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

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The Walmart Woes: Help for Over-Stimulated Aspies

When you take a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism to a large retail store (e.g., Walmart, Home Depot, Best Buy, the Mall, etc.), you are risking replacing your serenity with a migraine. These children tend to become over-stimulated when exposed to large, noisy crowds – which may result in meltdowns or shutdowns.

To be able to manage your Aspergers youngster’s behavior when going to a busy shopping center, it is always a good idea to take her preference into consideration. Identify the type of environmental conditions that make her upset. Usually, bright lights, huge crowds, long lines, weird smells, and loud noises are among the most common offenders. Take note of these and identify the places which she could find particularly stressful.

Of course, there will be certain situations (e.g., funerals, weddings, birthdays, holidays, etc.) when you will be compelled to bring your youngster with you to places which are outside his comfort zone. In cases like these, it is a good idea to let him know ahead of time ‘where’ you will be going, ‘when’ you are going, and ‘how long’ you will be there. In this way, he will know what to expect. When possible, it will also be helpful to show him some photos of where you are going (Google Earth works great for this). If you do not have any photos with you, you can always do a search online.

The main thing to remember when you bring your youngster along with you is to always have a plan. Do your research ahead of time and come up with options and alternatives to help make her feel comfortable and at ease. Also be prepared to leave when she is having a bad time.

Super stores can be overwhelming places for Aspergers kids, but that doesn't mean you can never go shopping, but it does mean you have to plan carefully.

These five tips will make your trip shorter, smoother, and less stressful:

1. Consider bringing another grown-up. Shop with your spouse, your sister, your most understanding friend. A spare adult can (a) wait outside with your child while you run into stores, (b) supervise him while you try on clothes, or (c) take him (while he is approaching a meltdown state) to the car while you finish up.

2. Have an escape route. Maybe you miscalculated your youngster's tolerance. Maybe you're both having a bad day. Maybe there's something extra stressful at the Mall (e.g., Girl Scouts selling cookies at every entrance and exit). Whatever the reason, if your youngster loses the ability to behave in an acceptable way, don't argue or cajole or bribe or threaten or whine. Just get the hell out of there. Right now. Be aware, every moment, of how you are going to do this - if needed.

3. Make a plan. Figure out what you can reasonably do within the time limit you've set. Be realistic. Do not count on being able to rush around frantically, or find everything you want instantly. Schedule yourself for a few stops, then out. And choose a time when the store is least likely to be packed with customers. Take a pass on those big sale days, or find a babysitter and leave your youngster at home.

4. Pack supplies. If your youngster has an iPod, this is a good time to bring it along. If you have a bag of tricks for your youngster, make sure it's in your purse or pack. Snacks that won't make too much mess and a juice box or two can keep children busy in a crunch. Books, portable CD and DVD players, travel games, toy cars, etc. – whatever can be easily toted and deployed to distract – can be brought along.

5. Set a time limit. Figure out how long your youngster can control his behavior in a noisy, active, distracting environment. Subtract 15 minutes. Set that amount of time as your absolute, unbreakable deadline for getting in and out of that place.

Good luck …you’ll need it!

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Nintendo DS has saved us soo many times...just remember the charger! Even at family functions (we are Italian and it gets loud) our 7rd old w/ Aspergers will sit in another room and play his game alone just to stay in his safe zone. Its what works and we are thankful for it! (we actually have 2 in case of battery failure!)

Anonymous said...

It's funny, I have already used some of these strategies without thinking about it. It is getting others to understand his tolerance.

Anonymous said...

oh - I can't wait to read the entire article - I am very lucky - I don't have to do this on a regular basis - I look back at successful trips & EXHAUSTING semi-successful trips & trips which are best left as "Experience" for the next try.... even with best laid plans - never truly predicitble - & that means - lots of trial & error for the next time & so on.... the biggest mistake we make & have learned from = Not extending the trip & when there are signs it is too much - weight the options - leave when you can & that does include - before the job is done - our D.S. with H.F. Autism (yet to be assessed for Aspergers) doesn't take that as a "Win" for bad behaviour - he just knows it is time to go.... it is all about getting him back to a place or state of mind - where he is just himself again.... he's so very sensory driven/sensitive - & he needs us to work through it all - & give him tools & use the tools that will allow for better tries.... life is so much more than a trip to a store....

Anonymous said...

You can use "social stories" to help prepare your child for such situations. This allows the child to learn expected and unexpected behaviors - lifelong coping skills they will need in order to go retail shopping as adults. We take our son to stores all the time without issue. Only bigger malls pose any problem and we use the "time limit" method in fairness to him (and it is a great excuse for getting me out of the mall as well).

Anonymous said...

for our D.S. - turns 6 in April - it isn't quite as easy as social stories yet - he's still maturing - with Great Leaps of Success - but when it comes to his Sensory Needs/Struggles/Challenges & even - just everyday fun & joy with them - it is very ~ very unpredictible - this article will offer some additional insight - although - not everyone sees all of this in "Full Bloom" - our D.S. is Exceptionally Social - so when it goes well - it goes Very well - but when it doesn't well - thankfully we don't have to do it unplanned as a rule....

Anonymous said...

My son is 5 and I find the more I bring him to these places,the better he does. We keep our visits short and go when it is not busy,where possible. We also find the social learning stories helpful!

Anonymous said...

I have an 11 year old and she still melts down in stores and malls no matter what interventions or stories were used. This is good advice because when it cones down to it there will be a melt down at some point.

Heather said...

I agree... Nintendo DS was great for us and now that my Aspie is 17 and has a cellphone, he's happy if he has a distraction. Back when mine was elementary school age I worked as a costumer for local theatres to supplement my income. This meant A LOT of shopping, usually in thrift stores. I found that if I included him in the process, "we can't stop shopping until we find a purple blouse in size 8" he did much better. Once, after spending over an hour in one particular thrift store he announced to me the number of ceiling tiles that were in the shop. I have no idea if he was right but he had spent the entire time laying in the back of my shopping cart (he was a tiny boy) staring at the ceiling so I bet he was right! We still go grocery shopping in the wee early morning hours so that there are no crowds. (I need his help lifting because of a bad back). I still have to limit our shopping trips to whatever I've promised ("today we're getting groceries and then going to the pharmacy") And I have to include some type of incentive for him. He still, bless his heart, breaks out in a cold sweat if I mention going to DSW (the shoe warehouse). I do a lot of shopping online and that spares him.

Anonymous said...

we found with ours if he takes his music on his cdplayer and keeps the headphones on it does not bother him :P

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Hutten

I forward your newsletters on to parents in two family support groups in the North of England - Tourettes Action North East (for families affected by Tourette Syndrome and associated disorders), and also Forever Families Northumberland (for adoptive families - for many of whom disorders of attachment are a significant difficulty). Our parents really appreciate the advice sheets we have been receiving for the last eighteen months or so, and I have just signed up again with you. Many, many thanks for all your help.

With best wishes.

Karen said...

My son is 5 and was diagnosed with Aspergers, O.D.D. and severe ADHD the Aspergers was the most recent diagnosis (January). I have dreaded going to the store for a "quick" trip even because he is all over the place. would love to find him something that can withstand his amazing ability to destroy everything in his path to keep him preoccupied. I have a love for anything educational Please help

Anonymous said...

Even for the quickest trip to any store I have to plan for all my six year old's inevitables. He will get tired/ bored. He will want to run around and acream. He will get mad when I say no to something. He will throw a fit for no apparent reason sometimes. I pack him a portable "Camp" in a backpack we take everywhere. I bring another adult always so I can put him in one basket with his camp set up inside and someone else can push the purchases. I bring snacks, one toy (which he picks),drawing paper and pens on a clipboard and whatever else I can do to keep him busy. For Department stores or Walmart I bring a blanket to put over the top of the basket. He likes this because it makes the basket his secret hideout and he can hide or pop out and scare me. I like it beacause he doesn't pay attention the store so I can avoid the "Buy Me That Meltdown".

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually. Thus, the best treatment for Aspergers children and teens is, without a doubt, “social skills training.”

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

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

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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.

Click here to read the full article…

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

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

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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. The hardest part is you feel like you’ll never actually get to know your child and how he/she views the world.

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