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

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College Depression in Aspergers Students: What Parents Need To Know

College depression is a common problem in young people with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA). Moms and dads need to understand why the transition to college makes their “special needs” son or daughter vulnerable to depression — and what they can do about it – BEFORE the young adult attempts, and then fails, his or her first semester of college.

“College depression” isn't a clinical diagnosis. Rather, it’s a form of an adjustment disorder (i.e., a type of stress-related mental illness or depression).  Typically, signs and symptoms of an adjustment disorder begin within three months of a stressful life event (in this case, going away to school). Depression, however, may occur at any time.

College students with Aspergers and HFA face many challenges, pressures and anxieties that their “typical” peers do not. Many factors can cause these young people to feel overwhelmed, for example:
  • adapting to a new schedule
  • adapting to a new workload
  • adjusting to life with roommates
  • feeling homesick
  • figuring out how to “fit in”
  • juggling school and employment
  • living on their own for the first time
  • making the transition from adolescence to adulthood

Aspergers and HFA college students dealing with depression are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and perform poorly in school than are their “typical” peers. Difficulty concentrating may cause these young people to have trouble finishing schoolwork, skip classes, lose interest in extracurricular activities – and even drop out and move back home.

Signs and symptoms that an Aspergers or HFA student may be experiencing college depression include:
  • Agitation
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in weight
  • Decreased concentration 
  • Distractibility
  • Excessive sleeping 
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of sadness or unhappiness 
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt 
  • Frequent phone calls to the mother or father in which the student declares that he or she wants to drop out and return home
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide 
  • Frustration
  • Indecisiveness
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Loss of energy 
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities 
  • Restlessness
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble making decisions and remembering things 
  • Trouble with thinking or concentrating

Aspergers and HFA college students may have difficulty seeking help for depression out of embarrassment or fear of not “fitting in.” Signs and symptoms also may be more difficult to notice from afar. If moms and dads suspect that their young adult is dealing with college depression, they should talk to him or her about what's going on. Then they should ask him or her to make an appointment with a school counselor or therapist as soon as possible. Many colleges offer counseling services that are extremely helpful in these cases.

Parents need to understand that depressive symptoms may not get better on their own — in fact, they may get worse if not treated. Untreated depression can lead to other mental and physical health issues or problems in other areas of life. Feelings of depression can also increase the likelihood of substance abuse and the risk of suicide.

In addition to seeking treatment, parents should encourage their adult child to take other steps to cope with college depression. For example:

1. Playing a sport or joining a club can help the young person meet people with similar interests, as well as provide a change of pace from schoolwork.

2. Encourage your son or daughter to take time each day to set priorities and goals. This will help him or her develop a sense of control and confidence. It will also help him or her avoid putting off important class work until late at night, which can lead to fatigue.

3. Encourage your son or daughter to get to know people in his or her dorm and classes. Friends can help your “special needs” adult child to feel more comfortable in a new environment.

4. Spending time alone can help your son or daughter re-energize and feel a sense of control over his or her life.

5. Your adult child may be able to reduce his or her stress level through physical activity, meditation, deep-breathing exercises, long walks or other calming activities.

There's no sure way to prevent college depression in young people with Aspergers and HFA. However, helping these individuals become accustomed to their college campus before the start of the school year can prevent them from feeling overwhelmed by the transition. Encourage your young adult to visit the campus and talk to other students, peer counselors or faculty about what to expect and where to turn for support.

If your college-bound son or daughter has a history of depression, talk to his or her doctor about what kind of counseling options might best help with the transition to college. In addition, help your young person become familiar with campus counseling resources. Remember, getting treatment at the earliest sign of a problem can help prevent college depression from worsening.

Launching Adult Children With Aspergers: How To Promote Self-Reliance

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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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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes. The hardest part is you feel like you’ll never actually get to know your child and how he/she views the world.

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