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 Out-of-Control, Aspergers Child

Moms and dads often ask how to deal with and help the Aspergers (high functioning autistic) youngster that seems to be out of control. How do you control or manage the youngster that intimidates, hits, punches and seems to enjoy torturing their siblings? What do you do with the youngster that argues, is defiant, and refuses to participate or follow directions can be difficult to live with and can create disharmony within the household?

Some moms and dads are at a loss as to what to do and where to go for help. They watch as their family life falls apart around them. They feel helpless as the defiant Aspergers youngster controls the household. Moms and dads argue with each other about what to do. Some moms and dads may be afraid to go for help. They might feel that poor parenting skills have caused the problems or that they have failed as parents. Often one parent will blame the other for being too easy and letting the youngster get away with poor behavior and the other parent will feel as if the other is too harsh. It is possible for moms and dads to take control of the situation and help their youngster and their family. But it is hard work and many times a long road.

Believe In Yourself. Moms and dads know their Aspergers children better than anyone. They see their potential, they see their strengths and they see their weaknesses. A teacher sees your youngster every day, but only in a certain location. They do not share the same history as a parent and an Aspergers youngster. You may become frustrated watching your youngster misbehave, but you have also seen your youngster sit quietly next to you on the couch and read a book. You see both the good and the bad in your youngster, and sometimes it can be confusing. Believe in your assessment of the situation. If you see something wrong, and you feel as if there is some unknown cause behind the bad behavior, seek help. Believe in yourself as a parent.

Disengage Yourself From Power Struggles At Home. This is probably the most difficult to accomplish. With Aspergers kids that are defiant, it is common for the youngster and parent to become involved in power struggles. Finding ways to eliminate this can help both of you to cope better with your family and home situation.

Find A Support Group. Most Aspergers kids can be a handful from time to time, however, raising a challenging youngster can make moms and dads feel isolated and alone. They may avoid social situations, not sure how their youngster will react. When friends get together and talk about their kids, and their successes, moms and dads raising a challenging youngster may feel out of place and alone. Not wanting to always have to report the terrible thing your youngster did yesterday, you might stop contacting family. There are other moms and dads going through the same situation. Support groups around the country and on the internet can provide an outlet for moms and dads to share experiences and talk with one another. They can create a group to help one another through the rough days and feel accepted. They can create a ring of moms and dads that can listen, understand and accept you and your youngster can do wonders in helping you to cope better at home.

Get A Complete and Accurate Diagnosis. Aspergers often comes along with co-existing conditions. To receive the best possible treatment, it is important to have an accurate diagnosis. Some of the common conditions would be: Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Depression, Learning Disabilities, Conduct Disorder, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. If your family physician diagnosed Aspergers, ask for a referral to a mental health professional in your area that specializes in working with kids. You will want to have a complete evaluation done to determine an accurate diagnosis. Once this is completed, you can work with the doctors, or team of professionals, to create a specific treatment plan for your youngster. This may include counseling or therapy, medication, educational interventions and monitoring by a psychiatrist. Don’t stop until you are satisfied with the diagnosis.

Research the Diagnosis. After you are satisfied that you have received an accurate diagnosis, spend time researching and finding out as much as you can about the disorder. Use the support group you found to talk with other moms and dads. Talk to the psychologist/psychiatrist about treatment options. Don’t accept the advice of one practitioner or one other parent. Read everything you can find and determine what treatment would work best for your youngster and your family. Each Aspergers youngster is unique in their display of symptoms and intensity of symptoms. Use this knowledge to work with the doctor to develop a treatment plan that is specific to your youngster’s needs.

Rule Out Physical Causes. Talk with your physician about exactly what is going on and have a complete physical for your youngster. Rule out any physical causes.

Seek A Tutor/Special Education/IEP or Section504. Aspergers kids with behavioral problems often struggle in school. Some may have specific learning disabilities. Even without a learning disability, school may be difficult because of other symptoms such as distractibility. Request an educational evaluation to determine accommodations or modifications your youngster may be eligible for. Work closely with teachers and other school personnel to help your youngster succeed in school.

Teaching self-control skills is one of the most important things that moms and dads can do for their youngsters because these are some of the most important skills for success later in life.

Helping Aspergers Youngsters Learn Self-Control—

By learning self-control, youngsters can make appropriate decisions and respond to stressful situations in ways that can yield positive outcomes.

For example, if you say that you're not serving ice cream until after dinner, your youngster may cry, plead, or even scream in the hopes that you will give in. But with self-control, your youngster can understand that a temper tantrum means you'll take away the ice cream for good and that it's wiser to wait patiently.

Here are a few suggestions on how to help youngsters learn to control their behavior:

Up to Age 2—

Aspergers infants and toddlers get frustrated by the large gap between the things they want to do and what they're able to do. They often respond with temper tantrums. Try to prevent outbursts by distracting your little one with toys or other activities. For youngsters reaching the 2-year-old mark, try a brief timeout in a designated area — like a kitchen chair or bottom stair — to show the consequences for outbursts and teach that it's better to take some time alone instead of throwing a tantrum.

Ages 3 to 5—

You can continue to use timeouts, but rather than enforcing a specific time limit, end timeouts once your Aspergers youngster has calmed down. This helps youngsters improve their sense of self-control. And praise your youngster for not losing control in frustrating or difficult situations.

Ages 6 to 9—

As Aspergers youngsters enter school, they're better able to understand the idea of consequences and that they can choose good or bad behavior. It may help your youngster to imagine a stop sign that must be obeyed and think about a situation before responding. Encourage your youngster to walk away from a frustrating situation for a few minutes to cool off instead of having an outburst.

Ages 10 to 12—

Older Aspergers youngsters usually better understand their feelings. Encourage them to think about what's causing them to lose control and then analyze it. Explain that sometimes the situations that are upsetting at first don't end up being so awful. Urge youngsters to take time to think before responding to a situation.

Ages 13 to 17—

By now Aspergers teens should be able to control most of their actions. But remind teens to think about long-term consequences. Urge them to pause to evaluate upsetting situations before responding and talk through problems rather than losing control, slamming doors, or yelling. If necessary, discipline your teen by taking away certain privileges to reinforce the message that self-control is an important skill.

When Aspergers Youngsters Are Out of Control—

As difficult as it may be, resist the urge to yell when you're disciplining your Aspergers youngsters. Instead, be firm and matter of fact. During a youngster's meltdown, stay calm and explain that yelling, throwing a tantrum, and slamming doors are unacceptable behaviors that have consequences — and say what those consequences are.

Your actions will show that tantrums won't get youngsters the upper hand. For example, if your youngster gets upset in the grocery store after you've explained why you won't buy candy, don't give in — thus demonstrating that the tantrum was both unacceptable and ineffective.

Also, consider speaking to your youngster's teachers about classroom settings and appropriate behavioral expectations. Ask if problem solving is taught or demonstrated in school.

And model good self-control yourself. If you're in an irritating situation and your youngsters are present, tell them why you're frustrated and then discuss the potential solutions to the problem. For example, if you've misplaced your keys, instead of getting upset, tell your youngsters the keys are missing and then search for them together. If they don't turn up, take the next constructive step (like retracing your steps when you last had the keys in-hand). Show that good emotional control and problem solving are the ways to deal with a difficult situation.

How do you handle your kids's misbehavior? After all, we all go though times when we begin to wonder, "What's going on here? My youngsters seem to be totally out of control."

Often times, poor behavior can be our youngsters' way of telling us that something feels out of control for them; so the next time you're caught off guard by repeated misbehavior, take a few moments to ask yourself the following questions:

Am I Taking Care of Myself?

This is absolutely critical. When we're not taking care of ourselves, we unwittingly send a message to our Aspergers youngsters that we're not worthy of their respect. In addition, there is a direct correlation between self-care and the amount of energy and patience we have at our disposal. As a result, when we don't take care of ourselves, we can easily become "snappy" with our youngsters, and this ends up being reflected back to us through their behaviors and choices.
  • After the youngsters are in bed, make yourself a cup of tea and do nothing for awhile.
  • Give yourself a break. Hire a babysitter and get out for a few hours.
  • Take a long walk.

Are the Aspergers Youngsters Reacting to Any Recent Changes in Their Lives?

Of course you already know that your kids are incredibly perceptive. And as a single parent, you also realize that, unfortunately, the changes your Aspergers youngsters have to go through - such as sudden changes in their visitation schedule with the other parent - aren't always within your control. However, it's important for you to be aware that creating a positive home environment is one of your most valuable assets in encouraging your youngsters' positive behavior and choices. Think about how you can be a consistent presence in your youngsters' lives, emotionally as well as physically.
  • Acknowledge that this is difficult for your youngsters and make an effort to be gentle with them.
  • Be extra generous with your hugs and affection.
  • Do what you can to create consistency in the areas you can control.

Am I Spending Enough One-On-One Time With My Aspergers Child?

O.K. Let's take a moment for a reality check. As a single parent, you may not be able to dedicate one-on-one time with your Aspergers child on a regular basis. However, when you find yourself dealing with repeated behavior issues, try to incorporate some creative ways to build in even small chunks of "Mommy Time" or "Daddy Time" with your youngster. You'd be surprised how much even older kids crave this! It definitely requires a sacrifice of your time and attention, but it can pay huge dividends in your youngster's sense of well-being and positive decision making.
  • Develop a bedtime routine that includes talking and reading together each night.
  • Play a board game and have some fun together.
  • Turn off the TV and spend some time talking and enjoying one another.

Am I Being Consistent in My Expectations and My Reactions?

As much as you can, try to be consistent with your child's schedules and routines. Simply knowing what to expect will help him behave well. In addition, try to be consistent in your reactions to your child's behaviors. When our reactions depend on our mood, we teach our youngsters that we're unpredictable. This can add stress to your youngster and make it more difficult to exhibit self-control. In addition, your effort to be consistent shows respect and honors your relationship.
  • Develop a consistent evening routine that includes time for completing and reviewing homework.
  • Develop consistent expectations regarding time with friends and extra-curricular activities.
  • Serve dinner at roughly the same time each night.

Am I Including the Child?

When you can, try to include your Aspergers child in your decision-making. So much of his life is pre-determined, particularly for kids who are in school all day. When you can, try to give your kids opportunities to make their own choices. This might be regarding what clothes they wear, to the food they eat. Having this opportunity to make a choice - even one that might seem insignificant to us - empowers your youngster to make appropriate choices. With older kids, look for opportunities to compromise when you can, realizing that there will be some non-negotiable issues.
  • Ask your youngsters for ideas about what they'd like to do together when you have time for a special outing.
  • Give your youngsters choices whenever you can.
  • Let your youngsters participate in making decisions about meals by planning and preparing dinners together.

My Aspergers Child: Help for Parents with "Out-of-Control" Aspergers Children

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article, very informative. The article refers to those around a child with the disorder & how frustrating it can be.

J Zenel said...

I also want to say thank you for this article. It took us a long time to get accurate diagnoses (several including PDD), a long time to build a complete team around our son, and a long time to build a supportive routine for all of us. By this article, we are doing all the right things, and the best that we can. Thank you for your ongoing educational articles, and to families new to this, hang in there, and acknowledge how wonderful your child is and how lucky they are to have you.

J Zenel said...

I also want to thank you for this article. It took us a long time to get accurate diagnoses (several, including PDD), a long time to build a good team, with several treatment strategies, a long time to establish a support network and routine to keep this family healthy. By this article, we are doing all the right things, and the best that we can. Thanks for your ongoing support and educational articles, and to those families that are new to this, hang in there, believe in your child, yourself, and know that they are lucky to have you.

Erin McDowell said...

Thank you for sharing this article. Although there are no quick fixes or even easy answers, especially with Autism...reading your article reminded me (in the 13 year stage & in that rough season again)...I am doing so much more than I give myself credit for. I have attempted to address & revisit each of these very pertinent issues. And although still working on my own temper...am so much more consistent & on the right track now than ever in the past...even when we seem to be stuck or regressing.

Teresa Iniguez said...

Thank you for sharing this article. It's really hard when you're in a relationship where the person you love has a child with Asperger. It helps me to know that there are ways effective ways to deal with a misbehaving child that has Asperger. While there is no easy way to fix things there is hope. I love my boy friend and I love his son. His son and I have some great times together when I watch him but I do notice that the way he behaves with me is very different with his dad. I would love to learn more, are there any resources besides support groups where I can educate myself more? Maybe classes in my area?

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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