no attention.

So in order to avoid burnout, parents must make time for themselves. Parents often respond to this suggestion by saying that they don't have any time to do that! However, what you need to keep in mind is that even a few minutes a day can make a difference. Some parents just do such simple things as apply hand lotion or cook their favorite dinners to make themselves feel better.

Parents, just like individuals with Aspergers need rewards in order to be motivated. Parents who have children with autism have even more of a need to reward themselves, because parenting their child is often frustrating and stressful.

In addition to rewarding themselves, family members need to reward one another. Spouses need to acknowledge the hard work that each is achieving. Also remember to thank siblings for watching or helping out their brothers and sisters.

It is also important that spouses try to spend some time alone. Again, the quantity of time is not as important as the quality. This may include watching television together when the children are asleep, going out to dinner, or meeting for lunch when the children are in school.

Families may also want to occasionally engage in activities without the individual with Aspergers. This may include mom, dad and the siblings attending an amusement park together. Often families feel guilty not including the individual with Aspergers, but everyone deserves to enjoy time together that is not threatened by the challenges of Aspergers.

Search your area for support groups or networks. It gives us comfort to know that we are not the only ones experiencing a particularly stressful situation. In addition, one can get the most useful advise from others struggling with the same challenges.

Support groups for parents, siblings and grandparents are available through educational programs, parent resource centers, autism societies and Developmental Disabilities Offices. In addition, there are now online supports available for family members.

Aspergers and Sexual Behavior

Sexual behavior and Aspergers can be a real matter of concern for teachers and moms and dads throughout the world as introducing the very topic of sexual behavior and its importance to kids is a very delicate thing and can be very difficult as well and when it comes to a child or a young one with Aspergers, situations get far more complicated. A youngster with Aspergers is considered to be mildly autistic, and therefore his or her disorder is enlisted under PDD of Pervasive Developmental Disorder. In this case the youngster learns the language with ease and without any delays unlike an autistic youngster, but he or she continues to have problems relating to social interactions as well as in understanding the point of view of another person.

It is very difficult for a person with Aspergers to express his or her own feelings and it also gets very hard for them to understand the various social norms and cues. This particular disability leads to certain inappropriate sexual behaviors like:

• They start up a conversation about sexual behavior with those not comfortable with it and stress on the continuation of the conversation

• They resort to inappropriate touching of others

• They often stare at the sexual organs of the opposite sex which is extremely inappropriate

• They often resort to displaying their sexual organs in public

• These young ones do not understand that they are not supposed to touch themselves in public and they tend to doing it

Individuals with Aspergers find it very difficult to find a partner for long term relationships as they are not able to communicate well at all. They fail badly when it comes to expressing any sorts of feelings which does not mean that they do not feel. But when it comes to understanding the feelings and emotions of the partner they have a really hard time as individuals with Aspergers feel lack of empathy for other individuals and they fail to get the undertone of the speaker as well. They also have a difficulty in controlling their feelings and often succumb to outburst which is not always easy for the partner.

What moms and dads can do to help their kids having Aspergers when it comes to sexuality and sexual behavior is to make sure that they bring up the topic in front of the youngster in a very normal, frank as well as open way. Discussing a specific event right after it has taken place in not a good idea but then again kids with Aspergers respond well to specific details. The spouse or the partner can also help him or her out in more ways than one and specially by understanding the disorder and also by taking help from a professional therapist. When the various social cues are made understood to the person with Aspergers it becomes relatively easier for him or her to get a hold of appropriate or inappropriate sexual behavior.


Aspergers Children Who Are Addicted To The Computer

Question

My son has been diagnosed with Aspergers pdd-nos, he talks fine, eye contact sometimes, but still in his own world. He is ten. At the age of 3 or 4 was playing video games and beating all of them from Zelda to hand held games. Good visual, but socialization not good, he has been on the computer now for a good year and a half, taught himself language C and language C++, goes on Youtube, became a spammer, writes his own programs, don't really know what they do. Lives almost his social life through it. Don't know what to do. Can't get him off, he literally cries. But so smart, but can't figure out what to do for him next. Please help.

Answer

Here are some "self-help" strategies for computer addiction:

Some Aspergers (high-functioning autism) children develop bad habits in their computer use that cause them significant problems in their lives. The types of behavior and negative consequences are similar to those of known addictive disorders; therefore, the term Computer or Internet Addiction has come into use.

While anyone who uses a computer could be vulnerable, those Aspergers children who are lonely, shy, easily bored, or suffering from another addiction or impulse control disorder as especially vulnerable to computer abuse.

Computer abuse can result from Aspergers children using it repeatedly as their main stress reliever, instead of having a variety of ways to cope with negative events and feelings. Other misuses can include procrastination from undesirable responsibilities, distraction from being upset, and attempts to meet needs for companionship and belonging.

While discussions are ongoing about whether excessive use of the computer/Internet is an addiction, the potential problematic behaviors and effects on the users seem to be clear.

The Signs of Problematic Computer Use—

A child or teen who is “addicted” to the computer is likely to have several of the experiences and feelings on the list below. How many of them describe you?
  • When you are not on the computer, you think about it frequently and anticipate when you will use it again.
  • You develop problems in school or on the job as a result of the time spent and the type of activities accessed on the computer.
  • You feel anxious, depressed, or irritable when your computer time is shortened or interrupted.
  • You find yourself lying to your boss and family about the amount of time spent on the computer and what you do while on it.
  • You have mixed feelings of well-being and guilt while at the computer.
  • You lose track of time while on the computer.
  • You make unsuccessful efforts to quit or limit your computer use.
  • You neglect friends, family and/or responsibilities in order to be online.
  • You use the computer repeatedly as an outlet when sad, upset, or for sexual gratification.

Being “addicted” to the computer also can cause physical discomfort. Are you suffering from the following physical problems?
  • Back aches and neck aches
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (pain, numbness, and burning in your hands that can radiate up the wrists, elbows, and shoulders)
  • Dry eyes or strained vision
  • Severe headaches
  • Sleep disturbances

Do any of these stories sound familiar to you?
  • Almost all of your friends are from on-line activities and contacts.
  • You connect to the Internet and suddenly discover it is several hours later and you have not left the computer.
  • You have difficulty getting your homework done because computer games occupy a great deal of your time.
  • You spend most of your time on-line talking to friends from home, instead of making new friends at college.
  • Your friends are worried about you going on a date alone with a person known only from a chat room.
  • Your romantic partner is distraught because you have replaced your sexual relationship with Internet pornography and online sex.

Treatment must begin with recognizing that there is a problem. Overcoming denial should be followed by other treatment steps, including:
  • Assessing for other disorders like depression or anxiety that may need medical treatment.
  • Assistance in locating or forming a support group for other students who are trying to regain control over their computer use.
  • Focusing on other areas for needed skill enhancement, such as problem solving, assertiveness, social skills, overcoming shyness, and anger control.
  • Generating a behavior modification plan, such as setting a timer for usage, planning a daily schedule, keeping a log of moods when going online, matching time spent online with time spent socializing face to face and taking part in non-computer related activities.

How to Help Computer Obsessed Friends—
  • Be a good role model. Manage the computer use in your own life well.
  • Encourage them to seek professional counseling.
  • Get them involved in some non-computer related fun.
  • Introduce them to some other kids who handle their computer use sensibly.
  • Support their desire for change if they think they have a problem.
  • Talk to your friends about your concerns with their computer use.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Home and School


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… A Beautiful Mind is an amazing movie. My son is 16, with a similar obsession. Our social skills counselor has suggested taking it away completely so that he is forces to make new choices. Yes, it comes with crying and meltdowns but about 10 says in it evens out. We do not give him the out to be anti social. His phsychiatrist asked him if he likes to swim, he said,yes but he hates the feel of the concrete under his feet or to wear "stupid" swim shoes. Well Chris, he said, to get to the water you have yo learn to cross the uncomfortable part. He gets that now. We no longer ask him to go to the park or to dinner, or other public, places. He is told hours ahead, remindes,closer to, then told to get his shoea on we are leaving in 10 minutes. He may not like it but he complies. We are mindful of outings with him and choose uncomfortable but doable activities. He has friends at school but rarely interacts with them on the weekend. The hardest part is beinhg the parent who has to force our Aspies forward in life.
•    Anonymous said… Brilliant talented boy..sit chat to him whilst he is in his computer world talk to him..it's all social interaction. .Also you will be very surprised he is listening to all that is around him even when on computer..is it in a social place in the house?!x  The talent your boy has is amazing but I know what you worry about the social side of things ,cause as a parent it's what we worry about most. .for child to have friends be excepted join in with things they love. .and breaks your heart to watch them not being able to (my son recently at a football party frown emoticon..)joined in at the end to eat some food on his own while everyone had finished and gone back out to play..!!.:(breaks me ...buy hey still love him keep trying ..it's all we can do x ♡
•    Anonymous said… Can you please explain ppd-nos?
•    Anonymous said… find a great speech pathologist to work with him on social skills practice and learning of mechanics of social norms. also- it's helped us to limit video game time to a specific time each day- he knows ahead of time what the expecation is (when he can play and how long) and much like sleep training babies it's hard and tough at first, but setting limits does work. Maybe he can earn extra video game time for doing chores or going to speech/ playing a turn taking game with you. rewards to motivate help a lot!
•    Anonymous said… Get in to his world with him and even though you might not enjoy it he will love you for it , ( please try to show you are enjoying it , even if he tells you u you suck at it ) when he feels safe with you being in it , you can then try to get him to do things with you, he will feel safe to do that then because he trusts you For them it's a safe world in these games because they are in control the real world frustrates them as they have no control over it its to much ... Good luck
•    Anonymous said… He's identical to my son but we played to his strengths and now as an adult he makes a living from coding and computers plus has become a unique and highly loved young man. Don't give up they're worth the effort!
•    Anonymous said… I bought mine a pony - only reason he will leave the house or minecraft. Rides him then walks straight back home lol. He has started doing fire brigade and I love that he is loving it, found something he's good at because it's pyhsical but does'n require much coordination
•    Anonymous said… I'm sure she's not complaining. I bet she knows that socialization and real life can't be entirely via the computer. And the people in the real world can't all join him in his world. It's pretty hard to know how to break out of that. I don't know him, so I don't know if there are any other interests he has that can be capitalized on. Hoping another person can share what they have found to be helpful. So...following...the article is good too...
•    Anonymous said… keep trying smile emoticon Although he possibly will work for microsoft I beleive it's our job to offer them a balanced childhood and the opportunity to try new things - good luck
•    Anonymous said… Look for computer group or activites. Look for day camps. Try and find out if there is something more he wants to learn. Need to find other kids his age that are into it!
•    Anonymous said… Lots of great advice in this stream... You parents are doing an awesome job!!
•    Anonymous said… microsoft... they have been hiring autistic people from the beginning
•    Anonymous said… my god son was same he left school at 16y.hes in bed withddepression now not doing a thing not wanting anything...not wanting to sit on his computer anymore.... he was same.... too bad his mum didnt stop it when she could
•    Anonymous said… My son was diagnosed with Asperger's at 8 (he is now 12 and in middle school) and, like your son, is pretty brilliant with computers. He also loves engineering and enjoys the circuitry side of them. Anyway, here is the deal we made with him. "Fun" computer time is weekend/holidays only, and weekdays the computer is for school only. Each year he has to try something new that the school offers or that we can get him into. It can be brand new or a continuation of something that he has connected with from prior years. Last year he decided to give instrumental music a try, and decided to take beginning strings with the Violin. That was in 5th grade. Turns out, he liked that one and has continued it. He's now in his second year and has joined the school orchestra. Studies show that playing a musical instrument can improve cognitive development and create new neural connections. We've seen some changes since he picked up that beautiful instrument, and he's pretty good at it, since music is so mathematic. We even use a computer program, SmartMusic, to support his learning. It's a natural fit for his learning methodologies. His new thing this year was to join the Rocket Club at his school, sponsored by the Technology teacher, which meets every Thursday. They build engineering projects and follow what NASA and MarsOne are doing. So, my very longwinded point here is this .... if you look hard enough, you can find activities that both appeal to him and socialize him. Think outside the box, and be firm about that computer time. Just because he's good at it, doesn't mean he should spend all of his time doing it. Help him to become a bit more well-rounded while you have him at home. It will benefit him later.
•    Anonymous said… This describes my 12 yr old, and I believe God has a reason and a plan for him. How do you take away the only thing that seems to make him feel normal and happy? I can't do it. My son has a therapist, but the truth is, he is doing what feels natural to him. I pray a lot and trust he will be a good adult, and he will
•    Anonymous said… Try to find a high school or college level computer programming class or group that he can join. If he's around other people that share his interest, it will be easier for him to socialize. Right now he is only finding those people online.
•    Anonymous said… Wartch A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG MIND movie. Might make you feel better.
•    Anonymous said… With my sedentary life I gained a lot in recent years and lost all my self esteem, but now in 2015 out of my comfort zone and lost weight 28 pounds on a diet that site here ROG9 .COM
•    Anonymous said… Wow, super smart boy, with an interest that he can turn into a career, and that gives him a social life, and you're complaining?! Maybe join him in his world, get him to teach you programming? Could lead to something great.
•    Anonymous said… You are not alone - there are so many of us with kids who have varying levels of ASD. Do whatever you can in terms of therapy that is available- THAT MAKES SENSE TO YOU AS HIS PARENT. What is good for one family, is not acceptable for another. The most important thing is that he must be happy - anxiety is a serious and debilitating factor in ASD.

Post your comment below...

Aspergers/HFA and ADD

"My 12 year old was recently diagnosed with having asperger's. He doesn't fit the typical mold that I read about, and the neuro-psychologist agreed that he is an unusual case. He is extremely likable, has a good many friends, very polite and well mannered. He does however have the obsessive personality and hyper-focusing that is typical with asperger's as well as fascination with collecting things, bottle caps, shark teeth...which he can look for hours at a time for. He is very smart and has always made great grades and has never had behavior issues at home or at school, which is probably why he flew under the radar until now. Our struggles have to do with his attention...as if he is ADD (tested negative three times). He literally cannot stay on task and is so easily distracted. After a "pep" talk stating that he "owns" his brain and he can control the urges if he puts his mind to it...he can produce. I know its short term but he doesn’t and he feels great when he knocks out something. Remember, we just found out...so we've always treated him as "normal" as the others, why wouldn't we? And again, he's always risen to the challenge of most anything...with a great attitude. I'm desperately looking for ways to help him stay on task with schoolwork and staying on task? Is there anyone there that might know of something, tips, tricks, etc.? Please let me know."

Click here for the answer...

Aspergers and Sibling Issues

Question

Our youngest son has been diagnosed with Aspergers and demands a lot of our attention. What can I do to reassure his two elder sister's that we're not neglecting them?

Answer

Explaining Aspergers (high functioning autism) isn’t easy no matter who you are talking to. It’s not something that can be described in a single sentence. There are problems, because you cannot tell just by looking at someone whether or not they have Aspergers. Also, because the causes of Aspergers are yet to be clearly identified, it can sometimes be difficult convincing people that the condition actually exists.

You could try explaining to older kids that children with Aspergers basically have problems in three major areas of interest. This is usually part of the criteria for diagnosing Aspergers. These areas are:

1. Imagination—This is the ability to think about things that aren’t real. Kids with Aspergers tend not to be interested in games that involve pretending to be someone else (like cops and robbers). Some kids with Aspergers can be very interested in things that aren’t interesting to other kids or exclude social interaction. They may like collecting items that seem dull or unusual to us.

2. Social Understanding—This means knowing what to do when you are with other people. Children with Aspergers have difficulty understanding social relationships. They do not understand all the rules involved in social relationships. As we grow up, we learn how to behave appropriately in certain situations, for example we learn not to say things to people like “you look fat” (unless we are deliberately trying to be hurtful). A person with Aspergers usually doesn’t mean to be rude, even though it can sometimes appear so. It’s because their understanding of how to behave is confused.

3. Social communication—This means knowing what to say to other people and understanding the meaning of what they are saying to you. Just imagine how many times a day the basics of social communication come into your youngster’s life; at the shops, at home, at school, in the street. Children with Aspergers can have problems when talking to other people as they can take things people say literally. An example would be if you say to someone with Aspergers “I laughed my head off” – they may become alarmed believing that your head really did come off of your body. It can be very hard for children with Aspergers to understand when someone is joking, and that is why they may become angry or upset by something you have said that wasn’t meant to be hurtful.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Aspergers and Anti-Social Behavior

Question

My son is 14 with ADHD and aspergers. My housing association wont recognise this and want an ASBO placed on him, otherwise an Injuction placed on myself to take full responsibility for my sons anti-social behaviour. Surely this cannot be possible and so unfair on my son and myself. What can I do? Any ideas please...

Answer

For many moms and dads of kids with Aspergers (high-functioning autism), coping with violent and aggressive behavior can be a very difficult challenge indeed. Aggressive behavior occurs for a reason, just as it would with any other kid. No child ever really just "acts out" for no apparent reason whatsoever. The key is in the words "apparent reason." There is ALWAYS a reason, but the major challenge for the mother or father is often working out what that reason is.

Inappropriate behavior, whether mild or severe, generally occurs in order to:
  1. Avoid something - for example, the youngster may become aggressive and shout before getting on the school bus because he wants to avoid going to school.
  2. Get something - for example, she may lash out at another child because she wants to get the toy that the other child is playing with.
  3. Because of pain - for example, he may show a range of challenging behaviors to his mom and dad because he is experiencing some physical pain (e.g., headache, earache, etc.).
  4. Fulfill a sensory need - for example, the youngster may lash out or shout in the classroom if it is too noisy, busy, bright, hot, or strong in a particular smell.

So, the first step in reducing or eliminating this behavior is to determine the need that it fulfills by looking at the four categories above.

The second step is to teach the Aspergers child a replacement behavior, which he can use to communicate what he wants or doesn't want. It may even involve using some of the child's obsessive or self-stimulating behaviors (e.g., hand-flapping, rocking, pacing, etc.) as a replacement behavior, which would be far less intrusive to others than aggressive behaviors -- but still serve the same purpose. 

A replacement behavior could also be about encouraging the youngster to express her feelings or negotiate verbally. For other kids on the autism spectrum, they may communicate through more creative methods (e.g., emotion cards, drawing, using symbols, "talking" through a puppet, etc.). 

The process of finding effective replacement behaviors takes time. Initially, depending on the behavior, parents (and teachers) may not have time. If the behavior is severe, then parents need to remove the youngster from whatever situation he is in at the time. Simply insisting that the child stop the behavior and participate in whatever is occurring will not benefit him or the parent -- unless he is removed from the situation first.

Maintaining your youngster's routine will also go a long way towards reducing the need for inappropriate or aggressive behavior. Routine is a great source of stability and comfort for kids with Aspergers.

So, just to recap, the two critical factors for coping with your youngster's aggressive and violent behaviors are:
  1. Identify the real cause of the behavior from the four main categories mentioned above.
  2. Teach the youngster to communicate the real cause of the behavior to you in a less harmful manner.

Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Aspergers Children and Anger Control Problems

Question

My 21 year old son is very fidgety, interrupts while I'm speaking with him and has basically lost all his friends over the years. He gets mad about things (like why we circumcised him when he was a baby) that normally would not bother anyone. If something goes wrong in his life (which seems to be a daily occurrence), it is someone's fault. He went from being a popular child to being a loner. I had him move in with his dad because he kept starting fights with his younger brother - obsessing that his younger brother was gay and that he would beat the crap out of him if he found that out. It just seems he is getting worse now. Years ago I had taken him for counseling and they said he was depressed and was very "sensitive" to what was going on. However, this sensitivity has gotten into the danger point where you never know what might set him off. Since he is 21 it is next to impossible to get him to see anyone (no insurance) but he has admitted to my mother that he needs help. He just explodes sometimes and then will apologize after the fact but the explosions are getting more and more. Is he emotionally unstable?

Answer

You are referring to anger-control problems and low-frustration tolerance – also called “meltdowns.” These meltdowns are especially common in Aspergers (high functioning autism) children and teens (or in your case, a young adult-child). Some families have learned how to prescribe behavior to prevent meltdowns:
  • Look directly at your child who is about to have a major meltdown.
  • Give your child permission to have a major meltdown. For example say, "Jon, I know you usually have a meltdown when this happens and I want you to know that it is ok for you to do that now."
  • Prescribe the behaviors that your child usually does in this situation when agitated. You'll continue talking after telling your child it is ok to have a meltdown and list what the child normally does. "Jon, when you are feeling this way, you usually start swearing, kicking, screaming, and blowing snot – so go ahead and get started."
  • Let your child think about what you said. If your child is truly oppositional, then he will refuse to do what you prescribed. If your child does it, that's ok, you gave permission. Eventually, doing this will help your child learn self-control.

Do you have an Aspergers child who doesn't do well with transitions? Does he have a meltdown at the slightest provocation or change in schedule? Does he kick, punch, destroy property, swear, and runaway when upset?

Click ==> Here’s help in dealing with Aspergers meltdowns...

Do you have tips for toilet training a young child with Asperger’s?

Question

Do you have tips for toilet training a young child with Asperger’s?

Answer

Toilet training your child with Asperger’s will most likely be difficult for you as a parent. If you have potty trained an older child, you will find this experience likely to be very different. Methods that work with some children are typically based on a child’s desire to please the parent and often based on a reward system. Many parents have relied heavily on ‘the M&M method’ or the ‘shoot the Cheerios in the bowl’ trick. These are not typically effective with children with Asperger’s, as children with Asperger’s don’t tend to have the same desire to please and have a more difficult time changing behaviors.

With children with Asperger’s, it can be effective to try to change only one behavior at a time. Concentrate on teaching a child to either pee or poop in the potty, not both at the same time. Watch your child to see if you see signs that your child is aware of needing to use the toilet. If he is aware of his need, it is time to start training.

Many parents find Social Stories helpful during potty training. These are short, pictorial guides designed to storyboard the potty process. Talking through these with your child can help familiarize him with the process of using the toilet. These stories should contain information about feeling the need to use the potty through flushing the toilet and washing your hands. You will need to repeat these Social Stories often, and understand that the potty training process take some time.

Establish a routine around using the potty for your child. This will help the child with Asperger’s feel more comfortable with the toilet training process. Look to see if your child has any fears about using the potty that need to be addressed. Look to see if your child has a degree of comfort and ability in manipulating his own clothing. Can he pull down his own pants? Can he work the button or snap on his pants? If he is comfortable with these things, use them in helping him establish his potty routine.

Maria Wheeler has created a good book on toilet training called, “Toilet Training for Individuals with Autism & Related Disorders.” This comprehensive toilet training guide contains two hundred toilet training tips and over forty case studies with solutions. Reading this book will give you not only helpful tips, but also some real life examples of how those tips worked for people.

Aspergers Children and Gym Class


It is quite likely that kids with Aspergers will start gym classes just as any other normal kid would, that is with enthusiasm and expectations, but it is important to be careful while mixing gym class and Aspergers together in order to ensure that the experience does not become an uncomfortable one for the youngster with Aspergers.

The problems that an Aspergers youngster may have in gym classes may be related to a number of problems that they face due to their unfortunate disorder, like impaired motor skills which make it difficult for them to take quick instructions or make quick movements and thereby to play baseball, soccer or any other physically demanding sports. A gymnasium can be loud and the confusing commotion created there in combination with the players and students yelling and the coach blowing in his whistle can be devastating for certain Aspergers youngster as they are sometimes super-sensitive to noise.

Another problem faced by the Aspergers youngster is the fact that he must change among his peers, and since these special kids are not apt at changing clothes without some assistance, it could mean social embarrassment. Rude behaviors with peers and educators in gym classes by these kids are often common as well because they are often maladapted to deal with social situations.

The most dangerous part of gym classes and Aspergers kids is the fact that they are often adept at withstanding amazing amounts of pain, which, though sounds like a good thing, can put the youngster in danger because he may hide injuries he received due to some contact sports. These are some of the most common problems that are to be noted by educators and moms and dads alike in order to assure the youngster’s well being and adaptability in gym classes.

It is very important to note that it is essential to understand the problems of the particular youngster with Aspergers first before taking any steps to help them as problems differ from individual to individual, therefore, subject educators, moms and dads, gym educators and special educators must cooperate in order to create the right gym environment for these kids. Peers who are willing and kind enough to help these kids out in their day to day gym activities should be assigned to each of them and gym educators must take caution, not to surprise the Aspergers youngster with any sudden change in the routine as they follow routines and instructions by the book.

Sometimes, when the degree of the Aspergers disorder is more than average, educators may be required to use flash cards, pictures or even posters as visual cues due to their inability to interpret verbal instructions properly. Demonstrations are often extremely helpful for Aspergers kids, especially if it is done before the general students tries to do the activity.

An assigned aide can do a lot of benefit to the kids with Aspergers as they can remove a youngster from a gym session if he becomes particularly stressed out or may be due to the youngster’s inability to handle the excess noise in the gym. A properly written, general weekly schedule can help the Aspergers youngster to be clear from confusions. Finally, a physical education teacher or any teacher for instance should understand that although an Aspergers youngster will most probably be bright in some aspects, but some, he will have difficulty in handling with efficiency; for such cases a possible alternative should be offered to the student.

Kindness and willingness to help from educators, moms and dads and friends can make gym class and Aspergers go together very nicely, in fact under the right conditions, the Aspergers youngster can even excel in gym classes.


Aspergers and Mixed State Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder’s Mixed State and Aspergers is often confused, but they are not one and the same. Certain features may coincide, but the two disorders can usually be differentiated on the ground that Aspergers kids are not interested in their friendship with peers, but children with bipolar disorder show interest in peer activities (although their aggressive impulses often render it useless).

Bipolar disorder is a comorbid condition found rarely in Aspergers, but when it is found, it makes the clinical condition of the child even more complicated. The Mixed Stage is the most dangerous and difficult stage of the bipolar disorder, and in combination with Aspergers, it becomes even more dangerous. It is not necessary that all children with Aspergers will also develop the bipolar mixed disorder, and neither is it vice versa, but it is present sometimes.

Bipolar Disorder, which may or may not co-exist with Aspergers, has the following symptoms and features:

• A condition which combines both mania and depression together to make the person feel tired, lethargic and anxious at the same time is called the Mixed State. Suicidal tendencies are the biggest danger involved with the individuals suffering from the Mixed State stage of the bipolar disorder, because the frustration and depression does not take away the energy necessary to commit suicide.

• Academic performance is seriously hampered by memory loss that might be caused due to a long term of untreated bipolar disorder. One may actually lose brain matter if the disorder is not met with proper treatment in time. Impulsive behavior and STM (short term memory) loss are the most common effects seen, for example, recollection of names and faces can be difficult.

• An advanced state of bipolar disorder causes insomnia or sleeplessness. A person suffering from bipolar disorder related insomnia may stay up for many a nights leading to poor performance in everything, and if stretched for a very long period, even psychosis.

• If someone reaches the extreme stage of mania, that is psychosis, he would require immediate hospitalization, especially if they are suffering from bipolar disorder as well, because their thoughts become both blurred and lunatic causing them to attempt suicide. The persons are often totally oblivious to their location and surroundings.

Following a routine to control your sleeping habits can be a step towards improvement. Also try out exercises you find appropriate for you, and do not under-eat or over-eat. Managing work if you are suffering from bipolar disorder can be hard, but taking breaks and keeping to regular hours can be really helpful. Try to avoid doing big jobs at once, rather set small tasks in front of you in order to reach your ultimate goal of finishing the big work. This helps in bringing the stress down and a sense of completion comes over you.

Individuals with bipolar disorder suffer from extremes of both happiness and depression. In order to control these, healthy lifestyle, proper medication and therapy from an experienced therapist can control the dangerous and hazardous problems that bipolar disorder gives rise to, therefore it is important to treat it early and properly.


Aspergers Children and Excessive Crying

Question

My 9 year old daughter cries all the time. When I tell her about something she has done wrong or try and correct something... she starts crying – even when she spills a drink or something on herself. I never shout or even tell her off... I think she would faint if I did!! She must have uncontrolled emotions or something, not being able to deal with them properly perhaps.

Answer

Can there be too much crying? Should we be concerned at some point when school-aged children cry? I think yes.

Often Aspergers (high functioning autistic) children feel criticized by their parents who tell them that they shouldn't cry. Hurt, they may cry more when told to stop crying. That's why I think we should downplay the message, "Don't cry," and play up the message, "Let's think of better ways you could handle this situation without crying." This approach makes us allies, trying to help our Aspergers children grow up.

Another key for parents is not to reinforce excessive crying behavior. For example, Michael cries when he is frustrated. Rather than assisting him in response to tears, the parents could say: "We'll be glad to help you when you pull yourself together and ask for help in a big boy voice." The message should be, "It's not a good idea to cry about small things. Use your strength. We want to help you be strong." Aspergers children often keep crying as long as it seems to work for them. When it doesn't, they eventually quit. If they are upset about something, we want them to learn to handle their feelings in more powerful ways.

One factor that generally triggers Aspergers children to stop crying is social pressure. If older children cry often in front of peers, they generally will be ridiculed. Parents can point this out while they teach their children other, more powerful responses to difficult situations.

Kids on the autism spectrum do indeed have problems with low-frustration tolerance, and they are very sensitive to changes in routine as well as certain environmental stimuli. As parents, we want to treasure our Aspergers child's sensitivity. But, we also want to teach both boys and girls to tolerate some feelings without crying and to express certain emotions in more mature ways.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns

Aspergers Teens and Computer Game Addiction

Question

I have a 14 year old daughter who was diagnosed with Aspergers. She is currently attending a special needs school. Her main interest is to play games on the computer. She will get onto one of the Internet Multi Player Games and will not want to get off. We have implemented a timer program which only gives her a finite time that she can use the computer before it tells her that the time is up. Once the time is up she then asks us for more time. If we do not give her more time, she blows up into a fit of rage and may throw things or break things or physically bang her head into objects. We worry about our safety and hers when she does not get what she wants. How should we as parents react to this??

Answer

The short answer is download the My Aspergers Child eBook, because all the help you'll need in dealing with your daughter's rage will be addressed there.

The long answer is as follows...

Here are some symptoms or signs of video game addiction as well as computer game addiction to help determine if your Aspergers kids are addicted to computer games:
  • Choosing the computer or playing video games rather than spending time with friends or family
  • Difficulty keeping up with personal responsibilities due to increased hours playing computer games
  • Dropping out of activities such as social groups, clubs or sports
  • Fatigue; tendency to fall asleep in school
  • Irritable, cranky or agitated (withdrawal symptoms) when not playing a video game or on the computer
  • Lying about computer or video game use so computer or video game privileges aren’t taken away
  • Lying to others about computer or video game use
  • Most of their “free time” (non-school hours) are spent on the computer or playing video games
  • Neglecting personal relationships with friends and family to spend more time playing computer games
  • Not keeping up with homework assignments/not turning in homework on time
  • Obsession or preoccupation about computer games or playing video games on a video game console excessively
  • Worsening grades

Here is a self-test the Aspergers child can take to determine the level of game addiction:
  1. Do you become so involved in playing computer games that you sometimes neglect to eat, sleep, or bathe?
  2. Do you ever experience physical symptoms such as backaches, dry eyes or headaches after playing computer games?
  3. Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when not playing computer games?
  4. Do you sneak time to play games, perhaps late at night while others are asleep?
  5. Do you spend most of your time thinking or wishing you could be playing your favorite game or surfing the web?
  6. Has someone close to you, perhaps your significant other, ever criticized you for spending too much time playing computer games rather than spending time with them?
  7. Have you been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome or experience symptoms of carpal tunnel?
  8. Have you ever said you were sick in order to stay home from school to play your favorite game?
  9. While not spending time on the internet or playing computer games, do you feel angry, agitated, irritable or depressed?

If you are truly convinced that your Aspergers (high functioning autism) teens or kids are addicted to video games or computer games, it’s your job as the parent to get your kids off the computer and off the video game console, providing them ample opportunity for active play and natural exercise in and outside of the home.

Make no mistake, video game addiction is a real addiction and if you are a mom or dad that is concerned about your home-grown video game addict, it’s up to you to parent your kids and closely monitor and limit their gaming activities. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG’s) are designed to be addictive.

Video game makers and marketers are counting on people to become addicted to the games! It’s a lot of money in their pockets, and a lot of money out of your pockets. Let your kids whine, cry and complain all they want about placing restrictions and limits on their game use, but be the parent.

One of the effects of kids addicted to computer games is the increase in childhood obesity amongst young kids and teens due to excessive amounts of time spent leading a more sedentary lifestyle (and poor eating habits), amongst other physical, emotional and mental problems associated with too much time being spent playing computer games.

Be the parent of your kids, not their friend. If the video game problem in your home is so bad that you feel your Aspergers youngster is a “video game addict”, or if your kids spend too much time watching television, shut it down and get your kids involved in other activities that encourage and promote active play and that provides more than finger and thumb exercises from video game controls.

Again, if your Aspergers child flips into a rage when computer privileges are withdrawn, then use the disciplinary strategies outlined in My Aspergers Child eBook.


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said...  Waiting to see the answers. I have the same issue. Except I home school and she won't do her school work. I have tried every approach and nothing is working. She is lost in video games.
•    Anonymous said... Be consistent! Stick to the plan. Hang on for dear life!
•    Anonymous said... Give her time warnings to transition. 15 min, 10 min warnings help prepare them.
•    Anonymous said... My son is not phased at all . Take 1 thing away like video games he just find something else and so it continues
•    Anonymous said... Password the computer so she can't go on.
•    Anonymous said... Prepare to have the computer smashed and other items.
•    Anonymous said... Unfortunately I think a lot of teenaged aspies only get to feel comfortable and popular in their online world doing something that they're usually brilliant at like gaming. I have the same problem here and have yet to work out a solution either
•    Anonymous said... We give our sons plenty of warning but we have had this in the past where everything gets smashed up.
•    Anonymous said... You may be up against the inevitable unfortunately. Some Aspies are fixated with their computers (my son also). I once worried about this also but in my experience taking it away only compounds the situation.

•    Anonymous said… Be consistent with her; when her time is up - her time up. It's probably a bit harder for you as she's a teenager and hormonal. Does she know when the time is going to go off? Can she see it counting down? Maybe if she had prior warning to just bam time's up, that it, that may (or may not) help her transition between playing and having to stop? Just a thought...you know your daughter best
•    Anonymous said… I know this is hard and she is older. We are very stricken with our aspergers child. When he throws a tantrum we send him to his room he can break whatever he wants then it's gone. We also will ground him. If he is throwing a fit over computer time we'll now you have lost it for 24 hours. They do aventually get it. We first started with a warning as time got close to ending g. Gave him consequences if he looses his temper. If he did he was sent to his room and losses the computer for 24 hours. You have to be firm even if it kills you inside
•    Anonymous said… We have an app on my phone called OurPact which cuts out the iPad at set times - regardless of what my daughter is doing. I also use a lock out on the computer so that at certain times she can access it and at other times she is locked out. I found it was the only safe way to regulate her use
•    Anonymous said… We make our son do activities to earn computer/ game time. Every minute he is outside, spending time with the family or anything non computer, he earns equal minutes on the computer. It has been working very well. Also we give warnings as well that his time is coming to an end. When tried the limits on the computer it was set to a specific time and the little booger found out how to change time zones so he could score more time. Hope this helps in some small way.

*   Anonymous said... My son is very attached to his computer time to. Putting limits on him was very difficult as he is intelligent and computer savvy enough to get around any security we put in place. I went so far at one point to un plug the modem and take it with me when I left the house so Internet wasn't possible. His response was to throw our computer hard drive off the balcony. Needless to say there were some consequences. The advice of our behavioral consultant has been to stop focusing on how much time he's spending on the computer and instead focus on making sure he's doing the things he needs to do. He has daily and weekly health, social and education goals with motivation rewards. After that he can game all he wants.
 

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