Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Aspergers 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 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 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.


Most kids with Aspergers (high functioning autism) do not receive that diagnosis until after age 6. Usually, they are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder as toddlers. Part of the reason is that doctors routinely screen kids for ADD but not for autism. Another reason is that an Aspergers child's social impairment becomes more evident once he hits school. Finally, doctors are reluctant to label a youngster "autistic." It is okay - and even a badge of honor - to have a "hyperactive youngster," but it is another thing whatsoever to have an "autistic youngster."

Doctors make their diagnoses based on kid's behaviors. Since kids with Attention Deficit Disorder and Aspergers share similar behaviors, the two can appear to overlap. However, there is a fundamental difference between Attention Deficit Disorder and Aspergers. Aspergers children lack what doctors call "social reciprocity" or Theory of Mind. Theory of Mind is "the capacity to understand that other people have thoughts, feelings, motivations and desires that are different from our own." Kids with ADD have a Theory of Mind and understand other people's motives and expectations. They make appropriate eye contact and understand social cues, body language and hidden agendas in social interactions. Aspergers children cannot.

One author put it this way: kids with Attention Deficit Disorder respond to behavioral modification. With Aspergers, the syndrome is the behavior.

Both kinds of kids can tantrum, talk too loud and too much and have problems modulating their behaviors and making friends. Both are social failures but for different reasons.

The youngster with Attention Deficit Disorder knows what to do but forgets to do it. Aspergers children do not know what to do. They do not understand that relationships are two-sided. If an Aspergers child talks on and on in an un-modulated voice about his particular interest, he simply does not understand that he is boring his friend and showing disinterest in his friend's side of the conversation. On the other hand, the youngster with ADD cannot control himself from dominating the conversation.

An Aspergers youngster can appear unfocused, forgetful and disorganized like a youngster with Attention Deficit Disorder, but there is a difference. The ADD youngster is easily distracted; the Aspergers child has no "filter." The Aspergers child sees everything in her environment as equally important. Her teacher's dangling earring is as important as what she writes on the blackboard. The Aspergers child does not understand that she does not have to memorize the entire textbook for the next test. She does not "get" such rules. Aspergers children tend to get anxious and stuck about small things and cannot see the "big picture." Kids with Attention Deficit Disorder are not detailed-oriented. The ADD youngster understands the rules but lacks the self-control to follow them. The Aspergers child does not understand the rules.

If the unfocused Aspergers child is "nowhere," the obsessive-compulsive and "Fantasy" Aspergers children are somewhere else. "Fantasy Aspies" retreat into a world of their own making - a world where everything goes the way they want it to. They play video games for hours or retreat into books and music. Their daydreaming and fantasizing resembles the behaviors of non-hyperactive kids with ADD.

Obsessive-compulsive Aspergers children live a world they create from rules and rituals. Like ADD kids, they appear preoccupied and distracted but for different reasons. They appear distracted because they are always thinking about their "rules." Did I tie my shoelaces right? Did I brush my teeth for 120 seconds?

Some authors estimate that 60% to 70% of Aspergers children also have Attention Deficit Disorder, which they consider a common comorbidity of Aspergers. Other authors say that the two cannot exist together. Still others insist doctors have it all wrong and that the two disorders are the same. The real problem is that there is no hard science. No one knows exactly how slight imperfections in brain structure and chemistry cause such problems.

For this reason, getting the right diagnosis for a youngster who exhibits behavior problems may take years of trial and error. Diagnosis is based on observation of behaviors that are similar for a myriad of disorders. The tragedy is that the youngster often does not receive the correct medications, educational strategies, and behavioral modification techniques that could help him function on a higher level. He falls farther behind his peer group and loses ground when he could be getting appropriate treatments.

Psychiatry has made great strides in helping kids manage mental illness, particularly moderate conditions, but the system of diagnosis is still 200 to 300 years behind other branches of medicine. On an individual level, for many parents and families, the experience can be a disaster; we must say that.

How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Aspergers Children


• Sohn, Alan and Cathy Grayson. Parenting Your Asperger Child. New York: Perigee Books, 2005.
• Reichenberg-Ullman, Judyth, Robert Ullman and Ian Luepker. A Drug Free Approach to Asperger Syndrome and Autism (Edmonds, WA: Picnic Point Press), 2005.
• Powers, Michael. Children with Autism. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House, 2000.
• Myles, Brenda and Jack Southwick. Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing, 1999.
• Lovecky, Deirdre. Different Minds. Philadelphia: Kingsley Publishers, 2004.
• Klin, Ami; Volkmar, Red; and Sparrow, Sara. Asperger Syndrome. New York: Guilford Press, 2000.
• Kennedy, Diane. ADHD Autism Connection. Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2002.
• Carey, Benedict. "What's Wrong with My Child? Psychiatrists Often Disagree," The New York Times, front page, November 11, 2006.


Anonymous said...

Karen Gomez Vega my son is like that too. he is atypical but the symptoms he does have are very strong of an aspie. that is why autism as a whole is called a spectrum. if you need to talk with someone that has an atypical aspie, i am here : ) my son is 7.
3 hours ago · Like
Rebecca Komlofske my son is 13 and very much what you described... he is a crystal child...
3 hours ago · Like
Bridget Stull
Could he be PDD-NOS? My daughter was labeled autistic and then dropped down to Aspie, and then after pushing for another eval she is considered PDD-NOS. She is 8, very social with ADULTS but doesnt understand kids. I personally think its because she spent her first 2.5 yrs in the hospital, and then her interaction remained limited to other kids because of her low immune system/heart complications. she really does try latley to play with other kids, but they dont get her, esp when she stems out of the blue.
3 hours ago · Like · 1 person
Trista Yordy Cline I know what you mean. My son is 10 and atypical. Very complex disorder.
3 hours ago · Like
Danielle Clute my son is the same way,but his sensory issues and anxiety have now been determined due to aspergers.He doesn't fit much else of the symptoms other than no eye contact and socially isolates.I agree there is such differences with the spectrum.
2 hours ago · Like
Joe Whitehead M Ed ‎9 times out of 10 it all stems from being bullied. The social skills playhouse in Texas has helped my Dtr overcome this and the bullies are now her buddies.

Anonymous said...

Wendy Hanlon My daughters diagnosis of autism has been questioned and they said that it's more like PDD-NOS as she is popular, is able to maintain friends and loves to interact (although mainly on her terms) she is also able to be extremely sarcastic and uses autism to her advantage to excuse her from not doing things!
21 hours ago · Like
Karen Williams I have an atypical AS 12 y/o is such a spectrum, no 2 are alike, as no 2 kids regardless of whether they have any dx are alike.
20 hours ago · Like
Karen Gomez Vega joe-neither of my boys are bullied and are both on the spectrum so i disagree. as i have stated before, this is a spectrum and all children are going to be diagnosed for different reasons. i taught my boys to look me in the eye, not to let others bully them, etc. they are certainly not the most popular boys in class and others DO know they are different but we work through like everything else in their lives. it is not easy and we have our good days and bad days but i am not ready to put it all on other kids bullying.
18 hours ago · Like

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.

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

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

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

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

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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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.

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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.

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to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content