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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The Highly-Anxious Asperger’s & High-Functioning Autistic Child

All kids experience anxiety. It is expected and normal at specific times in development. However, children with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) tend to suffer from anxiety more than “typical” children do. Estimates report that as many as 80% of children on the autism spectrum have anxiety disorders. Because these young people may also be quiet, compliant and eager to please, their difficulties may be missed by both parents and teachers.

Other factors that may contribute to heightened anxiety include the following:
  • Family history is frequently a factor. Both Asperger’s and anxiety disorders run in families. Kids who have a family history of anxiety, often going back several generations, are at increased risk for developing an anxiety disorder.
  • Kids with introverted temperaments may be more prone to anxiety. Introverted kids are more apt to internalize their distress rather than to act it out.
  • Kids who are experiencing high levels of family stress or conflict may exhibit signs of anxiety.
  • Kids with highly anxious moms and dads may exhibit high levels of anxiety themselves. The highly anxious parent who continually worries and frets about her “special needs” child or who is overly-protective can foster high levels of anxiety in her child.

There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:
  • Generalized anxiety disorder: Involves excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.
  • Panic disorder: Children with this disorder have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Symptoms include a feeling of "going crazy," a feeling of choking, a feeling of having a heart attack, chest pain, sweating, and unusually strong or irregular heartbeats.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. 
  • Specific phobias: An intense fear of a specific object or situation (e.g., snakes, heights, flying, etc.). The level of fear is usually out of proportion to the situation and may cause the child to avoid common, everyday situations.

The behavioral and emotional symptoms listed below may signal an anxiety disorder in your AS or HFA child (or the propensity for developing one):
  • avoidance of activities that require independence
  • avoidance of social situations 
  • avoidance of stressful situations (e.g., tests and exams, interactions with others, etc.)
  • avoidance, refusal or reluctance to participate in social activities that might result in social scrutiny
  • being overly clingy 
  • complains about physical concerns and problems (e.g., headaches, stomachaches, etc.)
  • constant thoughts and intense fears about the safety of parents 
  • constant worries or concerns about, school
  • constant worry about everyday activities (e.g., what's going to happen next)
  • extreme fear about a specific thing (e.g., dogs, insects, needles, etc.)
  • extreme worries about sleeping away from home 
  • extremely slow to complete tasks in order to ensure they are done correctly
  • fears of embarrassment or making mistakes 
  • fears of meeting or talking to people 
  • few friends outside the family 
  • highly dependent on a parent
  • highly sensitive to other people watching them
  • low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence 
  • many worries about things before they happen 
  • panic or tantrums at times of separation from parents 
  • physical symptoms (e.g., flushing) or an extremely quiet or shaky voice during social situations
  • refusing to go to school 
  • reluctant to engage in activities without a significant other
  • repetitive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or actions (compulsions) 
  • shows a high need for a great deal of reassurance
  • signs of perfectionism 
  • trouble sleeping or nightmares

Fortunately, much progress has been made in the treatment of children with anxiety disorders. Although the exact treatment approach depends on the type of disorder, one or a combination of the following therapies may be used for most anxiety disorders:
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: A therapeutic approach in which the child learns to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings.
  • Dietary and lifestyle changes
  • Medication: Drugs used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders include anxiety-reducing drugs and anti-depressants.
  • Psychotherapy: Counseling that addresses the emotional response to anxiety. Trained mental health professionals help children by talking through strategies for understanding and dealing with their disorder.
  • Relaxation therapy

How parents can help the highly-anxious Asperger’s or HFA child:


It’s nearly impossible to “cure” anxiety in AS and HFA kids. Some anxiety is genetic, and others are as a result of situations beyond the parent’s control. But parents can minimize the effect that anxiety has on their youngster’s development. Over time, moms and dads can help their child develop the coping strategies he or she needs to be able to handle day-to-day anxiety and stress. Here are some tips:

1. As a mother or father, it’s natural to want to be supportive of your “special needs” youngster. But you may be unintentionally reinforcing negative behaviors. For instance, if your youngster is anxious when you drop him off at school and he runs back to the car crying, it’s not a good idea to pick him up, hug him, cry too, and tell him ‘it will be okay’.  This just reinforces that leaving him is a scary thing to do.

2. AS and HFA children who suffer with anxiety issues are often described as "going from 0-to-60 in a split second," which often results in a meltdown.  In reality, however, the child’s emotions probably grew more gradually from calm to uneasy to anxious, but the parent (and the child) didn't notice the build-up. Teaching your child to identify this escalation is essential if he is to learn how to catch himself on the way up. A helpful tool to use is an emotional thermometer. When your youngster is calm, share the graphic with him, explaining how emotions often grow in intensity from calm to uneasy to anxious. Give him a copy of the thermometer and ask him to pay attention to where he is on it at different times of the day over the course of a few weeks, checking in with him as needed to discuss what he is noticing.

3. Breathing exercises that involve your youngster letting her belly expand as she inhales through her nose and deflate as she exhales through her mouth can help alleviate anxiety. The intake of oxygen and exhaling of carbon dioxide when she breathes deeply can lower her blood pressure and slow her heartbeat. When teaching this strategy to your child, tell her to pretend that she is blowing out candles on a cake or blowing up a make-believe balloon.

4. Calming music helps lower a youngster’s level of stress hormones, blood pressure and heart rate. When your youngster feels stressed, have him listen to soothing music (e.g., lullabies) using a pair of headphones. Create a playlist of spa-like music to play on an MP3 player.

5. Guided imagery teaches a youngster to calm her body and mind. This works best in a quiet, comfortable environment. Have your child close her eyes as you use a soothing voice to help her imagine that she’s in a relaxing situation (e.g., have her imagine that she’s filling bubbles with her negative emotions, which disappear into the air).

6. Kids pick up on social cues from their moms and dads. If the parent is an anxious person, her youngster is far more likely to be anxious as well. This is why it’s important that parents work on their own anxiety. They should try to minimize their fearful reactions to things when in front of their youngster – and try their best to relax and find composure in daily life.

7. Practice is key. Each day, at a time when your child is calm, ask him to role play what he looks like when he is fearful or anxious. Then ask him to practice self-soothing techniques. To make the practice most effective, have your child do the role-play in the area of the house he is most likely to go when he's actually upset (e.g., bedroom, beanbag chair, reading area, etc.). Then when he goes there in a moment of feeling uneasy, he'll be more able to use the correct technique in that space. Self-soothing training takes only a few minutes a day, but it's important that you focus on it daily with your child until you see him beginning to take hold of the strategies.

8. Social anxiety is easily the most common type of anxiety that affects kids on the autism spectrum. One of the main problems is that the AS or HFA youngster is unlikely to be adept at social skills. Parents should try to make sure that their youngster doesn’t have his fears reinforced. For example, you may be against violent video games or rap music, but the truth is that your youngster will want to converse with peers that will likely be talking about these subjects. The more your child knows about pop culture, the easier it will be for him to get into normal conversations, gain acceptance, and avoid having his social anxiety reinforced.

9. Teach your AS or HFA youngster to identify emotions by conducting a "body check." When you notice signs of anxiety first beginning, label it for your youngster and explain how you know (e.g., “Your voice is getting louder and your facial muscles are clenched, so I can see you're having some anxiety right now").  Over time, your youngster will learn to identify when he's anxious without your cues.

10. Think back to when you were a child. Most certainly, there were things that your parents did or said that helped calm you down. And most likely, there were those things that they did that raised your anxiety level. Vow to pass on the best – and leave the rest. In other words, some of the things that soothed you as a child may very well work with your child – so try them. Also, try to avoid doing the things that caused you be anxious as a child.

11. Try to find your child some very close friends. Studies have shown that having social support from close friends greatly reduces anxiety and improves confidence. As the AS or HFA youngster gets older, she will be able to leverage those friendships in such a way that she becomes less anxious in the process.

12. When your youngster feels anxious, oxygen-rich blood triggered by his fight-or-flight response often causes large muscle groups to feel tense. Practicing progressive muscle relaxation helps release the tension so he feels calmer. Guide your youngster by telling him to bring his shoulders up to his ears for five seconds – and then relax. Repeat the exercise five times.

Are you worried that your AS or HFA child may be exhibiting symptoms of anxiety? Observe his or her behavior and ask yourself the following questions:
  • When did you begin to notice some of the signs of anxiety in your child?
  • What factors or stressors do you think are contributing to the anxiety?
  • What effect does anxiety have on your youngster and those around him or her?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how severe do you think the problem is?
  • Is it hard to manage?
  • How long have these problems been of concern?
  • How long do the symptoms of anxiety last?
  • How frequently does your youngster exhibit symptoms of anxiety?
  • How does it interfere with your youngster’s life?

By getting answers to these questions – and by utilizing the ideas listed above – parents should be able to greatly reduce the level of anxiety that their “special needs” child experiences.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Things To Consider When You First Discover Your Child Has Aspergers

When your child finally gets a diagnosis, it will all make sense. Even if it doesn't change his  behavior, it will change the way you interpret it --  which will make so much difference.

Self-Advocacy & Self-Disclosure: Advice for Teens on the Autism Spectrum

The purpose of this article is to get young people on the autism spectrum thinking about how they can actively advocate for themselves rather than passively accepting “things as they are” or settling for a one-down-position in various situations or aspects of life.

We will look at both self-advocacy and self-disclosure, because disclosure (i.e., telling others about your diagnosis) to the right people is a primary way to advocate for yourself. When self-disclosure works well, it has positive effects for interpersonal relationships. On the other hand, when self-disclosure does not work well or you disclose to the wrong person, it can lead to lowered self-esteem, embarrassment, and relationship deterioration – or termination!

Self-Disclosure—

The hard part for many teenagers with Asperger’s (high-functioning autism) is telling friends, classmates and coworkers about their diagnosis, given the prevalence of ignorance in regards to Autism Spectrum Disorders in general. Many Asperger’s teens want to be honest and share their diagnosis, hoping that others will be accepting and supportive. While there are many compassionate people out there who will be, there are also many who won't be – or aren't ready to be.

So, should you tell people about your Asperger’s? It depends on what your needs are and if you're ready to accept the good or bad results that may stem from your disclosure. Self-disclosure is a tough decision. It's crucial that you take the process seriously – and protect yourself. In any event, there comes a time when decisions have to be made as to who to tell and what to tell about your disorder.

It can be quite a challenge to tell peers about the struggles you are experiencing. Asperger’s teens look “normal” (of course), yet many suffer terribly – often on a daily basis. It’s the absence of obvious physical clues that cause other people to minimize the full extent of the challenges that accompany autism spectrum disorders. Thus, it’s wise to decide carefully who you tell. Despite numerous campaigns to raise awareness of autism, there are always going to be individuals in your life who do not (or will not) understand your disorder. Unfortunately, these people are capable of inflicting further distress.

Here are some guidelines that Brandon, one very smart 18-year-old Asperger’s teenager, used to make the task of telling others about his diagnosis easier and more empowering:

Before I tell anyone about my diagnosis, I want to be clear as to why I am telling this person. In one case, this person was my boss and I needed to explain some absences. In another case, it was a friend because I needed his assistance on a school project. So, I always want to be clear what it’s that I hope to achieve by telling any particular person. Knowing this helps me cope with negative reactions that I may receive. I don’t want to disclose for the wrong reasons. So, I make sure I know what my true motives are for revealing my Asperger’s.

I have a pamphlet on Asperger syndrome and have it on hand to give to people should they require further information. A lot of people out there are poorly informed about autism spectrum disorders in general, and providing them with good information benefits me in the long run. Critics in particular are more likely to react more favorably to well-informed documentation than a personal, emotionally-charged monologue delivered by me.

When I need help from the person I am disclosing to, I try to be clear about what form that help should take. I find that a lot of people are more than willing to help, but don’t have the faintest idea of what to do. This is where I need to be specific about my needs. So, I write my thoughts down on paper before sharing them. This is a useful practice for clarifying my reasons for telling a particular person about my special needs.

I think it’s important for my own mental health to share my disorder with a few specific people. Some are willing to assist me, and some have walked out of my life once they were aware of the true nature of my disorder. A few others have even teased, bullied, or ignored me all together. I expect this. I expect to be hurt by some of my peers and acquaintances. But I don’t let this aspect of some people’s characters put me off telling significant others.

Lastly, I try to prepare myself for all possible reactions from the other person. I remind myself that I can’t control other people’s reactions or belief systems, but I can be prepared for what to say in response to any questions I may encounter. Telling other people, regardless of their reactions, is a truly empowering experience in most cases.

Self-Advocacy—

Self-advocacy teaches Asperger’s teens to identify issues that mean the most to them. It helps them prioritize their hopes and dreams – and to make certain that nothing gets in the way of achieving their goals.  

Here are some important tips for learning self-advocacy skills:

1. Asperger’s is nothing of which to be ashamed. It’s a part of who you are, but it does not define you. Once you realize this, and that you are capable and intelligent, you should be able to step up and take on some of the responsibility of self-advocacy. In the meantime, remember, you are still a teenager.

2. The road to becoming your own greatest advocate begins by being as informed as possible about your disorder. There are dozens of books (some more scholarly than others) that you can read to help yourself understand that this disorder is not your fault and to learn patterns of behavior you have come to see in yourself, but didn’t know what they meant.

3. Another aspect of being a good self-advocate is to pay careful attention to yourself. Learn your idiosyncrasies and pay attention to the things that work for you, along with the things that don’t work. For example, if you have certain obsessions or compulsions, understand what they are and find out ways to get around them (if needed, and if possible).

4. Know your strengths. Asperger’s teens are often gifted with an above average I.Q. It’s likely that you excel in one or more academic subjects. Also, you probably have an intense interest outside of academics (e.g., music or computers). Knowing your own strengths will help you gain much needed self-confidence.

5. Recognize and accept your weaknesses. Just as with your strengths, you must also be mindful of your weaknesses. For example, teens with Asperger’s sometimes struggle with language based academics. Social skills and sensory problems may be weak areas for you as well.

6. Participate in counseling and group therapy to help keep yourself focused. Counseling sessions are useful for teens on the spectrum. This is a place where you can talk about how your strengths and weaknesses make you feel. In group therapy, you can learn new strategies for coping in social situations.

7. Regarding school-related issues, remind staff that you are an individual and must be viewed as such. There is no single solitary program or approach that works effectively with ALL students – even if they have the same diagnosis. If you can't learn the way teachers instruct, then teachers need to instruct the way you learn.

8. If you have a problem with a certain teacher, remember that an adversarial relationship between you and that teacher is typically never in your best interest. It's sometimes easy to fall in the trap of blaming teachers for disappointments or a particular issue. However, blame doesn't typically result in anything more than bad feelings and an ill-willed outcome. Instead of blaming your teacher, try the opposite approach: keep calm, know the facts, and advocate about meeting your unique needs. Propose solutions or create a possible plan that works best for you and the teacher. Be open-minded and hear proposed solutions from your teacher’s side as well.

9. Be an active participant in your IEP process and know your written goals. Also, take part in your IEP meetings. Once you acknowledge your own strengths and weaknesses, your input can help the IEP team set reachable goals.

10. Understand that your school’s Principal is a key player. You MUST have the loyalty, support, faith, and cooperation of the Principal in order to advocate effectively for yourself in the school setting.

Self-disclosure and self-advocacy are core communication skills. Being proficient at using these skills means that you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others. These skills can help with stress management, boost your self-esteem, and help earn others' respect. Some teenagers seem to use these skills naturally, but if you're not one of them, you can become skillful by utilizing the information above.


COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for Sept., 2015]

  Do you need some assistance in parenting your Aspergers or HFA child? Click here to use Mark Hutten, M.A. as your personal parent coach.

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Dear Mark:

Your course has been a lifesaver! It has helped us so much. I have referred a number of people to it. Things are still hard, but not like they were. And I find that they get worse again when I have not re-read the book or my notes for a while, so I try to keep that up.

I am wondering if you have an article on dealing with a parent's romantic relationship? My 14 yr old daughter is much worse when anyone I care about is around. For example her behavior greatly improved when her sister left for college (she has always felt very primally jealous and competitive of my love for her). My boyfriend of 2 years lives in another state and is not here that much (I go there too). The last time he was here she was over-the-top, starting trouble for no reason. She has said she does not want me to have a boyfriend at all.

Do you have an article on this issue?  Thanks



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Hi Mark,
thank you so much for your continuing support with my teenager Aspie son.
Your newsletters have given me many 'coping' tips and suggestions.
Thanks again, and God bless you for your willingness to share your knowledge,
Kate Moore

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Thank you Mark for these articles. As a previous teacher I learned some of this but have forgotten. I love your outlook on how to help kids with Aspergers. I think you nailed it. It's like you know exactly what they are thinking and how they will react.  I keep thinking "RESPOND DON'T REACT" to the things that drive me crazy.  Keep the articles coming.
I extend to you the complete blessing of the United Hearts and the annointing of St. Michael,
Jill

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Dear Mr. Hutton,

We have viewed your website and wonder if you could help us. We are looking for ways to help our grandson, age 13, who has been diagnosed with Aspergers.  He has had counseling, has medication, and has had prior school problems for reacting to peer pressure which led to changing schols from public to private and return to public schools.  We live 500 miles away and wonder if there is anything we can do.  Our grandson is the oldest of 5 children, age range 13, 10, 7, 4, 18 months. none of the siblings exhibit similar characteristics. However, we believe Mom (daughter in-law) does exhibit similar characteristics - not much conversation or eye contact, sensitivity to smells and light, has times of melt downs when things don't go as she has planned. Our son has not acknowleged his wife's possible Aspergers, at least not verbally to us.  We have not been able to approach conversation with both of them together with not knowing how to discuss things all together.  We have approached our son and he says everything is fine as regards to his wife.  But we feel our daughter in-law may have similar traits, as do other members of our immediate and extended sides of the family.

We are hoping to find a way to help our grandson.  Our son has shared that our grandson is already having problems socially at school (8th grade), and he is frustrated because the teachers are not doing what they said they would do. So you can see there is frustration all around - for our grandson, Mom and Dad and teachers. We love them all!  Can you help us help our grandson & family?

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Hi,
My daughter is diagnosed with FASD, ODD, and ADHD.  We adopted her at birth, and of course, we were lied to about alcohol and drug use by the birth mother.
By 18 months, our daughter was demonstrating anger issues, by age 3 daycare was going to kick her out due to physical aggression, and by age 4.5 they did.  She was diagnosed at age 4 with all of this, which I know the ODD diagnosis for a girl at that age is atypical, but it was so obvious.
She has been suspended for physical aggression in grades K- 3, no suspension for 4th grade, and it is only the third week of 5th grade.
The defiance, bad language, and physical aggression are an every day occurrence at home.  She hits me and her 8 yr old sister on a daily basis, and when I wake her up for school, I get "shut up bitch".  She bullies her sister daily with the threat of physical harm.  She regularly hits and pinches her.  My 8yr old does whatever she has to to keep from getting hurt, but sometimes we both get hit for speaking or playing a game together!
It is not out of the realm of our weekend existence to be regularly hit and yelled at for for not doing what Olivia wants us to do.
I have been dreading weekends for more than 7 years...3 day weekend, spring break, and winter break are pure hell.  I often take a day off from work just so I can have some peace.  We have tried Love and Logic, the Nurtured Heart, we see a therapist and a psychiatrist.  We have spent thousands of dollars of therapies , behavioral skills groups, a variety of counselor a, etc.  She convinces every therapist that I am the problem, and that I have caused her to be this way.  She twists everything around and takes no responsibility for any of her actions.
I fear for her future!
I am to the point of seeking residential outpatient support for her as I cannot handle her much longer.  Very tired of getting hit and bruised by my child!  Also very worried about the mental health of my younger daughter...she has a right to be sage in her own home, as do I.

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Hello, I'm glad I somehow find out your website and the info about your book. I know by email it's hard to give advice about my son's situation. He is 6 years old and has been labeled with a speech delay and is said to be developmentally behind to children his age by specialize school teachers and physcologist.  The other day my son tried to initiate conversation with two young boys who were playing together. My wife and I noticed the boys were uncomfortable around him. My son tends to talk loud when he really wants to express himself and it sounds very monotone. He is almost trying too hard so it doesn't flow out well. The other two boys seemed turned off by his approach which is understandable. When he wants attention whether from adults or children he raises his voice and even sometimes puts his face so near the other persons face he is talking to. I'm not sure whether to think he has Aspergers or not. Autism has been ruled out by prior speech therapist and  counselors so I'm not sure what to think.  One thing his behavior is often very childish in which he has a tendency since a young child to cry for anything he wants with his mom and grandmother. He also talks back quite often to his mom in a stern voice and mimics her in childish way.  Now when he is with me he tends to communicate differently and tends to be more like mature boy so between me and my wife he is getting conflicting parenting. Therefore, my wife feels he has something she quite can not label yet and I feel as his dad behavior modification is necessary before labeling him with something.  I'm not sure what to do next. One thing for sure my son expects constant attention and when he doesn't get it, he becomes very frustrated and doesn't want to listen to any advice. Sorry for going on and on but as of right now the only official label he has had the last 3 years has been a speech delay. My questions what would be the smart move to do next?

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Hi Mark:
Thanks for your previous response. We did read through the check-list and realized that we needed to fine tune some of our parenting. In particular - the poker face gets away from us and feeling sorry for our adult child who says he is depressed.
Last week our son was working away from home. We were proud of him for doing this. In cleaning out a games/overcoat closet we found a lot of drug parafanalia, weed packaging and lighters. This also led us to check his room. We threw everything out and then used the 6 step approach with him a few days later through texting. The consequence for the next time we found any evidence would be a 3 day lockout.
We brought him home yesterday and he began raging at us for throwing this out. It belonged to him and his friend. They want to take us to court for unlawfully disposing of this. He was intimidating and physical with both his father and myself. We did walk away several times but he followed us. Finally my husband said that he would call the police if he was violent again.
We are sickened by this. We believe we have the right to decide what is in our home. We are not sure how to resolve this with such an angry young man.
Lorelie

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Hello,
I am a single mother of two teenage daughters. My 13 year old is addicted to socializing and her phone and snuck at until 3am just to call her friend, after I turned off wifi and date at 9pm and her sister and I went to sleep. For some reason I woke up as if someone woke me wide awake I thought it was close to 6am time to wake up, but was only 2:30 and my front door was unlocked, I locked it and went back to bed. I didn't even think to check her bed, then I heard her come in at 3:00am
I think I need some parenting advice and support.

Thanks
Aliza

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Hi Mark,
I am so grateful to have come across your online service.
My son, Arlo, just turned 5 this week.  He was officially diagnosed with high functioning autism/aspergers in March 2015.
I have worked tirelessly to get him early childhood services and interventions through his preschool in the past year 1/2 in which he showed great progress.
He has and IEP and has JUST started Kindergarten in a great school district with wonderful supports in place.  I am feeling hopeful on that front.  Where I am really struggling is at home. 
I am divorced from Arlo's father and we share custody.  Arlo and his little sister, who is just about to turn 4, live with me half the week, and with their father, step-mother, and 7 and 4 year old step siblings the other half of the week.  From all conversations I have had, he seems to have, by far, the most struggles with me, than in any other environment, whether school or his Dad's house.  Of course this is terribly hard for me not to just feel like I am failing as a mother and wondering why our time together is so darn hard.  This weekend was one of the worst that we've had in a very long time.  It may be that Arlo was overwhelmed from his first couple days of school and his birthday, but this weekend he was extremely defiant and out of control.  So really, my first question, that none of the professionals I have worked with for him so far have been able to answer is how do I discipline him when he is doing things that are wrong?  I know this seems like such a basic question, but I haven't been able to figure it out with him.  All I here is to reinforce positive behavior which I do, but when he is not getting his way, or not liking what the plan is or that I won't let him have a popsicle for breakfast or take a knife out of the drawer or buy a toy at the supermarket he completely melts down - which didn't always, but now includes aggressive behavior - spitting, hitting me, throwing toys at his sister etc... I literally had to sit on him this weekend to keep his hands away from his sister.  I hate how this is feeling and I just feel so ill equipped when he is super upset in helping him deal.  He won't go to his room to cool off and I can't get him to take deep breaths with me.  Any thoughts or suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!!!!

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Hi,

My son has ASD. We are US Citizen and we moved back to India when he was in 3rd grade. He was hyper since beginning but after coming to India he got diagnosed with ASD/ADHD copuple of years back.

He is now in 11'th grade and doing good in studies. He got 90% in 10'th. But has social skill issues and not yet fully independent. He is very much interested in Computers and want o become computer engineer/programmer/Game Architect.  

If he wants to come to US for bachelor degree can you suggest some good universities.  What course he should select and what facilities and financial support he will get.

Also it will be better to do bachelor in India and come to US for Master and do job or do bachelor in US and do job for him. He loves studies but still need our guidance and support and we have to always keep him on track.

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Mr. Hutton,

I am a licensed mental health counselor and mother of 2 grown sons with the form of autism formerly known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder.  I work with Asperger clients from time to time as well as neurotypical clients with various mental health issues.  Can you suggest a good resource for teaching social skills to young adults with Asperger's?  I know you have a book for children, but I haven't found a resource I really like for adults.  By the way, I downloaded your comprehensive handbook for Asperger's several years ago and have found it very helpful.  Thank you for all you do to help so many!

Sincerely, Sharon

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I have read over many of the areas you have and my son fits all just about with the exception of inability to be a teen.  He actually wants to dress like the others ( I do have to remind him to brush his teeth and bathe), has facebook etc. and has some friends.  However he meets most if not the rest of the other parts.  Does this mean he may not be Aspergers.  He was diagnosed by a Psychologist with ADHD, Mood disorder etc. and mild tourettes, and they said HFA.

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I look forward to reading your book. I have a 12 yo daughter who's an "aspi". We are older parents, 53 & 63- we adopted her as an infant. It has been a challenge, we thought she had ADHD.I have gone to several inservice & I still need guidance.

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Hi Mark,
I am an ADHD coach in OHIO (go Bucks!)and reading about you and your autism background.  I am actually working a lot with ADHD comorbid with aspergers/autism and am always looking for resources for older teens in HS.
Might you have any suggestions? Thank you in advance, for your time! Judy

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Hi,

I'm writing in regards to my son who has Aspergers.  He just moved from Utah to start college at the University of Massacusetts.  He called me tonight and is so dejected. He tried to get close enough to put his arms around a girl a few times and was faced with rejections.  He swore over a year ago that he wouldn't ever try to date or "hook up" with a girl as long as he lives because he was turned down for dates twice his senior year.  It sent him into a terrible spiral and inability to focus on homework and rowing.

He just admitted to me that he didn't work hard to get into an out-of-state college to study for any other reason than to have the social life he never had but always dreamed of.  We hung up the phone and I just want to be able to help.  I finally discussed his Aspergers with him last winter.  I never mentioned it when he was growing because it's not always easy to diagnose and he's high functioning enough that therapists only mentioned that he was "on the spectrum".  And because he fears being abnormal so much.

Do you have any resource recommendations for college kids?  Anything I can give him to read?  He wants to be normal so badly, and a "stable social life" is his life's ambition. 

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Hello and thank you for providing some level of individualized help.
I do have a question… My daughter who has high-functioning autism is currently waiting for services outside of her school-she was diagnosed last month.  She just entered kindergarten and the  transition has been a nightmare.  When she has a meltdown,they are very very aggressive-hitting,scratching,biting you name it.  I understand the concepts regarding prevention/triggers etc....I also feel she suffers from anxiety and some level of AHAD.
Question: What do I do when she is attacking me? There is no prevention thus far.  Simply being in certain places is a sure-fire over-load for he.  She is being observed within the school system to she if evaluations are warranted.  I can't keep her at home,so until she adjusts and/or the learning environment aligns with her needs hopefully soon, she will be on overload in the afternoon.  I have tried all types of reactions-including no reaction.  I have restrained her in the past for lack of better options as she is very physical.  I stopped doing so because it feels like to much/abusive and she hates it.  Do I allow her to hit me? Push her away?  Distraction seems to work on occasion. I understand that I need to address these issues when she begins seeing a clinician, but it is ground zero after school and pretty traumatic till bedtime.
Maybe just some suggestions?  Using her currency does not work most of the time,and the lack of empathy is also in the mix.  I understand that kids cannot help it,and should not be punished,but it is not ok to hurt me either--as I am her primary care provider/target. 
Thank you for your time and any input that you may have, I understand that your inbox must always be full!!!!

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Good evening, Mark -

I listened to all 4 parts, and am grateful for the assistance.  The issue we have is our 13-year old daughter stopped talking to me over a year ago, and will only communicate with her mom.  This occurred after a blow-up when she refused to open the bathroom door a bit wider so I could get my toothbrush.  She got very physical, so I had to get somewhat physical back, which she apparently didn't like.  I've dealt with the silence for a long while, but it has now graduated from not talking to not obeying.  She now does almost nothing I say and lives as if I do not exist.  My wife doesn't like it, but lets it happen just to keep the peace.  There is no way it is healthy for us to live like this, and it cannot continue.  I believe your advice is very helpful, but only works if the lines of communication are open.  Just wondering what your thoughts are on how to accomplish that.  Do the 3 of us sit down and have a heart to heart?  Do we inform her if she refuses to communicate with me that she can no longer live here?  Any assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you

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Hello Mr. Hutten,

    We are having some issues with our 11yr. old autistic son that
    we thought you may be able to give us some insight on.  The
    first issue is that Chris gets upset at the drop-of-a-hat and when
    we try to calmly talk about it, he raises his voice even louder.  Our
    son was having some anxiety about his transition into middle school
    so we got him a puppy thinking that would help, but over the past few
    weeks he has gotten real controlling when it comes to the puppy.
    It causes a great deal of stress on us.  Do you have any advice that
    could help out?

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Hi Mark,
In looking and researching for some guidance for my consistently defiant, disobedient 9 yr old daughter, I came across your site for the ebook, "My Out of Control Child". For as long as she's been alive, she's  been a very strong willed child. The challenge is increasingly becoming her defiant behavior towards her teachers in school. She blatantly disregards direction and instruction from those in authority and "it is never her fault". While she doesn't exhibit all the behaviors outlined for ODD, I'm curious to hear your perspective on the small bit of information I've shared.
I will gladly purchase your book, if you feel it will help us turn her behavior (and our behaviors) around. I hope to hear from you.
Signed,
At my wits end in Atlanta  (S.Olive)

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Greetings Mark

I left you a phone message on your voice mail. Please check out the information here on the online Brain and Sensory Foundations course and let you community know about these excellent tools for helping children.

Sensory Issues can be healed. Here is an article explaining more> http://www.moveplaythrive.com/images/pdf/moro_keytosensory.pdf

Blessings on your work!

Sonia Story
360-732-4356
www.moveplaythrive.com

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We are in no man’s land at present… He just doesn’t care any more and is quite depressed.  We did push and it ended with a scramming abusinve session and calling the police who refused to take him as he was not a danger to himself or us (he was holding a hammer).  Dominic did go off voluntarily to the hospital but came home soon after. 

We have seen the psychiatrist who is concerned he is becoming a hermit not bathing for weeks, cleaning teeth or going outside. and is losing any social skills we worked really hard to develop.  He has a support worker for 2 hours a week who will take him out - Dominic told the doctor there is nothing wrong with him… everyone else has a problem.  He is now on another medication but only a low dose. We go to work and he sleeps all day and then is up all night…The doctor wants more support worker time to help him… his $860 a fortnight pension is not going to him and he gets NO  money at all.  Food is 3 meals a day and minimal…

What now?  He won’t go to hospital voluntarily … we don’t see if at all as he is a hermit in his room… only coming out to get food.

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Hi Mark,

My daughter was diagnosed with adhd with Asperger's syndrome early this year. she turned 17 today. She is at a critical point of her academic life and facing a major exams in two months time. She has not been attending school for the past 4 months as she claimed school is giving her the phobia of unfriendly and very cold classmates. She relied on tuitions but at the rate that she's going, there's no way she can pass her exams. The school allowed her to sit for trial exams recently but her teacher gave me feedback that she will never be able to attempt any of the government exams with her unpreparedness. Nevertheless, she insisted that she is prepared and would want to go ahead and finish her O level this year.

Her behavior has changed from bad to worse. Even on her birthday we invited her for dinner on her favorite restaurant, she declined and just locked herself in the room. She didn't even bother to acknowledge anyone in the family when we knocked on her door, strumming and practicing her guitar throughout the day.

I warned her that if she refuses to acknowledge our existence, I will do the same when she asks me for her daily pocket money ( reduced from monthly to weekly and now daily as she became very compulsive in buying books that she didn't read, video games that can't play and eating at expensive outlets including Starbucks coffee despite our warning that her pocket money will soon dry up).

No one in the family (one more younger sister) is able to communicate with her effectively. My wife will lose her patience and I on and off lose my cool because of her irritable behavior, arguing her way to the extreme end.
She has refused to take her medication previous claiming that it is making her too focus. The doctor coax her into taking by reducing the dosage and that she will only be allowed to take her exams if she starts taking her medicines to help her in her studies and focus.

We are running out of our wits to deal with her. Is there a regime you can suggest? Despite her acknowledgment that we are there to help her, she just doesn't want us to be around her. She feels that we are trying to control her all the time and that she is not a lackey as what we expect. The truth is otherwise. We have lost our control and no longer doing anything additional but just let her deal with herself, which is very dangerous, I guess. She keeps making the same mistakes and often creating havoc if we stop observing her.

Kindly guide us where and how we should start in dealing with her correctly again. Many thanks and your advice is highly appreciated.

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Hello Mark

I think my husband has aspergers.  Its in his family and he has many of the characteristics. He and I have talked about it a bit, but not about counseling.  Obviously it is a sensitive subject.  This is my idea (counseling).  I have read quite a bit about it.I looked at the Living with an AS.  I am.wondering what is the best first step, reading the e book, or having a consultation in person?  We live about an hour from Anderson.
Thank you.

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Hi Mr. Hutten,

My son is 17 years old and has Asperger's. He is still pretty dependent on me for quite a bit. I can offer more details if necessary but basically I was wondering if you know about the subject of guardianship. I want to know if it is necessary for me to get guardianship, what are the pros and cons and how to go about the process. Any information you can offer would be greatly appreciated. It scares me that he is almost 18 years old (in March) and I would like to get everything in order if it seems like a good idea.

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Dear Mark,
I have done my best (which doesn't seem to  have been very good) with my boyfriend and the Asperger info..  About three weeks into it he took this online test: http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/autism.htm and scored 41. That made him let go a bit and admit that maybe this really was his problem (he also related to the audios but the test was like the final straw). Then he was in distress about having this and becoming anxious. This last weekend we had a meditation teacher here with us who says he has worked with Asperger people and my boyfriend does not have it because he can keep eye contact and a linear conversation. This has made my boyfriend feel liberated, and ready to see all of it as my projection; he is a normal human being. (Personally I don't find anything wrong about being Asperger's, but he's NOT neurotypical and if he cannot see that his behaviour elicits certain responses in me which are normal for a neurotypical, I think I'll need to throw in the towel.)
Our meditation friend suggested that most people would score high on an online test like this and that if we want a real diagnosis we should ask someone specialized in this. Can you suggest anything.
Thank you, Kirana

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Hi Mr. Hutten,
                         My Grandson Jaidyn is 6 yrs old he has been diagnosed with RAD. This little guy has been through more in his short life than anybody should ever go trough in a lifetime. When he was born he was taken from his mother because she was locked up for attacking and stabbing my son his daddy. She has a long history of drug abuse. Also has several other children none of which she has last count was 6 including Jaidyn. Todd is my son he was in and out of trouble for about 10 yrs. He has been doing well since his release almost 9 yrs ago. He was diagnosed with Bi Polar at age 21. Not that any of this is relevant. He is now 34. Going back to Jaidyn when his mother was released from jail. She did her parenting and whatever else she had to do to get him back. He was given back to her at 6 mos of age. I had been trying to see Jaidyn when we found out he was Todd's. I fought with Children Services for almost a year to be allowed to have visits. The caseworker told us the mother said we were racists and was afraid for her baby. So they denied us visits with him. None of this is true Love knows no color. I let it go for awhile. I also threatened the case worker and told her if anything happened to him I would have her job. I also gave my contact info to C.S. in case something happened to him. Well guess what she no longer works there. I get a call about 6 mos. later my worst fear was on the other end it was the authorities telling me my Grandson was in Mercy Hospital burn unit. He had second and third degree burns on the bottoms and tops of both his little feet. I called my son and husband with the devastating news. We spent 6 weeks back and forth to the hospital. They had to teach him to walk again. My husband and I took kinship custody of him. My husband took a voluntary layoff from his job he was with us for a year. My husband had to go back to work. We thought they were going let our son have him. The C.S. authorities put him in foster care for 6 more mos before he was given to our son. I think they wanted to make sure he was off parole before they let him have him. He was never convicted of drugs, violence or abusive of any kind just stupid stuff like stealing. Anyway Jaidyn has a lot of different people in and out of his life our son has been trying to do right and not knowing the 3 women he has had in Jaidyns life has affected him. He is urinating all over the walls of the bedroom.He is hoarding food. He plugged a heater in and stuck an plastic LED light into it to melt because he was being sent to bed early because was tired and grouchy. If you could send us any useful information and maybe even shed some light on this it would be greatly appreciated. Since birth he has had no one to make him feel safe. He always wants to come and stay with Nana and Pap Pap. I think if he has bonded with anyone it has been the two of us.

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Good morning,

I am happy to have found your site. I am surprised I had not in the past. My daughter (now 12) has PDS-NOS. Her younger brother who is 7 exhibits many of the same traits but with much more gusto. It is incredibly exhausting. I believed he was on the spectrum when he was 2. He did not speak until nearly 4 but was very animated. The diagnostician at the public school told me he was not on the spectrum because spectrum kids are unable to control their behaviors and he would act the same way at school as he did at home. I disagreed but I complied. My concerns seemed like more of a discipline problem more than anything else. I gather boys get the short end of the stick when it comes to these types of behaviors. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard…boys will be boys. 

So, I am happy to have found your site. I really like what I have seen so far and would like to purchase OPS and the ebook. Please let me know what the best method would be. Thank you for your time.
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Dear Mark,

I found your website on Sunday night and immediately purchased the e-book.  It has been very helpful to listen to someone talk that really understands what is going on with my son.  He is 12 years old and has a lot of pent up anger over his dad's death.  You see, my husband of 19 years committed suicide 4 years ago and struggled with anger and depression all of those years.  My other three teens are doing pretty well in life, but my 12 year old is pretty out of control.  The biggest thing I have learned from your program so far is to keep calm when he rages....such a hard thing to do for this sensitive and fearful Mama.  But I am working on it.  My son just got angry because I told him it was time to work on school work.  He tried to argue with me but I stayed firm.  He got very angry and picked up a kitchen chair and threw across the living room....then left the house saying "You suck!"  Then he went and threw a bunch of 5 gallon buckets around in the driveway.  He's been gone for 1/2 hour....we live in the country.  He gets angry and leaves like this about once a week.  Usually he comes back feeling bad about his behavior and tells me he is sorry.  We have some what I think are really good conversations where he shares his thoughts with me but we never seem to make any progress.  He tells me he is mad because he thinks he is stupid, which is what his dad used to tell him.  And he's mad that his dad was mean to him and now is dead.  

I'm wondering if you have any advice for me on how to deal with these specific times when he gets so angry he breaks things and leaves.  I will continue reading your book and watching the videos but wondered if you have any immediate advice.

Also, I have home schooled my kids from the beginning, but I'm now wondering if I should put my son in the Christian school.  Do you think he would do better if he was away from me for part of the day?  He is so angry with me so often and I'm starting to wonder if he would learn better in a different environment?
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Thank you for the nice welcome letter.  I have been looking for some good info or reading material on adult aspergers.  My 35 year old son has suffered many years with depression, social anxiety disorder, ocd’s etc.  I was recently told by a therapist that worked with him last year that she believes he is also on the aspergers spectrum. 
She suggested your site as a good reference for information.  Appreciate anything you can suggest.
Living with him is very frustrrating.  He is on several medications now and functioning pretty well, going to college again, but at home, doesn’t like to talk or interact with me much.  Conversation is difficult as he is very intelligent and knows everything!!!!
He feels the need to constantly inform me of the things he deems important to know. But only when he wants to talk.  He wants me to listen to him but he isn’t interested in hearing what I have to say.  In his late teens – early 20’s he had 4 different jobs.  All short term (a few months)  He left all with no notice, just didn’t go back to work one day.  Told me he just couldn’t make himself go.  Had panic attacks.
There’s more but I don’t know what symptoms relate to adult aspergers.
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The High-Functioning Autistic Student: Behavior-Management in the Classroom

Managing children with High Functioning Autism (HFA), or Asperger’s, will present you with some unique and distinctive challenges. Not only will these children demand more of your time and patience, many will require specialized instructional techniques in a structured environment that supports and enhances their learning potential. It is important to remember that HFA children are not “disabled” or inept – they simply need differentiated instruction tailored to their unique learning abilities.

Preschool—

Currently, there is no single, uniform presenting picture of HFA in the first 3-4 years of life. The early picture may be difficult to distinguish from typical Autism, suggesting that when evaluating any autistic youngster with apparently normal intelligence, there is a strong possibility that he may eventually have a picture more compatible with an HFA diagnosis. Other kids may have early language delays with rapid "catch-up" between the ages of 3 and 5. Some of these young people – particularly the brightest ones – may have no evidence of early developmental delay (perhaps with the exception of some motor clumsiness). However, in almost all cases, if you look closely at the youngster between the age of about 3 and 5, clues to the diagnosis can be found. In most cases, a comprehensive evaluation at that age can at least point to a diagnosis along the autism spectrum.

Although these young people may seem to relate quite normally within the family setting, problems are often seen when they enter preschool. Problems may include:
  • aggression
  • appearing to be "in one's own little world"
  • difficulty regulating social/emotional responses with anger
  • difficulty with transitions
  • excessive anxiety
  • hyperactivity
  • odd verbal responses
  • preference for a set routine
  • problems sustaining simple conversations
  • tendency to avoid spontaneous social interactions
  • tendency to be perseverative or repetitive when conversing
  • tendency to over-focus on particular objects or subjects
  • tendency to show very weak skills in interactions

As you can see, this list is much like the early symptom list in classic Autism. However, compared to lower-functioning autistic kids, the youngster with HFA will have less abnormal language and conversational speech, may not be as obviously "different" from other kids, and is more likely to show some social interest in peers as well as grown-ups. Also, certain special skills may be present (e.g., letter or number recognition, rote memorization of various facts, etc.).

Elementary School—

Most young people with HFA will enter kindergarten without having been adequately diagnosed. In many cases, there will have been behavioral concerns (e.g., hyperactivity, inattention, aggression, outbursts, etc.) in the preschool years. Also, there may be concern over "immature" social skills and peer interactions. These children may already be viewed as being somewhat odd or unusual. If these problems are severe, special education may be suggested, but most kids with HFA usually enter a mainstream setting.

Oftentimes, academic progress in the early grades is an area of relative strength. For instance, calculation skills may be strong, and rote reading is usually quite good (although writing skills are often considerably weaker).

Educators may be astounded by the HFA youngster's "obsessive" areas of interest, which often intrude in the classroom setting.

Most HFA kids will show some social interest in other classmates, but they are likely to show weak “friend-making” and “friend-keeping” skills. They may show particular interest in one or two peers around them, but the depth of their interactions will be relatively superficial. On rare occasion, however, some HFA kids present as very pleasant and "social," particularly when interacting with grown-ups.

Depending on a range of factors (e.g., anxiety, quality of management at school, quality of parenting at home, hyperactivity/attentional problems, intelligence level, learning problems, temperamental style, etc.), the course through elementary school will vary considerably from youngster to youngster, and overall problems can range from mild and easily managed to severe and intractable.

Middle School—

As the HFA youngster moves into middle school, the most difficult issues continue to be those related to social skills and behavior management. Due to the fact that kids with HFA are frequently managed in mainstream educational settings, and because their specific developmental problems may be more easily overlooked (especially if they are relatively smart), they are often misunderstood at this age by both educators and peers.

In middle school, educators have less opportunity to get to know a youngster well, thus problems with behavior or study habits may be misinterpreted as emotional or motivational problems.

In certain less structured settings (e.g., cafeteria, physical education class, playground, etc.), the HFA youngster may get into escalating conflicts with educators and/or peers who may not be familiar with his developmental style of interacting. This, in turn, can lead to more serious behavioral problems in the HFA child, because stress and anxiety have built-up to the point of “meltdown.”

In middle school, where the tolerance for differences is minimal and the pressures for conformity are maximal, kids with HFA may be teased, bullied, ignored, and misunderstood. Wanting to “fit in,” but unable to, these “special needs” kids may withdraw even more, and their behavior may become increasingly problematic (e.g., school refusal, aggression, non-cooperation, etc.). Also, some degree of anxiety and depression are common complicating factors during this time.

If there are no significant learning disabilities, academic performance can continue strong, particularly in those areas of special interest. However, learning and attentional/organizational difficulties may be present (e.g., there may be ongoing subtle tendencies to misinterpret information, particularly abstract or figurative/idiomatic language).

High School—

Fortunately, by high school, peer-tolerance for individual variations and odd behavior often increases to some extent. Also, if the HFA youngster does well academically, it can bring a measure of respect from his peers.

Some HFA kids will fit-in socially as "geeks," a group which they actually resemble in many ways and which may overlap with HFA. The HFA teenager often forms friendships with peers who share his interests through avenues like Star Trek clubs, science fairs, math clubs, and computer clubs.

With a little luck and proper management, many of these “special needs” teens will have developed considerable coping and social skills, as well as a general ability to "fit-in" more comfortably by this age.

Ideas for Behavior-Management in the Classroom—

1. Avoid escalating power struggles. HFA kids often don’t understand rigid displays of authority – and will themselves become more rigid and stubborn if forcefully confronted. Their behavior can then get rapidly out of control, and at that point, it is often better for the educator to back-off and let things cool down. When possible, anticipate such situations and take preventative measures to avoid the confrontation through presentation of choices, negotiation, and diversion of attention elsewhere.

2. Care should be taken to protect the HFA youngster from teasing and bullying – both in and out of the classroom.

3. Classroom routines should be kept as consistent, structured and predictable as possible. Kids with HFA usually don't like surprises. They should be prepared in advance for changes and transitions (e.g., schedule breaks, vacation days, etc.).

4. Direct speech services may not be needed, but the speech and language clinician at school can be useful as a consultant to the other staff regarding ways to address problems in areas such as pragmatic language.

5. Educators can take advantage of the strong academic skills that many HFA kids have in order to help them gain acceptance with their classmates.

6. Educators should take full advantage of the HFA youngster's areas of special interest when teaching. The youngster will learn best when an area of high personal interest is on the agenda. Educators can also use access to the special interests as a reward to the youngster for successful completion of other tasks, adherence to rules, and meeting behavioral expectations.

7. Efforts should be made to help classmates arrive at a better understanding of the HFA youngster in a way that will promote tolerance and acceptance.

8. HFA kids can be fairly rigid about following "rules" quite literally. While clearly expressed rules and guidelines (preferably written down) are helpful, they should be applied with some flexibility. The rules don’t automatically have to be exactly the same for the HFA youngster as for the other kids, because their needs and abilities are different.

9. HFA kids with very high-management needs may benefit from assistance from a classroom aide assigned to them.

10. If learning problems are present, resource room or tutoring can be helpful to provide individualized explanation and review.

11. If motor clumsiness is significant, the school Occupational Therapist can provide helpful input.

12. It is often helpful for the educator and parent to work closely together, because the parent is most familiar with what has worked in the past for the HFA youngster.

13. It is very helpful if the HFA youngster can be given opportunities to help other kids at times.

14. Keep teaching fairly concrete. Avoid language that may be misunderstood by the HFA youngster (e.g., sarcasm, confusing figurative speech, idioms, etc.) Try to simplify more abstract language and concepts.

15. Know that the HFA student usually shows a surprising sensitivity to the personality of the educator. He can be taught, but only by those who give him true understanding and affection. The educator’s underlying emotional attitude influences (involuntarily and unconsciously) the mood and behavior of this “special needs” youngster.

16. Most kids with HFA respond well to the use of visuals (e.g., schedules, charts, lists, pictures, etc.).

17. Put as many details as possible into an Individual Educational Plan so that progress can be monitored and carried over from year to year. It can sometimes be helpful to enlist the aid of outside consultants familiar with the management of young people on the autism spectrum (e.g., psychologists, psychiatrists, etc.).

18. Realize that the HFA youngster has an inherent developmental disorder which causes her to behave and respond in a different way compared to other students. Oftentimes, behaviors in the HFA student are interpreted as "manipulative" or some other term that misses the point that she responds differently to environmental stimuli. Thus, school staff must carefully individualize their approach for this “special needs” child. It will likely be counterproductive to treat her just the same as her peers.

19. The school counselor or social worker can provide direct social skills training, as well as general emotional support.

20. The use of a "buddy system" can be very useful since HFA kids relate best 1-1. Careful selection of a peer-buddy for the HFA youngster can be a tool to help build social skills, encourage friendships, and reduce stigmatization.

21. There will be specific situations where medication can occasionally be useful. Educators should be alert to the potential for mood problems (e.g., anxiety or depression), significant compulsive symptoms or ritualistic behaviors, and problems with inattention. Occasionally, medication may be needed to address more severe behavior problems that have not responded to non-medical, behavioral interventions.

22. Try to insure that school staff outside of the classroom (e.g., physical education teacher, bus driver, school nurse, cafeteria monitor, librarian, etc.) are (a) familiar with the HFA youngster's style and needs and (b) have been given adequate training in management approaches. Those less structured settings where the routines and expectations are less clear tend to be difficult for the HFA youngster.

23. Try to promote appropriate social interactions and help the youngster “fit-in” better. Formal, didactic social-skills training can take place both in the classroom and in more individualized settings. Approaches that have been most successful utilize direct modeling and role playing at a concrete level. By rehearsing and practicing how to handle various social situations, the HFA youngster can learn to generalize the skills to naturalistic settings.

It is inevitable that you will have the opportunity of working with children on the autism spectrum in your classroom. You may need to make accommodations for some and modifications for others. Providing for the needs of these young people will certainly be one of your greatest challenges as a teacher. Consider the tips and strategies listed above to make behavior-management and the learning process run as smoothly as possible.

Teaching Students with Aspergers and HFA

Helping Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Children with Transitions

Video provides a 5-step plan for giving your child with Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism plenty of warning and helping him make transitions more calmly: 


Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

High-Functioning Autism: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

"My husband and I believe that Ryan, our 6-year-old son, may have the milder form of autism. Is it ever too early to get a child diagnosed? How does one go about seeking a diagnosis? And, what are our treatment options?"

If you are noticing some of the early symptoms of High-Functioning Autism (or Asperger's), then it is not too early to seek a diagnosis regardless of the child’s age. Early symptoms usually include problems with social interaction. For example:
  • a significant lack of empathy
  • can become very upset if someone touches their things, moves furniture or toys around
  • demonstrate an extreme aversion or tantrums during transitions 
  • difficulties with social skills
  • display a very narrow or an unusual range of interests, with elaborate or unusual play-based behaviors
  • do not notice if a peer or playmate loses interest, or even wanders away 
  • find interpreting social comments, facial expressions, tone of voice, or body language as difficult as trying to interpret a foreign language
  • find unwritten social rules to be confusing
  • have difficulty listening to others and understanding their perspective 
  • have excessive or a complete lack of separation anxiety from parents 
  • invade other people's personal space
  • lack of eye contact or social smiles
  • lack of social discrimination
  • limitation in reciprocation or give and take interactions
  • may act-out elaborate rituals, which appear to be creative play, but are actually scripted activities without the variation or creativity of imaginary play
  • may appear hyperactive, and pursue movement to an excessive degree
  • may appear to never be able to "let it go," or tend towards appearing argumentative or "splitting hairs" 
  • may appear very rigid in their point of view
  • may become extremely upset if their routine or ritual is changed in any way
  • may demonstrate fixations on things (e.g., Pok√©mon, television shows, computer games, numbers, dinosaurs, trains, etc.)
  • may excessively ask the same question over and over
  • little or no interest in sharing toys and interests
  • preference towards playing alone or with "things" rather than with friends
  • tend toward social isolation
  • tend to be viewed as "lost in their own little world" at times
  • tend to interact very well with adults, but struggle with appropriately initiating peer interaction 
  • tend toward extreme perfectionism or "having to finish" what they have started
  • tend toward lining things up, organizing by color, or even repeating lines verbatim
  • tend to be self-absorbed or aloof
  • touch or climb people inappropriately

Furthermore, kids with High-Functioning Autism are limited in brain areas that enable them to understand subtle cues. As a result, literal interpretation, misunderstandings, and/or sensory over-stimulation may lead to tantrums, aggressiveness, overreactions, irritability, low-frustration tolerance, anxiety, self-stimulation, depression, or self-injury. In addition, these young people may develop a tendency of distrust towards others due to social failures and negative social experiences over time, which can lead to self-isolation and social phobia. This behavioral reaction can be viewed as "rude" by others, and often kids with this disorder struggle to understand why they are not liked or frequently feel rejected.

How does one go about seeking a diagnosis?

Kids with High-Functioning Autism are usually not diagnosed as early as kids with more severe forms of autism, because the symptoms are not as noticeable. Symptoms may not become a problem until the youngster starts school. Your youngster's doctor will look for signs of developmental delays at regular checkups. If your youngster shows any symptoms of High-Functioning Autism, you'll probably be referred to a specialist who treats kids on the autism spectrum (e.g., pediatric neurologist, developmental pediatrician, child psychologist) for a thorough clinical evaluation.

Because Autism varies widely in severity, making a diagnosis can be difficult. There isn't a specific medical test to determine the disorder. Instead, a specialist may do any of the following:
  • Seek a speech and language assessment
  • Recommend genetic testing to identify whether your youngster has a genetic disorder (e.g., fragile X syndrome)
  • Request physical, neurological, or developmental testing
  • Present structured social and communication interactions to your youngster and score the performance
  • Establish the history of the youngster's development
  • Conduct psychological testing
  • Observe your youngster and ask how his or her behavior, social interactions, and communication skills have developed and changed over time
  • Interview the parent(s) and others who have frequent contact with the youngster
  • Give your youngster tests covering developmental level, language, social and behavioral issues, and speech
  • Involve other specialists in determining a diagnosis

For your youngster to be diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism, he or she must meet the symptom criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a manual used by mental health providers and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

High-Functioning Autism often includes (a) problems with social interaction (e.g., lack of eye contact, an inability to understand another person's feelings), (b) problems with communication skills (e.g., not speaking, repeating a phrase over and over again), and (c) restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities that cause impairment in social, occupational or other areas of functioning.

To meet Autism criteria, your youngster must have problems across multiple situations with:
  • Developing, maintaining and understanding relationships (e.g., showing a lack of interest in others, difficulty adjusting behavior to suit various social situations, problems sharing imaginative play, problems in making friends)
  • Nonverbal communication behaviors used for social interaction (e.g., problems using and understanding body language or gestures, problems making eye contact, lack of facial expressions, difficulty using or understanding nonverbal cues)
  • Social and emotional give-and-take in social settings (e.g., reduced ability to share experiences or emotions with others, problems initiating or responding to social interactions, inability to engage in normal back-and-forth conversation)

In addition, your youngster must experience at least two of the following:
  • Extra sensitivity or a lack of sensitivity to sensory input, or an unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., visual fascination to lights or movement, negative response to certain sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, apparent indifference to pain or temperature)
  • Insistence on sameness, rigid routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior (e.g., needing to take the same route to school every day, extreme distress at small changes, expecting activities or verbal responses to always be done the same way)
  • Interests in objects or topics that are abnormal in intensity, detail or focus (e.g., excessively limited narrow areas of interest, interests that are excessively repetitive, strong attachment to unusual objects or parts of objects)
  • Odd or repetitive motor movements, use of objects or speech (e.g., mimicking sounds, repeating phrases verbatim without understanding how to use them, lining up toys or flipping objects, body rocking or spinning)

The DSM-5 includes functional levels along the autism spectrum. Children who are generally quite functional and in need of less support are usually given the diagnosis of Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder. Hence, the term “high-functioning autism.”

The high-functioning autistic child may:
  • have significant speech and language delays, but is able to take part in an inclusive academic program because of his or her age-appropriate academic skills
  • have anxiety, learning disabilities, and sensory challenges, but has age-appropriate speech and exceptional abilities in music, math, or engineering
  • have relatively mild speech and social delays, but has sensory issues which make it difficult for him or her to take part in an inclusive academic program
  • be able to complete daily tasks, do math, read, show affection, use age-appropriate language, and write – but may not be able to pick up on social cues, maintain a conversation, hold eye contact, or engage in imaginative play

As you can see, the possible combinations of strengths and deficits are abundant. In any event, even though high-functioning autistic children may not need help with toileting or basic hygiene, many do need a good deal of support in other settings.  For instance, a very bright autistic student with severe sensory sensitivities and anxiety may have a more difficult time in the classroom than a less intelligent “typical” student with less anxiety and fewer sensory sensitivities.

The symptoms of these “special needs” children will fall on a continuum, with some showing mild symptoms, and others having much more severe symptoms. This “spectrum” allows professionals to account for the variations in symptoms and behaviors from child to child.

Treatment—

The goal of treatment is to maximize the youngster's ability to function by (a) reducing the symptoms of High-Functioning Autism and (b) supporting development and learning. Treatment options may include the following:
  • Behavior and communication therapy: Many programs address the range of social, language and behavioral difficulties associated with High-Functioning Autism. Some programs focus on reducing problem behaviors and teaching new skills, while others focus on teaching kids how to act in social situations and how to communicate better with others. Though kids don't usually outgrow the symptoms of High-Functioning Autism, they can learn to function well.
  • Educational therapy: Kids with High-Functioning Autism often respond well to highly-structured educational programs. Successful programs often include a team of specialists and a variety of activities to improve behavior, social skills, and communication.
  • Family therapy: Moms and dads can learn how to play and interact with their “special needs” youngster in ways that manage problem behaviors, promote social interaction skills, and teach daily living skills and communication.
  • Medication: No medication can improve the core signs of High-Functioning Autism, but certain medications can help control symptoms (e.g., anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, hyperactivity, etc.).

Early identification and intervention are considered key to positive outcomes for kids with High-Functioning Autism. Parents, teachers, school psychologists, mental health professionals, and doctors should work together to become better informed regarding assessment tools, research, and diagnostic criteria, as well as the best interventions to increase appropriate behavior, social skills, personal communication, and peer interaction.


Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management: Key Concepts and Interventions


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said…  I had a mda multi discipline assessment. through my son's school...he had assessment s and questionnaires, now awaiting diagnoses on the 29 th sept,we have waited no many years for this.my son is nearly 8 next week,he is being assessed for adhd and asbergers, he also has hypermobilty.schools don't normally refer till they are 7-8 years maybe bit younger.good luck x
•    Anonymous said…  I hope aged 6 isn't too young as my child is 2 1/2 and has just been referred for diagnosis of Aspergers/ASD. I've been warned that as he is so young he might be turned down until he is older. Health professionals such as health visitor and GP are in agreement that my son is definitely somewhere on the spectrum. I'm under the impression we are in for a long wait though. We are in Northern Ireland. Good luck, I hope you get answers.
•    Anonymous said…  If your in the UK you'll be waiting a long time for a diagnosis as those professionals that perform this task seem to hibernate for 11+ months of the year, or is it reluctance since once diagnosed the council have to fund the schools etc to help them.
•    Anonymous said…  I'm in Qld Australia and my son was diagnosed before turning 3. We are very fortunate as it means we've been able to access the early intervention funding available for under 7s, and I truly believe this has made a huge difference for him.
•    Anonymous said…  My son was also diagnosed with Aspergers, just before 3 years old. Early intervention is the best thing for these kids and for their parents as well.
•    Anonymous said…  My son was diagnosed at 6 years old with ADHD, anexity disorder and HFA (aspergers) we talked to our pediatrics and the recommended a psychotherapist who put his through 21/2 mths of testing. I was thrilled it wasn't just thrown togeather and hear ya go. We have opted with meds and therapy which has turned his world around. Still have some rough days. But they are decreasing.

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