What works for your Aspergers (high functioning autistic) child at the age of 3 may not work for him/her at the age of 13. Here are some important tips for parenting children on the spectrum across the lifespan:
After your youngster is diagnosed with Aspergers, you may feel unprepared or unable to provide him/her with the necessary care and education. Know that there are many treatment options, social services and programs, and other resources that can help.
Some tips that can help you and your Aspergers youngster are:
• Contact your local health department or autism advocacy groups to learn about the special programs available in your state and local community.
• Keep a record of conversations, meetings with health care providers and educators, and other sources of information. This will help you remember the different treatment options and decide which would help your youngster most.
• Keep a record of the doctors' reports and your youngster's evaluation. This information may help your youngster qualify for special programs.
• Talk with your youngster's doctor, school system, or autism support groups to find an autism expert in your area who can help you develop an intervention plan and find other local resources.
The adolescent years can be a time of stress and confusion for any growing youngster, including adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder. During adolescence, teens become more aware of other people and their relationships with them. While most adolescents are concerned with acne, popularity, grades, and dates, adolescents with Aspergers may become painfully aware that they are different from their peers. For some, this awareness may encourage them to learn new behaviors and try to improve their social skills. For others, hurt feelings and problems connecting with others may lead to depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders.
One way that some Aspergers adolescents express the tension and confusion that can occur during adolescence is through increased aggressive behavior. Teens with Aspergers will also need support to help them understand the physical changes and sexual maturation they experience during adolescence.
If your adolescent seems to have trouble coping, talk with his or her doctor about possible co-occurring mental disorders and what you can do. Behavioral therapies and medications often help.
Transition to Adulthood—
The public schools' responsibility for providing services ends when a youngster with Aspergers reaches the age of 22. At that time, some families may struggle to find jobs to match their adult child’s needs. If your family cannot continue caring for an adult child at home, you may need to look for other living arrangements.
Long before your youngster finishes school, you should search for the best programs and facilities for young adults with Aspergers. If you know other moms and dads of Aspergers adults, ask them about the services available in your community. Local support and advocacy groups may be able to help you find programs and services that your youngster is eligible to receive as a grown-up.
Another important part of this transition is teaching young people with Aspergers to self-advocate (i.e., take on more responsibility for their education, employment, health care, living arrangements, etc.). Grown-ups with Aspergers must self-advocate for their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act at work, in higher education, in the community, and elsewhere.
There are many options for grown-ups living with Aspergers. Helping your adult child choose the right one will largely depend on what is available in your state and local community, as well as your youngster's skills and symptoms.
Below are some examples of living arrangements you may want to consider:
• Independent living. Most grown-ups with Aspergers are able to live on their own. Others can live in their own home or apartment if they get help dealing with major issues (e.g., managing personal finances, obtaining necessary health care, interacting with government or social service agencies, etc.). Family members, professional agencies, or other types of providers can offer this assistance.
• Living at home. Government funds are available for families who choose to have their adult child with Aspergers live at home. These programs include Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Medicaid waivers. Information about these programs and others is available from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Make an appointment with your local SSA office to find out which programs would be right for your adult youngster.
• Long-term care facilities. This alternative is available for those with Aspergers who need intensive, constant supervision.
• Other home alternatives. Some families open their homes to provide long-term care to grown-ups with disabilities who are not related to them. If the home teaches self-care and housekeeping skills and arranges leisure activities, it is called a "skill-development" home.
• Supervised group living. People with disabilities often live in group homes or apartments staffed by professionals who help with basic needs. These needs often include meal preparation, housekeeping, and personal care. People who are more independent may be able to live in a home or apartment where staff only visits a few times a week. Such residents generally prepare their own meals, go to work, and conduct other daily activities on their own.