Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Communication Intervention and Social-Skills Training for Children with Asperger’s and HFA

For most children with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism (HFA), the most important part of a treatment strategy involves the development of communication and social competence. This emphasis doesn’t reflect a societal pressure for conformity or an attempt to stifle individuality and uniqueness. Rather, it reflects the clinical fact that most children with Asperger’s and HFA are not loners by choice, and that there is a tendency (as these young people develop towards adolescence) for despondency, negativism, and depression as a result of the child's increasing awareness of personal inadequacy in social situations and repeated experiences of failure to make and/or maintain relationships.

The typical limitations of insight and self-reflection experienced by children with Asperger’s and HFA often preclude spontaneous self-adjustment to social and interpersonal demands. The practice of communication and social skills doesn’t imply the eventual acquisition of communicative or social spontaneity and naturalness; however; it does better prepare the child to cope with social and interpersonal expectations, thus enhancing their attractiveness as conversational partners or as potential friends. The following are suggestions intended to foster relevant skills in this crucial area:

1. The child with Asperger’s and HFA should be taught to monitor her or his own speech style in terms of:
  • adjusting depending on proximity to the listener
  • background noise
  • context and social situation
  • naturalness
  • number of people
  • rhythm
  • volume

2. The child with Asperger’s and HFA should be helped to recognize and use a range of different means to disagree, discuss, interact, mediate, negotiate, and persuade through verbal means. In terms of formal properties of language, the child may benefit from help in thinking about idiomatic language that can only be understood in its own right, and practice in identifying them in both text and conversation. It’s also important to help the child to develop the ability to anticipate multiple outcomes, to explain motivation, to make inferences, and to predict in order to increase the flexibility with which he or she thinks about - and uses language with - other people.

3. The effort to develop the child's skills with peers in terms of managing social situations should be a priority. This should include:
  • ending topics appropriately
  • feeling comfortable with a range of topics that are typically discussed by same-age peers
  • shifting topics
  • the ability to expand and elaborate on a range of different topics initiated by others
  • topic management

4. Explicit verbal instructions on how to interpret other people's social behavior should be taught and exercised in a rote fashion. Facial and hand gestures, gaze, non-literal communications (e.g., sarcasm, metaphor, humor, figurative language and irony), the meaning of eye contact, tone of voice, and various inflections should all be taught in a fashion not unlike the teaching of a foreign language (i.e., all elements should be made verbally explicit and repeatedly drilled).

5. The same principles as described in #4 should guide the training of the child's expressive skills:
  • Self-monitoring techniques (e.g., practicing in front of a mirror, listening to the recorded speech, watching a video recorded behavior, etc.) should all be incorporated in this program.
  • Social situations contrived in the therapeutic setting that usually require reliance on visual-receptive and other nonverbal skills for interpretation should be used. Also, strategies for deciphering the most salient nonverbal dimensions inherent in these situations should be offered.
  • Encounters with unfamiliar people (e.g., making acquaintances) should be rehearsed until the child is made aware of the impact of her or his behavior on other people's reactions to her or him. 
  • Concrete situations should be exercised in a therapeutic setting and gradually implemented in naturally occurring situations.

As a final note, all those in close contact with the Asperger’s or HFA child should be made aware of the program so that consistency, monitoring and contingent reinforcement are maximized.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management


•    Anonymous said... I have a 16 yr old son with aspergers. He has really come out of his shell this year. I attribute it a lot to the fact that we have talked alot about the positive aspects of aspergers, showing him all the greatly successful people with aspergers and we also got him a book for teens written by a women who has it. If you ever want to talk I'd be happy to share with you what has worked for us
•    Anonymous said... My son has aspergers and I have had such a hard time finding a therapist who has made a connection with him to help in any real way if you have any suggestions would love input.
•    Anonymous said... My son is almost 13 & we could use it here too!!!
•    Anonymous said... Our son has recently been diagnosed with HFA and this is exactly the sort of training he needs but have no idea where to turn to get him it. We try at home but it's difficult as he feels it more as a criticism of his current lack of skills rather than we're trying to help. I'm sure professional help would be so much better. As I say, I just don't know where to turn to access such support?
•    Anonymous said... would love to hear what's worked for your family! I have 14yr old boy in denial so can't mention it without him getting very defensive. He shows all the traits mentioned in the post! I have bought an ebook for teenage AS and I'm waiting for the next melt down. I will then open the bedroom door, throw it in, and take cover!!

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usha said...

I'm a mother of 5 year old boy, and i'm really worried about him. I just want to do my best to help him live a happy life. Could you please suggest me best social skill training classes offered in northern virginia.
Thanks a ton...

Tiontole Ehecatl said...

I'm an 18 ear old teen who possibly has aspergers, I relate to a lot of the symptoms and from reading your blog have realised that it is very likely that I have aspergers. However my parents are the type who believe mental illnesses aren't real and if they are I as their daughter was not "raised to have them". They also seem to think they can just be gotten over or that people are failures for having them. I moved away from home about a year ago and now that I have space and a roof over my head I've been doing a lot of research and me having aspergers would explain so much.

I suffered as a young teen from not knowing how to speak properly and still do sometimes, plus my motor skills are terrible. My writing for example is so bad it cramps my hand whenever I try to write, ball sports are a no go as are monkey bars and many other things I couldn't do as a kid.

Plus I find a lot of comfort in things being placed in certain patterns and have trouble communicating socially especially with trying to maintain a conversation.

What I'm stuck with is that I know getting an official diagnosis would be supremely helpful but I'm scared about my family plus whilst I live in England and it's against the law to discriminate about such things I know it will happen. People just cover that stuff up or don't realise they're doing it.

I'm sorry this is so long but I wondered if you could give me any advice on whether I should get diagnosed or not. The most my family would do is shame me for it a lot, they won't physically harm me or disown me but I don't know if it would be worth it. What sort help would it give me etc?

Thank you if you answer this and thank you for your blog, it's super helpful!

Tiontole Ehecatl said...


I'm an 18 year old with possible aspergers, I show a lot of the symptoms including really poor motor skills, trouble communicating and not knowing how to control my voice etc.

My question is whether I should get officially checked out or not. The trouble is my parents are the type who have very negative views towards mental disabilities. If I tell them/get diagnosed there will be verbal abuse and denial.

Luckily I have moved out so I'm not dependant on them for food/clothing/shelter however I don't want them to have this big negative view of my obviously.

Trouble is a diagnosis would help to explain so much about myself but I don't know how beneficial it would be aside from that. Plus I'm aware that even though where I live they are not legally allowed to employers do often judge you as do ordinary people. Is there any way I can get help but keep it confidential, at least to my family and friends? If not do you think it would still be worth it for me. The pros and cons of it are never really explained especially as I don't know how much they can actually help me specifically.

Sorry this was so long!

Thank you for any help you may give me and also for running this awesome blog!

Parent seeking help said...

HELP - My 15 year old son is clearly struggling with many of the symptoms listed here and in other places I've researched.

When he was younger we didn't recognize his sensitivities and 'odd behaviors' as an issue - we focused on his talents; was a highly ranked tennis player by 10 (but just withdrew) became an incredible self-taught guitarist, playing concerts etc. (but withdrew), and has become amazing with food, talking his way into working in the kitchens at multiple local restaurants even at the age of 12 & 13 (but then withdrew).
Towards the end of middle school he really started to slide - going from honors classes to a complete inability to do any homework and when he hit high school it deteriorated rapidly. He was getting physically sick and missing large numbers of school days.

I was able to get him into a county offered computer-based program but after about 6 weeks in that, he's stopped attending and his behaviors are aspie are taking over every aspect of his life.

- Can't touch something because it's too sticky, or oily - incredible sensitivity to smell - 'the air is hurting my shoulder' and so on...

It's been impossible to talk with him about these things w/o him getting very upset and cutting the conversation.

Logic and reason are useless. He's even stated regarding the simplest things, 'my mind's already made up, it's not going to change'.
IE: 'I love that T-shirt but I can't wear it - it smells'.
Well we can wash it and it will smell like the rest of the clothes you like.
'no - it doesn't matter - my mind is made up and not going to change'.

This is so dangerous - no information, no matter how logical etc. impacts him once his 'mind is made up' - and we're discovering just how deep seated this is in him. He thinks EVERYONE else is wrong and just doesn't understand. The more of his family circle that's tried to talk with him, the more he pushes them away and withdraws because 'they just don't understand'.

I'm looking for suggestions on how to get him to accept going to get professional help. I've never mentioned Asperger's or Autism.

Based on the move from high-school to the computer-based program I was able to get his to 2 psychologists and 1 psychiatrist provided by the county - they all mentioned that he acts fairly normally and won't open up to them.

Based on the information we've provided to them, they all believe he has some level of autism and likely OCD, and is probably struggling with anxiety.

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

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

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

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

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

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

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

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content