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

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Behavior Problems At Home - But Not At School

"I have great difficulty with my 6-year-old Aspergers daughter at home due to frequent tantrums and meltdowns, yet her teacher states that her behavior at school is quite good. Why is this – and what can I do to get the same results at home?"

First of all, just because the behavior occurs at home doesn’t necessarily mean the “cause” of the behavior lies there. Your daughter may find school very stressful, but keeps her emotions bottled-up until she gets home. Most kids with Aspergers do not display the body language and facial expressions you would expect to see when a youngster is feeling a particular way. While your daughter may appear relatively calm at school, she may be experiencing very different emotions under the surface.

Asking an Aspergers youngster how she feels may not get the correct response, because most Aspies struggle to explain their emotions to someone. Some Aspergers kids find carrying visual “stress scales” helpful for overcoming these communication problems. These scales can be either in the format of a scale from 1-5, a thermometer, or a traffic light system. The idea is that when the youngster indicates that she is at a '4' or 'amber' (before she reaches a '5' or 'red'), she needs to be helped in some way to calm down again.

Instead of adults asking your daughter how she is feeling, she can show them the appropriate number or color. Scales can turn “emotions” (which are abstract concepts that require imagination to understand fully) into concrete examples of numbers or colors. This is something that kids with Aspergers find easier to understand. If your daughter finds it difficult to use a scale, she could use a “help card” instead. This could be a red card, or have the word ‘help’ or a meaningful symbol on it, which she could carry around. When she begins to feel stressed-out or mad, she can show it to a teacher. It is important that everyone in contact with your daughter knows what to do if they are shown a card or a stress scale.

Some Aspergers kids may need to be redirected to a different activity, have a quick run outside, or retreat to a quieter part of the school. It can be difficult to find a quiet area, especially in a big mainstream school, but it does not need to be a big space. Some schools will have an area (e.g., the library) where your daughter can listen to her iPod (for example) in order to filter-out external noise for a few minutes while she calms down.

Teachers may be concerned that by giving your daughter a card to leave the room, she may abuse the privilege (e.g., showing it to avoid activities she doesn’t want to be in), thus disrupting her education. Strict boundaries need to be given to your daughter regarding the use of a card or stress scale (e.g., clear instructions about where your daughter gets to go – and for how long). On a positive note, effective use of the card could ultimately reduce the amount of disruption to your daughter’s education. Instead of her being kept in a permanent state of anxiety during class, she may return to the classroom much more relaxed and focused.

Some moms and dads report behavioral difficulties in their Aspergers kids when they first come home after school, which might be because they are releasing the stress of the school day. If your daughter does this, it might be helpful to have a period of time right after school when she can relax. You could do this by reducing the amount of social interaction your daughter has immediately after school and by providing an activity which you think may help her de-stress. This activity will depend on your daughter’s preferences. If she is relatively physical in her method of stress-release (e.g., kicking or hitting), providing a trampoline, punching bag, or letting her run around the yard may help relieve the stress. Other Aspergers kids like to clam-down by watching television or listening to music. Some find lights especially soothing (e.g., a bubble tube or spinning light).

For some Aspergers kids, the timetable of the school day provides enough structure and routine to help contain any anxiety and stress. Aspies have a strong preference for routine, and this is automatically incorporated into most school environments. Your daughter may benefit from having a visual timetable for home as well (it will make the environment more predictable for her). A timetable can either be constructed showing the whole day's activities, half the day, or simply the activities that are now and next.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thats because she feels comfortable at home to let loose. At school it takes ALL her energy to hold it together. Hope this helps?

Anonymous said...

I have the same issues with my 14 year old daughter. Girls are quite good at 'masking' their problems outside of home. Home is where they feel safe to be themselves which unfortunately leads to bad behaviour! I found the more help she has at school the better behaved she is at home, masking their problems is tiring so they're over stimulated just needing to release. We found sport very good for her as she can run around & let off some pent up energy. She particularly enjoys swimming. Worth a try? Speak to the school to make sure she is having the correct help she deserves. Good luck

Anonymous said...

I would agree, same thing with my son. By 2:30 he is barely holding it together.

Anonymous said...

Need to make sure the routine stays the same each day at home. If something is to change that day try to give lots of notice before hand. Children with Autusm have a very hard time with change

Anonymous said...

my daughter went to B'day party and had her hair and makeup done. the mom said what a great time she had. When she walked thru the door she started sobbing and held a bucket for an hour thinking she was going to vomit. Once she was here an hour, laid down, she calmed down and was herself again. I think they just internalize a lot of feelings and it comes out at home. Blessing for them, sucky for mom and dad! :)
about an hour ago · Like · 1

Anonymous said...

I've had reports of my sons outbursts at school for years.. After receiving diagnosis, we approach school for help.. Miraculously, his behavior is wonderful, his grades however don't reflect this.. It's been an ongoing battle now. I don't fully believe that all educators are properly dealing with the situation, instead they're further hindering our children.

Anonymous said...

Love this group, every time I start to think I'm nuts they make a post that relates to my life and makes me feel so much better. My son is wonderful at school, but not at home.

Anonymous said...

I have the same situation with my 11 y/o daughter. Never a problem at school, but frequent issues at home. Routine at home is the key for us, and my daughter also loves sports and that helps keep her focused. Even if she doesn't like sports, maybe some sort of other activity she is interested in? I agree that girls are very good at masking the signs of aspergers, but home is their outlet!
about an hour ago via mobile

Anonymous said...

my son is the same age, the biggest key is understanding and reasoning. quite often you have to treat these meltdowns as though you are negotiating with terrorists. never forget, they are gifted, not handicapped, and will use their gifts for evil at that age, lol.

Anonymous said...

We have the same problem and my son holds it all in all day and releases it when out. Someone told me its called the coke can effect. They are shaken up all day and then when home the cans open and out they come!!!!. Does the school prepare him for hometime? We are trying that.
45 minutes ago via mobile · Like

Anonymous said...

My son is 7 and had been in therapy since he was 3. Everybody that we work with had me make a chart of what is going to happen that day and what's expected. At school the teachers always have an agenda for the day,so the visual routine might help at home like it does at school. Also he had a safe spot at home as well as school. When he starts to feel anxious he takes himself to the spot collects himself then joins the group/family again. Routine is key, he knows home is a safe place but you still have to have rules and let him know there are consequences for bad choices. Ex,if he makes a bad choice tell him about it and ask him what he can do next time to make it a good choice,take him to his room and have him don't there for a few min alone. And before you know it you will have fewer meltdowns at home because you established rules and boundary.hope that helps

Anonymous said...

My twins are the same way. Angels at school and heathens at home.

Anonymous said...

Same stuff here- my 10 yr old son was a "model peer", even in the neurotypical classroom he was in earlier this year. Then at home, meltdown after meltdown. The pressure of living up to the teacher's expectations was just too much for him. He was also bullied because of his very strict adherence to the rules. It was a bad situation all around! I recommend the book "No More Meltdowns" for really good ideas about why kids like ours have the reactions they do, and how to help them.

Anonymous said...

My preschool asd son is the EXACT same way! He has been making me crazy when he gets home from school! He acts out, haas HUGE meltdowns over random things, like being out of apples, screams, and hits and throws stuff at his little sister. Im glad to know I'm not alone. What can I do to help.lessen this?
19 minutes ago via mobile · Like

Bulldogma said...

Yup - good at school and a hurricane at home - that's my 8-year-old daughter! We try to keep a good daily routine going, but it doesn't always work... much depends on how much stress she has at school. We just finished spring break - what a nightmare that was! Total break from her regular routine meant multiple daily meltdowns... even though we were at the beach!

Anonymous said...

I have the same problem to the degree that my son's teacher often disagrees with his diagnosis and tells me so. When he comes home he tells me all the "offenses" he has suffered there. He gets really upset about interactions with the other kids or assignments he doesn't see the point in. He's most upset that the other kids won't follow all his "rules". He will cry and yell and act out when he comes home, but his teacher says he is so well behaved and quiet in class. It's frustrating. We have started immediately doing art (something he loves) when we get home to help him decompress before attempting our nightly routine. It seems to help because he focuses on the project and making it perfect instead of the emotions. Once he starts a spiral it's hard to get him to move on. Then he seems able to follow the rest of the routine without too much trouble.

Anonymous said...

Similar issues - awesome student but monster at home. Principal didnt believe, teachers were in awe- Must be something at home. Counselor came to the house in 4th grade - I guess Im not crazy after all. Psych stated PTSD/or biplar. She refuses to see counselor or take meds. Now 5yrs later, no friends, recluse, she's completed freshman year in 4 months. Refused to go to school after winter beak; police did home visit etc. Enrolled in independant study, but not doing much. Lives in her room, rarely gets dressed or leaves the house, no positive conversation. Sleeps most of day, up all night. GPA near 3.5, nothing can be done other than have her arrested for incorrageble behavior, to be in the teen detention center. How does a child at 14 get diagnosed. Where is there support for single mom? Is there financial support available. She is bigger than me, taller and stronger. I hesitate to come home at the end of the day. Any positive suggestions appreciated or just some prayers.

Randi Thimesch said...

I totally agree children are on their best behavior in public, but by the time they return home, they are coming unglued. Our daughter is now 19, and when she was small, hardly anyone recognized autism or sensory integration disorder back then. The school was on the learning curve too and we did not receive much support. I have had several teachers tell they thought they taught her well and "understood" Asperger's autism. But they wanted to apologize, "because I really had no idea what was needed."

SHARLENE said...

Wow...reading these posts makes me feel I'm not an oversensitive crazy mum...have a 14 yr old boy who has been out of school 3mnths with extreme anxiety. He is so bright, 1 of top 5 students in his yr but having professionals even attempt listening to my concerns to a possible diagnosis of Aspergers has left me feeling a complete failure..I spend every second analysing every situation and then questioning what i feel i see and experience at home with my son, who i know inside out,just because one expects 'professionals' know better!...All your comments certainly rubber stamp my idea that my son has aspergers...Thanks for sharing and God Bless all you who undoubtedly struggle but love unconditionally!

Anonymous said...

my seven year old daughter is the same,afterschool is the worst time of day.Camhs told us to set a short term target from afterschool till bedtime for my daughter to try not to "lash" out at any of the family & if she can manage this then she gets a small reward from a reward box,if she doesnt manage it she loosses the reward,also if she misbehaves then we confiscate a bag of her "special" stones that she collects for one day on top of the cupboard which we explained to her before we started doing this & when she has a violent meltdown providing she is safe we leave the room rather than moving her.
6 hours ago · Like

Anonymous said...

It seems to be working but did get worse to start with,i also have a four year old son so i have also done a reward box for him xx

Anonymous said...

Guys... What is happening is that your child is spending EVERYTHING they have surviving at school. If you want them to not meltdown you need to lighten up their days.

Anonymous said...

We have the same issue with our 11 year old. He is perfect in school, one of the smartest kids in his grade, even on student council. But once he came home it was another story. He was physically abusive to his younger sister. I got him in the school councilors anger management class with other kids his age. I kept complaining to her and she eventually referred me to an in home counselling service through the Boys Town nonprofit organization who came into our home and helped not only him, but how my husband & I deal with it and proper discipline & consistency. Keep bugging your school councillor. She still meets with him weekly and also does a socialization class which we know these kids need so badly. Hope this info is helpful
5 hours ago via mobile · Like

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest lessons I learned from the Boys Town organization was not to punish/restrict these kids for longer than a few hours. I would take away everything for 24 hours when he would hit his sister. But then his behavior would get worse! They said make a Joy Jar (rewards) & a Job Jar (consequence) that they do for 10 minutes. These kids need shorter consequences so they feel they can turn their behavior around and have a fresh start. It was too overwhelming & depressive. It took a long time for all of us to get used to, especially me feeling like a 10 minute job wasn't enough consequence for beating up his sister... But it worked! Lots & lots of jobs in the beginning, but I was consistent, my home got clean, and more importantly HE LEARNED! Now we only have a few Job Jars a week! Life saver!

Anonymous said...

Another big lesson was asking him what calms him. He said "reading" or building Legos"... so now when he is about to have a melt down, I remind him to go calm down in his room for a few minutes. (In the beginning, I ordered him to his room) We made a contract and signed it that we would BOTH go Self Calm when needed and he wouldn't get in more trouble and I wouldn't punish or yell at him. This not only has taught him that he can Self Calm himself and is a power lesson in itself, but it also stopped most meltdowns... even from myself reacting to him. ha ha After everyone in the family has calmed, we discuss the situation at the kitchen table without a lecture or yelling or tantrums. Sometimes he had to go Self Calm many times to get through our discussion, but the process works great.
5 hours ago · Like · 1

Anonymous said...

The biggest thing is that you won't get the same behavior at home. Your child holds it together for the teacher to meet the demands of school and is more than likely falling apart at home because they feel comfortable at home. Ideally you would want a balance between the two, but I have the same dynamic at my house. I usually let my daughter have some time to regroup, try to make the car ride home less evasive (prepare her if we need to stop places, provide a snack, and other things to ease anxiety). Redirection is helpful, but sometimes will only prolong the inevitable meltdown. I would see about Occupational therapy if you don't have it already, which would help her regulate herself better, if she is having sensory processing issues. A lot of times kids get so overstimulated at school that by the time they get home they have exhausted all their reserves of patience, and ability to hold it together.
5 hours ago · Like · 1

Anonymous said...

We started a sticker chart at home for our 8yo, the same hour blocks as school. There is no reward for getting the stickers, just the visual reminder that the next hour is a whole new hour and we can make that one greater than the last. All three iof my daughters (1ASD, 2 NON) come home completely stressed. We eat a bite of candy (helps get sugars in fast) then our snack. We don't talk about school work or school for the first 30 mins. Imagine being at work for 7 hours, coming home and then having to start working on it again, talking about work when you just got out, or getting in trouble from something that happened 6 hours ago, I would be stressed out too. A great thing we do is CHILL OUTS. They are not time outs. A chill out is a time to go and regroup, get away, remove stimuli, etc. I take them, my husband takes them, the kids all do. We just need a moment to regroup before we get a time out, or freak out.

Anonymous said...

My son is now in 4th grade. Never had meltdown at school, teachers couldn't imagine my sons behavior being less than just perfect. I knew school exhausted him. He was doing all he could just to get thru the day. We do very little homework if any. After school time is his time and I place no demands, he gets to stick to his routine. However I will mention school has improved tremendously since adding Celexa every morning. A small dose helps take the edge off so he's not so darn stressed!!! Much fewer meltdowns since adding it!
about an hour ago via mobile · Like

Penny said...

We have the same issue here with my 9 year old son. Great article.

Penny said...

The same thing happens with my 9 year old son. Great article.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I have had the same things with my 9 year old daughter since she was in first grade and had started to become overwhelmed with the pressures of a demanding school day as well as social misunderstandings. I thought she was bi-polar. Finally, someone agreed with me that she might have Aspergers and she was recently tested and diagnosed.

Shannon G said...

The very first comment on today's is so spot on. I figured out with my twins when they first started school that they would melt down the minute they came home...I was baffled at first! Then, I realized that to be home is to be in a place where you can be yourself and just let it out...a home to kids says, "I am safe here, I can trust you because I am loved, I can let it out now.

Nonie said...

I am a nutritionist and noticed early on that my son (comorbid bipolar with
Aspergers) had severe mood swings after sweets and periods without eating. I increased protein to every 3 hours and rages, mood swings, and fixation is much improved. High dose niacin and removing casein, gluten, and sugar caused a great improvement in flexibility and tolerance at home. Now melt downs have more to do with what I call social fatigue. Imagine you have to communicate in a foreign language all day, and decode incoming info all day....when you come home you are seriously fatigued and just want to rest, but as a child with Asperger's, you still need to decode and you are now surrounded by people where emotions are charged and boundaries are not as clear. I find that time alone for 30 minutes to half an hour to decompress helps my son tremendously with coping at home. And I find other parents who can be sympathetic and non-judgemental for support, rather than expecting it from professionals who may not understand the true stressors of life with an Aspie child. I find that helps me when I feel overwhelmed. Namaste!

Aspergers said...

According to me this is because of nearby environment may be something she like or feel comfort with the environment at school. You need to make environment like school at your home like ask her friends to come at your come to play games and enjoy with her.

Anonymous said...

How have people got a diagnosis though if this is how their child acts?
I am almost certain my son has high functioning aspergers but keep being told a diagnosis will be very hard as he doesn't really display any traits at school.
Home is very hard work and I'm often at a loss as to how to deal with him.

Anonymous said...

Our psychologist says it is because it is more structured enviroment in school. They know what they are doing, what time, etc. At home as much we try to maintain an exact schedule at home this can be difficult and set off a spiral of emotions, meltdowns. I have little photo's with different emotions on them and I ask my daughter to point to the one or ones that she is feeling. She doesn't always communicate as well as I would want her too but she knows that they are there for a purpose. I also have a worry box in her room that she can her worries, concerns too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

I wanted to let you know that I took your advice but tweaked it a bit for my own situation. There is a "Animal Adventure" rescue facility near our home in Bolton, MA. I called them and set up a "private tour" for my daughter with aspergers, my other daughter who is 10 and has anxiety disorder and ADHD and myself. For the private tour I drew a "social story" including when we were leaving, how far the ride was, who our tour guide was going to be, were the bathrooms were, what we could expect to see (i.e. snakes, bugs, birds, turtles, tortoises, kangaroos, alligators and much much more - all from different parts of the world) I printed out pictures to add to the story board.

Once she saw the story board and listened to my explanation she got very enthusiastic (animals are her passion). When we arrived our tour guide was ready for us (I told them ahead of time about my daughter) we had such a great time!!! When we were given a chance to pet the animals I went first and talked about my experience (how it felt, smelled like, etc.) then both my kids jumped right in!! They even touched an african cock roach (which they use to feed the many species of frogs that they have). I was in total amazement that just by me not showing fear and letting them experience it through me first made all the difference.

After our trip, the next day my husband set up our new trampoline - she spent the whole day outside!! I know that this will be an ongoing issue, but just to see her outside and smiling for a couple of days gave my husband and I hope for the future.

Thank you so much for your idea.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I have a very bright and loving 15 year old that was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome around 3rd grade when we knew something was different even earlier but could not pin-point. But as school progressively got harder through middle school he started getting very stressed and seemed to not progress emotionally with his friends. Now, in ninth grade, the High School experience has completely shut him down in some instances and he wasn’t functioning well in crowded loud classrooms and his guidance counselor has not been very helpful at all. We have had a 504 plan all through elementary and middle school but high school counselor refused at first and then reluctantly put a limited one they have not followed through with late December which to me was too little-too late for him to be able to catch up or make a difference much less that now they have not followed through with what we had planned for. So, with the increase with issues and seeing him getting lost within himself. I discussed with him Neurologist whom we love and has been with us since the first TS diag. He states he suspected he was high functioning Aspergers. I am trying to find a good therapist/psychiatrist in our area of Nashville now but wanted to learn what I could. The more I read, the more I see things I didn’t realize before. Now, the school barely wanted to deal with just Tourette’s issues. How can I go back with this information. My husband, who denied the TS originally but finally saw that it was real is now back to denial. I was hoping your informational website and newsletters will help me to arm myself in the next battle front of school meetings and such.
Sorry to spill all this right out, but I am just trying to learn as much as I can even though emotionally I am hurting about the whole situation.

Thank you for your great website full of info.

Mom of a really great kid who just needs to be free!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for asking this question as I thought it was my parenting.
Daughter 8 aspie and exactly this problem and nobody wants to help

loubymorris said...

As a teacher who currently has a student who has recently been diagnosed with autism it has been a real help to read your comments as, like a lot of you have said, behaviour can be good at school and a nightmare at home.
Thank you for helping me to understand what I can do to help.

The Lilypad Station said...

Thank you so much for this - it confirms my thoughts. My son copes at school and its a different story at home and I'm having trouble getting the school to understand that I need to know whats happened at school....in their eyes he's ok at school so there's no issue.

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.

If your child suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, expect him to experience both minor and major meltdowns over incidents that are part of daily life. He may have a major meltdown over a very small incident, or may experience a minor meltdown over something that is major. There is no way of telling how he is going to react about certain situations. However, there are many ways to help your child learn to control his emotions.

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.

The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing a child with a neurological disorder. Violent rages, self-injury, isolation-seeking tendencies and communication problems that arise due to auditory and sensory issues are just some of the behaviors that parents of teens with Aspergers will have to learn to control.

Parents need to come up with a consistent disciplinary plan ahead of time, and then present a united front and continually review their strategies for potential changes and improvements as the Aspergers teen develops and matures.

Click here to read the full article…

Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers 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.

Although they may vary slightly from person to person, children with Aspergers tend to have similar symptoms, the main ones being:

=> A need to know when everything is happening in order not to feel completely overwhelmed
=> A rigid insistence on routine (where any change can cause an emotional and physiological meltdown)
=> Difficulties with social functioning, particularly in the rough and tumble of a school environment
=> Obsessive interests, with a focus on one subject to the exclusion of all others
=> Sensory issues, where they are oversensitive to bright light, loud sounds and unpleasant smells
=> Social isolation and struggles to make friends due to a lack of empathy, and an inability to pick up on or understand social graces and cues (such as stopping talking and allowing others to speak)

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."

Parents face issues such as college preparation, vocational training, teaching independent living, and providing lifetime financial support for their child, if necessary. Meanwhile, their immature Aspergers teenager is often indifferent – and even hostile – to these concerns.

As you were raising your child, you imagined how he would be when he grew up. Maybe you envisioned him going to college, learning a skilled traded, getting a good job, or beginning his own family. But now that (once clear) vision may be dashed. You may be grieving the loss of the child you wish you had.

If you have an older teenager with Aspergers who has no clue where he is going in life, or if you have an “adult-child” with Aspergers still living at home (in his early 20s or beyond), here are the steps you will need to take in order to foster the development of self-reliance in this child.

Click here to read the full article…

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