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

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How to Avoid "Back-to-School" Meltdowns and Tantrums

FYI to Parents: Getting ready for the new school year should start earlier when you have a youngster with Asperger’s (AS) or High Functioning Autism (HFA). There are so many things to plan ahead for, and people to coordinate with. You'll need to start preparing your youngster, too.

If you're like many moms and dads of kids on the autism spectrum, it's tempting to put off back-to-school preparations until the first day is just a week or so away. The resulting last-minute flurry of phone calls, errands, and meetings can be overwhelming. But this year, you can make the back-to-school process easier.

This post will focus on simple things you can do NOW to make this the best transition to the new school year ever:

1. First, brainstorm a list of everything that needs to happen with school between now and the first day of school. Get help from your spouse and/or a friend who has a youngster in the same classroom. Depending on your youngster's age and abilities, include him as much as possible in this brainstorming step. Also, highlight anything on your list involving a phone call, and start making those phone calls now. Top priority should be given to any call involving scheduling an appointment or a meeting. Calendars fill up quickly this time of year.

2. Bring your AS or HFA youngster to the school to meet people - anybody! Introduce her to anyone available (e.g., school nurse, administrators, office staff, custodians, etc.). If possible, make arrangements in advance for your youngster's teacher(s) to be there when you visit.

3. Depending on your youngster's age and abilities, allow her to practice self-advocacy skills. Encourage her to ask questions, tell educators and staff about her classroom needs, and discuss any issues that need to be taken care of before the first day of school (e.g., a stuck locker).

4. During the last month of summer vacation, pull out some study materials and help your child get back into “study mode” (e.g., with math, vocabulary, sentences). Start daily practice with the subjects and areas she likes for a few minutes a day, increasing up to longer times and throwing in the subjects that are more difficult.  Use play time, games, videos, and swimming as rewards.  Your youngster may grumble, but her teacher will thank you.

5. For most kids on the autism spectrum, transitions are the toughest challenge.  To make matters worse, some of these young people are undergoing a MAJOR transition this school year (e.g., from preschool to kindergarten, from short days to full days, from elementary to middle school, and so on). Thus, consider creating a few social stories about some of the transitions your child is likely to face in the new school year.

6. Get back on a school-year schedule gradually. Start moving up dinnertime, bedtime, and wake-up time, so the first day of school won't be such a jolt! Also, have your AS or HFA child help you make a morning checklist (use pictures) to help him remember everything he needs to do on a school morning after he wakes up. In addition, create a "Don't Forget" list and post it by the door with key items (e.g., backpack, books, lunch, etc.).

7. If you had your last IEP more than 3 months ago, or are planning to have it soon, now is the time to review all your old paperwork (e.g., IEPs, testing, evaluations, doctor’s visits, etc.), and see if your youngster has made any progress or regressions.  Have new concerns risen over the summer (e.g., meltdowns, aggression)? Does the plan still fit? Changes like these will affect the expectations of the fall semester school staff, and will likely necessitate calling an IEP meeting to re-review your youngster’s goals.

8. If your youngster has behavioral issues and has been home alone a lot over the summer, start setting up play dates and events to get him interacting with other kids again.  If your youngster has difficulty with social skills, getting him in a positive, safe play environment with other kids before the fall will take the edge off of his fears.

9. Schedule doctor visits for two to six weeks before school. Ensure that any medication is stable and that your youngster feels supported.

10. Stay upbeat about the approach of school and remind your youngster of the things that he liked about it.

11. The last month of summer vacation is a great time to work on a skill or two that your youngster is lacking (e.g., how to greet peers, how to dress herself, etc.).  If there is one small skill that you would like your youngster to be able to perform once school starts, create a plan for introducing that skill on a frequent basis (and remember to use a reward system that works best for your youngster along the way).

12. Review the layout of the school with your youngster. Do a tour of the building - even if he went to the same school last year. It helps get him into the school-year mindset, and also helps remind him where things are (e.g., entrances and exits, bathrooms, cafeteria, gym, nurse's office, new classroom(s), etc.). If your youngster is older, it's a good idea to get his locker number and let him practice opening the lock a few times.

A lot of children with AS and HFA have problems in executive thinking. Executive thought processing occurs in the frontal areas of the brain and is what allows us to interpret what is happening around us, and then decide what actions to take (or not to take) in response to what we perceive. In AS and HFA kids, these brain areas - and the processes they control - are not quite in check. As a result, they often have problems rapidly assessing and interpreting change. Therefore, they may become defensive and ready to “protect” themselves from any perceived threats to their normal routines, security levels, and self-esteem.

Kids on the autism spectrum may require as much as 4 weeks to get back in a comfortable routine once they have started school. This lag in adequate classroom learning and social skills learning often leaves these students struggling as they fall further and further behind their “typical” classmates, which creates frustration, feelings of inadequacy, and builds resistance to effective learning and building strong and lasting new relationships. Thus, wise parents would do well to facilitate a “back-to-school mind-set” in their special needs child well in advance of the first day of school, rather than waiting until the last minute.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... I've started to change my mind set but slightly anxious every year.
•    Anonymous said... Thank you for this article, thought of school starting in 3 weeks has been making me sick to my stomach. Thanks for the help!
•    Anonymous said... We have more summer meltdowns than back to school ones. He is very happy to have an all day routine again, and so is Mom!
•    Anonymous said... We have only just started the school holidays - the supermarket setting up BACK TO SCHOOL shelves fill me (the parent) with dread... Let's enjoy the holidays!

Post your comment below…

Surviving the Summer with Kids on the Autism Spectrum: Tips for Parents

Keeping kids busy - and out of trouble - during the summer is a challenging task for any parent. But doing the same with children on the autism spectrum is even more difficult.

Parents need to consider the unique needs, capabilities and interests of their children with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) – all the while keeping them busy and pushing them towards their behavioral and social goals.

Here are some ideas on how to achieve this balance:

1. An afternoon movie at a theater: AMC Entertainment offers special movie showings for families with AS and HFA kids.  The lights stay on, the volume is kid-friendly, and they can get up, move around, and talk without being shushed by irritated movie-goers.  It’s like home, only with a bigger screen.

2. Day camp: If you live in a larger metropolitan area, there may be day camps and other structured activities designed especially for kids with AS and HFA. These camps provide kids with some of the same routines they are used to in the classroom while allowing them to participate in activities lie camping, swimming, arts and crafts. Check with your youngster's teacher, case manager, or physician for recommendations. Look for a day camp staffed by counselors that have had extensive training with AS and HFA kids. A counselor who has not been trained to work with such kids may inadvertently trigger a meltdown, and not know how to handle one in progress.

3. Don't relinquish basic family rules and routines: It's tempting to let children stay up later in summer, and a bit of that is OK. But remember that even a little sleep deprivation can lead to irritability and meltdowns at any time of year. Maintain basic bedtime habits, and stick to scheduled chores, as well as other established behaviors. A whole day of playing video games should remain taboo even during summer vacation.

4. Firehouse fun: Call the local fire department and ask if you can stop by with your youngster for a quick visit to see the fire trucks and meet the firemen. This is a great way to learn about fire safety and introduce your youngster to rescue workers. Firemen are good with kids, and will spend time talking to your youngster about what to do in an emergency. Also, take pictures of your visit and turn it into a social story.

5. Fun with mud: With the warmer weather, feel free to enjoy some “messy” activities outside that will help your youngster to integrate her senses. Spray an outside table with shaving cream and let her smear it around. Fill a bin with rice and dig your fingers in. Create a mud pit to roll around in. All you need afterwards is a hose! This type of “sensory-play” has many benefits for kids on the spectrum.

6. Get back to nature: Take a trip to a sandy beach. Go on a nature walk. Have a picnic lunch in a shady grove.  Collect pinecones, acorns, branches, and other natural artifacts. When you get home, prepare a social story or a nature craft with your youngster.  Give her some glue, strong cardboard and glitter, and show her how to make a leafy collage of her park souvenirs.  Or, supply funny eyes and pipe cleaners, and see who can make the creepiest pinecone monster.  

7. Go to a science museum: Science and natural history museums offer many fun activities for AS and HFA kids. Yearly memberships are often inexpensive, and allow you the freedom to visit whenever you like.  Also, you’ll receive notification of special events.  Ask your curator what the quietest hours are for the museum, and plan your visit accordingly.

8. Go to the library: Reading to your youngster is an essential tool for broadening his vocabulary.  Young people on the autism spectrum benefit greatly from story time, as it teaches them the words they need in order to better communicate.  Have an early dinner, and visit your library during the quiet evening hours.

9. Help your AS or HFA teenager find a job: A part-time job is a rewarding way for a teen to spend some of the summer. Few things work better in building a sense of maturity, independence, and personal competence. The structure a job affords is a plus for teens on the autism spectrum, and the extra spending money is an added bonus. While some AS and HFA teens are capable of finding a job for themselves, most need guidance and encouragement.  Start by defining work goals (e.g., earning money, learning a new skill). Discuss the right types of jobs based on your child’s skills, organizational ability, and attention capability. Then help him choose where to apply. It helps to work on interview skills, so role-play business owners and managers. Your encouragement and support may be just what your youngster needs to follow through on a job search.

10. Keep a calendar of events: Even during the relaxed summer months, AS and HFA kids need structure to feel secure and have a sense of what to expect. A simple calendar of events lets your youngster see what's coming. Fill in ahead of time a mix of major summer activities (e.g., a family vacation, trips to visit relatives) and casual recreational activities (e.g., weekend trip to the zoo). For younger boys and girls, you may want to prearrange and mark down playdates.

11. Keep the education process going: Education doesn’t have to stop just because school is out for the summer. Build time into your youngster's daily schedule to research, experiment, and investigate a topic that interests him. If he loves video games, challenge him to design one of his own. If he is fascinated by butterflies, summer is a great time to start an insect collection.

12. Make a tent: Pull out all your blankets and chairs and have the tent overtake your living room or backyard. Tent play can occupy your youngster for hours. It’s also be a great resource to soothe an autistic youngster, providing a hide-out or quiet place. Place a bean bag inside along with books and a flashlight.

13. Movie night at home: A home cinema experience is a great way to get your AS and HFA kids out of the sun for a couple of hours and allow some down time. Instead of just plopping down in front of the TV, make it a real production with homemade movie tickets, a big bucket of popcorn, and pillows and blankets in front of the flat screen. It will seem like a special event in your youngster’s day with these little extras.

14. Music: Music therapy is an essential part of special education classrooms.  All kids enjoy moving to background music.  Encourage your AS or HFA youngster to express himself through dance by leading him in musical games (e.g., Freeze Dance, Musical Chairs).

15. Record the summer’s events: Bring a camera on all your summer ventures, and end each week by assembling photo album pages to go into your “summer memory book.”  AS and HFA kids in particular will benefit from the visual reminder of all the fun things they did while on vacation.

16. Social-skills groups: As the pressures of the school year ease up during the summer, this can be a great time to get involved with other families of AS and HFA kids in your location. Join - or form - a social-skills group, which helps “special needs” kids practice specific social skills within the context of a play group, field trip, or activity. Many AS and HFA kids desperately want to have friends and participate in social activities, but lack the direct understanding of how to do so. A social-skills group, made up of other kids on the spectrum, is a safe place to learn and practice social skills without fear of rejection or ridicule.

17. Swim: All young people love the pool, and AS and HFA youngsters are no exception.  Visit your local city council for a list of recreational pools in your area, including swim lessons.  Take advantage of pool time to practice some aquatic therapies, which are great for kids on the spectrum.

18. Swinging: Swings are beneficial for physical, social and cognitive development – and they offer certain therapeutic benefits (e.g., promote movement and perceptual skills, spatial awareness, general fitness, social interaction, mental representation, sensory integration, vestibular development, and so on.). If your youngster has trouble with crowds, visit the park in the morning.

19. Take a train ride: Most kids love trains. Make a day of it and ride the train with your AS or HFA youngster. Choose departure times during non-commuting hours so you can get a seat next to a window and deal with fewer crowds. Bring along treats to keep your youngster engaged. If you don’t have commuter trains in your city, check out other public transportation options.

20. Use your local resources: Take advantage of the summer recreational and educational opportunities that most cities offer. Find a youth sports league, or sign up for day camp. Many local rec centers offer swimming, gymnastics, even computer classes. Encourage your artistic youngster to join a kid's theater group or sign up for community art or basket-making courses. Find out where and when summer festivals are scheduled.

21. Wash the car: Sometimes, what grown-ups consider as chores can be fun activities for AS and HFA children. Running a “car wash” may be at the top of the list.  You supply the buckets, suds, and cloths, and your son or daughter can get busy while you supervise in the shade.  Tell the neighbors, and invite them to participate.

22. Water fun: You can quickly create your own water park in the backyard for an afternoon of thrills. For a younger child whose tolerance is low for water play, consider sitting him on the lawn and using your finger and a hose to create a variety of sprays for him to experience. For more active kids, you can use a variety of “water rides” (e.g., small splash pool, garden sprinkler to run through, water table, beach ball sprinkler, etc.). If you water your lawn in the early morning or evening hours, send your children outside to play tag under the watery sprays.  If you’re feeling adventurous, fill up a few water balloons and show them how to play Hot Potato.

23. Lastly, take care of yourself:  Moms and dads needn't be constant entertainment directors in the summer. It may be more helpful to express confidence in your youngster's ability to be creative and inventive — and then let him. So go ahead and schedule some activities, then get out of the way and let your youngster do what comes naturally.

When a youngster is on the spectrum, you can make two safe predictions about summertime: He’s likely to get bored easily and often, and he's almost as likely to become demanding of your time, attention and patience. The way to manage summer's lack of structure is to strike the right balance between free time and planned time. Use the guidelines above to light your way.

Video-Modeling: The “Most Effective” Social-Skills Training Tool?

“Video-modeling” may be one of the most effective social-skills training tools used for kids with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA). This technique involves the child watching a video demonstration of a behavior, and then imitating the behavior of the model. Video-modeling may be used with the child’s parents, teachers, friends – or self as a model (called “self-modeling”). Self-modeling techniques have the added advantage of providing AS and HFA youngsters with a visual representation of their own success (i.e., they can view themselves successfully engaging in a behavior or activity). Self-modeling can be used to promote skill acquisition, boost skill performance, and decrease problem behaviors. It utilizes a powerful learning medium for kids on the spectrum (i.e., visually-cued instruction) with an effective, evidence-based intervention strategy.

Research demonstrates great promise for the use of video-modeling and self-modeling. In one study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of these two techniques involving 63 participants on the autism spectrum. Results suggest that video-modeling and self-modeling are effective interventions for addressing social-communication skills, behavioral functioning, and functional skills in kids and teenagers with AS and HFA. Specifically, these interventions promote skill acquisition – and the skills acquired are maintained over time and transferred across the individual and settings (i.e., they appear to be effective interventions for kids across the autism spectrum from early childhood to the teenage years). According to the study, video-modeling and self-modeling produced rapid increases in targeted skills with a median intervention length of 9 video viewings. Also, the median duration of the video clips shown to participants was only 3 minutes. 

Video-modeling can also be used with low-frequency behaviors (i.e., behaviors that rarely occur), or behaviors that were once mastered – but are no longer. In this case, the child is videotaped while engaging in a low-frequency behavior (e.g., playing with peers), and then shown the video to demonstrate how successful he or she was in engaging in appropriate social interaction. Researchers have used this version of video-modeling to increase “responding behaviors” in kids on the autism spectrum. The kids in the study watched videotapes of themselves answering questions while participating in play activities. Even though answering questions was a low-frequency behavior for these kids, the videos were edited (i.e., non-responses were edited-out) to depict the kids as fluent in their responses. The technique produced rapid increases in unprompted verbal responding. 

Video-modeling can also be used when AS and HFA children already possess the necessary skills in their behavioral repertoire, but are unable to put them together to complete an activity. For example, a youngster may have the ability to look at his Math assignment, find his Math book, work on the assigned Math problems, and turn his homework in to the teacher – but can’t perform these skills in the proper sequence. This form of video-modeling would involve videotaping the child engaging in each of these tasks, and then splicing the segments together to form the proper sequence. The same technique can be used with typical social interaction sequences. For example, the youngster could be videotaped demonstrating three different skills: starting a conversation, maintaining the conversation in a reciprocal manner, and appropriately terminating the conversation. The three scenes could then be blended together to demonstrate one successful, fluent social interaction.  

Lastly, video-modeling can also be used when AS and HFA kids need additional support to complete tasks successfully. The concept of “hidden supports” is an important factor here. For example, the youngster may be videotaped interacting with his friends while the parent provides assistance through cueing and prompting. The “parent prompt” is edited-out (i.e., hidden) so that when the youngster views the video segment, he sees himself as independent and successful. 

The science behind the effectiveness of video-modeling is strong. In numerous studies, it has been shown to be the most effective method for teaching social skills and target behaviors to kids on the autism spectrum, such as:
  • academic skills
  • communication skills
  • daily living skills
  • functional skills
  • perception of emotion
  • perspective taking
  • play skills
  • social initiations
  • social interaction behaviors
  • spontaneous requesting

Video-modeling can teach target behaviors very quickly compared to other methods, and the behavior is said to be "generalized," (i.e., the youngster is able to exhibit the behavior in real-life situations that are similar to the research scenario). At the same time, video-modeling has been proven to decrease certain problem behaviors (e.g., aggression, tantrums, and other off-task activities).

There are several key characteristics of kids with AS and HFA that favor the use of video-modeling over other social-skills training methods, for example:
  • ability to process visual information more readily than verbal information
  • avoidance of face-to-face interactions
  • over-selective attention, making them very prone to distraction
  • preference for visual stimuli and visually-cued instruction
  • restricted field of focus

Because they can be replayed over and over as needed without additional cost, videos have been in use as a social-skills training tool for decades. The same entertainment appeal that videos hold for “typical” kids  applies to AS and HFA kids as well – only much more so! Since kids on the autism spectrum respond more readily to visual cues, videos have a more powerful effect on them (i.e., are more motivating and provide more positive reinforcement).

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for July, 2013]

You have no idea how much I appreciate your emails - I am completely blessed by your good, honest, common sense approach to parenting teens.  Thanks a million!

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QUESTION: So the drama continues. I'm at a point where I want to throw in the towel. I'm not sure where else to go. My son is currently on probation for possession of xanax. I reported him to his school about it (back in Nov) and he just recently learned it was me that did it (his dad told him). He now tells me constantly that all the things related to that incident (ex. Treatment, costs, transportation) are all my fault, that I brought it on myself. His dad tells me that too. We are divorced and I take him to all group therapy sessions, counseling, court appearances. I also pay for everything as well. Dropping about $5000 so far this year. My son has a very negative attitude towards things when they don't go the way he wants. He is currently in summer school and sent me a nasty text this morning because the teacher moved him to the front of the class. He lives in a fantasy land thinking that when he gets older he is going to grow weed in California and he doesn't need school to do that. He tells me this on a regular basis. I do realize that he is almost 15 and boys don't seem to snap out of that la-la land mentality until later on. I guess what I'm trying to get at is that it hurts me to watch him destroy his life with this attitude he has. And I'm tired of busting my behind to make extra money to pay for all this "stuff" when he could care less. But if i said "forget it, I'm not spending $200 for summer school." Then it would be my butt on the line, not his. He has realized also that the required drug tests he takes don't test for shrooms or acid, so that is his drug of choice for now. He even failed his first drug test on probation and not a thing was done by the PO. I was floored by that. I realized then that this is all just a joke to my son. To sum it all up, I'm exhausted. Mentally and physically. I can't handle another appointment, fee etc. I don't know if there is any advice you can offer or if time is the only possible solution.

ANSWER re: “He even failed his first drug test on probation and not a thing was done by the PO. I was floored by that. I realized then that this is all just a joke to my son…”

I used to be a juvenile probation officer. I can tell you that the wheels of justice turn very slowly. It won't be a joke for much longer. Let your son continue to dig his grave. Let go. Let his PO handle it. He will get his consequences in due time.

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I have been married to a wonderful man since 1981.
There have been many situations over the last 31 years where my husband's behavior was inappropriate, embarrassing or just hurtful and I didn't understand it.
I even went to therapy to address my unhappiness at one point about 4 years ago.
I was angry that he was always watching TV in his free time, I was feeling invisible,and addressed my dissatisfaction about his addiction to TV watching, His reaction was my the trigger to going to therapy... he said...Get use to it because it isn't going to change...in a loud assertive voice..I felt so uncared for and rejected.
My therapy did not even touch on the reality that he may have a neurotypical brain...but I realized I didn't want to throw away my family or all we built together.
I have been wondering in the last year if he has aspergers and after reading some online articles and a book I do think my husband may be an extremely high functioning brillant person with some level of it. I am very sad that all these years I didn't know why he said or did the things he has and now he even said, sometimes I wonder if I have aspergers.
The question is now on the table. I told him I think he does, but that it is not a bad thing.
 I read a book the 22 things you should know if you have a partner with aspergers...almost every chapter had an example I have experienced or he has shown.
He has no ticks or cluminess. and he was extremely good looking as a young man, so no one would think he has an atypical brain, they just would be annoyed by his social behaviors and not picking up that they are bored of his conversation focus. He told me for the first time that the reason he took off his wedding band many years ago is that he couldnt stand the feeling of it on his hand.

My question is how important is it  for me to encourage him to get tested and will this help if he does have aspergers should he tell others or will this typically create depression in the person. He already went through Cancer at 33.This was pretty traumatic but his statement about his cancer experience was..it was just something he had to go through...

I am an extremely social and an emotionally in tune person so the reality  after all these years that I am living with a man that will never meet my needs or want to engage in the things I want to do socially or can never be understanding when I am not as smart as him has really hit me. I am angry that I didn't see this sooner, I personalized a lot of his behaviors or was angry because I thought he was being a jerk! Now I realize he just doesn't process the same as others. I do love this man and see all so much good.

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My son  is 7 years old, has been diagnosed with AS, whom attends a very small school of 24 students.
I have been working with his teacher to overcome my son's melt downs at school, A lot of it is very small melt downs, my problem is there has been so many different  Principle's In the last two terms, as you are so aware of Children diagnosed with AS, they don't like Change, My other issue is that given that we have very small numbers at the school this is a two teaching Teacher's school, all  kindergarten  to year 2 are together and years 3 to years 6 are together,  with separate Teachers, but in the afternoons they all go together.  My concern is that it gets a bit overwhelming for my young son and for the past term they have had different teachers, your advice would bee so helpfully. My issue is do I look at sending my son to a private school all keep him in this school and work a lot closer with the Teacher, I have spent the last 3 weeks working with the teacher and have now got all reports back from  Pediatrition, psychologist, waiting to see what funding comes through, Mind you, I have had all this in place and now I find out the school has another Acting  Principle starting this coming term?

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I have a 17 yr old. Im not sure if she has aspergers  or not . she has been diagnosed with bypolar and depression. but the more I read I wonder about the other. I need help bad!!!! Im so drained emotionally with her!! she has no compassion or empathy nothing at all. @ times I feel I could be gone and she would never even care. she has never had friends and when she meets someone new she has always used the term  " best friends" and im like she doesnt even know this person. she is very non-social Isolates herself in her bedroom away from everyone. she is social disabled . she thinks only of herself and doesnt think about anyone else. when I hug her its like hugging a stuffed animal. she Isolates herself into the computer or in her room. she has a hard time connecting with anyone. she just wonders off and sits by herself.she also has poor hygiene and I have to nag her about it.she is also very immaturand & nieve for her age and some times will play and get along with younger kids.  My heart breaks for her. but, I don't know what to do either. I have shed more tears over my daughter and all I can ask is how did this happen ? what did I do  to cause this?.she desires to be loved and have friends & have a boyfriend but, just cant seem to do it. she also has talked about that lonely feeling and says its the worst feeling in the world.  shes also been known to cut on herself and when she was 15 she tried to take her life. I don't trust her and wont leave her alone cause I feel she would do it again. shes on wellbutrin and lemecto and was on abilify. that was making her gain weight so she wanted to stop taking it but now I think shes worse not being on it so idk. I have read the symptoms of apergers  she fits all the social symptoms and traits but not the other traits. do you think we could be missing this diagnose with her?

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Hi our 9 year old son has AS and he has just recently told us he feels alone. He has not cared so much for having friends up till now. He now has a desire to make friends or likes the idea of having a buddy. He also does not remember other children. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Dear Mark, 

I don't know where to start with this email. My husband and I are at the end of our ability to know what to do to survive or to help our son. Our son is twenty-four years old and we have lived almost all of those years just making sure that he could make it through a day. He was diagnosed when very small with ADHD, and we were able to get him through school with his degree. I won't even attempt to tell you what that entailed as we live every day just wanting to make sure that he can live and won't hurt anyone else or end up in prison. Please trust me that I am not over stating any of this. 

My husband and I are not in good health anymore. I am sixty-one and in a wheel chair and my husband is seventy-six and not getting around very well either. We just went through a terrible ordeal with Jonathan with the law and keeping him out of prison. He cannot hold down a job. He is married and his wife lives with us too. We have told them we would try to help as long as there are no drugs, alcohol or violence involved. 

My son has such a distorted view of his childhood with me that I truly believe he hates me and I am unable to do anything for him. He basically treats anyone that is in authority the same way, with no respect. We have just about depleted our resources and with Jonathan and Elizabeth not having any insurance we do not know what to do from here or which way to turn. Do you have any suggestions, because we are desperate. 

Note: When Jonathan was small he had as many symptoms of autism and  tourette's syndrome as he did with ADHD. One on one he can make things seem so normal but only those close would know the truth. My husband and I are worried that when we are gone Jonathan will end up on the street or worse. We would appreciate any help or direction you have to give us. 

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I have a sixteen year old boy who was previously diagnosed with ADHD, expressive language disorder. Now they say it is Aspergers and after reading the information on it, I must admit that even he agrees. My issue is that his father and I have been divorced since our boy was 3 but his father has never accepted our son as he has always been different. He does not like physical activities and prefers to play video games than interact with people in the real world. He is close to me and his 9 year old sister but has serious issues with his father and as such doesn't trust other men to accept him either. I am h aving trouble trying to get him to "act his age" and balance his emotional age. He is my world and there is nothing I wouldn't do for him. Do you have any guidance that may lead me in the right path for the few years I have left with him at home to teach him all I can? Thank you for your time and assistance.

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Hi Mark,
I am writing from Australia in hope you can provide some support for our family who is at present at a huge crossroads.  Our son is now 19 and has a diagnosis of OCD ADHD and Aspergers.  He is incredibly manipulative  and has become quite a rude individual.  I look at other kids with aspergers and although they have the rigidity they are nice kids!

Although he is 20 he is like a 14 year old.  He has only space for one obsession at a time.  We had star wars, trains, bird watching, bike riding and war gaming (making, painting and playing with tiny figures)  We have employed him in our business and is being trained as a dental technician.  He can do things when he wants but it is the want to do that is the hard bit.

The OCD has calmed a little since its peak last year when he was wearing no clothes because they were all contaminated with soap.  He won't go into the laundry because soap or use the kitchen tap or go near the sink .  So therefore he does not wash his own clothes or dishes.  He struggles with even us putting his clothes in a washing basket because that basket has been in the laundry.

Because we employ him, he is rude to us at work but luckily we have a lab tech who is training him.  He does take any criticism from us and yells over the top of us.

He has stopped taking his antipsychotic and anti depressant medication about 6 weeks ago.  Now he is still on quick release ritalin but wanting natural calm tablets because he has read of an issue with the coming off ritalin causing heightened anxiety.  He is adamant that he will not go back on these because they make him fat and not want to ride.

Since going off them he has lost a little weight and now is in to riding  not war hammer.  He is spending all his waking time in his darkened room surrounded by filth on his computer.  He also has a huge obsession with porn.  His computer broke and he needed his study material off it so I gave it to a tech who was gobsmacked by the amount of porn on his hard drive in a mere 4 months.  This to me is a real concern.  When I asked him about not taking them (flushing them down the toilet) he told me that he had had the decision and that I was always trying to shove medication down his throat and control him and what was I being paid?  He screamed at me for 30 minutes or more about me abusing him with medication.  I had no energy to fight back as I was spending my time at the hospital nursing my dying father who died later that week.  Dominic showed no emotion, care or concern for me (very understandable for aspie)

He goes through our personal stuff to find food… chocolates etc.  We can't buy food in advance as he binge eats. He has a very limited diet but want
s to have frozen diet food delivered (he is just full of contradictions).  He will never apology for this and I think he knows it is wrong on one hand but on the other he thinks it is his right to have anything he wants.

This morning  it took me 40 mins to get him up for his breakfast and this made him 40 minutes late.  When I told him we needed respect he told me to go get cancer.  I am tired of him not doing anything towards the family.  He demands, he screams over the top of us and believes it is our job to give him what he wants and support him.  We are now totally exhausted.  My husband is very patient with him but we are now totally over it all.

We used your behaviour management plan when he was 14 isn and it worked well.  We have always tried to be consistent with him but he is now totally out of control. He has no friends… he did have one earlier this year but it is always one sided.  Luckily he is not into alcohol nor drugs and doesn't drive.

Do you do one on one coaching?  We have tried a local psychologist who has been useless and his psychiatrist is along way away and is only really interested in talking medication.

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Hello, I have an adult son who was recently diagnosed with Aspergers.  It is The Ranch's (Located in TN) thought that he has had this condition since he was small and was misdiagnosed his whole life.  This lead to drug addiction and bipolar.  He is currently taking Saphris and is living in a sober living group.  I live in Alaska, he is in TN.  Josh will be 26 in December and not able to continue to be on my insurance. 
My questions are:  Are they any colleges; schools, programs that can help Josh with a career path?  He has a high interest in computers.
The Ranch recommended Transitional Living in PA; however, Josh has bounced around most of his adult life.  He has managed to stay just out of harms way with the law; but this last go around was a little too close for me. 

The medicine is super and he is happy.  He has been out of the Ranch for 30 days and is starting to get restless.  I am concerned that if he enrolls in school without help that he won't be able to handle the disappointment. 
I read many of the parent comments and I totally feel this has been Josh's condition his entire life.  
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Your section within the Aspergers Handbook on this is extremely helpful.
I am however in the UK courts at present over this.
My son has been removed from me because the court and professionals do not believe Max's own words that:
'I am nothing to do with his relationship problems with his father'.  They are accusing me of parental alienation that I have never done...
I empathise totally with their respective plight and coping mechanisms and merely sought 'support for them'.
As the uk are so prejudice against all Aspergers matters  - Could you recommend any UK medical reports that support your well documented and explained evidence...
We have had my son in the burns unit, a near drowning,  walked off and left on the beach,
and currently the father has a chronic illness on top and his meltdowns are even worse than usual..
Our son was deaf for 2 years and only recently could I prove he isn't Aspergers..
but he is still wanting to never see his father again and sell all his stuff on e-bay from his dads when he gets home...
These are big issues...
Any help please   -  A kiddy with his own speech and language issues - a lot of which I feel are to do with his father rejecting him for initially presenting as he did himself..  It appears to me with intimate knowledge of them both that:
a)  The father is jealous of Max (his jealousy is on a par with his anger)
b)  For all the things he dislikes in himself he hates in Max  -  but his mild autism presentation is known to be deafness caused as he has theory of mind, empathy and understanding of people..
Max just doesn't get and cant cope with his dad.

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 Good afternoon. I would love some suggestions for my best girlfriend to help her with her asperger teenage son. My friend is very loving and nurturing. However, it seems she is reluctant to encourage her son to be independent. He is physically aggressive in his meltdowns. She tries to create an environment that will not trigger his frustrations.
We live in western NC. There seems to be little assistance available for asperger issues here. Her son has been asked to leave schools because of his meltdowns. She currently has no school options for him. I would love to see her allow him to attend a therapeutic boarding school. However, his OCD issues are a problem with rooming with others.
Thank you for any suggestions I can pass along with her. She is a single parent at the end of her rope.

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I have a 36 year old asperger son who is living independently on government pension.  He was just diagnosed in October.   Throughout his life there have been several false starts and failed attempts leaving him now with a complete loss of confidence and depression as he feels there is no hope for any normalcy in his future. Before the diagnosis he held hope that finding the right medication would correct everything.     He is also a recovering addict from prescription drugs, drug free for last 8 years, except for the odd marijuana cigarette.   Now that he has the diagnosis he feels hopeless and I believe has given up.  

He is opposed to seeing any health professional (doctors and pschy, social workers etc.) but when he does, he chooses to fake good health when he sees them.   Seems to enjoy the approval/smiles etc that he gets from them.    I don’t quite understand this, but it is what he does.    In reality, he has some definite health concerns which he tells only me about adding to my burden.

He cannot manage his finances, constantly losing his money, bank card, or wallet; and spends without any thought or planning for necessities.   Depression and anxiety are a huge problems and most disabling.  Both have been medically diagnosed.  Has contact with only a small peer group (most known since childhood and mostly drug addicts) but desperately would like to be  able to socialize and expand this group, but simply cannot find the strength or skill to do so.    He also has a sleep disorder which interferes with his life; semi-sleeping most days about 20 hours, and then at other times unable to sleep for 3-4 days.

He was recently  accepted into a program designed especially for Adults with Asperger around achieving customised specific goals.  I initiated the contact and attended the initial assessment with him, but its up to him to decide if he wants to take advantage and so far he is not showing even the slightest interest.

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Mark: I found your web site when I was seeking answeres for my son and his wife and our grandson who has aspergers. I am impressed witht the information and will on my husband agreement download the e-book. My son is sceptical about anything that is not conventional therapy for Ethan but insanity is when you keep doing the same thing over and over and it doesn't work. Our hearts break as we watch this family disintigrate before our eyes. Ethan is on medication and has some therapy but I would just love for them to have the resources they need that actually work. I am going to try hard : ) to talk my son into reading your material. Ethans melt downs are getting out of control as he gets older and stronger. It is painful to see an very intelligent child robbed of his gift and childhood by a disorder than can be overcome and not define him. But his parents need help. I hope my son will at least take a look at it.

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QUESTION:

Hello Mark,

I'm a new client, but have purchased your books and listened to your audiocasts.

Our 16-year-old is at an acting improv camp -- his first day -- and "got sick" immediately and wants to come home. I am ignoring his repeated calls but wondering if that's the right tactic. 

Will is a strong-willed kid who fits so many of your descriptions of hard asperger's teens, and we've struggled to get him to do much this summer beyond be with his friends. (Because he knows asperger's kids struggle to make friends..his current obsession is to have many, many friends and be with them as much as possible.)

He's a good actor and witty and did fabulously in improv in high school, but I pretty much begged him to go to this camp -- It's just five days in the afternoon. But he doesn't know anyone, and I know it must be hard, and I probably should have prepared him better.

It's over at 5 so I think I can hang on until that time now, but I may well struggle to get him there tomorrow. Any advice? It cost $200 with no refunds.

Ugh.

Thank you for all you do,

Kathleen


ANSWER:

RE: Any advice? Yes ...definitely. Keep on him about attending. Will he learn much about improvisational acting? Probably not given his level of anxiety.

BUT - he WILL be developing some much needed emotional muscles for future use. In the meantime, ask him if he can come up with an improv about "nervous" people going to improv camp (how funny is that!). It might ease his nerves !!!

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 I receive your daily newsletter and find it to be so helpful.  I really appreciate your articles.  My 6 year old son struggles in many areas you talk about.  He has a school age diagnosis of emotional disturbance and takes medication for impulse aggression because his tantrums are so out of the blue and violent.  I was wondering if you have articles and tips that maybe I’ve missed regarding fits of “self-hate”.  When my son gets frustrated during a non preferred activity he turns to self hate for 30 minutes or more of out loud statements like “nobody likes me”, “I have no friends”, “I’m stupid”, “I can’t do anything”, “I’m a bad kid”, “I’m a loser”, etc. etc.  He will go on and on.  The truth is he has a lot of friends, he is smart, he is a natural athlete and he has love all around him.  None of his statements are true nor should he see himself in this way.  I need to find a way to get rid of this self destructive behavior.  It gets in the way of him accomplishing simple tasks like a homework page that I know he can do, or a simple chore like picking up his stuffed animals or returning books to a shelf.  Those tasks should take 5 minutes but after 30 or more minutes of self hate fits each item takes 45 minutes.  I appreciate your suggestions.

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My son was assessed in December by a psychologist through our private insurance. We decided not to wait for the school psychologist because we were told it could take up to a year to see her. He attended 4 one on one sessions and we filled out 2 questionnaires, and spoke with her about the issues we had been having with our son since he was a toddler (he is now 7) At the end of the process we were told that he is dyslexic, has attention deficiencies  and is highly sensitive. We were told to send him to a tutor for the dyslexia, he is learning to self regulate the attention deficiencies so that was not of great concern and to buy the book " the highly sensitive child" and we'd be fine.

In April/May the school psychologist was able to assess him. She observed him in class as well as during recess and asked us to fill out different questionnaires than we had previously filled out (The two previous ones were helpful in assessing ADD/ADHD- the one we filled out for the school was for Aspergers) and talked to me at length about his issues. At the end of that process the school psychologist told us she felt our son was on the high functioning end of the spectrum. She was unable to formally diagnose him as it is against school policy and we are now waiting to see a pediatrician- which here in Canada could take upwards of 6-8 months.

My question is what is/are the major difference(s) between Highly Sensitive Children and High Functioning Autism spectrum disorder? I am feeling more confused/lost now than before we started the whole process.

I have found your website/FB page to be very helpful and informative. I am grateful that I found it.
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 Hello Mr. Hutten!

My name is Beverly and I have two sons that are both Autstic. Kyle, my oldest, has a more severe form of it. In fact, when he was younger the chief psychologist at Rileys Children's Hospital said that his autism was so bad that he probably wouldnt have more than 50 words of speech or be able to dress or feed himself. Well, here we are now and he is 13 years old and taller than me. He has done amazing things and we all have had to work very hard to be here at this point. However, 13 years is a long time to deal with the constant stress of someone like Kyle.

Kyle is on a variety of medication to control both his autistic tendencies, anxiety, and severe ADHD. We have opted to go the least-effective-dose route and it has worked so far. What I am writing to you about is his sleeping. It has always been an issue and has only escalated recently. Either it has escalated or its effects on me have taken their toll.

Several years ago Kyle would repeatedly wake up in the middle of the night throwing up half way across the room. We learned through trial and error what and how much to let him eat before he fell asleep. Unfortunately we were not able to save the carpet in his room and had to pull it up. After awhile Resolve carpet cleaner can rub holes in any type of carpet.

I said all that to tell you he is still waking up every other night. When this happens he is in full panic mode and his stomach hurts. It has gotten to the point that I hate going upstairs to my room because of the fear of him waking up, thus waking me up next. He gets right in my face and acts like he is about to die. My husband works 3rd shift which works for the entire family so that we can spend time with him after work and school. However, it leaves me dealing with Kyle in the dark.

This happened this morning and that is why I am emailing you. I realize that when a person is woken up while they are in a deep sleep it can raise the cortisone levels and ultimately damage their heart and nervous system. You can only imagine the mix of frustration and tiredness that I deal with. Constantly.

This morning he came in my room no less than 4-5 times before I had to threaten him to stay put. Both boys have clocks in their rooms and know that they are to stay there until their clocks say 6:30. On another lovely note, no matter how late Kyle gets to sleep he wakes up super early, everyday, 365 days a year. He has slept in a total of 5 times in his entirely life and it was only 15-20 minutes of "oversleeping".

I need help. Plain and simple. I cant do this anymore and I'm tired of being tired. He is taking an anti-anxiety medication that seems to take his edge off. But there is still a type of stress anytime he is around, its almost like you could physically feel it.

I'm not sure what else to do. Part of the frustration I deal with is that Im trying to deal with him, all the while being quite enough so that we don't wake up Jonathan who's room is across the hall from me. Is this normal/common among Autistics? I really don't know what neuro-typical is.

I don't want you to think that this is a minor thing that we occasionally think is a bad thing. We have worked very hard with both boys and have seen amazing progressions in them mentally and emotionally. Its just that when he wakes up hungry/sick/out of it I seem to be the one who pays the price for it. And as we all know parents of special needs kids need to live forever. Thank you for any help you can give.

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 Hi Mark,

I've been watching your videos on YouTube since January, when, after watching every episode of Parenthood I could watch, I realized that my husband might be on the autism spectrum.  With two first cousins who have been diagnosed, and a mother and uncle who have always exhibited "strange" behaviors......it isn't far fetched, though it is hard to believe.

We have 4 children, 3 are adopted (all have high emotional needs).  I have ADD, diagnosed a few years ago.  My mother-in-law was just re-located close to us....she has full blown Alzheimer's.  Our newest adopted child is deaf....he came home a year ago.  We adopted a14 year old from a troubled situation....she has neurological issues, undiagnosed.  You get the picture.

I know that in the grand scheme, and compared to many....my life is "easy" and it is...truly.  I am blessed beyond belief.  My children are wonderful, and my husband is also an amazing, loving, incredible partner and individual.  He and I have been "working" on our relationship for years.  It is hard to write this because he is so "normal" in so many ways...yet, there are a few areas in which he is not, really...it's so subtle, but as the stress in our life rises, and my ability to keep all the "balls" in the air diminishes, it is becoming more and more evident that something is not "typical", nor has it ever been.

I've read everything I can about Asperger's syndrome on your website.  I still haven't downloaded the book.  We are trying to find a therapist with knowledge of spectrum disorders for him to see and receive a diagnosis from but haven't found one yet.  If you have any referrals in the Denver area, we would appreciate it.

I'm writing I guess, because I don't know who to turn to.  I don't want to tell my friends for fear that they will label him and look at us and him differently.  I have a therapist whom I have tried to talk with about it, actually two....but I don't think they truly understand this disorder, nor do they understand what I am going through as a spouse, so that has proven frustrating.

I have so many needs in my life right now....so many who need me.  I am so afraid that I am not  going to be able to do it....especially if I have to "parent" my hubby too, for the rest of our lives.  This thought has me in bed today.  I feel depressed, which is not typical, at all, for me.

If you are available to coach me...that would be great.  Let me know when and I will call.  (I am also a Life Coach.)  Thank you for reading my email.

Blessings on your work.  It is so important.

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Hello! I was trying to find someone that I could get professional advice from without having to pay an arm and a leg or make appointments with. I hope you are my answer. My boyfriend of 4 years and the father of our 2 yr old son just recently found out that his daughter, who just turned 8 years old was diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger's. She is not his real daughter, although she knows him as "daddy" and has raised her since birth. Her mother and I do not talk and my boyfriend cannot get much information out of her on the subject. I need to know ways or tools that I can use to help this young girl. The situation is very frustrating for me and now, I realize I'm sure it is even harder for her. It makes me sad that she is struggling and we want to help her and make things as easy as possible. A few of her symptoms include...
-meltdowns
-high anxiety
-constant hand washing
-rudeness
-continuing to talk or ask questions even after we have answered her
-having a hard time smiling when asked to for pictures, or showing emotion in general.
I knew there was something different about her when I met her. I am not her mother or father, so I wasn't sure of past history or things she has been through. I blew it off as a dramatic, immature, rude, attention seeking girl. I now know other wise and just want to make life easier for all of us.

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Finn is actually a fairly clever guy (IQ 135) and tall for his age so I think a lot of the problem is that people expect a lot of him, he has no communication problems as such, in fact I am British and my hubby in German, so he goes to a bilingual school here in Berlin. He does struggle though to communicate effectively in a social setting, it is very difficult for him to make friends and doesn't have a best friend which saddens me but we move around a lot (Military) so perhaps this is as much a self protection strategy as it is a coping strategy, perhaps we can work that out together.

The behavioural problems are predominantly at school and in places where there are a lot of people, a lot going on, a higher level of noise and not a lot of peace or space. He doesn't really have meltdowns anymore but he is stubborn and refuses to do things (not at home, but at school for sure). The very same thing can often be done at home in no time if he feels like it.

School makes the impression of trying to help but I am not convinced they really care. They have already written him off as probably being an academic failure despite the teaching staff all acknowledging the fact that this is not a cognitive problem.

He doesn't really have a 'fascination' but he does read a lot and the more stressed he is the more he reads. If we go to a new hairdresser he will need to read all of the posters before he sits down, he tends to get up and start reading whatever is on the wall if he is bored or stressed. Sometimes he needs time out (not the naughty type) to recharge, often 5-15 minutes is all he needs.

My husband and father of Finn is in the army, we are married and living together in what I would say is a loving but up and down relationship, the way that relationships are but since we found out that our son has Aspergers, he was diagnosed about 5 months ago, things are a lot calmer between us and I hope that we are becoming better and more understanding parents.

More soon I guess as our coaching continues, I have had a business coach before but never one for Finn, so I am looking forward to finding ways to help Finn and the school that may help us at home too, anything that helps those would help us too by taking the pressure off us a little

I prefer not to tell my husband that I am working with you immediately, he tends to be quite reluctant to seek help but is happy for me to do so, I would recommend we work together, see some progress and then I am happy of course to explain where I am getting the tips from. I hope that you understand, it could be of course that my husband has similar traits that he is not ready to think about too much just yet.

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I wanted to email someone who knows more than I do about Aspergers, I often wonder if my son leans more to having Aspergers, rather than his current diagnosis of ADHD combined type w/ ODD, and a mood disorder..... He sees and talks to "Dream Mares" at night time, as he calls them..... if he hasn't taken his risperidone at night and has difficulties falling and staying asleep. Is it possible for a child to have a form of Autism/Aspergers and still socialize with others? He does try to talk to other peers, but doesn't make friends well, he doesn't understand how to play with others so they tend to leave him out which usually results in him having a huge emotional breakdown, and makes the other children not want to play with him more. He's deathly afraid of water anywhere above his chest area, which his psychologist said sounded like a sensory issue, he also has the ticks so to speak where he pats the back of his head, or claps his hands at random times, and sometimes has trouble getting his words out and gets very frustrated and has outburts at times.... I know Im not a doctor by any means, but I've done my own research and feel theres more going on than what his dr has diagnosed him with... He will be 5 years old Nov 20th and starts headstart this year and is NOT potty trained, he was in a special ed class at the same school he's starting headstart in and all 4 other children had different disabilities and they were the first and really only real friends he's made, "normal" children so to speak are a different story, i've asked the school and psychologist to have him tested for Aspergers but they all refuse because he does socialize with some children and adults, but at the same time he rarely ever looks anyone in the eyes, including me, his own mother...... Any suggestions, comments, tips, would be greatly appreciated, and thanks for taking the time to read my message and answering anything if and when you can!

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Hello Mr. Hutten.  I have started a blog called TweenEverything and would like to know if I could use you as a reference on certain topics.  What are your boundaries regarding this type of thing? I believe in what you are doing and my clear intentions would be to draw people to you, your newsletter, books etc.  I do not have specialized training in this field, but because I feel there is such a great need in this age group, I feel that those professionals who have gone through the schooling and training deserve to be more recognized for their efforts. 

I have started this blog/website for parents because there is not a great website, in general, where parents can go to get information about this particular age group.  This tween-young teen age I refer to is from age 10-14.  Mostly the middleschool age.  I’ve become passionate about this age group of tweens & young tweens.  Mostly because I have one myself, age 11, and I am the Aunt to 4 others.  In this age group there are young tweens and older tweens depending on their age, maturity and various other characteristics.  I believe that these years in her life are going to be key to her development.  With that being said, in my efforts  to understand and learn about the tweens in my life, I have yet to find one landing spot, or educational and informational site, that I could look up to help me through this difficult, yet exciting journey.  So it is my goal for this website to be an informational website for Parents about this age group and to help them during this awkward time in their life.  I hope for it to be a resource for parents who don’t know how or aren’t able to talk to their kids about real important issues.  As parents, we need to help our “tweens” understand the “who, what, when, why and how” of this very difficult and confusing time in their life.  I feel strongly that we need to start at a younger age to equip this generation with the “know how” before they get to the teen years or specifically high school. 

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I suspect that my husband is an Aspie. At the moment, he has moved out from our home and both of us are comtemplating divorce.
My husband  has not had a formal diagnosis done to confirm it, but from what I have read (symptoms of an Aspie), most of the traits show that he may fall under that category.
 I would very much like to save our marriage , now that I realise he may not mean to behave in the way that he did as I truly believe my husband is not aware of his condition and is just out there crying out  for someone to help him make sense of his world.
Furthermore, we have a son , who is now 3 years old, and I would like to equip myself with the knowledge of understanding/living with an Aspie.
We are both from different background ( me being Asian, while  my husband is  German) and it adds on to the the challenge of understanding each other. We are also 5 years apart in term of age gap ( me being older by 5 years) and that we have children together from my previous marriage.
I began to notice his 'coldness' after our son was born and having to communicate with him seemed impossible as he does get defensive and at times lie to cover for his weaknesses ( I suppose).

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Dear Mark,
I have enjoyed many of your videos and articles on Aspergers Syndrome, due to chance that I have Aspergers Syndrome. I have two sons, which have been diagnosed with infantile autism, so our psychologist a the childrens psychiatric clinic noticed some traits, which relate to Aspergers Syndrome. It is not so nice to know that I might have Aspergers. I have also enjoyed the video on the Loner subtype. I am most likely to be a loner, and I found the video very helpful, although I am in doubt whether the type is fixed, or they are in a process? The Actor might always know, he is acting, but the "Outcast" might has given up acting or has been caught acting. Finally the "Loner" may have given up altogether and has simply given up on eveything and everybody.

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Hello.  We have a male resident in our long-term care home (age 85) who presents with possible undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome.  In collecting some information from his sons, and his current disposition, it is a consideration.  I can find very little literature on diagnosing  and treating/ caring for an elder adult with this diagnosis.  I am familiar with Asperger’s as I have a 12-year old nephew diagnosed with same.  The care team would like to better provide support and meaning to this older man’s life but struggle to connect with him.   We are fairly certain that we are not dealing with a dementia-type disposition such as Alzheimer’s. Can you direct me to pertinent literature addressing Asperger’s in elders/older adults?

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Hello, I am a virtual guidance counselor that works with students within a k-12 life skills program.  I came across your ebook today and wondered if I could put the social skill stories into a power point to present during my guidance sessions on my online classroom?  My students range from high functioning autism to those with aspergers and I think that the social skill stories would be a great addition to my guidance lessons on social skills and character education. Please let me know if permission to share those stories via online with my students is allowed.  I have not yet purchased the book. Thanks J.

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It was grace of God that I found your website Mark!  I have ordered your book and I am anxious to devour it!

My husband and I have a 21 year old who is learning to deal with his AS. We discovered it his freshman year of college so it is only 4-5 months of knowledge.  We are at a loss right now trying to get him to find ownership in anything!  We accept his AS and embrace that that is the reason he failed out of college...we accept his need for down time to "detox" from the day and we embrace the need to meet him as an AS rather than neuro typical.... ( much like wizards and Muggles from Harry Potter!)  but here is where we are stuck. 

this weekend we found out he had quit his job back in march and has been pretending to go to work just to appease us.  He lied to us in a way he has not ever done.  We only found out after he had wrecked his truck and shredded his rear tire!  We suspect he was trying not to be a problem to us as we were (and still are) dealing with his younger brothers substance abuse.  the two were not super close but i am wondering if he is effected in some way.   Regardless, Erich, our 21 year old is the new worry!  He has no drive for anything and no interest in any one area other than video games ( hand held or otherwise)  He is taking classes for college but even with that has NO motivation for advancement and it feels like he is only doing it to please us.  We are okay and embrace the possibility of only a two year trade school, only he has no clue what to do!  I just need it to be his choice in order to get his passion applied to success.  He is simply floundering.  

When he failed out and came home we had him pay rent etc to be in our house. It was before we knew he is AS sand when we found out - we slacked off the requirements.  He made a whole year of payments and worked two jobs to make it happen.  Now he seems to be lost again.

Help!  We are open to any ideas!  We just found FOPI is stafford, TX thru Focus Initiative.  We are willing to do anything but I just can't help but think there has got to be something that we are missing....simple and straight forward?  I am a first grade teacher and work with little guys all day long but can't help my own son....and we are growing frustrated but refuse to give up!! 
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Reached your site when I was looking for help with my Aspie teen who is 17. In the past two years, he has gone from working hard to completely giving up on life, work and happiness. He say "I hate work, and I would rather kill others and kill myself than work" and has tried to hurt me physically. He is in between meds, having tried Prozac (worked somewhat at first, but numbed him after a few years, and Risperidone (blurred vision). His rage episodes have gone from once in a few months to daily.

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We have a 28 year old well, over 6 foot tall and well built.  He becomes very passionate with a range of topics, today's being the purity of the white race.  His conversations are very heavy and exhausting and even harder when the subject is at the extreme, but if we do not listen or agree it seems to be enough to put him into melt down and he will at times become abusive and violent.

We are getting older and now fear for our safety, as at these times, as you know, he is out of control.  We are afraid for us, and him, for the day he loses control and permanently harms us.  If this occurs, it could mean the end of one of our lives as well as the end of his.
 
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Social Skills Training for Kids on the Autism Spectrum: Behavioral Rehearsal

Behavioral rehearsal is used primarily to teach basic social skills to children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) in a way that allows for the “creative practice” of such skills. This technique involves acting-out situations and activities in a structured environment in order to repeat newly acquired skills (or previously learned skills) that the youngster is having difficulties performing.

Behavioral rehearsal can be either scripted or spontaneous. In the spontaneous approach, the youngster is provided with a scenario (e.g., asking a peer to play with him), but not with the specific script. Usually, it’s best to combine scripted and unscripted elements to each rehearsal (e.g., the youngster might be provided with an opening statement or question, but the rest of the interaction would be spontaneous). 

Behavioral rehearsal can be used to teach a variety of social skills, particularly those involving initiating, responding, and terminating interactions. For example, the youngster may be required to initiate a conversation with peers who are engaged in a separate task, thus he would have to ask to join in, or ask his peers to join him in an activity. The latter typically proves to be most difficult for kids with AS and HFA. 

During the first few rehearsals, it is not uncommon for the AS or HFA youngster to get “stuck” in conversations or interactions without knowing what to say or how to proceed. During the early sessions, the youngster should be given ample time to process and respond to the different scenarios. As the sessions progress, speed and proficiency should steadily increase. 

Examples of practice scenarios used in behavioral rehearsal:

1. Active Listening: Active listeners show speakers that they are paying attention. They do this through body language (e.g., offering appropriate eye contact, orienting the body in the direction of the speaker, remaining quiet, etc.) and verbal feedback (e.g., restating, in their own words, what the speaker is trying to communicate). One technique for teaching active listening to AS and HFA kids can go like this: Assign children to one of three roles (e.g., a speaker, a listener, and an observer). The speaker is instructed to talk for a few minutes about something important to her. The listener attends quietly, providing cues to the speaker that he is paying attention. When the speaker is finished talking, the listener also repeats back, in his own words, the speaker’s points. The observer’s job is to evaluate the speaker and listener (e.g., Did the speaker stay on topic? How did the listener indicate that he was paying attention?). After the observer shares the observations with the others, the players switch roles and try again.

2. Bullying: Bullying is popular theme in AS and HFA kids' rehearsal activities. One youngster can assume the role of a bully and pretend to hit or shove one of his peers. The bully will taunt the victim to fight back, at which point the victim should walk away, call for help, alert the nearest teacher, or some combination thereof.

3. Charades: Children engage in a variety of social skills activities during a game of charades. A player draws a slip of paper from a box and silently reads the word written on it. Then she tries to convey this word to her peers through pantomime. What gestures are most likely to communicate the important information? After each round, encourage the children to engage in analysis (e.g., Which gestures worked? Which ones didn’t? Why?).

4. Cooperative Group Construction Projects: Rehearsing group construction projects (e.g., collaboratively building a house using Legos) force an AS or HFA child to pay attention to his peers’ efforts, to communicate, to negotiate, and to cooperate. In one study of children with AS and HFA, students attended a one hour session of group construction play once a week for 18 weeks. Compared with students given special training in the social use of language, the students in the construction group showed greater improvement in their social interactions. Other research indicates that the benefits of these experiences last for years.

5. Saying “No” to Drugs: AS and HFA kids can learn about saying no to drugs through rehearsal exercises. When performing this type of exercise, one youngster takes on the role of a drug dealer who offers to give or sell drugs to one of his peers. When the peer refuses, the drug dealer will taunt her, calling her scared and chicken. But the taunts should have no effect on the peer, who will deliver a final firm "NO" and exit the scene.

6. Following the Leader: Standing in line and following a leader is another important skill for AS and HFA children. Have the children line up behind a leader and follow her through an obstacle course. All the children must stay in line and take turns as they pass through each section of the course.

7. Good Sportsmanship: Team sports can make very effective social skills activities for AS and HFA kids. Before a game, talk to the children about the goals of good sportsmanship (e.g., showing respect to other players and to the referee, showing encouragement and offering help to other players who may be less skilled, resolving conflicts without running to the teacher, being a good winner by not bragging and taunting the losers and by providing supportive feedback to the losers, being a good loser by congratulating the winner and not blaming others for the loss, and so on). During the game, give children the chance to put these principles into action “before” you intervene in conflicts. If they don’t sort things out themselves after a few minutes, you can jump in. And when the game is over, give the children feedback on their good sportsmanship.

8. Gossiping: Behavioral rehearsal can help deter AS and HFA kids from speaking ill of their peers. In this rehearsal, one youngster pretends to spread vicious rumors about a classmate to one of his friends. After running out of gossip, he will ask his friend if he has dirt on any of his classmates. The friend will insist that he doesn't and, when pressed, will declare that it is harmful to talk about others behind their backs and that he doesn't want to be part of it.

9. Make Me Laugh: Learning self-control is a crucial skill for AS and HFA kids. Here’s a classic game that encourages these children to practice self-control: The children freeze like statues, then one youngster (who is “it”) must try to get them to break character and laugh. The first one to laugh becomes “it” for the next round.

10. The Name Game: AS and HFA kids need to learn the importance of getting someone’s attention “before” they speak. For this rehearsal, have children sit in a circle and give one child a ball. Then ask her to name another youngster in the circle and roll the ball to that youngster. The recipient then takes his turn, naming a youngster and rolling the ball …and so on.

11. Avoiding Strangers: Behavioral rehearsal is a good way to teach AS and HFA kids about stranger danger. For this type of rehearsal, a parent or teacher can assume the role of a stranger (e.g., Mr. Clark) who pulls up in a car and requests the youngster's assistance in reaching a certain address. After the youngster offers directions, Mr. Clark should insist that the youngster get in the car and accompany him to his destination. The youngster should adamantly refuse and promptly distance herself from Mr. Clark. If Mr. Clark continues to pursue her, the youngster should run and scream for help.

12. Reading Facial Cues: Helping AS and HFA children learn to pay attention to facial expressions in others is also a great subject for behavioral rehearsal. Collect photographs of people making different facial expressions and paste them to index cards. Your collection should include expressions of: anger, disgust, fear, happy, sad and surprise. These are basic emotions, and the facial expressions people use to communicate them seem to be similar across cultures. Before using your new cards with children, test them out on grown-ups, asking them to guess what emotion each expression represents. Re-do and pictures that adults have difficulty identifying. Although you can use the index cards as flash cards (e.g., “What is this person feeling”), there are also several games you can play. For example:
  • Have the children match each facial expression card with a situation that might evoke the emotion (e.g., a foot being stepped on, a person being snubbed or ignored by others, a person receiving a gift, a tower created from toy blocks being kicked over, an ice cream cone that has fallen on the ground, someone running from a mean dog, and so on).
  • Players take turns picking a card from the deck and inventing a reason for the facial expression displayed (e.g., if the player picks a card with a man showing disgust, the player might say, “He just stepped in mud puddle”).
  • Shuffle the cards and put them face down. The first player picks a card, keeps it to herself, and then mimics the facial expression on the card. The other player(s) have to guess the correct emotion.

Other ideas for behavioral rehearsal could include:
  • attending a funeral
  • being a guest
  • being a host
  • going to a restaurant
  • going to church
  • meeting new people
  • offering sympathy
  • receiving gifts or compliments
  • sharing toys
  • shopping for groceries

Behavioral rehearsal is a way for AS and HFA children to practice basic social skills. It is particularly helpful for children who have difficulty getting along with others. When using behavioral rehearsal, be sure to stress the process and not the end result. Know that there will be times when the youngster will handle a situation beautifully, yet things will not work out the way you thought they “should” have. Also, be sure the youngster in a good mood before starting a practice session. 

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management


COMMENT:

Anonymous said.. I am not sure why you give so much in the form of information for free. I just want you to know that it has helped my parenting so much. Because of you, I have a great high-functioning autistic teen-ager, and a great relationship with him.

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

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content