Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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The Extraordinary Demands Placed on Parents Raising Kids on the Spectrum

Moms and dads of kids with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) play multiple roles. Often, they are the first adults to recognize a developmental problem, and they should pursue their concern until they receive a diagnosis and find services for their youngster.

Once they become involved in a treatment program, moms and dads should be active partners in their youngster’s treatment process to ensure that skills learned in therapy transfer to the home-setting, school, and community at large. As members of the individualized education plan (IEP) team, moms and dads should also be active advocates for the youngster, ensuring that the educational process goes forward smoothly.

These many demands on moms and dads occur in the context of family life, including the needs of siblings, parents as individuals and as a couple, and family needs as a whole. In addition, the parents of AS and HFA  kids may experience sadness, anger, disappointment, or other complex emotions that can accompany the initial discovery that their youngster has a developmental problem and the ongoing need to make sacrifices to serve the needs of their youngster. Most families cope effectively with these demands, but some may encounter significant stress as they raise their AS and HFA youngster.

Specific knowledge, skills, and scientifically-based information about Autism Spectrum Disorders and their treatment are needed. The mastery of specific teaching strategies that enable parents to help their youngster acquire new behaviors and an understanding of the nature of AS and HFA and how it influences their youngster’s learning patterns and behavior is paramount. Moms and dads also need to be familiar with special education law and regulations, available services, and how to negotiate on behalf of their youngster. Furthermore, some parents need help coping with the emotional stress that can follow from having a special needs youngster.

The fact that parents serve a key role in effective treatment for their youngster is not without costs, and the implications for family life are considerable. Many moms and dads face multiple, demanding roles. Research suggests that while many families cope well with these demands, the education of a youngster with AS and HFA can be a source of considerable stress for some families. In general, moms report more stress than do dads, often describing issues related to time demands and personal sacrifice. Among specific concerns expressed by moms are:
  • the community’s acceptance of their youngster
  • the youngster’s ability to function independently
  • worry about their youngster’s welfare in the years ahead

Moms of kids on the spectrum also report more stress in their lives than do moms of kids with other disabilities (e.g., ADHD).

Dads of kids on the spectrum report more disruption of planning family events and a greater demand on family finances than do dads whose kids are developing typically. These three groups of males do not differ, however, on measures of perceived competence as a father, marital satisfaction, or social support.

In a study of families who had a boy on the spectrum under the age of 6 referred to the TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Kids) program, studies found that, while dads assumed some role in the youngster’s care, moms carried a much greater burden. This difference was not due solely to employment outside of the home. Moms who worked in jobs outside of the home still had greater childcare burdens than their employed spouses. The study also found that meaningful support from one’s spouse was an important predictor of the quality of parenting in the home.

The time spent working with a youngster with AS and HFA is sometimes stressful and demanding, but it also has the potential to reduce family distress and enhance the quality of life for the entire family – including the youngster on the spectrum. Techniques like individualized problem solving, in-home observations and training, and didactic sessions have been employed with families. Moms who learned skills based on the TEACCH model of education for their youngster showed a decrease in depressive symptoms over time in comparison with a group of moms not given this training.

One study found that teaching moms and dads how to use pivotal response training as part of their applied behavioral analysis instruction resulted in happier parent-child interactions, more interest by the moms and dads in the interaction, less stress, and a more positive communication style. The use of effective teaching methods for a youngster with AS and HFA can have a measurable positive impact on family stress. As the youngster’s behavior improves and his skills become more adaptive, families have a wider range of leisure options and more time for one another. To realize these gains, the mother and father must continue to learn specialized skills enabling them to meet their youngster’s needs.

Many moms and dads can learn to cope with the demands of parenting a youngster with AS and HFA once they learn about the emotions with which they are dealing with – and how to address them. Not all moms and dads experience these feelings. However, it is helpful for them to be aware of the various emotions involved – and to realize that their experiences and feelings are normal.

  • Hopes and plans for youngster's future
  • Lifestyle prior to youngster's birth or diagnosis
  • Loss of the "perfect youngster" that was anticipated prior to the birth or diagnosis

  • Toward the educational system
  • Medical system
  • Religious belief system
  • Themselves, spouse, youngster
  • Treatment team

  • Youngster's suffering
  • Less attention toward other kids
  • Less focus on self
  • Relationship with spouse
  • Unable to protect youngster

Feelings of Loneliness:
  • No one else understands what they are going through
  • Avoid having to explain youngster's conditions and answer questions
  • Can sense that others are uncomfortable around youngster
  • Depressed
  • Difficulty meeting youngster's needs outside of home
  • Financially unable to do activities
  • Lack of accommodations
  • Not wanting to interact with others
  • Resentment toward others with "typical kids"
  • Unable to leave home

Low Sense of Self-Worth:
  • Right parenting decisions under normal circumstances may not work for youngster due to AS/HFA
  • Interactions with many therapists who assign various labels and diagnoses of youngster

  • Youngster's future
  • Educational needs
  • Ability to live independently when older
  • Safety
  • Stable relationship with spouse
  • Own mental health
  • Next crisis

  • Advocating for accommodations
  • Attempting to meet needs of other family members
  • Balancing career and family
  • Dealing with insurance coverage and financial concerns
  • Dealing with other's reactions and opinions
  • Decrease in support system
  • Lack of accommodations for youngster
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of prior medical or advocacy experiences
  • Learning details of youngster's disorder and about related treatment
  • Making choices regarding youngster's treatment
  • Managing appointments for various professionals
  • Managing time
  • Poor eating habits
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Some parents may become forgetful, miss appointments, and experience other symptoms of stress
  • The youngster's Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

Feeling Isolated:
  • Detachment in other areas of life due to focus on youngster's needs
  • Feelings of despair and hopelessness
  • Over-involvement in work or other activities

How can moms and dads care for themselves and move forward?

Find a support system:
  • Locate a counselor to address feelings
  • Locate a support group
  • Meet and interact with other families of kids with AS/HFA
  • Re-establish relationship with spouse
  • Seek discussion boards on the internet
  • Surround self with nurturing individuals that are accepting of youngster and parenting choices
  • Utilize a treatment team that is supportive and empowers moms and dads to make choices that are right for their family

Find Balance:
  • Alone time with spouse
  • Exercise
  • Find enjoyable social activities
  • Fun activities as a family
  • Meditate
  • Use a baby sitter
  • Work outside of home

  • Enjoyable books/magazines
  • Books by other moms and dads of kids with AS/HFA

Recognize Positive Features of Youngster and Life:
  • Involvement in other kid's lives
  • Realize own wisdom and strength
  • Recognize that the youngster is a fighter
  • See gains the youngster has made

Love the Youngster for the Person He Is:
  • Acknowledge youngster as an individual who may have different life goals
  • Identify what youngster has instead of what she does not have
  • Learn to accept youngster for who she is

Other Ideas:
  • When feelings of crisis have passed, attempt to focus on things that can be controlled instead of those that can't be controlled
  • Use religious/spiritual resources and beliefs
  • Remember that taking care of yourself is important to you and your youngster
  • Remember that it is the journey that counts – not the destination
  • Recognize that different treatment options work for different kids and different families
  • Practice assertiveness skills with treatment team, family, friends, and people in the community
  • Gain understanding that life is about change
  • Attempt to focus on the present instead of the future

Assessing Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism: Tips for Clinicians

Developmentally-based assessments of cognitive, communicative, and other skills provide information important for both diagnosis and program planning for kids with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA). Careful documentation of a youngster’s unique strengths and weaknesses can have a major impact on the design of effective intervention programs and is particularly critical due to the fact that unusual developmental profiles are common.

Given the multiple areas of difficulty, the efforts of experts from various disciplines are often needed (e.g., audiology, neurology, pediatrics, physical and occupational therapy, psychiatry, psychology, speech and language pathology). The level of expertise required for effective diagnosis and assessment may require the services of professionals other than those usually available in a school setting.

In some cases, psychological and communication assessments can be performed by existing school staff, depending on their training and competence in working with kids with AS and HFA. However, other services (e.g., management of seizures, drug therapy, genetic testing, etc.) are managed in the health care sector. Some kids may fall between systems, and therefore not be served well.

Several principles underlie assessment of a youngster with AS or HFA:

1. A developmental perspective is important. Given the strong association of mental retardation with Autism Spectrum Disorders, it is important to view results within the context of overall developmental level.

2. Behavioral difficulties must be considered, since they affect both the youngster’s daily functioning and considerations for intervention.

3. Functional adjustment should be assessed. Results of specific assessments obtained in more highly structured situations must be viewed in the broader context of a youngster’s daily functioning and response to real-life demands. The youngster’s ability to translate skills into real world settings is particularly critical.

4. Multiple areas of functioning should be assessed, including current intellectual and communicative skills, behavioral presentation, and functional adjustment.

5. Social dysfunction is probably the most defining feature of AS and HFA, so it is important that the effect of a youngster’s social challenges on behavior be considered.

6. Variability of behavior across settings is typical. Behavior of a youngster will vary depending on such aspects of the setting as novelty, degree of structure provided, and complexity of the environment. Thus, observation of facilitating and detrimental environments is useful.

7. Variability of skills is typical, thus it is important to identify a youngster’s specific profile of strengths and weaknesses rather than simply present an overall global score. Similarly, it is important not to generalize from an isolated skill to an overall impression of general level of ability, because such skills may grossly misrepresent the youngster’s typical abilities.

Various diagnostic instruments can be used to help structure and quantify clinical observations. Information can be obtained through observation (e.g., Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale) as well as the use of various diagnostic interviews and checklists (e.g., Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised; Childhood Autism Rating Scale; Autism Behavior Checklist; Aberrant Behavior Checklist). An adequate assessment will involve both direct observation and interviews of mothers, fathers and educators.

The range of symptoms in AS is quite broad and spans the entire range of IQ. A diagnosis can be made in a low-functioning youngster as well as in a youngster who is intellectually gifted. In addition, children with AS vary along a number of other dimensions (e.g., levels of communicative ability, degree of behavioral difficulties, etc.). As a result, in working with the youngster, considerable expertise is required. Clinicians must consider the quality of the information obtained (both in terms of reliability and validity), the involvement of mothers/fathers and educators, the need for interdisciplinary collaboration, and the implications of results for intervention. Coordination of services and facilitating discussion between members of assessment/treatment teams and mothers/fathers is critical.

A range of components must be part of a comprehensive educational evaluation of kids with AS and HFA. These include:
  • communicative assessment
  • consultation regarding aspects of motor, neuropsychological, or other areas of functioning
  • medical evaluation
  • obtaining a thorough developmental and health history
  • psychological assessment

This information is important both to diagnosis and differential diagnosis and to the development of the IEP.

The psychological assessment should establish the overall level of cognitive functioning as well as delineate a youngster’s profiles of strengths and weaknesses. This profile should include consideration of a youngster’s ability to remember, solve problems, and develop concepts. Other areas of focus in the psychological assessment include:
  • social cognition
  • play
  • motor and visual-motor skills
  • adaptive functioning

Kids with AS and HFA will usually need to be observed on several occasions during more and less structured periods.

The choice of assessment instruments is a complex one and depends on the youngster’s:
  • ability to cope with transitions in test activities
  • ability to respond to complex instructions 
  • ability to respond to social expectations
  • ability to work rapidly
  • level of verbal abilities

Kids with AS and HFA often do best when assessed with tests that require less social engagement and less verbal mediation. In addition to the formal quantitative information provided, a comprehensive psychological assessment will also provide a considerable amount of important qualitative information. It is important that the clinician be aware of the uses and limitations of standardized assessment procedures and the difficulties that these kids often have in complying with verbal instructions and social reinforcement. Operant techniques may be helpful in facilitating assessment.

Difficulties in communication are a central feature of AS and HFA, and they interact in complex ways with social deficits and restricted patterns of behavior and interests in a given child. Accurate assessment and understanding of levels of communicative functioning is important for effective program planning and intervention. Communication skills should be viewed in a broad context of the child’s development. Standardized tests constitute only one part of the assessment of communication abilities in young people with AS and HFA. The selection of appropriate assessment instruments, combined with a general understanding of these disorders, can provide important information for purposes of both diagnostic assessment and intervention.

In addition to assessing expressive language, it is critical to obtain an accurate assessment of language comprehension. The presence of oral-motor speech difficulties should be noted. In kids with AS and HFA, the range of communicative intents may be restricted in multiple respects. Delayed and immediate echolalia are both common and may have important functions. In addition, various studies have documented unusual aspects even of very early communication development in AS and HFA.

In assessing language and communication skills, parent interviews and checklists may be used, and specific assessment instruments for kids with AS and HFA have been developed. For kids under age 3, scores on standardized tests may be particularly affected by difficulties in assessment and by the need to rely on parent reports and checklists. For preverbal kids, the speech-communication assessment should include observation of a youngster’s level of awareness of communication from others, the youngster’s sense of intentionality, the means used for attempting communication, and the quality and function of such means, sociability, and play behaviors. The clinician should be particularly alert to the youngster’s capacity for symbolic behavior since this has important implications for an intervention program.

There are also several standardized instruments that provide useful information on the communication and language development of pre-verbal kids with AS and HFA. These include:
  • Mullen Scales of Early Learning
  • MacArthur Communicative Development Inventor
  • Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales

For kids with some verbal ability, social and play behaviors are still important in terms of clinical observation but various standardized instruments are available as well, particularly when the youngster exhibits multi-word utterances. Areas to be assessed include:
  • articulation
  • expressive language and comprehension
  • morphology
  • pragmatics
  • prosody
  • receptive and expressive vocabulary
  • semantic relations
  • syntax

The choice of specific instruments for language-communication assessment will depend on the developmental levels and chronological age of the youngster. Additional observations may address aspects of topic management and conversational ability, ability to deal with non-literal language, and language flexibility. The clinician must be flexible and knowledgeable about the particular concerns related to assessment of kids with AS and HFA.

Motor abilities may represent an area of relative strength for a youngster, but as time goes on, the development of motor skills in both the gross and fine motor areas may be compromised, and motor problems are frequently seen in young kids with AS and HFA. Evaluations by occupational and physical therapists are often needed to document areas of need and in the development of an intervention program. Standardized tests of fine and gross motor development and a qualitative assessment of other aspects of sensory and motor development, performed by an expert in motor development, may be helpful in educational planning.

The Mark Hutten Show

If you missed this week's show, you can listen to a recording of it here: All About Autism Spectrum Disorders - Radio Show Archive

How to Have a Meltdown-Free Thanksgiving

"My son with AS does not do well with guests (and rarely seen family members) showing up at our house on Thanksgiving. Any helpful suggestions regarding how to make things run more smoothly this year?"

Many parents of children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism experience difficulties, both with handling the sensory overload that comes with Thanksgiving events, and with understanding the deeper meanings of this special day.

The challenges of kids with Aspergers - and the behaviors that result - can be mysterious for those who have had little experience with them (e.g., other family members). Most of these behaviors arise from differences in the ways that these kids experience, understand and interact with the world.

Most Aspergers children find it hard to understand the social and emotional meanings of language and nonverbal behavior (e.g., words about emotions or facial expressions, tones of voice that convey emotions, etc.). They also have a harder time understanding their own feelings, and those of others.

Many kids with Aspergers are easily overwhelmed by sights, sounds and touch – and even by smells and tastes. As a method of protection, these kids may shut-out sensory information by withdrawing or absorbing themselves in repetitive behaviors or idiosyncratic interests, which can interfere with learning about their surroundings and connecting with the family members who care most about them. It can be painful for parents when their Aspergers child “disconnects,” which motivates many of them to move mountains to help their child learn to engage in relationships with them and others.

Adjusting to changes in routine or to new events and experiences is often a much bigger challenge for kids with Aspergers. Lights and music and special decorations that may be magical for other kids may lead kids with Aspergers to panic, scream and run out of the room, or fall on the floor and thrash about. As with other transitions, limiting changes in routine and new sensations, and introducing them very gradually whenever possible, can help these kids begin to open up to them.

The “Aspie’s” behavior is “predictably unpredictable” during transitions. Over time, moms and dads learn what to expect. They learn how to prevent or shorten the frequency of meltdowns by preparing their youngster in advance, even rehearsing small bits of the new activities. Providing protection against too much stimulation and being sure that their Aspergers son or daughter has access to favored toys and activities can also often help them to relax.

Still, moms and dads are bound to be on guard at times of heightened excitement. They know they may need to drop everything to try to help their youngster pull himself together again. Brothers and sisters of the child are often on guard, too – and may even be frightened. Often, siblings feel responsible and wish that they could make everything all better. Or they may feel guilty about their desire to have a “normal” family.

Moms and dads may feel all alone and without support as they raise a youngster with Aspergers. These feelings are bound to be intensified during Thanksgiving, when the challenges are often even greater and their youngster’s differences seem to stand out more. Having relatives and friends who don’t judge – and who really care and are eager to help – can make a big difference. Yet, it may be hard for those who have not had direct contact with the Aspie to imagine what it’s like for parents and siblings when communication, social interaction and sensory processing are disrupted.

So how can families affected by the Aspergers condition get together for family functions in a way that is pleasing for everyone? Here are some tips:

1. As much as possible, attempt to stick to your Aspergers youngster’s normal home routine on Thanksgiving Day (even though you may be entertaining guests later that day). As you get closer to the hour when guests will be arriving, make sure to prepare your youngster in advance for what is to come.

2. Aspergers kids need structure and routine. When Thanksgiving disrupts the usual schedule, the youngster can become anxious, depressed, and agitated. Minor incidents can turn into violent and explosive displays of anger. Visiting family members can make Thanksgiving easier by understanding the youngster's disorder and by doing whatever is necessary to support the mother and father.

3. Be sure to allow your Aspergers child to have access to his special interests throughout the day (e.g., favorite toy, personal DVD player, iPod, etc.) to make him more comfortable. Also, if he displays “stimming” behaviors (i.e., repetitive behaviors like opening and closing a door, snapping his fingers, rocking back and forth, etc.), explain to your guests why it’s important to allow the youngster to continue the activity. These activities may bring comfort to kids with Aspergers, and help them cope with the changes around them. If others are uncomfortable with your child’s behavior, they can excuse themselves discreetly from the room if necessary, but don’t try to force the child to stop the behavior (unless it is overly-disruptive or rude).

4. Be sure to watch your child’s intake of sweets, sugar and caffeine during Thanksgiving Day, which can trigger anxious feelings and resultant meltdowns.

5. Changes to a daily routine, good or bad, can trigger a meltdown that is way out of proportion to the cause. Even a small and seemingly insignificant incident can result in a meltdown. The youngster may not respond well to decorating the home and having extended family over for Thanksgiving dinner. Thus, moms and dads should consider keeping Thanksgiving celebrations as low-key as possible.

6. Focus on a few things that you know are important to make sure you have prepared around this time. Of course, some things may need modification so that it is possible to enjoy them with your Aspergers youngster (e.g., if there is a danger of him hurting himself on fragile decorations, put them higher up and out of reach; some special foods may not be served; the child may need frequent time-outs from visiting family in order to de-stress).

7. Food can cause upsets and meltdowns from some Aspergers youngsters. If there is nothing served that your Aspie enjoys, it can be upsetting and frustrating. Make sure to consider his diet and appetite during Thanksgiving, and don’t force him to indulge in typical Thanksgiving menus when he may not want to try new foods. This is not the time to force the youngster to eat new foods.

8. If you are stressed, your Aspie will sense it. So stay calm and relax as much as possible so that you can enjoy yourself – and decrease your youngster’s anxiety.

9. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, use role-play and rehearsal to let your youngster practice and learn how to deal with the upcoming social situations.

10. Lower your expectations of what you can really do. In this way, what you do will be less stressful and make Thanksgiving special.

11. Make the demands on yourself realistic, and don't try to do so much that you feel only frustration. Make realistic lists and work on things one at a time. Looking at Thanksgiving Day is less overwhelming if you take it in small pieces.

12. Many Aspergers kids are sensitive to certain smells. If this is the case with your child, and you are visiting in another family member’s home, let them know ahead of time. Unscented products are usually preferable. Aspergers kids may react negatively to candles and other smells. Be aware of what triggers problems for your Aspie, and try to avoid them rather than handle them after an incident occurs.

13. Noise is a major problem for some Aspergers kids. Minimize noise and allow your child to wear earplugs or use his iPod during large family gatherings if necessary. Keep music low, and avoid over-crowded rooms of people talking. Find a peaceful place for your child to go when the crowd grows and noise is high (e.g., a quiet bedroom, sunroom, dad’s office, etc.). A short rest with a snuggly blanket and quiet time can work wonders.

14. Take pictures of the family gathering and work with your youngster to make a book of pictures that can help him remember the things that you did. This can be used to prepare him for next year’s Thanksgiving celebration.

15. Watch for signs of over-stimulation before they escalate.

==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Best Comment:
Really spot on advice. Holidays, large groups & any new stress is really tough for my son (& then for his sister who gets upset when he has a meltdown). Easy enough for us to understand the suggestions but how do you help extended family to understand that you're only trying to do the best you can for your child & not trying to make dinners & get togethers difficult. I've tried in the past to bring it up but it hasn't gone over well & has caused more of an issue. It can feel so isolating at those times. Lack of understanding makes an already tough time of year for him into a really hard time.

The Escalating Incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorders: What’s Being Done?

The number of children being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) is growing at an alarming rate. Latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reaffirm that ASDs are a critical public health issue that deeply impacts the lives of millions of Americans. ASDs are present from birth (or very early in development) and affect basic human behavior (e.g., social interaction, the ability to communicate ideas and feelings, imagination, etc.).

Although exact neuro-biological mechanisms have not yet been established, it is clear that ASDs reflect the functioning of a child’s developing brain. ASDs are unique in their pattern of deficits and areas of relative strengths. They generally have lifelong effects on how kids learn to be social beings, to take care of themselves, and to participate in the community. ASDs occur along with mental retardation and language disorder in many cases. Thus, educational planning must address both the needs typically associated with ASDs, and needs associated with accompanying disabilities.

Education is currently the primary form of treatment for ASDs. The education of kids with ASDs was accepted as a public responsibility under the Education of All Handicapped Children Act in 1975. Despite the federal mandate, however, the goals, methods and resources available vary considerably from state to state – and school system to school system. In the last few years, courts have become increasingly active in determining the methods and resources allocated by school systems for the education of young people with ASDs.

At the request of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, the National Research Council formed the Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with ASDs and charged the committee to integrate the scientific, theoretical, and policy literature and create a framework for evaluating the scientific evidence concerning the effects and features of educational interventions for kids with ASDs. The primary focus of the charge was early intervention, preschool, and school programs designed for kids with ASDs from birth to age 8. The charge included specific suggestions to examine the following issues pertaining to the education of kids with ASDs:
  • assistive technology
  • classification
  • diagnosis
  • early intervention
  • inclusion
  • the rights of kids with ASDs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Through the Combating Autism Act, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is investing in strategies to enable kids and teens that have (or are at risk for developing) ASDs to reach their full potential by the following:

• To address the shortage of professionals who are qualified to provide screening and diagnostic evaluation for ASDs, Leadership Education in Neuro-developmental and Other Related Disabilities (LEND) programs support long-term, graduate level interdisciplinary training as well as interdisciplinary services. With Combating Autism Act funding totaling $106.5 million, LEND programs expanded the number of health-care professionals in the pipeline who are qualified to provide screening and diagnostic evaluation for ASDs by increasing the number of trainees who receive a broad range of ASD-focused training and continuing education.

• HHS has awarded 16 State Implementation Grants since 2009 to improve access to comprehensive, coordinated health care and related services for kids and teens with ASDs. Each state receives approximately, $220,000-$300,000 per year. In 2011, planning grants were added as an additional strategy to help States that had limited resources and structure in place to improve ASD services, and each received $75,000 per year.

• Developing a system of services that includes screening kids early for possible ASDs; conducting early interdisciplinary evaluations to confirm - or rule out - ASDs; and providing evidence-based early interventions when a diagnosis is confirmed.

HHS has also partnered with The Arc of the United States to establish a National Resource and Information Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Developmental Disabilities (Center). The Autism NOW Project is collaborating with several partners, including the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Autism Society of America and several ADD Network entities to engage and leverage a national network of disability, aging, and family organizations. The Center provides resources related to community-based experiences (e.g. education, employment, recreation, transportation, early intervention, child care), and evidence-based interventions for ASD service providers, researchers, families, and people with ASDs.

In FY 2012, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) invested an estimated $169 million in research on ASDs. This program of research is guided in part by the objectives set out in the IACC Strategic Plan with particular research focus on:
  • Developing effective supports, services, and interventions for people with ASDs
  • Identifying potential environmental risk factors that may be linked to the cause(s) of ASDs
  • Improving screening and diagnosis of ASDs
  • Testing and developing therapeutic treatments for the symptoms of ASDs

Examples of ASD research investments include:

1. Screening and diagnosis of ASDs. Findings from NIH-supported research are shedding new light on how cognition differs among kids with ASDs in comparison to kids who do not have ASDs, as well as how new tools might help therapists and researchers identify children who are potentially at-risk for ASDs.

2. Research to improve services and interventions for ASDs.  NIH has encouraged and supported cutting-edge research to address the need for services and behavioral interventions needed by people with ASDs and their families (e.g., studies of behavioral interventions among younger kids; studies of social skills intervention for high-functioning kids, and tools to help them develop and maintain skills needed for successful employment).

3. National Database for Autism Research.  This NIH-supported resource provides qualified ASDs researchers access to an extensive database of biomedical information on people with ASDs and their families. Current NDAR users have access to data from 25,000 study participants. Data from Autism Speaks’ Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) and Autism Tissue Program were federated and now share data through NDAR. The data is protected by a Certificate of Confidentiality, which protects the privacy of research participants.

4. Identifying ASDs Risk-Factors.  NIH-supported research has continued to investigate the causes of ASDs, and in particular the possible role that environmental risk-factors may play in causing ASDs (particularly with regard to how genetic vulnerability and environmental exposures may place people at greater risk for ASDs).

5. Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE). This NIH-wide program includes six centers focusing research on risk factors for ASDs, early brain development and functioning, and the biological bases of core symptoms (e.g., repetitive behaviors, communication difficulties, and social impairment), and five networks focusing on causes, characterization, and improved treatment.   Data from the ACEs, along with all new NIH-funded research is expected to be shared through the NIH National Database for Autism Research.

Supporting State efforts to address ASDs:

1. State Protection and Advocacy Agencies. The State Protection and Advocacy Agencies (P&As) provide services to people with ASDs based on the  Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000. These efforts include:
  • working to resolve complaints through mediation, alternative dispute resolution and litigation
  • the protection and advocacy of legal and human rights
  • investigation of complaints of violation of rights of people with developmental disabilities
  • information and referral

In FY 2012, $40.9 million was invested in these efforts.

2. State Councils on Developmental Disabilities.  The State Councils on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD) are charged with identifying the most pressing needs of individuals with ASDs in their state or territory. Councils work to address these needs through systems change and capacity building efforts that promote self-determination, integration and inclusion for individuals with ASDs. SCDD efforts include:
  • advocacy, capacity building and systems change
  • barrier elimination
  • coalition development and citizen participation
  • demonstration of new approaches to services and supports
  • informing policymakers
  • technical assistance
  • training

In FY 2012, $74.8 million in federal funding was invested in these efforts.

3. State Councils and Protection and Advocacy Systems.  These entities partner with state governments, local communities, self-advocates, family members and the private sector to help individuals with ASDs reach their maximum potential through greater independence, productivity and increased integration in their communities.

Medicare and Medicaid and ASDs:

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provides a wide array of health-related services to beneficiaries with ASDs enrolled in Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The Medicaid program in particular supports people with ASDs who have limited income and resources, and meet certain eligibility criteria. Because Medicaid is a State-based program, available care and services may vary from State to State, and according to age. In addition to physical health services, Medicaid programs provide strong support for community living through home and community-based services such as respite care and employment supports. 

The Affordable Care Act and ASDs:

The Affordable Care Act contains important provisions for people with ASDs and their families.  Under the new health care law:

• Insurance companies will no longer be able to impose lifetime dollar limits on coverage.  Prior to the Affordable Care Act, many plans set a dollar limit on what they would spend for covered benefits during the time people were enrolled in the plan, leaving those affected by ASDs – and their families – to pay the cost of all care exceeding that limit.  The law also restricts annual dollar limits and will prohibit them for new plans altogether starting in 2014.

• Job-based and new individual health insurance plans are no longer allowed to deny, limit, or exclude coverage to any person under age 19 based on a pre-existing condition, including kids on the spectrum.  Starting in 2014, these protections will be extended to Americans of all ages.

• New health insurance plans or insurance policies must cover preventive services without cost-sharing, including ASDs screening for kids at 18 and 24 months.

• Starting in 2014, kids on the spectrum and their families will have expanded access to affordable insurance options through new Affordable Insurance Exchanges and improvements in Medicaid.

• Starting in 2014, new health plans sold in the individual and small group markets, including Exchanges, will cover “essential health benefits” to help make sure that health insurance is comprehensive.  Health insurers will also have annual out-of-pocket limits to protect families’ incomes against the high cost of health care services.

• Young people can remain covered under their parents’ insurance up to the age of 26.  Already, 2.5 million more individuals have been insured through this provision of the new law.  For a young person with a ASDs and his/her family, that means more flexibility, more options and greater piece of mind.

The Department of Education:

• In 2010 and 2011, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) invested over $3.7 million in research on people with ASDs. Research topics range from improving independent living, developing assistive technology, and improving vocational rehabilitation services.

• In September 2011, the Department issued regulations for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) Part C early intervention program for younger kids with disabilities, improving administration of the program and transition services to the IDEA Part B program for kids identified as having developmental disabilities, including those that may have the early warning signs of ASDs.

• Since 2010, the Department has invested more than $30 million in the Model Transition Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities into Higher Education (TPSID) program.  The TPSID program was authorized in 2008 by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) and supports post-secondary programs that promote the successful transition of students on the spectrum with significant limitations in cognitive functioning, into higher education.

• The Department awarded $500 million to States for the Early Learning Challenge Fund, the President’s initiative to establish model systems of early learning for kids with developmental delays to ensure that more kids enter school ready to succeed. 

• The President's FY 2013 budget request includes $30 million for Promoting Readiness of Minors in SSI, a pilot program in coordination with the Social Security Administration and other federal agencies to improve post-school outcomes of kids who receive Supplemental Security Income.  The Department received funding in 2012 to plan the grants, which will be awarded competitively to States in 2013.

Contact your youngster’s doctor and share your concerns if you think he or she may have a spectrum disorder, or if you think there could be a problem with the way your youngster plays, learns, speaks, or acts. Ask the doctor for a referral to a specialist who can do a more in-depth evaluation of your son or daughter.  Specialists who can do a more in-depth evaluation and make a diagnosis include:
  • Child Neurologists (specialists who work on the brain, spine, and nerves)
  • Child Psychologists or Psychiatrists (specialists who know about the human mind)
  • Developmental Pediatricians (specialists who have special training in child development and young people with ASDs)

Also, call your state’s public early childhood system to request a free evaluation to find out if your son or daughter qualifies for intervention services. This is sometimes called a Child Find evaluation.  You do not need to wait for a doctor’s referral or a medical diagnosis to make this call. If your youngster is not yet 3-years-old, contact your local early intervention system. If he or she is 3-years-old or older, contact your local public school system. Even if he or she is not yet old enough for kindergarten or enrolled in a public school, call your local elementary school or board of education and ask to speak with someone who can help you have the youngster evaluated. If you’re not sure who to contact, call the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities at 1-800-695-0285.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Characteristics of Females with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Females with Aspergers (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often present with a unique set of characteristics that can make diagnosing their disorder very difficult. In addition, their strengths often mask their deficits.

There has been considerable discussion among professionals about the way girls with AS and HFA demonstrate their major characteristics. Some girls have obvious social difficulties, whereas others appear to have excellent skills because they imitate the behaviors of others (often without understanding them).

There are many females who do not receive a diagnosis, possibly because, compared to males, (a) they have fairly good social skills (particularly when interacting with adults in a one-to-one situation), (b) their special interests are different, and (c) their clinical presentation is different.

Sometime during childhood, a female with AS or HFA characteristics will begin to know she is different compared to her peers. For example:

1. Due to adopting an alternative persona, she may begin to have problems of self-identity and low self-esteem

2. Due to observing and analyzing social behavior and trying not to make a social error, she may become emotionally exhausted

3. During the stress of adolescence, she may develop routines and rituals around food and a special interest in calories and nutrition that develops into the signs of an eating disorder

4. Her interests may be different to her peers in terms of intensity and quality of play

5. She may be an avid observer of human behavior and try to decipher what she is supposed to do or say

6. She may be extremely sensitive to the emotional atmosphere at a social gathering

7. She may be like a chameleon, changing persona according to the situation

8. She may be more likely to apologize and appease when making a social error

9. She may be overly well-behaved and compliant at school so as not to be noticed or recognized as a different.

10. She may be vulnerable to “peer predators” who take advantage of her social immaturity

11. She may become increasingly aware of her social confusion and frequent faux pas, and thus prefer to be on the periphery of social situations

12. She may enjoy living in a fantasy world and creating a new persona

13. She may escape into the world of nature, having an intuitive understanding of animals, but not people

14. She may fear that her “true self” must remain secret because she is defective, thus she is almost always acting like someone else

15. She may have a pet that she views as a loyal friend

16. She may have a single - but intense – friendship with another female who may provide guidance for her in social situations

17. She may have a strong desire to collect and organize her toys (e.g., dolls) rather than to share her toys with friends

18. She may have an aversion to the traditional concept of femininity

19. She may have an encyclopedic knowledge of specific topics

20. She may have an intense interest in reading and escaping into fiction

21. She may have an interest in ancient civilizations to find an old world in which she would feel at home

22. She may have an interest in other countries (e.g., France) where she would be accepted

23. She may identify with a fictional character (e.g., Harry Potter), who faces adversity but has special powers and friends

24. She may not be interested in the latest craze among her peers to be 'cool' and popular

25. She may not identify with her peers

26. She may not play with her toys in conventional ways

27. She may not want to play cooperatively with her peers

28. She may prefer non-gender specific toys (e.g., Lego)

29. She may prefer to play alone so that she can play her way

30. She may prefer to play with males, whose play is more constructive and adventurous than emotional and conversational

31. She may suffer social confusion in silence and isolation in the classroom or playground, but she may be a different character at home

32. She may talk to imaginary friends, or write fiction at an early age

33. She may think that the way her peers play is stupid and boring

34. She may use imaginary friends that can provide companionship, support and comfort when she feels lonely

35. She may use passive-aggressive behaviors in order to control her family and/or social experiences

As young girls, many (but not all) females with AS and HFA:

1. Apologize frequently and want to please others

2. Are an expert on certain topics

3. Are determined

4. Are honest

5. Are involved in social play, but are led by their peers rather than initiating social contact

6. Are kind

7. Are misunderstood by peers

8. Are more able to follow social actions by delayed imitation because they observe other kids and copy them, perhaps masking the symptoms of AS and HFA

9. Are more aware of - and feel a need to - interact socially

10. Are perfectionists

11. Are so successful at "faking it" that they only come to the attention of a therapist when a secondary mood disorder emerges

12. Are specially gifted in the areas of mathematics and engineering

13. Are very good at art

14. Are visual thinkers

15. Are well-liked by adults

16. Become a target of teasing

17. Do not ‘do social chit chat’ or make ‘meaningless’ comments in order to facilitate social communication

18. Enjoy solitude

19. Have a faster rate of learning social skills than males

20. Have a single friend who provides guidance and security for them

21. Have a special interest that is more likely to be unusual in terms of intensity rather than focus

22. Have difficulty knowing what someone else may be thinking or feeling

23. Have difficulty making friends

24. Have difficulty managing feelings

25. Have difficulty showing as much affection as others expect

26. Have difficulty taking advice

27. Have difficulty with writing skills

28. Have extremely detailed imaginary worlds

29. Have imaginary friends

30. Have interests that are very similar to those of neurotypical girls (e.g., animals, dolls, classical literature), and therefore are not seen as unusual

31. Have what is classified as a "male brain"

32. Make reliable and trustworthy friends

33. Mimic or even try to take on all the characteristics of someone they are trying to emulate

34. Notice sounds that others do not hear

35. Read fiction to help them learn about inner thoughts, feelings and motivations

36. Show little interest in fashion

37. Speak their minds (sometimes to the point of being rude)

38. Still need to be directly taught certain social skills

39. Try to understand a situation before they make the first step

40. Use doll play to replay and understand social situations

Reducing Hostility in the Aspergers Child

Hostility for many kids and teens with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism stems from the difficulty they have in communicating their needs to their educators, moms and dads, and peers. Aggressive behaviors are one way they have for conveying their needs and emotions to others. As their communication skills grow, continued violence may be the result of never having learned appropriate, non-aggressive ways of communicating when they were faced with a difficult situation. 

The cause of hostility may be due to any or all of the following:
  • Being placed in a stressful situation
  • Exhaustion
  • Extreme frustration
  • Inadequate speech development
  • Lack of adult supervision
  • Lack of routine
  • Mirroring the aggressive behaviors of other kids around them
  • Over-stimulation
  • Self-defense

The first step in managing hostility and aggression in kids with Aspergers is to understand what is causing it. Understanding the antecedents of a behavior (i.e., what happened before the behavior) will allow parents and teachers to better anticipate the likelihood a behavior problem will occur. 

Here are some questions that need to be answered:
  • How is the aggression expressed? Is it through words or behaviors? Does the child become verbally aggressive first, and then physically aggressive, or is the first response to strike out?
  • What seems to cause the aggressive behavior? Is it triggered by frustration, anger, or excitement? Are there patterns? Does the child act this way when toys are involved, and when he or she is frustrated about sharing? Or does the child become aggressive when there is too much going on and he or she is over-stimulated?
  • Where and when is the youngster most aggressive? An Aspergers youngster may have difficulty coping with stress in unfamiliar or noisy locations, or when he is tired or overheated. Understanding where and when he becomes aggressive can provide important clues as to why the aggression is occurring.
  • Who does the youngster act aggressively towards? Is the target of her aggression one person in particular, or will she act aggressively to anyone who is around her? If it’s one person in particular, try to find out if there’s a reason why she’s attacking that person. Is there anything that the person does when he or she is around the youngster that causes the aggression to occur (e.g., overly-aggressive play, poor match of personalities, lack of clear-cut rules, loud voice, etc.)?

Collecting and analyzing data by getting answers to these questions is essential in developing a plan for coping with – and eliminating – aggressive behaviors in Aspergers kids. Understanding the “function” of a particular behavior is the first step to (a) helping the youngster to be more aware of his angry feelings, (b) teaching him to calm himself down, and (c) finding alternative ways to solve his problems. Once parents and/or teachers have figured out why the youngster is behaving violently, it’s time to intervene.

Here are some concrete tips for dealing with hostility in children and teens with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism:

1. At the first sign that a youngster is about to become hostile, immediately step-in and remove him from the situation. Be careful not to give too much attention to the youngster so that you do not give any negative reinforcement for the unwanted behavior. It can be useful to make a point of consoling the victim and ignoring the aggressor. If the youngster can’t calm down, remove him or her from the situation without getting angry yourself.

2. As grown-ups dealing with a hostile youngster, we need to demonstrate how to respond appropriately in stressful situations. Raising your voice tends to add stress to a difficult situation and will frequently result in an escalation of the behavior you are trying to stop.

3. Build the child’s language. If you can't get the Aspergers individual to be verbal, he should learn some sort of signs or picture system to give him some control over his life to communicate with people. That alone should help with a lot of behavioral issues. A variety of alternative communication devices, like the picture exchange communication system and other assistive technologies, enable an Aspergers youngster to express needs and desires.

4. Find out if the youngster has a comorbid condition influencing the aggressive behavior. A psychological or associated condition could be the root of the aggressive behavior. If that's the case, the youngster's behavior may need to be sorted out with a medical professional. In addition to seeking help from medical professionals, moms and dads should seek support from their own peers. It is important for parents of Aspergers children to get support from other parents of Aspergers children.

5. Just because you have taught a youngster to cope with some stressful situations does not mean you should continuously place the youngster in situations you know causes him difficulties. This means knowing when to leave a potentially volatile situation or choosing to engage the youngster in a different activity to avoid angry confrontations. Also, if the aggressive behavior always happens during a certain activity, such as when it's time to go, then have the youngster bring a preferred item with him to make the transition easier. Look at the situation in which the behavior is occurring and see if there is a way to change the dynamic in a way that will be less stressful for the youngster.

6. Moms and dads should look at the reason why their youngster is being aggressive. Is it to get attention, or to get out of something he doesn't want to do, or to obtain something he wants? Look at the function of why he is expressing aggression in order to address the behavior. Also, remember that any sort of reaction you give to the youngster could also be making the situation worse.

7. There are a number of anger-control practices you can work on before, during and after hostile episodes. It can be useful to: (a) count to ten to provide the youngster time to calm down; (b) recognize the emotions behind the anger (e.g., “I know you’re angry, but we don’t kick”); (c) encourage the youngster to use his words by making statements like “I am really mad right now!”; and (d) teach the youngster how to do deep breathing in order to calm down.

8. There is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment to address aggression in kids with Aspergers. Treatments should be carefully developed and based on each particular youngster's unique situation. Treatment should be implemented by a qualified professional. Many times, aggression can be worsened by a well-intentioned, but inexperienced therapist.

9. When you catch your Aspergers youngster being good, be sure to praise her hard work and efforts. Look for and continue to praise good behavior as a way to motivate her to do better next time.

10. While it is easy to think that a 5-year-old “Aspie” will outgrow aggression – or there is time to deal with it later – moms and dads need to imagine their youngster as a 15-year-old engaging in the same type of behavior. When you are at this point, there will be a lot fewer options, and if your youngster were to hurt somebody, even fewer options will be available.

Tips for therapists who deal with hostility in children and teens with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism:

Addressing hostile behaviors in kids and teens with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism can be a frustrating and demanding process for therapists. The challenge is to teach parents to “respond” to the unwanted behavior in a systematic manner (i.e., using approaches specifically tailored to children and teens on the spectrum) instead of “reacting” to it.

When Aspergers kids exhibit aggressive behaviors, they may not be receiving adequate support in mastering their environments (e.g., home, school). Aggressiveness does not necessarily reflect willfulness. Often the youngster simply lacks the social skills needed to get his or her needs met in a non-aggressive manner.

Aspergers children with earlier ages of onset of aggressiveness are more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD during childhood than children with later ages of onset of aggressiveness. Anxiety disorders have also been found to co-occur with aggressiveness at ‘higher than chance rates’ in childhood and adolescence.

Aggressive children need help in altering the way they process social information so that they do not interpret violence as justified or useful. The development of “voice” is an important component so that the child’s emotions can be put into words leading to social skill development, identifying feelings, fostering cooperation, emphasis on empathy, conflict resolution, and assertive communication. If an Aspergers youngster or teenager is not behaving in a positive manner, it is irrational to assume that they know more favorable alternatives.

Cognitive problem solving is useful in addressing aggression in Aspergers kids. This method focuses on each youngster’s unique outlook to discover possible social skill deficits resulting in violence. 

The steps in cognitive problem solving are:
  1. encoding
  2. interpretation
  3. goal formulation
  4. response search and formulation
  5. response decision
  6. enactment

Each step requires different approaches to discovering and linking the missing skills in social situations. Developmental deficits in cognitive processes are often associated with early aggression, and normal social development requires mastery of cognitive and behavioral skills for assessing social circumstances, communicating with others, and resolving conflicts without aggressive behaviors. These skills empower Aspergers kids to make friends, succeed academically, and excel in the social world.

1. Encoding: Attending to social cues that are often missed or misinterpreted by aggressive kids.

Therapeutic Activities:
  • Kids make videos of their own cues and then explain their feelings on the basis of cues demonstrated in the video including facial expressions, voice intonation, hand gestures, and other indicators of social intent
  • Help kids identify their own feeling states through self-report and observation
  • Enhance sensitivity to verbal and nonverbal social cues through games and role-play, teaching kids to identify social cues in body language and pitch of voice

2. Interpretation: Assign meaning to social cues.

Aspergers kids commonly interpret neutral interactions as threatening – and then respond aggressively. Aspergers kids are not born knowing socially acceptable behaviors, and the level of their required assistance depends on the social supports they receive and their ability to absorb information.

Therapeutic Activities:
  • With the help of videos of playground activities, kids should be taught to identify the sources of the problems with emphasis on correctly identifying friendly, as well as antagonistic, intent on the part of peers
  • Kids should learn to identify and classify social cues by friendly, neutral, and antagonistic categories of intent. Younger kids might practice this through puppet play, and older kids might practice by assuming the roles of other kids in disputes

3. Goal Formulation: Define goals that enhance social relationships with an awareness of the consequences of behavior.

Therapeutic Activities:
  • Kids are rewarded for having ideas about goals for various situations (goals might be rated as to whether they are likely to augment or harm interpersonal relationships with peers)
  • Kids should be given opportunities to practice identifying and attaching pro-social goals to various situations

4. Response Search and Formulation: Kids develop ideas about how to respond to each social circumstance they encounter.

Compared to neurotypical kids, Aspergers kids identify fewer alternatives and seem unaware of the various options that may be open to them when invited to participate in play or when confronted by a social problem. Remind parents that constantly telling Aspergers kids what they are doing wrong is not beneficial, nor is it likely to improve future performance. Instead, these kids need help identifying their options and possible outcomes.

Therapeutic Activities:
  • Develop skills to control kid’s arousal and to create behavioral patterns in which aggression is only one of many responses
  • Increase a youngster’s skill in identifying alternatives to the use of aggression to solve social problems

5. Response Decision: Assess likely outcomes of aggressive behavior and select a response that can be characterized as assertive rather than violent.

Compared to neurotypical kids, Aspergers kids tend to view pro-social responses less favorably. Thus, these young people are not behaving a certain way to annoy or harm others; rather, they are simply making decisions based on their limited of social skills.

Therapeutic Activities:
  • Evaluate the potential negative outcomes of each alternative
  • Evaluate the potential benefits of each alternative
  • Kids should be given opportunities to discuss likely gains and losses associated with each identified alternative in specific situations

6. Enactment: Apply a response.

This is where an aggressive Aspergers youngster joins a group, offers and receives positive feedback, and learns to negotiate. Practicing these skills can be intimidating and challenging. Any attempts – successful or not – should be rewarded and reviewed to identify areas of strength, as well as areas for improvement.

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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to read the full article...

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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