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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Asperger’s Children and Problems with Impulsivity

Autism Spectrum Disorders are often characterized by a lack of impulse control. Kids with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are sometimes labeled unmanageable or aggressive because of their impulsivity, which involves “a tendency to act on a whim, displaying behavior characterized by little or no forethought, reflection, or consideration of the consequences.” Even though AS and HFA kids can be caring and sensitive, their good qualities are often overshadowed by their lack of impulse control; their ability to "self-regulate" is compromised.

Impulse control can be a difficult skill to teach to any youngster, and is even more difficult with kids who have a neurological disorder. Many parents of these “special needs” children have reported that their youngster seems to spend his life in time-out, grounded, or in trouble for what he says and does – both at home and school – due to “acting before thinking.” Teaching self-regulation can be frustrating for parents and teachers, but is vital to the continued success of kids on the spectrum.

Here are a few strategies for parents and teachers that can be helpful when teaching self-regulation to kids with AS and HFA:

1. Be very specific in your instructions. Kids with AS and HFA have difficulty telling right from wrong, so teachers and parents must be concrete, stating clear, consistent expectations and consequences. Telling the youngster to "be nice" is too vague. Instead, say something such as "Wait in line for the slide, and don't push" or "When we go into the store, just look – don’t touch.”

2. Consequences need to be instantaneous – and short. Delayed consequences (e.g., time-out or detention) don't work for those with difficulty anticipating future outcomes (an autistic trait). Consequences should be immediate (e.g., if the AS or HFA student hits another student, recess is suspended – but for only 10 minutes).

3. Consider employing a "point system" in which the child earns tokens or pennies for a positive target behavior. He or she can then redeem the points at the end of the week for a special “prize” (e.g., pizza dinner, extra TV time, another small goldfish for the aquarium, etc.).

4. Ignore minor problems. For example, if your youngster spills some juice because she's pouring it carelessly or too quickly, talk to her about the importance of moving more precisely and slowly, help her clean up the spill, and move on. Some slipups simply don’t warrant consequences. Pick your battles carefully.

5. Another method that can be used to teach children with AS or HFA how to self-regulate is “redirection” from the problem-causing stimulus. Over-stimulation of the senses is a common cause of impulsive behaviors in these kids. So, look for cues that often precede the impulsive behavior so that you are aware of when they are more likely to occur, and find opportunities to redirect the child’s attention before the problematic behavior ensues. Music and art are two examples of activities that kids on the spectrum tend to enjoy, since they appeal to visual and audio stimuli.

6. Make sure that the punishment fits the crime. For example, dinnertime tantrums can result in dismissal from the table without dessert, rather than loss of computer game privileges (in this case, computer games have nothing to do with tantrums at the table).

7. No child is above the law! While AS/HFA is an explanation for some behavioral problems, it is never an excuse (e.g., the disorder may explain why Michael pushed Sarah, but the disorder did not “make” Michael do it). Kids on the autism spectrum need to understand the responsibility to control themselves.

8. Acknowledgement and praise should be provided immediately (and as often as possible) when the child behaves appropriately. Catch him in the act of doing something good. Accuse him of being successful. And, specifically state what he is doing well (e.g., waiting his turn).

9. Post the day's schedule on a dry erase board, and erase items as they are completed. This gives AS and HFA children a sense of control about their day. For example: At home, parents can post chores that need to be completed on that particular day, such as “take trash can to the street for pick-up” or “run the vacuum in your bedroom.” At school, teachers can post items such as “organize your desk (with specific directions on how to do that)” or “sharpen pencils.” Also, be sure to alert the child in advance about any revisions to his or her daily routine.

10. Posting house rules and classroom rules lets AS and HFA kids know what's expected of them, and also serves as a visual reminder for those who act before they think. At home, the rules can be posted on the refrigerator door. At school, they can be posted on the blackboard. Any location where they can be viewed throughout the day will suffice. Some kids benefit from seeing rules written on an index card, such as “Wash hands before eating,” taped directly on the dining room table, or "Raise hands before speaking," taped directly on their desks at school.

11. Prepare for impulsive reactions ahead of time. In situations where a lack of structure or some other situation sets off an impulsive reaction in the AS or HFA child, have a plan ready to help him or her to keep impulses in check. For example: At home, maybe the child can help with dinner preparations as a distraction. At school, perhaps the child can be given a special task (e.g., "monitor" or "coach") to help him or her stay focused on self-control.

12. Prepare the AS or HFA child for ALL transitions. To avoid meltdowns and tantrums when moving between tasks (another stressor for kids on the spectrum), give the child a 10-minute warning, then a 5-minute warning, and then a 1-minute warning of a transition so that he or she will have adequate time to stop one activity and start another. This would include everything from preparing for bedtime at home to preparing for lunch time at school.

Teaching self-regulation to AS and HFA children is a challenge, and there is no single solution that works for everyone. As with most teaching, the more intervention you provide, the greater chance of seeing success. Like working to improve other skills, it is helpful to begin teaching impulse control as early as possible. Above all, avoid getting aggravated and know that it will take time and patience. In the meantime, you can be proud that you are helping your youngster reach his or her full potential.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Helping Your “Neurotypical” Children Cope with a Sibling on the Autism Spectrum

Parenting a youngster with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) places some unexpected burdens on moms and dads – as well as siblings. The time involved in meeting the needs of a family member on the autism spectrum may leave the parent with little time for the other kids. As a result, there may be consistent tension in the household.

Many siblings of an AS or HFA child experience the following stressors:
  • Angry that no one pays attention to them (in their opinion)
  • Being the target of aggressive behaviors from the autistic child
  • Concern over their role in care-taking
  • Concern regarding their parents’ anxiety
  • Embarrassment around peers
  • Frustration over not being able to engage or get a response from their AS or HFA sibling
  • Guilty for negative feelings they have toward their brother/sister
  • Guilty for not having the same problems as their sibling
  • Jealousy regarding the amount of time and attention their mom and dad spend with their sibling
  • Not knowing how to handle situations in which their sibling is teased or bullied by others
  • Pressure to be or do what their brother/sister can’t
  • Resentful of having to explain, support, or take care of their sibling
  • Resentful that they are unable to do things or go places because of their brother/sister
  • Trying to make up for the deficits of their sibling
  • Worried about their brother/sister

Due to the nature of AS and HFA, it is difficult for brothers and sisters to form a satisfying relationship with the sibling who has the disorder. For instance, the siblings’ attempts to play with their autistic brother may (a) be rejected by his ignoring them, (b) fail because of his lack of play skills, or (c) end suddenly because his meltdowns are scary. What child would keep trying to form a friendship with someone who seemed upset to one degree or another every time he was approached? It’s not surprising that siblings become discouraged by the reactions they encounter from their autistic sibling.

There are special demands placed on the siblings of an AS or HFA child. Thus, it is crucial that they learn to manage these demands. It’s also crucial that parents (a) educate their “neurotypical” (i.e., non-autistic) children about autism spectrum disorders, (b) work at improving interactions among all the kids in the family, and (c) ensure brothers and sisters grow up feeling they have benefited from the love, time and attention they all need.

Fortunately, your non-autistic kids can be taught simple skills that will help them to engage their AS or HFA sibling in playful interactions. These skills include things such as praising good play, making sure they have their autistic sibling’s attention, and giving simple instructions.

Below are some suggestions regarding ways parents can help their “neurotypical” kids in the family cope gracefully and effectively with the experience of having a sibling on the autism spectrum:

1. Even though it is important for your AS or HFA youngster to feel like a fully integrated member of the family, it is equally as important that your other kids have “special time” too. Thus, as much as possible, try to find some regular, separate time for the other kids. It could be as simple as one evening a week, a Sunday morning, or even a 10 minutes at bedtime each night.

Making sure that each and every child has the exact amount of “parent-time” is not necessary – or even important. What is important, though, is the opportunity for each child to feel special and to feel an overall atmosphere of equity in the home. If the “special needs” youngster experiences serious behavior-management problems, most parents will have neither the endurance nor the time to give all the kids exactly the same amount of attention. This is understandable and something that simply comes with the territory.

2. If the AS or HFA child is particularly aggressive or disruptive, the emotions of the “neurotypical” children may become so severe or upsetting that they will need professional counseling to help them cope. Also, meeting and talking with other kids going through the same thing can be very helpful (even if it's just online).

3. Research supports the idea that siblings of an AS or HFA child need to understand what autism is all about. Parents need to educate their “neurotypical” children about the disorder early – and do it often! From early childhood, these siblings need explanations that help them understand the behaviors that are of concern to them. And, the information provided needs to be adjusted to the siblings’ age and understanding.

For instance, very young kids may be concerned about the odd behaviors of the AS or HFA child that scare them (e.g., meltdowns, aggression, etc.). An older youngster may have concerns about how to explain autism to his or her peers. For teenagers, these concerns may shift to the long-range needs of their “special needs” sibling and the role they will play in future care. Every age has its needs, and the parent’s task is to listen carefully to the immediate concerns of the non-autistic children.

4. Some degree of sibling rivalry is to be expected in all families, whether or not autism is factored in to the equation. But, sometimes the rivalry crosses the line into abuse (e.g., one of the children acts out abuse in play, acts out sexually in inappropriate ways, has changes in behavior/sleep patterns/eating habits, has nightmares, always avoids his or her sibling, one child is always the aggressor while the other is always the victim, or the conflict between siblings is increasing over time). If there is a chance the sibling relationship has become abusive, parents should seek professional help.

5. Try to have a mixture of family activities where all members participate, and individual activities where one child is the focus of your attention. In addition to one-on-one time, it’s also good to have some events when one youngster in the family has the focus of everyone’s attention (e.g., birthdays, graduations, etc.).

Siblings may become frustrated and angry if they have to do everything with their AS or HFA sister/brother. In fact, there may be times when it may not be fair to insist that they be included. For instance, if the AS or HFA child can’t sit still for a school play, then it may be better if she or he stays home while your “neurotypical” youngster performs.

6.    Consider purchasing some books on the topic. Here are a few:
  • Brothers and Sisters: A Special Part of Exceptional Families, by Thomas Powell and Peggy Gallagher.
  • Offspring and Parents, by Diane Marsh, Rex Dickens and E. Fuller Torrey. 
  • It Isn't Fair! Edited by Stanley D. Klein and Maxwell J. Schleifer
  • Living with a Brother or Sister with Special Needs: A Book for Siblings, by Donald Meyer and Patricia Vadasy.
  • Siblings Without Rivalry, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

7.    Talk to your physician if you see any of these warning signs in your “neurotypical” children as they try to cope with a sibling on the autism spectrum:
  • withdrawal (e.g., hibernating in their bedroom)
  • talk of hurting themselves
  • poor self-esteem
  • poor concentration
  • physical symptoms (e.g., headaches or stomachaches)
  • perfectionism
  • loss of interest in activities
  • hopelessness
  • frequent crying or worrying
  • difficulty separating from parents
  • changes in eating or sleeping (e.g., too much or too little)

Research indicates that the majority of “neurotypical” kids cope well with their experience of having an AS or HFA sibling. However, that doesn’t mean that they do not encounter particular difficulties in learning how to deal with him or her. While having a sibling on the spectrum is a challenge to the siblings, it is certainly not an insurmountable obstacle. Most “neurotypical” kids handle the challenge effectively, and many of them respond with humor, grace, and love far beyond their years.

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

Modified Disciplinary Techniques for Children on the Autism Spectrum

If your youngster has Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), should you discipline him in a different way than you do with your other kids? The answer is YES! But, they still need discipline. AS and HFA is a challenge, not an excuse for misbehavior. Nonetheless, moms and dads will need to be more flexible in their expectations.

Parents must understand up front that AS and HFA impacts their child’s ability to understand instruction, follow through on tasks, and control his impulses. Also, they will need to provide discipline and instruction more often and with more consistency. Your “special needs” child is emotionally much younger than his chronological age. After all, he has a “developmental disorder.” So, lessons may take longer to sink in.

Misbehavior from kids on the autism spectrum is frustrating – and repeated disobedience over an extended time can be infuriating to many moms and dads. Just like with their “typical” kids, most parents will automatically respond to misbehavior by using punishment to stop it. But this isn’t the most effective approach – especially for a youngster with combined autism and ADHD or ODD. Punishment alone never teaches new behavior. It only teaches what NOT to do – it doesn’t teach what TO do.

Here are a few tips regarding modified disciplinary techniques for kids on the autism spectrum:

A Different Form of Time-out—

Kids on the spectrum often enjoy playing alone. As a result, a “time-out” in their bedroom is often a reward rather than a punishment. Thus, when issuing a time-out with your AS or HFA child, it’s best to put him in a place without the comforts of the bedroom (e.g., at the dining room table without games, toys, digital devices, etc.).

Keep time-outs unusually short (e.g., 1 minutes for young kids, 3 minutes for preschoolers, and 5 minutes for 6-10 year olds). This is plenty of time IF your child shows quiet feet, quiet hands, and quiet mouth. Long time-outs often start a battle of wills, and the message that the consequence sends gets lost.

Contrast “time-out” with “time-in.” For example, if you put your AS or HFA youngster in time-out for pushing his sister, you should have been praising him earlier for playing appropriately with his sister – and should praise him after time-out for completing the 1-5 minute consequence successfully. If there isn't a big difference between time-out and time-in, the “special needs” youngster doesn't understand the consequence.

If you tell your youngster to go to time-out and she ignores you, then simply add 1 minute to her time-out. If she ignores you again, then add another minute. If she ignores you a third time, DON’T add more additional minutes (if it goes over 5 minutes), and DON’T pick her up and drag her to time-out. This will make things worse, and the attention (which is now negative attention) can unintentionally reinforce the noncompliance. The course of action at this point is to simply impose a consequence that “hurts” (e.g., no video games for the rest of the day). Deliver that consequence calmly, and don't talk about it further. Even if your youngster says, “No mom, I'll go into time-out now” …don't give in! Otherwise, she will know that you “cave-in” if she just sounds desperate enough.

A “prompt” (e.g., a timer) to signal the beginning and end of a time-out will help. If your youngster won’t cooperate, remind her that the time-out doesn’t start until she is quietly in her time-out location.

Practice time-outs ahead of time. For example, ask your youngster to pretend that she behaved badly, and that she is being sent to time-out. Have her practice going to time-out without putting up a fight. Then reward with acknowledgement and praise for completing the practice run.

A Different Reward System—

Rewards work well for kids with AS or HFA, but they, too, may need to be tweaked slightly. For instance, one expectation may be to take turns when playing games with siblings. It's probably not realistic to set that expectation for a whole day, because if the AS or HFA child messes up in the morning, he’s lost the entire day. Rather, break the day up into thirds and give points for appropriate behavior in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening. Once your child has earned points, you can’t take them away.

So, if your child plays fairly in the morning, he earns reward points (rewards can include doing something special, or receiving a special treat or privilege). If he plays unfairly in the afternoon, he must leave the game and go somewhere else for a timeout, and he doesn’t receive reward points – BUT he doesn’t lose the morning points he earned. Also, most kids on the spectrum need more frequent rewards. They will lose interest if they have to wait an entire week to earn one.

Avoiding Physical Punishment—

A good ass-whipping may have worked for you as a child – I know it did for me! However, spanking, yelling, or other aversive methods should never be used on an AS or HFA child. These somewhat traditional (or old school) methods may work in the short term, but they don’t prevent problematic behavior in the long run – often resulting in worse problems! This is because one side-effect of the use of physical punishment is counter-aggression. So, if you use this type of punishment on your “special needs” youngster, guess what he is going to do the next time he’s angry with his sister? Counter-aggress!

Physical punishment teaches aggressive behavior; it teaches how to punish back. Also, the AS or HFA youngster may begin to engage in escape or avoidance behavior. For example, if he gets spanked at home for acting-out at school, he may refuse to go to school due to the anxiety he now has about his school-related, acting-out behavior.

Taking Advantage of Obsessions—

Almost all kids go through periods of development where they become engrossed in one subject matter or another, but kids with AS and HFA often display obsessive and repetitive characteristics, which can have significant implications for behavior. In many cases, it is appropriate to utilize the obsession or “special interest” to motivate and reward your youngster for good behavior. However, always ensure any reward associated with positive behavior is granted immediately in order to assist the youngster in recognizing the connection between the two.

Concrete Instruction—

The AS or HFA child also does better with very specific instructions. For example, instead of telling her to “clean her room,” be specific. For example, “Be sure to pick all clothes off the floor, and put all books on the bookshelves.” In this way, she clearly understands what to do. Also, this chore should be visually represented on a chore chart somewhere in her bedroom.

Learn How Your Child Thinks—

Kids on the spectrum tend to be very logical in their thinking, focusing more on facts than feelings. If the consequence doesn’t make sense, it will not likely change the unwanted behavior (e.g., making the child do extra chores because he got mad and broke his favorite toy). The discipline must fit the “crime” (e.g., the child breaks his treasured toy, so he must take money from his allowance to purchase a new one). There must be a connection between the misbehavior and the discipline. So, before you discipline, be mindful that your youngster's logic will not necessarily reflect your idea of common sense. In addition, look for small opportunities to deliberately allow your youngster to make mistakes for which you can set aside “discipline-teaching” time. This will be a learning process for your youngster – and you!

Picking the Right Battles—

Parents can't change everything at once in their AS or HFA youngster. Instead, they should choose a few big things that they want to work on, and put the other things aside for now. Pick your battles carefully. BUT, when you do pick one, stay with it and be consistent! AS and HFA children thrive on consistency, routine and structure. Use this trait to your advantage.

Replacement Behavior—

Kids on the autism spectrum need a “replacement behavior.” So, rather than saying, “You need to stop that” …say something such as, “I need you to stop _______ (be very specific in describing the misbehavior), and do ________ instead (be very specific in describing the replacement behavior).” For example, “I need you to stop bullying your sister. So, go to your room and find something else to do. Maybe play your video game.” Also, use the phrase “I need…..” as noted above. This is something YOU, the parent, need. Your AS or HFA child doesn’t “need” to stop picking on his sister. He’s perfectly fine with doing it.

Visual Instruction—

Another important consideration for a youngster with AS or HFA is to teach him the skills he needs to succeed BEFORE he has a problem. For instance, all kids need guidance to help them keep up with chores and homework. However, a child on the autism spectrum can't be expected to "just get it" from verbal instruction. Instead, he needs a visual schedule that he can follow. So, devise a visual chore chart, as well as a homework chart (i.e., what is to be done, in what order, and when it is to be completed).

In order to effectively discipline the AS or HFA child, parents will need to comprehend each of the factors above and fully place them in the proper context of any given situation. This knowledge will aid parents in catching problems early and laying a foundation for “prevention,” rather than dealing with problems after they occur and having to jump to “intervention.”

How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Aspergers and HFA

How to Identify High-Functioning Autism in a Preschooler

Identifying High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s in young people who have the disorder can be difficult because they are relatively skilled in most areas (e.g., many have a high level of language development and an average to high IQ). But, parents may be able to recognize HFA in a preschooler by watching his or her social interactions and behaviors.

Although parents may recognize some telltale signs of HFA in their preschooler, ultimately they need the professional discernment of a physician or other qualified professional. The physician may recommend tests to more thoroughly examine relevant potentially telling aspects of a preschooler's social and cognitive development. However, there is no single medical test to diagnose HFA, so parents should be patient as they and their child’s physician work through the diagnosis process.

Have you wondered whether or not your child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder? If so, here’s what to look for to confirm your suspicions (if you answer “yes” to most of these questions, then seeking a formal diagnosis would be the next step):
  1. Can your HFA child follow the lead of a close friend or sibling with “role-playing,” yet doesn't do it on his own?
  2. Does your child appear to be clumsy or awkward in her movements? 
  3. Does your child appear to have difficulty reading and interpreting others' feelings in real social interactions?
  4. Does your child commonly show repetitive motor behaviors (e.g., persistent hand twisting or finger tapping, whole-body movements, etc.)?
  5. Does your child have great difficulty adapting to change?
  6. Would you say your child has great difficulty deviating from his routine?
  7. Does your child have great difficulty interacting with her same-age peers, yet does well socially with those older or younger than her?
  8. Does your child prefer adults for conversation over another youngster his age?
  9. Does your child prefer games with a set script (e.g., acting out a favorite story or TV show)?
  10. Does your child prefer highly-structured days and consistent rules?
  11. Have you noticed that your child has difficulty interacting with others in group-play?
  12. Does your child seem to have disregard for other's feelings (e.g., appears to be insensitive)?
  13. Does your child tend to misinterpret simple social cues (e.g., turn-taking during conversation or games)?
  14. Does your youngster only initiate questions on topics that interest him?
  15. Has your child become distressed if you get in her way (e.g. passing in front of her while she is trying to walk in circles around a table)?
  16. Has your child demonstrated difficulty in some motor skills (e.g., catching and throwing a ball, riding a bicycle, tying shoe laces, etc.)?
  17. Does your child enjoy creating fantasy worlds, yet struggles with social role-play?
  18. Does your child have a passionate “special interest” to the exclusion of all other potential interests?
  19. Does your child have difficulty with imaginative play (e.g., he dislikes or struggles to understand social games)? 
  20. Has your child tried to impose her choice of game on her playmates or otherwise act in a very one-sided manner?
  21. Have you noticed that your HFA child is highly skilled at language and very verbal (e.g., she may list off every item in a room)?
  22. Is it rare that your child responds to social interaction with a smile of happy emotional expression?
  23. Would you say that the social context in which language is used is often abnormal (e.g., words may be repeated but not understood)?
  24. Would you say your child is a "walking encyclopedia" on a given topic?
  25. Does your child have trouble joining or staying in social interactions (e.g., he may leave the room in the middle of playing with another youngster or otherwise be disruptive)? 
  26. Does your child have trouble understanding social boundaries (e.g., the need for privacy or personal space)?
  27. Would you say your child seems to be lost "in his own world"?
  28. Would you say your child speaks in a monotonous or idiosyncratic fashion (e.g., has a flat tone, an odd or high tone, stresses words and the rhythm of speech, speaks in a singsong or otherwise unusual tone, etc.)?
  29. Does your child tend to prefer playing by himself – and even gets upset if another youngster approaches him?
  30. Does your child’s speech seem overly formal or scripted (e.g., uses language to relay facts but not to convey thoughts or feelings)?
  31. Would you say your child’s social interactions are awkward (e.g., consistently avoiding eye contact, unusual body posture, gestures, facial expressions, etc.)? 
  32. Does your child have unusual sensory reactions (e.g., abnormal reactions to touch, sight, smell, sound or taste)?
  33. Does your child only interact with others when she wants to talk about her “special interest” or if she needs something?
  34. Does your child organize her stuffed animals into elaborate societies, yet doesn't role-play interactions with them?
  35. Has your child ever been unresponsive to pain, or did not know how to communicate that he was in pain?

Treatment—

If your child exhibits most of the traits listed above, seek the help of a professional. There is no "cure" for HFA, but numerous therapies are available that can help your youngster gain skills and be more comfortable. The goal of treatment is to maximize your youngster's ability to function day-to-day through acquiring coping mechanisms and focusing on learning outcomes.

Some treatment options include the following:
  • Sensory integration therapies (e.g., sensory diet) can improve the youngster's tolerance to sensory input and manage hyperactivity.
  • Medications (e.g., antidepressants or antipsychotics) can be effective in controlling certain HFA-related symptoms (e.g., anxiety, severe behavioral problems, etc.).
  • Family therapies, in which the emphasis is on teaching the child’s parents different ways to interact with her to promote her social and emotional development, can be very helpful.
  • Educational therapies that are highly-structured, “individually-tailored” programs executed by a team of specialists who have expertise in communicating with - and teaching - HFA children are also very helpful.
  • Behavior and communication therapy, in which the goal is either reduce problematic behaviors and communication styles or to improve these areas by teaching new skills, is perhaps the most important therapy of all.

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

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for Oct., 2016]

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 Mr. Hutten,

I have a son who is 7 years old and was diagnosed ADHD Asperger when he was 4. Me and my husband have watched your film The Asperbergs-ADHD overlap this weekend and believe it’s a really great summery of the similarities and differences. Thank you!

I have one question though: when a person have double diagnose can the person show totally different sides because of the different diagnoses are shown randomly? We have a hard time understand what is what, what is diagnoses, personality and age. Our biggest problem is that we can’t see a clear pattern in our son. What he liked yesterday he rates today, the way he acted yesterday is different from the reaction we see today etc.

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Hi Mark,

I'm an LFMT and mom of an Asperger's (HFA) teen.  My son is almost 17 now and in 11th grade.  He's very bright, and recently quite social (although lacking in social skills of course).  He was diagnosed with ADHD as a young child but we didn't understood his defiance, extreme inflexibility and lack of frustration tolerance as placing him on the spectrum until his teen years.   I'm thinking of purchasing your ebook and would like to know when it was written.  I'm in the Los Angeles area and wondering if you've worked with any clinicians or know of any that you would consider experts in working with HFA kids in our area?  It's been a difficult year.  My ex and I are scared by our son's anger
and his impending adulthood which is just around the corner.

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Hello Mr. Hutten,

I was looking online to get some help for my Aspergers 18 yo who is a first year engineering student at Purdue. He is having a difficult time adjusting to campus life and just wants to quit and come home. I am trying to get him appropriate immediate help at the University which has proven a little difficult. His counselor is scheduled to see him on Friday. I am trying to get him into a clinic and into the academic success center, but he is not willing to take the necessary steps to help himself. He claims he wants help but cant get motivated enough to get the help. When things get rough, he avoids. He has missed a number of classes and his first Honors Engineering test on Monday (which he studied for until 2:30am) because he was too paralyzed with fear to take it. He scheduled himself to meet with his academic adviser yesterday and then he cancelled it. How do I get him the help he needs if he refuses to help himself? Do I just allow him to avoid and come home? Then what? BTW, up until missing his test on Monday he was getting all A's and B's in all of his classes. So, as he put it, it is not that he can't do it academically, it is that he is not emotionally prepared to be in college. How do I get him emotionally prepared?

To further complicate matters, the University will give us a 40% refund on tuition if he decides to withdraw this week. After that, it will be 0. Please HELP.

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Hi Mark,

I think my partner may have Aspergers’.  He brought it up once when we were having a difficult conversation, but said he’d never been diagnosed with it and didn’t want me to tell anyone.  At the time I didn’t know anything about Asperger’s- now I’ve read several articles and fear that he is though I’m not sure.  I doubt he’ll go to get a diagnosis. 

Here’s what’s crazy making for me…  We’ve only been dating 6 months but have had wonderful times together when we spend weekends together which we usually do as he lives over an hour’s drive away and can’t visit during the week.. When we’re together I feel like I’ve been falling in love with him, but then when we’re apart during the week it’s like I fall out of love with him as our phone calls are so dissatisfying for me.  It’s like he’s a different person- and since there’s no physical touching, intimacy or eye gazing, etc on the phone, I feel like he treats me as a distant acquaintance… I don’t feel much caring, empathy or warmth from him. 

He says he’s a romantic yet I rarely feel seen, valued, affirmed, complimented, appreciated or known by him.  I think he does really care for me and is consistent and loyal but I rarely get compliments  (he says it’s very hard for him to compliment- he feels it’s dangerous- same with saying I love you and all kinds of loving, empathetic affirming statements.)  Since my love language is Words of Affirmation, I feel like I’m dying on the vine. 

Also, I find our phone conversations separating as they seem so boring and just talking about surface stuff- he’s extremely smart but says himself he has a very low Emotional IQ- so he doesn’t like to talk about feelings, etc.  We seem very intimate when we’re together, but hardly at all over the phone, or in any kind of deeper conversations… And I LOVE having deep, emotionally based conversations. He has a very hard time with these kind of conversations which is frustrating for us both.  I really care for him and even love him, but sometimes, like when we’re on the phone I wonder if I even like him, or if I’ll ever really feel seen and loved by him.  I’ve communicated my desire for compliments on several occasions and he is doing a little better but it’s so far from what I would find satisfying I wonder how much better it will ever be.  Any suggestions?

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Mark,

Good Morning.  Thank you for your thoughts.  We have re established contact with our son and yes he is taking his meds and seeing doctors in Austin for his various medical issues.  All those are good things.  Once upon a time when he was 18 months old, (more or less) he had an encounter with a bicycle gear.  In other words he lost part of his finger in that gear.  His 3 year old brother was riding the bike.  There was a product liability lawsuit and he and his brother won.  They got between them around $100,000.  That’s good.  The court allowed us to use some of the money to pay for parts of his psych treatments and pay taxes and other expenses. 

We never put the $ in trust so when he turned 18 the money became his.  Yes i took the cowards way out and never set up a trust as i didn’t know who could be the trustee for a reasonable fee.  Now i am paying the price for my cowardice.  The money he had is down to about $7000.  He spent the money on a new Fiat 5000 all kinds of tech gear and furnished his apt in Austin.  My wife and I can’t afford to support him in his new life in Austin.  Help yes, a little yes.  His entire rent which is about $1100 no.  We also got use to him not living with us and both feel so much better about hime being out of the house.  I feel free again and not like i’m walking on egg shells.  I really can’t take it when he gets verbally abusive to his mother, ( my wife), so we would prefer that he stay out of our house as a resident.  Visit yes.  Stay no.

Im not sure how to get him to slow down his spending,  .  Maybe if we are lucky he will start a job at Chipote which he has applied to and hired, but not yet started.  I am hoping that there is something we can say to our son that makes him stop spending like a drunk salior or ( the federal government.  I really don’t know if we can do this the “hard way”,  meaning let him live on the streets or out of his car.  He really can be a great person, just not necessarily to his parents.  He has great talents but how to monetize them is a different question.  He is great with technology and cooking.  But somebody has to hire him and pay him.  He tried working for Postdates, which is a food delivery service.  Great idea, except for the accident, he ran into a curb and 3 flat tires.  So he didn’t actually net out any money.  At least he realized it was to expensive to continue.  Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.

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Hello, I am in the UK and struggling with my high functioning autistic teenager. He is very close to Asperger and lacks the diagnosis as he was non-verbal until 10. He is very intelligent, a talented pianist and successful artist. His spoken language is still limited but he writes well with great expression and his comprehension is good.
Over the past year his meltdowns have intensified become increasingly destructive, aggressive with self harm and a total loss of control. He tries so hard to calm himself it is painful to watch. He will cry afterwards for at least an hour.
To answer the problem his doctor has put him on antipsycotic medication but it usefulness is limited and the dose has been increased and increased to the point where he is a wiped out zombie. It is spoiling his life and taken the fun and good times.I want to reduce the medication, stop it and have my lively, funny, talented son back.

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I have 17 year old daughter that I sadly fear will either end up dead or incarcerated in next 10 years.  This all started 3 years ago with inappropriate behavior with boys.  We sent her to boarding school in mississippi that worked with kids like Emma.  She got kicked out after 8 months for sex with student.  Then, used our last bit of money to send her to Outward Bound.  Great program, we were very hopeful.  Since getting home I got a call from principal she cyberharrased a fellow student and was on verge of being expelled from public school.  Yesterday, I learned over last couple months she stole about $500 from her grandmother who has been very loving and generous with her.

I am reluctant to spend any more money on her and was going to call the tenneesee women's prison for tour for her.

Thank you for letting me vent.  I just don't have much hope anymore.

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Hi Mark:

I have a quick question-parent to parent! My son is in middle school (7th grade)-on the spectrum. They are assigning a book to read called, "The Boy in Striped Pajamas".  It is about two little boys who meet in a concentration camp. In the end, they die in a gas chamber together.  The reading is required, and then they watch the movie over the book.  Due to the contents of the movie, parental consent is required.  However, the book is not an option.  

I know that the book will affect my son deeply in ways I am not even certain of yet.  But he is very sensitive...and so I spoke with the Language and Literature teacher in a meeting about seeking an alternative.  She said there was nothing that could be done, but that she would speak to the Dept. Chair, as the students would not be studying the book until after Fall Break.  (Note-they finish with the book just before Christmas Break and watch the movie.)

I followed up today with the teacher to find out what had been determined, and her reply was, "unfortunately, the Dept. Chair didn't come up with anything, so I and your son's Resource teacher will be as supportive as we can be." 

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First of all I want to say a resounding thank you. Your youtube video on obsessive thinking was spot on and I have honestly never heard someone describe it as well as you did. Thank you so much for that. Second, I am wondering if you do Skype sessions or even phone sessions. I am an adult with Aspergers syndrome who is married to my partner. How long would the session be and for how much?

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  I could really do with this at the moment, my marriage is hanging by a thread and we're now waiting for a mediation appointment.  My husband ABSOLUTLEY REFUSES to acknowledge that he has aspergers.  Instead I am the persecutor, a liar and not to be trusted.  This has not been help by a lovely psychiatrist who would not diagnose because she said he didn't meet the current criteria and didn't have impairments in all categories of the DSM, namely he told her he played team sports when he was younger and she told me that people with aspergers cannot play team sports??

Sorry for the ranting.  By the way, I am in Ireland and a therapist myself!?? makes me feel even more awful to be honest.  

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Hello Mr. Hutten,

My name is Laurie Cummings and I am the mother of a 23 yr old adult son on the spectrum, Dylan, and would like to inquire if you are accepting new Skype clients.  We are in Oklahoma.  I ran across your website when researching online counseling options for Dylan.

Dylan has struggled for years and has multiple DXs, including severe ADHD/Executive Function deficits, Anxiety, And auditory processing deficits…along with social anxiety.  In addition, he has struggled with compulsive self harm behaviors such as skin picking and pricking.  He is under the care of a psychiatrist AND pain management physician, however, we are looking for a psychologist for CBT to help Dylan with his struggles…. from the privacy and convenience of home.   Dylan additionally has had struggles with substance abuse (painkillers), however, is stable and in treatment separately for that.  We are looking for the “Third leg” of his treatment team…. a great therapist he can connect with.

Dylan is currently on SSI Disability due to these conditions, having been approved in 2015, without appeal, due to his extensive medical documentation over the years.  In short, he is a complex young man, but super sensitive, loving and smart.

Dylan agrees with the idea of additional therapy.

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Hello,
Just briefly:
1) What do I do to try to get my son to talk about things?
2) Respect household rules/curfews?

Anytime I try to talk to him he calls me a “helicopter” parent…regardless of what the topic is.

He recently had homecoming dance.  I said after the dance he needed to come home (he wanted to stay the night at his girlfriends house- Her Dad was there - we don’t know him and the girlfriend said it would be ok!)  Regardless we stated that it would not be appropriate and that he needed to be home when the party was breaking up. He stayed out (we didn’t have her address or phone # and his phone “died” with no charger (they are all generic chargers).

I was trying to come up with a consequence, keeping in line with the consequence should match the rule broken.  However he has his own pick up that he pays for himself (plus taxes, license, insurance, gas, and repairs).  I thought about using his spare key to “take” the pick up away from him, but could he then file a police report of theft?

There is no “grounding” him as he just refuses to listen.  So we ground him with other consequences:  Ex: Brother and sister get lunch bought for them because they are obeying the house rules.  You get to miss out on this lunch.

His girlfriend (really nice good natured young lady, with a kind heart) had a curfew with her Dad as did the other kids in the group.  I asked him about that.  I also asked if the Dad had any house rules for his daughter having her boyfriend stay over and he said “I had to sleep in the basement and she had to stay upstairs.  He has x,y,and z types of guns, knows how to use them, and told me of some land he owns?”  I think the Dad is military (which my son respects and is planning on joining himself. )

So basically, he understands and follows other peoples house rules, curfews, and treats them with respect but we get the opposite.
I have tried to encourage my husband to take him out, spend time hunting, fishing and talking with him.  It also opens up a pathway of two way male conversations.  They do go, spend time bonding, but it doesn’t seem to help when the chips are down.  It’s simply our sons way or no way!

How do we get him to understand that “parenting” is something all parents do!  Rules need to be followed at home, in school, at church, in the community, at his job, in traffic and online!  The only rules he has a problem with are home and school.  He sometimes leaves school during lunch but he doesn’t have the schools permission (due to failing grades, or time owed), but he wants to “go out” to lunch!
He won’t use notes for tests and sometimes (not always, as we have seen improvement) refuses to meet with teachers (as per his IEP) to get help from them.

I am going to stop here, as it’s already too long!  Sorry.
Any advice?   He just shouts, gets angry, and gets up and leaves.
I am reaching out for help and hope you respect that by passing on some info. you think might help us.

Sorry to be blunt, but I need help, solutions, advice, and guidence …our son is a good kid but I don’t know what to do to help him understand, cope, problem solve and remain calm in stressful situations.

We have tried various things, some work, some don’t.  Just looking for something new.
Thank you for your time.

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Hello-

Our 17 year old, 12th grade son was diagnosed at the age of 13. He has a difficult case according to the three doctors, school district testing, etc.   He had a medical reaction to the two different ssri administered at the age of 13.  It was so bad (every black box) description. We almost lost him. It took a year for him to recover from not knowing his name, violence against walls, and hit me once one time,  etc. during this time, cops were called twice by my husband.

At the age of 14 he went to high school. Recovered more and by junior year thriving with basketball, chess club, drama, musicals, grades etc.. to a point the doctor thought we were doing well and we kept in contact. School officials and teachers also saw the phenomenal growth and trajectory.

Then in second semester junior year, he regressed to not showing up on time (hour late). Feeling like he was not doing well. Was bullied at school. We worked with school. During this time his OCD germ phobia that he has kicked in higher.

Now it's senior year. His first week started on time. Then bully spit on him and school told him something that was unprofessional (they did charades of students to orient new teachers and he was told). Now He's showing up later and later (meaning I'm late to work as well) because his OCD has kicked into high gear from spraying nothing to spraying everything with either febreeze or soap and water. I mean everything (floors car handles and seats books papers etc).  Hes also hoarding the soap bottles, cans, etc. we can't touch the items. We have tried. When do, he melts down  and doesn't move forward. He is processing everything, the ritual of what moved when, how,,etc. until it's put back. The cops were recently called by our neighbors because they heard my son saying you're hurting me, which was actually the other way around. Since then, he saw a cop drive by our house and he literally comes running to me and says "mommy mommy please protect me. You didn't call them did you. Please protect me." I hadn't called. The cop was just driving by.

Our son is also controlling when we/I leave our room and where we/I can walk through house.

My husband and I have temporarily separated about August 13, at my son request, because my husband had so many disagreements and such poor communication between us two. As our doctor said three years ago, we need to get on same page, but we couldn't. So, thinking it would help us and help him, my husband and I agreed to temporarily separate with the intent to get back together.

At the end of August our son started to slap me when routine was disrupted. He's not done this multiple slapping thing before, even at worse time when he was 13. Since august 13, he has slapped me four different times for lengthy periods. He blocks me from moving or retreating.  I bruise easy. They were slaps. I understand  it's bad, and son started to see that not good and started to self regulate by saying I need to go for a run, I'm upset. Because of this self correct  and because he is fine in all other places including mainstream school, I don't want to call the cops.

But the last time (oct 14) he changed. It's now kicking and slapping harder. I told him to stop. Its inappropriate. He said stop talking and reacting or I will hit you more. I stopped. He stopped. It's now been two days of processing how bad he feels for doing what he did, etc.

My husband and I are back seeing the psychiatrist  and seeing a marital counselor in the next week. Our psychiatrist has referred us to marital counseling so that we can decrease the stress and thereby decrease the OCD etc.  the doctor also notes our son appears at times to runs roughshod over us. I stand up as much as I can, correct him in loving manner when in error (and he is receptive when not in meltdown), and when it's the right battle to choose...Like getting to school, etc. but lately  when I state we must leave At such and such time and give warnings, he regresses into further processing everything. Then when he is late, he regresses because now he's late to school. The desire is there, its implementation.

My son is sleeping normal hours for a teen.  He's not in drugs or alcohol. During meltdowns or processing, he can't eat, but otherwise eats well. I know because I'm with him.

Also, my son refuses medicines of any kind, refuses to see doctors, etc because of everything that went on before. It actually causes horrendous issues just seeing his orthodontist.

 I am supported by people like you, our psychiatrist who has said I'm doing the right things, the aspergers experts, the aspergers parenting community, several friends, and my faith. But, I am honestly getting tired from doing all the work physically and basically emotionally alone (I.e. No one is with me when a melt down occurs); being the primary bread winner throughout our marriage; dealing with my temporary separation; and my husband's recent unemployment. I'm looking for tools to help me help my son.

My son refuses to let anyone else help. When I say I need to have someone else drive him to school or that I need a few minutes to take a rest because I've got a cold,  he melts down and says I'm not there for him and I'm his rock I need to be there. 


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Dear Mark

 Two months ago my adored Aspie/HFA partner of 23 years announced he was leaving and never coming back. He has bought a motor home and plans to live in it, go to music festivals and ‘explore other relationships’. I know our relationship was struggling, I have had such huge pressures over the last few years (being sole breadwinner and homemaker, redundancy from a well paying job I enjoyed, having to take a lower paid new job I do not enjoy, menopause, overweight, two teenage boys to raise, one of whom also has had an autistic spectrum diagnosis) I could no longer meet his needs or deal with his ‘idiosyncrasies’. He had his diagnosis in his late 30’s, shortly after his nephew was diagnosed. It gave him some explanation of why he is how he is but there was little support or information available at the time. How I wish I had you then! I could have done so much more. Your book has gone a long way to help me understand, I resonate so much with many of your correspondents. I am at such a low ebb myself, with having to maintain domestic normality as he has not yet told our sons of his plans, I am at a loss as to how to proceed. He is adamant that our relationship is over (in his words) ” I respect you as a friend but I don’t see you as a lover anymore”. How wounding is that to a 55 year old overweight NT woman who feels she has given him everything and how typically AS? I would be very appreciative of any advice you could give me that would help our partnership as I feel it can be salvaged. I know he would not consider relationship counselling, he does not appear to want to save ‘us’ and would view it as ‘someone else always telling me what to do’ –one of his main gripes with me was that I always made decisions for him = me not believing him capable of decision making. He is capable, but so careful and so considered in his decision making that it invariably overruns the timescale within which the decision has to be made! I am trying to be strong and considerate to him through this but I am really cracking now and don’t know where to turn, please help!

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Hi,
I am wondering whether you could help me.  Let me describe my situation.
My son is 19.  He is difficult and manipulative with me but well behaved in the outside world and an excellent student.  He has a twin sister.  He played with her a lot when they were little but never had much of an interest in outside friendships.  By high school, he avoided being with friends if he could.  All he cared about was school work and getting into a top college.  He stressed himself out trying to be a perfect student.  He didn't get into any schools close to home that he wanted, so he went to a top school that is a plane ride away even though he had never been away from home and was very nervous.
He hated it from the start, always thought he was failing even though he ended the year with a 3.85 gpa.  He lost twenty pounds from stress, anxiety, and depression.  He developed an intestinal blockage from the weight loss and was hospitalized this summer and needed a feeding tube.
He did not go back to this college.  He is currently on leave.  He is home recovering and taking classes at a local school and doing an internship.
He's upset and stressed and feels like a failure.  He also has sensory hypersensitivity to light, sounds, and clothing seams and tags.
I'm really the only person he enjoys spending time with.  However, if I say something that annoys him (like if I tell him that he doesn't have to go to a top college to be successful), he starts insulting me and telling me I don't know what I'm talking about, and it just goes on and on.
He doesn't want to see a therapist, but I told him he had to go a few times.  The therapist he saw of course said he's extremely anxious about school, and this makes him controlling.  The therapist says he has sensory integration disorder and possibly Asperger's, and that the Asperger's could be causing his rigid thinking and perfectionism.
However, he understands jokes and sarcasm and doesn't take thinks literally and easily manipulates me (he knows how to push my buttons).  His speech is excellent and normal, and his coordination is normal.  The therapist says autism is a spectrum, so my son could just be very high functioning.
What do you think?  I found you by googling whether kids with Asperger's are manipulative or defiant with parents.  It seems like they can be defiant.  But can they manipulate, or does that require theory of mind?
He's also worried about being late, and he is just perfectionistic all around.  He could also have obsessive compulsive personality disorder and not Asperger's, but the therapist says that since he has always been this way and has tantrums starting at seventeen months and has sensory issues, it seems like Asperger's.
I can't get my son to keep seeing a therapist, and the therapist said not to force him because he will see it as an insult.  It will also just anger him.


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Dear Mark,

My husband and I are in Toronto.  

Our 21 year old son has recently been diagnosed with ADHD.  He is "addicted" to gaming and rarely leaves his room for anything or anyone other than his girlfriend, a bit of food at night, and occasional night wanderings in the city.  He does not like to work and is having trouble finishing high-school although he has a very high IQ.  We are currently in our 4rth year of trying to support him finishing high-school since he crashed his 86% average and scholarship in 2013 - failing in the last two months of Grade 12.

For years I have been saying, we must remove the computer from his room.  He built himself a mega-gaming computer last year after burning out his laptop.  Recently we bought him a laptop for his school work with the plan of removing the gaming computer which is so much faster - but it has remained in his room, pending all sorts of promises and assurances and we have repeatedly bought into the concept of "harm reduction" rather than "cold turkey".

We have consulted numerous professionals who never seem to get the seriousness of the gaming addiction.  They dismiss the games and look for the underlying problem - as if leaving the bottle of vodka on the table helps an alcoholic explore their deeper emotional issues.  Imagine what would happen to anyone spending 1,000's of hours on those repetitive sniper attacks!  He sits for hours at a time.  While his mind and body have gone into decline over the last 5 years (really since Grade 11), we have not gotten the moral support/professional help we need to take what feels like a risky step.  He has scared us; he has made threats.

However, I feel like I can't sustain this any longer...we are now paying for private school, gym membership, cell phone, therapy, medications, and visits to his girlfriend in another town - and we get nothing in return.  He is still skipping school and the gym; he has no outside job, dreadful sleeping and health habits, a regular diet of hostility towards us and he is spewing conspiracy theories while reading all sorts of things on-line.  I fear we are training him into mental illness by supporting his on-line life.  
 
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Hi Mark,


My son (JT) has been diagnosed by a respected psychiatrist in the Salem, OR area about 3 - 4 years ago with Asperger's Syndrome (HFA).  Over the last 18 months, my 17 year old son's OCD has been getting worse & my wife & I are often at wits end & are very frustrated on how to deal with this.  Here's are some of the aspects of his behavior which are of concern:


1)  Fear of germs:  We are not allowed out of our room in the morning to go to work unless (JT) has done is ritualistic cleaning which includes spraying (usually with Febrees) one or both of our cars, hallway, kitchen, sometimes the door handles and sometimes new things we have bought.  He also uses soap or Febrees on his hands without washing the soap off which makes his hands red & knuckles split open.  Also, he has a ritual of vacuuming a certain part of the family room carpet before we can leave our room..  He sprays so much liquid from the chemical every day that the laminate flooring in our hallway is starting to buckle.  My wife is concerned the carpet in her car is getting moldy.  Also, every area where we step including the garage floor is sprayed.  The only exception is the carpet inside our house.


2)  Hoarding Objects:  He will not throw away empty hand soap, laundry soap, Febrees bottles, or drink cans.  All rooms in our house my son feels comfortable in have his clothes, food, objects I have touched he thinks are contaminated, etc. spread out on the counters and floor.  Apparently, not throwing away stuff is tied to good or bad memories he is not ready to release yet.  Or it may be he must accomplish a certain goal before he can clean.  Problem is, he doesn't always tell us what his goal(s) are.  If we as parents try to help him clean or touch objects which should be thrown away, this causes my son to freak out.


3) Excessive tardiness, absences from his first period:  Naturally, this is a byproduct of his OCD and stress he goes through every morning causes JT and my wife and I to be late to work.


4) Discipline:  When we as parents try to use various types of discipline or correction such as, Please don't spray the floor, it is damaging the wood, etc., he will usually respond with, "Stop, you are causing me more stress"  Or if I say, JT let's go now, he responds with something like, Dad, you are causing me more stress, stop talking or we are going to be later.


Do you have tools to help our son with these specific issues?  We believe getting him to see a counselor would cause more stress so this is not an option at this time.  Is there a online blog or support group to understand what other parents have done in similar circumstances with successful outcomes?


Your suggestions are greatly appreciated!

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Dealing with Negative Emotions Associated with Parenting an Aspergers or HFA Child

When parents first discover that their child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, they may experience an emotional struggle that looks something like this...

Children on the Autism Spectrum Who Wander Off

Research reveals that about 50% of kids on the autism spectrum run off at least once. Many have been gone long enough to cause parents to report their child missing to authorities, and some have tried to wander off multiple times. The most common places these kids wander from are their homes, schools, or a store. 

There are several reasons why kids on the spectrum wander off (e.g., seeking a place they enjoy, trying to find a place they can go to avoid an uncomfortable situation, impulsivity, feeling stress or sensory overload, anxiety, etc.). It has been suggested that wandering off may be the leading cause of death among these young people. Drowning appears to be the most common among these casualties.

For moms and dads who have a “wandering” youngster on the autism spectrum, here are a few precautions to ensure his or her safety: 

1. DNA registration can be a useful tool for identification. Some companies will store your youngster’s DNA for up to 18 years.

2. Locator technology is another useful tool. There are GPS devices that kids can wear which will help parents locate their lost youngster.  For example, the EmSeeQ locator band is a watch-like device that uses cell phone technology. Other security companies offer a variety of options to help parents keep track of their youngster.

3. Having a youngster on the autism spectrum forces parents to “think out-of-the-box.” Thus, try to understand your youngster’s motivation for wandering off, and then try to find a safer way to meet that desire. For example, many children on the spectrum have a fascination with water. So, if your child has wondered off to the pond near home, then possibly a kiddy pool in the back yard would meet his need to explore water.

4. Keep your house safeguarded.  For example, set up sensor motion lights around the periphery of your home, set alarms that notify you when someone opens a door or window, and make sure your child’s bedroom is close to yours.

5. Keep a diary of places that your youngster has shown an interest in. Think of specific convenience stores, neighborhood friends’ residences, parks, playgrounds, streams/ponds/lakes, and other places your youngster seems to gravitate to.

6. Use the “stay within my reach” rule. When your child prefers to walk without holding your hand in potentially unsafe zones (e.g.. in a parking lot, at the mall or grocery, on sidewalks, crossing the street, etc.), let him know that’s fine as long as he stays close enough to you such that you can reach out and grab him if needed. Also, let him know that if he violates this rule at any point, you will have to hold his hand for a count of 30, and then try again. This models how to practice self-control, which is a very important concept for children on the autism spectrum. To reinforce compliance with this rule, tap your child on the shoulder every few minutes (if he is being successful with following the rule) and say, “I can still reach you. I appreciate you staying close by my.”

7. Use the “stay within talking distance” rule. When your child prefers to walk without holding your hand in rather safe places (e.g., at the park, on hiking trails, along the beach, down long hallways, etc.), let her know that’s o.k. as long as she stays within vocal range (however, if you have to scream loudly to get her attention, that’s too far!). If she violates this rule at any point, then revert back to the “stay within my reach” rule for a period of 3-5 minutes, then try again.

8. Register the youngster for proper ID through the local police department. Some police departments are set up to receive vital information for kids on the autism spectrum in case they need to refer to it.

9. Advise your neighbors of your child’s wandering tendencies. Tell them to feel free to notify you if they see something or if they see your youngster running away.  Also, tell them not take anything for granted.

10. Advise the school, too. When teachers and other staff interact with your youngster, make sure they emphasize that wandering off is dangerous. In addition, ask your child’s teachers if they would educate him or her on some basic identification facts (e.g., his or her address, the school he or she attends, parent’s cell phone number, etc.).

Have plenty of patience on hand as your youngster learns the importance of not wandering off. No doubt, there will be times when the child with a history of wandering tests the boundaries. In those cases, remind him of the danger, as well as the punishment that will be implemented (e.g., grounding with no privileges).

COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said…  He's 9 and has mostly stopped it. No more wandering, but he does still occasionally worry me with the bolting when he gets very overwhelmed.
•    Anonymous said… All the time!!
•    Anonymous said… As a much younger child, though, he was prone, always, when noise levels went up to just set off running in a random direction; sometimes that turned into climbing if the opportunity arose, and we'd find our three year old on top of an eight-foot stone wall.
•    Anonymous said… even now as a teenager, he'll wonder off if I'm not paying close attention.
•    Anonymous said… Functioning Labels are misleading and rigid. How a person is impacted is a more fluid, accurate representation. A person can slip into different impaction zones (mild/moderate/severe) based on mood, location, or health.
•    Anonymous said… He has stopped, probably after age 7. Wasn't necessarily bolting to, but bolting away from something with no thought of where he was headed. Any type of large group settings (school, summer day camp, Sunday School) until he got comfortable. My older, not diagnosed, son did too with things like fireworks. He bolted for the gate at Disney World when the afternoon fireworks at the castle went off.
•    Anonymous said… I have pulled my son back from walking into the road plenty of times. He is aware of the danger but he shuts off and hyper focus's on his thoughts to block out sensory stuff which makes him oblivious to his surroundings.
•    Anonymous said… In autistic children it's called fight/flight and it's due to their anxiety escalating. When my son runs it can be very dangerous. We never chase him. We follow from a distance and keep him in eyesight.  The best thing to do is to watch for triggers and use calming techniques. For example if our son is adverting eye contact, rocking on his heels swaying back and forth or wringing his hands...these are all signs that he is considering to run. We will start try to decompress by talking in low calming voices. We will also use a weighted blanket. If he's resistant we stop talking altogether and try deep breathing.  If he runs out of our subdivision we call 911. What's important when calling is to identify your child is autistic to the dispatcher. We actually contacted our local sheriff department and they already have a summary profile that pulls up on their computers about our son. It provides them information about him that will help when they are handling him. Seek medical help, there are medications that can help decrease your child's anxiety.
•    Anonymous said… It seemed frequent between ages of 5-7? Not as much now. He's 9.
•    Anonymous said… It was actually a diagnostic question for admission to a specialty Aspergers school: "fight or flight?"
•    Anonymous said… My 5 year old ran out into the road, I was just behind him but a lovely woman tried to stop and help and he thought she was kidnapping him so he's never done it since but his lack of impulse control makes it a risk. Unfortunately that rules him out of school trips unless I can attend to take responsibility.
•    Anonymous said… My almost 9 yr old with recently diagnosed autism level 1, chased leaves into the road, and he also never uses a sidewalk. He is always walking in the grass between the road and sidewalk.
•    Anonymous said… my aspergers son is 15 and he has never done anything like that. I always feel for people who deal with that. The worst he has done is kicked holes in his bedroom wall when he was younger. Extremely stubborn though and the shutdown is hard but luckily nothing crazy.
•    Anonymous said… my child stays exactly where I say to. Thankful I haven't had to exp that and I'm sorry you have. My child acts like an adult who likes to stay put at home.
•    Anonymous said… My HFA Aspergers son who is 11 runs when he is scared, mad, or hears loud noises. It is scary because he just runs with no awareness of his surroundings
•    Anonymous said… my son 7 was just diagnosed aftet 3 yrs. He ran away from school when they were at recess. They caught him before he left the parking lot. At home he says hell run away and i keep an eye on our doors. When we go for walks and stuff he insist on walking in the middle of the road or in peoples yard.
•    Anonymous said… My son did when he was younger, what was worse is he wasn't scared of being hit by a car because he believed he had super powers. We locked the doors and put the key up high
•    Anonymous said… My son has yet to receive a diagnosis (red tape). He has only darted out in front of a car to escape a wasp.
•    Anonymous said… My son is (in)famous for being the first child in 33 years to "escape" from the local community art school at age 6 1/2-7. The class meant his lunch schedule was off, and he was hungry, so he decided, during a moment when the teacher was out of the room gathering materials, he was going to walk home. He walked out of the class, out of the campus gate, and was about 2/3rds of the 2-mile way home--accurately, in spite of several turns--when one of the seven staff members scrambling to look for him caught up. Everyone was terrified because the school was on the edge of a lake; except me. I knew as soon as they contacted me where he was probably going and that he was probably doing just fine, so as long as I didn't let myself imagine something actively sinister, his sense of direction was so impressive I assumed I could just head to my house and wait.
•    Anonymous said… My son is five and he threatens to walk out of school.
•    Anonymous said… My son is only 5 but yes all of the time. I'm constantly aware of what he is doing and ready to grab him because he can disappear very quickly.
•    Anonymous said… my son used to do that, apparently he is not aspergic, but suffers from sensory overload. And my stepson who is still awaiting to be statemented if the council don't lose the paperwork again.
•    Anonymous said… My son was home alone, had a meltdown and ran. I was very fortunate that only a few doors down, he got it together and came back home. I had already called the police and they checked on him. He has also tried to run from school during a meltdown but was talked down by a police officer he knew. He has a special bond with officers since both my husband and I are former officers. The school went berserk and escorted him everywhere last year. We started this year on a clean slate and so far so good.
•    Anonymous said… My son was the resident escape artist at his school when aged 5-8. I repeatedly explained to the teachers that he was a runner and they would have to learn to shut the school gates. That leaving furniture around he could climb was also a big no-no. The message didn't sink in. He found every escape route possible. Open school gates, closed farm gates, 6 foot pool gates, double locked doors (they only placed the door handles 2 foot apart so one hand on each handle and he was out). I would get phone calls to say they had to get in the car to look for him. Having a photographic memory he would run the back roads home whilst they looked for him on the main road. They would find him over 1km from school. Parents passing would find him in the local pony club and report his whereabouts to the school. BUT he did grow out of it and at 11 he is still alive having managed to not get himself run over in the process.
•    Anonymous said… My son who is non verbal autistic is known for his running. We had to fence around our whole house and we don't go anywhere unless know he is secure either with his harness or inside a buggy. We had belts that I wore and he wore that were connected as well. There have been times still that he got away from me. I have horrid nightmares about him getting away and getting hurt.
•    Anonymous said… My would just leave and when the police found her for me she would have no reason as to why she left, she just wanted to leave but would eventually come back.
•    Anonymous said… No but in a public place he will wonder off to be alone.
•    Anonymous said… Terrifyingly,on many occasions, somehow we survived into adulthood, able to drive, catch flights and use public transport although even that is less straightforward than one would like.
•    Anonymous said… That is why he is never unattended. Ever.
•    Anonymous said… that's why we have the Gizmo watch phone now. It allows us to track her. She can call only 4 numbers on the phone. It's been very handy. She feels independent and the wandering off has stopped. Also the best part: when I call: it auto picks up and I can talk and she has to listen.
•    Anonymous said… Twice, law enforcement searched.
•    Anonymous said… When he was little ... All the time
•    Anonymous said… When my son was around 8 he bolted through a pasture full of horses & cows. I was afraid he was gonna get trampled!
•    Anonymous said… every time it was because of anxiety. My son did this a lot when he was younger. He's now 16 and we don't have the issue. We've also worked hard to prepare him for change and limit his anxiety.
•    Anonymous said… Yes and he got sooo grounded. He took off a few times last year he hasnt done it since.
•    Anonymous said… until around 4. Had to have a whole shop shut down once as he managed to unclip himself from the stroller and was found hiding amongst the clothes rails...I died a million times in those minutes.
•    Anonymous said… Yes with fire! Would never learn it was hot
•    Anonymous said… He was a runner when he was 4-5 years old.
•    Anonymous said… No sense of danger. Fear is not an emotion he possesses.
•    Anonymous said… When I was younger because I did not want to be at school. Not anymore.

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

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

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

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

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

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

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

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

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

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

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

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

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

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

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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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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content