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

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Organization Skills for Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

"Any tips on how I can help my child get more organized? He loses and misplaces many things, including homework and school books, which is now affecting his grades. Help!"

Children and teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often have deficits in what we call “cognitive function” (i.e., the intellectual process by which we think, reason, understand ideas, and remember things). So a child with Aspergers may have difficulties with:
  • “executive function” (i.e., he/she may be detail-focused and less able to see the whole picture)
  • predicting the consequences of an action (e.g., “If you do this, what will happen next?”) 
  • processing information 
  • understanding the concept of time

One or all of these four examples can affect Aspergers kid’s ability to organize, prioritize and sequence (e.g., if they struggle to understand the concept of time, they will have difficulty planning what to do over the course of a week).

Below are some ways in which children and teens with Aspergers and HFA can organize and prioritize daily activities and tasks. At first, parents may need to have a lot of involvement introducing the techniques and helping their child to get used to using them. Also, the techniques can be used in more than one place (e.g., at home and at school). Therefore, it is important that everyone who is using them (e.g., parents, babysitters, teachers, friends, etc.) uses them consistently. Over time, most children and teens with Aspergers will be able to use the strategies independently (although some may always need a certain degree of support).

Organizations Skills—

1. Be a coach: For the best results, you'll want to be a low-key coach. You can ask questions that will help your child get on track and stay there. But use these questions only to prompt their thought process about what needs to be done.

2. Color coding for tasks: Colors can be used to indicate the importance or significance of tasks (e.g., chores, homework, etc.), and therefore help to prioritize tasks and work through them in a logical sequence. For example, a note on the child’s bulletin board written in red could mean “urgent.” A note on the bulletin board written in green could mean “pending.” And a note written in blue is not important or has no timescale attached to it.

3. Lists: Lists, both written and pictorial, can help children with Aspergers in the same way as color coding. Lists can also be a good way of (a) registering achievements (e.g., by crossing something off when he/she has completed the task) and (b) reassuring the child that he/she is getting things done.

4. Make a plan: Decide on one thing to focus on first. You can come up with three things and let your youngster choose one (e.g., if homework or a particular chore has been a problem, that's the natural place to begin).

5. Praise progress, but don't go overboard: The self-satisfaction children will feel will be a more powerful motivator.

6. Sell your youngster on the idea of “staying organized”: Brainstorm about what might be easier or better if your youngster was more organized and focused. Maybe homework would get done faster, there would be more play time, and there would be less nagging about chores. Then there's the added bonus of your youngster feeling proud and you being proud, too.

7. Set expectations: Be clear, in a kind way, that you expect your children to work on these skills and that you'll be there to help along the way.

8. Social stories and comic strip conversations: Social stories and comic strip conversations can be a really good way of illustrating the consequences of an action and can help children to understand why it's good to be organized (e.g., what might happen if the child doesn't get his/her homework done).

9. Task boxes, envelopes and files: Children can store work or belongings in set places, so that they aren't misplaced or forgotten.

10. Teaching materials: You may find that certain teaching materials (e.g., sequence cards, games, timers, clocks, etc.) help some Aspergers kids to understand the concept of time and sequences. Materials like this can be adapted and used in different places (e.g., home and school).

11. Times of day, days of the week: It may be easiest to use times of day (e.g., morning, afternoon or evening) or days of the week (e.g., Sunday through Saturday) to help the child plan and organize tasks, social activities and other events (e.g., 5:00 PM is “homework time” … or Monday is “laundry day”).

12. Visual supports: Using pictures, written lists, calendars and real objects can all be good ways of helping Aspergers kids to understand what is going to happen – and when! For example, the child might have a daily timetable with pictures of a shower, clothes, breakfast, their school, dinner, a toothbrush, pajamas, and a bed to indicate what he/she will be doing, and in what order, that day. This can help children plan their day and organize themselves.

13. Get feedback: Be sure to ask your youngster's opinion of how things are going so far.

14. Start thinking in questions: Though you might not realize it, every time you take on a task, you ask yourself questions and then answer them with thoughts and actions. If you want to unload groceries from the car, you ask yourself:

Q: Did I get them all out of the trunk?
A: No. I'll go get the rest.

Q: Did I close the trunk?
A: Yes.

Q: Where's the ice cream? I need to put it away first.
A: Done. Now, what's next?

Encourage your child to start seeing tasks as a series of questions and answers. Suggest that he/she ask these questions out loud and then answer them. These questions are the ones you hope will eventually live inside your youngster's head. And with practice, he/she will learn to ask them without being prompted. So, work together to come up with questions that need to be asked so the chosen task can be completed. You might even jot them down on index cards. Start by asking the questions and having your youngster answer. Later, transfer responsibility for the questions from you to your youngster.

15. Digital devices:
  • Computer calendars can have important dates stored on them, or reminders about when to complete a certain chore.
  • Mobile phones can be used to store important information, or to act as a reminder.
  • Radios and televisions can be set to come on at a particular time as a reminder to do something. 
  • Instructions can be sent by text. Text messages lend themselves to this especially well since parents should keep instructions brief and simple. 
  • Hand-held voice recorders can be a useful auditory reminder of tasks, work, events or deadlines.


Obsessions in Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

"Why is my 6-year-old Aspergers son so engrossed in Pokemon, and how can I tell if it is an unhealthy obsession rather than just a fun time activity for him?"

The intensity and duration of the child’s interest in a particular topic, object or collection is what determines whether or not it has become an “obsession.” Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism will often learn a lot about a thing they are obsessed with, be intensely interested in it for a long time, and feel strongly about it. There are several reasons why these kids may develop obsessions, including:
  • they can get a lot of enjoyment from learning about a particular subject or gathering together items of interest
  • those who find social interaction difficult might use their special interests as a way to start conversations and feel more self-assured in social situations
  • obsessions may help children cope with the uncertainties of daily life
  • obsessions may help children to relax and feel happy
  • obsessions may provide order and predictability
  • obsessions may provide structure
 
Many children with Aspergers have sensory sensitivity and may be over- or under-sensitive to sights, sounds, smells, taste and touch. This sensitivity can also affect children’s balance ('vestibular' system) and body awareness ('proprioception' or knowing where our bodies are and how they are moving). Obsessions and repetitive behavior can be a way to deal with sensory sensitivity.

Although repetitive behavior varies from child to child, the reasons behind it may be the same:
  •  a source of enjoyment and occupation
  • a way to deal with stress and anxiety and to block out uncertainty
  • an attempt to gain sensory input (e.g., rocking may be a way to stimulate the balance or vestibular system; hand-flapping may provide visual stimulation)
  • an attempt to reduce sensory input (e.g., focusing on one particular sound may reduce the impact of a loud, distressing environment; this may particularly be seen in social situations)
  • some adolescents may revert to old repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand-flapping, rocking if anxious or stressed)

Reality to an Aspergers child is a confusing, interacting mass of events, people, places, sounds and sights. Set routines, times, particular routes and rituals all help to get order into an unbearably chaotic life. Trying to keep everything the same reduces some of the terrible fear.

Many children with Aspergers have a strong preference for routines and sameness. Routines often serve an important function. For example, they introduce order, structure and predictability and help to manage anxiety. Because of this, it can be very distressing if an Aspergers child’s routine is disrupted.

Sometimes minor changes (e.g., moving between two activities) can be distressing. For others, big events (e.g., holidays, birthdays, Christmas, etc.), which create change and upheaval, can cause anxiety. Unexpected changes are often most difficult to deal with. 

Some children with Aspergers have daily timetables so that they know what is going to happen, when. However, the need for routine and sameness can extend beyond this. You might see:
  •  a need for routine around daily activities such as meals or bedtime
  • changes to the physical environment (e.g., the layout of furniture in a room), or the presence of new people or absence of familiar ones, being difficult to manage
  • compulsive behavior (e.g., the child might be constantly washing his hands or checking locks)
  • rigid preferences about things like food (e.g., only eating food of a certain color), clothing (e.g., only wearing clothes made from specific fabrics), or everyday objects (e.g., only using particular types of soap or brands of toilet paper)
  • routines can become almost ritualistic in nature, having to be followed precisely with attention paid to the tiniest details
  • verbal rituals, with a child repeatedly asking the same questions and needing a specific answer

Children's dependence on routines can increase during times of change, stress or illness and may even become more dominant or elaborate at these times. Dependence on routines may increase or re-emerge during adolescence. Routines can have a profound effect on the lives of children with Aspergers, their family and care-takers, but it is possible to make a child less reliant on them.

Obsessions versus Hobbies—

Most of us have hobbies, interests and a preference for routine. Here are five questions that can help us distinguish between hobbies/interests versus obsessive behavior:
  1. Can the child stop the behavior independently?
  2. Does the child appear distressed when engaging in the behavior or does the child give signs that he is trying to resist the behavior (e.g., someone who flaps their hands may try to sit on their hands to prevent the behavior)?
  3. Is the behavior causing significant disruption to others (e.g., moms and dads, care-takers, peers, siblings)?
  4. Is the behavior impacting on the child’s learning?
  5. Is the behavior limiting the child’s social opportunities?

If your answer to any of the questions above is 'yes', it may be appropriate to look at ways of helping your youngster to reduce obsessive or repetitive behavior. Think about whether, by setting limits around a particular behavior, you are really helping your youngster. Is the behavior actually a real issue for him, for you, or for other people in his life?

Focus on developing skills that your youngster can use instead of repetitive or obsessive behavior. Try to understand the function of the behavior, then make small, gradual changes and be consistent. Here are some ideas to help you:

1.     Coping with change: If unexpected changes occur, and your youngster is finding it hard to cope, try re-directing them to a calming activity, or encourage them to use simple relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises. You could use praise or other rewards for coping with change. In the long term, this may help make your youngster more tolerant of change.

2.     Explore alternative activities: One way to interrupt repetitive behavior is for a youngster to do another enjoyable activity that has the same function (e.g., a youngster who flicks their fingers for visual stimulation could play with a kaleidoscope or a bubble gun;  a youngster who puts inedible objects in their mouth could have a bag with edible alternatives that provide similar sensory experiences such as raw pasta or spaghetti, or seeds and nuts; a youngster who rocks to get sensory input could go on a swing; a youngster who smears their poop could have a bag with play dough in it to use instead).

3.     Intervene early: Repetitive behaviors, obsessions and routines are generally harder to change the longer they continue.  A behavior that is perhaps acceptable in a young Aspie may not be appropriate as they get older and may, by this time, be very difficult to change. For example, a youngster who is obsessed with shoes and tries to touch people's feet might not present too much of a problem, but a teenager doing the same thing - especially to strangers - will obviously be problematic. It will help if you can set limits around repetitive behaviors from an early age and look out for any new behavior that emerges as your youngster gets older. Making your youngster's environment and surroundings more structured can help them to feel more in control and may reduce anxiety. If anxiety is reduced, the need to engage in repetitive behavior and adhere strictly to routines may also, in time, be reduced.

4.     Pre-planning: You may be able to help your youngster to cope with change, or activities and events that could be stressful, by planning for them in advance.  Change is unavoidable, but it can be really difficult for many children with Aspergers. You may not always be able to prepare for change a long time in advance, but try to give your youngster as much warning as possible. Gradually introducing the idea of a new person, place, object or circumstance can help them cope with the change. Try to talk about the event or activity when everyone is fairly relaxed and happy.  Presenting information visually can be a good idea, as your youngster can refer to it as often as they need to. You could try using calendars so that your youngster knows how many days it is before an event (e.g., Christmas) happens. This can help them feel prepared. Your youngster might also like to see photos of places or objects in advance so they know what to expect (e.g., a picture of their Christmas present) or a photo of the building they are going to for an appointment. Using social stories could also be helpful. These are short stories, often with pictures, that describe different situations and activities so that children with Aspergers know what to expect.  Pre-planning can also involve structuring the environment. For example, a student with Aspergers might go to use a computer in the library at lunchtime if they find being in the playground too stressful – or if a youngster has sensory sensitivity, minimizing the impact of things like noises (e.g., school bells) or smells (e.g., perfumes or soaps) can help them to cope better.  It is possible that more structured environments may reduce boredom, which is sometimes a reason for repetitive behavior. You might prepare a range of enjoyable or calming activities to re-direct your youngster to if they seem bored or stressed.

5.     Self-regulation skills: Self-regulation skills are any activities that help your youngster to manage their own behavior and emotions.  If you can help your youngster to identify when they are feeling stressed or anxious and use an alternative response (e.g., relaxation techniques or asking for help), you may, in time, see less repetitive or ritualistic behavior.  Research has also shown that increasing a child’s insight into an obsession or repetitive behavior can significantly reduce it. This includes children with quite severe learning disabilities.

6.     Set limits: Setting limits around repetitive behavior, routines and obsessions is an important and often essential way to minimize their impact on your youngster's life. You could set limits in a number of ways depending which behavior concerns you. For example, you can ration objects (e.g., can only carry five pebbles in pocket), ration places (e.g., spinning only allowed at home), and ration times (e.g., can watch his favorite DVD for 20 minutes twice a day). Everyone involved with your youngster should take the same consistent approach to setting limits. Have clear rules about where, when, with whom and for how long a behavior is allowed. You could present this information visually, with a focus on when your youngster can engage in the behavior. This may help if they feel anxious about restricted access to an obsession or activity.

7.     Social skills training: Teaching social skills (e.g.,  how to start and end a conversation, appropriate things to talk about, how to read other people's 'cues') may mean someone with Aspergers feels more confident and doesn't need to rely on talking about particular subjects (e.g., a special interest). 

8.     Understand the function of the behavior: Obsessions, repetitive behavior and routines are frequently important and meaningful to children with Aspergers, helping them to manage anxiety and have some measure of control over a confusing and chaotic world. For others, the behavior may help with sensory issues. Take a careful look at what you think might be causing the behavior and what purpose it might serve.  For example, does your youngster always seem to find a particular environment (e.g., a classroom) hard to cope with? Is it too bright? Could you turn off strip lighting and rely on natural daylight instead?

9.     Visual supports: Visual supports (e.g., photos, symbols, written lists or physical objects) can really help children with Aspergers.  A visual timetable could help your youngster to see what is going to happen next. This makes things more predictable and helps them to feel prepared. It may lessen their reliance on strict routines of their own making. Visual supports like egg timers or 'time timers' can help some children with Aspergers to understand abstract concepts like time, plan what they need to do, when in order to complete a task, and understand the concept of waiting.  Visual supports can also be useful if your youngster asks the same question repeatedly. One parent wrote down the answer to a question, put it on the fridge and, whenever her son asked the question, told him to go to the fridge and find the answer. For kids who can't read, you could use pictures instead of words.

10.   Make use of obsessions: Obsessions can be used to increase your youngster's skills and areas of interest, promote self-esteem, and encourage socializing. You may find you can look at a particular obsession and think of ways to develop it into something more functional. Here are some examples:
  • A child with a special interest in historical dates could join a history group and meet others with similar interests.
  • A child with knowledge of sport or music would be a valuable member of a pub quiz team.
  • A strong preference for ordering or lining up objects could be developed into housework skills.
  • An interest in particular sounds could be channeled into learning a musical instrument.
  • An obsession with rubbish could be used to develop an interest in recycling, and the youngster given the job of sorting items for recycling.

Potty-Training Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Special Considerations

"Any tips on potty training a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder?"


Potty-training success hinges on physical and emotional readiness, not a specific age. Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) show an interest in toilet-training by age 2, but others might not be ready until age 3 or even older — and there's no rush. If you start toilet-training too early, it might take longer to train your youngster.

Is your ASD youngster ready? Ask yourself these questions:
  • Can your youngster pull down his/her pants and pull them up again?
  • Can your youngster sit on and rise from a potty chair?
  • Can your youngster understand and follow basic directions?
  • Does your youngster complain about wet or dirty diapers?
  • Does your youngster seem interested in the potty chair or toilet, or in wearing underwear?
  • Does your youngster stay dry for periods of two hours or longer during the day?
  • Does your youngster tell you through words, facial expressions or posture when he/she needs to go?

If you answered mostly yes, your youngster might be ready for toilet-training. If you answered mostly no, you might want to wait awhile — especially if your youngster has recently faced or is about to face a major change, such as a move or the arrival of a new sibling. A toddler who opposes toilet-training today might be open to the idea in a few months.

There's no need to postpone toilet-training if your youngster has a chronic medical condition, but is able to use the toilet normally. Be aware that the process might take longer, however.

When you decide it's time to begin toilet-training, set your youngster up for success. Start by maintaining a sense of humor and a positive attitude — and recruiting all of your youngster's caregivers to do the same. 

Next, follow these practical steps:
  1. If your ASD youngster has frequent accidents, absorbent underwear might be best. Keep a change of underwear and clothing handy, especially at school or in childcare.
  1. Some ASD children respond to stickers or stars on a chart. For others, trips to the park or extra bedtime stories are effective. Experiment to find what works best for your youngster. Reinforce your youngster's effort with verbal praise, such as, "How exciting! You're learning to use the toilet just like big children do!" Be positive, even if a trip to the toilet isn't successful. 
  1. After several weeks of successful potty breaks, your youngster might be ready to trade diapers for training pants or regular underwear. Celebrate this transition. Go on a special outing. Let your youngster select "big kid" underwear. Call close friends or loved ones and let your youngster spread the news. Once your youngster is wearing training pants or regular underwear, avoid overalls, belts, leotards or other items that could hinder quick undressing. 
  1. When you notice signs that your youngster might need to use the toilet (e.g., squirming, squatting holding the genital area, etc.) – respond quickly. Help your youngster become familiar with these signals, stop what he/she is doing and head to the toilet. Praise your youngster for telling you when he/she has to go. Teach females to wipe carefully from front to back to prevent bringing germs from the rectum to the vagina or bladder. When it's time to flush, let your youngster do the honors. Make sure your youngster washes his/her hands after using the toilet. 
  1. If your youngster resists using the potty chair or toilet or isn't getting the hang of it within a few weeks, take a break. Chances are he/she isn't ready yet. Try again in a few months. 
  1. Accidents often happen when ASD children are absorbed in activities that — for the moment — are more interesting than using the toilet. To fight this phenomenon, suggest regular bathroom trips (e.g., first thing in the morning, after each meal and snack, before getting in the car, before going to bed, etc.). Point out telltale signs of holding it (e.g., holding the genital area). 
  1. Place a potty chair in the bathroom. You might want to try a model with a removable top that can be placed directly on the toilet when your youngster is ready. Encourage your youngster to sit on the potty chair — with or without a diaper. Make sure your youngster's feet rest firmly on the floor or a stool. Help your youngster understand how to talk about the bathroom using simple, correct terms. You might dump the contents of a dirty diaper into the potty chair to show its purpose, or let your youngster see family members using the toilet. 
  1. If your youngster is interested, have him/her sit on the potty chair or toilet without a diaper for a few minutes several times a day. For males, it's often best to master urination sitting down, and then move to standing up after bowel training is complete. Create a potty-training social story, read a toilet-training book, or give your youngster a special toy to use while sitting on the potty chair or toilet. Stay with your youngster when he/she is in the bathroom. Even if your youngster simply sits there, offer praise for trying — and remind your youngster that he/she can try again later. 
  1. Occasional accidents are harmless, but they can lead to teasing, embarrassment and alienation from peers. If your toilet-trained youngster reverts or loses ground — especially at age 4 or older — or you're concerned about your youngster's accidents, contact his/her doctor. Sometimes wetting problems indicate an underlying physical condition (e.g., urinary tract infection, overactive bladder, etc.). Prompt treatment can help your youngster become accident-free. 
  1. Most ASD kids master daytime bladder control first, often within about two to three months of consistent toilet-training. Nap and nighttime training might take months — or years. In the meantime, use disposable training pants or plastic mattress covers when your youngster sleeps. 
  1. ASD children don't have accidents to irritate their moms and dads. If your youngster has an accident, don't add to the embarrassment by scolding or disciplining him/her. You might say, "You forgot this time. Next time you'll get to the bathroom sooner." 
  1. Have plenty of patience, keep it simple, and make it fun!


Resolving "Homework Battles" With Aspergers Children


"Getting my Aspergers son to do his homework has become a nightly battle. We are at the point of arguing constantly, which clearly is making a bad problem worse. Is there a way I can help him understand the importance of education and to develop some interest in following through with schoolwork?"

Homework can be very difficult for kids with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism to understand for the following reasons:

·         they do not understand why they are expected to do schoolwork at home
·         they find school stressful and do not want any reminders of it at home
·         they might have difficulty with organization skills
·         they find it difficult to remember to write down all the homework and remember deadlines

However, there are a number of tips that can help these young people in the future:

1.       Allow Aspergers kids to make choices about homework and related issues. They could choose to do study time before or after dinner. They could do it immediately after they get home or wake up early in the morning to do it. Invite them to choose the kitchen table or a spot in their own room. One choice kids do not have is whether or not to study.

2.       Doing homework can suck on its own. It’s even worse when your youngster is hunched over the books alone thinking that the rest of the family is having a party in the other room. Sit with your youngster, review the work, encourage and help (but don’t you dare do the homework yourself!). If you must get things done, at least park your youngster in the same room so you can answer questions as you make dinner, pay bills, or post of Facebook.

3.       Eliminate the word “homework” from your vocabulary. Replace it with the word “study.” Have a study time instead of a homework time. Have a study table instead of a homework table. This word change alone will go a long way towards eliminating the problem of your youngster saying, "I don't have any homework." Study time is about studying, even if you don't have any homework. It's amazing how much more homework Aspergers children have when they have to study regardless of whether they have homework or not.

4.       Only help if your youngster asks for it. Don’t do problems or assignments for kids. When your youngster says, "I can't do it," suggest they act as if they can. Tell them to pretend like they know and see what happens. Then leave the immediate area and let them see if they can handle it from there. If they keep telling you they don't know how and you decide to offer help, concentrate on asking than on telling. Ask: "What do you get?" … "What parts do you understand?" … "Can you give me an example?" … "What do you think the answer is?" … or "How could you find out?"

5.       Disorganization is a problem for most Aspergers kids. If you want them to be organized, you have to invest the time to help them learn an organizational system. Your job is to teach them the system. Their job is to use it. Check occasionally to see if the system is being used. Check more often at first. Provide direction and correction where necessary. If your youngster needs help with time management, teach them time management skills. Help them learn what it means to prioritize by the importance and due date of each task. Teach them to create an agenda each time they sit down to study. Help them experience the value of getting the important things done first.

6.       If your child can’t do his homework at school, he might need to unwind and relax when he first comes home, instead of launching straight into work. Giving him time to reduce his stress levels may mean that he then finds it easier to focus on the work later on. Some kids may also benefit from using either a reward system or a behavior contract. If he successfully completes his homework every day for a week, could he get a reward at the weekend? Alternatively a behavior contract could be drawn-up with everyone in the family, with everyone agreeing to do one task every day - and it could be agreed that completing his homework will be the thing that your child will do.

7.       If your child finds it difficult to understand why he does homework at home, could he do it at school instead? Some kids find break and lunchtime very hard and they may find it preferable to sit in the library or a quiet place in the school and do their work. Some schools also have after-school clubs or homework clubs, which your child may find of use.

8.       If your child has more than one piece of homework, it may be useful to ask the teachers in each lesson to either make sure your child has written down the homework in his diary, or write it in for him. They may also need to provide written instructions to take home which breaks the task down further as well.

9.       Keep the routine predictable and simple. One possibility includes a five minute warning that study time is approaching, bringing their current activity to an end, clearing the study table, emptying their back pack of books and supplies, then beginning.

10.   Replace monetary and external rewards with encouraging verbal responses. End the practice of paying for grades and going on a special trip for ice cream. This style of bribery has only short term gains and does little to encourage kids to develop a lifetime love of learning. Instead make positive verbal comments that concentrate on describing the behavior you wish to encourage.

11.   If homework is something your children have to squeeze in between karate, piano lessons and soccer practice, they’re not going to think of it as important. And, unless you really enjoy over-dramatic tears and hearing every excuse in the book, avoid doing homework right before bedtime at all costs.

12.   Time slams to a crawl for many Aspergers children when faced with a stack of papers and a #2 pencil. Set a timer for 15 minutes and, when it dings, tell your youngster to take a quick break to stretch, get a drink of water or collapse on the floor and moan “I hate doing homework” over and over again. Really active children may need to run around the house before they get back to the books.

13.   Use study time to get some of your own responsibilities handled. Do the dishes, fold laundry, or write thank you notes. Keep the TV off! If you engage in fun or noisy activities during that time kids will naturally be distracted. Study time is a family commitment. If you won't commit to it, don't expect that you kids will.

14.   You need to use leverage to get some children to do anything. Do they love television? Computer games? Guitar Hero? Unplug it all until homework is done. You can even exchange homework time for something they love: 15 minutes of effective homework time = 15 minutes with their beloved plugged-in whatnot.

15.   There comes a time when your Aspergers child has to accept that homework is his responsibility. So, if you’re really tearing your hair out and aging prematurely due to the nightly fighting, it may be time to let your little bird fly on its own. Let your youngster go to school with an unfinished assignment and accept the consequences. Collaborating with the teacher ahead of time may insure an appropriate response to “the dog ate my homework”. 

Behavior Problems At Home - But Not At School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Misunderstood Aspergers Child

This video reveals the true reasons behind the behavior that some teachers may view as insubordination. Is your Aspergers student "misbehaving" - or is he simply experiencing some "Aspergers-related" symptoms? Either way - you can help!

Note to parents: Please email your child's teacher(s) and send them the link to the video below. Copy and paste the following URL into your email:  http://www.myaspergerschild.com/2012/04/misunderstood-aspergers-child.html



Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

The Strengths of Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism possess a combination of strengths and difficulties. 

This video focuses on the strengths:



Most Aspergers children:
  • can stick to routines…
  • are able to forgive others…
  • are accepting of others…
  • are gentle…
  • are honest…
  • are not bullies, con artists, or social manipulators…
  • are not inclined to steal…
  • are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves…
  • are smart, they study hard, and they respect authority…
  • are talented…
  • can make amazingly loyal friends...
  • don’t discriminate against anyone based on race, gender, or age...
  • don’t launch unprovoked attacks, verbal or otherwise…
  • don't play head games, and don’t take advantage of other’s weaknesses…
  • enjoy their own company, and can spend time alone…
  • have a child-like innocence, an exceptional memory, and have no interest in harming others…
  • notice fine details that others miss…
  • prefer talking about significant things that will enhance their knowledge-base, rather than engaging in chit chat…
  • will not go along with the crowd if they know that something is wrong…

Teaching Self-Care Skills to Aspergers Kids

"How can I teach my 4-year-old daughter with High-Functioning Autism some basic self-care skills like brushing her teeth, taking a bath, getting dressed for school, etc.? Currently she insists that I help her with everything. Help!"


There are two main ways to teach self-care skills:

1. Backward chaining: This starts at the last step and works through the activity to the first step. For example, once your daughter has brushed her teeth with your help, move backwards through each step slowly (“You just brushed and rinsed your teeth. Before that, we turned on the water. Before that, we put toothpaste on your toothbrush. Before that, we got your toothbrush and toothpaste from the drawer.”).

2. Forward chaining: This teaches a skill in small steps from the first step of the activity through to the last step. For example, “To get dressed in the morning, first you put on your underwear and socks, then put on your pants, then your shirt, then…” (and so on).

Whichever you decide to use for your daughter, make sure the activity is broken down into the smallest steps possible.

You may also want to use prompts to help your daughter learn self-care skills. For example, if you are trying to teach her to wash her hands, you could use theses prompts in the following order:
  • Gestural: mime washing your hands next to your daughter while she washes her own hands
  • Physical: hold her hands and wash your hands together
  • Verbal: say "wash your hands" or show her a ‘wash hands’ symbol, which you can leave above the sink as a prompt for next time

It is important to remove the prompts as quickly as possible, which can be more easily done by providing rewards when your daughter does a step correctly (e.g., when she washes her hands when prompted, she gets a small reward immediately afterwards). Give your daughter the reward directly after the desired behavior so that she makes the connection between the two – and make sure the reward is meaningful to her.

You may find that you need to leave physical reminders (e.g., symbols, written lists) of each activity in the appropriate room. For example, describe all the different steps for brushing teeth in the bathroom – and the same thing for getting dressed in the bedroom. You can download free symbols from www.do2learn.com.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

The Ultimate Autism Solution

The Ultimate Autism Solution

Mistakes Made When Dealing With Childhood Autism—

The first time a parent is told that their youngster has Autism will be a moment that they never forget. Often, the moment has been preceded by months – or even years – of concern, guilt and even anger as their once happy and outgoing youngster becomes less communicative, less expressive and often less able to control their emotions.

Physical comfort, such as hugs and kisses, that used to soothe your youngster are no longer welcomed and unusual habits and obsessions become an important part of your youngster’s life. As a loving parent, you try everything to draw your youngster back out of the little world they’ve created for themselves, but nothing seems to work.

You talk to doctors, nurses, youngster-care specialists, and positive parenting groups – anyone who can help you find the key to your youngster’s behavior. And finally, it’s confirmed: your youngster is diagnosed with Autism.

But, while it can be a relief to finally discover the reason for your youngster’s difficulties – and to realize that it’s not your fault – a diagnosis of Autism can feel like a life sentence. Moms and dads of kids with Autism experience a wide range of emotions – confusion, resentment, maybe even guilt that they were somehow unable to ‘protect’ their youngster from this condition. Many moms and dads fear for their youngster’s future and feel certain that life will never be normal or enjoyable again.

It is vital at this difficult time in your youngster’s life that you put aside your fears and anger so that you can realize this one important truth: you are the key to your youngster’s future.

Kids, especially kids with Autism, are vulnerable little people and they rely on you, their moms and dads and care-givers, to protect them and do what’s best for them. And, while you can’t protect your youngster from Autism, you can give them the tools they so desperately need to help them to live with the condition and realize the potential that’s locked up inside of them.

BUT – to be able to help your youngster, you need to make sure that you’re ready to work with them in the right way.

Seven dangerous mistakes – easy to make, impossible to undo...

Sandra Arntzen, M.Ed, specializes in helping kids with Autism. Using her twenty years of experience, Arntzen has identified seven dangerous mistakes that moms and dads and care-givers can make when they are faced with a diagnosis of Autism. These mistakes, while easy to make, can halt your youngster’s progress or even undo the steps they’ve taken so far.

• Failing to accept the diagnosis

One of the most common – and natural – responses that most moms and dads have when they learned that their youngster has Autism is to go into a state of denial or shock. Many moms and dads and care-givers don’t really know much about Autism, and what it means for them and their youngster, but it’s important to accept the diagnosis, embrace the diagnosis and work on moving forward with that diagnosis.

Once you accept and understand that Autism is part of your youngster’s life – and part of who they are – you can start working with them to unlock the potential that’s trapped inside them.

• Feeling guilty about your youngster’s condition

While it’s natural for moms and dads and care-givers to want the best for their youngster – and to mourn the loss of their life ‘before’ Autism – it’s important not to let this guilt get in the way of responsible, positive parenting.

Moms and dads who spend their lives feeling guilty about their youngster’s Autism – rather than accepting it as a part of who their youngster is – risk spoiling their youngster as a way of ‘making up’ for the diagnosis. While moms and dads may feel that their Autistic youngster needs to be wrapped up in cotton wool and protected from the world, this dangerous tendency can keep kids with Autism from progressing and can even undo the steps that they’ve taken towards leading their own lives.

Even though your youngster has Autism, it is important to raise them with structure, discipline, challenges and boundaries. Just like any other youngster, a youngster with Autism still needs to be pushed to become independent. Whether it’s doing their own homework, learning to feed and dress themselves or simply communicating their needs to you, your youngster needs to learn how to grow.

Supporting your youngster appropriately from the earliest possible age is crucial. Today, you can learn more about these, and the other, dangerous mistakes and learn how to avoid them. Using this completely FREE webinar by renowned Autism expert Sandra Arntzen, M.Ed, you can be the positive change in your youngster’s life.

Remember: you are the key to your youngster’s future.

Kids with Autism need strong moms and dads and care-givers who will give them love, support, boundaries and structure. While you might still be feeling shell-shocked by your youngster’s diagnosis, it’s time to take action. You can start helping your youngster right now.

Register for your FREE webinar training with Sandra Arntzen, M.Ed now and discover the key to unlocking childhood Autism.


AUTISM: Why Acting Quickly On Your Youngster's Behalf Is Essential - And How to Do It Now—

As incidences of childhood Autism increase, experts are warning moms and dads to act swiftly in the event of early indications in order to ensure the best possible outcome for their kids.

According to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of kids diagnosed with Autism in the United States has increased by an alarming 78% in the last ten years.

Where previously only 1 in 110 American kids was diagnosed as being on the Autistic Spectrum, the latest data indicates that 1 in 88 now has some form of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

At the current population level, it is estimated that 1,000,000 kids in the United States is on the spectrum.

When questioned on the reason for this startling increase, Autism experts have suggested that better diagnoses, a broader definition of the disorders that make up ‘Autism’ and increased awareness of ASDs account for around 50% of the newly diagnosed cases.

However, that still leaves 50% of cases unaccounted for, which places ASD on an ‘epidemic’ level in the United States.

While the increasing rates of Autism diagnoses vary according to gender and ethnic background, one thing is clear: symptoms typically appear before the age of three and need to be recognized as early as possible to ensure the best possible outcome for the youngster in question.

As Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that typically leads to impaired language, communication and social skills, early intervention helps to give kids the best chance of a positive outcome.

Sandra Arntzen M.Ed., who works as an Educational, Behavioral and Social Skills Educator for kids with Autism, had this to say about early intervention:

“When a parent or care-giver hears the news that their youngster has Autism, it’s completely normal for that person to experience a wide range of contrasting emotions: anything from fear, confusions, resentment, bereavement or even guilt. While these feelings are completely natural, it’s important that the parent or care-giver puts them to one side as early as possible and focuses on the needs of their youngster. There is every reason to be hopeful about the future of a youngster with Autism, as long as the appropriate support is started early.”

Dr Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, agrees:

“Early detection is associated with better outcomes. The earlier kids are detected, the earlier they could get services, and the less impairment they’ll have on their learning and in their lives on a long-term basis is our best understanding.”

Anna and her husband, Tom, started to notice some changes in their son’s behavior when he was 15 months old. Harry, who had previously been a contented and chatty toddler, began struggling to calm himself after tantrums and started fixating on the position of the toys in his nursery, throwing screaming fits if they weren’t arranged in a certain way.

He started to reject physical affection and became withdrawn, talking only when he needed to and avoiding eye contact.

While they dreaded the diagnosis, Anna and Tom took Harry to see a pediatric specialist on the recommendation of their personal physician. After conducting a large number of tests, she confirmed that Harry was suffering from Autism.

“So many emotions ran through us”, says Anna. “Fear, anger, confusion and, more than anything, guilt: we felt so guilty that we hadn’t been able to protect Harry from this condition.”

Following a strict behavioral program that is tailored to his specific needs and abilities, Harry is now showing significant progress in terms of his communication and social skills, and is demonstrating an increased awareness of how to manage his emotions in situations that he finds challenging.

And, while at first Anna and Tom struggled to come to terms with the diagnosis, they are pleased that Harry was diagnosed relatively early.

Most Autism diagnoses in the United States are still made when the youngster is between four and five years old. At this stage, the youngster’s brain is substantially more developed – more of the ‘hard-wiring’ has been put in place – and entrenched habits are harder to change.

Possible signs...

A youngster with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder may:

- Repeat actions or motions over and over again, such as rocking back and forth or tapping their hand or foot.

- Avoid direct eye contact and prefer not to have hugs and kisses.

- Not respond when people speak to them, but respond to other sounds around them.

- Not look at objects when someone points to them.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

While there is no known way to prevent occurrences of Autism in kids, it does seem that early intervention is the single agreed method of ensuring the most positive outcome.

Once a diagnosis is made, it is important for care-givers and moms and dads to adhere to a structured behavioral program to give their youngster the best chance of improvement.

Sandra Arntzen, M.Ed., has produced a free webinar for the moms and dads and care-givers of kids on the Autistic Spectrum, which outlines the seven most common mistakes to make when raising a youngster with Autism.

And, while the webinar focuses on these mistakes, the message is undoubtedly a positive one. Arntzen is clear:

“Kids with Autism need strong moms and dads and care-givers who will give them the love, support, boundaries and structure they need. These mistakes are easy to make, but also easy to correct with simple and effective strategies. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these strategies are critically important for ensuring a happy future for a youngster with Autism. My aim is to offer moms and dads and care-givers of kids on the spectrum the clarity and encouragement they need to realize that they’re not alone and that there is hope.”

Register for your FREE webinar training with Sandra Arntzen, M.Ed now.


Overprotecting a Youngster with Autism—

How it all started: Anna’s Story…

My son, Harry, was born on Christmas Eve 2002. Although he was small, he was perfect in every way – with thick, blond hair and piercing blue eyes, he was like a miniature version of my husband, Tom, and we fell in love with him straight away.

Harry was hardly any trouble at all – he was a contented baby, whose sunny personality attracted compliments from everyone who met him. An energetic toddler, his happy chatter filled our lives and he would rush around, talking to everyone he met. He had a wide vocabulary and soon learned to express himself, telling anyone else who would listen what he thought about the world he was exploring.

But, over time, Harry became less chatty. At first, we thought it was a phase. Then, we began to notice more changes: Harry struggled to calm down after his tantrums, which were happening more and more frequently. He couldn’t get to sleep at night and spent hours tidying his toys into rows, only settling one they were all neatly in order.

As Harry’s mom, I tried my best to soothe him, giving him the kisses and cuddles that I thought he needed in a bid to show him how loved he was. But, as time went by, he became anxious, distant and, eventually, untouchable. He reacted violently to the affection that Tom and I would show him, pushing us away and then punishing himself with angry words, scratches, bites and slaps. I tried to reach Harry, to understand what he was experiencing, but he wouldn’t let me in.

“Just after Harry’s second birthday, our Doctor confirmed our fears: Harry was on the Autism Spectrum…”

So many emotions ran through us: fear, anger, confusion and, more than anything, guilt that we hadn’t been able to protect Harry from this condition.

Life after the diagnosis was tough. People who we considered good friends began to avoid us.

They no longer saw a beautiful, intelligent little boy – they only saw the anger and rage when he threw a tantrum. They couldn’t know that, when I looked into his eyes, I saw that my baby was frightened by the world around him and struggling to cope.

Harry didn’t notice the stares and tuts coming from the people around him. Instead, he carried on in his own little world, fulfilling the little rituals and habits that brought him comfort, lining up his toys and humming to himself. But, the uneducated responses and cruel comments from people around us took its toll on me. I felt so incredibly guilty that I couldn’t give Harry the care-free life I so desperately wanted him to have.

“As Harry’s mom, I felt a strong duty to protect him from the outside world, and from other people, who I worried would only see the negative side of his condition.”

Over the next couple of years, I kept Harry close to me as often as possible, turning down the few play-dates we received, rejecting invitations to parenting groups and encouraging him to play at home rather than taking him to the park. I was sure that other moms and dads would look at him and notice the differences in his behavior.

In a bid to keep him from falling behind with all the milestones that other kids were passing, I would help Harry get dressed in the morning, ignoring his anger when I did his buttons up for him because it was taking him too long. At mealtimes, I’d cut his food up into bite-size pieces for him. Eventually, he stopped trying to get dressed or feed himself, and waited for me to do it for him.

It took a heart-to-heart conversation with my husband to make me realize what I was doing was wrong – not just for me, but for Harry. One night, when I had bathed and undressed Harry, cleaned his teeth for him and put him to bed, Tom asked me to come and sit by him in the sitting room. He told me he’d watched a webinar by a childhood Autism specialist, who explained the seven most common – and dangerous – mistakes that moms and dads of kids with Autism can make.

“In the webinar, he discovered that over-protecting Autistic kids can have a serious negative impact on their long-term development.”

Feeling stung by my husband’s words, I finally agreed to watch the webinar with him. I was sure that whoever this so-called ‘expert’ was, she wouldn’t understand the challenges that Harry and I were facing. She wouldn’t know that, when I did Harry’s homework or tied his shoelaces for him, I was trying to help my little boy.

As I watched the webinar, I felt tears well in my eyes. I realized that, by protecting Harry from the world, I’d stopped him from growing into the independent little boy that I wanted him to be. Instead of letting him take on new challenges and celebrating when he did a good job, I did everything for him.

In the webinar, renowned childhood Autism expert Sandra Arntzen, M.Ed., explained how over-protecting kids on the spectrum can stop, or even reverse, their development. Often motivated by feelings of guilt or fear, moms and dads wrap their Autistic kids up in cotton wool and keep them away from challenging experiences that help kids to grow, learn and achieve.

As I listened to Sandra outlining the other six mistakes that moms and dads of kids on the spectrum often make, I felt a sense of relief and comfort.

“After twenty years working with Autistic kids, Sandra understands the difficulties and encourages moms and dads to look forward to their youngster’s future, not back.”

As my wonderful little boy lay sleeping next door, I opened my mind to what Sandra was saying and vowed to let Harry have all the experiences he should have.

While I would be there forever to support him, I would no longer live his life for him…

Raising a youngster with Autism is hard. It’s a long-term commitment but I’ve learned that, by encouraging your youngster to be independent, you can achieve hope, joy and freedom that you didn’t think was possible.

I’d encourage anyone out there to watch the completely FREE webinar by Sandra Arntzen, M.Ed to find out how to unlock your Autistic youngster’s potential starting now. Supporting your youngster appropriately from the earliest possible age is crucial.

Today, you can learn more about the seven most dangerous mistakes, and learn to avoid them.

“Remember: you are the key to your youngster’s future.”

Kids with Autism need strong moms and dads and care-givers who will give them love, support, boundaries and structure. It’s time to take action, and you’re not alone.

“Join Sandra Arntzen, M.Ed for her FREE webinar, and help your youngster become one of the success stories.”

Register for your FREE webinar training with Sandra Arntzen, M.Ed now and discover the key to unlocking childhood Autism.

Helping Aspergers Students Cope with Recess

"My son’s teacher told me that he gets nervous and often goes into a meltdown at recess time. During recess, the students usually either go to the gym or outside for 'free-time' recreation. How can I help him deal with this transition and the unstructured nature of 'free-time', thus avoiding a meltdown?"

Recess is a time when students traditionally run-off their stress, but this transition can be very challenging for a student with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism. Students are given instructions, rules and a timetable to guide them through the rest of the day, but recess is rather unstructured, and it can be difficult for Aspergers students to know what to do during this time. Playgrounds are also often noisy and crowded places, with lots of children running around screaming and talking loudly. This can be daunting for a special needs youngster who is not aware of the "hidden" social rules of recess.

Here are some suggestions that may help your son overcome his difficulties with recess:

1. Some playgrounds have buddy benches for kids who are having difficulty making friends, or having a hard day. Decorations or signs should distinguish a buddy bench from other benches in the playground. Other kids are appointed as buddies and given a badge to wear to indicate who they are. Their job is to keep an eye out for anyone sitting on the buddy bench who feels sad or lonely and needs someone to cheer them up. A buddy can chat to them on the bench, or invite them to play a game. Having a number of kids share the buddy role will ensure that any youngster using the buddy bench socializes with different kids and does not become too reliant on one peer.

2. Some schools use break time to teach social skills to Aspergers kids, which can be done by using approaches such as circle of friends. The four main goals of this approach are to: (1) create a support network for the Aspergers youngster; (2) provide the youngster with encouragement and recognition for any achievements and progress; (3) work with the youngster to identify difficulties and devise practical ideas to help deal with these difficulties; and (4) help to put these ideas into practice. Your son might benefit from his school adopting such an approach.

3. Long periods of time in the playground may also challenge your son. Perhaps the school could agree that he only has to play on the playground for the first half of the period – and if he is successful during this time, he could be rewarded with quiet time in the library or time on the computer? This would need to be structured so your son knows what the activity is and where to go.

4. Setting up a number of different playground games that everyone moves around will bring some structure to recess, as well as reducing boredom from playing one game for the whole playground time. There are a number of websites suggesting playground games, many of which have video clips which you could watch with your son so she knows what to expect in different games. Your son could also have some tasks to do during recess (e.g., handing out basketballs, picking up trash on the playground, etc.), which would add further structure to his recess time. However, take care that this is not seen as a form of discipline and does not set him apart from his classmates too much.

5. Relaxation techniques could also help your son to recognize and reduce his anxiety before it becomes overwhelming. Techniques might include:
  • breathing deeply
  • counting to ten
  • jumping on a trampoline
  • kicking a ball
  • punching a punching bag
  • stretching
There are a number of books that help Aspergers kids learn how to identify stress and teach relaxation techniques.

6. Your son could indicate his nervousness to the teacher by using a help card or a visual stress scale (e.g., traffic light scale, thermometer, 1-5 scale, etc.). Stress scales can be used as a secret code between the student and his teacher, which might be useful if your son does not want to draw attention from his classmates. If your son indicates that he is at the high end of the stress scale, there should be a quiet place that he can go to calm down (e.g., in the library). He may also want to cut-out external noise by listening to music.

7. Your son might find school recess especially difficult because one-to-one "staff monitors" often take their own breaks at this time. However, if your son no longer needs support in certain lessons, but is experiencing high anxiety during break times, it’s possible that the hours could be restructured so that his monitor is with him during recess. Check with school officials to see what can be done.

Aspergers Children and Biting

Understanding the developmental factors that contribute to biting behavior in children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can help moms and dads make environmental or programmatic changes as necessary to minimize the behavior. Guidance to kids who bite should be provided with the goal of helping them develop inner control of their feelings and actions. A quick and consistent response at home can help kids who bite learn to express their feelings in words so that they can become better able to control their behavior.

Why Do Children With Aspergers and HFA Resort To Biting?

1. An attempt to gain sensory input: Many Aspergers children experience sensory difficulties, so it can be helpful to consider the possible sensory functions of particular behaviors. Chewing and biting are proprioceptive activities (i.e., they provide sensory input to the proprioceptive system, which regulates what different parts of the body are doing at different times). Biting can also provide oral stimulation and may provide pleasant or even necessary stimulation to this sensory system.

2. Communication difficulties: For children who may not be able to communicate their wants, needs, and emotional states effectively, biting can be an extremely effective way of letting parents know that something is not right, and is therefore a very useful and powerful form of communication.

3. Developmental stages: The mouthing of objects is a normal part of development. Very young kids put various objects in their mouths to explore the size, shape, and texture of the objects. This normally becomes a problem if the youngster continues to mouth objects frequently past the age of 18 months or so. However, a youngster who missed the initial mouthing phase due to sensitivity in the mouth area or medical issues may have to go through this phase later.

4. Frustration or distress: Sometimes biting can be an expression of sheer frustration or distress in response to a range of different stressors and challenging situations. It is important to remember that life can be exceptionally overwhelming at times for kids with Aspergers and HFA, and that sometimes, the child may engage in a behavior that is a response to this.

5. Learned behavior: Children learn from experiences that they have had, and they use this information to determine how to behave in the future. If they find that behaving in a particular way brings about a good outcome, then they are more likely to behave that way again in the future. Some children might also appreciate the physical or emotional reaction of others in response to biting. The child may enjoy the sound of a raised voice or the sense of control created by behaving in a way which brings a predictable reaction from parents.

6. Toothache or jaw pain: In some cases, biting may be a response to physical pain, in particular tooth or jaw ache.

What Can Parents Do About Biting?

1. Anger management and relaxation training: Some children with Aspergers and HFA may experience difficulties managing emotions (e.g., stress, anxiety, frustration, etc.), which may lead to behavioral outbursts like biting. It is helpful for these children to learn how to identify the physical cues or bodily sensations which indicate that they are becoming agitated, and then to develop alternative, more appropriate activities to assist them to calm down. For example:

• aromatherapy
• asking for help
• counting to ten
• going for a walk
• jumping on a trampoline
• listening to music
• playing on a computer
• swinging
• taking a bath
• taking a few deep breaths
• thinking positive thoughts
• walking away from the scene
• …and any other type of redirection to pleasant, calming activities

2. “Chewables” are cylindrical pieces of rubber tubing (non-toxic, washable and latex-free) that can be sucked or chewed on and provide good resistance for children who need the sensory input provided by biting. Research has shown that “chewables” appear to provide a calming, focusing and organizing function and act as a release for stress. Alternatively, parents may put together a bag of items that provide a range of sensory experiences (e.g., raw pasta, dried fruit, etc.), which the child can be re-directed to.

3. Communication difficulties: Encourage your child to use alternative forms of communication (e.g., visual signs or symbols). Use a range of symbols that he/she can carry around to communicate basic needs (e.g., 'yes', 'no', 'stop', 'go away - I need space', 'I’m in pain', etc.).

4. Environmental modifications: Try to plan for situations that the child finds challenging and make necessary adjustments to the environment. For example:

• increasing structure through the use of timetables or schedules
• maintaining familiar routines where possible
• minimizing unpleasant sensory stimuli
• reducing the number of people

5. Frustration or distress: Frequently remind your child of anger-management and relaxation techniques – especially when he is calm.

6. Functional analysis: Finding the cause of why your child bites is critical in determining the best way of responding to the behavior. For example, if the biting is an expression of frustration, the focus of intervention will be on teaching the child alternative and more appropriate ways of coping with frustration. A good way of determining why a child may be engaging in a particular behavior is to keep a record of behavioral incidents. Some children may be able to communicate their reasons for biting, either verbally or through the use of visual strategies.

7. Improve communication: Assist the child to develop alternative, more appropriate ways of communicating his/her wants, needs, physical discomfort and emotional states. Visual strategies can be very effective, because they can be used in a broad range of situations – and are particularly useful for indicating physical pain or communicating emotional states. Also, social stories can also be helpful in describing why it is not appropriate to bite and by outlining what the child is able to do instead.

8. Increase sensory opportunities: If the child is biting to gain sensory input, then it is important to provide alternative and more appropriate ways of meeting this need.

9. Reinforce appropriate behavior: It is important to pay attention to instances of behavior that you want to encourage to help the child learn that other, more appropriate ways of behaving lead to positive outcomes. Rewards can take the form of:

• preferred activities
• small amounts of favorite foods or drinks
• tokens
• toys
• verbal praise and attention

Clearly name the behavior that you are rewarding, and ensure that rewards are provided immediately after the behavior that you wish to encourage.

10. Respond quickly and consistently to incidents of behavior: Keep responses to biting behavior to a minimum by limiting verbal comments, facial expressions and other displays of emotion (these may inadvertently reinforce the behavior). Speak calmly and clearly and keep facial expressions neutral.

11. Rule out medical and dental causes: Ensure that the child is not biting as a response to physical pain (e.g., toothache or jaw ache). Arrange a check-up with the dentist to rule out any possible physical causes for the behavior.

12. Sensory issues: Re-direct the child to alternative sensory activity such as “chewables” or a “bag of tricks” with edible items. Also, redirect the child to another activity, and praise the first occurrence of appropriate behavior. Maintain physical space and closely supervise the child following an incident of biting.

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

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

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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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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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

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

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content