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

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

Search MyAspergersChild.com

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 (AS) 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

I want to teach my child about appropriate sexual behavior – but how?

Question

I want to teach my child 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 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-youngster 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.
Thank you,
Tanja

Answer

Here are some important tips re: meltdowns:

• 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

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. 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 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 Syndrome Tantrums and Meltdowns: Prevention, Intervention, and 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

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 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. 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 15-year-old just had a melt down..."

Question

My 15-year-old just had a melt down because we couldnt afford to purchase his wrestling match but only realized it about an hour before and he had been obsessing about it all week. When in the throws of a meltdown where he keeps repeating himself and he is angry, kicking the wall and slamming doors and wont look at me or listen to me what can I do to help him?? Not yet diagnosed, going in Tuesday to begin process, 100 % sure he is AS High Functioning until high school.

Answer

You will want to consider downloading the eBook entitled My Aspergers Child, which goes into great detail re: how to prevent tantrums and meltdowns in Aspergers children and teens.

U.S. Schools for Aspergers Children

Question

My husband and I have just started looking into special schools for our 11 year old with Aspergers. He's very bright and does well in the public school academically, but suffers from the usual social problems of an Aspergers child. His psychiatrist also does not think his intellect is being sufficiently challenged or developed by the public school curriculum. Can anyone suggest some school that is not too far from the Essex County area?

Answer

I’m not sure where Essex County is located. Here are a few schools below. Consider contacting the school closest to you and ask a staff member if he/she knows of any schools near Essex County.

• Baltimore, Maryland-- The Millennium School Opening Fall of 2004: The Millennium Day School in Baltimore, Maryland will open its doors in the Fall of 2004. The school will have a fully integrated social skills curriculum and will serve the needs of children with Aspergers and related disorders in an inclusive environment. For further information, visit their web site at www.MillenniumSchool.com

• Belmont, Massachusetts-- Pathways Academy: This school is for AS children from ages 1st -12th Grade. McLean Hospital is a Teaching Facility of Harvard Medical School and an Affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital. McLean Hospital / 115 Mill Street / Belmont, Massachusetts 02178 / 617-855-2847 / For more information send an e-mail to Sarah Medeiros at medeirs@mcleanpo.Mclean.org / Visit their web site at www.mclean.harvard.edu/cns/pathways.htm

• Bethlehem, Connecticut-- Woodhall School: Boys residential school. For information contact: Woodhall School / PO Box 550, Harrison Lane / Bethlehem, CT 06751-0550 / Phone: 203-266-7788

• Boiceville, New York—ASPIE: The School for Autistic Strength, Purpose, and Independence in Education: This Day school is for teens with AS, HFA, PDD and cousin disabilities. Serves students within busing are of Boiceville, New York. For more information contact: Valerie Paradiz, Ph.D. / Program Director / ASPlE / The School for Autistic Strength, Purpose and Independence in Education / P.O. Box 489 / Boiceville, NY 12412 / (845) 657-7201 / email to: info@aspieschool.org / Visit their web site at: www.aspieschool.org

• Boston, Massachusetts-- McLean Hospital - Kennedy Hope Academy: The Kennedy Hope Academy is a 13-bed residential school providing intensive treatment for children with pervasive developmental disorders who have serious psychiatric illness or behavior problems. If you are interested in more information about this program, please contact David Rourke, MS / Program Manager / (617) 779-1670 or visit our website at www.mclean.harvard.edu/patient/child/kha.php

• Carbondale, Illinois-- Brehm Preparatory School: "Empowering Students with Complex Learning Disabilities to Optimize their full potential." For more information contact: Brehm Preparatory School / 1245 East Grand Avenue / Carbondale, IL 62901 / 618.457.0371 / fax 618.529.1248 / Email to: brehm1@brehm.org / Visit their web site at: www.brehm.org

• Cherry Hill, New Jersey and Medford Lakes, New Jersey-- Y.A.L.E. School: The Y.A.L.E. School offers specialized program options for children with Aspergers. Serves children ages 8-15. This program offers rich academic environment, speech and language services, social skill training and positive motivational systems. For additional program information or to schedule a program tour, contact Jim Conley at 856-795-3566 ext. 106 or Dr. Mieke Gooseens at 856-795.3566, ext. 309

• East Bay, California-- The Springstone School: The Springstone School, located in Concord, California, is an independent middle school that promotes and develops academic, social and prevocational skills for students with Aspergers and Nonverbal Learning Disabilities. The professional and experienced staff fosters values of independence, responsibility and community in preparation for high school, and beyond through intensive, individualized instruction in small structured classrooms. Contact Information: The Springstone School / 1035 Carol Lane / Lafayette, CA 94549 / (925)962-9660 / Fax: (925) 962-9558 / email: info@thespringstoneschool.org / website: www.thespringstoneschool.org

• East Haddam, Connecticut-- Franklin Academy: This is a boarding school program. For more information: Franklin Academy / 106 River Road / East Haddam, CT 06423 / Phone:860-873-2700 / Fax: 860-873-8861 admission@fa-ct.org or visit their web site at: www.fa-ct.org

• Houston, Texas-- The Monarch School: The Monarch School is a therapeutic day school located in Houston. Their prime mission is to help children develop executive functioning skills, relationship development and ownership of learning and to prepare all of the students for success. About 1/4 of the students are AS with the other's having ADHD, LD, Bi-polar disorder, Tourettes and other dx. The school is for children from 4-16 and they will be adding one additional HS year each year for the next two years. It is a non-profit, private school and the staff to student ratio is 20 staff to 60 students. For more information visit their website at www.monarchschool.org

• Huntington Station, Long Island, New York-- Gersh Academy: The I Am I Can Program was developed for high functioning students with Neurobiological Disorders (NBD), including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome, Aspergers, Childhood-Onset Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Depression. The program uses a cognitive behavioral approach, allowing students to better understand their neurobiological limitations and how to self-manage and regulate their symptoms. The Elementary Program (K-5) is a 6:1:1 ratio and the Middle School (6-8) and High School Programs have an 8:1:1 ratio. The Gersh Academy High School is located in Hauppauge. Gersh Academy follows the New York State curriculum and standards. For More Information Contact: West Hills Montessori School / 165 Pidgeon Hill Road / Huntington Station, NY 11746 / Phone: (631) 385-3342 / Web site: www.gershacademy.org

• Melbourne, Florida-- The College Internship Program: "The College Internship Program at the Brevard Center provides individualized, post-secondary academic, internship and independent living experiences for young adults with Aspergers and Nonverbal learning differences. With our support and direction, students learn to realize and develop their potential." For information about their program visit their web site at: www.brevardcenter.org

• New York, New York-- LearningSpring Academy: A Model School for High-Functioning Elementary School Children Grades K-5 with Aspergers and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. For more information visit their webpage at http://www.learningspring.org

• Newbury Park, California-- Passageway School: Day School for children with Aspergers. Our Philosophy is to work with children in small classroom settings (4 to 7 children per class). Tailor their education to their IEP's and to work individually on their behaviors thru positive reinforcement. Our class day tends to be very structured. We do allow and encourage the children to develop their individuality, while maintaining classroom discipline. Our discipline methods are developed according to the needs of the child. We prefer to use reward systems that daily and weekly inspire the child to change his or her behavior. Contact Shirley Juels at 805-375-4950 or e-mail to: PassagewaySchool@aol.com or, visit their web site at www.passagewayschool.com

• Rindge, New Hampshire-- Hampshire Country School: The best candidates for Hampshire Country School are those who will respond to the attention of its faculty, seek the help of its teachers, enjoy being part of a small school community, and enjoy its outdoor activities. Most students, however, have not had such success elsewhere, and many parents are quite discouraged by the time they first inquire about the school. Many students have had trouble fitting into the structure of larger schools and many have had difficulty adapting to the demands of peers. Many are more comfortable with adults than with age mates. Hampshire Country School can provide appropriate structure and support for certain students with nonverbal learning disabilities, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, Aspergers, and other disorders; but it is not a treatment program. It is designed instead to involve and educate the bright, active, and interested side of each child rather than to dwell on the student's limitations and difficulties. Students who experiment with alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs are not accepted; and the school is not set up for students who are primarily oppositional or confrontational. For more information, visit their web site at: www.hampshirecountryschool.org

• San Francisco Bay Area, California-- Orion Academy: Orion Academy is a nonprofit College Preparatory Day School located in San Francisco's East Bay area for High School Students with Neuro-cognitive Disabilities. Mission: To educate secondary students with NLD, Aspergers and Other neuro-cognitive disorders in a program that equally emphasizes academics, social competency and pragmatic language development. If you are interested in more information about this school, please contact Rosemary at 925-377-0789 or visit their web site at www.orionacademy.org

• Sherman Oaks and Culver City, California-- Village Glen School: Sponsored by the The Help Group, the Village Glen School is a therapeutic day school program for children with challenges in the areas of socialization, communication, language development, peer relations, learning disabilities, and academic performance without significant behavior problems. Many of the students served at Village Glen experience special needs related to Aspergers and high functioning autism. Visit their web site at: www.villageglen.org

• Sudbury, Massachusetts--Corwin Russell School: "The Corwin-Russell School at Broccoli Hall is an independent school for high-potential students 11-19 years old with varied learning styles, average to superior intelligence, exceptional creativity, attentional issues, untapped interests, talents, and strengths, and disparity between innate ability and past production." For more information: Phone: 978-369-1444 / E-mail: brochall@aol.com / Or visit their web site at: www.corwin-russell.org

• Toledo, Ohio-- LHS Maumee Youth Center for Asperger’s Disorder: A new residential center for children and youth ages six to eighteen-plus who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder is opening. The Center is situated on 13 acres near Neapolis, Ohio, south of Toledo, Ohio. LHS Family and Youth Services, Inc. is a social service agency with headquarters in Toledo, Ohio, serving children, youth and families through community-based residential treatment group homes and other services. The LHS Maumee Youth Center for Asperger’s Disorder serves up to twenty children and youth in its residential program. Most children and youth placed in the residential setting will tend to be aggressive and have multiple diagnosis/needs. All staff, in addition to their undergraduate and graduate work, are trained in the core competencies of residential child and youth care and will be trained by experts in the autistic spectrum disorder field. For additional information on the Center, or to make an inquiry regarding a potential referral to the Center, please contact Steve Plottner at splot@infinet.com or by phone at 419-798-9382.

• Washington, Connecticut-- Glenholme School: The Glenholme School is a boarding school for "special needs students situated on over 100 idyllic acres of Connecticut countryside. Children ages 8-16, at admission, who need a highly structured learning environment can prosper in this safe, nurturing school. It provides a value-based program to show students the way to academic success." Visit their web site at: http://www.theglenholmeschool.org/os

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns

Rituals and Obsessions

Question

I work with a young boy with Aspergers, and we (the parents and I) are looking for ways to help the child with repetitive (perseverative) thoughts, i.e., he wants to know what his snack is for school. He will ask his mom, his mom will tell him, then he will ask again while getting dressed, then ask again while getting on the bus, then he screams from the bus window, "what’s for snack today?", then the school nurse will call and say he needs to talk to Mom or Dad because he needs to ask again.

Answer

You’re referring to obsessive thoughts. Rituals and obsessions are one of the hallmarks of Aspergers. In order to cope with the anxieties and stresses about the chaotic world around them, kids often obsess and ritualize their behaviors to comfort themselves. While some kids may spend their time intensely studying one area, others may be compulsive about cleaning, lining up items, or even doing things which put them or others in danger.

How to deal with an Aspergers child's obsessions:

1. Be prepared for resistance by arming yourself with suggestions and alternatives to your youngster's behavior. A great way of doing this is by creating a "social story". Carol Gray's Social Stories site is a great resource for parents and educators alike to create books which will modify behavior in kids with autistic spectrum disorders.

2. Choose your battles wisely. Breaking an obsession or ritual is like running a war campaign. If not planned wisely or if you attempt to fight on many fronts, you're guaranteed to fail. Not only is it time consuming and tiring, it means you can't devote 100% to each particular area. So, if you have a youngster with a game obsession, a phobia of baths and bedtime troubles, choose only one to deal with. Personally, and I have had that choice, I dealt with the bedtime troubles. Using logic, a sleep deprived youngster certainly isn't going to deal with behavioral modification in other areas well. Plus, it was having an effect on his overall health. Deal with the worst first!

3. Communicate with your youngster to explain the effect that his or her ritual is having on your family as a whole. My son's 2am wakeup calls were affecting me mentally, emotionally and physically, and I told him so. I pulled some research off the internet about sleep needs and discussed this with him.

4. Speak to professionals for advice. Contact your pediatrician for recommendations for behavior therapists. Your local parent support groups and national associations, such as the National Autistic Society, will not only provide you support but the information you need to move forward with your youngster.

5. When breaking an obsession or ritual, examine the ways that you may have fed into this. With my son's bedtime activities, I found I was too tired to fight his waking up at 2am. While dealing with this ritual, I ensured I was in bed early myself so I had enough sleep in me to knock his night owl tendencies on the head.

6. When tackling any problem with any youngster, Aspergers or not, it's always best to remain calm at all times. Kids can feed off your anger, frustration and anxiety, so keeping a level head at all times is essential. If you feel a situation is escalating and elevating your blood pressure, take a step back and collect yourself.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

I'm looking for some ways to diffuse a meltdown...

Question

I'm looking for some ways to diffuse a meltdown, and what I should do after its over …my daughter screams, cries, swears at me …tells me she hates me and I’m the worst mum. I am getting better at not getting angry back, but it seems to enrage her more when I don't react... It leaves me mental drained... I feel the more this happens the more I don't feel the mother daughter connection (it sounds so awful). I love her, but I just want my little girl back.

Answer

The visible symptoms of meltdowns are as varied as the Aspergers kids themselves, but every parent is able to describe their youngster’s meltdowns behavior in intricate detail.

Meltdowns can be short lived, or last as long as two hours. They can be as infrequent as once a month (often coinciding with the lunar cycle/full moon) or occur as frequently as 4-6 times a day.

Whatever the frequency and duration, an Aspergers youngster having meltdowns is difficult for parents/care-givers/teachers to deal with.

Meltdowns in Aspergers kids are triggered by a response to their environment. These responses can be caused by avoidance desire, anxiety or sensory overload. Triggers need to be recognized and identified.

So how do we deal with meltdowns? What should you do when meltdowns occurs?

An adults’ (parents/care-givers/teachers) behavior can influence a meltdown’s duration, so always check your response first.

1. Calm down
2. Quiet down
3. Slow down
4. Prioritize safety
5. Re-establish self-control in the youngster, then deal with the issue

1. Take 3 slow, deep breaths, and rather than dreading the meltdowns that’s about to take place, assure yourself that you’ve survived meltdowns 1000 times before and will do so this time too.

2. Keep your speaking voice quiet and your tone neutrally pleasant. Don’t speak unnecessarily. Less is best. Don’t be “baited” into an argument. (Often Aspergers kids seem to “want” to fight. They know how to “push your buttons”, so don’t be side-tracked from the meltdowns issue).

3. Slow down. Meltdowns often occur at the most inconvenient time e.g. rushing out the door to school. The extra pressure the fear of being late creates, adds to the stress of the situation. (Aspergers kids respond to referred mood and will pick up on your stress. This stress is then added to their own.) So forget the clock and focus on the situation. Make sure the significant people in your life know your priorities here. Let your boss know that your Aspergers youngster has meltdowns that have the capacity to bring life to a standstill, and you may be late. Let your youngster’s teacher know that if your youngster is late due to meltdowns that it’s unavoidable, and your youngster shouldn’t be reprimanded for it.

4. Prioritize safety when your Aspergers youngster is having meltdowns. Understand that they can be extremely impulsive and irrational at this time. Don’t presume that the safety rules they know will be utilized while they’re melting down. Just because your Aspergers youngster knows not to go near the street when they are calm doesn’t mean they won’t run straight into 4 lanes of traffic when they are having a meltdowns. If your Aspergers youngster starts melting down when you’re driving in the car, pull over and stop. If your youngster tends to “flee” when melting down, don’t chase them. This just adds more danger to the situation. Tail them at a safe distance (maintain visual contact) if necessary.

5. When your Aspergers youngster is calm and has regained self-control, he will often be exhausted. Keep that in mind as you work through the meltdowns issue. Reinforce to your youngster the appropriate way to express their needs/requests.

Remember that all behavior is a form of communication, so try to work out the ‘message’ your Aspergers youngster is trying to convey with their meltdowns, rather than responding and reacting to the behavior displayed.

Ways to help your Aspergers youngster calm down:

1. Another effective mediation method is to have the youngster sit or lay down with eyes closed and visualize a scenario that the youngster chooses. It should be something that is comforting to the youngster such as a fun vacation or a day at the park. Talk the youngster through the meditation and tell the youngster to feel as if the scenario is actually happening. Have the youngster picture him or herself interacting with other kids in a positive manner. This will plant the idea into the subconscious and can help with the youngster's actual peer relationships.

2. Establish a certain time as quiet time. This can be after dinner a little before bed time. Kids with Aspergers like routines and this is a good way to help him or her to get used to settling down for the evening. The youngster can read or draw or write his or her thoughts during this time. Writing can be very effective in helping the youngster learn self expression.

3. Have the youngster listen to classical or soft music. Just having this type of music playing in the background at home can create a sense of calm.

4. Have the youngster meditate. There are two ways to do this. One way is to have the youngster sit or lie down with eyes closed and take long slow deep breaths in through the nose and hold his or her breath for four seconds and then slowly exhale through the mouth. You can guide your youngster through this by saying, "Take a long, slow deep breath in through your nose, hold, hold, hold, hold your breath. Now slowly breathe out through your mouth." Try this for ten minutes either right before bed time or first time in the morning.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Aspergers Children

How can I help my daughter with Aspergers to deal with bullying...?

Question

How can I help my daughter with Aspergers to deal with bullying and feeling like ‘she is an alien’ (her words)?

Answer

It is very common for children with Asperger’s Syndrome to feel different. These children are very intelligent and the fact that they have struggles in many different areas is very obvious to them. You frequently hear children and adults with Asperger’s refer to themselves as “from another world”. They spend much of their lives trying to fit into a world that doesn’t seem to accept them.

Here is a child who has trouble making and keeping friends, may appear clumsy and awkward, is sensitive to sound or light, has strange obsessions she talks about all the time, and has difficulty with changes in routines or schedules. All of these things are bombarding your daughter’s mind when everyone around her is going through the day happily in a group, while she watches from afar. It’s not surprising she is feeling like an alien.

Because of the differences that make children with Asperger’s stand out from the crowd, they also frequently have to deal with bullying. They are smart, capable of handling their school work for the most part, but keen on following the rules and doing what is right. You will read about Asperger’s kids being labeled as geeky or nerdy.

A child who is being bullied may not realize that she is supposed to tell someone that it is happening. When you struggle with communication, it is difficult to know when or even how to speak up. She may be realizing for the first time that she has been a target all along.

Assure your daughter that you understand her statement regarding feeling out of place. Tell her that there are ways to control bullying and come up with a written plan of action. Talk to her about the specifics and help her see that she can find her way around these trying situations.

Involve your daughter’s school personnel. They may be able to offer suggestions that can be added to her educational plan to make things easier for her, such as additional individual therapy or social skills classes.

With help, your daughter can get past her feelings of alienation and helplessness. Having the support of her parents and professionals will prove invaluable and in time, she’ll be feeling less like a target and more like the capable human being she is.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

How to Motivate Aspergers Children

Question

I am looking for more tips on how to get a 9-year-old with Aspergers to enjoy writing more.

Answer

Aspergers kids respond best when their motivation level is high; when the answer to the question "What's in it for me?" is something an Aspergers youngster most wants or desires. Kids with Aspergers never really make the leap from instant gratification to internal motivation or drive, such as self-satisfaction in a job well done, or pride in their ability to face a challenging situation. Aspergers kids are simply wired differently emotionally, and parents and educators soon come to realize that motivation to attempt or complete tasks is closely linked to perceived personal gain or reward for the youngster.

For Aspergers kids to achieve and keep on achieving, the possibility of personal reward must be present as a motivator. Often this reward revolves around the special interest of the Aspergers youngster.

So how do we achieve a state of constant motivation and satisfy the need for almost instant gratification without bankrupting our finances?

I believe Token Economy best suits the needs of kids with Aspergers. A Token Economy is a system where the Aspergers youngster earns tokens as a reward for desired behaviors or actions. A predetermined number of tokens are then exchanged or “cashed in” for an item or activity the Aspergers youngster desires.

Token Economies that use money tokens seem to be the most successful with Aspergers kids in increasing their ability to delay gratification, and lessening the risk of satiation (overuse of a reward can result in the youngster no longer viewing it as a reward). Using money in a Token Economy negates the need for the Aspergers youngster to decode an abstract concept, as in the ‘real’ world people are paid money for completing tasks by way of employment.

A token economy works well with Aspergers kids at school and at home right through Elementary School, and can continue to be used successfully at home throughout High School.

Aspergers kids take a long time establish trust, and for this reason a token economy should focus on rewarding desired behaviors and actions. Once the program has been established for a number of years, you may then be able to introduce “fines” or response costs, where the Aspergers youngster is fined for inappropriate behavior. This correlates the Token Economy program with real-world experiences for Aspergers kids. However, the focus of the program must be on the positives, because kids with Aspergers are prone to quickly losing their motivation and trust.

Be creative with the reinforcers offered as motivation for Aspergers kids. Offering a ‘menu’ of rewards to choose from seems most successful. Initially for kids with Aspergers “cashed in” rewards need to be fairly instant i.e. at the end of each day. Over time this can be stretched to the end of each week. As the Aspergers youngster matures this delayed gratification may be able to be stretched to a month or term, however small rewards and motivators should be offered consistently along the way.

My Aspergers Child: How to Prevent Tantrums

Aspergers and Picky Eating

Question

My nephew (10 yrs ) has aspergers and eats very little variety of food. How can his parents change this? He is quite thin and not healthy. He is low to moderate on the spectrum.

Answer

Because of their sensitivity to smell, temperature, taste and texture, kids with Aspergers are often "picky" eaters. Some develop fetishes such as only eating beige-colored foods or foods with creamy textures. They often like very sour or very spicy tastes. Some develop chewing fetishes and as a result, they constantly suck on pens, pencils or times of clothing.

These kids also sometimes have issues with developing gastric problems such as acid reflux, hiccups, diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation. They are susceptible to celiac disease, which is caused by poor absorption of certain nutrients. The danger is that celiac disease damages the digestive system. Aspergers children frequently suffer from Dermatitis herpetiformis, which causes skin rashes and tissue damage in the intestine. It has also been shown that gluten can aggravate behavioral symptoms in those with Aspergers that are sensitive to these foods.

It becomes a challenge for moms and dads to make sure their Aspergers child gets proper nutrition. One trick that works for many moms and dads is to change the texture of a despised food. If your youngster will not eat peas, try serving pea soup. If she refuses orange juice, try orange slices. Most clinicians believe that the less you indulge food fetishes, the less entrenched they become. If an Aspergers child creates a rule that "no foods can touch on my plate," it can easily become a lifelong rule if moms and dads do not intervene.

One promising food therapy is the "Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet" or GFCF diet. The theory behind it is that a youngster with Aspergers cannot digest casein (found in dairy) or gluten (found in grains). It is true that undigested molecules of these substances frequently show up in their urine samples. These amino acid chains (called peptides) affect neurological function and can worsen a youngster's symptoms. Peptides may have an opiate effect on some kids.

Moms and dads begin the diet by first eliminating either the casein or the gluten food group. No gluten means no bread, barley, rye, oats, pasta, all kinds of flour, food starch, biscuits, cereals, cakes, donuts, pie, pretzels, pizza, croutons, and even crumbs stuck in the toaster. You can substitute gluten-free products. Next, you eliminate all dairy products including milk, cheese, goat's milk and cheese, ice cream, yogurt, most margarines, puddings, and so forth. If you eliminate the dairy group, you may have to give your youngster calcium supplements. You also need to cut out "trigger foods" including chocolate, food colorings, caffeine, and peanut butter. The GFCF Diet website offers all kinds of resources for moms and dads such as cookbooks, food products, and DVDs.

Many moms and dads believe that the GFCF diet really helps their kids. In an unscientific survey of over 2000 moms and dads who tried it, most saw significant improvement and five reported "miracles."

Research into diet and vitamin therapy for kids with Aspergers is very sketchy at this point. Nevertheless, many moms and dads try them. One scientific study of alternative therapies found that over half of all moms and dads of kids with autism spectrum disorders have tried diets, herbs or vitamin therapy and 72% felt they were worthwhile. Many moms and dads swear by the GFCF diet, others prefer the Feingold diet or megavitamin therapy. You can buy supplements of herbs and vitamins specifically made for kids with Aspergers. Such supplements often include calcium, fish oil, omega -3 -6 or -9, vitamin B-6, HNI enzymes and DMG or dimethylglycine. If you use these diets and therapies, the best thing to do is to keep written records of how often your youngster tantrums or exhibits other behaviors. This way you can tell if the therapy is working.

There have been a few scientific studies of the GFCF diet. In one three-month study of fifteen kids ages two to 15 years old, there was no difference between the kids who followed the diet and those who did not. However, researchers at the Loma Linda Medical Institute in California concluded that the diet was mostly helpful and improved nonverbal cognition, but that more double blind studies are needed.

Many moms and dads have tried the GFCF or Feingold diets and found that they were not worth the effort. These diets make it extremely hard to buy regular grocery foods or to eat in restaurants. If there are other kids, you end up cooking different meals for them. Trying to keep to the diets causes parental burnout and that may not be worth their benefits.

My Aspergers Child: How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums

How can I cope with my son with Aspergers’ sensory problems?

Question

How can I cope with my son with Aspergers’ sensory problems?

Answer

Having a child with sensory integration issues can be a challenge for a parent. Sensory integration dysfunction is a neurological disorder where a person has difficulty processing sensory information. This difficulty can be on one of the five senses – hearing, sight, smell, touch, or taste – or in a combination of senses. Sensory integration dysfunction (SID) can include hypersensitivity as well as a hyposensitivity.

Kids with SID have a difficult time navigating the world. Many kids have a hypersensitivity to sounds. The vacuum cleaner will be too loud, or the hair dryer. Socks won’t feel right or they won’t wear shirts unless you cut the tags out. Many kids with SID will only eat certain foods.

If you have a child who you feel has SID issues, the first step in coping with them is to get a proper diagnosis. The diagnosis can help you understand the depth and breadth of the issues. Consult your physician about treatment for the issues.

When you are coping with sensory issues at home, you’ll need to be patient and understanding of your child’s needs. It’s important to remember that your child is truly affected by sounds and smells and tastes that may seem perfectly normal to you. Learn to understand what situations cause a problem for your child. It is advisable to try to avoid those situations with your child, and if you do have to encounter them, work with your therapist to teach your child how to better cope with the situation.

Often, a child with SID, especially when he is very young, will react badly in a situation by doing something such as throwing a tantrum. When this happens, you’ll need to try to figure out what triggered the reaction. You’ll need to trace back the steps and try to discover the sound or the smell or the taste that set your child off.

Often, kids with sensory issues have trouble adapting to school. The classrooms can be too loud or the cafeteria smells can be overpowering. Sometimes it can be the proximity of the other kids that will upset a SID child. Work with your occupational therapist to come up with behavioral techniques to help teach your child how to better deal with these situations. Your occupational therapist will likely put your child on a sensory diet that will incorporate movement, sound and smells. In a safe environment, your child will be exposed to different sensory experiences.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns

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.

Click here for the full article...

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.

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here to read the full article…

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."

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here to read the full article…

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content