Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Getting Your Aspergers Child's School To Take You Seriously

"My son with Asperger's has really been floundering during his first year of school. He's in the 1st grade and having all kinds of run-ins with his teacher and is making mostly D's and F's so far. The teacher asserts that the problem is 'his behavior'. What can I do to control this damage before it's beyond control?"

Parents should start by speaking with their Aspergers youngster's teachers, school counselors, or the school's student support team to begin an evaluation. Each U.S. state has a Parent Training and Information Center and a Protection and Advocacy Agency that can help parents get an evaluation. A team of professionals conducts the evaluation using a variety of tools and measures. The evaluation will look at all areas related to the youngster's abilities and needs.

Once the youngster has been evaluated, she has several options depending on the specific needs. If the youngster needs special education services and is eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the school district (or the government agency administering the program) must develop an individualized education plan (IEP) specifically for the youngster within 30 days. IDEA provides free screenings and early intervention services to kids from birth to age 3. IDEA also provides special education and related services from ages 3 to 21.

If the Aspergers youngster is not eligible for special education services (and not all kids with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism are eligible), he can still get free public education suited to his needs, which is available to all public-school kids with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, regardless of the type or severity of the disability. The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights enforces Section 504 in programs and activities that receive Federal education funds.

Here is a list of techniques that moms and dads can use to create a successful partnership with their child’s school:

1. Bring in a portfolio of your youngster’s work from home to meetings with the school to demonstrate your youngster’s overall strengths and weakness.

2. Set up the best method to communicate with the educator to share brief updates and information about your youngster’s progress.

3. Lend a helping hand in the classroom!  Be prepared to support other kids too, as this frees up more time for the educator to work directly with your youngster.

4. When registering your youngster for school, indicate in writing that he has special needs.

5. Meet with the principal to ask questions related to school safety, routines, resources and steps that will be taken to address your youngster’s special needs.

6. Meet with the educator as soon as possible – and definitely before the first IEP meeting. Use this time to introduce yourself and share information about your youngster.

7. If needed, provide constructive feedback. Indicate what has worked best for your youngster and what hasn’t. Educators reflect daily on their practice and make changes according to their students’ success.

8. Be prepared for the IEP meeting by making sure you arrive on time and knowing what the goals of the meeting. Write down questions and concerns you have, regardless of how certain you are that you will remember them.

9. Notify the school of any outside evaluations, medical information or support services that can help school personnel continue to provide a strong educational program.

10. Create a folder of handouts, articles, written strategies, or website addresses that you believe will be useful to the education of your youngster.

Parents’ active participation in the education of their Aspergers youngster is invaluable. By sharing knowledge, resources and time, you can help ensure that your "little professor" is in the best possible learning environment. Together, parents and educators of Aspergers students can create pathways to school success.

Critical Early Intervention Strategies for Aspergers Children

While there is no cure for Aspergers (High Functioning Autism), treating it early with the proper parenting techniques as well as school-based programs can greatly reduce Aspergers symptoms and increase the youngster's ability to grow and learn new skills.

Research has shown that intensive behavioral therapy during the toddler or preschool years can significantly improve cognitive and language skills in younger kids with Aspergers.

There is no single best treatment for all “Aspies,” but some of the common features of effective early intervention include:
  1. Encouraging activities that include typically developing (i.e., neurotypical) kids, as long as such activities help meet a specific learning goal
  2. Guiding the youngster in adapting learned skills to new situations and settings and maintaining learned skills
  3. Having small classes to allow each youngster to have one-on-one time with the therapist or teacher and small group learning activities
  4. Having special training for moms and dads and other family members
  5. Measuring and recording each youngster's progress and adjusting the intervention program as needed
  6. Providing a high degree of structure, routine, and visual cues (e.g., posted activity schedules, clearly defined boundaries, etc.) to reduce distractions
  7. Providing focused and challenging learning activities at the proper developmental level for the youngster for at least 25 hours per week and 12 months per year
  8. Starting as soon as a youngster has been diagnosed with Aspergers
  9. Using a curriculum that focuses on:
  • Cognitive skills (e.g., pretend play, seeing other people's point of view, etc.)
  • Language and communication
  • Research-based methods to reduce challenging behaviors (e.g., aggression, tantrums, etc.)
  • Self-help and daily living skills (e.g., dressing, grooming, etc.)
  • Social skills (e.g., joint attention, looking at other people to draw attention to something interesting and share in experiencing it, etc.)
  • Typical school-readiness skills (e.g., letter recognition, counting, etc.)

One type of a widely accepted treatment is applied behavior analysis (ABA). The goals of ABA are to shape and reinforce new behaviors (e.g., learning to speak and play) and reduce undesirable ones. ABA, which can involve intensive, one-on-one youngster-teacher interaction for up to 40 hours a week, has inspired the development of similar interventions that aim to help children with Aspergers reach their full potential.

ABA-based interventions include:
  • Pivotal Response Training: Aims at identifying pivotal skills (e.g., initiation and self-management) that affect a broad range of behavioral responses. This intervention incorporates parent and family education aimed at providing skills that enable the youngster to function in inclusive settings.
  • Verbal Behavior: Focuses on teaching language using a sequenced curriculum that guides kids from simple verbal behaviors (i.e., echoing) to more functional communication skills through techniques like errorless teaching and prompting.

Other types of early interventions include:
  • TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children): Emphasizes adapting the youngster's physical environment and using visual cues (e.g., having classroom materials clearly marked and located so that children can access them independently). Using individualized plans for each “Aspie,” TEACCH builds on the youngster's strengths and emerging skills.
  • Interpersonal Synchrony: Targets social development and imitation skills, and focuses on teaching kids how to establish and maintain engagement with others.
  • Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based (DIR)/Floortime Model: Aims to build healthy and meaningful relationships and abilities by following the natural emotions and interests of the youngster. One particular example is the Early Start Denver Model, which fosters improvements in communication, thinking, language, and other social skills and seeks to reduce atypical behaviors. Using developmental and relationship-based approaches, this therapy can be delivered in natural settings (e.g., home, pre-school, etc.).

For Aspergers kids younger than age 3, these interventions usually take place at home or in a daycare center. Because moms and dads are the youngster's earliest educators, more programs are beginning to train moms and dads to continue the therapy at home.

Children with Aspergers often benefit from social skills training programs. These programs seek to increase and improve skills necessary for creating positive social interactions and avoiding negative responses. For example, Children's Friendship Training focuses on improving kid's conversation and interaction skills and teaches them how to make friends, be a good sport, and respond appropriately to teasing.

Working with Teachers—

Start by speaking with your Aspergers youngster's teacher, school counselor, or the school's child support team to begin an evaluation. Each state has a Parent Training and Information Center and a Protection and Advocacy Agency that can help you get an evaluation. A team of professionals conducts the evaluation using a variety of tools and measures. The evaluation will look at all areas related to your youngster's abilities and needs.

Once your Aspie has been evaluated, he/she has several options, depending on the specific needs. If your boy or girl needs special education services and is eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the school district (or the government agency administering the program) must develop an individualized education plan, or IEP specifically for him/her within 30 days. IDEA provides free screenings and early intervention services to kids from birth to age 3. IDEA also provides special education and related services from ages 3 to 21.

If your youngster is not eligible for special education services (not all kids with Aspergers are eligible) he/she can still get free public education suited to his/her needs, which is available to all public-school kids with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, regardless of the type or severity of the disability.

During middle and high school years, your youngster's educators will begin to discuss practical issues (e.g., work, living away from a parent’s home, hobbies, etc.). These lessons should include gaining work experience, using public transportation, and learning skills that will be important in community living.

Aspergers & Associated Conditions

“Our son is diagnosed with AS. He has stomach problems, difficulty sleeping, and can’t stand loud noises of any kind. Is this part of AS, or are these totally separate issues?”

It’s very likely that these issues are part of the Aspergers (AS) condition. There are a number of concerns that often accompany a child with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism. Here are the primary ones:

1. Fragile X syndrome is a genetic disorder and is the most common form of inherited intellectual disability, causing symptoms similar to Aspergers. The name refers to one part of the X chromosome that has a defective piece that appears pinched and fragile when viewed with a microscope. Fragile X syndrome results from a change, called a mutation, on a single gene. This mutation, in effect, turns off the gene. Some people may have only a small mutation and not show any symptoms, while others have a larger mutation and more severe symptoms. Around 1 in 3 kids who have Fragile X syndrome also meet the diagnostic criteria for Aspergers, and about 1 in 25 kids diagnosed with Aspergers have the mutation that causes Fragile X syndrome. Because this disorder is inherited, kids with Aspergers should be checked for Fragile X, especially if the mom or dad wants to have more kids. Other family members who are planning to have kids may also want to be checked for Fragile X syndrome.

2. Some moms and dads of kids with Aspergers report that their youngster has frequent gastrointestinal (GI) or digestion problems (e.g., stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, vomiting, bloating, etc.). Food allergies may also cause problems for kids with Aspergers. It's unclear whether kids with Aspergers are more likely to have GI problems than typically developing kids. If your youngster has GI problems, a doctor who specializes in GI problems, called a gastroenterologist, can help find the cause and suggest appropriate treatment. Some studies have reported that kids with Aspergers seem to have more GI symptoms, but these findings may not apply to all kids with Aspergers. For example, a recent study found that kids with Aspergers in Minnesota were more likely to have physical and behavioral difficulties related to diet (e.g., lactose intolerance or insisting on certain foods), as well as constipation, than kids without Aspergers. The researchers suggested that kids with Aspergers may not have underlying GI problems, but that their behavior may create GI symptoms (e.g., a youngster who insists on eating only certain foods may not get enough fiber or fluids in his or her diet, which leads to constipation). Some moms and dads may try to put their youngster on a special diet to control Aspergers or GI symptoms. While some kids may benefit from limiting certain foods, there is no strong evidence that these special diets reduce Aspergers symptoms. If you want to try a special diet, first talk with a doctor or a nutrition expert to make sure your youngster's nutritional needs are being met.

3. Some kids with Aspergers have some degree of intellectual disability. When tested, some areas of ability may be normal, while others—especially cognitive (thinking) and language abilities—may be relatively weak (e.g., a youngster with Aspergers may do well on tasks related to sight such as putting a puzzle together, but may not do as well on language-based problem-solving tasks). However, most kids with Aspergers often have average or above-average language skills and do not show delays in cognitive ability or speech.

4. One in four kids with Aspergers has seizures, often starting either in early childhood or during the teen years. Seizures, caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, can result in: (a) staring spells; (b) convulsions, which are uncontrollable shaking of the whole body, or unusual movements; (c) a short-term loss of consciousness, or a blackout. Sometimes lack of sleep or a high fever can trigger a seizure. An electroencephalogram (EEG), a nonsurgical test that records electrical activity in the brain, can help confirm whether a youngster is having seizures. However, some kids with Aspergers have abnormal EEGs even if they are not having seizures. Seizures can be treated with medicines called anticonvulsants. Some seizure medicines affect behavior; changes in behavior should be closely watched in kids with Aspergers. In most cases, a doctor will use the lowest dose of medicine that works for the youngster. Anticonvulsants usually reduce the number of seizures but may not prevent all of them.

5. Many kids with Aspergers either over-react or under-react to certain sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes. For example, some may: (a) have no reaction to intense cold or pain; (b) experience pain from certain sounds (e.g., a vacuum cleaner, ringing telephone, sudden storm, etc.) and cover their ears and scream; (c) dislike or show discomfort from a light touch or the feel of clothes on their skin. Researchers are trying to determine if these unusual reactions are related to differences in integrating multiple types of information from the senses.

6. Kids with Aspergers tend to have problems falling asleep or staying asleep, or have other sleep problems. These problems make it harder for them to pay attention, reduce their ability to function, and lead to poor behavior. In addition, moms and dads of kids with Aspergers and sleep problems tend to report greater family stress and poorer overall health among themselves. Fortunately, sleep problems can often be treated with changes in behavior (e.g., following a sleep schedule or creating a bedtime routine). Some kids may sleep better using medications such as melatonin, which is a hormone that helps regulate the body's sleep-wake cycle. Like any medication, melatonin can have unwanted side effects. Talk to your youngster's doctor about possible risks and benefits before giving your youngster melatonin. Treating sleep problems in kids with Aspergers may improve the youngster's overall behavior and functioning, as well as relieve family stress.

7. Tuberous sclerosis is a rare genetic disorder that causes noncancerous tumors to grow in the brain and other vital organs. Tuberous sclerosis occurs in 1 to 4 percent of people with Aspergers. A genetic mutation causes the disorder, which has also been linked to mental retardation, epilepsy, and many other physical and mental health problems. There is no cure for tuberous sclerosis, but many symptoms can be treated.

8. The particularly high comorbidity with anxiety often requires special attention. One study reported that about 84 percent of Aspergers kids also met the criteria to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Because of the social differences experienced by those with Aspergers (e.g., trouble initiating or maintaining a conversation, adherence to strict rituals or schedules), additional stress to any of these activities may result in feelings of anxiety, which can negatively affect multiple areas of one’s life, including school, family, and work.

Children with Aspergers may also be diagnosed with:
  • ADHD
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Clinical depression
  • Visual problems

How Asperger's [High-Functioning Autism] Is Diagnosed

“My husband and I suspect our 7-year-old boy has Asperger’s, but admittedly, we have procrastinated having him diagnosed for fear of labeling him with something that will follow him the rest of his life. Should we pursue a formal diagnosis simply based on our suspicions? And how do children get diagnosed with Asperger’s?”

It’s better to know than not to know. If your child has Aspergers and nobody knows it, the disorder affects him anyway. If parents and teachers do know, they can help minimize the negative impact and leverage the positive. Without the knowledge that you have Aspergers, you tend to come to some negative, misguided conclusions (e.g., “I’m a failure” or “I’m strange” or “I’m a disappointment” etc.).

Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism diagnosis is often a two-stage process:

1. The first stage involves general developmental screening during well-child checkups with a doctor or an early childhood healthcare provider. Kids who show some developmental problems are referred for additional evaluation.

2. The second stage involves a thorough evaluation by a team of doctors and other health professionals with a wide range of expertise. At this stage, a youngster may be diagnosed as having Aspergers or another developmental disorder. Kids with Aspergers can usually be reliably diagnosed by age 2, though research suggests that some screening tests can be helpful at 18 months or even younger.

Many moms and dads minimize the signs of Aspergers at first, believing that their son or daughter will "catch up" with his/her peers. While parents may be concerned about labeling their youngster with Aspergers, the earlier the disorder is diagnosed, the sooner specific interventions may begin. Early intervention can reduce or prevent the more severe disabilities associated with Aspergers. Early intervention may also improve the youngster's IQ, language, and everyday functional skills (also called adaptive behavior).

A well-child checkup should include a developmental screening test, with specific “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) screening” at 18 and 24 months. Screening for Aspergers is not the same as diagnosing Aspergers. Screening instruments are used as a first step to tell the doctor whether a youngster needs more testing. If your youngster's doctor does not routinely screen for ASDs, ask that it be done.

For moms and dads, your own experiences and concerns about your youngster's development will be very important in the screening process. Keep your own notes about your youngster's development and look through family videos, photos, and baby albums to help you remember when you first noticed each behavior and when your youngster reached certain developmental milestones.

Sometimes the doctor will ask the mother or father some questions about the youngster's symptoms to screen for Aspergers. Other screening instruments combine information from caregivers with the doctor's own observations of the youngster. Examples of screening instruments for toddlers and preschoolers include:
  • Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ)
  • Screening Tool for Autism in Two-Year-Olds (STAT)
  • Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT)
  • Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales (CSBS)
  • Checklist of Autism in Toddlers (CHAT)

To screen for Aspergers in older kids, the doctor may rely on different screening instruments, such as:
  • Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ)
  • Australian Scale for Asperger's Syndrome (ASAS)
  • Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test (CAST)

The second stage of diagnosis must be thorough in order to find whether other conditions may be causing your youngster's symptoms. A team that includes a psychologist, a neurologist, a psychiatrist, a speech therapist, or other professionals experienced in diagnosing Aspergers may do this evaluation. The evaluation may assess the youngster's cognitive level (i.e., thinking skills), language level, and adaptive behavior (i.e., age-appropriate skills needed to complete daily activities independently, for example eating, dressing, and toileting).

Because Aspergers is a complex disorder that sometimes occurs along with other illnesses or learning disorders, the comprehensive evaluation may include brain imaging and gene tests, along with in-depth memory, problem-solving, and language testing. Kids with any delayed development should also get a hearing test and be screened for lead poisoning as part of the comprehensive evaluation.

Although kids can lose their hearing along with developing Aspergers, common Aspergers symptoms (e.g., not turning to face a person calling their name) can also make it seem that kids cannot hear when in fact they can. If a youngster is not responding to speech, especially to his or her name, it's important for the doctor to test whether a youngster has hearing loss.

The evaluation process is a good time for moms and dads to ask questions and get advice from the whole evaluation team. The outcome of the evaluation will help plan for treatment and interventions to help your youngster. Be sure to ask who you can contact with follow-up questions.



•    Anonymous said…  Different diagnosis but I always had BPD and ADHD since a child and found it very hard in school and growing up because my parents refused me to be diagnosed and didn't agree with medication, which meant I always got in trouble at school and never got the support I needed, I was just seen as a problem child. I think life would have been a lot easier for me if I just got the support and diagnosis when I was a child. I always knew I was different from the other children and didn't know who I was which lead to depression, once I was diagnosed I felt a relief and got the support I needed. To this day I still don't forgive my parents for their decision.
•    Anonymous said…  My son was first diagnosed with SPD and was seeing an occupational therapist. I asked her one day about having him tested for aspergers( as his teachers were concerned it was more than SPD...he had ALOT of problems at school..especially with authority, changes in routine, even hitting teachers when upset).. Her response to me was" why do you want him to have a label?" MY response was " he already has a label..he's the bad kid that no teacher wants in his/ her class" I'll NEVER forget that and AM so glad he was diagnosed so that he has advocates and teachers can learn more about autism and aspergers and help these kids become better students! All of the help he's received has made a tremendous difference in his behaviors!
•    Anonymous said… Diagnosis = Support. Teachers: if they are aware and have information of your child's needs they can take a different approach if necessary. Community: a little bit of awareness and acceptance go a long way in helping your child feel part of their community. People that work in our local shop are aware of our child's diagnosis and are wonderful in supporting him and me by helping him to to shop and keep their eye out if he wonders off etc. Government funding for therapy: therapy is necessary and expensive! You owe it to your child to have an assessment. He deserves the chance to be the best he can be and you need and deserve the support to help him do that. It hurts to be told there is something wrong with your child that you love so much and it will be a process to accept it, but a year down the track when you see how far he's grown and improved you will know you've made the right decision. And they might just say " No, we don't believe he's on the spectrum. ". You need to know! Good luck. And remember there is lots of support here for you and your family x
•    Anonymous said… Get the diagnoses.
•    Anonymous said… He is who he is a label doesn't change him it just makes its a lot easier with everything to help him helps you
•    Anonymous said… I agree. When you have a diagnoses the Government pays the school your child attends for extra help in the classroom. You don't have to tell anyone else about your son's "label" if you wish not to. Depending where you live (I'm in Australia) may depend on how the process begins. With us my doctor started the process writing a referral to a Paediatrician. After assessing, he said aspergers & referred us onto a psychologist. After assessing, he said aspergers. Then back to Paediatrician again for all outcomes. We then got documentation & this helped with the cost for therapist. Good luck.
•    Anonymous said… I am raising a 10 year grandson. He started reading at 4,he always did not like socializing with others and never liked loud noises. He was held back in second grade his teacher labeled him lazy and told me to get him to bed earlier.We changed schools and they said the same. I it turns out he has hashitothyroiditis and low vitamine d so with synthyroid and vitamine d every day.The his adnoids and tonsils were removed
•    Anonymous said… I don't understand your concern about a "label"? Don't you want the best for your child? If so, wouldn't you want to understand how his mind and body function so that you and all around him can support him appropriately? If he is struggling at school, then your school (if public) should have the resources to start the evaluation process. Talk to his teacher or the school's social worker as a starting point. You can also pursue a diagnosis privately, look for neurobehavior therapists in your area.
•    Anonymous said… I hate it when people say label.. Its not a label, its an insight how to treat/help someone who has different ways/needs/understandings to others...
•    Anonymous said… I haven't labelled my child......I have helped him understand why he is struggling. I have given him a ticket to the best life he can achieve.
•    Anonymous said… I suffered mental illness from the age of twelve. I wasn't diagnosed and "labeled" with bipolar disorder until my mid twenties. After that, my doctors knew how to treat me and my quality of life improved significantly. When my son showed signs of a problem, I didn't wait. I was eager to know the problem so I could help him find solutions. I think we would all benefit if people would be more open and less judgemental. My two cents.
•    Anonymous said… I too was scared at having my little guy labelled (being in a private school, what would they say!?!) was the best thing I could have done! His school has been fantastic and the support/help is incredible!
Originally the mums thought he was just a naughty child, now they understand and accept him!.....People in general need to be more accepting of our special, gifted children. They are not naughty, should not be subjected to different behaviour, but given the correct respect/understanding that they deserve/need! It's a long process being diagnosed but it's well worth it and you are doing the best for your child!
Good luck hon X
•    Anonymous said… I was skeptical to have my son diagnosed as well. Not because of the label, I just felt we didn't need it-I had the mindset of: this is the way he is, and we love him knowing all of his quirks, and anyone who doesn't understand doesn't have to. BUT we have recently gone through the process, and the amount of resources that are available to help him is incredible! From help and understanding with the school, to learning knew tricks on parenting, to social skills classes-it's made a big difference. We've also seen a lot more acceptance from people (which in a way makes me upset, because some of these people should have been accepting before-but it's better for him now, and ill deal with my issue separately), we feel more comfortable with how we parent, and advocating is easier because now we have a whole team to help us through everything. I can very honestly say that I wish we had done it sooner.
•    Anonymous said… I'm glad my son has his label. It means he gets the help and assistance he needs and people understand better.
•    Anonymous said… It is a double edge sword. We are in the process. My son is 6. Two independent child psychologists have said ASD but now the school's educational psychologist is trying to label him as severe ODD. I haven't found this process helpful at all.
•    Anonymous said… It will be easier to know now, so you can learn how to better help him then fight until he is a teenager.
•    Anonymous said… 'Labels' open doors! The longer you leave 'starting the process' towards a diagnosis, the longer you put off vital early intervention. It's NOT for you, but your child! Parents don't realize just how lengthy the process is.
•    Anonymous said… My son is 6 and was just diagnosed. We had to have a psychologist and pedestrian sign off on it. They worked together with his school for 6 months to see whether it would effect his day today life to much. If it wasn't going to they weren't good to label him.
•    Anonymous said… Nobody what's to label their child. I was one of those parents who was afraid to get the "label" as we call it. But getting over that fear and understanding what the positive are. You move on from it. My son needed a "label" because it open so many doors for him. My health insurance covered more and there were services, I never knew was out there. Taking that step is a parents fear not the child's fear. Do what going to help you son not hurt him.
•    Anonymous said… Outside of the teachers and staff who you tell is up to you.
•    Anonymous said… sleep apnea showed he only sleep 3 hours a night.Got to say he is doing better,grades are three A and 3 b, but I ask the teacher about Asperger if see thought he had it. She has taught kids 16 years and has a son with asperger, her answer was yes.She advised me not to have him tested he will be labeled.This eats at me because for years this child has been misunderstood and as parents and myself I am his mom and granny I feel if I do not ask a doctor I will be letting him down. He needs to understand it as much as I do.So I will have him tested.I only hope you will also.
•    Anonymous said… This is how I see a Dx. My son's Dx is that he is Jaxon, but a Jaxon with quirks and challenges I need to understand. I didn't want to push or discipline him for things he wasn't capable of doing. The Dx isn't your child just a better begining to work with them. Best of luck
•    Anonymous said… Unfortunately to get help in uk education system having a "label" is the way forward. Don't be afraid of it... If it helps then it can only be good. "Labels " are easily got rid of as child gets older.
•    Anonymous said… We all have challenges! If your child has autism chances are the children around him already have some idea that something is off. The social help for kids with ASD is crucial.
•    Anonymous said… Yes you should because if you don't there is not a school or a medical system out there that will help your child with out that label for extra support, unless your willing to pay $$$ a week going private.
•    Anonymous said… Yes, most definitely yes get a diagnosis. It can be tough to accept; but the best thing to do is that if your child is determined to fall within the ASD; don't allow your child to use it as an excuse. Your child is not Autism; your child is Billy, or Sally or whomever they may be. She/she may have some limitations; but their abilities are incredible. It's okay to say "Billy, you do have Aspergers syndrome; and some things may be harder for you to understand; but you're smart and able and we'll figure it out together"; or something along those lines to encourage your child they are not broken. Some things may be harder to grasp; but it can be done and it will be done with proper therapies.

Post your comment below…

The Mark Hutten Show: Episode 1

Does My Child Have Asperger's or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder?

“We believe our son has Asperger’s Syndrome and we want to have him tested. What are the symptoms we should be looking for and who should we go to for testing? Also, is it possible that his current symptoms may be reflective of something other than Asperger's, like CDD?"

Ideally, you would take your son to a child and adolescent psychiatrist who specializes in autism spectrum disorders. But these doctors are hard to find. Alternatively, you can have your son’s pediatrician make a referral to a specialist.

Symptoms of Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism vary from one youngster to the next, but in general, they fall into three areas:
  1. Communication difficulties
  2. Repetitive and stereotyped behaviors
  3. Social impairment

Kids with Asperger’s do not follow typical patterns when developing social and communication skills. Moms and dads are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their youngster. Often, certain behaviors become more noticeable when comparing kids of the same age.

In some cases, toddlers with Asperger’s may seem different very early in their development. Even before their first birthday, some babies become overly-focused on certain objects, rarely make eye contact, and fail to engage in typical back-and-forth play and babbling with their mom or dad. Other kids may develop normally until the second or even third year of life, but then start to lose interest in others and become silent, withdrawn, or indifferent to social signals. Loss or reversal of normal development is called regression and occurs in some kids with Asperger’s.

1. Communication Issues—

By the first birthday, typical toddlers can say one or two words, turn when they hear their name, and point when they want a toy. When offered something they do not want, toddlers make it clear with words, gestures, or facial expressions that the answer is "no." For kids with Asperger’s, reaching such milestones may not be so straightforward. For example, some kids with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism may:
  • Coo and babble in the first year of life, but then stop doing so
  • Develop language at a delayed pace
  • Fail or be slow to develop gestures (e.g., pointing and showing things to others)
  • Fail or be slow to respond to their name or other verbal attempts to gain their attention
  • Learn to communicate using pictures or their own sign language
  • Repeat words or phrases that they hear, a condition called echolalia
  • Speak only in single words or repeat certain phrases over and over, seeming unable to combine words into meaningful sentences
  • Use words that seem odd, out of place, or have a special meaning known only to those familiar with the youngster's way of communicating

Even kids with Asperger’s who have relatively good language skills often have difficulties with the back and forth of conversations (e.g., because they find it difficult to understand and react to social cues, kids with Asperger’s often talk at length about a favorite subject, but they won't allow anyone else a chance to respond or notice when others react indifferently).

Kids with Asperger’s who have not yet developed meaningful gestures or language may simply scream or grab or otherwise act-out until they are taught better ways to express their needs. As these kids grow up, they can become aware of their difficulty in understanding others and in being understood. This awareness may cause them to become anxious or depressed.

2. Repetitive and Stereotyped Behaviors—

Kids with Asperger’s often have repetitive motions or unusual behaviors. These behaviors may be extreme and very noticeable, or they can be mild and discreet (e.g., some kids may repeatedly flap their arms or walk in specific patterns, while others may subtly move their fingers by their eyes in what looks to be a gesture). These repetitive actions are sometimes called "stereotypy" or "stereotyped behaviors."

Kids with Asperger’s also tend to have overly focused interests. They may become fascinated with moving objects or parts of objects (e.g., wheels on a moving car). They might spend a long time lining up toys in a certain way, rather than playing with them. They may also become very upset if someone accidentally moves one of the toys. Repetitive behavior can also take the form of a persistent, intense preoccupation (e.g., they might be obsessed with learning all about vacuum cleaners, train schedules, or lighthouses). Kids with Asperger’s often have great interest in numbers, symbols, or science topics.

While kids with Asperger’s often do best with routine in their daily activities and surroundings, inflexibility may often be extreme and cause serious difficulties. They may insist on eating the same exact meals every day or taking the same exact route to school. A slight change in a specific routine can be extremely upsetting. Some kids may even have emotional outbursts, especially when feeling angry or frustrated or when placed in a new or stimulating environment.

No two kids express exactly the same types and severity of symptoms. In fact, many typically developing kids occasionally display some of the behaviors common to kids with Asperger’s. However, if you notice your youngster has several Asperger’s-related symptoms, have your youngster screened and evaluated by a health professional experienced with this disorder.

3. Social Impairment—

Most kids with Asperger’s have trouble engaging in everyday social interactions. Some kids with Asperger’s may:
  • Do not readily seek to share their enjoyment of toys or activities by pointing or showing things to others
  • Make little eye contact
  • Respond unusually when others show anger, distress, or affection
  • Tend to look and listen less to people in their environment or fail to respond to other people

Recent research suggests that kids with Asperger’s do not respond to emotional cues in human social interactions because they may not pay attention to the social cues that others typically notice. One study found that kids with Asperger’s focus on the mouth of the person speaking to them instead of on the eyes, which is where kids with typical development tend to focus. A related study showed that kids with Asperger’s appear to be drawn to repetitive movements linked to a sound, such as hand-clapping during a game of pat-a-cake. More research is needed to confirm these findings, but such studies suggest that kids with Asperger’s may misread or not notice subtle social cues (e.g., a smile, a wink, a grimace, etc.) that could help them understand social relationships and interactions. For these kids, a question such as, "Can you hold on for just a minute?" always means the same thing, whether the speaker is joking, asking a real question, or issuing a firm request. Without the ability to interpret another person's tone of voice as well as gestures, facial expressions, and other nonverbal communications, kids with Asperger’s may not properly respond.

Likewise, it can be hard for others to understand the body language of kids with Asperger’s. Their facial expressions, movements, and gestures are often vague or do not match what they are saying. Their tone of voice may not reflect their actual feelings either. Many older kids with Asperger’s speak with an unusual tone of voice and may sound sing-song or flat and robot like.

Kids with Asperger’s also may have trouble understanding another person's point of view. For example, by school age, most kids understand that other people have different information, feelings, and goals than they have. Kids with Asperger’s may lack this understanding, leaving them unable to predict or understand other people's actions.

Related Disorders—

Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD) are two very rare forms of Autism that include a regression in development. Only 1 of every 10,000 to 22,000 girls has Rett syndrome. Even rarer, only 1 or 2 out of 100,000 kids with Asperger’s have childhood disintegrative disorder.

Unlike other forms of Autism, Rett syndrome mostly affects girls. In general, kids with Rett syndrome develop normally for 6–18 months before regression and Asperger’s-like symptoms begin to appear. Kids with Rett syndrome may also have difficulties with coordination, movement, and speech. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy can help, but no specific treatment for Rett syndrome is available yet.

Scientists have discovered that a mutation in the sequence of a single gene is linked to most cases of Rett syndrome. This discovery may help scientists find ways to slow or stop the progress of the disorder. It may also improve doctors' ability to diagnose and treat kids with Rett syndrome earlier, improving their overall quality of life.

Childhood disintegrative disorder affects very few kids, which makes it hard for researchers to learn about the disease. Symptoms of childhood disintegrative disorder may appear by age 2, but the average age of onset is between age 3 and 4. Until this time, kids with childhood disintegrative disorder usually have age-appropriate communication and social skills. The long period of normal development before regression helps to set childhood disintegrative disorder apart from Rett syndrome. Childhood disintegrative disorder may affect boys more often than girls.

Childhood disintegrative disorder is a condition in which kids develop normally until ages 2 to 4, but then demonstrate a severe loss of social, communication and other skills. Childhood disintegrative disorder is very much like Autism. Both are among the group of disorders known as pervasive developmental disorders (or autism spectrum disorders), and both involve normal development followed by significant loss of language, social, play and motor skills. However, childhood disintegrative disorder typically occurs later than Autism and involves a more dramatic loss of skills. In addition, childhood disintegrative disorder is far less common than Autism.

Kids with childhood disintegrative disorder typically show a dramatic loss of previously acquired skills in two or more of the following areas:
  • Bowel or bladder control, including frequent accidents in a child who was previously toilet-trained
  • Language, including a severe decline in the ability to speak and have a conversation
  • Motor skills, including a dramatic decline in the ability to walk, climb, grasp objects and other movements
  • Play, including a loss of interest in imaginary play and in a variety of games and activities
  • Social skills, including significant difficulty relating to and interacting with others

Loss of developmental milestones may occur abruptly over the course of days to weeks or gradually over an extended period of time.

Watching for Signs of Autism in Your Child

“I’ve known for some time that something is not quite right with my child, and I’m starting to wonder if he has an autism spectrum disorder. What should I look for?”

Learn the signs, and act early. Find out if your son’s development is on track, and learn the signs of developmental delays. Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving "bye bye" are called developmental milestones. Kids reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move (e.g., crawling, walking, etc.). Track your son’s development and act early if you have a concern.

Here are the milestones that parents should look for if they are trying to track the possibility of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in their child:

Baby at Two Months—

What most babies do at this age:
  • Begins to act bored (cries, fussy) if activity doesn’t change
  • Begins to follow things with eyes and recognize people at a distance
  • Begins to smile at people
  • Can briefly calm himself (may bring hands to mouth and suck on hand)
  • Can hold head up and begins to push up when lying on tummy
  • Coos, makes gurgling sounds
  • Makes smoother movements with arms and legs
  • Pays attention to faces
  • Tries to look at parent
  • Turns head toward sounds

Act early by talking to your youngster’s pediatrician if your youngster:
  • Can’t hold head up when pushing up when on tummy
  • Doesn’t bring hands to mouth
  • Doesn’t respond to loud sounds
  • Doesn’t smile at people
  • Doesn’t watch things as they move

Your Baby at Four Months—

What most babies do at this age:
  • Babbles with expression and copies sounds he hears
  • Begins to babble
  • Brings hands to mouth
  • Can hold a toy and shake it and swing at dangling toys
  • Copies some movements and facial expressions, like smiling or frowning
  • Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired
  • Follows moving things with eyes from side to side
  • Holds head steady, unsupported
  • Lets you know if she is happy or sad
  • Likes to play with people and might cry when playing stops
  • May be able to roll over from tummy to back
  • Pushes down on legs when feet are on a hard surface
  • Reaches for toy with one hand
  • Recognizes familiar people and things at a distance
  • Responds to affection
  • Smiles spontaneously, especially at people
  • Uses hands and eyes together, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it
  • Watches faces closely
  • When lying on stomach, pushes up to elbows

Act early by talking to your youngster’s pediatrician if your youngster:
  • Can’t hold head steady
  • Doesn’t bring things to mouth
  • Doesn’t coo or make sounds
  • Doesn’t push down with legs when feet are placed on a hard surface
  • Doesn’t smile at people
  • Doesn’t watch things as they move
  • Has trouble moving  one or both eyes in all directions

Your Baby at Six Months—

What most babies do at this age:
  • Begins to pass things from one hand to the other
  • Begins to say consonant sounds (jabbering with “m,” “b”)
  • Begins to sit without support
  • Brings things to mouth
  • Knows familiar faces and begins to know if someone is a stranger
  • Likes to look at self in a mirror
  • Likes to play with others, especially parents
  • Looks around at things nearby
  • Makes sounds to show joy and displeasure
  • Responds to other people’s emotions and often seems happy
  • Responds to own name
  • Responds to sounds by making sounds
  • Rocks back and forth, sometimes crawling backward before moving forward
  • Rolls over in both directions (front to back, back to front)
  • Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach
  • Strings vowels together when babbling (“ah,” “eh,” “oh”) and likes taking turns with parent while making sounds
  • When standing, supports weight on legs and might bounce

Act early by talking to your youngster’s pediatrician if your youngster:
  • Doesn’t laugh or make squealing sounds
  • Doesn’t make vowel sounds (“ah”, “eh”, “oh”)
  • Doesn’t respond to sounds around him
  • Doesn’t roll over in either direction
  • Doesn’t try to get things that are in reach
  • Has difficulty getting things to mouth
  • Seems very floppy, like a rag doll
  • Seems very stiff, with tight muscles
  • Shows no affection for caregivers

Your Baby at Nine Months--

What most babies do at this age:
  • Can get into sitting position
  • Copies sounds and gestures of others
  • Crawls
  • Has favorite toys
  • Looks  for things he sees you hide
  • Makes a lot of different sounds like “mamamama” and “bababababa”
  • May be afraid of strangers
  • May be clingy with familiar adults
  • Moves things smoothly from one hand to the other
  • Picks up things like cereal o’s between thumb and index finger
  • Plays peek-a-boo
  • Pulls to stand
  • Puts things in her mouth
  • Sits without support
  • Stands, holding on
  • Understands “no”
  • Uses fingers to point at things
  • Watches the path of something as it falls

Act early by talking to your youngster’s pediatrician if your youngster:
  •  Doesn’t babble (“mama”, “baba”, “dada”)
  • Doesn’t bear weight on legs with support
  • Doesn’t look where you point
  • Doesn’t play any games involving back-and-forth play
  • Doesn’t respond to own name
  • Doesn’t seem to recognize familiar people
  • Doesn’t sit with help
  • Doesn’t transfer toys from one hand to the other

Your Youngster at One Year—

What most kids do at this age:
  • Bangs two things together
  • Copies gestures
  • Cries when mom or dad leaves
  • Explores things in different ways, like shaking, banging, throwing
  • Finds hidden things easily
  • Follows simple directions like “pick up the toy”
  • Gets to a sitting position without help
  • Hands you a book when he wants to hear a story
  • Has favorite things and people
  • Is shy or nervous with strangers
  • Lets things go without help
  • Looks at the right picture or thing when it’s named
  • Makes sounds with changes in tone (sounds more like speech)
  • May stand alone
  • May take a few steps without holding on
  • Plays games such as “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake”
  • Pokes with index (pointer) finger
  • Pulls up to stand, walks holding on to furniture (“cruising”)
  • Puts out arm or leg to help with dressing
  • Puts things in a container, takes things out of a container
  • Repeats sounds or actions to get attention
  • Responds to simple spoken requests
  • Says “mama” and “dada” and exclamations like “uh-oh!”
  • Shows fear in some situations
  • Starts to use things correctly; for example, drinks from a cup, brushes hair
  • Tries to say words you say
  • Uses simple gestures, like shaking head “no” or waving “bye-bye”

Act early by talking to your youngster’s pediatrician if your youngster:
  • Can’t stand when supported
  • Doesn’t crawl
  • Doesn’t learn gestures like waving or shaking head
  • Doesn’t point to things
  • Doesn’t say single words like “mama” or “dada”
  • Doesn’t search for things that she sees you hide
  • Loses skills he once had

Your Youngster at Eighteen Months—

What most kids do at this age:
  • Can follow 1-step verbal commands without any gestures; for example, sits when you say “sit down”
  • Can help undress herself
  • Drinks from a cup
  • Eats with a spoon
  • Explores alone but with parent close by
  • Knows what ordinary things are for; for example, telephone, brush, spoon
  • Likes to hand things to others as play
  • May be afraid of strangers
  • May cling to caregivers in new situations
  • May have temper tantrums
  • May walk up steps and run
  • Plays simple pretend, such as feeding a doll
  • Points to get the attention of others
  • Points to one body part
  • Points to show others something interesting
  • Points to show someone what he wants
  • Pulls toys while walking
  • Says and shakes head “no”
  • Says several single words
  • Scribbles on his own
  • Shows affection to familiar people
  • Shows interest in a doll or stuffed animal by pretending to feed
  • Walks alone

Act early by talking to your youngster’s pediatrician if your youngster:
  • Can’t walk
  • Doesn’t copy others
  • Doesn’t gain new words
  • Doesn’t have at least 6 words
  • Doesn’t know what familiar things are for
  • Doesn’t notice or mind when a caregiver leaves or returns
  • Doesn’t point to show things to others
  • Loses skills he once had

Your Youngster at Two Years—

What most kids do at this age:
  • Begins to run
  • Begins to sort shapes and colors
  • Builds towers of 4 or more blocks
  • Climbs onto and down from furniture without help
  • Completes sentences and rhymes in familiar books
  • Copies others, especially adults and older kids
  • Finds things even when hidden under two or three covers
  • Follows simple instructions
  • Follows two-step instructions such as “Pick up your shoes and put them in the closet.”
  • Gets excited when with other kids
  • Kicks a ball
  • Knows names of familiar people and body parts
  • Makes or copies straight lines and circles
  • Might use one hand more than the other
  • Names items in a picture book such as a cat, bird, or dog
  • Plays mainly beside other kids, but is beginning to include other kids, such as in chase games
  • Plays simple make-believe games
  • Points to things in a book
  • Points to things or pictures when they are named
  • Repeats words overheard in conversation
  • Says sentences with 2 to 4 words
  • Shows defiant behavior (doing what he has been told not to)
  • Shows more and more independence
  • Stands on tiptoe
  • Throws ball overhand
  • Walks up and down stairs holding on

Act early by talking to your youngster’s pediatrician if your youngster:
  • Doesn’t copy actions and words
  • Doesn’t follow simple instructions
  • Doesn’t know what to do with common things, like a brush, phone, fork, spoon
  • Doesn’t use 2-word phrases (for example, “drink milk”)
  • Doesn’t walk steadily
  • Loses skills she once had

Your Youngster at Three Years—

What most kids do at this age:
  • Builds towers of more than 6 blocks
  • Can name most familiar things
  • Can work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts
  • Carries on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences
  • Climbs well
  • Copies a circle with pencil or crayon
  • Copies adults and friends
  • Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces
  • Dresses and undresses self
  • Follows instructions with 2 or 3 steps
  • May get upset with major changes in routine
  • Names a friend
  • Pedals a tricycle (3-wheel bike)
  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
  • Runs easily
  • Says first name, age, and sex
  • Says words like “I,” “me,”  “we,” and “you” and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats)
  • Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handle
  • Separates easily from mom and dad
  • Shows a wide range of emotions
  • Shows affection for friends without prompting
  • Shows concern for crying friend
  • Takes turns in games
  • Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
  • Turns book pages one at a time
  • Understands the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”
  • Understands what “two” means
  • Understands words like “in,” “on,” and “under”
  • Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step

Act early by talking to your youngster’s pediatrician if your youngster:
  • Can’t work simple toys (such as peg boards, simple puzzles, turning handle)
  • Doesn’t make eye contact
  • Doesn’t play pretend or make-believe
  • Doesn’t speak in sentences
  • Doesn’t understand simple instructions
  • Doesn’t want to play with other kids or with toys
  • Drools or has very unclear speech
  • Falls down a lot or has trouble with stairs
  • Loses skills he once had

Your Youngster at Four Years—

What most kids do at this age:
  • Can say first and last name
  • Catches a bounced ball most of the time
  • Cooperates with other kids
  • Draws a person with 2 to 4 body parts
  • Enjoys doing new things
  • Hops and stands on one foot up to 2 seconds
  • Is more and more creative with make-believe play
  • Knows some basic rules of grammar, such as correctly using “he” and “she”
  • Names some colors and some numbers
  • Often can’t tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Plays “Mom” and “Dad”
  • Plays board or card games
  • Pours, cuts with supervision, and mashes own food
  • Remembers parts of a story
  • Sings a song or says a poem from memory such as the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or the “Wheels on the Bus”
  • Starts to copy some capital letters
  • Starts to understand time
  • Talks about what she likes and what she is interested in
  • Tells stories
  • Tells you what he thinks is going to happen next in a book
  • Understands the idea of “same” and “different”
  • Understands the idea of counting
  • Uses scissors
  • Would rather play with other kids than by himself

Act early by talking to your youngster’s pediatrician if your youngster:
  • Can’t jump in place
  • Can’t retell a favorite story
  • Doesn’t follow 3-part commands
  • Doesn’t understand “same” and “different”
  • Doesn’t use “me” and “you” correctly
  • Has trouble scribbling
  • Ignores other kids or doesn’t respond to people outside the family
  • Loses skills he once had
  • Resists dressing, sleeping, and using the toilet
  • Shows no interest in interactive games or make-believe
  • Speaks unclearly

Your Youngster at Five Years—

What most kids do at this age:
  • Wants to please friends
  • Wants to be like friends
  • More likely to agree with rules
  • Likes to sing, dance, and act
  • Shows concern and sympathy for others
  • Is aware of gender
  • Can tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Shows more independence (for example, may visit a next-door neighbor by himself)
  • Is sometimes demanding and sometimes very cooperative
  • Speaks very clearly
  • Tells a simple story using full sentences
  • Uses future tense; for example, “Grandma will be here.”
  • Says name and address
  • Counts 10 or more things
  • Can draw a person with at least 6 body parts
  • Can print some letters or numbers
  • Copies a triangle and other geometric shapes
  • Knows about things used every day, like money and food
  • Stands on one foot for 10 seconds or longer
  • Hops; may be able to skip
  • Can do a somersault
  • Uses a fork and spoon and sometimes a table knife
  • Can use the toilet on her own
  • Swings and climbs

Act early by talking to your youngster’s pediatrician if your youngster:
  • Can’t brush teeth, wash and dry hands, or get undressed without help
  • Can’t give first and last name
  • Can’t tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Doesn’t draw pictures
  • Doesn’t play a variety of games and activities
  • Doesn’t respond to people, or responds only superficially
  • Doesn’t show a wide range of emotions
  • Doesn’t talk about daily activities or experiences
  • Doesn’t use plurals or past tense properly
  • Is easily distracted, has trouble focusing on one activity for more than 5 minutes
  • Loses skills he once had
  • Shows extreme behavior (unusually fearful, aggressive, shy or sad)
  • Unusually withdrawn and not active

A word about the importance of further research:

We need to know how many kids have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) so that realistic plans can be made to support these youngsters and their parents. Knowing the number of kids who have ASDs is the key to promoting awareness of the disorder, helping teachers and health-care providers to plan and coordinate service delivery, and identifying important clues for further research. If service providers are not prepared to meet the needs of children with ASD, it takes a toll on families.

Families living with ASD have unique stresses. For example:
  • Annual medical expenditures per youngster with an ASD range from $2,100 to $11,200.
  • Intensive behavioral interventions for a youngster with an ASD can cost from $40,000 to $60,000 per year.
  • Many parents report having to stop work to care for their child with an ASD.
  • The cost to individual families extends into lost productivity and other financial problems for communities.
  • The nonmedical costs of special education for a youngster with an ASD are about $13,000 per year.
  • Therapies are expensive and families spend time on long waiting lists.

Researchers have used different ways to estimate the prevalence of ASD, and each method has advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a summary of each method:

1. Administrative Data: Looking at service records from Medicare and agencies like the U.S. Department of Education. Relatively low cost, BUT underestimates prevalence because not all kids with ASDs are receiving services for their conditions.

2. Population Screening and Evaluation: Screening and evaluating a sample of all kids in a population. Can provide high accuracy, BUT can be costly and time-consuming, and might reflect a bias based on who participates.

3. Registries: Voluntarily including oneself (or one’s son or daughter) on a list of individuals with ASDs. Relatively low cost, BUT time consuming and includes only people with a clear diagnosis and families who know about the registry and are willing to be on the list.

4. Systematic Record Review: Cost-effectively provides estimate of the prevalence of ASDs from large communities and identifies kids who might not have a clear ASD diagnosis already; BUT, it relies on the quality and quantity of information in records.

Key findings from the most recent research:
  • A small percentage of kids who are born prematurely or with low birth weight are at a greater risk for having ASDs.
  • About 1 in 88 kids have ASD, although some estimates say it is closer to 1 in 50.
  • About 10% of kids with ASDs also have been identified as having Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, or other genetic and chromosomal disorders.
  • Almost five times as many boys are being identified with ASDs as girls (1 in 54 compared to 1 in 252).
  • ASDs tend to occur more often among children who have certain genetic or chromosomal conditions.
  • Both genetic and non-genetic factors play a role in whether or not a child will have an ASD.
  • Kids born to older parents also are at a higher risk of having an ASD.
  • Kids who have a sibling or parent with an ASD are at a higher risk of having an ASD.
  • More kids are diagnosed at earlier ages—a growing number of them by 3 years of age. Still, most kids are not diagnosed until after they are 4 years of age.
  • More kids than ever before are being diagnosed with ASDs, but they are not being diagnosed as early as they could be.
  • The emotional and financial tolls on families and communities are staggering, and therapies can cost thousands of dollars.
  • The largest increases over time have been among Hispanic and Black kids. Some of this may be due to better screening and diagnosis.
  • The majority (62%) of kids identified as having ASDs do not have intellectual disability.
  • When taken during pregnancy, the prescription drugs valproic acid and thalidomide have been linked with a higher risk of ASDs. 

Insomnia in Children with Aspergers & High-Functioning Autism

“What do you suggest for my 4-year-old boy who has a hard time getting to sleep at bedtime, but can’t take melatonin? He has an allergic reaction to that supplement (gives him headaches). And why does it seem that so many asperger children have trouble going to sleep – even when they are exhausted?”

Click here for the answer...

Echolalia in Children with Aspergers & High-Functioning Autism

A common symptom of Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism includes repetition of words and phrases. In many cases, these phrases are related to something the youngster has been exposed to (e.g., a movie, book, song, etc.). The youngster may continue to say the word or phrase throughout the day or even throughout the following week.

If you're the mother or father of a verbal youngster diagnosed with Aspergers or HFA, you may have heard him or her repeat bits and pieces from videos or other sources. This type of communication is called "echolalia." It's a unique form of speech, and although it's thought of as a "symptom," it can also be a great place to start working with your youngster.

Echolalia is literally the repetition of words and sounds the child has heard either recently or quite a while ago. Verbal kids on the autism spectrum are often "echolalic" (i.e., they do use words, and sometimes even use those words appropriately, but their word choice is based on a memorized pattern).

Sometimes, echolalia is immediate (e.g., dad says, "Michael, do you want a sandwich?" …and Michael responds, "You want a sandwich"). Just as often, echolalia is delayed (e.g., a youngster hears a line on television such as "got milk?" …and later when he's thirsty, he may say "got milk?" in exactly the same tone and accent as the ad on television). In both of these cases, the echolalia may sound odd, but in fact it's a method the autistic youngster has developed for communicating his/her wants and needs. The fact that the child has done so means that he/she is able to do much more with the help of a speech therapist.

In some cases, echolalia is less functional, but it's usually a good starting point for speech and/or play therapy. For example, a youngster might memorize entire segments of a favorite movie and recite them over and over. The youngster's purpose in reciting may be to calm down or reduce stress, but the recitation may also indicate a real fascination for aspects of the movie.

Children on the spectrum do interact and communicate; however, they do so in different ways. They are truly more normal than abnormal. Even echolalia is a normal way to learn language. Most kids use echolalia to learn language. The majority of kids babble in a rhythmic way, which is actually mimicking the cadence of language. Later, they copy sounds, words, and eventually phrases and sentences that they hear grown-ups use in specific, repetitive contexts. Echolalia peaks at around age 30 months in “typical” kids, and then decreases.

Echolalia was once thought of as just another inappropriate behavior to eliminate in a child with Aspergers or HFA; however, researchers currently see it as a developmental phenomenon that occurs within the youngster's normal cognitive and linguistic maturation. Echolalia appears to be a "normal" step in the child's cognitive and language maturation, and is intrinsically rewarding to the youngster. The reinforcer is actually the youngster being able to match what others say.

Many kids on the spectrum become experts at echoing the content of what is said by others, as well as the voice, inflexion, and manner in which the words were originally spoken. The value of echolalia for the child may be that the echoed words and contextual cues become stored information for him or her to refer to later as an internal rehearsal of the event.

The presence of echolalia has actually been identified as a positive sign in children with Aspergers and HFA. The presence of echolalia is an important prognostic indicator for future language growth. It appears that echolalia provides the "raw material" for further language growth. Kids on the spectrum who are echolalic developed good phrase speech later in life whether or not they received intensive language training.

If echolalia is one of the phases of normal language development, it would appear that continued echolalia indicates that the child is "stuck" at that level of development for a time, but then seems to overcome it and develop more normal speech patterns.

Regardless of the utility of echolalia for the child, the habit can interfere with social interaction and learning. Therefore, most therapists focus on helping the child move to a more creative form of language. A child with Aspergers or HFA is more likely to use echolalia when he or she had not learned an appropriate response to a particular question or request.

How To Implement a Token Economy System for Aspergers Kids

“I want to implement a Token Economy system with my 12 year old Aspie.  Can you give me detailed instructions on how to do this?”

Actually, a token (or economy) system is quite easy to set up. Here’s how:

1. Identify the behaviors for which your child can earn credits. An example of a good behavior would be if he took it upon himself to start and complete his homework without having to be asked twice to do so. Then you would award him a token.

2. Decide the "currency" used. Every time your "Aspie" (i.e., high functioning autistic child) does something positive, then he would earn a token (e.g., a sticker, points, poker chips, monopoly money, etc.). You can even offer bonus points for doing certain chores.

3. Determine the value of the currency (i.e., how many tokens your child should receive for each good behavior – and how many he should lose for each bad behavior). For example, he could earn 5 tokens for every time he takes the trash out without having to be asked twice, and he could lose 3 tokens for every time he picks on his sister. (Caution: If you subtract too many tokens, he will feel like there is no way to win in this game – and he will quit. In this case, you could subtract tokens for every third time he picks on his sister.)

4. Decide what type of privileges your child should receive for his tokens (e.g., a few extra minutes of computer time, a later bedtime, coloring book, favorite snack, etc.). Be sure to pick the rewards that he is truly interested in. Also, whenever you give your child a token, be sure to praise him and explain why he is receiving the token. In this way, he will know what behaviors to repeat in the future. Praise in itself is a reward, motivator – and it builds self-esteem. All kids like to hear how well they are doing.

5. Give the reward items a cost so that your child can turn in his tokens for the different rewards (e.g., 30 minutes extra time on the computer costs 10 tokens, going out for pizza costs 20 tokens, etc.). Also, be sure to have rewards with a higher value to motivate your child to maintain good behavior, but also have items at a lower value since they will be easier for him to obtain.

What I Like About Having Aspergers

These kids will tell you why they like having Aspergers:

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.

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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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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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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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Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content