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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Virtual Reality and Learning Social Skills: Help for Aspergers Children

It’s no secret that Aspergers (or high-functioning Autism) is on the rise, but what's being done about it? Researchers have invested a lot of time and money to figure out ways to reach kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and a few have come up with a new approach: Virtual Reality.

“Virtual reality” is a realistic simulation of an environment by a computer system. It’s technology taking you to a scene that feels and looks real, and for some kids with Aspergers, it can be a safe way to learn to interact with others.

Virtual reality allows Aspergers kids to practice all-important reciprocal social interaction skills in a safe environment. Virtual characters are more predictable than real peers, and sometimes more patient, and so Aspies may find it easier to engage in the kinds of interactions that we ultimately hope they will have in the real world with their real friends.

The “virtual reality” concept involves using computer technology to create a simulated, three-dimensional world that the Aspie can manipulate and explore while feeling as if he were in that world. Scientists, theorists and engineers have designed dozens of devices and applications to achieve this goal. Opinions differ on what exactly constitutes a true virtual reality experience, but in general it should include:
  • The ability to track the user's motions, particularly his head and eye movements, and correspondingly adjust the images on the user's display to reflect the change in perspective
  • Three-dimensional images that appear to be life-sized from the perspective of the user

In a “virtual reality” environment, the user experiences “immersion” (i.e., the feeling of being inside and a part of that world). The Aspergers child is also able to interact with his environment in meaningful ways. The combination of a sense of “immersion” and “interactivity” is called “telepresence,” which is the extent to which one feels present in the mediated environment, rather than in the immediate physical environment (i.e., an effective virtual reality experience causes you to become unaware of your real surroundings and focus on your existence inside the virtual environment).

The “Virtual Reality” project started over ten years ago with a study designed to determine whether virtual reality could help Aspergers kids learn the beginning skills of street crossing. These kids were placed in a virtual world and practiced correctly observing and responding to the virtual world situations. The results indicated that they could - and did - accept learning in a virtual world.

Here’s how it works: There are two modes of interaction in virtual learning systems. In one, the youngster interacts directly with a virtual peer. In another, the virtual peer is controlled by the youngster. In the future, it is hoped that virtual reality can go even further in helping kids with Aspergers and Autism. Virtual peers of this sort can help to assess the exact nature of the social deficits that may be experienced by these kids, which in turn may allow us to design better and more targeted interventions.

A playmate named Sam, a talking dog named Buddy, and an Israeli street leading to a toy store all have starring roles in a new generation of virtual reality games designed to teach basic safety and social skills to kids diagnosed with Aspergers and Autism.

Skills that are often taken for granted can be torturously difficult or school-aged Aspies (e.g., classroom manners, navigating the social norms of group playtime, etc.), but with a virtual reality learning experience, “practicing” for multiple real-life situations that occur in the real-world is finally possible.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Is My Aspergers Child "High-Functioning"?

Question

We have a 12 yr old Aspergers son who is not in our primary care, as he lives with his mother and we see him only every other weekend. He was diagnosed with very mild Aspergers, and is very high functioning, i.e. he is not on an EAP getting B's and C's, and although a bit socially challenged does OK with his peers. Unfortunately he is not being challenged to become more independent, and it would appear as if his mother is trying to hold him back, i.e. he is forced to be in daycare after school with 5 - 10 yr olds, and desperately wants the chance to spread his wings and try an hour after school on his own (with a safety plan, and he has taken and passed the babysitters course). Are there any suggestions on how we go about determining if he can be challenged with more responsibility, i.e. is there a checklist of demonstrated behaviours etc?


Answer

The following lists can help parents, teachers and other caretakers to determine if the Aspergers child is truly on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Note: It is not expected that any high-functioning child will show all the traits listed in any section.

General intellectual ability—

• asks many questions of a provocative nature
• displays a great curiosity about objects, situations or events
• displays a willingness to accept complexity
• has a high energy level
• has a liking for structure, order and consistency
• has a power of abstraction, conceptualization and synthesis
• has a power of concentration, an intense attention that excludes all else
• has a wide range of interests
• has an interest in cause-effect relations
• has avid interest in science or literature
• has the capacity to look into things and be puzzled
• has the capacity to use knowledge and information other than to memories
• is a good guesser
• is an avid reader
• is an entrepreneur - readily makes money on various projects or activities
• is creative in new ideas, seeing associations, pursuing innovations
• is friendly and outgoing
• is independent
• is involved with many exploratory type activities
• is perceptually open to his or her environment
• is persistent
• is resourceful - solving problems by ingenious methods
• is secure emotionally
• is venturesome, wanting to do new things
• learns rapidly, easily and efficiently
• makes good grades in most subjects
• needs little outside control - applies self discipline
• provides very alert, rapid answers to questions
• retains and uses information which has been heard or read
• reveals originality in oral and written expression
• shows superior judgment in evaluating things
• tends to dominate peers or situations
• uses a large number of words easily and accurately
• uses a lot of commonsense

Specific academic aptitude—

• has a long attention span in areas of interest
• is able to extend learning from these key areas to various situations somewhat unrelated in orientation
• is able to judge own and others' relative abilities in key areas of interest
• is able to show broad perspective on one or more subject areas
• learns rapidly, easily and with less repetition in one or a few specific areas (probably not all subject areas)
• likes or loves one or a few areas of knowledge
• likes to study some subjects more than others
• seeks assistance of others beyond his or age peers in extending knowledge in areas of interest
• shows similar characteristics to general intellectual ability but concentrated around one or a few fields
• spends time voluntarily beyond ordinary assignments on projects of interest to him or her

Creative thinking and production—

• acts spontaneously, intuitively
• always trying to adapt or improve things
• asks provocative questions, challenges parents, teachers, written and other authorities
• can show intense concentration on a task
• can show unusual degrees of originality, concentration and persistent hard work on projects that capture their interest and imagination
• displays energy, sometimes disruptively
• doesn't accept authoritarian pronouncements without own judgment
• doesn't mind being different
• has a keen sense of humor, seeing humor in situations others don't
• is bored with memorization and recitation
• is considered, and perhaps resented, by some peers as "crazy"
• is flexible in thinking patterns
• is fluent in producing and elaborating on ideas
• is intellectually playful, interested in fantasy, imagination
• is uninhibited in expression, sometimes radical
• juggles or redefines elements of a problem or task
• makes unusual associations between remote ideas
• produces unexpected, sometimes "silly" responses
• provides multiple solutions or responses to problems
• readily guesses and makes hypotheses
• retains own ideas in a discussion or collaboration
• senses inconsistencies and discontinuities
• senses when problems exist
• tolerates ambiguity and uncertainty

Leadership—

• can adopt non-leadership roles within a group
• can articulate ideas clearly
• can coordinate the work of several individuals
• can establish the mood of a group
• can give directions clearly and effectively
• can listen to others empathetically
• can stimulate and arouse others
• exercises authority reliably and responsibly
• interacts with others easily showing social skills
• is looked to by others when something must be decided
• is often asked for ideas and suggestions
• organizes others
• recognizes and can articulate the goals of a group
• recognizes skills and abilities possessed by others
• supports others in a group when appropriate
• understands how people feel and how groups function

Psychomotor ability—

• demonstrates endurance, stamina and persistence in physical activities
• demonstrates prowess in physical activities common amongst age peers
• has a suitable body build
• is able to understand the intellectual aspects of psychomotor activities
• is athletic
• is coordinated, balanced and confident in physical activities
• is energetic
• is inventive in constructing or modifying games
• is rhythmic
• likes to play physically

Visual and performing arts—

Music:

• discriminates musical and other sounds well
• enjoys dance and dramatic activities with musical elements
• enjoys musical activities and demonstrates musical feeling
• has good sense of rhythm
• is well-coordinated
• makes up original tunes
• responds readily to rhythm, melody and harmony
• shows tonal memory
• understands musical relationships
• uses music to express feeling or experience

Dramatics:

• brings a dramatic situation to a climax with a well-timed ending when telling a story
• communicates feelings by means of facial expressions, gestures and bodily movements
• demonstrates ability to dramatize feelings and experiences
• demonstrates interest and enjoyment in dramatic activities
• demonstrates understanding of conflict when acting out a dramatic event
• enjoys evoking emotional responses from listeners
• readily shifts into role of another character, animal or object
• uses voice to reflect changes in mood

Art:

• draws a variety of objects
• is interested in other people's art, both appreciating it and criticizing it
• is willing to try out new materials and experiences
• likes to model three dimensionally with clay, soap carving, etc.
• pursues art in spare time
• puts depth into drawing, showing planning and good proportion
• shows originality in modes of undertaking art
• treats art seriously and enjoys it
• uses art to express feelings and experiences

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Aspergers Children and High Pain Tolerance

It is not uncommon for Aspergers youngsters to experience great pain and discomfort that goes unreported, unnoticed by others, undiagnosed, and untreated. Enduring pain and allowing it to become chronic is extremely detrimental to your Aspie’s ability to function, grow, and learn. Untreated pain and discomfort will also seriously affect your Aspie’s behavior and ability to communicate with others.

Of all the “meltdown triggers” that drive behaviors, experiencing pain and discomfort is extremely significant. This is because pain affects behavior. Think of the last time your Aspie was sick and feeling significant pain or discomfort (e.g., flu symptoms, migraine, menstrual cramps, pulled muscle, etc.). Now, think of how being in such pain manifested in his/her behavior. Perhaps he/she:
  • Felt especially vulnerable
  • Just wanted to be left alone
  • Just wanted to crawl under the covers and stay there
  • Lashed out or snapped at family members
  • Lashed out or snapped when anyone made a demand of him/her
  • Was especially hypersensitive to light or sound

What if the pain and discomfort is not treated and is allowed to persist due to a high pain tolerance?

Revisit the list above and consider how your child’s behavior might intensify the longer he had to endure the pain. Not only would he feel lousy, he would also feel disoriented and distracted. His attention would be focused on trying his best to cope and manage the pain that threatens to overwhelm him. Slowly but surely, any – or all – of the following could occur:
  • he might stop caring about his appearance
  • his ability to function, care for yourself, or interact with others would be greatly reduced
  • his mental health would be affected, eroded, and over time, seriously impaired
  • his self-esteem would suffer
  • the culmination of feeling physical pain would converge with mental anguish, leaving him weak and vulnerable

One prevalent form of pain in Aspergers kids occurs with allergies. The challenge is that many moms and dads do not recognize this and see their youngster's symptoms in isolation, if at all (e.g., the youngster may frequently experience ear blockages and ear infections, sometimes from a very young age). Perhaps the youngster manifested outwardly visual symptoms (e.g., red, sore, pussy ears that drained spontaneously). The youngster may have been treated with antibiotics or had tubes in her ears to relieve pressure. More often than not, the ear problems were one symptom within a cluster of other symptoms, indicative of allergies.

In addition to ear blockages and infections, the Aspergers youngster may also manifest symptoms of an allergy, such as:
  • Congestion and runny nose
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Red, itchy, or runny eyes
  • Sinus pressure over or under eyes
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands

You might have discovered that several of these symptoms manifest together at the same times of the year. The allergens could be absolutely anything — from one indicator (e.g., seasonal pollen) to an exhaustive collection of many known indicators. While you may have been treating one or two symptoms, you may not have been addressing the bigger picture (i.e., chronic allergies).

Treatment is available to relieve many of the physical side effects of severe allergies, but testing is necessary to determine the allergen type and degree of severity. This may be problematic for many Aspergers kids, especially if they have had unpleasant experiences with doctors who were not as patient or sensitive as they should have been.

Some of the testing and treatment may involve drawing blood or receiving steroid shots, which may be an overwhelming experience (and perhaps not worth the potential trauma). Another type of testing is nonintrusive and involves the child holding various physical examples of allergens to ascertain a reaction. It is also possible that standard, over-the-counter medications may work to contain some or all symptoms of the allergies — at least until the Aspergers child or teen can determine if she wishes to pursue other forms of obtaining relief.

Another prevalent factor that drives pain and discomfort in Aspergers kids is the gastrointestinal issues (e.g., severe gas and cramping, bloating, constipation, impaction, diarrhea, etc.). A number of such kids have an inability to properly digest dairy and wheat-based food products (among others), such that the enzymes from these foods “leak” through the gut and into the bloodstream, potentially creating an adverse reaction described by some as an “opiate” effect. In clinical trials, the dairy products are referred to as “casein,” and the wheat-based foods are referred to as “gluten.”

Moms and dads may find themselves frustrated with a youngster who seems “inappropriately” or embarrassingly gassy or who seems to have bowel complaints. Again, the youngster is not being deliberately difficult; there is a legitimate issue that is driving pain and discomfort.

As with pursuing the treatment of allergies, there are options that range from restrictive to less intrusive forms of treatment. In some instances, bacteria of the lower gastrointestinal tract may be responsible for creating these issues. This can be an excruciatingly painful experience that may cause a youngster to double over in pain. If the youngster is unaware of the root of the problem or doesn't know how to describe the pain in the moment, his “behavior” may be misinterpreted instead of correctly identified as a communication. Consult with your pediatrician to determine the appropriate treatment to get rid of all traces of the bacteria.

The procedures to determine the cause of the gastrointestinal tract problems may be very physically intrusive. You may want to explore less invasive methods of intervention as an alternative if the youngster has not had a good history with medical practitioners. These may include:
  • Avoiding foods with dyes or preservatives
  • Considering soy and other substitute foods, perhaps for a select time frame, to note any cause and effect
  • Cutting back on red-meat proteins in favor of chicken, fish, or other food options
  • Increasing consumption of natural food fiber found in fruits and vegetables
  • Increasing fluid intake, especially water, which may prove helpful as well
  • Promoting massage and exercise
  • Pursuing a diet free of dairy and wheat, in partnership with the youngster and in consultation with a dietician or nutritionist
  • Using any over-the-counter products designed to aid gas relief or alleviate bowel distress, like fiber-based additives

Some gastrointestinal problems may be compounded by the youngster's fears and anxieties around toileting. Aspergers kids tend to be careful observers. Most will attempt toileting — especially urinating — in their own way and in their own time, just at a time later than what might be considered developmentally appropriate. Still others may appear to deliberately wet or soil themselves. But understand that your youngster is not deliberately being insubordinate. He really is struggling and feeling just as frustrated as you.

Here are some tips that may help clarify your understanding of toileting issues in the Aspie:
  • If the youngster is not feeling safe and comfortable and in control, withholding body waste is one way of independently attempting to gain control.
  • Your youngster may be frightened by the toilet, believing that he may fall in and get sucked down.
  • Your youngster may be in a “perfectionism” mode, unwilling to admit his need to use the toilet when asked, or embarrassed to confess the need.
  • Your youngster may be overwhelmed by the loud roar of a flushing toilet.
  • Your youngster may not be connected enough with his body to consistently receive the physical “signals” or pressure indicating the need to evacuate waste.
  • Your youngster may panic, believing that in making a bowel movement, he is shedding a vital, living piece of his body.

To counteract these and other issues, it will be important to deconstruct the whole toileting process for your youngster using very basic, visual information. Explain the process of how and why the body rids itself of waste. Use your own visuals (e.g., graphics) to explain the human digestive system and name the internal parts of the body. Reinforce with your youngster that the process of eliminating waste from the body is natural. Also reinforce that using the toilet is a private matter. It is not to be discussed freely in public. It should only be discussed with close, trusted individuals (list them in writing), usually if there is cause for concern like constipation, impaction, diarrhea, etc.

Some Aspergers kids will want specific assurances about exactly what happens to their stool once it gets flushed away (e.g., “where does it go?” … “what becomes of it?”). You may need to research this yourself, or look it up on the Internet with your youngster. If you are uncertain if your youngster experiences the sensations indicating the need to use the bathroom, first ask him about it. Talk about the ways in which you know your body gives you the appropriate signals, and plan daily, gentle exercises designed to better connect your youngster with his body (e.g., yoga, breathing, stretching exercises, etc.).

There may be some adaptations you can make in giving your youngster control in toileting (e.g., adjusting the water pressure to avoid a rushing roar when the toilet is flushed, partnering with your youngster to select a new toilet seat that is more comfortable and makes the toilet opening less imposing).

Keeping a sticker or piece of tape handy when in public will empower your Aspie’s encounters with automatic flush toilets, which can create great anxiety for being so unpredictable. Simply have your youngster cover the toilet sensor with the adhesive, and remove it when ready. The toilet will be disabled until the sticker is removed.

As your Aspergers youngster grows into an adult, she should be able to identify and advocate for her own relief from pain. As with toileting, it will be useful to visually explain how the brain and body usually work together to send signals indicating pain. Sometimes the signals are accompanied by visuals that help reinforce that something is wrong (e.g., bleeding, a cut or blister). Other times, the signals may be exclusively inside the body and unseen, just felt. The Internet or your local library should be a resource in accessing images, books, or videos that describe these physiological processes.

There are some Aspergers kids who are inconsistent in reporting pain – if they report it at all. Here’s why:
  • As with toileting, your youngster may not have a nervous system he feels fully connected with, such that the pain is delayed or not “registering” properly.
  • Being inherently gentle and exquisitely sensitive, your youngster may have been severely traumatized by experiences with doctors and nurses so that he considers enduring the pain the better option.
  • Your youngster may not realize that what he's feeling in the moment is anything any different from what anyone else feels.
  • Your youngster may not understand that there exists an unwritten social expectation that all people report pain and discomfort in order to gain relief.

In addition to educating your youngster about how the body works when communicating pain, it will also be important to partner with your youngster in gaining self-awareness and control leading to lifelong self-advocacy. This means reinforcing that it is good and desirable to identify and report one's own pain. The message needs to be loud and clear: “It is not okay to live with chronic pain.” Also, it will help considerably in relieving your Aspie’s anxiety if you endeavor to demystify the entire concept of going to the doctor in advance of an appointment. You may do this by partnering with your youngster to consider doing the following:
  1. Arrange to get as many specifics about the appointment as possible, including approximate wait time and details of any procedures, along with literature and other visuals.
  2. Assign your youngster the responsibility of reading you driving directions to and from the office location, noting street names and landmarks.
  3. Because of downtime while waiting, suggest your youngster bring something to read or work on, possibly to share with the doctor as well.
  4. Before making the trip, partner with your youngster to develop a list of questions to ask the doctor, nurse, or receptionist. If there's the opportunity to do this, allow your youngster to take the lead in gleaning the information desired.
  5. Discuss flexibility of time frames with your youngster, and empower him to keep track of the time during the actual appointment.
  6. Gain clear information about the tentative sequence of events in order to visually list these out with your youngster (he can bring this list with him on appointment day).
  7. If at all possible, arrange to meet the doctor, the nurse practitioner, and — at the least — the receptionist. Again, provide the opportunity for your youngster to take pictures.
  8. Once at the office, empower your youngster by allowing him to take photographs inside and out. Review these later at home (where your youngster feels most comfortable), eliciting details from him.
  9. Schedule a pleasurable activity for your youngster to follow the appointment. Ensure that the activity occurs regardless of how well you think your youngster does or if he “earned” it.
  10. Suggest that your youngster photograph a typical private room, being remindful that, next visit, you may not get that exact room but one very much like it.
  11. With your youngster, schedule a time to drive to the doctor's office before the appointment day.

This is a lot of prep work and a significant investment of time, but in the long run, this investment of time up front will go a long way in supporting your youngster to feel safe and comfortable and in control. Empowering her to take the lead during this process promotes her ownership and sense of self-advocacy.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Urinating In All The Wrong Places

Question

My son is peeing in corners …on his lounge chair …on his Frisbee (toys). He suffers from ASD, ODD, ADD, ADHD, SPD, ANXIETY NOS. Does anyone else’s child do this?? If so, how have you got them to stop?????? We need help ASAP!!

Answer

In summary, children who pee in all the wrong places do so because (a) they can, (b) it brings them a sense of pleasure, and (c) it gives them a sense of control …let me explain:

About 25% of kids can be strong-willed, and they can find unique ways to "express their will" – and peeing on toys might be an expression of dominance, anger, or mastery (e.g., “look what I can do”). Your son’s emotional state when he pees on toys will help lead you to the underlying issue, (e.g., anger, dominance, mastery).

Usually this kind of behavior is seen when an ASD youngster is feeling stressed, unfairly disciplined, overlooked, or over-controlled. It seems to be a kind of secretive rebellion, a way of "marking territory." Regardless, you obviously want to redirect this behavior immediately so he doesn't start falling back on it whenever he's angry, stressed, or seeking some form of control over his environment.

What can you do? Here are some tips:

1. Use a “praise and rewards” system. You want your statement, ''You remembered to use the potty every time today! Great Job!'' to feel so good to hear that he'll want to hear it again every day. Also, you will get better cooperation if you use positive discipline in general, which is even more important for your child, in case he is rebelling against your discipline practices.

2. Do the “clean-up” together. Say, "Oops, did you pee here? Come on, let's get this cleaned up." Stay calm, hand him the paper towels, and have him help.

3. Consider play therapy. You may want to initiate a play session with his stuffed animals, and have one of them pee all over the house. Make it funny. If you get him laughing, you'll know you're on the right track. You might even have one stuffed animal you're holding ask the one your child is holding, "Why is he doing that?!" You might be surprised at the answer. Your son’s answer will give you some clue as to his motivation for pursuing this bad habit.

4. Consider a reward chart. Some therapists do not recommend reward charts in general, because they get children focused on the external reward, rather than on the rewarding feelings of "doing the right thing." More importantly, if you don't get to the feelings underneath that are causing your child to pee in all the wrong places, it won't work! However, if you do give him help with those feelings, a reward chart could be helpful as an additional incentive to help him break this habit. To try this, every time your child pees in the toilet, he gets a star, and a certain number of stars get him something he really wants – within a few days. Make sure the stars seem really valuable to him. In fact, you might want to launch this by giving him a small reward that he values (e.g., a snack, a small piece of candy) every single time he pees in the toilet. This may seem like overkill, but you need to make the toilet MUCH more rewarding than the lounge chair.

5. Give your child permission to pee outside if he wants. Tell him the rule is that people are allowed to pee outside sometimes, but only over there behind the shed where no one can see and it won't hurt any flowers. That way he will be able to have the satisfaction he's getting from this behavior, but in a more appropriate way.

6. Help your child with whatever feelings are driving him. Your child won’t be able to explain what feelings are driving him. Your job is to help him vent any feelings of fear or anger that are causing him to act-out. The best way to do that is to notice when he is close to a meltdown, and then to "love" him through it.

7. Be patient as he learns to restrain his “impulsivity” (“Hey, peeing right here - right now - sounds like fun”). Aspergers kids can be very impulsive, and it takes a little practice to overcome this “not-so-good” trait.

8. Increase his visits to the bathroom to make it less likely that he'll find himself with a full bladder and feel tempted. Make rules about bathroom habits: "The rule is that we use the bathroom before we go to bed, before and after a snack, after dinner, etc." When he doesn't like the rule, empathize: "I know, you don't want to go right now, but that's the rule. We all go right after meals." Externalizing the rule reduces the chance of a power-struggle between the two of you. Many Aspergers kids are very attached to rules and will follow them as long as they don't feel bossed around.

9. Just in case he's rebelling against what feels like too much control, give him fairly constant choices. Don't overwhelm him with ten choices at a time, just let him choose, whenever it would be ok for him to decide between two things.

10. Make it clear that "all people pee in the toilet" – but don't get into a struggle with your child about this. You can't win it, because he can always continue the behavior, and it will just require that you “up the ante” to a level of punishment that would be clearly inappropriate. The truth is that improving your relationship with him will have more impact on eradicating this behavior than any kind of punishment you could devise, and punishment always undermines your relationship.

11. Most young kids are feeling their testosterone. They need opportunities to wrestle, play superhero, and demonstrate their prowess in any way they can. This is totally age-appropriate, including when he brags to you that he is stronger than Superman. (Your response to that? "Wow!") Make sure he has plenty of opportunities to feel powerful, so he doesn't need to use his territory-marking strategy.

12. Shower him with unrequested love, appreciation and attention. Setting aside a regular daily time just to spend with your child can be challenging, but that may be the most important action you can take. You want him to feel so connected to you that he just can't bring himself to do something that he knows displeases you.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Aspergers Children

Insomnia in Aspergers Teens

According to the research, insomnia is a significant problem for Aspergers teens (compared to neurotypical teens). Whether it is due to anxiety, noise, caffeine, or physical discomfort, these tips may help your teenager get a good night’s sleep:

1. Avoid caffeine, especially after 12:00 PM. Some Aspergers teens are sensitive to caffeine. It's highly unlikely for an Aspergers teen to have a caffeine habit (e.g., Mountain Dew) and not be an insomniac.

2. Weighted blankets and soft sheets are a must.

3. Quiet blankets are supportive of a good night’s rest as well. A crackly sheet or comforter can wake the “light sleeping” teenager with the slightest movement.

4. Does your Aspie scratch a lot at night? He’s probably allergic to the detergent, or you may be putting too much soap in the wash and not getting a clean rinse.

5. Chamomile tea has been found to be helpful with sleep. The chamomile flower contains relaxants. At bedtime, have your teen drink a cup of pure chamomile (not the blends with peppermint or honey, which have stimulants that will be at cross purposes with the chamomile).

6. Do away with digital alarm clocks. They stare at the Aspie teen with bright red numbers, telling him how many hours and minutes until he has to get up for school. Digital clocks tend to raise the anxiety level of the Aspie. However, your teen should have a clock handy so he doesn’t have to get out of bed to check it. Cell phones or laptops nearby can do the trick.

7. Have some “downtime” before bed. Aspergers teens need one hour of downtime for every hour of socializing, and this is especially true at night. Unlike most adolescents, Aspies can't just turn off the T.V., walk into the bedroom, and fall face first into bed, passed out like a drunken sailor. They need to engage in their rituals and routines and bring their adrenalin levels back to normal.

8. Earplugs will deaden noise, and although some Aspies say they don't like the feel of them, there are different shapes, materials and sizes. Most Aspies tend to prefer the medium size foam ones – although they almost always do fall out at some point – so keep an extra set handy so you don't have to scramble to find them in the middle of the night. Noise-canceling headphones are a good alternative to ear plugs.

9. Light cardio and fresh air are good precursors to good sleep. The Aspie teen may be lethargic or mentally exhausted if he has been sitting at the computer playing video games for 3 hours. Going for a short walk and getting some fresh air serves as a “pre-bedtime” relaxation exercise.

10. Lavender has been shown by researchers to usher in and improve the quality of sleep. You can use essential oil in an infuser, dried lavender in a sachet, or fresh lavender in a vase. Aromatherapy, in general, can be very relaxing (avoid stimulating scents like lemon, though).

11. Melatonin is not a sleeping pill – it's a natural sleep aid. However, the teen should not take more than 3 mgs (even though it is sometimes sold in 5mg tablets), because that much may act like a depressant the next day. Your teen can start with 3mgs, and then take an additional 1-2 mgs later if he wakes up too early (e.g., 3:00 AM).

12. White noise (e.g., from a fan) is also a good way to block out unwanted sounds.

13. Relaxation CDs (e.g., rainforest sounds) can be quite soothing for some Aspies.

14. Some Aspies find the television (set at a low volume) to be calming, helping them to drop off into a relaxing sleep. However, other Aspies report that watching television before bed works more like a stimulant for them. Thus, decide if bedtime television is right for your teen.

15. Vigorous exercise has been reported to help Aspie teens get to sleep more quickly – and to stay asleep longer. However, make sure he does not exercise within 3 hours of bedtime.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Parenting Tips for Raising Aspies

Here are some important parenting strategies, specific to the Aspergers condition:

Aspergers and the "Fixated Personality" Type

In previous posts, we talked about the “avoidant personality,” the “approach personality,” and the “disruptive personality” in Aspergers children, teens and adults. In this post, we will examine the fourth and final type called the “fixated personality.”

The fixated personality type can be characterized by a preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and the need to control one’s environment (e.g., to have things in a particular order).

Some of the symptoms of the fixated personality type may include:
  • compulsion to make lists and/or schedules
  • feelings of excessive doubt and caution
  • obsessive need for cleanliness
  • perfectionism (that may sometimes interfere with task-completion)
  • preoccupation with order and organization
  • preoccupation with remembering and paying attention to minute details and facts
  • rigid following of rules and regulations
  • rigidity or inflexibility of beliefs
  • stubbornness
  • unreasonable insistence that others submit to his way of doing things

Some of the specific behavioral manifestations of the fixated personality type among Aspergers children and teenagers may include:
  • repeatedly checking homework
  • cleaning rituals
  • counting rituals
  • grooming rituals (e.g., hand washing, showering, teeth brushing)
  • hoarding and collecting things
  • ordering or arranging objects
  • repeating rituals (e.g., going in and out of doorways, needing to move through spaces in a special way, rereading, erasing, rewriting)
  • rituals to prevent harming self or others
  • rituals to undo contact with a "contaminated" person or object
  • touching rituals

Parents can look for the following possible signs of the fixated personality type:
  • continual expressions of fear that something terrible will happen
  • dramatic increase in laundry
  • persistent expressions of fear of illness
  • sudden drop in test grades
  • exceptionally long amount of time spent getting ready for bed
  • high, unexplained utility bills
  • holes erased through test papers and homework
  • raw, chapped hands from constant washing
  • reluctance to leave the house
  • requests for family members to repeat strange phrases or keep answering the same question
  • unproductive hours spent doing homework
  • unusually high rate of soap or paper towel usage

Environmental and stress factors can trigger fixated personality traits. These can include ordinary developmental transitions (e.g., starting school) as well as significant losses or changes (e.g., death of a loved one, moving to a different home or city).

It can be helpful to keep family routines as normal as possible, and for all family members to learn strategies to help the Aspergers youngster. It is also important to not let the “fixations” be the boss of the house and regular family activities. Giving in to fixations does not make them go away.

“Fixated” Aspies become less fixated at different rates, so try to avoid any day-to-day comparisons and recognize and praise any small improvements. Keep in mind that it's the disorder that is causing the problem, not the child. The more that personal criticism can be avoided, the better.

Treatment for the fixated personality type can involve the following:
  1. Behavior therapy: Discussing with a psychotherapist ways of changing compulsions into healthier, productive behaviors. An effective form of this therapy has been found to be cognitive analytic therapy.
  2. Cognitive behavioral therapy: A systematic approach to changing unwanted thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
  3. Psychopharmacology: A psychiatrist may be able to prescribe medication to facilitate self-management and also enable more productive participation in other therapies.
  4. Psychotherapy: Discussion with a trained counselor or psychotherapist who understands the condition.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Aspergers and the “Disruptive Personality” Type

In previous posts, we talked about the “avoidant personality” and the “approach personality” in Aspergers children, teens and adults. In this post, we will examine the “disruptive personality,” which unfortunately presents the most challenges to parents and teachers.

The disruptive personality is:
  1. a type of cognitive-behavioral style in which the Aspie's way of thinking, perceiving situations, and relating to others is sometimes destructive
  2. often comorbid with ADHD and/or ODD

Aspergers children and teens with disruptive personality typically have little regard for right and wrong. They may often violate the rights of others, landing in frequent trouble or conflict. They may lie, behave violently, and have drug and alcohol problems. Also, Aspies with disruptive personality may not be able to fulfill responsibilities to family, school, or work.

Disruptive personality traits may include:
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Agitation
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Intimidation of others
  • Irresponsible school-related or work-related behavior
  • Lack of remorse about harming others
  • Persistent lying or deceit
  • Poor or abusive relationships
  • Recurring difficulties with the parents and teachers
  • Repeatedly violating the rights of others
  • Using charm or wit to manipulate others

There may be a link between an early lack of “empathy” (i.e., understanding the perspectives and problems of others) and later onset of a disruptive personality style. These personality problems may be inherited, and identifying them early may help improve long-term outcomes.

Complications and problems associated with the disruptive personality include:
  • Aggression or violence
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Reckless behavior
  • Relationship difficulties
  • School and work problems
  • Social isolation
  • Strained relationships
  • Suicidal behavior

Psychotherapy is the main way to treat a child or teen with a disruptive personality style. Types of psychotherapy may include:
  • Psycho-education: This education-based therapy teaches coping strategies and problem-solving skills.
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy: This approach aims to raise awareness of unconscious thoughts and behaviors and — by bringing them to light — change their negative impact.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: This type of therapy helps to uncover unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones.

Psychotherapy may be provided in individual sessions, in group therapy, or in sessions that include family or even friends. The right type of psychotherapy depends on each person's individual situation.

If you have a child or teen with a disruptive personality style, it's critical that you also get help for yourself. Mental health professionals can help teach you skills to protect yourself from the aggression, violence and anger common to this personality type. They can also recommend strategies for coping.

Parents can help their Aspergers child with disruptive personality traits in the following ways:
  1. Always build on the positives, give the child praise and positive reinforcement when he shows flexibility or cooperation.
  2. Take a time‑out or break if you are about to make the conflict with your child worse, not better. This is good modeling for your child. Support your child if he decides to take a time‑out to prevent overreacting.
  3. Pick your battles. Since this particular child has trouble avoiding power struggles, prioritize the things you want your child to do. If you give your child a time‑out in his room for misbehavior, don't add time for arguing. Say "your time will start when you go to your room."
  4. Set up reasonable, age appropriate limits with consequences that can be enforced consistently.
  5. Maintain interests other than your "disruptive" Aspie so that managing your child doesn't take all your time and energy. Try to work with and obtain support from the other adults (teachers, coaches, and spouse) in dealing with your child.
  6. Manage your own stress with exercise and relaxation. Use respite care as needed. 
  7. Come up with a specific parenting-plan to address the behavioral problems associated with a disruptive personality.

Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

Aspergers Adults with Avoidant Personality: Self-Help Strategies

Adult "Aspies" (i.e., people with Aspergers or high-functioning autism) with Avoidant Personality experience a long-standing feeling of inadequacy due to the lack of social skills that result from mind-blindness. This influences the Aspie to be socially inhibited. Because of these feelings of inadequacy and inhibition, these individuals will often seek to avoid work, school, or any activities that involve socializing or interacting with others (e.g., many young Aspergers adults with Avoidant Personality are still living with their parents and playing video games rather than working, going to college, getting married, etc.).

The major problems associated with the Avoidant Personality style occur in social and occupational functioning. The low self-esteem is associated with restricted interpersonal contacts. These Aspies may become relatively isolated and usually do not have a large social support network that can help them weather crises. They desire affection and acceptance and may fantasize about idealized relationships with others, but may not have the social skills to find and keep friends. The avoidant behaviors can also adversely affect occupational functioning because these Aspies try to avoid the types of social situations that may be important for meeting the basic demands of the job or for advancement.

Avoidant Personality is characterized by a long-standing pattern of feelings of inadequacy and social inhibition. It typically manifests itself by early childhood and includes a majority of the following symptoms:
  • Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact
  • Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations
  • Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities
  • Is often unwilling to get involved with people
  • Shows restraint within intimate relationships
  • Views self as socially inept

Most adult Aspies with Avoidant Personality don't seek treatment until the condition starts to significantly interfere or otherwise impact his/her life. This most often happens when a person's coping resources are stretched too thin to deal with stress or other life events.

The treatment of choice is psychotherapy. While individual therapy is usually the preferred modality, group therapy can be useful if the Aspie can agree to attend enough sessions. Because of the basic components of this condition, though, it is often difficult to have the individual attend group therapy early on in the therapeutic process. It is a modality to consider as the Aspie approaches termination of individual treatment, if additional therapy seems necessary and beneficial to him/her.

Avoidant Personality: Self-Help Strategies—
  1. Actively seek out and join supportive social environments.
  2. Challenge negative, unhelpful thoughts that trigger and fuel social anxiety, replacing them with more balanced views.
  3. Challenge social anxiety one step at a time. While it may seem impossible to overcome a feared social situation, you can do it by taking it one small step at a time. The key is to start with a situation that you can handle and gradually work your way up to more challenging situations, building your confidence and coping skills as you move up the “anxiety ladder” (e.g., if socializing with strangers makes you anxious, you might start by accompanying an outgoing friend to a party, and once you’re comfortable with that step, you might try introducing yourself to one new person, and so on).
  4. Group therapy for social anxiety is a good idea. It uses acting, videotaping and observing, mock interviews, and other exercises to work on situations that make you anxious in the real world. As you practice and prepare for situations you’re afraid of, you will become more and more comfortable and confident in your social abilities, and your anxiety will lessen.
  5. Know that avoidance leads to more problems. While avoiding social situations may help you feel better in the short term, it prevents you from becoming more comfortable in social situations and learning how to cope. In fact, the more you avoid certain social situations, the easier it is to become even more unsociable. Avoidance may also prevent you from doing things you’d like to do or reaching certain goals.
  6. Learn how to control the physical symptoms of anxiety through relaxation techniques and breathing exercises.
  7. Take a social skills class or an assertiveness training class. These classes are often offered at local adult education centers or community colleges.
  8. Use cognitive-behavioral techniques for social anxiety, including role-playing and social skills training.
  9. Volunteer doing something you enjoy, such as walking dogs in a shelter, or stuffing envelopes for a campaign — anything that will give you an activity to focus on while you are also engaging with a small number of like-minded people.
  10. Work on your communication skills. Good relationships depend on clear, emotionally-intelligent communication. If you find that you have trouble connecting to others, learning the basic skills of emotional intelligence can help.



COMMENTS:

RE: "Why are you posting info about adults on the spectrum on this site? I thought this site was about children on the spectrum."


•    Mark Hutten, M.A. said… Because many of the parents of Aspergers children here in our support group have Aspergers (high functioning) themselves. When these parents come to terms with their own disorder, they become better at parenting their 'special needs' kids. Make sense?
•    Anonymous said... Also, kids with asperger's grow up to become adults with it. Some people have children standing on the threshold of adulthood and need info too.
•    Anonymous said... As a parent of a 20 year old, only diagnosed age 18, I still need help with my son, whether he is classed as a child or an adult. There is very little information/support out there as it is for parents like me with a young man floundering on the edges of society where he is expected to be able to live by himself, but struggles to do that. He is still my child, whether he is 20 or 10. Symptoms remain constant, coping mechanisms may need a bit of adjusting given his age, but I can still learn lots from how the parents of young children with Aspergers.
•    Anonymous said... Children on the spectrum will become adults on the spectrum. I love hearing from adults on the spectrum, helps me know what to expect in the future.
•    Anonymous said... I agree. Many parents dont realize they are on the spectrum as well. All of the posts are helpful & eye opening!
•    Anonymous said... I agree. My son has Aspergers he 12 1/2. I have now come 2 terms that I may have. So I have a Apt to have myself tested. 2 better myself for my son.
•    Anonymous said... I am a parent of a misdiagnoses Aspie for 20 years. I value the posts because we just had to figure things out as we went. Finally a little bit if information sure helps!
•    Anonymous said... I am a parent to two ASD children but since they have been diagnosed my husband has started noticing asd traits in me what steps should i be taking and how long can it take for myself to be tested any help would be of great value thanks in advance concerned mum
•    Anonymous said... I am one of that kind of parents. Aspergers myself, son with HFA. This is the most informative and helpful website I have found.
•    Anonymous said... I can relate to all the above comments. My son wasn't diagnosed until he was nearly 15. I found very little info on teens. So this info on adults is exceptionally helpful as this dx is life long and the struggles remain with them and us as parents forever.
•    Anonymous said... I like reading about trials we may face with my aspire growing up. I know each person is different, but I find it helpful for being as prepared as I can be for him.
•    Anonymous said... I will always be parenting a child with aspergers! Each individual with aspergers is different. hearing stories of all ages helps to prepare and think about my sons future (he is 14). if someone finds out they have aspergers at an older age, that does not necessarily mean they have the answers to parent their child perfectly.
•    Anonymous said... I'm in the same situation Deborah, waiting for my referral to be tested, my oldest son is the same age as yours 
•    Anonymous said... it was only after my children were dx that my hubby realized he is on spectrum too.and aspergers kids grow up,
•    Anonymous said... Makes perfect sense to me! 
•    Anonymous said... Makes total sense! It was only through the process of our son being dxd my husband finally accepted the bleeding obvious about himself, and now our daughter is being assessed I realise I'm probably an aspie too.
•    Anonymous said... My 14 yr old has just been diagnosed so I'm looking for infor that helps for someone that's not a child but not yet an adult - finding it good here
•    Anonymous said... My Aspie son is now 17, soon to become "an adult", ha, that is hardly a statement. We need all the advise that we can for children as well as adults. Just cause the person gets older doesn't mean the disorder disappears, in some cases it intensifies. As a community we must teach and support one another to over come the obstacles aspies have and can be so challenging for the world to understand and understand them without prejudice. This is about everyone! God bless us all and have a good day!
•    Anonymous said... My husband did not know that he had it till our son was diagnosed and he realised that what I was reading out to him was all about him. It makes it easier for me to parent the both of them. Also when my son has meltdowns or things change he hears me speak with my son and he learns what to say next time. My husband accepts that it is what it is and that they get each other.
•    Anonymous said... My son is days away from turning 13 and we are in the process of receiving a dx... Any and all support and info is helpful...
•    Anonymous said... My son was not diagnosed till he was 3 months away from being 18yrs old. Every support group, source of information was a necessity to us so that we could get the support he needed as well as understanding what is aspergers and what is just teenage stuff.
•    Anonymous said... One day your children will be adults better for you to know now it's easy to live day by day because its easy but teenage year a big handful 
•    Anonymous said... our children become adults which my son turn 19 couple days ago I became his legal guardian when he turn 18 and now my daughter turning 16 soon. So I can see talking about adults either parents themselves or families who children are reaching adulthood my son still in school he could of graduated last year but he is staying until he is 21 and he is in the 18-21 yr work program so working on those important vocational skills this summer he did 2 paid work trials he enjoy that as well. The older he became the more progress he has made in his life. His younger years were very hard on everyone but now he is doing so well. Now hoping my daughter will make it down the same path but right now she is down the wrong path I believe girls especially the teenage years are so much harder than with a boy. She was the easy one when she was younger but now I never know what she going to throw at us. having 2 on the spectrum at different levels both are verbal just not the same
•    Anonymous said... So true, my sons aunt & uncle have it.
•    Anonymous said... Surely, whoever asked the original was the parent of a very young child and just wasn't thinking it through. If the read these comments, they will quickly realize understand.
•    My 12 1/2 year old son was dx with Autism at 3 and will be an adult before too long. Like many others commenting, I now have no doubt that I am on the spectrum and possibly my husband. At 43, I don't see the benefit of seeking a dx for me. (Especially considering the cost involved since we only have private health insurance.)
•    Anonymous said... Thank you, yes indeed, its helpful and encouraging. I'm not alone. Although, I'm not HFA, my boys 24 and 19 are. We still don't know yet where/how or which genes came from. Their dad(I'm divorced)was abusive, so we parted years ago, when boys were 5 and still pregnant with younger one. It has been a long hard struggle, but thanking God, each day for my boys, I would do it all over again. They've struggled and sometimes still with anxiety. And they've been through a period of depression during high sch. They've been through a lot. Now younger one in 2nd year in college, older one rebalancing himself, he just recently restarted therapy and meds. Charactics of HFA are there, but they do love humor. And even a lil bit of sports. We live in a small town. We are native Americans, so healthcare wasn't all that great for my boys. Seems not enough good therapist here, but yes indeed, we are getting there. God provides. I do want my boys to attend church with me, but I've tried asking before,they do believe God exists and they probably know the Holy Bible better than I do.lol so now I attend church for the three of us. Any suggestions? And dating is/was hard. So its like a the back burner.lol any suggestions? I just wanna share with anyone who cares to listen....only God will carry you and family through the fire. Its just as simple as that. Im praying for all parents and kiddos here. I appreciate all your comments/suggestions.very helpful indeed. May God bless y'all and never give up on your children, no matter what. Have a great day!
•    Anonymous said... The other factor to consider if that as a parent of an almost 18 year old with Aspergers, (as well a other dx) I will not stop being his parent because he turns18. There is limited support and resources for teens and adults, compared to the younger kids...just as when he was younger there was little information compared to now. I'm always having to work for new ideas for motivation, his self care, advocacy and so much more. Its appreciated having as many resources as possible when trying to guide my son to his independence whole allowing him to remain himself.
•    Anonymous said... The points made is so true, one kids grow up, and some adults shpuld b tested too, they may not b aware they have it,,, special guidance is needed 
•    Anonymous said... We were just clinically "quirky" back then.
*   Anonymous said... It's kind of funny to think that even if someone had noticed something was off about me when I was a kid, there was no way I could have been diagnosed correctly. I was born in 1977, so at the time, Asperger's hadn't been recognized officially as a condition and wasn't included in the diagnostic manuals until 1995 (when I graduated high school incidentally). The issue of adults with Asperger's is a relatively new thing, which probably explains why it is so difficult to find trained counselors to help out adults instead of kids. I tend to think the adults have unique problems that children with Asperger's don't, primarily depression for years of feeling "off", and improperly learned communication habits. Years ago, someone with Asperger's was just considered strange. If they entered into a relationship, as long as they were male, then the standoffishness and silence was considered part of "being a man". Times have changed, though, and communication has become a huge part of our society. EVERY job these days requires good communication skills, and there is almost no way you are going to enter a relationship and get away with be standoffish. Hopefully, as time progresses, treatment options to help aspies deal with these issues will improve. In the mean time, sites like this one are a fantastic way for aspies to talk to each other and help find ways to deal with the day to day issues of being part of a different world. It's also a great way to practice communicating.
•    Anonymous said… I have to be dragged into doing everything and the more important it is the harder it seems to be to get me to do it. I can know it's important and still can't seem to do it, I even get in a right stress with myself for being so crap.
•    Anonymous said… I wasted so much time with this and worrying about inadvertently offending others or worrying about people thinking that I'm one narrow archetype or another; one overly serious and literal - or alternately a creative eccentric. The more I was aware of how different it was, the more concerned and slightly avoidant I became. I used to only do groceries late at night when the shopper count drops dramatically. Now I realize though that the desire to fit with what I 'thought' was the norm took energy away from other pursuits. This maladaptive over-processing ironically leads to more self surrounding than would happen if we instead dedicated ourselves to our "hyper focussed" pursuits. At least our interests, if they could lead to niche careers, would ultimately bestow more success, achievement and the confidence of identity that then begets more social, cultural and capital exposure.
•    Anonymous said… Sounds like me. I always thought this was normal for I never really wanted to connect to people anyway.
•    Anonymous said… that's pretty much me. I find tho, once I get going it's ok, but most of the time I don't go out anywhere and I try not to run into my roomate if I can help it. I shouldn't even have a roomate to begin with and it keeps me from getting to a place of processing b4 I can go out. It sux.  


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Transitioning to Adulthood: Help for Older Teens with Aspergers

The greatest challenge you will face as a mother or father of an Aspergers child is supporting him through the transition to adulthood. As protective (or over-protective) as you may be, at some point you will be ready for your Aspie to leave home to venture out on his own into the adult world. Of course your relationship with your adult child will continue long after he leaves the nest, and your loving support can help him with “grown-up” responsibilities.

Is your 18 or 19-year-old Aspie ready for adulthood? Answer yes or no to the following questions:
  1. Can your adolescent drive?
  2. Can your adolescent make meals and snacks for himself?
  3. Do you get frustrated with your adolescent's inability to complete projects?
  4. Do you give your adolescent opportunities to make his own decisions?
  5. Do you give your adolescent positive feedback?
  6. Do you listen to your adolescent's problems, make suggestions and then allow him to choose how to proceed?
  7. Do you still pick up after your adolescent when he leaves things around the house?
  8. Does your adolescent clean her bedroom?
  9. Does your adolescent complain when her friends are busy, therefore “there’s nothing to do”?
  10. Does your adolescent do a weekly chore regularly without more than one reminder?
  11. Does your adolescent do her laundry?
  12. Does your adolescent handle stress well?
  13. Does your adolescent handle your direction without back-talk or sulking?
  14. Does your adolescent have a checking account that he handles on his own?
  15. Does your adolescent have a healthy hygiene routine?
  16. Does your adolescent have a job outside of your home?
  17. Does your adolescent know how to make money-saving goals and then achieve them?
  18. Has your adolescent ever taken a CPR or First Aid class?
  19. Has your adolescent used any of the community's resources?
  20. If your adolescent is facing a problem with a teacher, do you allow her to fix it?
  21. Is your adolescent able to ask other people questions without being too shy?
  22. Is your adolescent able to make her own appointments?
  23. Is your adolescent able to plan a trip successfully?
  24. Is your adolescent able to plan out her week effectively?
  25. Is your adolescent comfortable doing things on his own?

If you answered “no” to three of the questions above – it should be a red flag that “life skills” are lacking. If you answered “no” to five or more – then your child may not be ready for adult responsibilities yet.

If your parenting goes as planned, your young adult Aspie will - at some point - leave home and live independently. Life skills will help your older adolescent to be independent and live on his own, which is the goal of a successful young adult and her parents. But it isn't easy. Older teenagers with Aspergers often feel they can take the big step towards independent living without possessing all of the life skills they will need to succeed “out in the real world.”

You can help your Aspergers teenager be independent by encouraging good habits and helping him learn the life skills it takes to be independent.

Below are 15 life skills your teenager will need to learn in order to be successful at living independently the first time she is on her own:

1. Ability to Find Housing

2. Finding and Keeping a Job— In order to live independently, your adolescent will need to have a job. The job will need to make enough money to cover their living expenses, at minimum. Today's happy young adult has a job that contributes to a high quality of life and not just monetarily.

3. General Housekeeping Skills

4. Goal Setting— Defining what it is you want is called setting a goal. Figuring out and taking the actions you need to get your goal is how you obtain that goal. Both of these are important life skills. Learning how to set and obtain a goal are necessary life skills your adolescent will need to be a happy and successful adult.

5. Health and Hygiene Skills— In order for your adolescent to be happy while they live independently, they will need to be successful at keeping their bodies healthy and clean. These life skills are taught throughout your adolescent's childhood and adolescence by encouraging good hygiene routines and healthy habits.

6. Interpersonal Skills

7. Money Skills

8. Personal Safety Skills

9. Stress Management Skills

10. The Ability to Cope with Loneliness— Coping with loneliness is a very important skill on my list of needed independent living skills for adolescents because every adolescent I've ever known has needed it. Adolescents who know how to recognize loneliness as the temporary feeling it is, use their support system and work through their loneliness do just fine.

11. The Ability to Deal with Emergencies

12. The Ability to Find What You Need in Your Community

13. The Ability to Procure and Cook Food

14. Time Management Skills

15. Transportation Skills— One life skill that adolescents need to learn to become independent but generally leave to their parents or caregivers, is transportation or getting from Point A to Point B.

Does your Aspergers adolescent need to know all of ins and outs of each skill well? No. Your adolescent may even get by not having to know one particular skill at all. For example, a young man who has no idea how to do laundry may have a girlfriend who does. This young man may be able to get his interpersonal skills to help with his household skills by convincing his girlfriend to help with his laundry. But, do your best at teaching your adolescent each skill as if they will need it. This will give them the greatest chance of being successful at living independently the first time they live on their own.

Other points to consider:

When your teen behaves badly, you may become angry or upset with him, but these feelings are different from not loving your teen. Older teens need grown-ups who are there for them. They need people who connect with them, communicate with them, spend time with them and show a genuine interest in them. This is how they learn to care for and love others as an adult.

Older teens need support as they struggle with problems that may seem unimportant to their parents and families. They need praise when they've done their best. They need encouragement to develop interests and personal characteristics.

Adolescence is a time for exploring many areas and doing new things. Your youngster’s interests will change, in academics and recreation. He may experiment with different forms of art, learn about different cultures and careers and take part in community or religious activities. Within your means, you can open doors for your youngster. You can introduce him to new people and to new worlds. In doing so, you may renew in yourself long-ignored interests and talents, which also can set a good example for your youngster.

Older teens need parents or other adults who consistently provide structure and supervision that is firm and appropriate for age and development. Limits keep all kids, including adolescents, physically and emotionally safe.

It is tempting to label all young teens as difficult and rebellious. But adolescents vary as much as kids in any other age group. Your youngster needs to be treated with respect, which requires you to recognize and appreciate her differences and to treat her as an individual. Respect also requires you to show compassion by trying to see things from your youngster's point of view and to consider her needs and feelings. By treating your young adolescent with respect, you help her to take pleasure in good behavior.

Older teens need strong role models. Follow the values that you hope your youngster will develop. Your actions speak louder than words. If you set high standards for yourself and treat others with kindness and respect, your youngster probably will too. As teens explore possibilities of who they may become, they look to their parents, peers, celebrities and others.

Launching Adult Children With Aspergers: How To Promote Self-Reliance

Helping Older Aspergers Teens Find Work

Question

How can I get my 19-year-old Aspergers son to stop playing video games long enough to go find a job? I try to tell him that he needs to be working at least part-time at this age – but he’s not interested. (*sigh*)

Answer

Looking for a job is difficult for any teenager new to the job market, especially when high unemployment allows extreme selectivity among job applicants. But with Aspergers, the difficulty level goes up yet another notch. Chances are strong that your child will face this challenge.

How can you make your home a supportive place for job hunting? Here are some ideas:

1. Be a good listener. Let him express his feelings of frustration, anger, and nervousness about seeking employment.

2. Be aware of community resources. Know the applicable civil rights laws. Consider government programs such as vocational rehabilitation and job service. If you know of other parents whose children are job hunting, you may want to form a support group for yourselves and/or your children.

3. Grooming is important. Aspies are often unaware of tears and stains on their clothing, sloppy hair, or dirt on their hands. It helps if someone looks them over before an interview.

4. Help him to organize himself. Many – if not most – Aspies do not know how to look for work. There are many books about job-hunting, each with a slightly different approach. Together, you might decide on a plan of action. Or help might be needed with the fine points of planning and scheduling. You could remind him of necessary follow-up telephone calls or letters.

5. Help with writing if necessary. Aspies tend not to have the best hand-writing skills. It might be helpful if the parent types or handwrites job applications since sloppy handwriting and misspellings tend to disturb employers. If the employer uses online job kiosks (a new barrier for people with reading and writing difficulty), you may have to sit with him and key in the words of the application. Also, help with transportation, if necessary.

6. Insist your child actively look for work. Do not let him spend extensive time playing games, watching TV, reading, etc. If necessary, tell him that looking for work is a full-time job, which he must do in order to earn your financial support. Help him by not overloading him with chores during working hours on the weekdays when employers are in. Help him overcome his failures, but do not accept lack of effort.

7. Use your social network to help your child find work. Talk to your friends, co-workers, and other parents of Aspergers children. Tell them about your child. Stress your child’s positive qualities and describe him as a capable worker. Don’t spend a lot of time describing his disorder. Ask him to follow up any leads that you discover.

8. Social skills are important to job success. Help your child to understand the point of view of co-workers and to adjust to the many hidden rules of the organization.

9. As he looks for employment, emphasize his actions and behavior, rather than the results. If he is actively seeking work, he deserves your respect and praise, even if he does not succeed in finding work. For example, praise your child if he does a good job of describing his qualifications at an interview, even if he is not selected for the opening.

10. Finding a job is only half the battle. Your child will have to work hard in order to keep that job. Be sure your child gets a complete job description and check for problem areas. If your child might have difficulty with any task because of his disorder, he may want to consider trading that task with a co-worker in return for a task that he can do.

Aspies work in every conceivable job – salesperson, optometrist, pilot, doctor, psychologist, computer programmer, janitor, and waiter. Pay attention to your child’s abilities. Teach him to feel pride in his achievements. And support him as he hunts for a job. With your help and your clear belief that your child can succeed, he can “make it.” Good luck!

Launching Adult Children With Aspergers: How To Promote Self-Reliance

Aspergers and the "Approach Personality" Type

In a previous post (click here), we looked at Aspergers and the "avoidant personality." In this post, we will discuss the somewhat opposite personality type: the "approach personality."

This type usual occurs in the Aspie who also has ADHD, although this is not always the case.

The two primary characteristics of the “approach personality” are (a) excessive talking about one’s special (or obsessive) interest, and (b) significant violations of other’s personal space.

Excessive Talking About Special Interests—

Excessive talking in the Aspie can present a number of problems. No one particularly likes to be referred to as a "motor-mouth," but they can be exactly that. While some people have much to say of value, excessive talkers usually do not. They talk either because they can't help it due to “mind-blindness” (i.e., they are unaware that the listener is both bored and annoyed with the one-sided conversation), or because they simply love to tell others about their favorite hobby/activity out of a huge sense of passion about that particular hobby/activity.

Aspies who talk excessively can sometimes get along well with one another, probably because neither is paying much attention to what the other is saying. For those with normal speaking habits however, excessive talking often borders on being socially unacceptable. We are brought up to be attentive to what others are saying, to speak mainly when spoken to, while at the same time hoping that when we do talk, we sound intelligent and say the right things in as few words as possible.

Excessive talking in the Aspie often translates into an inability to understand or follow instructions. The very act of learning can be seriously impeded, and the chattering Aspie may be unable to concentrate on those things where concentration is vital to success.

Those Aspies who persist in excessive talking about their obsessive interest are more apt to be victims of another type of disorder, the Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). Not all of those with OCPD are excessive talkers – it is just one of the symptoms. You can usually spot those with OCPD, because they tend to be preoccupied with perfectionism and orderliness, pay excessive attention to detail, and are most comfortable in an environment where there are rules to follow, schedules to meet, and an organizational structure in which they know their place.

The drive for perfectionism often results in such individuals being unable to complete certain assigned tasks, or being unable to follow rules which don't conform to their own strict standards. Some OCPD Aspies are extremely introverted (living in their own carefully regulated and orderly world) while others can be quite extroverted (these are the attention seekers, the ones who violate your personal space, and who often over-dramatize any and every situation). It is from among this group that excessive talking is apt to be one of the more noticeable symptoms.

Tips for the excessive (obsessive) talker:

1. Appreciate what others have to say. Listening to other person’s viewpoint allows you to permit him or her to express an opinion.

2. Be a good listener. People like to be listened to.

3. Be more conscious of your behavior patterns. Acknowledge that you speak too much and behave accordingly.

4. Do not talk for the sake of talking. Restraint is good.

5. One can take up courses in being a good conversationalist.

6. Seek professional help if excessive talking is a compulsive behavior. Often people speak due to some psychological disorder or problem. A person with a nervous disposition will speak more.

7. One need not express everything on one’s mind. Certain things you must keep to yourself.

8. One should always have something important to contribute. Whatever you say should have an impact on others. They should want to listen to you. Conversation should be interesting.

9. One should avoid being pushy or aggressive while conversing. Try to convey things in fewer words. Be brief in what you say.

10. Think before you speak. It may be difficult if you are nervous. But it is better to be aware of what you are saying. You need not regret later.

11. Try not interrupting another person’s conversation as far as possible.

12. Try to allow the other person to say something. It may be difficult, but one needs to practice self-control. A good conversation is a two-way process. All of those taking part in the conversation have much to contribute. Each person must get a chance to say something.

Violating Personal Space—

Interpersonal space refers to the psychological "bubble" that exists psychologically when one person stands too close to another. There are four different zones of interpersonal space:

1. Intimate distance: ranges from touching to about 18 inches (46 cm) apart, reserve for lovers, children, close family members and friends, and pets.

2. Personal distance: begins about an arm's length away starting around 18 inches (46 cm) from the person and ending about 4 feet (122 cm) away. This space is used in conversations with friends, to chat with associates, and in group discussions.

3. Social distance: ranges from 4 to 8 feet (1.2 m - 2.4 m) away from the person and is reserved for strangers, newly formed groups, and new acquaintances.

4. Public distance: includes anything more than 8 feet (2.4 m) away, and is used for speeches, lectures, and theater. Public distance is essentially that range reserved for larger audiences.

Aspies with approach personality traits tend to be mostly in the “intimate distant” mode (i.e., they will stand within arm’s reach – even with strangers). It goes without saying that most people are taken aback by such behavior.

The absence of strong emotional responses to personal space violation is, again, the result of the Aspie’s “mind-blindness” (i.e., an inability to develop an awareness of what is in the mind of the other person). If you, as a neurotypical, did an experiment in which you purposely stood excessively close to a stranger to read his/her reaction, you would readily notice a pained expression on the other person’s face, sending you a very clear non-verbal message that he/she is alarmed. The mind-blind Aspie with approach personality traits does not receive this non-verbal cue – even though the cue was indeed sent.

Tips for the personal space violator:

1. Understand that (a) people have certain expectations about verbal and nonverbal communication behavior from other people, and (b) violations of these expectations cause arousal and distraction in them.

2. Only stand or sit within arm’s reach of close family members and romantic partners.

3. With your friends, stand or sit no closer than arm’s length.

4. With all others, stay at least 4 feet away.

5. Pay attention to the facial expressions of those you stand or sit close to. Are they grimacing, for example? If so, then you may be too close.

6. Pay attention to whether or not the other person moves away, creating addition distance between the two of you. Does he/she seem to be taking steps backwards during the conversation? If so, you may be too close.

7. If you are uncertain, ask the other person “Am I violating your personal space?” Most people will respect that question and answer honestly.

Some of the behaviors exhibited in the “approach personality” have a good side to them when these behaviors can be correctly channeled. There are many activities in which paying greater than normal attention to detail can be a definite plus, and those with a short attention span often find a place in activities demanding creativity and thinking outside the box. As far as excessive talking is concerned, it is best that it be treated with counseling (usually in the form of “social skills training”), although there are occasional openings for stand up comics and radio talk show hosts. As far as personal space violations are concerned, it is best to reserve close proximity for those who enjoy being close to you (e.g., your mother, girlfriend, cat, etc.).

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Aspergers and the "Avoidant Personality" Type

Children, teens and adults with Aspergers vary in personality types. One type of personality is called “avoidant.” Avoidant personality is characterized by a pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation. This type of Aspie is often described as being extremely shy, inhibited in new situations, and fearful of disapproval and social rejection. Avoidant personality becomes a major component of an Aspie’s overall character and a central theme in how he relates to others.

Avoidant Personality in Aspergers Adults: Case Study—

A 30-year-old computer programmer with Aspergers presents for treatment at the urging of his new girlfriend whom he met online. He describes himself as being painfully shy since childhood. There is no history of language delay, odd interests, or unawareness of social cues. On the contrary, he tends to over-interpret cues, believing that he is being negatively viewed by others. He has always had difficulty forming close friendships – not because of a lack of desire – but because of an intense fear of rejection and disapproval. He endured adolescence with difficulty as his self-esteem dropped. In college, he became absorbed in his studies and avoided most social encounters because they were so difficult for him. After graduation, he looked for work that would minimize social interaction and opportunities to be judged by others. He did manage to meet his current girlfriend through a social networking website, but she complains that he does not relate to her in an intimate manner.

Aspies with avoidant personality tend to do some of the following:
  • Views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
  • Stays quiet or hides in the background in order to escape notice
  • Shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed
  • Is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
  • Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing
  • Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations
  • Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
  • Drinks before social situations in order to soothe nerves
  • Avoids social situations to a degree that limits activities or disrupts life
  • Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection

The following situations are often stressful for Aspies with avoidant personality:

• Attending parties or other social gatherings
• Being called on in class
• Being teased or criticized
• Being the center of attention
• Being watched while doing something
• Eating or drinking in public
• Going on a date
• Making phone calls
• Making small talk
• Meeting new people
• Performing on stage
• Public speaking
• Speaking up in a meeting
• Taking exams
• Talking with “important” people or authority figures
• Using public bathrooms

Emotional symptoms of avoidant personality include:

• Excessive self-consciousness and anxiety in everyday social situations
• Extreme fear of being watched or judged by others, especially people you don’t know
• Fear that others will notice that you’re nervous
• Fear that you’ll act in ways that that will embarrass or humiliate yourself
• Intense worry for days, weeks, or even months before an upcoming social situation

Physical symptoms of avoidant personality include:

• Feeling dizzy or faint
• Racing heart or tightness in chest
• Red face, or blushing
• Shortness of breath
• Sweating or hot flashes
• Trembling or shaking (including shaky voice)
• Upset stomach, nausea (i.e. butterflies)

For Aspies with avoidant personality, evaluating for the presence of psychiatric disorders, particularly major depression, substance abuse, and other anxiety disorders, is extremely important. Because “social anxiety tendencies” are often found in other family members, a family psychiatric history is beneficial.

Help for Aspies with Avoidant Personality—

1. Avoid or limit caffeine. Coffee, tea, caffeinated soda, energy drinks, and chocolate act as stimulants that increase anxiety symptoms.

2. Challenge negative, unhelpful thoughts that trigger and fuel social anxiety, replacing them with more balanced views.

3. Drink only in moderation. You may be tempted to drink before a party or other social situation in order to calm your nerves, but alcohol actually increases your anxiety in the long run.

4. Face the social situations you fear in a gradual, systematic way, rather than avoiding them.

5. Get adequate sleep. When you’re sleep deprived, you’re more vulnerable to anxiety. Being well rested will help you stay calm in social situations.

6. Learn how to control the physical symptoms of social anxiety through relaxation techniques and breathing exercises.

7. Quit smoking. Nicotine is a powerful stimulant. Smoking leads to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.

8. Take a social skills class or an assertiveness training class. These classes are often offered at local adult education centers or community colleges.

9. Volunteer doing something you enjoy, such as walking dogs in a shelter, or stuffing envelopes for a campaign — anything that will give you an activity to focus on while you are also engaging with a small number of like-minded people.

10. Work on your communication skills. Good relationships depend on clear, emotionally-intelligent communication. If you find that you have trouble connecting to others, learning the basic skills of emotional intelligence can help.

The opposite of the "avoidant personality" is the "approach personality," which is discussed in another post (click here).

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.

Click here to read the full article...

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