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

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Is Aspergers really a "disorder" -- or just a different cognitive style?

Some researchers have argued that Aspergers can be viewed as a different cognitive style, not a disorder or a disability, and that it should be removed from the standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (much as homosexuality was removed).

Why? The debate seems to revolve around the concept of "central coherence."

“Central coherence” (CC) is receiving increased attention across a variety of clinical neuroscience disorders. Essentially, CC describes a style of thinking on a continuum. On one end of the continuum, you have people who tend to think globally or use a gestalt perspective (i.e., the big picture is seen rather than paying attention to details). The other end of continuum includes people who are detail-oriented (i.e., they focus on details). Being on either extreme of the continuum can produce problems. Very high CC can lead to problems with missing important details that need attention or action. Those with very low or weak CC can be detail-bound, losing sight of important global interpretations of the situation or environment.

Aspies appear to have low CC and are overly-focused on details to the expense of a global perspective. This could explain typical Aspergers behaviors (e.g., valuing sameness, attending to parts of objects, persistence in behaviors related to details, etc.). With the concept of central coherence in mind, having a propensity for details suggests a “cognitive style” located on – or near – one end of a continuum, not a “disorder” per say.

Aspies have advocated a shift in perception of Aspergers as a complex syndrome  (i.e., a characteristic combination of opinions, emotions, or behavior) rather than a disease that must be cured. Proponents of this view (a) reject the notion that there is an "ideal" brain configuration and that any deviation from the norm is pathological, and (b) promote tolerance for what they call neuro-diversity. These views are the basis for the autistic rights and autistic pride movements.

The Internet has allowed Aspies to communicate and celebrate diversity with each other in a way that was not previously possible (due to their rarity and geographic dispersal). A subculture of people with Aspergers has indeed formed. For example, Internet sites like www.AspergersTeenChat.com have made it easier for Aspie teens to connect.

There is a contrast between the attitudes of grown-ups with self-identified Aspergers (who typically do not want to be "fixed" and are proud of their identity) and mothers/fathers of Aspergers kids, who typically seek assistance and a "cure" for their youngster.

Baron-Cohen wrote of those with Aspergers, "In the social world there is no great benefit to a precise eye for detail, but in the worlds of math, computing, cataloguing, music, linguistics, engineering, and science, such an eye for detail can lead to success rather than failure." Also, Baron-Cohen cited two reasons why it might still be useful to consider Aspergers a disability: (1) to ensure provision for legally required special support, and (2) to recognize emotional difficulties from reduced empathy.

It has been argued that the genes for Aspergers combination of abilities have operated throughout recent human evolution and have made remarkable contributions to human history. Here are just a few of the “abilities” associated with the Aspergers condition (i.e., a low central coherence cognitive style):
  1. Attention to detail – sometimes with painstaking perfection
  2. Higher IQ – some experts say that those with Aspergers often have a higher than average general IQ
  3. Focus and diligence – the Aspie’s ability to focus on tasks for a long period of time without needing supervision or incentive
  4. Higher fluid intelligence – scientists in Japan discovered that Aspergers kids have a higher “fluid intelligence” (i.e., the ability to (a) find meaning in confusion and solve new problems, and (b) draw inferences and understand the relationships of various concepts, independent of acquired knowledge) than non-autistic kids
  5. Honesty – the value of being able to say “the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes”
  6. Independent, unique thinking – people with Aspergers tend to spend a lot of time alone and will likely have developed their own unique thoughts as opposed to a ‘herd’ mentality
  7. Internal motivation – as opposed to being motivated by praise, money, bills or acceptance – which ensures a job done with conscience, with personal pride
  8. Logic over emotion – although people with Aspergers are very emotional at times, they spend so much time ‘computing’ in our minds that they get quite good at it –and they can be very logical in their approach to problem-solving
  9. Visual, three-dimensional thinking – some with Aspergers are very visual in their thought processes, which lends itself to countless useful and creative applications



COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... I am reading Tony Attwoods book and am waiting for the rest. It is very upsetting thinking about all the time I have lost and realising I must have this problem and no on noticed or did anything. I had the wrong type of counselling from someone who didn't know about AS. Isn't that really damaging ? SHe didn't get me at all. I felt I couldn't say what I wanted to. I felt inhibited and silly. I was worried about the reaction I would get. This is no good if you are having counselling. I read his book and see loads of parallels in my own past. The past which have tried to forget because it is painful and full of conflict. What I need is to compare real life scenarios with other people's experiences. That would really help. It would repair the past and improve my self-esteem. I would see myself in a new light. That's why I am hoping I can put stuff on here and you lot will say yes I did that I know what you mean, ~I am the same.
•    Anonymous said... We always explain it as my husband's brain is wired differently, or he runs a different Operating System - he's running on Linux while us neuro-typicals are running on Windows. It's not just thinking differently; there's more to it than that. But it does have to do with the brain.
•    Anonymous said... I suspect that there is more to all of the Asperger's/Autism/HFA connections than have currently been discovered by science. Generally speaking, I think Asperger's is being more frequently diagnosed because it is no longer culturally acceptable to be emotionally detached. When I read the descriptions of Asperger's symtoms, primarily the stoic expressions, lack of empathy, and perfectionism, I can list off about 50 people of older generations that I've known that would meet those requirements for diagnosis, but would have been considered completely normal until about 30 years ago. In addition, there is still a cultural stigma against any form of mental disability, a stigma that was worse in the past. I think it is entirely possible that we are seeing an increase in diagnosis because more people are seeking diagnosis, not necessarily because there is an increase in the condtion. As far as if HFA and Asperger's is a disbabilty or differenct cognitive style, I tend to think that in some ways it doesn't make a difference. Generally speaking, our society is based around certain rules of conduct and behavior, that have been established by the majority. It isn't good or bad, it just is. That doesn't mean that aspies can't participate, but we do have to understand that we are on the outside adapting to another culture. I tend to think of it as if I moved to a foreign country. I can't expect everyone to change their language and culture to match mine, I have to learn to mesh with theirs. I think it is important to accept both sides, that it is a different way of thinking, but it is also a SOCIAL diability that affects communication, and its the communication side of things that has to be worked on in order to mesh with society.
•    Anonymous said... From my experience (and just my opinion), it is a different cognitive style!

Please post your comment below…

Your Aspergers Child: What The Future Holds

Prognosis

There is some evidence that kids with Aspergers (high functioning autism) may see a lessening of symptoms as they mature. Up to 20% of kids may no longer meet the diagnostic criteria as grown-ups, although social and communication difficulties may persist.

People with Aspergers appear to have normal life expectancy, but have an increased prevalence of comorbid psychiatric conditions (e.g., major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder) that may significantly affect prognosis.

Although social impairment is life-long, the outcome is generally more positive than for people with lower functioning autism spectrum disorders. For example, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) symptoms are more likely to diminish with time in kids with Aspergers or high functioning autism. Although most students with Aspergers have average mathematical ability and test slightly worse in mathematics than in general intelligence, some are gifted in mathematics. Aspergers has not prevented some grown-ups from major accomplishments such as winning the Nobel Prize.

Kids with Aspergers may require special education services because of their social and behavioral difficulties, although many attend regular education classes. Teens with Aspergers may exhibit ongoing difficulty with self care, organization and disturbances in social and romantic relationships. Despite high cognitive potential, most young adults with Aspergers remain at home, although some do marry and work independently.

Anxiety may stem from (a) preoccupation over possible violations of routines and rituals, (b) being placed in a situation without a clear schedule or expectations, or (c) concern with failing in social encounters. The resulting stress may manifest as inattention, withdrawal, reliance on obsessions, hyperactivity, or aggressive or oppositional behavior.

Depression is often the result of (a) chronic frustration from repeated failure to engage others socially, and (b) mood disorders requiring treatment may develop. Clinical experience suggests the rate of suicide may be higher among teens with Aspergers, but this has not been confirmed by systematic empirical studies.

Education of families is critical in developing strategies for understanding strengths and weaknesses. Helping the family to cope improves outcomes in Aspergers kids. Prognosis may be improved by diagnosis at a younger age that allows for early interventions, while interventions in adulthood are valuable, but less beneficial.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Air Travel with Aspergers Children: 25 Tips for Parents

Flying may be the fastest way to reach your destination, but it isn’t always the least stressful if you have an Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) youngster.

Though flying with kids on the spectrum adds a layer of complexity to your trip, you can avoid potential problems by thoroughly planning and preparing for the trip before you arrive at the airport.

Air Travel with Aspergers Children: 25 Tips for Parents—

1. All major airlines offer complimentary in-flight magazines providing detailed layouts that map the air terminals of major travel hubs. During the flight, “assign” your youngster to look up this information and share it with you.

2. Arrive at the airport early. Sprints down an endless terminal are difficult enough, but they are nearly impossible when holding an Aspergers child’s hand.

3. As a diversion, your youngster may feel tempted to press the flight attendant call button more often than what is considered appropriate. Even though he may believe he has legitimate needs (or is perhaps just being a typical rascally kid), discuss this nuance of air travel with your youngster in advance of your travel arrangements, and set reasonable limits as you would for any youngster.

4. As with the any initial steps in vacation planning, your Aspergers youngster can be helpful in locating and pricing air travel to and from your destination, including connecting flights and layovers.

5. Ask your youngster to develop a list of questions about flying for you to answer. If you are unable to respond to all the questions, find out who can (even if it must wait until you arrive at the airport). Your youngster may be able to address his questions by directing them to a ticket agent, security personnel, or flight-crew member.

6. Aspergers kids young enough to require car seats may be more comfortable using these seats while on the plane. A car seat or harness restraint is the safest place for kids during an emergency or turbulence. Parents using a car seat or harness must book a seat for the youngster. The number of car seats that can be used per row may be limited, depending on the type of the aircraft.

7. Consider making shorter trips (e.g., instead of flying to the Cancun, maybe a trip to Florida would provide as much “beach-fun” without all the extra travel time and customs issues).

8. Don't forget that being up so high in the air may be a very novel experience for your youngster. Make use of this unusual perspective to talk about what you both see when looking out the windows (e.g., cloud formations, the tiny appearance of cars and people on the ground, the winding course of rivers and streams, the checkered patterns of farmers' fields, etc.).

9. Don't forget to talk with your Aspergers youngster about the trip, explaining each stage of the boarding process and the flight. Make sure he realizes that the bumpiness and engine noises are normal and not a signal of an impending crash. You may even want to visit the airport ahead of time.

10. Dress for comfort. Put the good-for-grandma clothes in a carry-on and let your child change into these after your arrival. On board, let your child wear comfortable play clothes, and don't forget to pack an extra set of clothes in your carry-on, especially when traveling with little ones. Since airplanes tend to be cold, make sure your child has an extra sweater or jacket at his seat. Don't forget to grab blankets and pillows as you board; there won't be any left later on when your child wants them.

11. During the flight, your youngster may become bored, impatient, or stressed. Ensure that he has plenty to keep him occupied (e.g., favorite books, drawing paper, interactive games, conversations that you've reserved for the trip, etc.).

12. Having headphones or ear-buds along to listen to pleasing music will greatly help to block out external noise that can consume your youngster and heighten his nervousness.

13. If traveling abroad, you can use flight-time to discuss and review the language and culture differences of the area to be visited.

14. If your Aspergers youngster has never flown before, he will take his cues from you. If you make it sound exciting, adventurous, and interesting, your youngster will likely reflect your attitude. If you have a fear of flying but acquiesce out of cost efficiency or convenience, your youngster will quickly tap into your anxieties and internalize them as his own.

15. Know that the air pressure changes during takeoff and landing can cause ear pain in Aspergers children who are sensitive to sound. Swallowing will help ears adjust to air pressure changes. Sucking on lollipops, chewing gum, or eating crackers can encourage your child to swallow.

16. Large airports can be overwhelming with their bombardment of sensory stimuli. Your youngster may enjoy taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells, or he may be unable to tolerate the combined convergence of the environment with its crowds of rushing people, perpetual PA system announcements, and other disorienting noises and visuals. Wearing an iPod or MP3 player may be necessary during this time, or asking your youngster to check the monitors to confirm arrival or departure information could prove helpful for him.

17. Prepare your Aspergers child for security protocol. All children must undergo security screening. Younger kids must be removed from strollers or infant carriers before passing through the walk-through metal detector at the security checkpoint. Folded strollers and other equipment small enough to pass through the X-ray machine must be placed on the belt. Kids who are old enough to walk should walk through the metal detector, rather than be carried.

18. Some airlines offer passengers the option of either paying a fee to book a seat at the time the flight is booked or waiting until check-in to select seats. Consider reserving seats in advance to ensure that the entire family can sit together. Though waiting to select seats at check-in might be a good cost-cutting idea for grown-ups traveling alone, it can be a risky strategy for parents traveling with Aspergers kids.

19. Take advantage of shortcuts to waiting in line at ticket counters, including curbside checking of luggage and free-standing e-ticket kiosks that automatically issue boarding passes with proper photo ID.

20. To build on the excitement of the journey, create a countdown calendar and put it on the refrigerator.

21. Waiting in line is an exercise in patience for most individuals, including kids with Aspergers. Recent trends in heightened airport security have made such lengthy delays standard. Request that your youngster learn about airport safety procedures in order to feel prepared in advance of flying.

22. When the call for boarding is made, it may be a good idea to take advantage of pre-boarding opportunities that usually include moms and dads traveling with kids or those needing extra time or assistance. This will give your youngster the chance to take a few minutes to acclimate to the look, feel, and sound of the aircraft before it fills with people.

23. When traveling to another country, are there guessing games to be played in which you and your youngster quiz one another about customs, geography, foods, or words indigenous to the country to which you are traveling?

24. Whenever possible, book a nonstop flight. This streamlines your trip and prevents change-of-flight problems. Traveling at nonpeak times (e.g., late at night, midday and Mondays to Wednesdays) gives you a good chance of getting on less-crowded flights. On these take-offs you're more likely to find room for your child to stretch out and sleep.

25. While waiting to depart at your gate, suggest that your youngster engage in a favored activity, or you can play a word or memory game based upon the surroundings. As with all children, this may also be a good time to get a snack.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

Aspergers Children and Amusement Parks: Avoiding Over-Stimulation

Amusement parks and recreational theme parks can quickly propel the Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) youngster into total overload if you, the parent, are not careful.

Your youngster may have enthusiastically anticipated the trip, but no youngster deliberately seeks the public embarrassment and humiliation of a meltdown near the exit to the roller-coaster ride because of improper planning or pacing. This “behavioral” communication (i.e., meltdown) is a last resort when all else has failed.

Going to the Amusement Park: 25 Tips for Parents—

1. At first, start slow with gentle rides, paying careful attention for signs of over-stimulation.

2. After each ride, process the experience with your youngster to gather his impressions and tolerance level. Some children absolutely relish the sensory feedback they derive from seemingly violent, whirling, spinning, upside-down-turning rides – but some don’t, and after the ride is over, they may flip into a full-blown meltdown.

3. Allow your youngster to record the highlights of your activities with a camcorder, with your youngster directing the “movie” and providing the narration, of course.

4. Appoint your youngster the responsibility of taking photographs to share with family and friends. Disposable cameras make this easy and inexpensive, even if you are also using a camera of your own.

5. At some point during the day, know that your "Aspie" may need the total solitude offered by a nap or reading time in the hotel room.

6. Be aware that many amusement rides feature flashing and spinning lights that may vary in intensity or kick up in intensity once the ride starts. The concern here is that this constant “strobe light” flickering may induce a meltdown in those Aspies who are overly-sensitive to visual stimuli.

7. Before arriving at the park, play visual memory games about the surroundings, review the day's written agenda, and discuss what you anticipate may be experienced on the rides.

8. Consider museums. Museum may provide a calmer, slower-paced atmosphere that your youngster may find conducive to becoming absorbed in the subject matter.

9. Consider purchasing an “easy pass” or “fast pass” offered for some attractions. Learn about the rules and premium costs involved to access such a system. The passes may be available only at certain times for certain rides, which may cause you and your youngster to rearrange your schedule.

10. Create a “schedule-of-events” with your youngster before arriving at the park.

11. Engage your youngster in assisting you to prepare for attending a theme park by researching all the details (e.g., how far, mode of travel, where to stay, how much, etc.).

12. Ensure that your Aspergers youngster is clear in understanding the written rules about the ride (e.g., keeping arms and hands inside, staying seated, etc.).

13. Have a quiet lunch somewhere in order to give your child a break from the environmental stimuli (e.g., noise, congestion, etc.).

14. If the theme park is located in an area with other “spin-off” type activities and amusements on a smaller scale, consider attending one of those instead of the park.

15. If there is a way to link any of the theme park activities to one of your youngster's passions, do it! For example, if your youngster is interested in monkeys, then the nearest zoo might be a better option over some other attraction.

16. If you feel anxious about how you would feel riding a certain ride, it's probably a good measuring tool to deny your youngster admittance. As a guide, many amusement parks offer brochures that are coded to indicate appropriate age levels.

17. If your youngster becomes easily distracted by noise — especially unpredictable noises like train whistles, buzzers and bells, or other loud sounds emanating from rides — wearing an iPod and listening to favorite music will be a good survival tool.

18. In addition to scheduling downtime, it may be best to pace the sequence of activities (e.g., riding a roller coaster followed by attending the dolphin show, then on to an exhibit display before tackling another fast-paced ride).

19. Know that riding certain rides can look tempting and exciting — until you're a passenger!!! Take the time to carefully observe any ride you are considering with your youngster prior to boarding. The thrill of most amusement rides is based on surprise, fear, and strong centrifugal force. The extreme emotional and physical stimulation may be too much for your Aspergers youngster to endure.

20. Make sure that your youngster (a) is hydrated with cold drinks throughout the day, (b) wears sun-block (and a hat, if tolerated), and (c) stays as comfortable as possible while waiting in very warm conditions. He may not know to express his growing discomfort or may be oblivious to it entirely.

21. Many theme parks offer a faster, alternate line for children with disabilities to quickly board rides and other amusements. Selecting this alternative may be ‘stigmatizing’ for your Aspergers youngster, however many moms and dads with Aspergers kids swear by this convenience.

22. Stick to the schedule to the very best of your ability and pay attention to your youngster for any signs that the vacation is wearing thin on him, which he may not be communicating.

23. Theme parks are notorious for large crowds and long lines. You know your youngster best and have a sense of his endurance and tolerance thresholds. Build in breaks and downtime throughout the day.

24. Waiting in line can be a frustrating exercise in patience for many children. The Aspergers youngster may not immediately understand why it's necessary to wait in line. It may be helpful to prepare a written story, in advance of the trip, to review with your youngster before and during long waits in line (include details about what to do and how to conduct oneself while waiting).

25. Weigh whether you think an amusement park vacation is appropriate for your youngster in the context of your family makeup.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

Going on Vacation: 20 Tips for Parents with Aspergers Children

Some parents find it hard enough to venture out to the grocery store with an Aspergers (high functioning autistic) youngster, much less go on a week-long vacation. Like most things, it takes a little planning and preparation. A youngster on the spectrum tends to react much better when he knows what to expect.

Even “neurotypical” (i.e., children without Aspergers) kids tend to become irritable and frustrated in constantly changing environments, crowds, and loud noise – but for the Aspergers youngster, these things are magnified and can frustrate him to the point of boiling-over.

Grown-ups with Aspergers tend to become withdrawn when they are over-stimulated or stressed, but Aspie kids tend to externalize their stress, which often leads to a meltdown. As a parent of an Aspergers youngster, you will face unique challenges when you break his normal routine. 

Trying the strategies below can make vacations easier for both you and your "Aspie":

1. Always travel with comfort food and toys. “Toys” is a broad ranging term, meaning anything from stuffed animals for your youngster to an iPod for your husband.

2. Prepare to be flexible. Even the best laid plans can go awry, especially with an Aspergers child as part of the group. You were going to have a great family reunion, and then your Aspergers youngster had a meltdown. That's ok! Just tell the family "Randy isn't feeling well, and we'll need to take off early." Head back to Hotel, put on a video, and kick back. After all, it's your vacation, right?

3. Bring your routine along. As much as possible, attempt to stick to your youngster's normal home routine while you are away. When you must break the routine, make sure to prepare your youngster in advance for what is to come.

4. Check into the all the possibilities. You may have decided against Disneyland based on noise level or food issues. But think again. Disneyland, like many destinations, offers a variety of options for different kinds of visitors. Before you decide that a place will not suit your family, ask about special services and amenities. Research the options and find services that suit your special needs.

5. Choose "off" times for fun. Most Aspergers children do better with quiet, low-key experiences. If it is summer and you're at the beach, hit the waves early or late in the day or year. If you're considering a theme park, wait until fall or early spring. Early Sunday morning is a great time to explore popular museums.

6. Choose your destination wisely. As you plan your vacation, choose a place that is as calm and quiet as possible. You can find plenty of quieter options that are still lots of fun (e.g., a lake) that take into account your desire for something new and different and your youngster's dislike for noisy, chaotic environments.

7. Chances are that, sometime during your vacation, you'll run into someone who will make a judgmental comment about you, your family, and your Aspergers child. That someone should not be allowed to spoil your vacation. Be prepared to ignore rude comments and move on to the next activity.

8. Have a plan. Before going on vacation, think about what you will be doing and plan some activities that you know your Aspergers youngster is comfortable with and will enjoy.

9. Keep it simple. Don't plan too much for any one day, and remember that this is vacation. Try not to make plans that can't be changed if your Aspergers child has a tough day.

10. Keep your sense of humor throughout the trip.

11. Look for special hotel accommodations. When selecting a hotel, think about what special amenities (e.g., an in-room refrigerator and dining area) might make your youngster more comfortable. Be sure to put in your requests in advance at the time of your booking.

12. Make a memory. Take pictures of the event and work with your youngster to make a book of pictures that can help your youngster remember the things that you did.

13. Pack familiar things. Bring some familiar things from home, such as favorite bedding or a personal DVD player, to make your youngster more comfortable.

14. Bring earplugs and snacks for plane trips, music and picnic food for car trips, and portable music and video for all long-distance travel.

15. Practice beforehand. In the days and weeks leading up to the event, use role-play and rehearsal to let your youngster practice and learn how to deal with the upcoming social situations.

16. Tools like visual planners and social stories can make all the difference to your youngster's experience. If you're going back to a place you've been before, make a memory book from last year's photos. If not, use the Web to find images from Google or tourism websites. You can also create a personalized "social story," describing the whats, wheres, whos and whens of your planned vacation.

17. Relax. If you are stressed, your youngster will sense it. So stay calm and relax as much as possible so that you can enjoy yourself and decrease your youngster's anxiety.

18. Structure your days. It's true that vacations are supposed to be opportunities to kick back and take things as they come. For a child with Aspergers, however, unplanned time can be extremely stressful. That doesn't mean a planned activity for every hour of the day, but it does mean a daily structure.

19. Travel during less-crowded times. Instead of taking a flight at the same time everyone else does, book an off day or during low season to reduce stress and receive more attention and service.

20. Consider shorter vacations. Rather than going on the traditional week-long excursion, consider a “weekend get-away” or a 4-day trip. Why go away for 7 days if the last 3 days are going to be pure hell.

It may not be effortless to enjoy a vacation when your youngster has Aspergers, but with some planning and adjustments, you can make these occasions memorable events that your whole family can enjoy.



COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Can you get a disability pass from Disney for a child with ADHD and Aspergers? I doubt my son will tolerate the lines so, I was hoping to get a pass to cut the time down.
•    Anonymous said... I learned last year onour trip to Universal that my boys need to know what is going to happen on amusement park rides to help with their anxieties about them. We are planning a trip to Disney next year and I plan on researching the rides beforehand. I want to have detailed descriptions of them so that my sons can look over them so they will have an idea of what is coming.
•    Anonymous said... I've learned I have to tell my son ahead of time before we go anywhere. He needs to know where we are going and why. I also try to give him an estimate of how long it should take. Giving him something to do like "can you put the items in the cart when we find them" is another good thing to keep his mind on a task instead of just dreading his walking way through a store for 20 minutes.
•    Anonymous said... We are wanting to go camping this summer, so we are preparing our son by going on short outings to where we want to camp, and making each trip there a little longer. We are also finding out what we will need to bring for him as entertainment as well, with each trip we take we learn more Hope you all have a wonderful summer!

Please post your comment below…

Aspergers Children and Communication-Skills Training: 25 Tips for Parents

One of your Aspergers (high functioning autistic) youngster's greatest challenges is in the area of communication...

As a parent, you will want to (a) communicate in ways that will support your youngster's ease of understanding, and (b) discover how best to assist your youngster in deciphering communication in everyday conversation. Your youngster wants to be socially accepted by his peers and others, and your efforts to foster a mutual comfort level where communication is concerned will be critical in achieving this goal.

How to help your child develop communications skills:

1. Accept your youngster's (a) “ballpark” approximation of direct eye contact if he stares at your ears, mouth, or some area of your face other than your eyes while you are talking, (b) his need to look away from your eyes in order to formulate a thoughtful, articulate response, and (c) his need to make fleeting eye contact, look away, and then look back.

2. Allow for process time in between steps of instruction. After you've finished talking, give your youngster a chance to ask clarifying questions. Also, ask your youngster if he's ready for more information before going on to the next piece of instruction.

3. Allow your "Aspie" to make liberal use of the computer. Computers are a tremendous benefit to kids with Aspergers. The computer is liberating because your youngster is free from social pressures with regard to immediacy of response, body language, facial expressions, personal space issues, and eye contact in conversation.

4. As part of “communication-skills training,” request your youngster to model his recall of others' body language and facial expressions, or model them yourself and ask, “Is this what you saw?”

5. Be cautious about over-loading your youngster with too much information all in one shot. As your youngster's mother or father, you will be able to best gauge how much or how little your youngster can absorb at once.

6. Because your Aspergers youngster will probably interpret others' communications in a very literal sense, he will expect you to do the same. So in communicating with your youngster, do what you say you're going to do by keeping your promises — you'll be held to it!

7. Before giving your youngster instruction, ask him to prepare to make pictures or movies of what you're conveying. Check back on this during your communication by saying something like, “Can you see it?” or “Do you see what that's supposed to look like?”

8. Counsel your Aspergers youngster in the nuances of neurotypical behavior, especially as he enters his teen years (a time when children rely less on their moms and dads and interact with greater social freedom).

9. Develop a written list of key phrases that your youngster can use as a socially acceptable entry into conversation (e.g., “Hey, what's up?” … “What's new with you?” … “What did you do over the weekend?” … “What did you watch on TV last night?”).

10. Ensure your youngster's understanding of what you've communicated by asking him to describe what you've just said.

11. For your Aspergers youngster, getting the “hang of” people may just come harder and require more effort to understand. The goal isn't one of mastery, but of knowing just enough to get by and be okay.

12. If you must break a promise, apologize to your youngster as soon as possible and let him know precisely when you will fix the situation or make it right.

13. If your youngster tends to have a flat affect, you may be unable to tell through body language or facial expressions if he understands what you have said — even if he says he does.

14. Know that your youngster may be challenged when interacting with peers and others because he: (a) doesn't understand how to maintain personal space, (b) has difficulty understanding the rhythmic flow (i.e., “give and take”) of conversation, (c) has trouble deciphering people's body language, (d) is brutally direct and honest, which may be offensive to others, and (e) talks off topic or interjects information that doesn't fit the moment.

15. Many kids with Aspergers will not be as successful as they could be when given instruction if they are required to make direct eye contact while you deliver your instruction. Many moms and dads demand direct eye contact from their neurotypical kids by saying something like, “Look at me when I'm talking to you!” But for the youngster with Aspergers, NOT making eye contact will help him retain information much better. The youngster with Aspergers who appears not to be listening may be taking in all – or nearly all – of what you are saying, as opposed to the youngster who is compelled to make direct eye contact to “prove” he is paying attention.

16. Most Aspies are visual thinkers (i.e., they think in constant streams of images and life-event “memory” movies). This way of thinking is a flowing, seamless, and natural manner of thought for many Aspergers children.

17. Reinforce that it is always considered acceptable to politely request that someone repeat what they've said, or ask for clarification by simply stating, “I don't know what you mean. Can you please say it another way?”

18. Slow down and carefully measure the amount of information you dispense to your Aspergers child in order to avoid confusion. If your youngster is unable to visualize what you verbally communicate, he is less likely to retain it.

19. Slow the pace of your instruction — especially if it's about something new and different. Also, rethink what you intend to communicate. Can it be simplified?

20. Sometimes you will want to simply abandon all expectations of trying to understand what just happened in favor of providing a gentle hug or allowing your youngster to have a good cry or personal space to temporarily shut down. These “unspoken” communications may have as much, if not more, impact than your verbal communications in the moment.

21. The youngster with Aspergers says what he means and means what he says (e.g., ‘no’ means ‘no’ and ‘yes’ means ‘yes’). Your youngster's anxiety and frustration will likely escalate if you repeatedly ask the same question or ask him to change his mind without explanation.

22. Your child’s idea of communication to others, or expressive language, may be skewed from what is considered the norm. Try “debriefing” social situations that were confusing or upsetting to your child by privately, gently, and respectfully deconstructing them portion by portion.

23. Try reaching your youngster with pressing questions and concerns by sending him an email (you may get a reply that will surprise and enlighten your own understanding of the situation at hand).

24. Try videoing at family gatherings, picnics, parties, while playing games, or some other activity, and then use the video as “communication-skills training” to deconstruct your child’s social interactions (do this as naturally as possible; if your youngster knows you are singling him out, he may “overact” and play to the camera).

25. Know that your Aspergers youngster may be quite challenged in his ability to process receptive language (i.e., understanding what others are communicating). You may be frustrated by his apparent unawareness of the social repercussions of interrupting or saying something with brutal directness.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Disciplining the Aspergers Child: Special Considerations

Have you ever been so annoyed and frustrated with your Aspergers (high functioning autistic) child that you lost your temper - and your sanity (for a moment)?

Teaching and correcting the Aspergers youngster requires balancing a number of considerations. As a mother or father, you have the right to set the same rules as you would for any of your other kids. But you also have the responsibility to ensure you are being fair in communicating your boundaries so you can expect your youngster's compliance. To discipline fairly, you will need to first know that you have communicated fully your rules in ways your youngster understands best.

Tips for Disciplining the Aspergers Child:

1. A list of rules should become your youngster's property and, depending upon the situation, should be kept in his pocket for ready reference.

2. Be cautious about going to extremes. You have every reason to be a strong advocate on behalf of your youngster and in protection of his rights, but this does not exempt him from being disciplined by you, the parent.

3. Because your youngster is inherently gentle and sensitive, he may be particularly prone to being vulnerable (i.e., he may be more susceptible than neurotypical children to experiencing problems in communication and social interaction).

4. Before you discipline, be mindful that your youngster's logic will not necessarily reflect your idea of common sense.

5. Disciplining your youngster should be a teaching and learning opportunity about making choices and decisions. When your youngster makes mistakes, assure him that he is still loved and valued.

6. Don’t assume your "Aspie" will understand appropriate social behavior under a wide variety of specific circumstances and, when that doesn't occur, discipline in the moment.

7. Look for small opportunities to deliberately allow your youngster to make mistakes for which you can set aside “discipline-teaching” time. It will be a learning process for you and your youngster.

8. Never assume your youngster will automatically transfer and apply information previously learned in one environment to a new situation that, in your mind, is remarkably similar. For the Aspie, a new situation is a new situation.

9. Some moms and dads can become over-protective of their Aspie (i.e., the youngster gains more and more control while being protected in a sheltered environment with little to no discipline). They may make frequent excuses for their youngster's words or actions, and they may not discipline where most others agree it to be warranted. Don’t make this mistake!

10. Understand that your Aspie (a) needs to feel safe, comfortable and in control, (b) will become unhinged by anything significantly unpredictable, (c) is doing the very best he knows how to in the moment with what he's got available to him, and (d) has good reasons for doing what he's doing.

11. You have the responsibility to be fair in how you communicate rules and expectations. Because your youngster will be most open to receiving this information in ways that are literal and concrete, this means making it tangible (e.g., put it in writing as a simple, bullet-point list).

12. Your approach to discipline should mostly be one of prevention – not intervention.

13. Your youngster may take personally criticisms you think mild or trivial. If you are a parent short on patience and prone to critical or sarcastic comments, be prepared for your youngster to withdraw from you more and more until you are shut out completely.

14. Your youngster's diagnosis is a label that describes a small piece of who he is as a human being. Your youngster is many other things. His diagnosis does not exclusively define him.

15. Your youngster's need to feel in control should not be taken to extremes. Moms and dads must set limits and expectations for all kids. Having Aspergers does not give one free rein to be out of control, and that should not be endorsed or indulged by you, the parent.

In order to effectively discipline the Aspergers child, you will need to comprehend each of the factors above and fully place them in the proper context of any given situation. This knowledge will aid you in laying a foundation for “prevention” (rather than having to switch to “intervention”).

Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

Aspergers Children and Encopresis

Question

I have my 12 yr old Grandson living with my husband and I, It isn't easy because his mother had to leave him with us for awhile. We are implementing your assignments in your book, it hasn't been easy but we are trying. One thing that bothers us more than his behavior is him soiling his pants. I don’t know why and I have tried asking him why he does but all he says is he doesn`t know. I know that maybe he doesn`t know why but it is hard for my husband to understand how he can let it sit in his pants without a care. When my husband addresses this with my grandson he is confronted with a complete shutdown, he won`t look at him, answer him. I understand why he does but when I approach him on it, I will ask if he soiled his pants his first reaction is to tell me no he did not do it. Then I ask to check his pants, when I do I can see it and at that point I calmly ask him to get some clean clothes go to the bathroom have a shower and I make him clean out his shorts. He does this almost every day and when we noticed he didn`t do it that one day we praise him to no end. I don`t know what I can do to help him stop or why it happens in the first place. I would appreciate any comments as to how I can help him get over this. My grandson isn`t the easiest to handle when he gets to upset he is 12 at 6` tall and 230lbs so having an easy approach would be greatly appreciated.


Answer

Some Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) children beyond the age of toilet-training who frequently soil their underwear have a condition known as encopresis. They have a problem with their bowels that dulls the normal urge to go to the bathroom, and they can't control the accidents that typically follow. Problems with encopresis and constipation account for more than 25% of all visits to doctors who specialize in disorders of the stomach and intestines.

Most encopresis cases (90% +) are due to functional constipation (i.e., constipation that has no medical cause). The stool (or bowel movement) is hard, dry, and difficult to pass when the youngster is constipated. Many children "hold" their bowel movements to avoid the pain of constipation, which sets the stage for having an accident. Moms and dads are often frustrated by the fact that their youngster seems unfazed by these accidents, which occur mostly during waking hours.

Denial may be one reason for the youngster's indifference. He/she just can't face the shame and guilt associated with the condition (some even try to hide their soiled underpants from their moms and dads). Another reason may be more scientific: Because the brain eventually gets used to the smell of feces and the youngster may no longer notice the odor.

Well-intentioned advice from moms and dads isn't always helpful because many parents mistakenly believe that encopresis is a behavioral issue. Frustrated moms and dads and caregivers may advocate various punishments and consequences for the soiling, which only leaves the youngster feeling even more humiliated. Up to 20% of children with encopresis experience feelings of low self-esteem that require the intervention of a psychologist or counselor. Punishing or humiliating a youngster with encopresis will only make matters worse. Instead, talk to your doctor. He/she can help you and your youngster through this treatable problem.

As the colon is stretched by the buildup of stool, the nerves' ability to signal to the brain that it's time for a bowel movement is diminished. If untreated, not only will the soiling get worse, but children with encopresis may lose their appetites or complain of stomach pain. Most cases of encopresis can be managed by your doctor, but if initial efforts fail, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist.

Treatment is done in three phases:
  1. The first phase involves emptying the colon of hard, retained stool. Different doctors might have different ways of helping children with encopresis. Depending on the youngster's age and other factors, the doctor may recommend medicines, including a stool softener (such as mineral oil), laxatives, and/or enemas. As unpleasant as this first step sounds, it's necessary to clean out the bowels to successfully treat the constipation and end your youngster's soiling.
  2. After the large intestine has been emptied, the doctor will help the youngster begin having regular bowel movements with the aid of stool-softening agents, most of which aren't habit-forming. At this point, it's important to continue using the stool softener to give the bowels a chance to shrink back to normal size (the muscles of the intestines have been stretched out, so they need time to be toned without the stool piling up again).
  3. As regular bowel movements become established, your doctor will reduce the youngster's use of stool softeners.

Keep in mind that relapses are normal, so don't get discouraged if your youngster occasionally becomes constipated again or soils his/her pants during treatment, especially when trying to wean the youngster off of the medications. A good way to keep track of your youngster's progress is by keeping a daily stool calendar. Make sure to note the frequency, consistency (i.e., hard, soft, dry), and size (i.e., large, small) of the bowel movements. Patience is the key to treating encopresis. It may take anywhere from several months to a year for the stretched-out colon to return to its normal size and for the nerves in the colon to become effective again.

In the meantime, diet and exercise are extremely important in keeping stools soft and bowel movements regular. Also, make sure your youngster gets plenty of fiber-rich foods (e.g., fresh fruits, dried fruits like prunes and raisins, dried beans, vegetables, high-fiber cereal, etc.). Because children often cringe at the thought of fiber, try these creative ways to incorporate it into your youngster's diet:
  • Add bran to baking items such as cookies and muffins, or to meatloaf or burgers, or sprinkled on cereal. (The trick is not to add too much bran or the food will taste like sawdust.)
  • Add lentils to soup.
  • Add shredded carrots or pureed zucchini to spaghetti sauce or macaroni and cheese.
  • Bake cookies or muffins using whole-wheat flour instead of regular flour. Add raisins, chopped or pureed apples, or prunes to the mix.
  • Create tasty treats with peanut butter and whole-wheat crackers.
  • Make bean burritos with whole-grain soft-taco shells.
  • Make pancakes with whole-grain pancake mix and top with peaches, apricots, or grapes.
  • Serve apples topped with peanut butter.
  • Serve bran waffles topped with fruit.
  • Sneak some raisins or pureed prunes or zucchini into whole-wheat pancakes.
  • Top high-fiber cereal with fruit.
  • Top ice cream, frozen yogurt, or regular yogurt with high-fiber cereal for some added crunch.

Have your youngster drink plenty of fluids each day, including water and 100% fruit juices like pear, peach, and prune to help draw water into the colon. Try mixing prune juice with another drink to make it a little tastier. Also be sure to limit your youngster's total daily dairy intake (including cheese, yogurt, and ice cream) to 24 ounces or less.

Successful treatment of encopresis depends on the support the youngster receives. Some moms and dads find that positive reinforcement helps to encourage the youngster throughout treatment. Provide a small incentive (e.g., extra video-game time) for having a bowel movement or even just for trying, sitting on the toilet, or taking medications.

Whatever you do, don't blame or yell — it will only make your youngster feel bad and it won't help manage the condition. Show lots of love and support and, assure your youngster that he or she isn't the only one in the world with this problem. With time and understanding, your youngster can overcome encopresis.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Aspergers kids often have issued recognizing when they need to go. The nervous system effectively shuts down due to over stimulation so they don't feel it. Get him on a schedule. 30-45 minutes after eating every time. If he's constipated, put him on myralax to get him regulated. Above all, talk to him. Explain to him why he may not recognize what's happening and how you would like to help him get control over it. Make sure you stress that you want to help "him" have control. Discuss it in detail with him. Aspergers kids love detail and logic and rules.
•    Anonymous said… Buy the squatty pottty, they sell them at bed bath and beyond, it is a special stool that you put your feet up on and it helps positioning too. Also kids with asd often have constipation and this may also be a reason they don't use the toilet, they associate it with pain.
•    Anonymous said… Growing up my younger brother did this also. We discovered he had epilepsy. He would have mild seizures we didn't even notice. They were so mild. The Doctor figured that when he had a seizure was when my brother would soil his pants. He was around 16 when he stopped.
•    Anonymous said… Have him tested for coeliac and gut problems, my son had trouble toilet training because he couldn't tell the difference between gas and solids due to wheat and dairy intolerances, which is apparently quite common on the spectrum.
•    Anonymous said… he may not be able to feel it happening because of sensory issues, maybe a regular toilet time about 4 times a day to help him to try to make his movements regular? do you have a very bright or very dark toilet/bathroom? this might be an issue. Another not quite as wonderful solution might be to get him incontinence pants
•    Anonymous said… I am grateful for the question/answer, thanks to the OP for putting it out there. My 7 yr old has only been PT for about 2 years, and while we rarely leave him with a sitter, it seems that he commonly will soil his pants in the care of others. Other than this issue, he is VERY well behaved for other caregivers, but once he does this, they are not eager for him to return. We have tried showing him where the potty is, and making sure he knows it's ok to ask to use the potty and all of that stuff. Separately, the comments on the article about kids even as old as teenagers have this problem are kind of breaking my heart for them, and for our future as well.
•    Anonymous said… If this is it (very common with kids on the spectrum) please take him to see a gastroenterologist (preferably one who is familiar with spectrum issues)
•    Anonymous said… I'm so glad someone asked this I've been having nothing but obstacles with my son and training. I've got him finally in underwear through out the day and using the potty, he stands over it straddling but hey he's doing it. However he refuses to sit and go number 2. When he has to go he runs and gets a pull up. I've tried praise, tokens and even not buying pull ups but it didn't work. He's 7, non verbal and yes stubborn. Any advice??
•    Anonymous said… I'm so glad someone finally asked this. I have been largely ignored when I asked for help in other groups.
•    Anonymous said… Its soo good to hear Im not alone. My son is 9, and I really felt like I was the only person dealing with this. It makes me sad that it could last a long time. Ive tried everything the doctors/counsellars suggested. The more I push him to correct it the more he pushes back. Hes gotten to a point where he cleans himself up, and I feel like thats all I can ask for at this point..
•    Anonymous said… keep schedule of time it's happening. Help him to recognize some signs (gassy, tummy pain, timing of when to sit). The thing is, if he sits on the toilet at said times, his muscles actually help him go so a routine may work. A possible different position on the potty / one leg up or stretched out for stability and muscle help. Sensory is definitely part of the problem if he can sit in it, I would think. An OT or ABA Autism specialist may be able to help. I would make a few calls and get some suggestions. When he has a good day, don't just praise, bring out the big guns, new video game (but take it back after 30 minutes and say he gets it again when he does a good day). His favorite cake, etc. Also explain the sanitary part of good hygiene and maybe have him watch a few videos (they process this faster and better usually, because of the visuals). Some kids grab onto the "we don't like germs" part and understanding it's toxic and needs to go away. This may/may not motivate them but it's worth a try. He needs a good motivator. See if there is something that breaks it down into small steps. 1. I feel pain 2. I get gas 3. I need to go to the bathroom all the way to lastly I wash my hands for 2 minutes with soap. Breaking things down (you can type it up) helps them and the visual of it broken down into small steps. At the end write something like "I am proud of myself that I can smell fresh and clean and minimize germs by going to the bathroom myself. I am growing up and helping at beating diseases and germs." Something like that. Good luck.
•    Anonymous said… Maybe a different position over the toilet? They tend to do different body positions. Good luck!
•    Anonymous said… My 14 year old son is the same way. He says it hurts to go when he sits on the toilet but not when he stands and crosses his legs. We've tried everything. We're on a waiting list for ABA therapy and this will be the first item they tackle.
•    Anonymous said… My child has demand avoidance- so any structured plans always made him more anxious and failed. We had to stop worrying about it and make him clean up when we noticed it. (It was really a problem for a while). Then it just stopped.
•    Anonymous said… my daughter also has epilepsy and while she doesn't soil her pants, she does pee in the bed every night, she is going to be 9 and still has to wear a pull up to bed. When i ask her why she doesn't get up to use the bathroom she says she doesn't feel it when it is happening. This could be the case with your grandson, if he is having a seizure he may have no memory of it. Best of luck. I still have no solution for my daughters nighttime accidents, she doesn't have accidents in the day any longer, but sometimes she waits so long to pee, i tell her to go she says she doesn't have to, then a few minutes later she is racing to the bathroom. Best of luck to you, its never easy but we love them.
•    Anonymous said… my son does this and u know what I make no big deal it is a sensory issue and u can't treat him any different because of it. I help him clean up u know why because it's embarrassing for him and he really has no idea till I show him that it happe s
•    Anonymous said… Not sure if this is relevant due to the age difference but I had that same problem with my 4 year old. We started giving him a fiber gummy every day. If he has the gummy he goes in the potty. If he doesn't have the gummy he will have an accident. Only thing I can come up with is he must not know and the extra fiber causes more force.
•    Anonymous said… Some children have gut problems and get leakage around a hard stool which soils their pants but they can be unaware of it. a regular gentle laxative can help, it can also be used as part of a soiling programme even if there is no constipation.
•    Anonymous said… To begin with, it does no good to ask him why he does it. He doesn't know, he's communicated that to you. Would you ask a baby why he soiled his diaper? No. They do it because they don't know any better. Neither does he. My initial thought is that he is regressing due to the emotional trauma in his life. It doesn't matter how he can willingly sit in it all day. It's possible that it's a sensory issue and he likes how it feels. The point is, it doesn't matter. Regarding the shutdown when his grandfather approaches him about it. My thoughts are that he is embarrassed & he doesn't know how to communicate it. He might not even know what it is that he's feeling. He just knows it's an uncomfortable feeling and he tries to hide it. Next, you ask him if he soiled his pants. I'm thinking that he's probably associated something negative (ie, being yelled at, scolded, spanked, etc.) with soiling his pants, which is why he deflects. If I were in your shoes, & I suspected (or knew) he'd done it, I'd tell him to come with you to the bathroom, say, "Lets look in your pants, is there poop? Yup. There's poop. Ok, what do we need to do?" And then guide him through the steps of changing, showering, etc. Don't ask. Make statements, instruct him, guide him. It does no good to ask at this point. To eliminate this behavior, I'd start with a token system. Start with very short periods of time. For every 5 minutes he's clean, give him a token. When he earns 3, he gets a reward. Let him choose what he's working for. When he can go longer than 5 minutes, up it to 10, increase the number of tokens he has to have, etc., until he gets up to a day. When he goes a day, clean & dry, throw that kid a party. If he has an accident, that's ok, don't scold, it's a bump in the road. He needs encouragement, not discouragement.
•    Anonymous said… Very comman in kids with ASD. My son is the same. Has been for yrs. He is 13. X
•    Anonymous said… We did not get any help with the pediatrician. Only a referral to a behavioral clinic that was a year wait to get into and then were not the least bit helpful. You know it's a wasteland out here for that kind of assistance. Hopefully those who live in better areas have better services.
•    Anonymous said… When I worked for a Famiy Practice physician this issue would periodically come up. I would say to work with the child's doctor to come up with a plan to manage the encopresis. Eventully, I think it can be managed.
•    Anonymous said… You are doing it. Stay calm. Have him continue to change it himself. If he says no but you suspect he has, just remind him kindly that "when we have an accident we need to do our best to fix it" then maybe ask him if he remembers what to do to fix a accident in his pants. Letting him figure it out really has helped my son. He still has accidents, or walks around with poop on his hands. This a a difficult thing. You are not alone.

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Pursuing a Formal Diagnosis of Asperger's or HFA

Because the symptoms of Aspergers (high-functioning autism) can be subtle, moms and dads may not recognize any differences in their youngster until he is age three or older. Pursuing a formal diagnosis is a family's individual decision to make. There is no “correct” time to form this decision, although many parents agree that they wish to know their youngster's diagnosis definitively and as early in their youngster's development as possible.

If you are discovering that the criteria for Aspergers might have application for your youngster, then you are faced with a decision about seeking a diagnosis. You may not wish to pursue a formal diagnosis at this time for one or more of the following reasons:
  • You are scared or in denial of the situation
  • You are worried that your youngster will be stigmatized or singled out
  • You don't believe in labeling people's diversity
  • You don't feel that your youngster's differences are causing detriments in his life significant enough to obtain a diagnosis
  • You'd rather wait to see if anything changes as your youngster continues developing

The benefits of obtaining a diagnosis may be:
  • Accessing a system of services and supports designed to give your youngster a head start in life as early as possible
  • Being able to educate family, friends, and neighbors about your youngster's unique way of being when appropriate
  • Being able to educate your youngster in order to promote self-awareness and self-advocacy, as needed
  • Being able to put a name and a framework to a collection of symptoms and traits instead of perceiving it all as your youngster's “bad behavior” or somehow your fault
  • Understanding and appreciating sooner your youngster's lifelong unique qualities, personal needs, and talents

Grown-ups with Aspergers who were never diagnosed as kids often ask, “Would it have been helpful to have had the diagnosis at an early age?” We are still a long way from effectively understanding Aspergers in a global sense, but having this knowledge early on in the lives of many adults could have aided them to:
  • Avoid struggles with mental health issues, or be better prepared to care for one's mental health
  • Be better able to initiate and sustain relationships
  • Be better equipped to locate viable employment opportunities that best match skills and talents
  • Be better prepared for higher education, or trade school
  • Be better prepared to avoid situations in which one may be unwittingly exploited
  • Experience greater success in school

A group of children with Aspergers was asked a question: “Is it helpful to know you have Aspergers?” They were unanimous in explaining that it was helpful and cleared up a lot of misinterpretations people had about why they do what they do.

If you determine that Aspergers best describes your youngster's way of being and are interested in pursuing a diagnosis, your first course of action is to seek a referral to the appropriate clinician most qualified to make the diagnosis.

Dealing with Negative Emotions Associated with Parenting an Aspergers Child

When parents first discover that their child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, they may experience an emotional struggle that looks something like this:
  • Denial: "Surely the doctors have misdiagnosed my child. He may be a little odd, but I have a hard time believing he has some kind of disorder."
  • Anger: "Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this."
  • Bargaining: "Maybe there's a cure!"
  • Depression/Guilt: "I must have done something to make this happen."
  • Anxiety: "I don't even know where to start in dealing with this."
  • Acceptance: "This could be much worse than it is. I think I'll be able to handle it."

It's natural for moms and dads to get angry with themselves, each other, teachers, doctors, and even the child himself. Parents are trying to make sense of what has happened.

Moms and dads need to allow themselves to experience whatever emotions they are having. It's all part of adjusting to the challenges ahead. Trying to deny or minimize how hard it is to have a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder only prolongs the fear, frustration and anxiety.

No matter how much you do for - and with - your Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) youngster, you're probably going to feel some guilt. In part because no one knows what causes or cures this disorder -- so anything you did could be at fault, and anything you do could help. But guilt can be crippling and can even get between you and your ability to be your best parent. The following tips may help you to take a deep breath and set guilt aside, at least for a moment:

1. Guilt-induced thought: "I can't leave any stones unturned!"

What if that new therapy you just read about was THE therapy -- the one that would have cured your youngster if only you'd tried it? No one wants to think they denied their youngster a cure for a lifelong disability. But remember that one-on-one time with a loving adult is always a plus -- and it's unlikely that that new high-tech "cure" is the next penicillin!

2. Guilt-induced thought: "I should be learning more about Aspergers!"

There's always more to learn. And if you live in a metropolitan area, there are always seminars, support groups and events to attend. But there's more to life than Aspergers -- and it might make sense, just for once, to hire a sitter and go to the movies with your "significant other!"

3. Guilt-induced thought: "I should be making time for my other children and my spouse!"

If you're the primary caregiver for a youngster with Aspergers, you may be too overwhelmed to give other family members the time and attention they crave. While it really is important to make time for others in your life, it's also ok to ask for a few minutes to regroup...take a walk...or otherwise clear your mind. Your children and spouse deserve your focused attention -- something that's tough to give when you're still in "therapy mode!"

4. Guilt-induced thought: "I should be pushing for more _____ (fill in the blank) for my Aspergers youngster!"

Depending upon what you read or who you listen to, you'll hear conflicting advice about what your youngster needs. More inclusion or less inclusion; more or different therapies; more or different activities, play dates, and so on forever. But even a typically developing youngster can get overwhelmed -- and an Aspergers youngster needs fewer transitions, less intensity and more structure than most. Maybe you do, too...!

5. Guilt-induced thought: "I should be spending this money on therapy!"

You broke down and bought that new jacket -- and now you wonder why you didn't spend the money on therapy...Aspergers books...learning toys...or something else for your Aspergers youngster. But your youngster is only one member of your family. You worked hard for your money, and your youngster will never miss that one extra session of therapy!

6. Guilt-induced thought: "I should be spending this time on therapy!"

You picked up a book while your youngster was watching TV -- and now you feel guilty. After all, every second counts, and you should be engaging him all day long. It's a nice idea, but even supermom can't be on call for her youngster 18 hours a day and still stay sane and healthy. Remember that your health and welfare count too!

7. Guilt-induced thought: "I should be working faster!"

Publicity about the importance of early intervention has caused a panic among moms and dads. The suggestion is that there's a window of opportunity early in life -- and that that window closes sometime around age three. The truth is, though, that children (and even adults) continue to develop and grow. While early intervention is important, it's not the only key to your youngster's ongoing success!

8. Guilt-induced thought: "I should give up more for my youngster!"

It's true that some families give up everything for their Aspergers youngster. They mortgage their homes, give up their careers, and end any "extras" to pay for therapies. This is, of course, a valid choice. But not every Aspergers youngster needs such a high level of commitment to thrive and grow. Your decision needs to take into account not only your youngster -- but you, your spouse, and the life you've chosen together.

9. Guilt-induced thought: "I somehow caused this problem!"

We know that Aspergers can't be caused by a lack of love. But was it that tuna you ate when you were pregnant? The vaccines you allowed your pediatrician to give your youngster? Since we don't know what causes Aspergers, it can be easy to decide it was your fault. Chances are, though, that genetics -- something you can't control -- plays a significant role!

10. Guilt-induced thought: "Other people do more for their Aspergers youngster!"

And other people are thinner, fitter, richer and have bigger homes too! Comparing yourself to other families can be helpful if those others offer support and ideas -- but it can be destructive if it leads to a constant sense of guilt.

11. Guilt-induced thought: "I'm probably making a bad problem worse since I don't know about autism spectrum disorders."

You are not in this situation because you are a bad parent or lack the skill in raising a son or daughter. You may lack some of the skills necessary for raising a youngster with Aspergers, but this is not surprising given the level of complications that kids with Aspergers may bring.

12. Guilt-induced thought: "I don't know if my child will be able to make it out there in the real world as an adult." Your child has a purpose in this life. And since the Aspergers-package comes with strengths -- not just challenges -- you can expect to see your child do great things someday.

Aspergers Children and Poor Eating Habits

Question

My child with Aspergers loves pizza rolls. Problem is that's about all he eats (cheese only - doesn't like pepperoni or sausage). He would eat pizza rolls for breakfast, lunch and dinner if we let him. Is there any way to lure him into eating some fruits and/or vegetables?

Answer

Most Aspergers (high functioning autistic) children prefer just a few food items. And it can become quite a power struggle for parents when they attempt to get their child to try anything new. However, there are some ways that parents can "sneak" some healthy stuff into their child's belly. Here are a few tips that may work:

1. Don't get hung up on the time of day your Aspergers youngster eats – or how much he eats in one sitting. It is perfectly fine if your Aspie doesn't eat three square meals every day as long as over the course of a week or two he eats a few things from each food group.

2. Concoct creative camouflages. There are all kinds of possible variations on the old standby "cheese in the trees" (cheese melted on steamed broccoli florets), or you can all enjoy the pleasure of veggies topped with peanut- butter sauce, a specialty of Asian cuisines.

3. Make veggie art. Create colorful faces with olive-slice eyes, tomato ears, mushroom noses, bell-pepper mustaches, and any other playful features you can think of. Zucchini pancakes, for example, make a terrific face to which you can add pea eyes, a carrot nose, and cheese hair.

4. Plant a garden with your Aspergers child. Let him help care for the plants, harvest the ripe vegetables, and wash and prepare them. He will probably be much more interested in eating what he has helped to grow.

5. Slip grated or diced vegetables into favorite foods. Try adding them to rice, cottage cheese, cream cheese, guacamole, or even macaroni and cheese.

6. Steam your greens. They are much more flavorful and usually sweeter than when raw.

7. Using a small cookie cutter, cut the vegetables into interesting shapes.

8. Give your youngster acknowledgement and praise, even if he takes only one bite of something new. For example: "It's great that you tried the green beans!"

9. Let go of the power struggle. You can't force your youngster to do anything, especially eat, so just stop trying. Simply offer him nutritious, varied foods – and eat them yourself. He can have his, or not, but you're showing him how. When moms and dads demand that their children eat certain foods, they're attaching negative connotations to it. Pretty soon, the struggle is worse. Put the food on his plate, but if it stays there, don't push him – and don't stress over it.

10. Offer alternatives if your youngster won't eat meat. The texture turns off many Aspergers kids, and that's fine. Your youngster can still get all the protein he needs from the following:
  • cheese or even meat-filled ravioli (the pasta exterior goes a long way for meat-haters)
  • hard-boiled eggs or any egg dish
  • his favorite crackers dipped in hummus or spread with peanut (or nut) butter
  • mini-tuna melts
  • nachos with beans and cheese
  • yogurt, cheese, or cottage cheese

11. Offer choices that don't matter. You may face stubborn insistence that toast have a corner unbuttered to avoid messy hands, or that cereal be served only in a square bowl, or that nothing gets touched by the preparer of the food. While this kind of behavior is seemingly ridiculous, it's typical of Aspergers kids. Offering your youngster a limited choice is often enough to end the power struggle. But make your rules clear: "At home, you can choose your plate, but when we're eating out, you have to use whatever plates they have."

12. You may have to stick with one basic food color. Aspergers children may like a lot of colors in their pictures, but not always on their plates. When he only wants white foods, for example, consider:
  • fruit smoothies (blend a banana with vanilla yogurt)
  • half white-/half whole-wheat (make toast and sandwiches in fun shapes using cookie cutters)
  • mac and cheese made with whole-wheat (or whole-wheat blend) macaroni
  • oven-baked fries (half regular and half sweet potato to ease your youngster into the idea of trying other spuds)

13. Be creative with the veggies. Hating vegetables is the most common picky-eater problems with Aspergers kids. To convince your child that eating vegetables is not poisonous, try one or more of the following:
  • carrot slices and baby corn are a good start toward more serious veggie consumption
  • lettuce wraps (use a filling he'll eat, like turkey or cream cheese, and wrap it in a romaine lettuce leaf)
  • put a plate of raw veggies next to a sure thing (e.g., grilled cheese sandwich) to lure your child into eating at least one bite
  • thinly sliced veggies stir-fried with teriyaki sauce with a little chicken and rice
  • try dressing (e.g., honey mustard, ranch, ketchup, melted butter) with veggies for dipping
  • veggie lasagna
  • water chestnuts have little taste and can be a good stepping-stone to serious veggies
  • zucchini muffins

14. Many Aspergers kids like to “nitpick” their way through food (i.e., a nibble here – a nibble there). Use an ice-cube tray, a muffin tin, or a compartmentalized dish, and put bite-size portions of colorful and nutritious foods in each section. Give these “finger foods” names in order to disguise how disgustingly healthy that may be, such as:
  • egg canoes (hard- boiled egg wedges)
  • cheese building blocks
  • carrot swords (cooked and thinly sliced)
  • broccoli trees (steamed broccoli florets)
  • banana wheels
  • avocado boats (a quarter of an avocado)
  • apple moons (thinly sliced)

Place the food on an easy-to-reach table. As your Aspie makes his rounds through the house, he can stop, sit down, nibble a bit, and, when he's done, continue on his way. These foods have a table-life of an hour or two.

15. A veggie pizza is one the most cleaver ways to disguise healthy foods. We tried a spinach-cheese pizza with our 5-year-old several years ago. We knew he probably wouldn’t even touch it – but guess what? It is his favorite food item now! Go figure :)

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

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.

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.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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to read the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content