Aspergers (high functioning autistic) kids and teens tend to experience more anxiety and stress relative to neurotypical children. Issues like school and social life can sometimes create pressures that can feel overwhelming for these children. As a mother or father, you can't protect your Aspergers child from stress — but you can help him develop healthy ways to cope with stress and solve everyday problems.
Here are some important parenting techniques to help your "Aspie" deal with stress:
1. Be patient. As a mother or father, it hurts to see your Aspie unhappy or stressed. But try to resist the urge to fix every problem. Instead, focus on helping him grow into a good problem-solver. A kid who knows how to roll with life's ups and downs, put feelings into words, calm down when needed, and bounce back to try again, is a child who will be happy and healthy through the adolescent years and on into adulthood.
2. Comment briefly on the feelings you think your Aspie was experiencing. For example, you might say "That must have been upsetting," "No wonder you felt mad when they wouldn't let you in the game," or "That must have seemed unfair to you." Doing this shows that you understand what he felt, why, and that you care. Feeling understood and listened to will help your son or daughter feel supported by you, and that is especially important in times of stress.
3. Having “pizza night” (or your child’s favorite food) to discuss the week’s trials and tribulations can be therapeutic for some stressed-out kids.
4. Help your Aspie think of things to do. If there's a specific problem that's causing stress, talk together about what to do. Encourage your youngster to think of a couple of ideas. You can get the brainstorm started if necessary, but don't do all the work. Your youngster's active participation will build confidence. Support the good ideas and add to them as needed. Ask, "How do you think this will work?"
5. Just be there. Aspergers children don't always feel like talking about what's bothering them. Sometimes that's OK. Let your child know you'll be there when he does feel like talking. Even when children don't want to talk, they usually don't want moms and dads to leave them alone. You can help your youngster feel better just by being there — keeping him company, spending time together. So if you notice that your youngster seems to be down in the dumps, stressed, or having a bad day — but doesn't feel like talking — initiate something you can do together (e.g., take a walk, watch a movie, shoot some hoops, bake some cookies, etc.). Your presence really counts!
6. Limit stress where possible. If certain situations are causing stress, see if there are ways to change things. For instance, if too many after-school activities consistently cause homework stress, it might be necessary to limit activities to leave time and energy for homework.
7. Listen and move on. Sometimes talking and listening and feeling understood is all that's needed to help an Aspergers youngster's frustrations begin to melt away. Afterwards, try changing the subject and moving on to something more positive and relaxing. Help your youngster think of something to do to feel better. Don't give the problem more attention than it deserves.
8. Listen to your youngster. Ask him to tell you what's wrong. Listen attentively and calmly — with interest, patience, openness, and caring. Avoid any urge to judge, blame, lecture, or say what you think he should have done instead. The idea is to let your youngster's concerns (and feelings) be heard. Try to get the whole story by asking questions like "And then what happened?" Take your time. And let your son or daughter take his or her time, too.
9. Notice out loud. Tell your Aspie when you notice that something's bothering her. If you can, name the feeling you think she is experiencing (e.g., "It seems like you're still mad about what happened at the playground."). This shouldn't sound like an accusation (e.g., "OK, what happened now? Are you still mad about that?"), or put the youngster on the spot. It's just a casual observation that you're interested in hearing more about her concern. Be sympathetic and show you care and want to understand.
10. Put a label on it. Most Aspergers children do not have words for their feelings. If your youngster seems angry or frustrated, use those words to help him learn to identify the emotions by name. Putting feelings into words helps these children communicate and develop emotional awareness — the ability to recognize their own emotional states. Aspies who can do so are less likely to reach the behavioral boiling point where strong emotions get demonstrated through behaviors rather than communicated with words.
Moms and dads can't solve every problem as their child goes through life. But by teaching healthy coping strategies, you'll prepare him or her to manage the stresses that come in the future.
More resources for parents of children and teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:
==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's Children
==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's Teens
==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management
==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's: How to Promote Self-Reliance
==> Everything You'll Ever Need to Know About Parenting Asperger's Children
==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism
==> AudioBook: Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism
==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism
• Anonymous said... I don't know if this helps but I am looking into yoga, mindfullnees to help me and my toddler and a professional just mentioned fun village which is activities designed to help children I am hoping use it to destress us both as his stress and aggressive behaviours stress me and then it just escalates, I know it may be different situation but heard yoga really helpful
• Anonymous said... my son's teacher definitely could benefit from reading this.
• Anonymous said... Reading this has opened my eyes a little,.. maybe the teacher needs to read this??
• Anonymous said... This has been a big issue with my daughter lately. Usually about once a month she will have a meltdown and refuse to go to school. Because of the excessive number of snow days in our area and a change in my husband's work schedule, there have been a huge number of these meltdowns in the last couple of months.
• Anonymous said... Working on sensory strategies for heightened sound/ sensory defensiveness with an OT. This should help.
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