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

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Aspergers Children and Sleep Problems

Question

I'm a single mother and don't know how to deal with my 13 yr old anymore. He doesn't want to go anywhere or do anything which is hard when you have to, and I am now homeschooling him due to trouble going to school. A big problem right now is sleep issues… he is so active at night and tired during the day. At the moment he is not falling asleep till about 1 or 2 am, and I've tried waking him up earlier to reset his body clock but I can't get him out of bed. I don't know how to get him back into a healthy sleep routine.

Answer

Studies find that approximately 73% of kids with Aspergers (high-functioning autism) experience sleep problems, and these problems tend to last longer in this group than they do for kids without Aspergers. For example, kids with Aspergers are more likely to be sluggish and disoriented after waking. Laboratory research has begun to describe the unique physiological presentation associated with sleep problems in kids with Aspergers, including disruptions in the sleep stage most associated with cognitive functioning (i.e., REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep). In addition to physiological differences, some of the sleep difficulties in this population may be related to anxiety.

The impact of poor sleep is unequivocal. Poor sleep negatively impacts mood and exacerbates selective attention problems commonly found in kids with Aspergers, as well as impairing other aspects of cognitive function.

There is no one panacea to manage sleep problems in kids with Aspergers. However, there are many interventions that are likely to be helpful. In general, moms and dads need to understand and be prepared for resistance to change that these kids often show. Moms and dads should also be prepared for problems to get worse before they get better as kids often initially challenge but then gradually become accustomed to new routines.

A good place to start an intervention targeted at improving sleep is changing lifestyle behaviors and environmental conditions that can influence sleep/wake patterns. These include exercise, napping, diet, and aspects of the bedroom and sleep routine.

Exercise & Activity—

The goal is decreasing arousal as bedtime approaches. To achieve this it may be useful to have a scheduled period before bedtime (approximately 30-45 minutes) in which the aim is calmness and relaxation. During that period, media such as television, computers, electronic games, and music should be limited as they can stimulate the youngster through activity, sound, and light. The availability of VCR and DVR technology makes it easier to control when kids can watch particular shows, thereby avoiding conflict over missing favorite programs that are shown in the late evening. The presence of televisions in kid’s bedrooms has been consistently associated with sleep problems and should be avoided at all costs. Likewise, computer access in a youngster’s bedroom is discouraged for sleep as well as for safety reasons.

In general, exercise during the day is associated with better sleep. However, exercise within 2-4 hours of bedtime can lead to difficulties in falling asleep, as it can disrupt the natural cooling process of the body that leads to rest at night. Having the youngster soak their body, particularly their head, in a calm bath that is as warm as can be tolerated 90 minutes before bedtime may be useful too. When the youngster gets out of the bath, core body temperature will drop rapidly; this is believed to help them to fall asleep faster. Using a waterproof pillow and avoiding the pulsation associated with showers is recommended. The use of progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing and imagery exercises is the most widely researched treatment for insomnia in kids and may be useful for kids with Aspergers as well.

Napping—

Controlled and limited (e.g., 20-30 minutes) napping is generally positive. However, longer daytime sleeping can be negative in that it makes it more difficult for the youngster to fall asleep at the ideal time in the evening. If the youngster’s sleep problems are associated with falling asleep, which is common for kids with Aspergers, it is advisable to avoid daytime napping.

Diet—

It is recommended that kids with sleep problems avoid all caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, high fat food, and monosodium glutamate (MSG). In contrast, food rich in protein may promote better sleep. Large meals within 2-3 hours of bedtime should also be avoided. A small carbohydrate/protein snack, such as whole wheat bread and low-fat cheese or milk before bedtime can be helpful to minimize nighttime hunger and stimulate the release of neuro-chemicals associated with falling asleep. For kids who often wake during the night to use the bathroom, and then have trouble falling back asleep, limited fluid intake in the 2 hours prior to bedtime is also recommended.

Melatonin is a natural brain hormone associated with sleep onset. There is some evidence that natural production of melatonin may be reduced in Aspergers kids. While melatonin supplements may be useful, a common side effect may be increased sluggishness in the morning. As discussed above, this is already a common problem for kids with Aspergers. Use of melatonin and other alternative remedies should be discussed with a physician.

The Bedroom—

It is important that the bed and the bedroom are associated with sleep and are not associated with activity. When kids have sleep problems, it is highly recommended that their bed and bedroom activity be limited to sleep only. It is important to make sure that extreme changes in temperature are avoided during the night. Increasing light is associated with decreases in the release of the neuro-chemical melatonin which triggers sleep onset. Thus, it is important to get the sunlight flowing in the youngster’s room as soon as possible in the morning. Conversely, darkening the room at night is critical. When a youngster’s fear of the dark is an issue, behavioral psychotherapy may be necessary. We also recommend moving the clock so that the youngster is not watching the time while lying in bed.

Sleep Routine—

Setting and maintaining a regular time to sleep and wake may be critical. Moms and dads often make the mistake of allowing their kids to sleep much later on non-school days to “make up” for sleep. While this may be useful to a certain extent, allowing the youngster to sleep late in the day makes it difficult for them to fall asleep at an ideal time later in the evening. It is easier to wake a sleeping youngster then to force an alert youngster to go to sleep. Thus, we recommend that you keep your youngster on a regular schedule on non-school days and avoid drastic changes in the time that the youngster wakes. Likewise, having your kids go to bed when they are not tired conditions them to be awake in bed. It is recommended that you let your kids stay up until they are tired while maintaining their waking time in the morning. Then once they begin falling asleep within 10 minutes of going to bed, begin to move bed time earlier by 15 minutes at a time.

With carefully monitoring and patience, many moms and dads can make changes in a youngster’s life that promote better sleep. Improved sleep supports better mood, sustained attention and general health. However, for many families professional consultation is often necessary to design or maintain the appropriate intervention. When you need help, speak with other moms and dads of Aspergers kids about their experiences and ask your primary care doctor for referrals to a sleep expert.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Aspergers Children


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said…  She said she was a single mom I assume she has to work to provide... so she may not be able to adjust her schedule... I am single mom of HFA 11yr old with simular issues... and I am debating homeschooling but I am only one person !!!!
•    Anonymous said… Exactly my thought. We have a 6pm rule. No electronics after that time. Increased his exercise, and it works for us. No drugs needed. X
•    Anonymous said… Exercise, no electronics on in the house after 6 (a bored brain is a tired one), wake up same time every time with daylight, and same basic diet. We do a fruit/veg/chia smoothie to start the day. My son loves to seek electronics at night (all electronics blocked during certain hrs and collect xbox and remotes every night)
•    Anonymous said… Go to your GP and try him on Melatonin, a natural hormone that helps us to sleep. We produce it in our bodies but some have less than others hence the difficulty sleeping. It may take a little while to find the right dosage that is agreeable to his body. My son is 13 and is on it. He was like a new born with sleep patterns until he was 6 yrs old. By 11 I was going nuts. He is much better now thank goodness and gets the rest that his body and mind needs to grow and function properly. You may have to restrict the internet/pc use at night and reward him with it during the day only so as to encourage him to sleep at night. The 'blue light' projected from the pc/laptop suppresses the normal secretion of melatonin and doesn't really help ones circadian rhythms. Getting off any electronic devices atleast an hour or two before regular bedtime allows the brain to begin the whole process of slowing down and releasing that melatonin. Look, I for one know that all of this information works but unless we as the parents/carers put it into practise, our kids will never do it. I'm not perfect, some days I forget to give my son his dose at the right time and then he's struggling to wake up at the right time the next morning and so I pay the price with his bad mood and getting to school on time etc. But we all have to start somewhere right? He was doing the school refusal thing last year and not wanting to leave the house or socialise at all. We enlisted the help of a psychologist who specialised in ASD and the school and recommitted to being the driving force behind implementing new routines. Baby steps was and is what it takes at the moment for my son and I. Its so tough for him especially I know, as I'm sure it is for your son but we have to push them out of their comfort zones for them to face challenges and grow from them. How else will they grow and learn? They wont! Plain and simple. Unfortunately its up to us. We become their "Executive Secretaries" as stated in the book "The Complete Guide to Aspergers Syndrome" by Tony Attwood.
I think I have gone on too much already but I hope you will find what your son needs to help him sleep and learn and grow. Wishing nothing but joy and success for our special Aspies!!!
•    Anonymous said… i also have a 12 yrs old with similar tendancies. Our Pead told us to avoid any Blue lights (whether that be in ceiling light or of electronics) after 4pm as it over stimulates their brain. I am now also trying reading before bed. I feel your pain
•    Anonymous said… I could have written this about my (undiagnosed) 11 year old. She also is now totally not Going to school (it's always been an issue but is much worse lately), she doesn't sleep and basically stays up all night every night (sometimes until 5-6am). She gets into bed ok at around11-12 but won't/can't sleep. She is very aggressive verbally and physically towards me almost all of the time and is very anxious. She doesn't go out with her friends or actually talk to them at all anymore. (She's never had tons of friends but now doesn't talk to the ones she did have) I'm also a single mum and have w younger daughter who is really effected by all this. It's so hard! I can't really offer any advice I'm waiting on things happening from the countless referrals that have gone in to community peads, cahms, child psychologist, education physcholigist etc xx
•    Anonymous said… I guess it doesnt work for everyone. If there is a physical activity or sport that he likes to do then try to do it everyday as it will help use up that 'boy' energy during the day. A bath or warm shower at night, a warm drink, reading some stories, di...See More
•    Anonymous said… If you're homeschooling anyway flip your schedule to match his. Do schoolin the afternoon. Theres a whole raft of studies about teen boys needing to sleep later. Make wake up time 10am and shift things. If the way everyone else does things isnt working for you and him create your own path.
•    Anonymous said… I'm not a Dr but have Aspergers girls and their consultants prescribed "Melatonin" it worked a treat to get their bodies back in a sleep routine and we only use it now if required. Hope this helps xx
•    Anonymous said… I've had similar issues, and since I've started to listen to his feelings, I work around him more now allowing him to sleep in as many days as possible, he is amuck happier boy all round for it 🏻
•    Anonymous said… Melatonin did nothing for our grand son any thing else
•    Anonymous said… My 8yr old grandson exactly the same.Wont go to school awake all night and his mum and dad cant get help for him in newzealand its shocking I feel sad for you.
•    Anonymous said… My Aspie son has just turned 17 and his sleeping patterns starting changing at about 13yrs old. I know how you feel and it's really hard. I'm now told by UK Social that my son is neglected and we can't parent him because we don't enforce his sleeping pattern and he lives for the Internet (it's the only form of Social life the poor boy has!). Can you flipping believe it! I don't know what to suggest tbh, because as you know it's not like parenting our sons when they were little boys where they knew bed time was bed time. It gets so much more challenging.
Maybe go onto "The National Autistic Society" website and go onto the Members Forum (you can browse as a "Guest"). There are so many parents in the same boat trying to manage their Teens through to Adulthood.
•    Anonymous said… my daughter doesnt go to bed till 1 or 2 am every day.....Melatonin diesnt wirk for her she needed stronger stuff but ended up ODing on perscription stuff....now we just let her stay up and I wake her at 7:45 for school every day
•    Anonymous said… My daughter had similar sleep pattern issues thru the early teens (although she did lots of drama classes in the evenings so socializing wasn't an issue). All teenagers naturally will stay awake later and sleep in. The beauty of home ed is we can accomodate their changed natural bio rhythms. I treasured my mornings to myself and we did educational stuff in the afternoons/evenings. Is there anything he would like enough to entice him out of the house? Other than saying don't worry, it will pass (it did with my daughter and I miss those precious me time mornings!) I don't know what to advise. But try not to worry too much about the sleep, it is normal and entirely natural during puberty, as is needing more sleep, instead explore ways to get him outside.
•    Anonymous said… My daughter takes melatonin a half hour before bedtime I give her 4mg in apple juice and she takes it other wise she would be up all night long. She's 12 and has been taking it since she was 2. No more sleep issues ever
•    Anonymous said… My Dr put my son on Clonidine 0.1mg to help him sleep at night otherwise he would be up all night
•    Anonymous said… My son is 11 and has a similar pattern. He has been on increasing doses of melatonin for 3 yrs. The problem is it us meant to only be given for a month then nothing then for another month, in an attempt to train the body. The breaks just send my son back into vampire mode within days. He was quite sick for a few day so Dr prescribed phenegan for anti nausea. This knocked him out.... you can buy over the counter from Boots, alot if chemists won't sell it to you though. But I found that boots did when I explained my son was aspie and it calmed him down. Understand this is only used when the melatonin is wearing off and body is used to it. I use it maybe once a month just so he gets a decent nights sleep @weekend.
Maybe worth a try as I know many Dr's don't like to prescribe melatonin unless forced. We get all his meds through Camhs xx
•    Anonymous said… Should talk to you'r doctor about what you can give him to help him sleep.May be you should look into a therapist to go to for help with your son. Has help with me.
•    Anonymous said… Society imposes routines that aren't fit for all, if he's feeling ok and is willing to take responsibility for himself and things that need to be done then maybe you could be more flexible. I say this because my 13yo son is in a similar position, I worry that he doesn't have a social life but he's much calmer out of school and no longer being bullied. I'm a single parent too and have to leave him home alone while I go to work, but he's safer there than he ever was in school.
•    Anonymous said… This sounds similar to what we experienced through the middle school years. Puberty is challenging for anyone, seems even more so for young people on the spectrum for some reason. Maybe because there was no go to rule book to reference since most info out there refers to neurotypical teens. It could be depression as well. Hang in there.
•    Anonymous said… Turn electronics OFF
•    Anonymous said… Unless you were/are an Aspie teenage with sleep problems, you dont have a clue what its like, it is not their fault REMEBER that! you can feed them all the tablets and chemicals you want but at the end of the day it only masks one of the many issue that we have to deal with, they are not the instigator they are the victim of their own biology.
•    Anonymous said… we do 3 mgs of Melatonin at night. I was amazed at how much it helped my 7 year old. You can take breaks on weekends and holidays if you want but during the week we use it each night. He even said, "mom! I actually slept last night!!!"
•    Anonymous said… We use 2 mg Clonidine and 3mg Melatonin for years. It was a life saver!
•    Anonymous said… We use melatonin 20 minutes before bed with a warning that the tv,electrinics/internet,will be off soon. After 20 minutes we remove tv remotes,game paddles,etc and turn off the lights. Works for us.
•    Anonymous said… Yes!! This can be a problem. Our teenager must have a sleep aid.
•    Anonymous said… Yes, melatonin does nothing for my sleepless son also 🙁

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I want to teach my preteen with asperger syndrome about appropriate sexual behavior – but how?

Question

I want to teach my preteen with asperger syndrome about appropriate sexual behavior – but how?

Answer

Everyone wants to be loved. Kids seek love from their parents and eventually, they will seek love from their peers. Kids with Aspergers (high-functioning autism) want to feel love and affection just like everyone else, but they are hampered by their inability to form solid relationships. Building a strong parent-child bond early in life will help teach your Aspergers youngster about relationships, love and the closeness necessary to form intimate bonds. There will be more work to do later, as you’re realizing now.

Sexuality should be openly discussed at the appropriate level at all ages. Once your youngster hits puberty, it’s time to talk about sexual behavior. Talk, talk and talk some more. Having a clear path of communication with your youngster will enable you to have conversations about important life lessons. Make sure you respect his needs for adjusted communication. Talking while walking for example, or while driving through town, will give him a chance to voice his thoughts without having to maintain eye contact. Plus, he may be more willing to open up about his true thoughts and feelings when he knows you are not focusing solely on him.

Kids with Aspergers like to have the facts. No cutesy stories, no made-up names, and definitely no personal details. Stick to clear, concise facts using proper terminology. Have him make a list of the facts. In addition, have him make a list of do’s and don’ts in relation to sexual behavior. This will appeal to his need for order. Here are some suggestions to start a list of do’s and don’ts:
  • I should not touch a person’s face, hair, or body without permission. 
  • I should not touch my own body in public. Touching myself is private. 
  • I should stand a foot away from another person. People need their space.

Your youngster is going through major physical and emotional changes. He may find it difficult to cope with these changes and how they relate to all areas of life. His body and hygiene, friendships and dating, maturity and behavior will all be affected by becoming an adult. With your guidance, he can make these changes and approach adulthood well educated on the subject of sexuality and proper sexual behavior.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums

He is having meltdown after meltdown...

Question

Our son Nathan is four, turning five next month and has Aspergers. We have placed him in a mainstream school, grade RR and it has been a hectic week for him, us, his teachers at school. He is having meltdown after meltdown and is lashing out at the other kids by punching them, scratching them, or biting them severely. The parents are not happy and neither are the teachers. Please give us advice on how to deal with these abusive and often violent meltdowns as he refuses to go to timeout and threatens to punch the teachers. They don't know what to do or where to start to assist him.

Answer

Here are some important tips regarding meltdowns in children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism:

• Help your youngster find more appropriate outlets for aggressive feelings and frustration, and encourage him to develop self control.

• Insist on an apology, directly to the person your Aspergers youngster has bitten, and (if your youngster has bitten a baby or toddler) to the other youngster's parent.

• Pinpoint the cause. Is your Aspergers youngster under a lot of stress? Does he have a new playmate from whom he may be picking up this behavior? Once you determine why your youngster is biting, you are well on the way to solving the problem.

• React immediately, with consequences that are connected to the act of biting. If your Aspergers youngster bites another youngster in a quarrel over a toy, remove the toy and don't let him play with it for a while. If he bites you because you will not give him a candy bar, make it clear that there will be no more candy bars until the biting behavior stops.

• REDIRECT any behavior that could lead to physical bopping or hitting. In many cases, what starts as fun and games ends with someone getting hurt. Don't be afraid to remove something that can cause harm or distress. Even an inflatable toy that doesn't hurt a youngster per se can reinforce negative behaviors of hitting one another, and should simply be discouraged.

• REFUSE to let your Aspergers youngster play unattended with another youngster who consistently demonstrates hitting behaviors. It is your job to protect your youngster and to instill proper behaviors. You know what to do if your youngster is the one hitting, but don't hesitate stepping in if it is your youngster who is the one being hit (accidentally or not). You don't want your youngster to begin to think that he should also hit or hit back (or begin other bad behaviors, such as biting) in self-defense. You may need to speak up and even discipline another person's youngster to stop the inappropriate actions if the parent isn't acknowledging there is a problem. If you're comfortable, have a frank conversation with the parent of the youngster who is hitting. Consider choosing your words carefully to avoid anyone from becoming overly-defensive, and potentially ending a friendship. After all, next time it could be your own youngster with the behavioral issue.

• REMAIN calm and don't let your child see you get upset. You need to show a calm yet firm face so that your youngster knows that while you love him, you will not condone his actions and that it isn't ever okay to hit. Avoid over-reacting too. Use the redirection and firm "no hitting" words while removing the offender from the play area may be all that is needed.

• REMOVE an Aspergers youngster from any situation in which he is deliberately hitting another youngster. If a youngster is a toddler and has begun socializing, consider ending the playdate and leave, howling and all. You need to teach your youngster that hitting another youngster ruins the activity for everyone. Of course, there are situations where you truly can't walk away. In this case a youngster must be removed from the others and not allowed to play with them. After a reasonable amount of time and after everyone has calmed down, you can talk with your youngster about the incident and then re-introduce the social play, but be sure to keep a very close eye on your youngster's actions. Nobody likes their youngster to be hit, and while some of the behavior is normal, it should be closely monitored and stopped. Plus, you don't want your own tot becoming known as a bully, or at the very least a youngster no one wants to be around.

• SUPERVISE your Aspergers youngster and be prepared to react quickly. Too often, parents aren't attentive enough to young kids playing together because they are so busy having an adult conversation that they don't see warning signs of potentially-hurtful behavior starting. Don't rely on someone else to watch your youngster. Your youngster and his behavior is always your responsibility. At the same time, don't do the helicopter hover either.

• TALK with your Aspergers youngster before he joins others in a playgroup about appropriate ways to act. Tell your youngster what you expect in easy-to-understand language. Once your youngster is old enough to really understand what you are saying, he is old enough to begin learning right from wrong.

Remember that having an Aspergers youngster who hits, bites, scratches, etc., doesn't mean that they will grow up to be bad or become a bully. It's just your job to stop the action and properly discipline your youngster through loving guidance and age-appropriate communications.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

 COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Being only 4 could probably be part of the problem
•    Anonymous said… I am a friend of Marisa and I agree with her. Her son was so unhappy at our school and I have seen him grow so much since he has been at this new school. He is like a different child. Take him to a place where he can be content.
•    Anonymous said… I am a mom of a 10 year old boy with Aspergers. He did grade 1 and 2 so unhappy in a remedial school. It was traumatic for him, and really bad for his self-confidence and his trust in us. By the time I was able to move him to a a school that deals purely with children on the spectrum, we had so much damage and hurt to undo. Your son is acting out because it is the only way he knows how to express himself. He is showing you that the situation is not a good one for him, as he is not capable of putting into words his emotions. As another mom, I would recommend that you move him to a place where they teach him social skills as well as an academic program, so that he doesn't grow into a teenager that still cannot understand 'neurotypical language'.
•    Anonymous said… I can only go by what i just read it doesnt sound like hes getting much support! Time out and punishment wont help......a safe place for him to regroup and calm could. Trying to deal with the blow out of too much stress after the fact wont help but trying to manage expectations transitions etc beforehand might. Does the teaching staff understand him and aspergers as a condition? Ita with kelly above......my son went into a new school they did not understand him they disciplined him and did not manage him properly at all..not their fault they did not understand him.....it took us an entire year to get things going somewhat smoothly and his confidence and esteem took a big knock. If i could go back i would have started out with a very definitive plan on how my son would be managed (iep) and how certain situations would be dealt with. I would have been a stronger advocate for my son.....i was struggling with the embarrassment of what he was behaving like and didnt focus enough on supporting him and his needs (not saying thats the case with anyone else that was just me) good luck i feel your pain its a difficult situation
•    Anonymous said… I know the feeling all too well ! he's just overwhelmed ... your son is not a bad child !!!! I use the positive re- enforcement you're a good boy ,you can do this, think how proud you're going to feel... good luck mama
•    Anonymous said… If at all possible, move to a different class or school where teacher/aide ratio is no more than 4 kids per adult. He needs lots of positive input and reinforcement that a mainstream teacher is not going to be able to provide - even with an IEP. Our son had a similar experience, and it took 2 years to undo the damage that was done to his development and self esteem. To this day, the parents of the kids in that class will avoid him and me. If you can't change schools, insist on an aide because of the high level of support he will need.
•    Anonymous said… In my opinion the school are not doing enough to recognise the signs before meltdown,of you have mastered it they need to to,,if they wont work with you and figure out the causes of his meltdowns and adjust things to make it easier on him,which he is entitled to be happy at school too,I would consider looking else where with a good reputation,there are lots schools are doing to make it less over whelming for all children ...less work on walls hanging up ect different lighting,things like coloured sheets to go over pages of books as it can be to much the white and black and all those words,,all triggers of a meltdown.... Maybe ask to sit in and see what's going on see if you can see his triggers smile emoticon hope I have not waffled to much.
•    Anonymous said… Make sure the school realises he is in a threatening environment for him. He is at meltdown point because no intervention has been given prior to him getting to that point. Once at meltdown he no longer can hear or think and will/can lash out. A meltdown can take up to 4 hours to recover from as the brain hormones released at this time leave the body, he needs time to recover from a meltdown not put in another situation that will cause further problems for him. He needs adults around him who take the time to get to KNOW him and his warning signs and take action to help him calm before meltdown. Time out at that point won't work, he can no longer think, but a relaxation break, (a lie down somewhere quiet, music, colouring in, whatever he likes to do quietly) or an active (climbing, running, jumping, rolling) break might help. Quick rewards of high interest given at the right time will help, a first then next timetable so he knows what the day looks like. All these things and many other strategies will help if his teacher and aid are willing.
•    Anonymous said… My HFA son is in Sr. Kindergarten. Last year when we transitioned him from Daycare to Jr. Kindergarten it was challenging. He too has aggressive tendencies (biting, kicking, scratching, throwing objects). We knew JK would be a challenge, so we gathered a team including the daycare, school, therapists etc and started planning early. The first few months were not easy - he was at 60% serious aggression level (60% of the days had a serious incident) and had many potty accidents. However, we persevered, had alot of communications and statistics and with the dedication of all involved, he finished the year at about 20% incident levels (and not as severe). This year, there has been virtually no problems - but keep in mind, same teacher and schedule for the second year. My fear is that the administrators don't realize how much support he needs to maintain this level. I am very happy we had a plan and are able to keep him totally integrated.I would suggest, professional observation of him in the clase, ABC analysis, statistical analysis, open communications and a good sense of humour.
•    Anonymous said… Take him out. There are other places. Not worth putting him through this trauma.
•    Anonymous said… We dealt with this at age 6. Started anxiety med and eventually placed in a Emotionally Disabled classroom. Sounds scary, but they have tools to build child back up. Small class size and aides. It did get worse for a few weeks...then we had a kid back. He was his old self. That tornado inside of him calmed down. He still has bad days, but once every few weeks, not everyday. Keep at it! Know you are not alone. You are a good mom, your son is lucky to have you.

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Learning to Parent a Child with a Diagnosis of Aspergers

Question

Our son now 6 went for assessment (Ireland) last Friday after a lot of form filling on his history etc. and doing tests with him, they - like me - have come to conclusion he has all the signs of a child with Aspergers (high functioning). Now that I finally have medical proof of what I have suspected for years, where do I go from here? How can I make his day easier? Basic tasks are major hurdles.

Answer

When moms and dads seek help for their youngster, they encounter varied opinions – he'll outgrow it, leave him alone, it's no big deal, he just wants attention, and so on. Many professionals try to work with the Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) youngster as if his disorder is like other developmental disorders, but it is quite different. In most cases, there is a great misunderstanding by many people of the needs of these special individuals.

Diagnosis can be difficult. For the inexperienced, recognizing the defining characteristics of Aspergers can be difficult, and misdiagnoses are quite common. This is further complicated by the fact that an Aspergers youngster or teen has many of the same characteristics found in other disorders. These various characteristics are often misinterpreted, overlooked, under-emphasized, or overemphasized. As a result, a youngster may receive many different diagnoses over time or from different professionals.

For example, if a youngster with Aspergers demonstrates a high degree of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - that might be the only diagnosis he receives. However, this is a common characteristic of Aspergers kids. The same holds true if obsessive or compulsive behaviors are displayed – the youngster gets labeled with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) instead of Aspergers. The following traits are also commonly seen in those with Aspergers in varying degrees. However, just because these traits are there, it doesn't mean that the youngster should be diagnosed differently; these traits should be noted as significant features of Aspergers:
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty with pragmatic language skills
  • Hyperlexia (advanced word recognition skills)
  • Motor deficits
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Sensory difficulties
  • Social skills deficits

Professionals who do not have much experience with Aspergers have a hard time identifying the defining characteristics. For example, social skill deficits may be noted by a professional, but then they are often downplayed because the youngster or adolescent appears to be having appropriate conversations with others or seems to be interested in other people. But with an Aspergers youngster, the conversations are not generally reciprocal, so the youngster must be carefully observed to see whether or not there is true back-and-forth interaction. Also, many Aspergers kids have an interest in others, but you need to clarify if the objects of their interest are age appropriate. Do they interact with peers in an age-appropriate fashion? Can they maintain friendships over a period of time or do they end as the novelty wears off? These are the types of observations and questions that must be asked in order to ensure a proper diagnosis.

Another example of an overlooked area is the narrow routines or rituals that are supposed to be present. This does not always manifest as obsessive-compulsive behavior in the typical sense, such as repeated hand washing or neatness, but rather in the insistence on the need for rules about many issues and situations. These kids may not throw tantrums over their need for rules, but may require them just as much as the person who has a meltdown when a rule is violated. In essence, there is no single profile of the typical Aspergers individual. They are not all the same, as you will see in later chapters.

Because of these subtleties and nuances, the single most important consideration in diagnosis is that the person making the initial diagnosis be familiar with autistic spectrum disorders – in particular, Aspergers. They should have previously diagnosed numerous kids. To make a proper, initial diagnosis requires the following:

1. An evaluation by an occupational therapist familiar with sensory integration difficulties may provide additional and valuable information.

2. It is important to include a speech and language evaluation, as those with Aspergers will display impairments in the pragmatics and semantics of language, despite having adequate receptive and expressive language. This will also serve to make moms and dads aware of any unusual language patterns the youngster displays that will interfere in later social situations. Again, these oddities may not be recognized if the evaluator is not familiar with Aspergers.

3. The youngster should see a neurologist or developmental pediatrician (again, someone familiar with autistic spectrum disorders) for a thorough neurological exam to rule out other medical conditions and to assess the need for medication. The physician may suggest additional medical testing (blood, urine, fragile X, hearing).

4. You (both moms and dads) and your youngster should have sessions with a psychologist where your youngster is carefully observed to see how he responds in various situations. This is done through play or talk sessions in the psychologist's office and by discussions with both moms and dads. The psychologist may ask you to complete checklists or questionnaires to gain a better understanding of the youngster's behaviors at home and/or school. If the youngster is in school, the psychologist may call the youngster's teacher or ask her to complete additional checklists. The checklists or questionnaires used should be ones that are appropriate for individuals with Aspergers. It is important to determine the IQ level of your youngster as well. An average or above-average IQ is necessary for a diagnosis of Aspergers.

O.K. My youngster has been diagnosed with Aspergers – so now what?

Parenting kids displaying Aspergers characteristic behavior will often require an approach which is somewhat unique to that of other kids. Finding the balance between understanding the needs of a youngster with Aspergers and discipline which is age appropriate and situationally necessary is achievable when applying some simple but effective strategies. These strategies can be implemented both at home and in more public settings.

General Behavior Problems—

Traditional discipline may fail to produce the desired results for kids with Aspergers syndrome, primarily because they are unable to appreciate the consequences of their actions. Consequently, punitive measures are apt to exacerbate the type of behavior the punishment is intended to reduce, whilst at the same time giving rise to distress in both the youngster and parent.

At all times the emotional and physical wellbeing of your youngster should take priority. Often this will necessitate removing your youngster from a potentially distressing situation as soon as possible. Consider maintaining a diary of your youngster's behavior with a view to ascertaining patterns or triggers. Recurring behavior may be indicative of a youngster taking some satisfaction in receiving a desired response from peers, moms and dads or teachers.

For example, a youngster with Aspergers may come to understand that hurting another youngster in class will result in his being removed from class, notwithstanding the associated consequence to his peer. The solution may not be most effectively rooted in punishing the youngster for the behavior, or even attempting to explain the situation from the perspective of their injured peer, but by treating the root cause behind the motivation for the misbehavior...for example, can the youngster be made more comfortable in class so that they will not want to leave it?

One of the means to achieve this may be to focus on the positive. Praise for good behavior, and reinforcement by way of something like a Reward Book, can assist. The use of encouraging verbal cues delivered in a calm tone are likely to elicit more beneficial responses than the harsher verbal warnings which might be effective on kids who are not displaying some sort of Aspergers characteristic. If necessary, when giving directions to cease a type of misbehavior, these should also be couched as positives rather than negatives. For example, rather than telling a youngster to stop hitting his brother with the ruler, the youngster should be directed to put the ruler down.

Obsessive or Fixated Behavior—

Almost all kids go through periods of development where they become engrossed in one subject matter or another, but kids with Aspergers often display obsessive and repetitive characteristics, which can have significant implications for behavior.

For example, if an Aspergers youngster becomes fixated upon reading a particular story each night, they may become distressed if this regime is not adhered to, or if the story is interrupted. Again, the use of a behavior diary can assist in identifying fixations for your youngster. Once a fixation is identified, it is important to set appropriate boundaries for your youngster. Providing a structure within which your youngster can explore the obsession can assist in then keeping the obsession within reasonable limits, without the associated angst which might otherwise arise through such limitations. For example, tell your youngster that they may watch their favorite cartoon for half an hour after dinner, and make clear time for that in their routine.

It is appropriate to utilize the obsession to motivate and reward your youngster for good behavior. Always ensure any reward associated with positive behavior is granted immediately to assist the youngster recognizing the nexus between the two.

A particularly useful technique to try to develop social reciprocity is to have your youngster talk for five minutes about a particularly favored topic after they have listened to you talk about an unrelated topic. This serves to help your youngster understand that not everyone shares their enthusiasm for their subject matter.

Bridging The Gap Between Aspergers and Discipline and Other Siblings—

For siblings without Aspergers syndrome, the differential and what at times no doubt appears to be preferential treatment received by an Aspergers sibling can give rise to feelings of confusion and frustration. Often they will fail to understand why their brother or sister apparently seems free to behave as they please without the normal constraints placed upon them.

It is important to explain to siblings or peers of Aspergers kids and encourage open discussion about the disorder itself. Encouragement should extend to the things siblings can do to assist the Aspergers youngster, and this should be positively reinforced through acknowledgement when it occurs.

Sleep Difficulties—

Aspergers kids are known to experience sleep problems. Kids with Aspergers may have lesser sleep requirements, and as such are more likely to become anxious about sleeping, or may find they become anxious when waking during the night or early in the morning.

Combat your youngster's anxiety by making their bedrooms a place of safety and comfort. Remove or store items which might be prone to injure your youngster if they decide to wander at night. Include in the behavioral diary a record of your youngster's sleep patterns. It may assist your youngster if you keep a list of their routine, including dinner, bath time, story and bed, in order to provide structure. Include an image or symbol of them waking in the morning to provide assurance as to what will happen. Social stories have proven to be a particularly successful tactic in decreasing a youngster's anxiety by providing clear instructions on how part of their day is likely to play out.

At School—

Another Aspergers characteristic is that kids will often experience difficulty during parts of the school day which lack structure. If left to their own devices their difficulties with social interaction and self management can result in anxiety. The use of a buddy system can assist in providing direction, as can the creation of a timetable for recess and lunch times. These should be raised with class teachers and implemented with their assistance.

Explain the concept of free time to your youngster, or consider providing a separate purpose or goal for your youngster during such time, such as reading a book, or helping to set up paint and brushes for the afternoon tasks.

In Public—

Kids with Aspergers can become overwhelmed to the point of distress by even a short sojourn in public. The result is that many moms and dads with Aspergers simply seek to avoid as much as possible situations where their youngster is exposed to the public. Whilst expedient, it may not offer the best long term solution to your youngster, and there are strategies to assist with outings.

Consider providing your youngster with an ipod, or have the radio on in the car to block out other sounds and stimuli. Prepare a social story or list explaining to the youngster a trip to the shops, or doctor. Be sure to include on the list your return home. Consider giving your youngster a task to complete during the trip, or having them assist you. At all times, maintaining consistency when dealing with Aspergers and discipline is key. It pays to ensure that others involved in your youngster's care are familiar with your strategies and techniques, such as those outlined above, and are able to apply them.

Most importantly, don't hesitate to seek support networks for moms and dads with Aspergers syndrome, and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge those who have dealt with the disorder before you have developed. The assistance you can gain from these and other resources can assist you in developing important strategies to deal with problems with Aspergers in a manner most beneficial to your youngster.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums

Asperger’s Tantrums & Meltdowns: Prevention, Intervention, Post-Meltdown Management

Question

I'm so frustrated! My 3 year old son was diagnosed with Asperger's last year and for the year prior to that I was dealing with his overwhelming emotions. Now it seems like even if he's happy he's too much for me. He climbs the furniture, slams doors, dances on the table, throws things etc. And when he's not happy he throws things, slams doors, screams, climbs furniture etc. So basically I have the same behaviors no matter how he's feeling. I fear the thought of going out anywhere with him. I have 4 other children and he has drained everything I have inside me. I just don't know how to cope with him anymore. He is aggressive to the baby… I have to fight with him to change his diaper or clothes. I just feel like I've done all I can and now I'm back at square one again without the ability to do it again. Any advice on how to get through to him and calm him some?

Answer

It is much easier to prevent temper tantrums and meltdowns than it is to manage them once they have erupted. Here are some tips for preventing meltdowns and some things you can say:

Prevention Methods—

• Avoid boredom. Say, “You have been working for a long time. Let’s take a break and do something fun.”

• Change environments, thus removing the youngster from the source of the meltdown. Say, “Let’s go for a walk.”

• Choose your battles. Teach kids how to make a request without a meltdown and then honor the request. Say, “Try asking for that toy nicely and I’ll get it for you.”

• Create a safe environment that kids can explore without getting into trouble. Childproof your home or classroom so kids can explore safely.

• Distract kids by redirection to another activity when they meltdown over something they should not do or cannot have. Say, “Let’s read a book together.”

• Do not ask kids to do something when they must do what you ask. Do not ask, “Would you like to eat now?” Say, “It’s suppertime now.”

• Establish routines and traditions that add structure. For teachers, start class with a sharing time and opportunity for interaction.

• Give kids control over little things whenever possible by giving choices. A little bit of power given to the youngster can stave off the big power struggles later. “Which do you want to do first, brush your teeth or put on your pajamas?”

• Increase your tolerance level. Are you available to meet the youngster’s reasonable needs? Evaluate how many times you say, “No.” Avoid fighting over minor things.

• Keep a sense of humor to divert the youngster’s attention and surprise the youngster out of the meltdown.

• Keep off-limit objects out of sight and therefore out of mind. In an art activity keep the scissors out of reach if kids are not ready to use them safely.

• Make sure that kids are well rested and fed in situations in which a meltdown is a likely possibility. Say, “Supper is almost ready, here’s a cracker for now.”

• Provide pre-academic, behavioral, and social challenges that are at the youngster’s developmental level so that the youngster does not become frustrated.

• Reward kids for positive attention rather than negative attention. During situations when they are prone to meltdowns, catch them when they are being good and say such things as, “Nice job sharing with your friend.”

• Signal kids before you reach the end of an activity so that they can get prepared for the transition. Say, “When the timer goes off 5 minutes from now it will be time to turn off the TV and go to bed.”

• When visiting new places or unfamiliar people explain to the youngster beforehand what to expect. Say, “Stay with your assigned buddy in the museum.”

Intervention Methods—

There are a number of ways to handle a meltdown. Strategies include the following:

• Hold the youngster who is out of control and is going to hurt himself or herself or someone else. Let the youngster know that you will let him or her go as soon as he or she calms down. Reassure the youngster that everything will be all right, and help the youngster calm down. Moms and dads may need to hug their youngster who is crying, and say they will always love him or her no matter what, but that the behavior has to change. This reassurance can be comforting for a youngster who may be afraid because he or she lost control.

• If the youngster has escalated the meltdown to the point where you are not able to intervene in the ways described above, then you may need to direct the youngster to time-out (see “Resources”). If you are in a public place, carry your youngster outside or to the car. Tell the youngster that you will go home unless he or she calms down. In school warn the youngster up to three times that it is necessary to calm down and give a reminder of the rule. If the youngster refuses to comply, then place him or her in time-out for no more than 1 minute for each year of age.

• Remain calm and do not argue with the youngster. Before you manage the youngster, you must manage your own behavior. Spanking or yelling at the youngster will make the meltdown worse.

• Talk with the youngster after the youngster has calmed down. When the youngster stops crying, talk about the frustration the youngster has experienced. Try to help solve the problem if possible. For the future, teach the youngster new skills to help avoid meltdowns such as how to ask appropriately for help and how to signal a parent or teacher that the he or she knows they need to go to “time away” to “stop, think, and make a plan.” Teach the youngster how to try a more successful way of interacting with a peer or sibling, how to express his or her feelings with words and recognize the feelings of others without hitting and screaming.

• Think before you act. Count to 10 and then think about the source of the youngster’s frustration, this youngster’s characteristic temperamental response to stress (hyperactivity, distractibility, moodiness), and the predictable steps in the escalation of the meltdown.

• Try to intervene before the youngster is out of control. Get down at the youngster’s eye level and say, “You are starting to get revved up, slow down.” Now you have several choices of intervention.

• You can ignore the meltdown if it is being thrown to get your attention. Once the youngster calms down, give the attention that is desired.

• You can place the youngster in time away. Time away is a quiet place where the youngster goes to calm down, think about what he or she needs to do, and, with your help, make a plan to change the behavior.

• You can positively distract the youngster by getting the youngster focused on something else that is an acceptable activity. For example, you might remove the unsafe item and replace with an age-appropriate toy.

Post-Meltdown Management—

• Do not reward the youngster after a meltdown for calming down. Some kids will learn that a meltdown is a good way to get a treat later.

• Explain to the youngster that there are better ways to get what he or she wants.

• Never let the meltdown interfere with your otherwise positive relationship with the youngster.

• Never, under any circumstances, give in to a meltdown. That response will only increase the number and frequency of the meltdowns.

• Teach the youngster that anger is a feeling that we all have and then teach her ways to express anger constructively.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns in Aspergers Children
 
COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Bossy can be a trait of aspie, I had to take control back of my son instead of him controlling me with his less than manageable behaviour. As our special educator said, bossy boys become bossy men. So it's very important things are done on your terms not his. Lastly, is he sleeping? If not, look into it. My boy was so overtired nothing was ever going to settle until that was sorted. Diagnosis is overwhelming too. Be gentle and kind to yourself.
•    Anonymous said… Heavy work activities work well too. Have him help you carry or go up and down the stairs for stuff.
•    Anonymous said… I found that my Aspie daughter (when she was young) would act out when she was emotionally overwhelmed. Happy or sad it was too much sensory input for her. I would get her to let me hold her and put my hands over her ears. Don't know why but the closeness and lack of hearing was calming for her emotions. She is 18 now and when she is very upset, she still wants me to hold her ears. Can't hurt to try it?
•    Anonymous said… I would look for another diagnosis. My son didn't have anger issues or jealousy issues. We did not coddle him nor did we excuse his behavior. He received the same discipline as his sister. He is 32 now and has two college degrees. I suggest you nip this behavior in the bud. Oh and Aspies do not respond to punitive punishment. You have to use logic. Reasoning and bargaining does not word either.
•    Anonymous said… ive looked into essential oils to help my daughter, she is 6 years old, we have been using Doterra 100% pure CPTG oils. Balance, serenity (diffuse in the house and apply to her feet) and ive just bought Intune (rollerball) on really bad days i put a few drops in her bath. we have found they really helped with her sleep and calming her.
•    Anonymous said… My little one is having a lot of success with primitive reflex integration therapy. I don't know if this is helpful for all Aspie's, but it is definitely worth looking into. I agree that the 1, 2, 3 Magic was very helpful. I also agree that amount of sleep makes a huge impact. I know my Aspie needs more sleep than her age peers, and it can be challenging to figure out what the best sleep schedule is for any child.
•    Anonymous said… My mother always said if I was at my end to cope Just give him love , give him rescue drops or pills and camel mild tea
•    Anonymous said… OT for sensory issues will help a ton! He needs lots of physical activity!
•    Anonymous said… Setting very clear boundaries, and exiting the situation (grocery store, birthday party, park day) and going home let her know that I was serious.
•    Anonymous said… Talk to your pediatrician about autism support. Your state probably has some things in place. Also ask for information about parent support groups and play groups. Find a friend or neighbor who would be willing to take him for an hour or two when you are at your wit's end.

Post your comment below…

What is the best way to teach social skills to my adolescent son who has Aspergers?

Question

What is the best way to teach social skills to my adolescent son who has Aspergers?

Answer

Asperger’s Syndrome (high-functioning autism) makes it hard for people to handle social situations. It is important to remember that a person can appear socially comfortable, using proper speech, good behavior, and impeccable manners. However, these things do not make a person socially able. Having these qualities will not help with the real issues of socialization. You have to find ways to teach basic, age appropriate social skills so your son will feel natural among his peers.

Social skills therapy is used to teach real interaction within a peer group. At school, your son should be able to participate in a social skills group. This type of therapy is guided by a therapist and includes kids in the same age and social ability ranges. The therapist will initiate conversation within the group, and then have the kids practice some basic pre-scripted situations among themselves. They are given the tools they need during therapy to use in real-life opportunities.

Some schools have peer group shadowing. Peer shadowing enlists the aid of a select group from the general education population, preparing them to assist children with Asperger’s in the daily communication and interaction skills they are missing. The shadows are trained to break down the normal conversations that they automatically understand and deliver the skills in a step-by-step fashion. For example, the peer is taught to ask about another child’s day in simple terms and then how to respond in a straight-forward manner to keep the conversation going. The child with Asperger’s is then able to mirror the behavior he sees coming from his peer. The peer learns valuable lessons in tolerance while the child with Asperger’s learns the basic social skills he so desperately needs. Not only will your son learn how to deal with social situations this way, he will also get a chance to interact with kids at school that may have never given him a chance.

Social stories are a very popular option for teaching social skills. More often thought about for younger kids, you can now find them written specifically for the needs of the adolescent or teen Asperger’s kids. Some are even in comic book form. Your son may find these interesting, easy to read and effective. Plus, he will be in control of the situations he learns about. As he ages, he probably will not want his parents to know everything about what he’s thinking on a social level.

Direct involvement is one of the best ways to reach kids this age. Give your son ownership by allowing his input when searching for answers. Adolescence is the time to encourage a bit of independence. Let him know that he can learn to handle and even enjoy relationships.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

Grandparenting an Aspergers Child

If your grandkid has been newly diagnosed, then welcome to the world of Aspergers (high functioning autism). It is a mysterious and sometimes overwhelming world, but it is not one to be afraid of. Even if you are saddened, disappointed or angry about the diagnosis, keep in mind that it’s for the best. The earlier the diagnosis, the earlier the intervention, and the better the prognosis in the long run.

For some grandparents, the news seems to come right out of the blue. Sure, there were difficulties at school - but then, school isn’t as strict as it used to be. And yes, there were some problems at home, but none of them sounded like anything that “good old-fashioned discipline” couldn’t solve. Why, then, do the parents seem to be clinging to this diagnosis as if it were a life-raft in the high seas? And why are counselors, psychologists, occupational therapists and special education teachers suddenly getting involved?

=> Is this kid really so different?

As grandparents, you have a lot of questions to sort out. But along with the confusion comes an opportunity to get involved where you are really needed. Kids with Aspergers have a special need in their lives for ‘safe’ people who won’t criticize them or put them down for their differences. They need loving, non-judgmental grandparents who accept them as they are and make a place for them in their lives. If you can reach out to them, they will treasure your relationship with them for the rest of their lives.

=> I’ve read articles about Aspergers. But I still don’t understand what it is.

Aspergers is a type of autism, and autism is a neurological disorder that affects the way a person interacts with others and his or her world. It’s not a mental illness, and it is not caused by weak parenting. In its more severe forms, it’s a disorder because it causes disorder in the life of the kid. In its milder forms, it is more of a marked difference from the norm. In our culture, which judges people on the way they interact with others, these disorder-differences can have a profound impact on a person’s life.

You’ve probably heard the parents complaining about the difficulties they’ve had with the kid in the home - obsessive behavior, irrational outbursts, wild fears, and irritability over the smallest issues. These problems are not misbehaviors, but rather the kid’s responses to an inability to comprehend what is going on around them and inside them. Some experts have called it a “mind blindness,” one that causes the person to stumble and bump into complex social situations that they can’t “see.”

Yet by effectively “blinding” the mind to certain aspects of daily life, Aspergers enables the kid’s mind to focus in a way that most of us are incapable of. They feel their feelings more intensely, experience texture, temperature and taste more powerfully, and think their thoughts more single-mindedly. In many ways, this ability to focus is the great gift of Aspergers, and is the reason why a great number people with Aspergers have become gifted scientists, artists and musicians.

It is as if the Aspergers brain is born speaking a different language. It can learn our language through careful instruction or self-instruction, but it will always retain its accent. While Aspergers adults go on to successful careers and interesting lives, they will always be considered unusual people.

=> I’ve never heard of it before.

That’s not too surprising. Pediatricians don’t study it in medical school, teachers don’t learn about it in college, and the mass media rarely covers it. Until the 1980s, the condition didn’t even have a name, even though Hans Asperger’s original work was done in the 1940s. It is only very recently that the condition has received much attention at all. However, as professionals are becoming more informed about the condition, they are discovering that there is a fair amount of Aspergers out there.

You may remember an “odd” kid from your grade-school years - one that had no friends, who was always preoccupied with some obsessive interest that no one else cared about, who said the strangest things at the strangest times. Though the syndrome has only recently been named, these kids have been living and growing up alongside other kids for centuries. Some have become successful and happy as adults despite their undiagnosed problems, teaching themselves over time how to navigate around their deficits. Others have gone on to live lives of confusion and frustration, never understanding why the world didn’t make much sense to them.

With the recognition of Aspergers, we now can give a new generation of Aspergers kids a chance at the same kind of life that other kids have.

=> Great. So how do we fix it?

We can’t fix it. Despite all the marvels of modern science, there are still some problems that can’t be cured. Nobody knows what causes Aspergers, though most scientists acknowledge a genetic factor. So the deficits your grandkid has can only be understood, minimized and worked around. They will require accommodating on everyone’s part. But in time, with proper programming, the kid’s behavior and understanding of the world should improve.

Specialized therapies for autism disorders are available, but in most cases, the parents must bear the full cost. This can cause tremendous financial strain on the family. In addition, while most regions require specialized programming for Aspergers kids, these programs are rarely sufficient for the kid’s needs. So the parents must fill in the gaps with their own home-made programming.

Drug therapies are also sometimes available in cases where extreme behavior needs to be controlled. But these drugs don’t treat the cause of Aspergers. So even if some of the symptoms can be relieved with drugs, the central problems still remain.

=> A lot of youngsters have these sorts of difficulties. It’s just a part of growing up, isn’t it? After all, he looks perfectly normal to me.

He is normal. And he has the capacity to grow up to become a wonderful, normal adult - especially now that he has been diagnosed and is receiving special training. But he is normal with a difference.

The deficits that comprise Aspergers are not always readily apparent, especially in milder cases. The kid is usually of average intelligence or higher, yet lacks what are essentially instincts for other kids. If your grandkid seems “perfectly normal” despite the diagnosis you’ve been told about, then he is probably working very hard to make sure he fits in - and it’s not as easy as it looks.

It is best to treat your grandkid for what he is - normal. But be prepared to take some advice from those closest to him regarding what is the best way to handle certain situations.

It may not look like much to you, but Aspergers is a cause for concern. It’s not at all the same thing as the sort of developmental delay that some kids experience, and a professional trained in its diagnosis can determine the difference. Certainly misdiagnoses are possible. But in such cases, it’s always wiser to err on the side of caution. The wait-and-see method is risky when there is evidence suggesting a neurological problem.

=> So what if she doesn’t do what other youngsters do? She’s advanced for her age.

Un-childlike behavior doesn’t mean that a kid is “too smart” for play-dough and playgrounds. Even if she is smart, she still needs to learn the skills of play, because play is how kids learn - about things, about life, and about each other. Precociousness is cute and is sometimes a source of pride for grandparents, but it is also often an indication that there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed - and the earlier the better.

=> If Aspergers is genetic, then does that mean we have it too?

You might, or you might not. Usually at least one of the parents has some Aspergers qualities to their personality, and so it seems likely that the same might be true of the grandparent generation.

But before you get defensive, remember that Aspergers shouldn’t be regarded as a source of family shame. It’s a difference more than a disorder. And we know it takes all kinds of people to make the world go around. Many famous people are believed to have had Aspergers, including Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Anton Bruckner, and Andy Warhol. It seems a touch of autism often brings out genius.

And that’s not such a bad thing to have in the family!

=> What if I don’t believe the diagnosis?

That’s your privilege. But keep in mind that the kid’s parents believe it. They live and work with the kid daily and are in a unique position to notice the deficits. Because they care deeply about that kid’s future, they aren’t concerned about the stigma of a label, as long as it means the kid is eligible for the specialized programming she needs. They have put their pride aside for the sake of the kid and expect the same from the rest of the family.

Consider carefully what could possibly be gained by refusing to believe the diagnosis. Then consider what could be lost. The parents are already living with a great deal more stress than other parents, and they don’t need the added strain of skeptical or judgmental grandparents. Otherwise you may suddenly be faced with the pain of being unwelcome in your grandkid’s home.

=> The kid’s mother looks exhausted all the time. Could that be a cause?

It’s more likely an effect. Consider what her life is like: she has to constantly monitor what is going on regarding her Aspergers kid, thwart anything that might trigger a meltdown, predict the kid’s reactions in all situations and respond immediately, look for opportunities to teach the kid social behavior without creating a scene, and so on - every minute, every day. So it’s not surprising that she doesn’t feel like sitting down for a cup of tea with you and making small talk!

The truth is that the majority of mothers of Aspergers kids struggle with depression. While the special services she will receive over the next few years should help in some ways, she will still be the one to deal with the day-to-day difficulties of raising an unusual kid. For many mothers, this means ceaseless work, often to the exclusion of their own needs. Their physical, mental and emotional exhaustion can have a profound effect on the health and happiness of the entire family.

For this reason, mothers of Aspergers kids need those closest to them to give their full, unconditional support, both in words and in action.

=> I’d like to help out and get involved. But my son and his wife always get defensive no matter what I say.

Your son and daughter-in-law are now so used to defending their kid that it comes as second nature. Give them some time. Once they are more certain of your support, they will be less sensitive.

In the meantime, think carefully before you speak. Choose expressions that suggest sympathy and genuine curiosity, and avoid those that convey criticism. For example, instead of saying ‘He looks perfectly normal to me’, you can say ‘He’s doing really well.’ Phrase ideas as questions, not judgments by saying ‘Have you thought about…’ rather than ‘It’s probably…’.

The most destructive things you can say are those that convey your lack of trust in their ability to parent, your disdain for the diagnosis, and your unwillingness to make accommodations. Here are some real-life examples gathered from mothers of Aspergers kids:

‘Just let him spend more time with us. We’ll whip him into shape!’ 

‘She may act that way at home, but she’s not going to do that in MY house!’

‘He wouldn’t act this way if you didn’t work.’

‘I managed all by myself with four youngsters. You’ve just got two, and you can’t handle them!’

‘Don’t believe everything those psychologists tell you. He’ll just grow out of it, wait and see!’

‘There’s nothing wrong with her. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Are you sure you’re not the one that needs to see a psychologist?’

‘He’s having all these problems because you took him out of school for that home-schooling nonsense.’

‘Everybody’s got to have a problem with a fancy name these days!’

‘All you ever do is complain about how hard your life is.’

=> Ouch!

Keep in mind that parents of Aspergers kids face these hurtful, humiliating attitudes every day - from bus drivers to teachers, doctors to neighbors. Their tolerance level for such opinionated criticism is low, especially since they spend every bit of their energy raising their difficult kid. So avoid insensitive comments at all costs. And if you unwittingly blurt out something the wrong way, be sure to apologize.

=> So then what can I do for them?

Look for ways to be supportive. Let them know that there is another heart tugging at the load - and it’s yours. Keep on the lookout for articles about Aspergers and send them copies. This shows that you are interested. Ask lots of questions about the special programs the kid is in. Be enthusiastic and optimistic. Let them know you think they’re doing a great job. At other times, be a sympathetic sounding board when they have difficult decisions to make, or when they just need to tell someone what an awful day they’ve had.

If you live close by, consider how much you can help by giving the parents an evening out. If you’re not certain how to handle the kid on your own, then spend some time shadowing the parents to learn how to do it - or offer to babysit after the kid is in bed. Whatever you can do to help will be appreciated.

=> What does my grandkid need from me?

He needs to know that you are a safe haven in a bewildering world. It may seem a lot to ask to be flexible with a kid who appears to be misbehaving, but inflexibility will only put distance between you and the kid. If the kid’s manners and mannerisms drive you crazy, ask the parents for suggestions on how to set expectations for your house.

Learn to listen to the kid when he says he doesn’t want to do something. Maybe some kids are happy to spend a couple of hours at a flea market, but think very carefully before dragging an Aspergers kid there. Accommodate to his needs, or you run the risk of ruining your time together.

When in doubt, ask the parents for advice.

But in general, just make the decision now that you will spend your time enjoying the kid for what he is - a unique and unusual person. That annoying stubborn streak you see in him is going to be his greatest survival skill. And even though he seems to be afraid of just about anything, recognize that he is like a blind person - it takes tremendous courage for him just to walk through each day. Celebrate his courage and tenacity.

=> To tell the truth, I don’t feel comfortable around my grandkid. I have no idea what to do when she acts in her odd ways.

No one said it would be easy. But most Aspergers youngsters are easiest to handle in one-on-one situations, so look for opportunities to go for walks or spend time in the work-shed puttering around together. Tell your grandkid your stories, especially those that touch on aspects of her life affected by Aspergers. She will love hearing about the time when you were a girl that you blurted out the secret, or how difficult it was for you to learn to tie your shoes. You might tell her about times you wished you knew how to say something, or times when you wanted to be alone. Stories like these can create a powerful bond between you and your grandkid.

You may discover that all she wants to talk about is her pet subject. Don’t despair. If it’s something you know nothing about, then this is an opportunity to learn something. Search for some magazine articles on the topic so that you always have something new to share together. In time, you may find that you have ideas for helping her expand her interests into other subjects. But even if you do nothing more than listen and share her enthusiasm for her favorite topic in the whole world, your grandkid will learn that Grandma cares.

When you spend time with her with other people or in public places, it might be helpful to think of yourself as a seeing-eye dog. Remember, she is “blind” in certain ways. Point out trouble-spots and guide her around them, explain social situations that she can’t “see,” and narrate what you are doing as you do it. By doing so, you’ll help her to feel more secure with you, and you’ll be actively participating in her special programming.

One word of caution: watch the emotional levels. Aspergers kids often have great difficulty sorting out emotions. If you get angry, the kid could lose control because she is unable to deal with your anger and her own confusion at the same time. Reign in your temper when the kid is clumsy, stubborn, or frustrated. In situations where you feel you really need to be firm, keep your tone calm, your movements slow and even, and tell the kid what you’re going to do before you do it. Get advice from the parents how to deal with little meltdowns so that you are prepared in advance, but do your best to avoid triggering them.

Here are some simple DO’s and DON’T’s to remember when spending time with your grandkid:

• Do acknowledge the kid’s expressions of frustration.
• Do control your anger.
• Do get involved in the kid’s interests.
• Do learn what sorts of activities are recommended for the kid.
• Do praise the kid for his strengths.
• Do respect the kid’s fears, even if they seem senseless.
• Don’t compare him with his siblings.
• Don’t feel helpless - ask for help.
• Don’t joke, tease, shame, threaten, or demean the kid.
• Don’t talk to him as if he were stupid.
• Don’t tell the kid she will outgrow her difficulties.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

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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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content