Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Promoting Social Competence in Children with Asperger's and HFA

One of the traits of young people on the autism spectrum is social unresponsiveness (social avoidance behavior). Social unresponsiveness is fear of, or withdrawal from, people or social situations. This becomes a problem when it interferes with relationships with peers, in social situations, or other aspects of a youngster’s life. 

Symptoms of social unresponsiveness may appear as part of the child’s overall personality or as a situation-specific response to a particular stressor. Many kids with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are especially susceptible to self-consciousness in social situations that make them feel exposed or psychologically unprotected.

Social unresponsiveness can also develop as an ongoing reaction to repeated failure, mistreatment, or rejection by peers. Some AS and HFA children may show good peer-group adjustment and ability to interact socially, but they may display communication apprehension when asked to perform in public, answer academic questions, or engage in an activity that they know will be evaluated. Other types of social unresponsiveness may result from specific experiences or environmental factors.

In a manner of speaking, the opposite of social unresponsiveness is social competence. Social competence refers to a child’s ability to get along with others. A youngster’s social competence is affected by how well he communicates with peers, teachers and other adults. A youngster’s view of himself in relation to his family, friends and the wider world also affects his social competence.

How well a youngster gets along with others may be the single best childhood predictor of how well she will function later in life. Kids who are unable to sustain close relationships with peers, who are generally disliked, who are aggressive and disruptive, who can’t establish a place for themselves in the peer-culture, and who do not have a basic level of social competence by the age of 6 usually have trouble with relationships when they become adults. The long-range risks for a youngster who can’t interact well with peers may also include poor mental health, low academic achievement and other school difficulties, and poor employment history.

Conversely, a youngster is more likely to have stronger relationships, better mental health, and more success in school if she has many chances to strengthen her social competence by playing, talking, collaborating with others, and working out disagreements. The youngster doesn’t necessarily have to be a "social butterfly." Quality matters more than quantity when it comes to friendships. Kids who have at least one close friend tend to increase their positive feelings about themselves.

The checklist below was created to help parents and teachers check to see whether a youngster’s social competence is developing satisfactorily. Many of the traits included in the checklist indicate adequate social growth if they are “usually” true of the youngster. If a youngster seems to have most of the traits in the checklist, then he is not likely to need special help to outgrow occasional difficulties. Conversely, a youngster who shows few of the traits on the list will benefit from strategies to help build social competence.


The youngster:
  • Asserts own rights and needs appropriately
  • Displays the capacity for humor
  • Does not draw inappropriate attention to self
  • Does not seem to be acutely lonely
  • Enters ongoing discussion on a topic
  • Expects a positive response when approaching others
  • Expresses frustrations and anger effectively, without escalating disagreements or harming others
  • Expresses wishes and preferences clearly
  • Gains access to ongoing groups at play 
  • Gives reasons for actions and positions
  • Has “give-and-take” exchanges of information or feedback with others 
  • Has positive relationships with one or two friends
  • Interacts nonverbally with other kids (e.g., smiles, waves, nods, etc.)
  • Is able to maintain friendships even after disagreements
  • Is accepted versus rejected by other kids
  • Is invited by other kids to join them in play
  • Is named by other kids as someone they are friends with or like to play with
  • Is not easily intimidated by bullies
  • Is not excessively dependent on parents or teachers
  • Is usually in a positive mood
  • Is usually respected rather than feared by other kids 
  • Makes relevant contributions to ongoing activities
  • Negotiates and compromises with others 
  • Shows appropriate response to new people (as opposed to extreme fearfulness or indiscriminate approach)
  • Shows interest in others 
  • Shows the capacity to empathize
  • Shows an interest in keeping friends and misses them if they are absent
  • Takes turns fairly easily
  • Usually copes with rebuffs or other disappointments adequately

Though each component contributes to the other, there is a necessary initial sequence to the elements of learning social competence for children: (1) the ability to enter play successfully, which (2) creates feelings of being accepted by others, which (3) leads to friendships and to caring about others, which (4) makes the youngster more willing to consider the perspective of others instead of just his own. When these components are in place, the youngster is usually open to assistance with social skills and behaves in a fairly socially acceptable manner.

Parents and teachers should think about a youngster’s motivation for prosocial behaviors (e.g., sharing, compromising, taking turns, etc.). Some young people simply don’t care if they hurt others or make them upset. These are usually the kids who feel rejected by peers – and who reject peers in return. If a youngster has little empathy, then parents and teachers are going to have little luck with lessons about “getting along.”

A basic component for learning social competence is having friends, which for most kids, means having playmates. In order to have playmates, young people must be able to successfully enter into play with their peers, which may be the most basic part of developing social competence. The process of playing with others not only provides motivation for learning social skills, it also provides superb practice. Play provides many opportunities for conflict resolution and negotiation, which help kids to be empathic (i.e., to consider the needs and feelings of others). Considering the needs and feelings of others is called “perspective-taking,” which is also “basic” to developing social competence.

Why Asperger's/HFA is Largely a Disorder of Social Skills 


Below are suggestions for AS and HFA kids who are socially unresponsive, and how parents and teachers can promote the development of social competence:

1. Any time your AS or HFA youngster exhibits socially appropriate behavior, praise her and let her know you are proud of her.  Also, be sure to state exactly why you are proud (e.g., “Julie, you did a great job saying ‘hello’ to Mrs. Johnson.  That’s you being friendly.”).

2. Don’t speak FOR your youngster. When someone approaches her (e.g., asks her name or comments on her pretty dress), it may be tempting to speak for her.  By speaking for your youngster, it lets her off the hook because she doesn’t have to respond. Also, it sends the message that her voice isn’t necessary, which can reinforce social unresponsiveness.  So, let you child speak for herself as often as possible.

3. Find information on the internet, in books and magazines, etc. on ways to be prosocial and make friends. Share this information with your child. In addition, social stories about “making and keeping friends” are especially helpful when attempting to promote prosocial behavior in AS and HFA children (click here for an example).

4. For the AS or HFA youngster who is socially unresponsive, it may take her a while just to muster up the courage to attempt to join a play group. Let her go at her own pace with your support and encouragement.  Pushing a youngster to join in play may lead to humiliation and resentment towards you.

5. Help the youngster develop confidence that she will be accepted by her peer-group. A youngster who approaches playmates with confidence is more likely to gain entry to play. On the other hand, the hesitant child is more likely to experience peer-rejection. Peer-rejection starts a cycle of ineffective behaviors that lead to even more rejection. Parents and teachers can make a difference with careful confidence-building strategies.

6. Parents and teachers can help kids on the autism spectrum become socially competent by encouraging friendships. Friendships are crucial for a variety of reasons: (a) friendships offer the best opportunities for developing the interpersonal understandings needed for socialized behavior; (b) kids are more likely to be successful when initiating contact with friends, thus increasing their confidence; (c) kids care more about the feelings of friends than about those of others, thus encouraging them to practice perspective-taking; and (d) kids’ play is more sophisticated and mature when they are playing with friends, which improves their competence.

7. Teach your youngster positive self-talk.  Have her list the things she can do, what she is good at, and friends and family that care about her.  Have her practice saying all of this to herself.  Keep the list posted in a prominent place. In this way, she is reminded of all her good qualities.

8. The AS or HFA youngster will have a much easier time being outgoing in social situations if his parents model good social behavior.  For instance, when you are out with your youngster, make an effort to be especially friendly and outgoing to people. This will let your youngster see that it is safe to relate to others (i.e., family members, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers).

9. Well-meaning parents and teachers often insist that “no child be left out,” but this eliminates a teachable moment that may actually make things worse for the AS or HFA youngster in the long-term. There is usually a reason for a youngster being rejected by the play group, and it is the adult’s job to assess the situation and figure out why. Usually there is a missing skill that the child needs to develop. So, parents and teachers should try to identify what needs to be learned – and then teach it. Insisting that a particular youngster be allowed to play just covers up the problem, teaches no social skills or understanding, and makes the other kids more resentful of the “special needs” youngster forced upon them. Consider how you would feel if you were in a meaningful conversation with your best friend, and an uninvited acquaintance jumps in and disrupts the conversation. It’s reasonable at times for kids to ask not to be disrupted by others.

10. Young people on the autism spectrum must be helped to avoid advances that disrupt the ongoing play among his peers. Too often, the AS or HFA youngster will barge into a play situation like an Army tank and be totally surprised and disappointed when the other kids get angry. In these cases, it would be helpful to teach the child a “beginning strategy” that does not interrupt. For example: (a) doing a similar activity near the play group; (b) observing what the desired playmates are doing, which provides information that the youngster can use by offering a way to contribute or fit into the existing play (the youngster who joins a group with a contribution to ongoing play is most likely to be accepted); or (c) simply playing alongside potential playmates.

Play is a common form of interaction between - and among - all kids. Young boys and girls do not construct their own understanding of a concept in isolation – but in the course of interaction with peers. Some of the social skills developed through play are (a) the ability to work towards a common goal, (b) cooperating with peers, and (c) initiating a conversation. By using the strategies listed above, parents and teachers can help the AS or HFA child to move past social unresponsiveness – and on to social competency.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Meltdowns: Intervention and Prevention Techniques That Work

Meltdowns can be difficult and frightening to children with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA), as well as to their parents and siblings. However, the good news is that with just a few critical changes, the household can move past such episodes fairly easily. The affected child will feel more in control of his or her feelings/reactions and will, hopefully, come to trust that help will always be there.

Here are a few simple strategies that parents and teachers can use to lessen the intensity and frequency of autism-related meltdowns:

1. Initiate some dietary changes: There is no specific diet for AS or HFA children, but removing certain proteins may relieve symptoms. The gluten-free, casein-free diet has the most research and is one of the most common dietary interventions. About 25% of young people on the autism spectrum find relief and improvement with this diet. It excludes gluten, casein, the protein in wheat, and the protein in milk. In theory, these kids improve on the diet because incomplete breakdown of these proteins creates a substance that inflames the gut. Research has shown improvement, and parents anecdotally report success when these two proteins are removed from their child’s diet.

2. Provide a safe zone: A large closet or a pop-up tent can be effective in calming your youngster by providing her with some “alone-time.” Place soothing objects inside (e.g., bean bag, soft blanket, favorite book, iPod, etc.).

3. Teach “cause and effect” early in your child’s life: “Experiential learning” can be difficult for kids with AS and HFA, and it will become increasingly challenging as the youngster matures and grows. If the results of behavior are felt early in life, it will create resiliency for these children. Thus, make a connection between your youngster's misdeed and the discipline that results (i.e., cause and effect). Let him experience the negative consequences of his poor choices whenever possible.

4. Employ diversionary tactics: Creating a diversion will take your youngster’s attention elsewhere, thus possibly avoiding a meltdown (e.g., taking a walk, singing a song, making silly faces – anything that makes her laugh).

5. Identify “meltdown triggers”: Do some research on your child’s triggers (especially if they aren’t obvious) to determine what factors were in place that resulted in a meltdown. Create a list of things going on before behavior took a turn for the worse, and see if you can find some patterns.

Shutdowns: The Opposite of Meltdowns

6. Identify some sensory-soothing techniques that work for your child: Find out the colors, textures, sounds and feelings she finds peaceful (e.g., pastel colors, squeeze balls, white noise such as a fan blowing, etc.).

7. Break down large tasks into smaller chunks: By breaking down a particular task into workable steps, you are ensuring your child’s feeling of success, thus raising his self-esteem. The more he has mastery over his environment, the better he will feel about himself.

8. Consistently focus on the positives: Little everyday occurrences that are often ignored need to be noticed and brought to the child’s attention in the form of acknowledgment and praise (e.g., finished eating her vegetables, picked her coat up off the floor, started doing homework without having to be asked, etc.). It's always better for children to feel good about the things they are doing right, rather than to be punished for what they are doing wrong.

9. Be a good role model on how to maintain composure: In the face of adversity, always aim to stay calm – and seek a calm environment to encourage de-escalation.

10. Transfer control: As often as possible, allow your child to be in charge of his responsibilities, rather than stepping in and taking over or over-assisting. In the short term, it may seem easier to simply do things yourself, but that's only if you want to continue doing this for your child for the rest of his life. Balance your decision to give the responsibility back to your child by maintaining a supportive and caring attitude, rather than being the “bad guy.”

11. Work as a team: When creating “house rules” for your AS or HFA child, do so WITH her, not just FOR her. In this way, she will buy into the process and will be more likely to cooperate. Social stories and visual cues about the rules can be quite helpful. You can place pictures or text in a place your child normally sees so she can easily access the rules. It’s good to put words next to pictures so the child can learn to associate the meaning.

12. Think structure, structure, structure: Children with AS and HFA need – and even crave – routine and structure. They handle change best if it is expected and occurs in the context of a familiar routine.   A predictable routine allows these kids to feel safe and to develop a sense of mastery in handling their lives.  As this sense of mastery is strengthened, they can tackle larger changes (e.g., walking to school by themselves, going to sleepaway camp, paying for a purchase at the store, etc.). Of course, many changes can't be avoided. But that's why you need to offer your child a predictable routine as a foundation in his life – so he can rise to the occasion to handle big changes when he needs to. While helping AS and HFA kids feel safe and ready to take on new challenges and developmental tasks would be reason enough to offer them structure, it has another important developmental role as well: structure and routines teach them how to constructively control themselves and their environments.


Other benefits to having a significant amount of structure in your youngster’s life include the following:
  • Structure helps moms and dads maintain consistency in expectations. If everything is an argument, the parent often ends up settling just to keep the peace (e.g., more computer time, more TV, go to bed an hour later, skip brushing teeth for tonight, etc.).  With a consistent schedule, the parent is more likely to stick to healthy expectations.
  • Structure allows children to be in charge of themselves. This feeling increases their sense of competence.  Children who feel more independent and in charge of themselves have less need to rebel and be defiant.
  • Structure allows children to learn the concept of "looking forward" to things they enjoy, which is an important part of making a happy accommodation with the demands of a schedule.  For example, your child may want to go to the playground now, but she can learn that the family always goes to the playground in the afternoon, and she can look forward to it then.
  • Structure eliminates power struggles because you aren't bossing your youngster around.  A particular activity (e.g., brushing teeth, napping, turning off the TV to get ready for bed, etc.) is just what family members do at the designated time of day.  Mom stops being the bad guy, and nagging is greatly reduced.
  • Structure helps children cooperate by reducing stress and anxiety for everyone.  Everybody knows what comes next, they get fair warning for transitions, and no one feels pushed around.
  • Structure helps children learn to take charge of their own activities.  Over time, they learn to feed the dog, brush their teeth, pack their backpacks, etc., without constant reminders from the parent.

One of the biggest challenges for parents of children with autism spectrum disorders is dealing with negative behaviors. If meltdowns are an issue for your AS or HFA youngster, the techniques listed above should provide a significant amount of relief for all family members.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers and HFA Children

Our Top 10 Picks for Books Related to Young Men with Asperger's

Here are our top picks that specifically target young adult males with Asperger syndrome - in order of popularity:

Fostering the Development of Self-Reliance in Kids and Teens with Asperger's and HFA

Parents of a child with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often have trouble knowing how much to help out their “suffering” youngster at certain times in his or her life. However, if they have “stepped-in” time and time again to over-protect and over-assist their youngster, it often results is serious problems for that child later in life. Moms and dads are not doing their youngster any favors by over-assisting – in fact, quite the opposite.

Overprotective parents mean well. After all, it's their job to protect their youngster from harm. But unfortunately, some parents of AS and HFA children go too far. They started out by being their child’s advocate – and this is all well and good – but then they progressed way beyond advocacy to an overprotective parenting style. They figured the more hands-on and involved they are in their “special needs” child’s life, the better – but this is definitely not true.

Some early signs of overprotective parenting include the following: 
  • Being quick to punish transgressions
  • Expectations that the youngster understand adult rules of deference and demeanor
  • Having strict rules of neatness, which do not allow the youngster to get dirt on his clothes or on himself
  • Having unnecessarily strict rules (e.g., remaining in the same room with the mother or father at all times, even at age 5 or 6)
  • Highly structured rules that try to cover every phase of the youngster’s life
  • Immediately running to examine the youngster when she has a simple fall that produces no distress; if a whimper is the worst result, the mother or father may have candy or a toy ready for comfort
  • Over-dependence on a system of rewards and punishments
  • Over-emphasis of academic success
  • Protection from all harm whether physical or emotional

Adult Children with Aspergers and Their Over-Protective Parents 

What are some of the negative outcomes related to an overprotective parenting style? Here are just a few:

1. A grown-up gains confidence by working hard and mastering whatever it is he or she seeks to accomplish – and a child gains confidence the same way. But if an overprotective parent (who hates to see her AS or HFA youngster struggle) does tasks FOR him, the child is not given the opportunity to develop his own skills. Thus, he risks going through life with little or no confidence. An overprotective parent inadvertently sends the message that her youngster is not capable of doing an adequate job, or that she doesn't trust her youngster to make the right decisions.

2. One of the most important jobs a parent has is to prepare her youngster to be an independent and productive adult. But an overprotective parent can't let go – even after her older teen or young adult has left home to attend college. Some moms and dads negotiate work contracts on behalf of their “special needs” adult child. And the most extreme parents even attend job interviews with their adult child, which rarely impresses any potential employer.

3. An overprotective parenting style can cause the lack of the development of self-esteem in the AS or HFA youngster. This is because he is not allowed to face challenges without parental intervention. Part of the development of self-esteem in kids comes from surmounting challenges on their own, which can be denied to them by an overprotective mother or father.

4. When a parent does too much “safeguarding” in an effort to make her youngster’s life stress-free, it usually has the opposite effect. The overly-protected youngster eventually becomes depressed and suffers anxiety that he attributes to the obsessed parent. Instead of creating a happy and stress-free environment, the overprotective parent often accomplishes the opposite.

5. An overly protected child may feel that if his parents don’t trust him with the freedom to make mistakes and tackle problems on his own, then he may not have the ability to succeed in life without continued guidance.

So, what can parents do if they have been overly protective down through the years?

They should begin to foster the development of self-reliance in their child, rather than parental-reliance. For kids with AS and HFA, acquiring skills related to self-reliance is especially important. This is because their ability to express themselves clearly or interact with others may look different than what other kids typically do. Some grown-ups may mistakenly provide more support for a youngster on the autism spectrum than she actually needs. When a youngster is consistently prevented from taking even small risks, she will learn to feel helpless and dependent, rather than self-reliant.

Self-reliance is not about letting the child make every single decision that affects his life (e.g., what time to go to bed, deciding not to wear a coat in the winter time, etc.). Kids need very clear expectations, protection from harm, and loving guidance. Self-reliance is about providing opportunities so that AS and HFA kids develop the skills necessary to become independent, as well as to interact freely and joyfully within their environment.

When kids on the autism spectrum grow up, parents want them to have the necessary survival skills (e.g., speaking up and voicing opinions). Self-advocacy (i.e., the ability to speak on one’s own behalf) is an important and powerful outcome for kids with AS and HFA. By learning skills that promote self-reliance as a youngster, parents begin paving the way for her to effectively use her voice or other means to speak up on her own behalf.

Just like a child needs to practice the violin to become proficient, AS and HFA kids need on-going practice to gain skills related to self-reliance. When these young people have numerous opportunities to practice making basic choices or solving simple problems, they build confidence and trust in their own abilities. They also build the competence and ability to master new skills that can last a lifetime.


Below are a few important suggestions for promoting early self-reliance in your child. You can choose the ones that work for you, or adapt some of the suggestions so they match the preferences of your youngster and the rest of the family:

1. Create opportunities for your AS or HFA youngster to see his work, drawings or other art displayed (e.g., proudly show “found treasures,” artwork or other creations on a bulletin board or the refrigerator).

2. Develop routines WITH your youngster. Morning and bedtime are obvious times to come up with predictable routines. Have your child involved in the planning. For example, sit her down and ask, "What can we do to make our mornings go more smoothly?" Chances are your youngster will come up with the same ideas you might have – and since she came up with the idea (rather than you), she will be more likely to follow it. She may even pose some ideas you wouldn't have considered (e.g., having a granola bar for breakfast instead of pancakes). Beyond the morning and night, look for other times that you can come up with a flexible schedule. For example, when your youngster gets home from school, he can be in charge of getting his own snack instead of relying on you.

3. Provide a lot of regular acknowledgement and praise. When your youngster is trying something new, you can nearly guarantee his success by praising his efforts. Kids on the autism spectrum can get easily frustrated, but by cheering on their efforts, they learn that obstacles can be overcome. They need to learn patience as they learn to do something new, and moms and dads need to be patient as they encourage their kids. For example, it may take longer for your child to tie his shoes, so give him plenty of time and don't rush him. In the end, your child will not only learn to do more on his own, but he will become more self-reliant – and grateful that his mom and dad have confidence in his abilities.

4. Help your youngster to become a goal-setter. Autonomy often goes hand-in-hand with self-confidence. When your youngster feels like she has the ability to accomplish something small (e.g., making her own bed), she will then feel more able to do more difficult tasks (e.g., washing dishes, figuring out fractions, etc.). Help along her “sense of self” by teaching her to set goals. These goals don't have to be large tasks, or even for lengthy time periods. And the reward for her efforts should be her own sense of accomplishment. Chores are a good place to start with goal-setting. So, identify with your youngster specific tasks that she can do around the house and in her bedroom. Work with her to develop a chart to mark off each day or week that she gets her tasks done.

5. Of course, supervision is important to ensure that your youngster is safe. But to help her really learn a new skill, it's also important not to hover. Finding that balance can be tricky. That's why taking simple steps toward acquiring a new skill is crucial. Potentially dangerous or messy tasks (e.g., cutting, vacuuming, working with blenders, etc.) require supervision. But make sure that with other tasks (e.g., making beds, fixing simple meals, etc.), you step back and let your child show off her skills.

6. Let your youngster go alone. Are you the first to volunteer to chaperone the school fieldtrip? After all, what if your son forgets his sack lunch …or your daughter leaves her umbrella on the bus? Moms and dads should definitely sign up for one fieldtrip or a couple of classroom volunteer assignments each school year – but should not go to every activity. These activities serve as opportunities for kids to exert their independence while still being under adult supervision. After the activity, ask your youngster about the event. You may notice that he enjoyed going on the fieldtrip, not just because of the horses at the farm, but also because he felt responsible enough to take care of himself outside of school without his mom or dad around.

7. Let your AS or HFA child make mistakes, but be there to boost her spirits so she will keep trying. For example, if your youngster wants to learn how to make a home-made pizza, show her how. Then set up the ingredients and let her give it a try. True, you're likely in for a bit of a mess, but your youngster can help clean up (however imperfectly) after she is done crafting her pizza. Instead of pointing out that she added entirely too much mozzarella cheese, make an attempt to avoid any criticism that could discourage her from trying again. If parents step-in to assist, their youngster may get discouraged and never try it again.

8. Offer choices and solicit your youngster’s preferences for objects and activities (e.g., ask him which book of two books he wants, and ask if he wants to sit up or lie down to hear the story).

9. Provide your youngster ways to be independent in dressing and personal care.

10. Teach “life skills” to your child. Start simple with teaching day-to-day tasks. For example, have your youngster help you sort out clothes for the laundry. After the clothes are dried, give her a basket with her clothes folded inside. Once she is comfortable and confident putting away her own clothes, let her handle the folding, too. Introducing your youngster gradually to new skills will help her to feel confident to handle more demanding tasks.

These are just a few ideas to help you start thinking about ways to promote self-reliance at home. The key is to create opportunities where your youngster can feel happy, safe, and free within the world around him or her.

==> Launching Adult Children With Aspergers and HFA: How To Promote Self-Reliance

Visual Supports for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

A visual support refers to using a picture or other visual item to help your youngster with task-completion as well as communication. Visual supports can be drawings, objects, written words, photographs, or lists. Research has shown that visual supports work well as a way to communicate with special needs kids.

Here are our Top 10 Picks for Visual Supports to assist Kids on the Autism Spectrum:

Visual Schedules “3 Pc Home Bundle” w/Double-Sided Dry Erase Magnetic Board, 19 Pc Headings Sheet and 72 Home-Themed Activity Magnets

Visual Schedules Activity Magnets Combo Pk: 132 pc Entire Gallery (Home, School and Special Needs) PLUS 19 pc Headings Sheet (2nd Ed)

Visual Schedule for Home

Visual Morning Routine AAC (Picture Communication Symbols)

Autism Supplies And Developments Picture Exchange Communication System

 Daily Planner for Kids - Visual Schedule -Magnet Cards- Helps Children be more organized!

Easy Daysies Starter Kit The Original Daily Visual Schedule

Magnetic Reward Behavior Star Chore Chart for One or Multiple Kids, Includes 8 Markers + 60 Foam Backing Illustrated Chores + 300 Stars in Red, Yellow, Blue. X- Large 17X12 inch. Hanging Loop READY!

Monkey & Chops Kids Daily Routine Charts - Magnetic Refrigerator Behavior Chart for kids - to Help Your Child with Their Morning & Evening Routines

156 Photo Images PECS Book For Autism, ABA, Speech Therapy, ADD, Language and Aprexia - Special Needs

What To Do When Your Aspergers or HFA Child Can't Make Friends

Some parents of children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) may discover that their youngster seems to have difficulty making and keeping friends, and this may first become apparent in preschool when children tend to start pairing off.

If your Aspergers or HFA child doesn't ever talk about anyone in his class, doesn’t ask to bring a friend home, never gets invited to any of his peers' homes, and seems to be a loner in general preferring to play by himself, then he might be having trouble in the friendship department (his teacher may be able to confirm your suspicions).

It may be that acquiring social skills doesn't come as naturally to your "special needs" youngster as it does to other children. He might need extra help developing the empathy and consideration that make others want to be around him.  Parents may need to rehearse the most rudimentary rules of social engagement with their son or daughter, beginning with scenarios as simple as “how to introduce yourself” (e.g., “Smile, look your friend in the eye and say, ‘Hi, my name is.... Can I play with you?’ Then play whatever your friend wants to play without insisting that the two of you play only what you want to play”).


Aspergers and HFA children need to understand when to reach out, pull back, blend in, speak up and let go. So, how can parents help their child make and keep friends?

To support the development of friendships in your youngster’s life, try some of these strategies:

1. Bear in mind that what made it easy for you as a child to forge friendships might not be your youngster’s style.

2. Build kid’s confidence by teaching them new games or skills.

3. Children tend to make friends by doing things together, so concentrate on activities.

4. Consider hiring a well-liked same-sex “babysitter-companion” with permission to pass on subtle tips about getting along.

5. Demonstrate how to be a good friend and make friends. The best way is to model the behavior you would like to see. There are several ways you can accomplish this at home. For example: 
  • be kind, give compliments, wave to a friend, open the door for someone
  • be understanding of what others are going through by showing empathy
  • teach your kids to accept what can't be changed by working hard to change the things that can
  • have a sense of humor about yourself and your shortcomings
  • help your youngster realize his own strengths
  • listen to your youngster without criticism.

6. Emphasize good manners at home, including how to apologize or do favors for other children.

7. Encourage children to join Scouts.

8. Encourage having a few friends more than only one ‘best’ friend to avoid upset feelings when that youngster is unavailable or wants to play with others.

9. Even an youngster on the autism spectrum with average social skills may turn inward while experiencing major disruptions (e.g., parents' divorce, serious illness or death in the family, move to a new town, etc.). As much as possible, you should prepare your child for the changes by talking about what's happening and what to expect. For example, if you're moving, check out the new teacher, school or town in advance. Very gently encourage your son or daughter to take chances while praising him for little accomplishments. Also, have the expectation that things will work out.

10. Giving kids lots of unstructured time to play is important because they learn the social skills they need so they can keep playing and have fun.

11. Include your youngster when talking to people out of his normal range of peers. For example, take him to visit a neighbor, or bring him along to the dry cleaner. The more he is exposed to interacting with all kinds of people, the more he will learn to do the same.

12. It’s hard to go wrong with kindness, so encourage your youngster to express caring feelings for others.

13. Offer a variety of opportunities for play and socializing. Host friends over for play dates or lunch. See if you can participate in a carpool and sign-up your youngster for group activities (e.g., art, drama, dance, etc.). Exposing him to different areas of play will help him learn to socialize.

14. Remind the extremely shy or anxious child that everyone experiences rejection, and give him tips on recruiting friends (e.g., seek out the friendliest classmates).

15. Stay balanced when things are hard. Go ahead and empathize with your youngster’s pain, but keep it in perspective. Making friends is a lifelong process and will have its “ups and downs.” Pain, unfortunately, is a part of it. All kids will experience some form of ‘normal’ social pain in their friendships. We can support them by listening and acknowledging their feelings. Talk about your concerns (regarding your child’s lack of social skills) with other adults who can support you (e.g., a coach, teacher, friend, family member, etc.). You never want to share your anxiety about your child’s lack of friends with your child, so find someone who can help offer insight about your youngster or consult with professionals.

16. When it comes to training "special needs" kids, you will want to steer clear of humor as a relationship-builder, because it’s a subtle skill that often backfires into annoying other children.

17. Support your youngster’s choice of friends and welcome them to your home. Try to get to know his friends and their parents.

18. Talk to the youngster’s teacher. The teacher can really offer some perspective about whether this is a temporary glitch or is it a more ongoing problem or something typical for this age.

19. When your youngster acts in an especially friendly way, name it — and let him know you’re impressed.

20. Lastly, coach your youngster on the following social concepts (using words that he or she will understand, of course):

The Lonely Child on the Spectrum 

The Nature of Friendship:
  • Similarity and proximity. School–aged kids have a tendency to develop friendships with others who share similarities with themselves (e.g., gender, age, race, IQ, social status). As the youngster grows older, these traits become less important and he establishes friendships based upon similar interests and attitudes. As adolescence emerges, friends begin to seek conformity by dressing similarly and listening to the same music.
  • Reciprocity and support. All kids must share a degree of mutual respect and affection for each other if the friendship is to be lasting and meaningful. There needs to be a degree of equity between the two friends and a willingness to assist, guide, or comfort each other as necessary.
  • Mutual activities and shared interests. Childhood friendships often develop during school or extracurricular activities. Kids who are involved in such activities (e.g., sports teams, stamp clubs, chorus, drama, etc.) have common interests and values and often are quite compatible as social partners.
  • Intimacy, affection, and loyalty. Kids desire friends who can be trusted. They want their friends to share thoughts and feelings sensitively, and they demand loyalty from them. They need to feel that the friend will keep confidences and shared secrets. They also expect that the friend will not criticize them to others and are deeply hurt when this occurs. Kids expect the friend to view the relationship as a true commitment. Most childhood friendships that dissolve are destroyed by a perceived lack of commitment by one of the parties.

Difficulties with Processing Information: Help for Asperger's and HFA Kids

Young people with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often have problems processing information from one or more of their seven sensory systems (i.e., sight, balance, touch, movement, smell, taste, and hearing). These processes take place at an unconscious level, and they work together to help with attention and learning. Each system has specific receptors that pick up information that is relayed to the brain. The sensory characteristics of kids with AS and HFA is often responsible for their processing difficulties, negative behaviors, and unpleasant emotions.

The sensory systems are also involved in what we call “emotional processing.” People use their emotions as a sensory system. Kids, too, use their emotions as sensory antennae. But kids with AS and HFA vary in their ability to process information emotionally, in part because at least one other sense often doesn't work well (e.g., it would be difficult for a youngster with an auditory-processing disorder to figure out whether a person's voice suggests friendliness or meanness). Also, many AS and HFA kids have a hard time using their emotions or desires to process information and act appropriately in interpersonal settings.

Processing is a system that helps a youngster select, prepare, and begin to interpret incoming information. AS and HFA kids who have difficulty with processing may have a range of problems related to regulating the use of incoming information. There are five processing skills, which include (1) satisfaction control, (2) focal maintenance, (3) depth and detail of processing, (4) cognitive activation and (5) saliency determination. Let’s look at each of these in turn:
  1. Satisfaction control involves a youngster's ability to allocate enough attention to activities or topics of moderate or low levels of interest. AS and HFA kids with poor satisfaction control have difficulty concentrating on activities that are not exciting enough.
  2. Focal maintenance allows a youngster to focus on important information for the appropriate period of time. AS and HFA kids may not concentrate long enough on some things, and may concentrate too long on others. 
  3. Depth and detail of processing controls how intensely kids can concentrate on highly specific data. It enables them to focus deeply enough to recognize and remember necessary details. AS and HFA children tend to remember a lot of details that relate to their area of special interest, but may not remember much outside of that interest.
  4. Cognitive activation is a form of “active processing” that connects new information to what has already been learned through prior knowledge and experience. Kids who are “inactive processors” are unable to connect to prior knowledge to assist their understanding of new information. In contrast, “overactive processors” are reminded of too much prior knowledge, making it difficult for them to maintain focus. 
  5. Saliency determination involves selecting which incoming information is the most important. Kids who have difficulty with this control may be distracted by things that are not relevant and miss important information being presented.

Here are some signs that a child has difficult processing information: 
  • can't distinguish between what is important and what isn't
  • finishes processing what someone is saying before he/she has even finished expressing his/her idea
  • focuses for too brief a period
  • focuses for too long of a period
  • focuses too superficially or too deeply on information presented
  • has an idea and knowledge of what he wants to say in his mind, but when he attempts to share the idea, it doesn’t comes out right
  • has difficulty connecting new information with information already known
  • has problems shifting focus from one subject or activity to another
  • has trouble picking up the main ideas in conversations with others
  • may have to repeat himself several times before the other person understands what he is saying
  • misses a lot of things that are obvious to others
  • only pays attention to exciting information or highly stimulating activities
  • processes one word that someone says, but then thinks of something completely unrelated to what that person is saying
  • processes too little or too much information
  • tries to understand the meaning of each word someone is saying rather than being able to automatically understand the whole gist and general meaning of the sentence

Some AS and HFA children have a processing disorder. Processing disorders fall into four distinct categories: 
  1. visual (i.e., the youngster may see many different kinds of visual stimuli, but interpret it incorrectly),
  2. sensory (i.e., the youngster has problems processing sensory information),
  3. language (i.e., the child has problems expressing himself correctly or appropriately),
  4. and auditory (i.e., the youngster has difficulty distinguishing sounds, although he does not have a hearing problem).

Kids who have a processing disorder have difficulty mixing with peers, reaching developmental milestones, and developing social skills. Processing disorders range from mild to extremely pervasive. Let’s look at each of these in greater depth:

Processing Disorders

1. Visual Processing Disorder: A youngster with visual processing disorder may have problems with a wide array of issues related to how he processes visual information. This is not to be confused with difficulties with his vision though. Instead, the child’s brain does not correctly interpret what he is seeing. Dyslexia is an example of a visual processing disorder (e.g., the youngster may be looking at a "p" but his mind sees "q"). The child may also have problems sequencing items he sees, or have difficulties distinguishing between what is the foreground of a visual object and what is in the background.

Signs of Visual Input Dysfunction (no diagnosed visual deficit): Hypersensitivity—
  • avoids eye contact
  • easily distracted by other visual stimuli in the room (e.g., movement, decorations, toys, windows, doorways, etc.) 
  • enjoys playing in the dark
  • has difficulty in bright colorful rooms or a dimly lit room 
  • has difficulty keeping eyes focused on a task she is working on for an appropriate amount of time
  • rubs his eyes, has watery eyes, or gets headaches after reading or watching TV 
  • sensitive to bright lights
  • will squint, cover eyes, cry, or get headaches from the light

Signs of Visual Input Dysfunction (no diagnosed visual deficit): Hyposensitivity—
  • complains about "seeing double"
  • confuses left and right 
  • difficulty controlling eye movement to track and follow moving objects 
  • difficulty finding differences in pictures, words, symbols, or objects 
  • difficulty judging spatial relationships in the environment (e.g., bumps into people or trips on curbs and stairs) 
  • difficulty with consistent spacing and size of letters during writing or lining up numbers in math problems 
  • difficulty with jigsaw puzzles, copying shapes, or cutting along a line 
  • fatigues easily with schoolwork
  • has a hard time seeing the "big picture" (i.e., focuses on the details or patterns within the picture)
  • has difficulty locating items among other items (e.g., papers on a desk, clothes in a drawer, items on a grocery shelf, toys in a box, etc.) 
  • has difficulty telling the difference between different colors, shapes, and sizes 
  • has difficulty telling the difference between similar printed letters or figures (e.g., p and q, b and d, + and x, square and rectangle, etc.)
  • makes reversals in words or letters when copying
  • often loses his place while reading or doing math problems 
  • often loses place when copying from a book or the chalkboard 
  • reads words backwards (e.g., "was" for "saw" …"no" for "on")
  • tends to write at a slant on a page

2. Sensory Processing Disorder: This is a disorder in which the central nervous system does not process the information that is fed in by the senses. There is some indication that AS and HFA children may be a form of Sensory Processing Disorder. In addition, kids who are hypersensitive to sensory stimuli may have Sensory Processing Disorder (e.g., sensitive to fabrics against the skin, becomes quickly overly-stimulated by too many distractions such as multicolored bulletin boards in the classroom, complains about loud noises, craves quiet, etc.).

Signs of Sensory Processing Dysfunction: Hypersensitivity—
  •  appears fearful of standing in close proximity to other people 
  • avoids group situations for fear of an unexpected touch
  • avoids seasoned, spicy, sweet, sour or salty foods
  • avoids touching certain textures of material
  • avoids using hands for play
  • becomes aggressive with unexpected touch
  • bothered by household or cooking smells 
  • bothered by rough bed sheets 
  • complains about having hair brushed
  • complains about toothpaste and mouthwash 
  • decides whether she likes someone or some place by the way it smells
  • dislikes "messy play" (e.g., with sand, mud, water, glue, glitter, etc.)
  • dislikes kisses and will "wipe off" place where kissed
  • distressed about having face washed
  • distressed about having hair, toenails, or fingernails cut
  • distressed by clothes rubbing on skin
  • distressed by seams in socks and may refuse to wear them
  • does not like to be held or cuddled
  • excessively ticklish
  • extreme food preferences (e.g., limited repertoire of foods, picky about brands, resistive to trying new foods or restaurants, won't eat at other people's houses, etc.) 
  • has difficulty with sucking, chewing, and swallowing
  • irritated by smell of perfume or cologne 
  • is extremely fearful of the dentist
  • may choke or have a fear of choking 
  • may gag with textured foods 
  • may only eat "soft" or pureed foods 
  • may only eat hot or cold foods 
  • may overreact to minor cuts, scrapes, or bug bites
  • may refuse to play at someone's house because of the way it smells 
  • may refuse to walk barefoot on grass or sand
  • may walk on toes only
  • may want to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants year round to avoid having skin exposed
  • may want to wear shorts and short sleeves year round
  • mixed textures of food tend to be avoided 
  • nauseated by bathroom odors or personal hygiene smells 
  • prefers bland foods 
  • rain, water from the shower, or wind blowing on the skin may feel like torture and produce avoidance reactions
  • refuses to lick envelopes, stamps, or stickers because of their taste 
  • resists affectionate touch from anyone besides parents 
  • tells other people how bad or funny they smell 
  • will be distressed by dirty hands and want to wipe or wash them frequently

Signs of Sensory Processing Dysfunction: Hyposensitivity—
  • acts as if all foods taste the same
  • can never get enough condiments or seasonings on food 
  • constantly putting objects in mouth
  •  craves vibrating or strong sensory input
  • does not notice odors that others usually complain about 
  • enjoys trips to the dentist 
  • excessive drooling 
  • frequently chews on hair, shirt, or fingers 
  • frequently hurts other children or pets while playing (unintentionally)
  • ignores unpleasant odors 
  • is not aware of being touched or bumped unless done with extreme force or intensity
  • is not bothered by injuries (e.g., cuts, bruises, etc.) 
  • loves vibrating toothbrushes
  • makes excessive use of smelling when introduced to objects, people, or places 
  • may be self-abusive (e.g., pinching, biting, head banging, etc.)
  • may drink or eat things that are poisonous because he does not notice the noxious smell 
  • may lick, taste, or chew on inedible objects
  • may not be aware that hands or face are dirty or feel her nose running
  • needs to touch everything and everyone
  • seeks out “messy play”
  • seeks out surfaces and textures that provide strong tactile feedback
  • shows no distress with shots from a nurse or doctor
  • unable to identify smells from scratch 'n sniff stickers

3. Language Processing Disorder: This disorder is also known as central auditory processing disorder. Oftentimes, parents and teachers may notice symptoms similar to auditory processing disorder. However, central auditory processing disorder can be distinguished by the way a youngster verbalizes language processing (e.g., may stutter, repeat sounds, break words, pause within words, substitute words, etc.).

Signs of Auditory-Language Processing Dysfunction—
  • bothered by loud, sudden, metallic, or high-pitched sounds
  • difficulty articulating and speaking clearly 
  • difficulty attending to, understanding, and remembering what is said or read
  • difficulty discriminating between sounds or words (e.g., "dare" and "dear")
  • difficulty filtering out other sounds while trying to pay attention to one person talking 
  • difficulty identifying people's voices 
  • difficulty putting ideas into words 
  • difficulty reading, especially out loud
  • if not understood, has difficulty re-phrasing
  • if not understood, may get frustrated, angry, and give up 
  • looks at others for reassurance before answering 
  • may be dyslexic
  • may only be able to understand or follow two sequential directions at a time 
  • often asks for directions to be repeated
  • often talks out of turn or "off topic" 
  • unable to locate the source of a sound

4. Auditory Processing Disorder:
Auditory processing disorder occurs when a youngster hears the sounds of words, but is not able to distinguish specific nuances in the way a sound or word is pronounced. This can cause great difficulty for the youngster when she is learning to speak or in academic settings. Auditory processing disorders are usually present in conjunction with AS and HFA.

Signs of Auditory Dysfunction (no diagnosed hearing problem): Hypersensitivity—
  • bothered by background environmental sounds (e.g., lawn mowing, outside construction, etc.)
  • distracted by sounds not normally noticed by others (e.g., humming of lights or refrigerators, fans, heaters, clocks ticking, etc.) 
  • fearful of the sound of a flushing toilet, hand-dry blower, vacuum, hairdryer, squeaky brakes, dog barking, etc.) 
  • frequently asks people to be quiet (e.g., stop making noise, talking, singing, etc.)
  • may decide whether she likes certain people by the sound of their voice
  • may refuse to go to noisy environments (e.g., movie theaters, parades, skating rinks, musical concerts, etc.) 
  • runs away, cries, or covers ears with loud or unexpected sounds 
  • started by loud or unexpected sounds

Signs of Auditory Dysfunction (no diagnosed hearing problem): Hyposensitivity—
  • appears confused about where a sound is coming from
  • appears oblivious to certain sounds 
  • appears to "make noise for noise's sake" 
  • loves excessively loud music or TV 
  • needs directions repeated often, or will say, "What?" frequently 
  • often does not respond to name being called 
  • often does not respond to verbal cues 
  • seems to have difficulty understanding or remembering what was said 
  • talks self through a task (often out loud)

In summary, processing disorders directly affect the AS or HFA brain’s ability to process information that comes from any of the senses properly. Processing disorders are grouped into one of four categories based on which area of processing has problems (i.e., visual, sensory, language, and auditory). Each of these areas can lead to different processing deficiencies.

Treatment for processing disorders depends on the area affected. Although some types of processing difficulties can’t be completely cured, there are treatments to help reduce problems (e.g., audiologists can help with hearing difficulties, speech therapists can work with language problems). Specialists are able to increase function and help improve the child’s quality of life.

More resources for parents of children and teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:

Helping Resistant Kids on the Autism Spectrum with Transitions

A stopwatch or a timer can be an effective countdown tool for helping children with Asperger’s of High-Functioning Autism to transition to the next activity. While a digital timer may be an appropriate choice for older kids, it not be well suited for younger ones who need a clear, visual representation of time. That’s why the “Time Timer” works great.

Before you use the timer, let your youngster know what it’s for. Let him know that the timer keeps track of when he needs to switch activities (e.g., “When the timer goes off, it is time for you to stop playing your video game and get ready for bed”). When using the timer, it’s also important that you provide warning signals (e.g., ringing of a soft bell, gentle snapping of the fingers, etc.) when the time is almost over. This way, your youngster will be ready when the time runs out and will not feel surprised or rushed.

Here are our top picks for timing devices:

Time Timer Original 12 inch; 60 Minute Visual Analog Timer

Magnetic and Portable Time Management Tool

Time Timer Dry Erase Board

Time Timer Watch

Time Tracker Visual Timer & Clock

Time-Cube Timer, 5, 10, 20 and 30 Minutes for Time Management

Sand Timer - 6 Colors Hourglass Timer

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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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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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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content