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

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Symptoms of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism that "Look Like" Misbehavior


As parents of children on the autism spectrum know, there are a multitude of symptoms: 
  • physical (e.g., fine and gross motor skills deficits, sensory sensitivities),
  • mental (e.g., attention difficulties),
  • emotional (e.g., shutdowns, meltdowns, obsessions),
  • and social (e.g., problems reading nonverbal language, difficulty understanding sarcasm).

However, sometimes it becomes extremely difficult for parents to differentiate between (a) behavior problems and (b) symptoms of the disorder that "look like" behavior problems. For example, the Asperger's or high-functioning autistic child who has an allergy or food sensitivity may be cranky during periods of the day. The child who finds it difficult to transition from one activity to the next may experience a meltdown. The child who has difficulty waiting his turn may throw a tantrum. Thus, we need to learn how to adjust our parenting strategies accordingly. 

Sometimes, a consequence for misbehavior is indeed warranted. Other times, the "misbehavior" may be the result of something that stresses the child to the point of acting-out his emotions, because he has not learned any other way to cope with the problem in question (yet).

Any of the following symptoms can result in a behavior pattern that "looks like" intentional misbehavior (or a disrespectful attitude):
  1. Allergies and food sensitivities
  2. Appearance of hearing problems (but hearing has been checked and is fine)
  3. Can become overwhelmed with too much verbal direction
  4. Causes injury to self (e.g., biting, banging head)
  5. Difficulty attending to some tasks
  6. Difficulty changing from one floor surface to another (e.g., carpet to wood, sidewalk to grass)
  7. Difficulty maintaining friendships
  8. Difficulty moving through a space (e.g., bumps into objects or people)
  9. Difficulty reading facial expressions and body language
  10. Difficulty sensing time (e.g., knowing how long 5 minutes is or 3 days or a month)
  11. Difficulty transferring skills from one area to another
  12. Difficulty transitioning from one activity to another
  13. Difficulty understanding directional terms (e.g., front, back, before, after) 
  14. Difficulty understanding group interactions
  15. Difficulty understanding jokes, figures of speech or sarcasm
  16. Difficulty understanding the rules of conversation
  17. Difficulty waiting for their turn (e.g., standing in line)
  18. Difficulty with fine motor activities (e.g., coloring, printing, using scissors, gluing)
  19. Difficulty with reading comprehension (e.g., can quote an answer, but unable to predict, summarize or find symbolism)
  20. Does not generally share observations or experiences with others
  21. Exceptionally high skills in some areas -- and very low in others
  22. Experience sensitivity - or lack of sensitivity - to sounds, textures, tastes, smells or light
  23. Extreme fear for no apparent reason
  24. Feels the need to fix or rearrange things
  25. Fine motor skills are developmentally behind peers (e.g., hand writing, tying shoes, using scissors, etc.)
  26. Gross motor skills are developmentally behind peers (e.g., riding a bike, skating, running)
  27. Has an intolerance to certain food textures, food colors, or the way food is presented on the plate (e.g., one food can’t touch another)
  28. Has an unusually high - or low - pain tolerance
  29. Inability to perceive potentially dangerous situations
  30. Irregular sleep patterns
  31. Makes honest, but inappropriate observations
  32. Makes verbal sounds while listening (i.e., echolalia)
  33. May need to be left alone to release tension and frustration
  34. Meltdowns
  35. Minimal acknowledgement of others
  36. Obsessions with objects, ideas or desires
  37. Odd or unnatural posture (e.g., rigid or floppy)
  38. Often experiences difficulty with loud or sudden sounds
  39. Overly trusting or unable to read the motives behinds peoples’ actions
  40. Perfectionism in certain areas
  41. Play is often repetitive
  42. Prefers to be alone, aloof or overly-friendly
  43. Resistance - or inability - to follow directions
  44. Resistance to being held or touched
  45. Responds to social interactions, but does not initiate them
  46. Ritualistic or compulsive behavior patterns (e.g., sniffing, licking, watching objects fall, flapping arms, spinning, rocking, humming, tapping, sucking, rubbing clothes)
  47. Seems unable to understand another’s feelings
  48. Seizure activity
  49. Short attention span for most lessons
  50. Speech is abnormally loud or quiet
  51. Talks excessively about one or two topics (e.g., dinosaurs, movies, etc.)
  52. Tends to either tune out - or break down - when being reprimanded
  53. Tends to get too close when speaking to someone (i.e., lack of personal space)
  54. Transitioning from one activity to another is difficult
  55. Unaware of/disinterested in what is going on around them
  56. Uses a person’s name excessively when speaking to them
  57. Usually resists change in their environment (e.g., people, places, objects)
  58. Verbal outbursts
  59. Very little or no eye contact

Your child's behavior is observable and measurable (i.e., any action that can be seen or heard). An effective method of examining his or her behavior is the ABC model:

A=Antecedent: The event occurring before a behavior (the event prompts a certain behavior)

B=Behavior:  Response to the events that can be seen or heard

C=Consequence: The event that follows the behavior, which effects whether the behavior will occur again (when the behavior is followed by an unpleasant consequence, it is less likely to reoccur; when the behavior is followed by a pleasant consequence, it is more likely to reoccur)

Let’s look at a simple example of how the ABC model works:

Your child is throwing a temper tantrum because he wants your attention.  If you respond to the tantrum (whether to comfort or scold), your child's misbehavior is being rewarded by your reaction (even though it’s a negative reaction).  Thus, in this situation, it would be best if you waited for the tantrum to stop, and then reward (i.e., reinforce) the calm behavior verbally (e.g., “I like how quiet you are being right now”).  In this way, your child learns that he can gain the your attention through more appropriate behavior.

When using the ABC model, always remember that your child is not an experiment, rather he is an individual capable of changing unwanted behavior - when offered the correct means to do so. It's your job to focus on the behavior you would like to increase or decrease. The more you learn about behavior modification techniques, the more tools you will possess to help shape and promote the behavior you want to see more often in your child.

CLICK HERE to become an expert in helping your child deal with the symptoms of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism.

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