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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Preparing for Summer School: How to Advise Your Aspergers Child's Teacher

If you have a child with Asperger's or high functioning autism, here's how you can prepare his or her teacher for dealing with Aspergers-related issues in the classroom: 

Communication Issues in Children with Asperger's and HFA

Do boys and girls with high functioning autism have communication problems, and are they similar to those with autistic disorder?

In contrast to Autism, there are no symptoms in this area of functioning in the definition of High Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger’s (AS). Although significant abnormalities of speech are not typical of HFA and AS children, there are at least three aspects of communication skills which are of clinical interest:

1. One aspect typifying the communication patterns of AS and HFA children concerns the marked verbosity observed, which some researchers see as a prominent differential feature. The youngster may talk incessantly, usually about his favorite subject, often in complete disregard to whether the listener is interested, engaged, or attempting to interject a comment, or change the subject of conversation. Despite such long-winded monologues, the child may never come to a point or conclusion. Attempts by the listener to elaborate on issues of content or logic, or to shift the interchange to related topics, are often unsuccessful.

2. In AS and HFA children, speech may often be tangential and circumstantial, conveying a sense of looseness of associations and incoherence. The lack of coherence and reciprocity in speech is a result of failure to provide the background for comments, failure to clearly demarcate changes in topic, failure to suppress the vocal output accompanying internal thoughts, and the one-sided conversational style (e.g., unrelenting monologues about the names and classifications of dinosaurs).

3. Though inflection and intonation may not be as rigid and monotonic as in the speech of Autistic children, the speech of AS and HFA children may be marked by poor prosody (e.g., there may a constricted range of intonation patterns that is used with little regard to the communicative functioning of the speech).

Despite the possibility that these symptoms may be accounted for in terms of significant deficits in pragmatics skills, lack of insight, and lack of awareness of other's expectations, the challenge remains to understand this phenomenon developmentally as techniques for social adaptation.

Teaching Social Skills to Children with Asperger’s & HFA: Guidelines for Parents & Teachers

This post will provide some crucial guidelines for how parents and educators can teach social skills to children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) at home and in the classroom. These “special needs” children often have difficulty saying what they mean, planning and controlling what they do, noticing and interpreting facial expression and body language, understanding what someone has told them, and accurately perceiving what other people do, say, or demonstrate. Fortunately, they have a patient and supportive adult like you. The ideas presented below will show you how to support them as they struggle to show the new behavior, and how to focus on progress rather than perfection.

Social skills are those self-management, problem-solving, peer-relations, decision making, and communication abilities that allow the AS or HFA youngster to initiate and maintain positive social relationships with others. Deficits in social behavior interfere with learning, teaching, and the classroom atmosphere. Social competence is linked to peer-acceptance, teacher-acceptance, inclusion success, and post-school success.

Displaying poor social skills is THE #1 factor involved in the “odd” behavior that gets AS and HFA children rejected and bullied by peers. Young people on the autism spectrum often fail socially because they have difficulty monitoring and controlling their behavior when unexpected situations occur. They may misread social cues given off by others. They may view the positive social interactions of others as threatening. And they may not even notice when a peer rejects, teases, or bullies them.

Depending on the child’s specific needs, a good “social skills training” program can include any of the following:
  • ability to respond to a given environment in a manner that produces, maintains, and enhances positive interpersonal relations
  • acceptable ways to resolve conflict with others 
  • accepting the consequences of one's behavior
  • approaching others in socially acceptable ways
  • appropriate classroom behavior
  • asking for permission rather than acting
  • attending to task
  • awareness of own and other's feelings
  • being able to predict how others might feel in a situation and understanding that others might not feel as you do
  • better ways to handle frustration and anger 
  • coping with negative feelings
  • counting to 10 before reacting
  • dealing with stress
  • distracting oneself to a pleasurable task
  • following directions
  • handling teasing and taunting
  • how to make and keep friends 
  • learning an internal dialog to cool oneself down and reflect upon the best course of action
  • listening
  • manners and positive interaction with others 
  • positive, non-aggressive choices when faced with conflict
  • seeking attention properly
  • seeking the assistance of the teacher or conflict resolution team
  • sharing toys and materials
  • using words instead of physical contact
  • what to do when you make mistakes
  • work habits and academic survival skills

How to Teach Social Skills to AS and HFA Children—

You will do well to teach social skills just like you teach academics. Assess the level of the AS or HFA child, prepare the materials, introduce the material, model it, have him or her practice it, and provide feedback. If you purchase a social skills curriculum, simply follow the directions in the kit (it should include an assessment device, lessons, and activities). If you're developing your own curriculum and devising lessons, follow the tips below.

How to teach social skills to one specific child:

1. By way of an assessment, select the AS or HFA child who needs training in certain skills.

2. Task analyze the target behavior(s). Task analysis will help to teach complex behaviors by breaking down a task into smaller objectives. Applicable replacement behaviors are usually taught when the student displays inappropriate behavior in specific environments. AS and HFA students respond well in learning new goal behaviors when they're broken down into individual steps.

3. Determine what behavior to modify or replace by observing the AS or HFA student in a variety of situations. Expose the child to a variety of environments to reveal where the behavior occurs most frequently and why he or she feels the need to engage in negative behaviors in that situation. Examples of target behaviors may include:
  • accepting "no" for an answer
  • accepting praise from others
  • accepting responsibility for one's own behavior
  • accepting the consequences administered by the teacher
  • apologizing for wrong doing
  • asking permission
  • asking questions appropriately
  • avoiding fighting with others
  • complimenting others
  • compromising on issues
  • cooperating with peers
  • coping with aggression from other
  • coping with taunts
  • coping with verbal or physical threats
  • dealing better with anger
  • dealing with frustration
  • dealing with losing
  • following directions
  • greeting others 
  • initiating a conversation with others
  • interrupting others appropriately
  • joining a group activity already in progress
  • listening
  • making a mistake in an appropriate manner without yelling or physical aggression
  • making friends
  • respecting the opinions of others
  • saying please and thank you
  • seeking attention in an appropriate manner
  • showing sportsmanship
  • understanding the feelings of others and accepting them as valid
  • waiting one's turn

4. Speak directly with the child to get a better idea of what is important in his or her life and why the behavior is occurring. This can give a lot of insight as to what the child is trying to communicate by using negative behaviors.

5. Determine an appropriate replacement behavior and decide when it should apply. Make clear the focus and purpose of the positive behavior. The behavior should promote acceptable choices in the classroom.

6. Break the appropriate behavior or task down into small and clear objectives. This encourages quicker success instead of teaching the entire task at once. Move on to the next task as the child masters each one.

7. Determine where, and under what conditions, the child should practice the behavior. Specify the expected amount of change before moving on to the next objective. Make sure each objective is measurable.

8. Discuss and model the replacement behavior with the child. Practice the appropriate behavior or smaller objectives of the behavior in the appropriate environment.

9. Use positive reinforcements. AS and HFA students who are learning to apply appropriate behaviors may display the action more frequently if they receive a tangible reward each time they behave appropriately.

Teaching social skills to a group of students:

1. Create groups of 3-5 youngsters with similar skill deficits (smaller groups give the participants a chance to observe others, practice with peers, and receive feedback).

2. Try to meet early in the day so that the participants are attentive and have the whole day to practice what they learn in the lesson.

3. Introduce the program to the participants, and describe why and how it will benefit them.

4. Identify the behaviors that you will reward during lessons (e.g., raising hands when wanting to ask a question, one child speaks at a time, paying attention, etc.). These selected behaviors will need to be taught in the initial lesson.

5. Teach the easy-to-learn skills first to ensure success and reinforcement.

6. Teach to the higher-functioning children in the group first. Have them demonstrate the new behaviors, and then reward them. Have the lower-functioning children demonstrate the behaviors after the leaders do so.

7. Have the child self-monitor and self-assess in order to build internal motivation and control.

8. Have the participants practice through homework assignments, review sessions, and assignments to real life settings.

9. Make sure your lessons are interesting and fun so that the participants look forward to the lessons.

10. Monitor the child’s behavior outside of the lessons. Keep track of the behavior for IEP documentation.

11. Promote generalization to different settings and circumstances by (a) having the child submit self-report forms for each class period, (b) meeting with the child to discuss performance throughout school or home life, (c) practicing in different settings and under various conditions, and (d) prompting and coaching the child in naturally occurring situations.

12. Recognize and reward proper behavior in everyday school situations.

13. When you see a good situation for a child to display a "new" behavior, prompt its use with cues or hints.

As a side note, remember that AS and HFA children generally display negative behaviors to communicate thoughts or feelings – not because they are purposely trying to be defiant. Also, as with the teaching of academics, begin with the prerequisite skills and then move on to the more advanced ones. Your social skills training program should be comprised of the skills that are most important to classroom etiquette and the AS or HFA child’s social needs. Lastly, understand that while the teaching of social skills may consume a lot of time during the school day, over the weeks and months ahead, you will likely gain back lost time as the “special needs” child displays more acceptable behavior.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

How to Help Socially-Awkward Children on the Autism Spectrum

“I am the mother of a 10 year old daughter with high functioning autism, recently diagnosed. My question: my daughter is very socially isolated most of the time, by her choosing. Is this a trait of HFA? Is it something I should address? In other words, should I try to get her to be more engaged with others her age? She has basically has no friends at this point.”

Children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are often socially isolated, but are not unaware of the presence of others, even though their approaches may be inappropriate or peculiar (e.g., they may start a long, one-sided conversation about a favorite subject).

Even though AS and HFA children are often self-described "loners," they often express a great interest in making friends. These wishes are invariably thwarted by their awkward approaches and unintentional insensitivity to other's feelings, intentions, and nonliteral and implied communications (e.g., signs of boredom, haste to leave, excessive need for privacy, etc.). These children are often keen (sometimes painfully so) to relate to others, but lack the skills to successfully engage them. Chronically frustrated by their repeated failures to engage others and make friends, some of these kids simply give up and stop trying to be social, preferring to play by themselves.

Regarding the emotional aspects of social transactions, children on the autism spectrum may react inappropriately to – or fail to accurately interpret – the context of a social interaction, often conveying a sense of insensitivity, formality, or disregard to the emotional expressions of others. Even though they may be able to describe correctly – in a cognitive and formalistic way – people’s emotions, expected intentions and social conventions, they are unable to act on this knowledge in an intuitive and spontaneous way. As a result, they often lose the tempo of the social interaction. Poor intuition and a lack of natural, spontaneous responses during interactions are accompanied by marked reliance on formalistic rules of behavior and rigid social conventions. This combination is largely responsible for the impression of social naiveté and behavioral rigidity in AS and HFA children.

If your daughter doesn’t know how to successfully engage in social interactions, then this is definitely something to be concerned about. And the sooner you address the matter – the better.  "Social skills training" is the best approach here, which is a general term for instruction conducted in (behavioral) areas that promotes more productive and positive interaction with others. It is imperative that parents teach social skills to their “special needs” child if he or she is, at present, unable to make or keep friendships. A social skills training program might include (among other things):
  • acceptable ways to resolve conflict with others
  • accepting the consequences of one's behavior
  • approaching others in social acceptable ways
  • appropriate classroom behavior 
  • asking for permission rather than acting
  • attending to task
  • better ways to handle frustration/anger 
  • counting to 10 before reacting
  • distracting oneself to a pleasurable task
  • following directions
  • learning an internal dialog to cool oneself down and reflect upon the best course of action
  • listening
  • making and keeping friends
  • manners and positive interaction with others 
  • seeking attention properly
  • seeking the assistance of the teacher or conflict resolution team
  • sharing toys/materials
  • using words instead of physical contact
  • work habits/academic survival skills

As with the teaching of any subject, begin social skills training with the prerequisite skills (e.g., how to start a conversation), and then move on to the more advanced ones (e.g., how to make eye contact and look interested in what the other person is saying).

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Best Way to Teach Communication Skills to Children on the Autism Spectrum

“What would be the best way to teach communication skills to my 4 year old son with high functioning autism?”

These skills are best taught by a communication specialist with an interest in pragmatics in speech. Alternatively, social training groups may be used if there are enough opportunities for the child with High Functioning Autism or Asperger's to have one-on-one contact with the instructor and for the practicing of specific skills.

Teaching often includes the following: 
  • Verbal decoding of nonverbal behaviors of others
  • Social awareness
  • Processing of visual information along with auditory information in order to facilitate the creation of the appropriate social context of the interaction
  • Appropriate nonverbal behavior (e.g., the use of gaze for social interaction, monitoring and patterning of inflection of voice, etc.). This may involve imitative drills, working with a mirror, and so on.
  • Correct interpretation of ambiguous communications (e.g., non-literal language)
  • Perspective-taking skills

If possible, try to consult with a speech-language pathologist. These professionals are trained to teach language and communication skills.

Online Parenting Coaching

Guiding Asperger’s and HFA Teens Through Adolescence To Adulthood

Parenting any adolescent has its challenges. When he or she has Asperger’s (AS) or High Functioning Autism (HFA), the challenges are even greater. While most young people on the autism spectrum attend regular school, have friends, and participate in the same activities as their peers, they possess certain traits - and face certain obstacles - that “typical” adolescents don’t. For example:
  • Adolescents on the autism spectrum might imitate what they have learned in books or movies, and their voices might sound flat or boring.
  • Many AS and HFA adolescents prefer to be alone and may not show an interest in making friends. 
  • Some are quiet and withdrawn. 
  • They often don’t understand the importance of eye contact – and may avoid it altogether. 
  • They have trouble understanding jokes or sarcasm.
  • Some AS and HFA adolescents don’t understand socially acceptable ways to express frustration, and may become aggressive or throw tantrums.
  • Most of these young people are socially awkward since they have difficulty processing social cues, (e.g., body language, sarcasm, humor, figurative language, emotional responses, and facial expressions). These nuances of social interaction may fall unnoticed to the adolescent.
  • Sometimes they seem insensitive or look unemotional, but often they just don't know how to express how they're feeling. It doesn't mean they don't have feelings – it’s just more difficult for them to show those feelings or understand the feelings of others.
  • Many of these adolescents have trouble coping with change, and may not react well to changes in routine.
  • Most report that they feel "sensory overload" (e.g., they have heightened senses that can make noises seem louder and more startling, and lights may seem brighter). 
  • Regarding sexuality, special issues that may need to be addressed for these adolescents include: communicating about inappropriate behavior, dealing with menstrual cycles, distinguishing between appropriate and inappropriate touching, maintaining physical boundaries with others, physical changes, and refraining from self-touch.
  • The hallmark of AS and HFA is “social development” issues. These adolescents have trouble interacting with others. The part of the brain that recognizes and displays human emotion has developed differently, and a smile or a frown does not hold the same emotional significance as it does for a “typical” teenager.
  • AS and HFA traits can include fixation on objects and ideas, or making repetitive motions or using repetitive speech.

Adolescents with AS and HFA need time to gradually learn and practice adult life-skills (e.g., finding a job, managing finances, doing laundry, preparing meals, driving a car, arranging medical appointments, etc.). They may not be ready for adult responsibilities at the same age as their “typical” peers. Thus, it’s very important that parents help their “special needs” teenagers learn to be comfortable with their own situation and abilities.

Below are some suggestions for how parents can guide their AS and HFA teenagers through adolescence – and prepare them for adulthood:

1. AS and HFA adolescents can learn appropriate behaviors, and many of them work hard to learn emotional interpretation and response. Also, they DO feel emotions (e.g., empathy); however, it’s learning to express these emotions in a way others understand that is difficult. The earlier the symptoms of AS and HFA are addressed, the more likely it’s that the adolescent will have better success in his or her social interactions.

2. Adolescents on the autism spectrum need to know both the mechanics and morals connected with sex. Books and classes have suggestions about how to handle the topic.

3. Assign age-appropriate chores. Your “special needs” teenager can begin with simple tasks (e.g., setting the table, taking out the garbage, etc.). Later, she can take on larger tasks (e.g., preparing a simple meal once a week for the family).

4. Base your support and expectations on your teen's abilities, level of emotional security, and history – not on her chronological age or what her peers are doing.

5. Celebrate and enjoy each milestone your teen reaches on the road to self-sufficiency. But at the same time, understand that you are going to have frustrations, and that this phase is going to bring a whole new set of stressors.

6. Check with your adolescent's school about any transition services the district may provide.

7. Don’t rescue your teenager by paying off her debts or by making excuses to her teacher for a failing grade. Let her feel the consequences, and the lessons will be long lasting.

8. Emphasize that your teen’s main responsibility at this stage in life is to get an education. It’s difficult to become a successful, self-supporting grown-up in contemporary society without at least a high school diploma. If marks and test results start to decline, be sure to show concern and take measures to reverse the trend as quickly and as forcefully as possible.

9. Enroll your teenager in a life-skills class, and also teach these skills at home.

10. Explain how you will help your adolescent move into adult life. AS and HFA adolescents need to know how long they can live at home and whether or not their mom and dad will help them with their first apartment rental, pay college tuition, keep them on the family health insurance, etc.

11. Explore substitutes or assistance for skills that are not manageable. As the parent, you are the best judge of when your adolescent is ready to partially or fully manage adult tasks.

12. Get your teen involved in peer-mentoring groups to learn life and job skills.

13. Group video instruction can help teens with AS and HFA learn important social skills. While the diagnosis rate for AS and HFA for 14- to 17-year-olds has more than doubled in the past five years, very few strategies have been found to help these teens develop the social skills they need to be successful. Studies have shown AS and HFA teens are more likely to pay attention when an innovative technology delivers the information. Video-based group instruction is important, given the often limited resources in schools that also face increasing numbers of students being diagnosed with AS and HFA.

14. Have your teenager meet with other AS and HFA adolescents with similar challenges. This can make her feel not so alone and ostracized.

15. Include your teenager in groups (e.g., support, therapy, social and sports groups).

16. Lead by example. Teens absorb attitudes, behaviors and habits from their parents. When they see the family wage-earners going to work daily, and both mom and dad cooperating to do cleaning, cooking and other household chores, they come to understand that everyone needs to contribute to the welfare of the family.

17. Make a list of the skills you believe your “special needs” teen will need in the outside world. Do this as you go through your day – working, shopping, paying bills, cooking and performing other normal tasks. Writing the list yourself will make you aware of behaviors that you can model and share with your adolescent. Show the list to his teachers, doctor, therapist and any other caregiver who helps him. Ask these people to review and add to the tasks, using their knowledge of your teen’s abilities and problems. Also, turn the everyday activities from your list into “teaching moments” (e.g., at the grocery store, you can ask your teen to find the least expensive canned peaches; wait at a bus stop and demonstrate how to pay the fare, find a seat and get off at the right stop; show your teen simple cooking and cleaning methods, etc.).

18. One of the greatest gifts you can give your AS or HFA adolescent is the ability to handle his emotions. Teaching him how to identify, reflect on, and deal with his feelings by the time he leaves home is one of the best ways to prepare him for adulthood. In fact, this emotional strength and ability will take your child much farther in life than intellectual ability or a specific ability (e.g., athletic or artistic ability).

19. Provide ongoing emotional and tangible support even after your young adult moves out of your home. Moms and dads who visit frequently, assist with household management, help to fill out tax forms, etc., help their adult children not feel too overwhelmed as they adjust to life away from parents.

20. Remember that under Federal law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), by the time a special education student reaches age 16, the school is to provide a plan that may include help obtaining further education, getting a job, or living independently. Moms and dads need to advocate for these services. Communicate respectfully, clearly, and often with your school's "transition coordinator" about your teen's transition plan.

21. See that your adolescent gets enough experience in normal social etiquette (e.g., talking to a store clerk, relating to friends at a party, asking for information, etc.).

22. Seek out social-skills classes sponsored by local schools, community centers, colleges or charitable foundations.

23. Teach and re-teach your adolescent adult life-skills (e.g., balancing a checkbook, paying off a credit card balance, cooking, laundry, car maintenance, making doctor appointments, etc.). Provide abundant opportunities for supervised practice.

24. The most important thing moms and dads can do is to “let go” of their “special needs” teen and let him experience success -- and failure -- on his own. No matter how complex the special need is, that teenager will be striving for a state of independence. He wants that, just like all teens want independence. As true as this may be, it can be challenging emotionally for moms and dads to transition from a protective, advocatory role and to permit new degrees of autonomy.

25. The next time you talk to your AS or HFA adolescent about a problem she is facing, help her to reason on how her choices reflect on her. Help her to see how her choices either enhance her reputation or tarnish it, which in turn will help or hurt her future prospects.

26. Very few young adults on the autism spectrum are ready for full "independent" living. They all need ongoing support and encouragement from parents as they learn to negotiate the adult world. “Launching” AS and HFA individuals from the “nest” brings some unique challenges. Initially, "interdependence" rather than "independence" is a more fitting goal for these young people as they begin to venture into the world.

27. When a problematic issue arises, try reversing roles. Ask your adolescent what advice she would give you if you were her child. Have her do research to come up with reasons to support – or challenge – her thinking. Discuss the matter again within a week.

28. When your adolescent shows that she is handling her social life, schoolwork, and part-time employment well, you can start to gradually loosen the apron strings and trust her with more responsibility. This may be the time to go on a short vacation and leave your adolescent home alone to look after herself and the house. Soon she'll be off to college or university (hopefully), and she needs to practice being on her own.

29. Write down one or two areas in which you could extend a little more freedom to your “special needs” teenager. Explain to her that you are extending this freedom on a trial basis. If she handles it responsibly, in time she can be granted more. If she does not do so, the freedoms she has been granted will be curtailed.

30. Your AS or HFA teen needs to be socialized. Give her plenty of opportunities to mix amicably with other people of all age groups. She should visit restaurants, movies, and malls and learn to behave appropriately in all circumstances. Grown-ups don’t live in isolation. They need to interact graciously with different types of people in a variety of milieus. As your teenager matures, she should improve her social skills so she can converse pleasantly with anyone in diverse situations.

As mentioned earlier, young people on the autism spectrum need extra time to learn and practice adult life-skills, because their “emotional age” is much younger than their “chronological age” …in other words, you may have a teenager who is 17-years-old chronologically, but emotionally more like 14-year-old. So, the earlier you begin helping out in this area – the better!

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

Tips for Single Mothers of Children on the Autism Spectrum

“Hello, I’m a single mother raising a 5 y.o. son with high functioning autism. My ex is also on the spectrum, he has the older diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. I get no parenting help or financial assistance from my ex. So I’m the only parent my son has basically. Any tips for single moms raising children on the autism spectrum? Thank you!”

When a mother is a single parent and there is a youngster with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) to care for, the challenges can make life feel like a true test of endurance, but it can be done. It does take more effort and organization, though. Single parenting a child with HFA can be extremely stressful – as well as rewarding. Finding solutions to most of the problems is the first step toward keeping you from feeling overwhelmed. Almost every problem has a solution. The real trick to success as a single parent is not losing yourself in the parenting process.

Tips for single moms with an HFA child:

1. First of all, know that you are not alone. Having an HFA youngster can feel very isolating. It’s easy to stay home and think that you are the only one dealing with that situation. Seek out support groups.

2. A single mom needs a social life as much as anyone else. In addition to caring for your son, you may be working full time, meeting the needs of your other kids, and taking care of the home, which leaves you little free time. Fatigue takes on a new meaning, and having social interaction outside the home is so far on the back-burner it is hard to remember what it was like to “have a life.” Nonetheless, it is important to carve-out some time in your schedule for fun social activities. The key is having fun interaction with other grown-ups.

3. Read everything you can about your son’s disorder. The Internet also offers a broad spectrum of information on nearly every type of disorder. Websites, chat rooms, and the like are tremendous sources of information about conditions, treatments, and medications that are up-to-the-minute.

4. Avoid being argumentative with your ex-husband over his lack of interest in being a co-parent. It won’t get you anywhere.

5. Be your son’s best advocate. Fight for the best information, treatment, doctors, and options that exist. Familiarize yourself with the law. Every mother raising a child on the autism spectrum has to be her own researcher.

6. When  stressed-out, single moms often find themselves less able to connect with their kids or focus at work, which may lead to acting-out behavior by the children, time-consuming mistakes at work, and other things that increase stress for the mother and her family. Therefore, taking a proactive stance on stress-management is quite important. Having several quick stress relievers on hand (e.g., breathing exercises), as well as long-term stress-management strategies in place (e.g., regular exercise, meditation) can relieve significant stress for single moms.

7. So much of being a mother takes an emotional and physical toll on you that you have to get out and do something for yourself on an ongoing basis. Try an activity that you never did before, or go back to something you gave up in your marriage (e.g., learn how to play a musical instrument). Put yourself out there. Try anything creative.

8. Remember that your son’s disorder is not your fault, nor is your spouse to blame. It does no good to look for someone to focus your anger on. Pointing your finger at your spouse or his medical or family history is not productive and can be extremely hurtful. Blame can only damage the relationship further.

9. Consider getting a pet. If you don’t have one, think of getting one. It takes the focus away and puts it on something else. Animals spread love around.

10. Enjoy your own company. It may have never occurred to you when you were married that you could actually enjoy your own company. You can do that. Also, don’t date too soon. You can fall in love too quickly. You can’t be a great mother unless you are a great person.

11. Find a support group. If you can’t find it in your community, you can find one online. You have to make a concerted effort to start to build your new family based on reciprocity and support. It can also help to start building self-esteem. You realize you are not the only one.

12. Remember that even if the relationship with your ex has no chance in the world of being civil, there needs to be a peaceful environment for your HFA son.

13. If you don't have anyone in your life that you can share your feelings with on a daily basis, work at developing friendships that are true give-and-take relationships. A local support group that includes single moms might be helpful. Some support groups have a network of mothers who are on “phone duty” that you can call at any time when you need to talk or vent your emotions.

14. After a divorce, ex in-laws can become a problem for you. A direct approach to the grandparents may not be welcome. If you find yourself in this situation, begin by bringing the matter to the attention of your ex, who may be willing to intervene on your behalf. If your ex refuses to support you in this matter, limit your interaction with the grandparents as much as possible. While they have every right to see their grandson, you can and should limit your own time with them for your own sanity.

15. Kids with HFA may seem to be unaware of the environment around them, but they usually are much more in tune with the emotions of others than it appears. If the mom and dad are arguing or fighting, the youngster is apt to act-out with defiant behaviors. The grown-ups in the situation, by keeping their own tempers in check, can prevent this. Remember that although your relationship may be over, the relationship both of you have with your son is not.

16. Know that ALL your feelings are normal. Be sad. Be mad. It’s only natural.

17. Move your bedroom to a different room in your house. Make the old one a study or a play room. Redecorate to reflect your individual tastes and make the house more of your home.

18. Next time you're feeling particularly done in, declare a day off from: worrying, saying the right thing, planning ahead, multitasking, making phone calls, making appointments, knowing it all, holding it in, handling details, exercising, solving problems, serving as case manager, caring what other people think, being Supermom, being behavior cop, doing research, fighting battles, filling out forms, etc.

19. Your HFA son may push your buttons, but giving big reactions to bad behavior may send the wrong message. Showing that you can control your feelings and avoid meltdowns yourself models appropriate behavior for your son, and leaves you feeling better, too.

20. Lastly, pray for guidance and assistance from your Higher Power!


==> Special Offer for Single Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Federal tax credits
•    Anonymous said... First of all - well done. Be proud of yourself for getting you both this far. Just recognise you're not superhuman. You will need help and support - you both will. Xxxx
•    Anonymous said... Have support somewhere. Friends, family, church, local support groups- whatever is available & works- use it.
•    Anonymous said... I can relate to you. It's a very difficult road especially when working and caring for other children as well. Stay away from people who are negative or judgemental, they will only bring you down. So many people are ignorant and misinformed about HFA and being a single mum can bring extra judgements. Look for support of other mums in similar situations who can understand and relate to you. Hopefully you have got a close friend or other family member who can offer you some respite, even for an hour or so to grab a coffee when things are really tough. Dr Tony Attwood, Sue Larkey, ASPECT, great websites that offer information, tip sheets, workshops etc. I find that reading a lot about HFA helps to validate and reassure me about what I am doing especially when people are questioning me. Depending on where you live you can apply for some financial assistance for your HFA child, talk to your child's paediatrician about what you're entitled to. Good luck, keep up the great work and remember you are not alone
•    Anonymous said... Invest in an advocate or education lawyer to help you with advocating for your child at school. Even if the school/teachers have a good relationship w you this is important! You will never know how much it could have helped your child - I am a special ed teacher and a single parent of a kiddo on the spectrum and this is one thing I would have done from the start if I'd know better. Another thing I would have done was find a community that supports me - like a church or group or club. And the best thing you will ever do is to seek balance - keep time for laughing and fun. Enjoy your time - he's growing up and he'll never be this age again
•    Anonymous said... Oh, and don't expect people with two parent households to get it - don't look for sympathy - there's none out there - just carry on doing a wonderful job and the greatness you put into your parenting will be your reward.
•    Anonymous said... Right here with you. I'm a mom of three, with one HFA. It's rough but we are managing. I agree with the above comments. Surround yourself with happy, supportive people. The are programs out there, it just might take a few tries to find the right one.
•    Anonymous said... Routine, routine, routine!! I am a single mum of 3 with 15 yr old dtr diagnosed 12 mths ago. She refuses to let her father have any involvement in her life due to various reasons. She is very high maintainence with depression & anxiety to go with it literally living in my pocket 24/7. I find by maintaining a reasonably rigid routine she copes better with daily life giving me the chance to get stuff done & look after my other 2 who are 13 & 9. I look for her triggers & try catch it before she melts down completely. She has a pet rabbit that I give her before crisis point, pop her into her room with it where she cuddles it til she settles a little (rabbit doesn't seem to mind to much either lol). It is very hard, isolating work but worth the love from your child. I find that for me routine is the best way for us both to manage - hope it helps. Good luck xo
•    Anonymous said... tip for the day: you are not alone

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Tough Love for Adult Children with Asperger's Still Living at Home

How can you get an adult child with Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism to be self-reliant?






Launching Adult Children With Asperger's and HFA: How To Promote Self-Reliance

Asperger's Symptoms Disguised as Disobedience

"I have a 9-year-old with high functioning Aspergers who over-reacts both at home and at school when things don’t go his way, which then turns into a meltdown that disrupts the entire house (or classroom). And I never know if this behavior is a symptom of the disorder or just plain disobedience, which leaves me clueless as to whether or not I should discipline my son. Any insight will be greatly appreciated."

Think of your son’s behavior as an iceberg. The behavior you are actually seeing is the tip of the iceberg, but there's a lot more going on under the surface. Children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can't always express their feelings through facial expressions, body language or speech. Instead, they may be expressed through other behaviors. Your son might be trying to tell you he is tired, stressed, annoyed by something that happened earlier, or in need of some time alone. So don’t simply assume that, when your child is acting-out, it is tied to “not getting his way” (sometimes there will be a connection between the two, other times not).

There is a range of reasons why young people with AS and HFA have difficulties with behavior. The world can be a confusing, isolating and daunting place for your son, and it is his fundamental difficulties with communication and social interaction that are often the root cause of difficult behavior. There are some other possible reasons, too. For example:

1. Children with AS and HFA can find it difficult to cope with change, whether a temporary change to their timetable at school, or a more permanent change such as moving house. You may find that your son's behavior alters at times of change, but settles as he becomes used to a new environment or routine.

2. Communication difficulties can impact on how young people with AS and HFA deal with social situations. They may find social situations very demanding or stressful because they have to work hard to communicate with other people. These kids often don’t understand that other people hold different views from theirs. This may also make social situations difficult.

3. Young people with AS and HFA may not understand 'social rules' (i.e., unwritten rules that govern social situations), such as how close to stand to other people or how to take a turn in conversation. This is especially true if they find themselves in a new, unfamiliar situation. Therefore, social situations can be daunting and unpredictable. Some may engage in a particular behavior to try and avoid social contact.

4. If your son's behavior suddenly changes for the worse, check that there isn't a medical reason for the distress. Young people with AS and HFA can find it difficult to tell parents how they're feeling or where something hurts, even if their verbal communication is generally good. Some have seizures that can cause irritability and confusion, or gastrointestinal problems which may be painful. Parents can try using a pain chart to help their youngster indicate where he is feeling discomfort. Alternatively, some moms and dads use symbols to help their youngster indicate where the pain is.

5. Many young people with AS and HFA have difficulties processing sensory information. For example, they may not be able to manage some tastes or food textures, or find that someone touching them - even lightly - is painful. Certain smells, lights or sounds can be distressing. Some may find it difficult to block-out background noise and what they experience as excessive visual information. Instead, sounds, lights and other sights are all processed at the same level of intensity and lead to sensory overload. You may find that your son starts a repetitive behavior in stressful environments (e.g., hand-flapping, spinning) to try and block-out external sensory information. These children can be very sensitive to subtle changes in their environment. If there's a sudden change in behavior, think about whether there has been a recent change in the environment.

6. Unfortunately, young people with AS and HFA can be at more risk of being bullied than their peers. If you notice a sudden change in your son’s behavior, see if there has been any reported bullying or teasing in school. Your son may find it difficult to tell you if he has been bullied (some AS kids don’t even recognize what bullying is), so you might need to play detective.

7. Kids with AS and HFA can experience a number of difficulties with communication: (a) understanding what's being said to them (i.e., receptive language), (b) understanding non-verbal communication (e.g., facial expressions, body language), and (c) communicating with others (i.e., expressive language). Because of these difficulties, they can find it hard to communicate their needs or to understand what other people are saying to them, or asking them to do. This can cause considerable frustration and anxiety which, if it can't be expressed any other way, may result in challenging behavior.

8. Young people with AS and HFA can find 'sequencing' difficult (i.e., putting what is going to happen in a day in a logical order in their mind). They need to have timetables so they can see what is going to happen, when, and plan for it. However, unstructured time (e.g., break times at school), which can be noisy and chaotic, may be difficult to deal with. This is because it's difficult for them to predict what will happen and how they are expected to behave. You may find that behavioral difficulties occur more in transition times between lessons or activities. Abstract concepts such as time aren't easy to understand, and children with AS and HFA may find it hard to wait. It helps if you can be clear about why and for how long you are waiting (e.g., “We have to wait for five minutes, until 10.30. This is because the doctor can see us at 10.30.”).

What can you and your son’s teacher do?

Use a behavior diary to try and find out what triggers a particular behavior. This helps you to monitor the behavior over time and see what the possible causes are (e.g., if always happens at the end of the day when your son is tired after school). One way of recording behavior is an ABC chart. On this, you record the Antecedent (i.e., what happened beforehand, who was there, where your son was), the Behavior itself, and the Consequence (i.e., what happened following the behavior). By identifying potential triggers for the behavior, it can be easier to come up with ways of preventing it from happening in the future. Interventions are more likely to be successful if they address either the cause or the function of the behavior.

When trying to tackle behavioral difficulties, select only one or two behaviors to focus on at a time. Using too many new strategies with your son at once may result in none of them working at all. Write down all the behaviors you're concerned about, and then prioritize them, choosing the two most important ones to concentrate on first. Don't worry if things get worse before they get better. Your son will probably resist change initially. This is a normal reaction. Nonetheless, it's important to continue with the strategies you are using and be consistent.

How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Aspergers Children

Asperger's and "Extreme Focus"

Young people with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism have a great ability to be hyper-focused on their areas of interest; however, their ability to focus can also be their greatest weakness... 



Teaching Students with Aspergers and HFA

Avoiding Meltdowns and Tantrums on Easter: Tips for Parents with Children on the Autism Spectrum

Easter can be a hectic, stressful time for all families. This special day can be particularly overwhelming for families of children with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA). Preparing and planning early can help parents relieve some of the holiday stress. 

Below are some very important tips to help your child circumvent Easter meltdowns and tantrums:

1. Determine how far in advance you need to prepare your child for this special day. For example, if he has a tendency to become anxious when anticipating an event that is to occur in the future, you may want to adjust how many days in advance you prepare him. Preparation can occur in various ways by using a calendar and marking the date of the holiday, or by creating a social story that highlights what will happen during the day.

2. Have alternative food items on hand. Oftentimes, children with AS and HFA want the same foods over and over again. While it's good to help your child explore new possibilities, a holiday event is not the right time to push the boundaries. If, for example, your child prefers peanut butter sandwiches to ham, mashed potatoes and green beans, this is the time to make those expectations a reality. Wait until a quieter, less stressful moment to offer new foods.

3. Have an “emergency back-up plan.” Even when you've knocked yourself out to make Easter special for your AS or HFA child, and even when things go beautifully for a while, events can quickly spin out of control. An unexpected glitch, unnoticed by everyone else, can send your child into a meltdown. Often, a quiet room or a favorite video will solve the problem. If you are visiting friends or family while your child begins to meltdown, the only good solution may be to leave.

4. Have realistic expectations. You may want enthusiastic involvement from your AS or HFA child on Easter, but it's unlikely you'll get it. All too often, the sensory and social demands of this holiday make it tough for these kids to really engage in the day’s activities. Knowing that ahead of time will help you moderate your expectations.

5. If you are traveling for Easter, make sure you have your child’s favorite foods or items available. Having familiar items readily available can help to calm stressful situations. Also, prepare your child by using social stories for any unexpected delays in travel. If you are flying for the first time, it may be helpful to bring her to the airport in advance and help her to become accustomed to airports and planes. Use social stories and pictures to rehearse what will happen when boarding and flying.

6. If you will be celebrating Easter at someone else’s home, let your host know ahead of time what to expect and what your AS or HFA child may be like. For example, explain that she will be eating different foods, or otherwise receiving "special" treatment (of course, even an autistic child needs to follow the basic rules of the house, such as no hitting, no climbing on the furniture, etc.). Also, with the help of your host, decide on a “safe haven.” Oftentimes, children with AS and HFA become overwhelmed or upset in a strange environment, and it can be hard for them to manage their feelings in these cases. If you set aside a quiet spot (e.g., a den or bedroom) for your child and let her know about it, she can quickly retreat to regroup. Ideally, you'll also equip the safe haven with a DVD or CD player so you can load a favorite video or music CD.

7. If you will be entertaining guests, plan ahead – and share your plan with your child. Kids with AS and HFA fare better when they know just what to expect. Thus, it's best to have a clear plan for your Easter event - even a simple one - that you share ahead of time. Plans don’t need to be elaborate, but they should include details (e.g., “When our guests arrive, you can either help me in the kitchen, or you can play your video games”). Also, prepare a photo album in advance of relatives and other guests who will be visiting. Allow your youngster access to these photos at all times, and go through the photo album with him while talking briefly about each family member. Furthermore, prepare family members for techniques to use to minimize anxiety or behavioral incidents, and to enhance participation. For example, help them to understand if your youngster prefers to be hugged or not, needs calm discussions, or provide other suggestions that will facilitate a smoother Easter holiday.

8. If your AS or HFA child does not do well with self-management, develop a signal or cue for him to show you when he is getting anxious, and prompt him to use time-outs as needed. You can even practice using time-outs in a calm manner at various times prior to Easter. Take him into the “time-out room” and engage him in calming activities (e.g., play soft music, rub his back, turn down the lights, etc.). Then when you notice him becoming anxious at any time during Easter, calmly remove him from the anxiety-provoking situation and take him to his time-out area.

9. If your AS or HFA youngster is on a special diet, make sure there is food available that he can eat. Also, be cautious of the amount of sugar consumed!

10. Know and understand your “special needs” child. Know how much noise and other sensory input she can take. Know her level of anxiety and the amount of preparation it may take. Know her fears and those things that will make Easter more enjoyable for her. If you detect that a situation may be becoming overwhelming, help her find a quiet area in which to regroup. Also, there may be some situations that you simply need to avoid altogether (e.g., large family gatherings).

11. Preparing the AS or HFA child’s siblings. Since Easter is a time for the whole family to enjoy, it's important to make siblings aware of how stressful this day can be for their “special needs” brother or sister. Before the day begins, take time to remind your other kids of their sibling's sensory issues, communication difficulties, low frustration tolerance, and likes and dislikes. Next, share the family's strategy for avoiding potential issues and discuss what they will do if their best efforts are unsuccessful.

12. Try to maintain a sleep and meal routine that resembles the average day (if possible). Even though it’s a very special day that only happens once a year, making major changes in routine on this day will likely make for major meltdowns to go with it.

As parents, we may put pressure on ourselves to make Easter perfect, which is unrealistic. In the end, the most important thing to remember is that Easter is a time to cherish one another and the joy of being together. Whether it's scaling back or starting new traditions, celebrate this holiday in a way that makes the most sense for your unique family situation.

How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Aspergers Children

Research on Criminal Offenses Committed by People with Asperger’s

A recent study in one of England’s high-security psychiatric hospitals estimated that approximately 2% of the hospital’s male population had Asperger’s (AS), now called high functioning autism. This significantly exceeds the 0.36% prevalence estimated for the general population. This over-representation of AS was subsequently confirmed in two other English high-secure units.

Asperger’s and criminal offenses:
  • Both alcohol and drug abuse, as well as drug offenses have been reported in this population, although drug abuse is comparatively rare.
  • Epidemiological studies indicate that people with AS do commit sexual offences, but there is evidence that the rates of sexual offending in general – and of child sex offences in particular – are lower among offenders on the autism spectrum.
  • Violence in a community sample was more common among those with AS, and there is evidence that offenders on the autism spectrum are more likely to have previous convictions for assault. Similar rates of violent offending by people on the spectrum have been reported in high-secure units in England. 
  • There is growing evidence that people with AS are more likely to commit fire-setting offenses than people without the disorder.

A number of factors may mediate offending in people with AS:
  • aggressive behavior
  • circumscribed interests
  • comorbid psychiatric conditions (e.g., bipolar affective disorder, depression, antisocial personality disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, and schizophrenia)
  • hyperactivity/impulsivity
  • inattention
  • late diagnosis
  • neuropsychological impairment
  • poor educational achievement
  • social exclusion
  • substance abuse
  • truancy

Another study revealed that offenders on the autism spectrum spend more time (11.26 years on average) in high-secure settings than offenders with other psychiatric disorders. The relatively longer stay may be responsible for the over-representation of people with AS in English high-secure units.

People on the autism spectrum held in secure units are more vulnerable to exploitation, bullying and intimidation by virtue of their “odd” behavior and social naivety. The risks arising from these factors are compounded by their inability to articulate their frustrations appropriately.  People on the spectrum who behave in an exemplary manner in a particular environment may re-offend if they are transferred to a less appropriate setting or an unfamiliar one with a new set of rules and routines. Among this group of offenders, a lack of comprehension of the consequences of their criminal behavior, as well as their egocentric justification of their acts, further increase the risk of re-offending following transfer to less secure conditions or discharge into community placements.

The majority of AS offenders held in high-secure units are (a) detained under the mental health category of mental impairment, (b) transferred as sentenced prisoners, (c) transferred prior to sentencing, and (d) have committed sexual offenses. In most cases, the index offenses have taken place in the context of substance abuse.

In summary, research suggests that offenders with AS are more likely to commit (a) offenses of a sexual nature, (b) fraud, (c) fire-setting offenses, and (d) drug offenses, but less likely to commit violent offenses.

Further research of a clinical nature within the AS offender population is greatly needed. More specifically, the prevalence of AS among those detained in medium and low-secure psychiatric facilities is needed to create services for the vast majority of offenders with the disorder who find themselves detained for longer than necessary due to the lack of knowledge of methods of rehabilitation.

References—

1.    Allen D, Evans C, Hider A, et al (2007) Offending behaviour in adults with Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders; 38: 748–58.
2.    American Psychiatric Association (1994) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edn) (DSM–IV). APA.
3.    Attwood T (2007) The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
4.    Baron-Cohen S, Wheelwright S, Robinson J, et al (2005) The Adult Asperger Assessment (AAA): a diagnostic method. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders; 35: 807–19.
5.    Barry-Walsh JB, Mullen PE (2004) Forensic aspects of Asperger’s syndrome. .Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology; 15: 96–107.
6.    Blair J, Mitchell D, Blair K (2005) The Psychopath: Emotion and the Brain. Blackwell Publishing.
7.    Crocombe J, Mills R, Wing L, et al (2006) Autism Spectrum Disorders in the High Security Hospitals of the United Kingdom. A Summary of Two Studies.
8.    Elvish J (2007) The exploration of autistic spectrum disorder characteristics in individuals within a secure service for people with learning disabilities. Thesis for Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. The Tizard Centre, University of Kent.
9.    Farrington DP (2007) Childhood risk factors and risk-focused prevention. In The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (4th edn) (eds M Maguire, R Morgan, R Reiner): 602–40. Oxford University Press.
10.    Frith U (ed) (1991) Asperger and his syndrome. In Autism and Asperger Syndrome: 1–36. Cambridge University Press.
11.    Golan O, Baron-Cohen S (2006) Systemizing empathy: teaching adults with Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism to recognize complex emotions using interactive multimedia. Development and Psychopathology; 18: 591–617.
12.    Hare DJ, Gould J, Mills R, et al (1999) A preliminary study of individuals with autistic spectrum disorders in three special hospitals in England. National Autistic Society.
13.    Hawes V (2003) Developmental disorders in prisoners volunteering for DSPD assessment. In Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on the Care and Treatment of Offenders with a Learning Disability (eds C Dale, L Storey): in Presentations on ‘Working with offenders’.
14.    Klin A, McPartland J, Volkmar FR (2005) Asperger’s syndrome. In Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (eds FR Volkmar, A Klin, R Paul, et al): 88–125. Wiley.
15.    Lord C, Risi S, Lambrecht L, et al (2000) The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule–Generic: a standard measure of social and communication deficits associated with the spectrum of autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders; 30: 205–23.
16.    Lord C, Rutter M, LeCouteur A (1994) The Autism Diagnostic Schedule–Revised: a revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregiver of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders;24: 659–85.
17.    McDougle CJ, Naylor ST, Cohen DJ, et al (1996) A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of fluvoxamine in adults with autistic disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry; 53: 1001–8.
18.    Mouridsen SE, Rich B, Isager T, et al (2008) Pervasive developmental disorders and criminal behaviour: a case control study. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology ; 52: 196–205.
19.    Murphy D (2003) Admission and cognitive details of male patients diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome detained in a Special Hospital: comparison with a schizophrenia and personality disorder sample. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology; 14: 506–24.
20.    Murphy D (2007) Hare Psychopathy Checklist Revised profiles of male patients with Asperger’s syndrome detained in high security psychiatric care. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology; 18: 20–126.
21.    Myers F (2004) On the Borderline? People with Learning Disabilities and/or Autistic Spectrum Disorders in Secure, Forensic and Other Specialist Settings. Scottish Development Centre for Mental Health (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/47251/0023734.pdf).
22.    Research Units on Pediatric Psychopharmacology (2002) Risperidone in children with autism and serious behavioral problems. New England Journal of Medicine;347: 314–21.
23.    Research Units on Pediatric Psychopharmacology (2005) Randomized, controlled, crossover trial of methylphenidate in pervasive developmental disorders with hyperactivity. Archives of General Psychiatry; 62: 1266–74.
24.    Royal College of Psychiatrists (2006) Psychiatric Services for Adolescents and Adults with Asperger Syndrome and Other Autistic-Spectrum Disorders (Council Report CR136). Royal College of Psychiatrists (http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/files/pdfversion/cr136new.pdf).
25.    Schwartz-Watts DM (2005) Asperger’s disorder and murder. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law; 33: 390–3.
26.    Scragg P, Shah A (1994) Prevalence of Asperger’s syndrome in a secure hospital.British Journal of Psychiatry; 165: 679–82.
27.    Siponmaa L, Kristiansson M, Jonsson C, et al (2001) Juvenile and young adult mentally disordered offenders: the role of child neuropsychiatric disorders. Journal of American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law; 29: 420–6.
28.    Soderstrom H, Nilsson T, Sjodin AK, et al (2005) The childhood-onset neuropsychiatric background to adult psychopathic traits and personality disorders. Comprehensive Psychiatry; 46: 111–6.
29.    Viding EM (2007) Re: The callous unemotional traits (e-Letter). British Journal of Psychiatry; 29 May (http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/eletters/190/49/s33#3699).
30.    Wing L (1981) Asperger’s syndrome: a clinical account. Psychological Medicine;11: 115–29.
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32.     Woodbury-Smith MR, Clare ICH, Holland AJ, et al (2005) A case–control study of offenders with high-functioning autistic spectrum disorders. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology; 16: 747–63.
33.    Woodbury-Smith MR, Clare ICH, Holland AJ, et al (2006) High functioning autistic spectrum disorders, offending and other law-breaking: findings from a community sample. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology; 17 : 108–20.
34.    Woodbury-Smith MR, Clare ICH, Holland AJ, et al (2009) Circumscribed interests among offenders with autistic spectrum disorders: a case–control study. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology; in press.
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36.    World Health Organization (1992) The ICD–10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders: Clinical Descriptions and Diagnostic Guidelines. WHO.

Anxiety-Reduction Strategies for Asperger's and HFA

How can parents help their Asperger's (high-functioning autism) child to have fewer meltdowns and less anxiety-related issues?

Asperger's in Females vs. Males

Why are the symptoms of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism different in girls as compared to boys? 

Asperger Syndrome: A Form of Schizophrenia?

Could Asperger's (high-functioning autism) be a form of Schizophrenia? 

Asperger’s Teen Isolation: Antisocial Behavior or Self-Preservation?

“Should we be concerned about our 14 year old Aspergers (high functioning) son’s lack of social interaction outside of school and his time spent sitting at home mostly just on his phone.   He refuses to play a school sport and is resistant to joining any clubs or volunteering.   Besides the times he is doing things with his dad and the occasional skateboarding, he is mostly just sitting at home.”

As long as your son doesn’t appear to be depressed, then it would be best to drop it. One thing you need to understand about young people on the autism spectrum is that their “isolation” (i.e., spending lots of time alone) has more to do with self-preservation than being “antisocial.” Let me use the following analogy:

Think of children as having their own internal batteries. Most neurotypical children (i.e., those not on the spectrum) get their batteries recharged by associating with peers. When they are home by themselves for any length of time, they get bored and lonely. In other words, their batteries become run down and need recharging. So, they get out of the house and go find their friends to get recharged.

This situation works the opposite way for most children on the autism spectrum. When they find themselves in social situations – especially for lengthy periods of time in group settings (e.g., school) – their batteries run down. When they are out in the community, they have difficulty paying attention to what others are doing, what others are saying, how they are supposed to respond to others – all the things that keep them from engaging in their special interest (e.g., computer games). Having to tread water in the ocean of social contacts is exhausting for these children. In other words, it totally runs their batteries down. So, they hibernate, disengage, and find time to be alone to engross themselves in their special interest as a way to recharge.

Young people with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can become anxious when drained of energy from non-desired activities and lengthy social interactions. Thus, time alone to engage in their special interest is a must – and they shouldn’t be made to feel guilty or feel pressured into doing something else instead (unless they are refusing to do their chores or homework, for example). In addition to distracting themselves with their interests, they use “alone time” to calm down and reflect, which helps them to deal with people, tasks and sensory sensitivities much easier.

A child with AS or HFA is not necessarily a person who is shy, rather he is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people. The “Aspie” is more concerned with the inner world of the mind. He enjoys thinking, exploring his thoughts and feelings. This is true even if he has good social skills. Also, when the AS or HFA child wants to be alone, it is not necessarily a sign of depression, rather it means he either needs to recharge his battery, or simply wants the time to be quietly introspective. Being introspective, though, does not mean that he never has conversations; however, those conversations are generally about facts, ideas and concepts – not about what he considers the trivial matters of social small talk.

Even though children and teens on the autism spectrum feel “drained” by social interaction, they feel “energized” by the conversations in their heads.  They dislike interruptions, like to work on complex projects, need to understand why they are doing something, and require silence to concentrate – all of which makes them seem aloof. These young people are literally physiologically incapable of socializing for extended periods of time, and accordingly, parents should never attempt to “force” their AS or HFA child to be more social (teaching social skills is a constructive manner is certainly necessary though).

When interacting with an AS or HFA child, parents and teachers should consider the following:
  • Work with the child to find a compromise. Forcing her to be more social will backfire. So strike some compromises. Usually, if you give her some down time, she’s good for a couple social events each day (e.g., school, girl scouts, or karate class).
  • Let the child recharge. If you’re dealing with a youngster on the autism spectrum and you’re planning one activity after another – it’s going to be torture (e.g., do homework, then do chores, then go shopping, then...). The AS or HFA child is like that old iPhone you’ve got that needs to be recharged several times per day. In the child’s mind, he’s running a lot of applications.
  • Forget the small talk. Mostly, the AS or HFA child lives in her mind, and she thinks about why things happen, or she daydreams. Shallow conversations (e.g., about what happened at school today) are painful. She doesn’t want to have conversations that aren’t going somewhere. Instead, she wants to talk about her passions. So, if you want to engage your otherwise solitary child, talk about her special interests.
  • Give the child some space. He doesn’t want to be mobbed when he gets to his place of security, or for that matter, anywhere else. He wants to transition and get comfortable and then engage. For example, when an AS or HFA child comes home from a long, stressful day at school and is charged with some responsibility immediately – social or otherwise – it’s tough. Give him 30-45 minutes to transition, and you’ll likely avert a meltdown.
  • When possible, provide one-on-one attention rather than insisting on the child’s participation in groups. The AS or HFA child will generally cope much better if he only has to deal with one person at a time.

In summary, your Asperger’s son is literally taking care of himself when he relieves himself from “social-duty” by sitting at home and on his phone. Make sense? Rethink this issue. Put it in the “don’t fight this battle” category. But at the appropriate times, do teach him some pertinent social skills, because he does need to learn how to function in society.

My Aspergers Teen: Help for Parents with Teens on the Autism Spectrum

 
COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… A lot of people, neutotypical or otherwise, are introverted and actually need time to be alone and relax and recoup energy, whereas extroverted people need more time with other people to get energized. High school is stressful enough without extra-curricular activities, especially for introverts. Kids don't need to have every minute of every day planned out for them. Doing so creates adults who can't function when they are alone because they need someone or something to constantly entertain them. Some activities are good if they provide fun and joy, but you have to be aware that adding more activities leaves less time for him to study and will likely just stress him out more.
•    Anonymous said… Be careful what you wish for. I hoped for more friends then wished I hadn't as they were all terrible 'friends' but he couldn't see it.
•    Anonymous said… I have a 15 y.o boy who is exactly the same. He says he spends all week with school friends & weekends is his down time, his family time. I have come to understand that it's ok as long as he is ok. Home is where he is comfortable & where he recharges. This is so perfectly spot on!
•    Anonymous said… I have a 34-year-old niece with Aspergers. Unfortunately her mother had her head in the sand when she was young and now paying a heavy price . The girl now stays on FB looking for men. Won't come out of the bedroom. Parents, take your head out of the sand.
•    Anonymous said… I live in Cyprus and we are very limited in activities. I'm trying to get my 15 yr old interested in something. .especially as the school summer here is 3 months. .such a long time to be stuck to his laptop/pc
•    Anonymous said… If he is happy being by himself, then let him. NT's seem to think that socialising is the be all and end all, and for a lot of people on the spectrum, it's not. They don't need or crave it, like NT's do, and that's just fine. If on the other hand he wants to socialise, but finds it hard, try and find out how to help him acheive that. Maybe join some groups so he can meet people with simular interests. This doesn't have to be your regular, go out of the house and meet people, kind of group. It could be online, (of course teach the dangers about meeting people online, obviously, but it's not all bad). Some of the people I consider my closest friends, I have never met, and only chatted to via FB. And I have also made some great friends playing online games, such as world of warcraft, and from there got talking to people via skype, and some I met IRL. I even met my daughters father playing this game. I am not diagnosed, but highly suspect I have aspergers. I do feel there is lot less pressure in making friends online. My eldest son has aspergers, and he's made a lot of friends gaming, and also finds it lot less pressure to socialise via skype and gaming. A lot of his friends also have aspergers, so maybe look into getting your son to meet with other aspies. As for sport, god, I couldn't think of a worse nightmare for people with autism. I have never been interested in it at all. My eldest son and my younger son, who also has high functioning autism, both hate sports too. But it makes sense. Take football for example. Loads of people on a field. You have to predict what each persons next move is going to be, to know what your next move should be. As a person with autism, one of the problems encountered is predicting what other people are going to do. You have several people running towards you if you have the ball. This can be traumatic if you, like myself, HATE anyone invading your personal space. Or if, like my younger son, all your senses regarding touch, are messed up, so that a slight little bump, can feel like a really had knock. Then there is all the noise that comes with people on the pitch, and people at the sidelines shouting, cheering and clapping. Hell for anyone who is sound sensative. I know my younger son really hates football, and sometimes it saddens me, as most of his class play in the local team. But at the same time, I understand why and never mention it to him, He was offered the chance to play when he first started school, and when he's mentioned his friends playing, I have offered him the opportunity again, but he's not interested and that's fine. Some sports can be fun. I like Swimming, as I can just be in my own world and relax whilst swimming. My younger son likes ping pong, bowling and used to go to a club shooting pellet rifles, for which he won a trophy. So maybe look for the less popular kinds of sports as an option, ones that you don't have to play in a team, and therefor have far less social demands.
•    Anonymous said… I'm probably neurotypical and was bought up in the 1960s/70s, but...wouldn't play school sport, didn't volunteer, didn't join clubs. Spent most of my time on my short wave radio (or building more of same) or playing wargames and doing geek stuff. All at home. For some kids it's just what they want to do!
•    Anonymous said… Mine son is the same. School friends are school friends. Is not sporty. Will go for bike rides and walks, but most of the time is on computer or his phone. He's happy with this. We just do activities as a family so he comes along.
•    Anonymous said… my son does this. he is 14. I have no problem with it. I know one thing many parents today don't: where he is, who he is with,what he is doing, drug choice(none),alcohol intake (none). he had school friends and a brother here. he is interacting with people. just because he isn't highly social doesn't mean he isn't getting the just. He knows how to act. and does so with everyone... but me lol
•    Anonymous said… My son has aspergers 22 now. struggled socialising as they do because of ignorant society.he has no friends only Internet friends. Ido worry allot about him as all parents do.but I've had so called friends in the past and turned out to be not so nice friends.iam 50 now and idont worry about having friends I have a couple that I call true friends.i get on in life just fine on my own two feet.so Iam sure my lad will be fine as gets more older.long as you can teach them to be independent.
•    Anonymous said… My son is the same. I tried everything and now don't bother..I reckon they gave enough to to deal with and process during the day. This is their down time perhaps?
•    Anonymous said… no friends is better than bad friends. My son only had bad friends as he isn't social and couldn't interact well at school. He is now 21 and has had a very hard few years with drinking etc. and being in a bad crowd. It has changed him and he finds it hard to find work. Definitely better off staying at home with family than interacting with the wrong friends I feel very sad for his life now. He is undiagnosed Asperger's I'm sure of it.
•    Anonymous said… Sounds like my 14 try Olde son with Aspergers. But I homeschooling him abs he has a brother who us 13 an acts more mature then him so sometimes I think he's the older one but he gets along great with his brother but he never wants to go anywhere with us and never wants to do anything outside the home unless it's like a theme park or the pool but at least he's social with his brother
•    Anonymous said… Teaching the children to be independent is really important so they can take care of themselves throughout adulthood. I have supported children with aspergers through school and it is such a hard time for them, far too much in some cases. I have also counselled adults and children with aspergers and a lot of the time they talked about feeling anxious, feeling different, being bullied, not understanding the reactions or interactions of others in social situations, feeling depressed and suicidal, the majority have prefered their own company. Once some of the pressure is taken off the children have been more able to manage themselves. I have also worked with and counselled parents and the frustration and pressure to 'get it right' and be 'a good parent' is tremendous. Take the pressure off.
•    Anonymous said… This sounds like most teenagers these days. I have 3 teens, 1 Aspie, 2 non, they all do the same thing.
•    Anonymous said… What many neurotypical people don't seem to be able to understand is that they WANT to be alone, or at least in a quiet or safe place such as home. Stop imposing YOUR ideas of what is normal on your children and just try to love and support their choices.
•    Anonymous said… First of all, being an extremely active when I was a child, why is there such a concern about children who are not interested in competitive sports? Like sports is more important that intellect? My 14 year old is pulled to his computer whenever at home. My only issue is that his room is cleaned up and any chores he is suppose to do, is done. Otherwise, his sense of enjoyment is his: He creates music, plays games, interacts with kids all over the world. They will be okay, just as he child (the young me) that so obsessed with gymnastics, they can only think of gymnastics. Lived and breathed it. Did I grow up to be a gymnast? No. Let them be kids without so much judgement and fear.  😊
•    Anonymous said… Great article
•    Anonymous said… I am not or maybe on the spectrum I could function at work and at school but when it's over I want and wanted to be home to unwind and declutter my brain. I have few friends and see them sometimes but mostly when I'm home I watch tv. My son goes to public school socializes there but when he gets home he's done
•    Anonymous said… I personally think its important for all kids to socialize but each kid is unique. My son has never cared for sports although they are an important part to our family and he recognized this and tried. He loves being outside though and since 1st grade wanted to do Scouting. He is now 17 and is working on his Eagle for Boy Scouts. Figure out their interests and steer them to existing clubs or create one! Just don't over do it.
•    Anonymous said… Its worthwhile to do some research on successful people with Aspergers diagnoses. Social skills are definitely a learned skill for some and will serve them later in life for jobs /relationships etc. Are there any things that I serest him that you could find a social group for? Or perhaps some groups their OT or other therapists can suggest? Our Aspue teen goes to camps regularly with other kids like herself and they do a lot of group work and owe can see the development sees made in her social skills thanks to these camps. Best of luck.
•    Anonymous said… Society needs to understand more about high functioning autism. What they want and not what we want them to be. Great article!
•    Anonymous said… Sometimes the problem is thinking it's a problem. It's a problem if they can't make friends but it sounds like school and clubs are enough for them at the moment. Most kids with aspergers will probably make more meaningful friends with shared interests later on in life.
•    Anonymous said… Sounds like my non HFA 12 year old (reading just the above and not the article). My neighborhood has several 12 and 13 year old girls now. Most want to hibernate in their rooms with their phones and not go out with parents. Could partially be the "normal" age issues too. My daughter is not interested in sports/clubs either. My HFA son is only 6 so cannot tell if he will follow the same footsteps...
•    Anonymous said… Thank you for this article very helpful
•    Anonymous said… That's what my daughter does too. She is 13.
•    Anonymous said… They have to be super social all day in a crowded classroom. Of course they need alone time later. Back in my day they complained when I stayed in a read books, when I went exploring by myself, can't win.
•    Anonymous said… We have this problem. If anyone knows of any groups in Herefordshire U.K. That would be good.... no support around here
•    Anonymous said… What a fantastic article! I understand that they need down time but I can't get my 12 yr old Aspie to go anywhere, not shops or visiting or sports, she wants to stay at home all the time!
•    Anonymous said… By allowing that behavior you create a child who cannot function outside his own four walls and will never be able to go to school, hold a job, or socialize with others! As parents we must help our kids find a balance of activities and recharging time...it's called Life!
•    Anonymous said… Have you suggested any outdoor activities that are solo enterprises or involve a very small number of people? I am AS and hated sport at that age as all "school sports" were (necessarily, I suppose), TEAM games which I avoided for obvious reasons.
At 14 I was forced to attend the 1 week outward bound (then compulsory in all schools) and discovered a love of mountains and the outdoors which I still enjoy (mostly alone) to this day (I'm 48). ...and remember; if you meet one autistic, you've met......ONE autistic.
•    Anonymous said… I am new to this group. My 10 year old was just diagnosed with AS and his tablet is a life line. However, if he doesn't do what he is expected to do school and chore wise, he looses it for the day. I really wanna take a sledgehammer to it, but I know that is not wise. He has been coming home exhausted from school.
•    Anonymous said… I know what you mean because I to have been were you are right now. I have 4 boys (now adults) and raising my grandson who is now 11. I have been from one extreme to the other. My thoughts are from my experiences with 5 boys and no two were the same, but I learned from the oldest, that letting him dictate the who, what, where and how has led to a "man" who cannot function in the real world. It came to the day, like you say, that he was bigger than me and I could no longer get him to do anything. With my other boys, I started control things with limits and supports and they have thrived and the other three have lives, work and friends, and two are married! Is it optimal lives? for them it is, but I don't feel they would be where they are if I hasn't controlling from a young age how they interacted in the world they live in. This is my experience and thoughts, just like the author of the article. Are they right or wrong - no. I am I right or wrong - no. I wish you well and pray that you will find te support you and your child needs.
•    Anonymous said… I think it's ALL done in self preservation not being anti social my 14 yo is so exhausted after school that he naps before getting on his social media sites to talk w online friends he gets out everyday and does well at school that is a HUGE accomplishment for him I encourage him to come with me to the store but I don't force him to do more than he's comfortable with that's NOT fair he will be just fine remember folks our kids can be just as successful as Sheldon Cooper if we encourage them to do something they love and apply themselves in school
•    Anonymous said… I think we all have a battle. We all can give advice but, not all situations are the same. Rachel Siddons... I think we would all agree that we're all trying to be the best parents we can be. I agree that we need to encourage but, I've thought the same thing.. my nephew wants to skip school a lot because of bullying and it's always under the pretense of being sick. I'm a nurse and he's not sick. I've thought over and over again what am I going to do as a single parent when he's bigger than me and refuses.
•    Anonymous said… I was concerned for YEARS! everytime i tried to push him i felt like i was pushing him away and all it did was stress us both out! My son has high functioning AS he is 18 and is a senior in high school after i stopped pushing and supported him our relationship got better! just recently he started hanging out outside the house! going to the movies and bowling! Im starting to get concerned about how he's gonna do after high school! Like getting a job and continuing his education! Although my oldest is still trying to figure himself out and he's 21 lol
•    Anonymous said… I will keep that in mind as he goes out in the world around people who may be drinking I told him I'd always come get him and to NEVER get in the car w someone who's been drinking I plan to use a secret code of having him text me an X to let me know he needs me then I call him and let him know he must come home and I'm on my way so that way he isn't embarrassed in front of his friends if he ever trusts anyone to be around them, do you have trust issues as well?
•    Anonymous said… It's a requirement in our household that you do a school activity (ASD and typical). Either you choose or mom chooses for you. It's not up for debate. After choosing track for one son that dragged his heels, he miraculously found his own voice and his own activity. I don't regret doing it this way one inch.
•    Anonymous said… Just putting this out there, because I'm currently in bed crying and actually wish I hadn't seen your comment...I didn't let my son 'start', I've begged for outside help, and never once has it worked long term, he is now bigger and stronger than me, and once I've dragged him to the car I'm also risking other people's lives if he decides to kick the seat & open doors. If him being in his room (even without devices he still won't come out) is safer for my daughters and myself & partner that's what I have to do to get by some days
•    Anonymous said… Keeping kids engaged with school and a few activities that interests them, especially in groups to stay connected with people, even if it is a limited amount of time and with the supports they need.
•    Anonymous said… My AS son is 28. Finished college, got a job in his profession and just bought his own house. Never sports or outside activities. Outside of work my husband and I are his only source of 'friends' or activities (other than the computer). He comes and visits for a couple hours nearly every night. I worry about his future without friends, but he seems happy and says he is happy.
•    Anonymous said… My exes 8 year old is like this now!
•    Anonymous said… My son is 14. He is very intelligent and understands so much more than we know. He has been a computer master since he was a little toddler with a paci and a diaper. He is so content with what he does. He creates things like music and videos for his youtube channel. I strongly believe that we should support their talents and what makes them happy so that they can thrive in that area and become experts at what they love. Sometimes it is hard to not push them to do the norm, but they are not the norm. They are who they are, and that is okay!  ;)
•    Anonymous said… My son is a home body. He's 20 now and in college living at home. He struggled socially and so we did encourage him to try clubs and sports in high school. Reluctantly he joined the cross country team in high school. He hated the sport but stuck with it and he met a group of like minded people and soon had a friend group at school. He also joined yearbook which he loved. This might not work for everyone, but Will now has a group of people that he stays in touch with. He chooses his level of social interactions and mostly he's happy hanging out at home. It's all a crap shoot quite honestly - try a little bit of everything to see what sticks. We found that if we let Will hibernate in his room for too long he was not pleasant to interact with, but with some outside activities he really shined. Your call, but don't not try new activities because your child doesn't want to. Encourage them to get involved and see what happens. Hopping off my soapbox now.
•    Anonymous said… My son who is 13 hasnt left the house in 4 months unless its to go to school for his 3 hours only by car. He wont go outside as he no only feels safe in his room or at home. He was always outside but wont go out anymore. He is quite happy. But have family support coming in to help us get him outside more . As he wont go to school either .
•    Anonymous said… Not sure about this one. My son feels trapped at school and being forced to socialise and do group activities is his worst nightmare. He said just cause it's what the other kids do doesn't mean it's right for me. He's 10. He is however polite to people and able to make small talk if he feels safe. His iPad/games gives him something to unwind on but also a common topic to talk to his school people about (he doesn't like the word friends) we suggest activities from time to time but really the whole school thing is enough for him.
•    Anonymous said… Processing the onslaught of teenage social information is EXHAUSTING for anyone with ASD. It drove me via sleeplessness to drink and depression at that age, and that was WITHOUT pushy parents!
•    Anonymous said… Sounds a lot like me at 14. I have Aspergers but wasn't diagnosed till age 49! Now 57 and still living with it. I understand!
•    Anonymous said… sounds just like my son- and you know what? what does it matter? I am not autistic but when i was young I was shy,hated sport, did not volunteer, did not socialize much and as an adult I am still the same and I am perfectly content with being this way. Let him be the way he wants to be. You can suggest and expose him to family events but he does not have to be what you think he should be or what all "normal" kids are being. He is happy as he is and so should you be.
•    Anonymous said… Thank you for commenting I worry that he'll take up drinking as alcoholism runs in our family but I pray everyday that he makes smart choices NOT to drink so far so good but high school starts next year and it's a BIG school so I will worry more about the possibility of being bullied I just hope he continues to thrive as he is now he has 4.17 GPA and is on the honor roll I don't think he could do that if he weren't happy
•    Anonymous said… There is. Nothing wrong with being alone as long as he is happy.
Finding a job of some sort would be best there may be things he can do from home or that require little interaction. I'm now 32 I don't interact other then on the internet.
•    Anonymous said… They asked John Lennon what he wanted to be when he grew up. He allegedly replied, "Happy". From your terms, you are in the states. I cannot imagine how much more difficult it must be to live in a country that has even more intolerance of people who measure "happy" in unconventional ways. Drink is both a drug and a poison, control it and use it like any other, or it will control and use you!
•    Anonymous said… This is their kind of happy. It's not our kind, but their kind. Unless he is complaining or depressed about having no friends then I would let him be.
•    Anonymous said… Very difficult to do if u have a child who absolutely refuses to go out - even to school.


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