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

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Succeeding in College with Asperger's

“My daughter with Asperger’s Syndrome is doing pretty well at college managing her courses and her part-time job. However, she is not managing her finances well. For a while she only had to pay for her car payment and insurance. Now, she has also accumulated some credit cards and short-term loans. While she lives away at school, her mail and bills come here, so I’ve been checking her mail. She has not been paying her bills on time, so I’ve had to make some payments for her. She knows that I am holding her accountable to reimburse me. How can I help her develop an organized budget system, while at the same time not offending her and turning her away from us?”

Student budgeting has specific challenges. Typically, the student receives money in large chunks, either from loans, education savings plans, or summer job savings, and then she needs to make it last for several months. If your daughter is managing her money for the first time, it can be tempting to spend big early on, and then struggle to pay the bills later.

Budgeting for college students is essential to avoid that end-of-semester crunch. However, even mentioning the word “budget” will most likely make your daughter groan. But having a financial plan will save her from realizing that it's January, she’s out of money, and her next loan doesn't arrive until March!

Tips to help your Aspergers daughter create – and stick to – a budget:
  1. Encourage your daughter to start her college student budget in the fall, when she’s saved her summer earnings and received her student loans.  
  2. Help her identify all her sources of income (e.g., scholarships, money from you, savings from jobs, etc), and when she expects to receive the funds. That's her income.  
  3. Next, help her make a list of all fixed costs (e.g., tuition, phone, rent, utilities, etc.) and when they’ll come due (if she banks online, she can ask her bank to send her payment reminders for when things are due). 
  4. Next, help your daughter estimate her regular discretionary expenses (e.g., food, laundry, entertainment, etc.) as well as infrequent expenses (e.g., trips home, books, course materials, etc.). Add a little extra for unexpected or emergency expenses (e.g., a computer crash).
  5. Are her expenses higher than her income? If so, take another look at ways to save. She may want to consider living with roommates, taking public transit, switching to a low-cost cell phone plan with plenty of texting, and so on.
  6. Remind your daughter to write down her expenses for the first few weeks and compare it to her college student budget. Is she eating out more than she planned? Does she have to buy new textbooks instead of used? If so, help her adjust her budget.

==> Here's an example of a budget worksheet for college students...

Another way you can help your daughter from a distance is to find a good computer bookkeeping program. These programs make budgeting and bill paying quick and easy. Use the program yourself and recommend it to her. This will help the encounter seem more like a genuine product review rather than a parent-to-child demand. Encourage her to share this new information with any friends who may be struggling with their finances.

Budgeting is a common problem for college students everywhere. Sometimes the freedom is just overwhelming. Once your daughter has come up with a solution for her financial struggles, make sure she budgets for the money she owes on those late bills you paid.

Going away to college creates feelings of new found independence. It is normal for your daughter to pull away a bit as she finds her own way. Balancing this independence with the need for parental guidance may be difficult for all of you. While you are willing to help in any way for the time being, you should expect her to take full control of her financial situation at some point, just as she has taken control of the other areas of her life. Paying her late bills for her will keep her credit score in good shape, but she will not learn to manage her money this way.

Launching Adult Children With Aspergers: How To Promote Self-Reliance

How to Respond to a Frustrated Autistic Child

“Any advice for helping my child (high functioning Aspergers) to manage frustration over seemingly small things? Even something as minor as losing a game of checkers turns into a major riot, which in turn aggravates me to no end.”

Young people with Aspergers (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) are easily frustrated. Living in the "typical" world can be confusing, and they need to have someone there to translate and explain every day events to them. All kids get frustrated, and all kids need to learn to manage those frustrations. As a parent, your challenge is to communicate effectively and to try not to get frustrated yourself. Here's how:

1. When something irritates you, tell your AS or HFA youngster what you are feeling so he can learn to recognize emotions in others and label them in himself. Then talk (out loud) yourself through the frustration so that your youngster can hear your “positive spin” on the situation  (e.g., “This is really not a big deal” … “I need to calm down” … “Relax and take a few deep breaths” … “It’s okay, I can deal with this”).

2. Any time you encounter frustration while in the presence of your AS or HFA youngster, imagine that she will replicate your exact behavior every single time she is frustrated for the rest of her life—so proceed carefully! Take care not to raise your voice too loudly, or be disrespectful to others. If you do any of these things, make sure to tell your youngster that you made a mistake behaving in that way and need to make a better choice next time.

3. Make sure that your youngster is given a few opportunities to play with other kids in situations where close adult supervision is not required. Parents should be responsible for ensuring their child’s safety, but other than that, try to let your child and his peers work out problems among themselves. When kids play independently, they learn how to deal with frustration in ways other than letting grown-ups solve their problems.

4. Do not accidently teach your AS or HFA youngster that expressing frustration inappropriately (e.g., screaming or hitting) is a good way to get your attention, even if it is negative attention. Ignore these behaviors if they're not causing serious harm, and give lots of positive attention for times when your youngster handles a potentially frustrating situation in a healthy manner, and point out specifically what he did effectively.

5. When you see your youngster become frustrated, try not to mirror that frustration in your own voice or behaviors. Instead, focus on staying calm and talking your youngster through the situation in a gentle voice, guiding him to mirror you. Acknowledge that he is frustrated, but stress the importance of continuing to try to do something that he may find difficult.

6. Give ample attention to acceptable behaviors so that your AS or HFA youngster learns about positive consequences as well. Use a behavior chart as a visual aid to assist her in developing awareness regarding how she handles her frustrations. Place a sticker, happy face or star onto the chart whenever she remembers to manage her reactions in a positive way. Keep track of how many stickers she has accumulated, and reward her with a special activity once she reaches a predetermined goal.

7. Keep your youngster’s world as predictable and routine as possible. If AS and HFA kids feel confident and secure in general, they will be able to handle minor setbacks and frustrations.

8. Look for opportunities to challenge your “special needs” child. Routinely ask her to do things that are slightly beyond what she has been capable of doing in the past. Do not jump in to help her. If you see her struggling, instead of immediately helping, try to prompt her by offering hints to make the situation easier. If she is really having difficulty and does not seem to be making any progress, break the task down into small steps. If necessary, guide her through (or even do the first step for her), and then back off again. Your youngster should be hearing the following phrase over and over again: “Try it yourself first, and if you have a problem doing it, I’ll help you get started.”

9. Use your youngster’s teacher as a resource. Ask for suggestions about how the school deals with frustration in students in general, as well as for specific tips about helping your youngster. The more that you can be consistent with what the school is doing, the easier it will be for your youngster to internalize the lessons that you and the teacher are trying to teach.

10. Help your youngster learn the important skill of “delayed gratification.” AS and HFA kids do not yet have the brain development or experience to effectively cope when they have to wait for what they want, so parents have to give them practice developing this skill. As much as possible, have your child wait for what she wants, even if it's just for a minute or two. Talk to her about how to distract herself while she is waiting for something.

11. Every evening, review the day with your youngster to discuss how she handled various situations throughout the day. Always bring attention to the positive behaviors she displayed during the day. Reiterate the consequences that occurred in different scenarios to help her understand how her behavior affected both herself and others.

12. If your son or daughter is an adolescent, remember that all adolescents struggle with testing limits, learning to make their own decisions, and learning to function independently. All adolescents struggle with making and keeping friends, with finding success at school, and even with the development of romantic relationships. Your AS or HFA teen may be more frustrated than a “typical” teen, but he may not have the skills to handle those frustrations. So, set appropriate limits while trying to give your teenager some leeway to function independently.

An AS or HFA youngster can grow frustrated when an obstacle arises in his effort to achieve a goal. However, frustration can prove a valuable emotion; it can motivate the youngster to surmount the obstacle with an extra spurt of determination and initiative. Parents can use the techniques listed above to help their “special needs” children deal effectively with day-to-day frustrations.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Help for Depressed Aspergers Children and Teens

“Is it common for children with Asperger’s to be depressed? Lately, my daughter has been quite sad much of the time for no apparent reason that any of us can identify. She does tend to be a 'loner' - but she says she prefers it that way.”

Research suggests that almost 70 percent of young people with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism suffer from depression at some point in their life. Mood disorders and anxiety disorders are very common. Also, around 30 percent of these children have ADHD. Depression and anxiety can be more difficult to detect in Aspergers children and teens because their facial expressions and body language are often not as easy to read, and because they may have difficulties in describing emotions.

Kids with Aspergers have difficulty verbalizing their feelings and thoughts. This can be misinterpreted by adults and can lead to the assumption that because these thoughts and feelings aren’t verbalized, that they don’t exist. Often, the opposite is true. Many kids with Aspergers have an overwhelming number of thoughts and feelings that go unexpressed. This inability to express feelings can lead to depression.

Kids with Aspergers often find school a challenging environment. Difficulty with social interaction can lead to a youngster feeling isolated and friendless, especially during adolescence. Those feelings of isolation and confusion can lead to depression. This can be compounded by an inability to express the feelings of depression to parents.

Learning to cope with depression is an important part of learning to cope with Aspergers. Since depression in kids with Aspergers is often linked to feelings of isolation and frustration with not being able to express themselves, it’s important for moms and dads to understand that while kids with Aspergers don’t necessarily express their feelings, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have them. 

The three best things parents can do to help their Aspergers child avoid - or beat - depression are (1) help her to identify emotions, (2) teach social skills, and (3) watch for the early warning signs of depression.

Identifying Emotions

Talk with your daughter about how she might be feeling about her social relationships with peers. Try to give her the words to use (e.g., mad, glad, sad, frustrated, etc.). By giving her these “feeling words” and trying to help her differentiate the words and identify those feelings, you can help her develop her voice while expressing her emotions. You may not be able to make her social relationships smoother for her, but you can try to get her to understand that her feelings surrounding those relationships are valid.

Talking to your daughter about emotions can be a frustrating experience for you, but the benefits will hopefully outweigh the frustrations you are dealing with. 

Teaching Social Skills

Each Aspergers youngster has his own temperament. Some “Aspies” enjoy higher levels of social activity while others prefer less. While this may be a preference these kids are born with, much of what experts call “social competence” (i.e., the ability to get along with others) is learned. This means that it can be practiced and improved upon, especially if the youngster's mother or father is a patient coach.

Aspergers kids don't need to be the most popular in their class, but they do need good social skills. Being sociable helps them with resilience (i.e., the ability to withstand hard times). Kids who are constantly rejected by peers are lonely and have lower self-esteem. When they are older, these kids are more likely to drop out of school and use drugs and alcohol. Moms and dads can help their Aspergers kids learn social skills so that they are not constantly rejected or begin to bully and reject others.

In an ideal world, social skills include the child’s emotions, intellect, ethics, and behaviors. Emotionally he learns to manage strong feelings (e.g., anger) and show empathy for others. His intellect is used to solve relationship conflicts and make decisions. Ethically he develops the ability to sincerely care for others and engage in socially-responsible actions. Behaviorally he learns specific communication skills (e.g., turn-taking, how to start a conversation, etc.). But we don’t live in an ideal world. Your child will need your guidance to achieve these skills.

Moms and dads can act as coaches for their Aspergers youngster to develop these social skills. The child learns a lot from how his parents treat him and when he observes how they interact with others. Moms and dads, like other coaches, will need to be creative and specific in teaching social skills. Beyond saying "You need to be better at X," good coaches teach concrete skills and then support the use of these skills across a variety of situations. The goal should be not just to teach kids to "be nice," but also to help them to advocate for themselves as well as care for others.

Many kids experience occasional rejection, and some are often socially clumsy, insensitive, or even unkind. Signs that a youngster may need some social coaching include:
  • Acts bossy or insists on own way a lot
  • Can't seem to start or maintain a conversation 
  • Doesn't show empathy when others are hurt or rejected 
  • Has trouble losing or winning gracefully 
  • Lacks at least one or two close mutual friends 
  • Seems constantly ignored or victimized by other kids or constantly teases or annoys other kids
  • Uses a louder voice than most kids

Moms and dads can use opportunities to point out when others are using desired social skills. It might be a specific behavior of the parent, another adult, a youngster, or even a character in a book or on TV. The idea is to give kids examples and role models of people engaging in the appropriate social skill.

A parent can help a youngster substitute a specific appropriate response for a specific inappropriate one. This might mean brainstorming with the youngster about different alternative responses and then practicing one or more with the youngster. Practicing can involve mapping out actual words to say or behaviors to use, role-playing, and using the newly learned skills in real situations.

Often Aspergers kids are not eager to work on new skills, so moms and dads must reward their kids with praise when the new skills are practiced as a way of helping the skills become habits. This might be a specific verbal statement (e.g., "You did an awesome job of X instead of Y when you got angry at the store"), a nonverbal sign (e.g., a thumbs up), or even a treat (e.g., 10 minutes extra fun time before bedtime).

Without nagging, moms and dads can gently remind their youngster to use a new skill when the opportunity arises. This might be verbal (e.g., "Now might be a good time to count to ten in your head") or nonverbal (e.g.,  zipping the lips when a youngster is about to interrupt).

Any good coach knows that patience is important, because learning new skills takes time and practice. And everyone differs in how long it takes to learn something new. Coaches often have to be creative in their teaching strategies, because Aspergers kids have different ways of learning. The important thing to remember is that the ability to have good social relationships is not simply about personality or in-born traits. Children and teens that get along with others have learned skills to do so, and they practice these regularly. Just like a good coach can make the difference for a budding football player, moms and dads can help their Aspergers kids become socially skilled.

Watching for Warning Signs

It’s also helpful for you to understand the warning signs of depression. Watch for behavioral changes that might indicate depression in your daughter. For example:
  • Does she have difficulty sleeping?
  • Has she gained or lost a significant amount of weight?
  • Has she lost interest in things that typically gave her pleasure?
  • Is she giving up on her social relationships?
  • Is she more easily frustrated?

If you notice unusual changes, speak with your daughter’s pediatrician about the possibility of depression and possible treatments.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Coming To Terms With The Asperger's Diagnosis

"How do I help my 12 year old son to come to terms with his diagnosis and help him understand that it is not the end of the world?"

Aspergers (high functioning autism) is a "spectrum" disorder; those who have it experience various symptoms, exhibiting a range of behaviors. People with Aspergers have a different way of thinking, concentrating on special interests. Many people with Aspergers can speak eloquently and have extraordinary abilities in engineering, computer science, and systematic thinking, yet have serious difficulties with social interaction and functioning in the world. However, Aspergers is not the end of world; it is treatable. It is very normal for your son (and you) to react with sadness, self pity, anger, or depression when you receive the diagnosis. You are mourning the life you thought you were going to have. But that does not mean that you won’t have a good life; it will just be different.

If your son is willing, discuss with him his diagnosis and your plans to help him. Reassure him that he will do fine. If he cannot get over his sadness and anger, get him into counselling. Once properly diagnosed, reassured, and treated, he will feel much happier and more optimistic.

Start now to educate yourself and your son. There are tons of books available for adults, children, and teens that explain Aspergers and provide information and help. Read a book and discuss it together. Then, get online and start researching Aspergers symptoms and treatments. There is a wealth of information on this site!

Become involved in the forum on this site. Also find a support group in your area. Other parents will provide moral support and comfort. Your son may enjoy talking with other children with Aspergers online. Be sure to monitor the sites he visits to make sure they are appropriate for him.

I want your son to know that having Aspergers is not the end of the world. It creates difficulties in the social sphere, yes. But special interests can lead to career skills, and, in some cases, to career success. Good social skills can be learned over time. With reinforcement and guidance from loving people; progress is possible. With knowledge and support from parents, teachers, mentors, medical professionals, and peers, the inner strengths of these special people shine, adding uniqueness to our world.

The Parenting Aspergers Resource Guide: A Complete Resource Guide For Parents Who Have Children Diagnosed With Aspergers Syndrome


COMMENTS:

Anonymous said... help him to see himself for his abilities and not his dis-ability! He is himself and not his dx. His dx is just a tool that he can use on his road to success : )

Anonymous said... The diagnosis was the best thing that's ever happened in our family! It flooded us with so much understanding and the ability to identify and work on those areas which are troublesome. It opened up so many doors to a world of resources; books, support groups, online connections - so that we don't feel a bit alone. Help is just a keystroke or a mouse click away. I slapped an "I LOVE AN ASPIE" bumper sticker on my car and we embrace the dx with humor and hope. I know my own son felt a lot better once we met some others his own age who shared his diagnosis, and maybe that would help your boy? If he would like my son to contact him, message me and I'll put you in touch:) Enjoy the journey, you're on the right track, Mom!:)

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. Thus, the best treatment for Aspergers children and teens is, without a doubt, “social skills training.”

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But...

Don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

If your child suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, expect him to experience both minor and major meltdowns over incidents that are part of daily life. He may have a major meltdown over a very small incident, or may experience a minor meltdown over something that is major. There is no way of telling how he is going to react about certain situations. However, there are many ways to help your child learn to control his emotions.

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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.

The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing a child with a neurological disorder. Violent rages, self-injury, isolation-seeking tendencies and communication problems that arise due to auditory and sensory issues are just some of the behaviors that parents of teens with Aspergers will have to learn to control.

Parents need to come up with a consistent disciplinary plan ahead of time, and then present a united front and continually review their strategies for potential changes and improvements as the Aspergers teen develops and matures.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers 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.

Although they may vary slightly from person to person, children with Aspergers tend to have similar symptoms, the main ones being:

=> A need to know when everything is happening in order not to feel completely overwhelmed
=> A rigid insistence on routine (where any change can cause an emotional and physiological meltdown)
=> Difficulties with social functioning, particularly in the rough and tumble of a school environment
=> Obsessive interests, with a focus on one subject to the exclusion of all others
=> Sensory issues, where they are oversensitive to bright light, loud sounds and unpleasant smells
=> Social isolation and struggles to make friends due to a lack of empathy, and an inability to pick up on or understand social graces and cues (such as stopping talking and allowing others to speak)

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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."

Parents face issues such as college preparation, vocational training, teaching independent living, and providing lifetime financial support for their child, if necessary. Meanwhile, their immature Aspergers teenager is often indifferent – and even hostile – to these concerns.

As you were raising your child, you imagined how he would be when he grew up. Maybe you envisioned him going to college, learning a skilled traded, getting a good job, or beginning his own family. But now that (once clear) vision may be dashed. You may be grieving the loss of the child you wish you had.

If you have an older teenager with Aspergers who has no clue where he is going in life, or if you have an “adult-child” with Aspergers still living at home (in his early 20s or beyond), here are the steps you will need to take in order to foster the development of self-reliance in this child.

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