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

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Monitoring Your Aspergers Child’s Activities

Do you know what your Aspergers youngster listens to and reads and how she spends time with her friends? Talking with your youngster about her interests opens up an opportunity for you to share your values. And research says that monitoring your youngster's activities is an important way to lower her chances of getting involved in situations you don't approve of, especially those that can be harmful. Unsupervised kids simply have more opportunities to experiment with risky behaviors, including the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs, and they may start substance abuse at earlier ages.

At home:

• Know what your youngster watches on TV.
• Know what your youngster is reading.
• Know what your youngster is doing on the internet.
• Know what music your youngster listens to.

Away from home:

It's 4 p.m. on a school day. Do you know where your Aspergers youngster is? If she's an adolescent, you may not. As your youngster gets older and makes more and more of her own decisions, don't assume that you can let go of your responsibility to monitor her activities. Your role becomes even more important at this stage of her life. You can't tag along after her to watch her every move (nor would you want to) but you still can be involved and aware of where she's going and who her friends are. Don't be afraid to set rules for your youngster; this is a time when he needs you to be a parent, not a buddy.

Begin monitoring your Aspergers youngster early in her preteen years. If you wait until your youngster's teen years to begin monitoring, it may feel to her like you suddenly don't trust her and suspect she's doing something wrong. She may even turn the issue into a power struggle. So start monitoring your youngster early in ways that are age appropriate. This will help her accept your involvement as a part of life.

The following list can help in monitoring your Aspergers youngster's activities:

• Show up early to pick him up so that you can observe his behavior.
• Make a list of his weekly activities and keep it in your day timer or on the refrigerator.
• Know your youngster's friends (first and last names) and their home phone numbers.
• Know his friends' moms and dads and their cell phone numbers, if possible.
• Insist that he call and let you know where he is after school.
• Find out where he is going and with whom.
• Find out what adults are going to be home at any parties he attends.
• Find out how he will get there and back home.
• Check up on him occasionally to see that he is where he said he would be.

Monitoring means establishing firm guidelines and limits for your Aspergers youngster to keep track of what is going on in her social world. Monitoring also means making expectations clear about what your youngster should do in an emergency.

Give your Aspergers youngster money, a phone card, cell phone, or a beeper with instructions on when to check in with you. For example, let your youngster know that if you call the beeper, you expect him to call back within 5 minutes.

Work with the moms and dads of your youngster's friends. Exchange each other’s e-mail addresses and phone numbers so that you can work together to monitor the kids as a group and help each other stay informed. It will help you overcome any resistance from your youngster if she knows that all the moms and dads are doing "this monitoring thing." If she does resist your involvement, you can say to her, "It's my job as a parent to keep you safe, so I'm going to ask questions about whom you're with and what you're doing."

Encourage your Aspergers youngster to participate in after-school activities that include adult supervision such as school clubs or sports. After-school jobs, if carefully chosen, can provide teens with structure and positive reinforcement of values, along with supervision.

Aspergers adolescents need increasing freedom to begin their road to independence, and they need moms and dads who monitor their behavior in a respectful and appropriate way. Careful monitoring does not mean taking away your youngster's freedom to decide what he wants to do. You are confirming that he actually is doing what he says he is doing. As you find that you can trust him, your relationship with him will grow stronger.

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