Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Avoiding Meltdowns at the Dentist: Tips for Parents of Kids on the Spectrum

"My  son would rather have a mouth full of cavities - and the pain that goes with it - than go to the dentist. Are there ways to help a child with high functioning autism to become less fearful of dental work?"

Young people with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's (AS) have the same rate of dental problems as the general population. As hard as it is for most kids to go to the dentist, it’s even harder to have a positive dental experience for kids on the autism spectrum. Even so, there are some things you can do to improve the dental experience for your child.

Below are some tips. Some will work - some won't. But everything here is worth a try:
  1. Visit the dentist’s office before an actual visit.
  2. Have the child touch the equipment.
  3. Explain to the child what will happen.
  4. Have the child bring a comfort item like a favorite toy or blanket.
  5. It is a good idea to have a gradual and slow exposure  to the environment of the dental office so your child doesn’t get frightened by the experience.
  6. Make sure you tell the dentist how best to handle your child.
  7. Tell the dentist what works and what doesn’t work when working with your child.
  8. Remind the dentist that children with HFA and AS are more easily overwhelmed by an overload of the senses, which can over-stimulate the child.
  9. Ask that the dentist keep the chaos in the office to a minimum.
  10. Make the child’s first visit to the dentist positive and short; have the dentist count the teeth or something else innocuous.
  11. Ask that the dentist approach the child as quietly and as non-threatening as possible.
  12. Have the dentist explain everything to the child and show the child what’s going to happen before actually doing it.
  13. Praise the child for acceptable behavior and have the child sit in the dental chair for awhile so he/she can become accustomed to it.
  14. Kids with HFA and AS want to know what’s coming next without having to be surprised, so have the dentist tell the child where and why he needs to touch the child, especially if you’re dealing with dental equipment.
  15. Ask that the dentist talk calmly and avoids words that have double meanings; these children take everything literally, so it’s important to say exactly what you mean.
  16. Ask the dentist to start the exam using only his/her fingers.
  17. Ask the dentist to avoid shining the light in the child's eyes.
  18. Using a toothbrush to examine the teeth is a good idea because it’s a safe, familiar item. The dentist can use a dental mirror after that.
  19. Ask if you can hold your child’s hand during the dental examination.
  20. Anything that is familiar will make for a good experience.
  21. Some Aspergers children respond well to being lightly wrapped in a small blanket during the examination. In other cases, the child will need sedation or will need to undergo general anaesthesia in order to accomplish any significant dental work. General anaesthesia is especially important in older children that don’t respond well, even to light sedation.
  22. Lastly, you may want to have your child view the social story in video format below and see if it might help alleviate some anxiety as it relates to dentist visits. This is a true story told by an autistic child himself.

Good luck!


•    Anonymous said... A pediatric dentist. An ultrasonic toothbrush to minimize need for dental work. Alpha-Stim for anxiety.
•    Anonymous said... find a hygenist and dentist that will take the time to work with your child not against them
•    Anonymous said... I agree find a dentist & hygenist that are willing to take the time that's needed with your son. We were referred to a pediatric dentist who specialized in special needs children...let's just say that this man shouldn't be allowed to work on ANY child. We had far better luck with a local dentist who was up for the challenge
•    Anonymous said... I found a dentist that specializes in special needs patients, and that was very helpful for my son. Hopefully you can find one in your area. good luck.
•    Anonymous said... I was terrified of the dentist when I was younger so was determined my son wouldn't be like me ( obviously didn't know until later he was an aspie ) I took him with me each time I went to the dentist from a baby and the dentist always looked at him at the same time so he doesn't have the fear. I do actually pay now though as he is no longer nhs but my son doesn't want another dentist xxx
•    Anonymous said... It will depend a lot on having a good dentist that will set him at ease. My daughter's dentist can do whatever he needs to do because he built up the trust with her first.
•    Anonymous said... My 6 year old son just had fillings done yesterday! I was really surprised how well he did!! He had the "conscious/twilight sedation" but he was pretty much awake the whole time. He drifted in & out, but did AWESOME!! See if you can find a dentist that does that type of sedation. Just be careful that he doesn't bite/chew on his lip when he is numb afterwards. My son has a very sore fat lip now.....but other than that he did great!! Best of luck!!
•    Anonymous said... My 6 yr old ASD son is so disturbed by having his face and mouth touched that every time we brush teeth it is a big struggle. He developed 3 cavities from it and when we tried to have his regular dentist feel them he had the biggest meltdown of his life. Eventually the dentist had to make a referral to the local children's hospital to have him put under, so that the cavities could be fixed. What an ordeal. Yet, he still fights me on brushing his teeth.
•    Anonymous said... My son does well with the laughing gas but we've found his issue is the noise of the tools. We also now let him listen to his MP3 or IPod while he's getting work done and life seems to be much easier.
•    Anonymous said... My son hates being touched by doctors and the dentist. Positive reinforcement, reassurance helps. My 9 year old goes to a pediatric dentist that is very good with him.
•    Anonymous said... When my Aspie son was 10 we finally got referred to the children's hospital dental clinic. We had a lot of major work done with the amazing skills of the staff there. My son found the "laughing gas" helped him relax. After many appointments the dentist kindly told my son that he now needed to learn to go back to a regular dentist, as many children were waiting to get into the children's hospital for dental work. We have been able to go to our family dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings for the last few years. It seems his positive experiences helped him change his outlook. Good luck finding the right dentist to help your son.

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The Silent Bullying of Children on the Autism Spectrum

"Josh, our 7-year-old son with high functioning autism, has had 5 weeks of school so far. My husband and I have noticed a change (for the worse) in his behavior ever since he started. We suspect he is being bullied by a particular individual, but Josh has not come right out and told us if this is indeed going on. Any advice?"

Young people with High Functioning Autism (HFA) and Aspergers, unfortunately, are at a higher risk of being bullied or teased than other children. This can happen on the playground, in the classroom - and even in your own home.

Because many HFA kids have some social and communication difficulties, they often can’t tell grown-ups exactly what is happening. Thus, parents and teachers may have to consider bullying as a cause when certain behaviors occur or worsen in the child.

Here are a few examples:
  • One of the things you’ll notice is an increase in isolation and a decreased tolerance in being around peers. The HFA child may throw temper tantrums or flatly refuse to acknowledge other children, even those that he or she is normally comfortable around.
  • Enuresis or encopresis may be a side effect of being bullied.
  • A youngster who has been potty-trained completely may go back to soiling as a way of handling the stress of being bullied or teased elsewhere.

Very rarely will the HFA child tell parents or teachers directly about the bullying. Instead, the adults will find that the child has regressed with behaviors and skills that he or she has already accomplished. Instead of believing this to be an “off day” or an “off week,” parents and teachers need to consider that bullying or teasing is happening.

If bullying is happening in your own home, it requires that you remain aware of what is going on in your household and stopping the behavior before things get too serious.

If you suspect it is happening at school, then consider observing what is going on in the classroom or talk to the teacher about your suspicions. Hopefully, the teacher will be your son’s advocate in the classroom - and you can expect that the teacher will be able to intervene in any bullying that might be happening.

Bullying, unfortunately, is a risk that parents of HFA children must always consider. Keeping a sharp eye out on changes in your son’s behavior and advocating for him when necessary should help him thrive in an otherwise complicated environment with peers who simply don’t understand his issues.

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


•    Anonymous said... Can you or another trusted adult spend any time observing? Some kids are being bullied and wouldn't know how to cope or even exactly how to describe what is happening in order to get help. There are so many steps - knowing what is happening, knowing how to talk about it, knowing how to ask for help, feeling safe from retaliation....

•    Anonymous said... Just keep a really close eye. This happened to my son and we saw no signs until he was at his breaking point. Needless to say there is no more public school for us. Kids are cruel and teachers often don't have the resources to be everywhere at once.

•    Anonymous said... My daughter has had this problem and I'm sure will continue. She would not tell us anything about it, she actually pretended to enjoy going to the place that this was happening. We only found out about it from another little girl and even then my daughter pretended that she was trying to help someone else that was being picked on and the boys turned it in her. Almost like she was herself two different people! She still does not tell us anything about what happens at school and I try to pull a another child to the side to ask how she is doing in school! My daughter, I believe, is embarrassed and ashamed by it. I would suggest making sure he knows its not him and he needs to tell, a nice call to the school and the bullying child's parents also!

•    Anonymous said... Whenever I would talk to teachers about my son coming home bruised, ketchup smeared or mere reluctant to go back to school the next day, there never was an explanation. Nobody ever saw him being bullied. Sometimes my son would say something out of the blue two weeks later. Public school is no longer an option for him, if I want to see him get through School. We have finally decided to homeschool him. Once he found out that he is not going back there, all that anxiety is gone. He stopped biting his nails and he is now a jolly happy 7 year old contently riding his bike or playing lego, humming and singing all the way! I do realize that he is still a target in the neighborhood. I try to keep a close eye on him and talk to him about behaviour that provokes kids to mistreat him. Hopefully it works.

•    Anonymous said... I would start talking about bullying in a neutral way. That might encourage him to open up.

•    Anonymous said... Then I would speak to the school....

•    Anonymous said... It is tricky to ask the right question since the HFA/Aspergers child has a tendency to be so literal.

•    Anonymous said... We had quite the "experiences" throughout my son's school years and we didn't see "eye to eye" with all the staff BUT there was never a time where I ever felt uncomfortable with expressing my concerns to the staff and asking them to keep an extra close eye out during our most difficult times (when we felt bulllying was taking place). Always utilize your resources. The staff is there to help be your eyes and ears when you aren't able to be around. All you have to do is ask for the help. Good luck!

•    Anonymous said... our son has this prob this year he graduated 5 grade & will be going to middle school he used to love school weve done all talking w/teacher/principle/case worker butt still i fear the worst is yet to come if u find a better way let me know ty

•    Anonymous said... I dont think all kids with Aspergers always know when they are being teased. My sons school is awesome. They even noted on his IEP that they need to be more aware of teasing and bullying against him. Because he may not always recognize it.

•    Jenny said... Our son had rocks thrown at him by a neighbor kid. Yet he still considered them his friend. I had to explain to him what true friends were and how they should treat you I'd they we're truly your friend. He was sad about it, but it did help him understand why they couldn't come over.

•    Anonymous said... Tricky maybe, example..'I read this article today about bullying in school, how does bullying make you feel Johnny?'. Depending, of course, on the child, you have to figure out what they can relate to. Everyone is different and beautiful! :)

•    Anonymous said... Many times they will not come out and tell you this is happening. It's like pulling sharks teeth just to get my son to tell us what he did at school that day. You're going to need to talk to his teacher.

•    Anonymous said... I heard so and so was doing mean things to someone, can you help me understand what is happening at school. what have you seen xyz do or say?

•    Anonymous said... My Son has major challenges at camps over Summer/Winter breaks with behavior. Alas, it's due to anxiety and lack of daily routine and structure. Consider those issues as well. Good luck.

•    Anonymous said... As long as the team there doesn't look after it, you shouldn't let a 7-year-old child stay there. (Regardsless of AS or not. Kids can be severly mean.) Your son cannot handle it alone and may be injured, either physical or psychical. 

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Coping with Birthday Parties: Tips for Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"My son (high functioning) will be turning 6 next week. We are considering having a birthday party for him and inviting a few of his neighborhood friends over. However, in times past, he has not done well with all the hustle and bustle that comes with 'partying'. Do you have any ideas about how we can have a better experience this time so that things don't result in a meltdown?"

Exciting times like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthdays are all a time to share our joy and happiness with our families and friends. We all have fond memories of our own childhood when we looked forward to putting up the decorations, eating mouth watering meals, and receiving all those longed for presents.

As moms and dads, we naturally want our kids to enjoy it all  and have as much fun as we did. So we talk, anticipate, and prepare with mounting excitement as the child's birthday draws nearer. However, for those parents who are raising a youngster with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's, it often adds up to an almighty headache! Why? Because these "special needs" kids can have a real hard time coping with all of excitement and anticipation.

Anticipation for a child on the autism spectrum leads to increased levels of anxiety, which he can't control. He becomes overloaded, and then you have a massive meltdown at the time when you are all supposed to be enjoying and celebrating his birthday! The party is often ruined and everybody upset, especially your son who is trying so hard to fit in and be like everybody else.

So how can you achieve the impossible and enjoy the occasion while at the same time keeping your HFA son calm and behaving appropriately?
  1. The first simple step to take is to simply reduce the time talking about the joyous occasion. Remember, your son can't easily control his emotions, and to chatter constantly about the event will simply lead to stress and anxiety. It is also useful to enlist the help of others in your home in this and keep any conversations to a minimum while your son is around.
  2. Another great strategy to help is to keep any physical changes to your home to the minimum. So by all means decorate, put up balloons, and have cake, but just don’t make a big fuss about it all.
  3. Also, don't put out any presents until the day they are to be opened, because your son will have a hard time keeping his hands off and will became anxious and potentially defiant.
  4. Although it’s important not to overload your son, it is equally important to explain any changes to his routines. So prepare him for any changes by calmly telling him the day before what will be happening. Visual supports always work well, so use photos or simple pictures to explain what will be happening.
  5. It is also important to explain to your son what is expected of him (e.g., to say 'hello, how are you' to guests and sit at the table to share the birthday cake).
  6. Your son will also need to be given permission to leave the festivities if he starts to get out-of-control, and you can rehearse this together with some simple role play. This is really important as it gives him an exit strategy and also allows him to get through the party without going into meltdown. Additionally, if you see that your son is becoming distressed, you can activate an "exit cue" so he gets out before the situation deteriorates.

Following these simple steps should lead to a much more positive experience for everyone and will provide your child with the love, support, reassurance - and above all confidence - to participate fully in his birthday celebration.

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

Comments from Parents:

•    Anonymous said... My 12 yr old Aspie son HATES parties. He doesn't even like for us to sing Happy Birthday to him, he starts crying - yet he loves music class at school. Go figure. We've had his birthday parties at his favorite places - bowling, mini-golf, Chuck E. Cheese, etc. He hated it. So we tried to have one at home and invited over only his best friend and his family. Can we say meltdown?!? He turns 13 this coming November and I really wanted to celebrate it, but he says PLEASE, no party. Soooooooooooo.... no party. I really feel that it's because most Aspies crave/require structure, and parties, by nature, are anything but structured.

•    Anonymous said... i completely sympathize here! we try to have parties for our now 9 year old and this year we decided against if finally because of how worked up he gets and he never enjoys it :(

•    Anonymous said... Our son loves museums so when he turned 10 we gave him the choice of a big party, or taking his cousins and going to the museum with just the 3 of them. He chose the museum and they all had a great time. It was a wonderful alternative to a stressful party.

•    Anonymous said... My son used to cry when we sang Happy Birthday. We've tried big birthday parties where we have gotten maybe three kids there from an entire class. This year we are doing a party but a very small one and will just invite the people he is closest to.

•    Anonymous said... Who says a party has to be big? Invite 2 or 3 friends. Plan an activity they will all enjoy. Could be a board game or a craft or even a video game. The point is to have fun. Maybe try cupcakes instead of a cake and not too many decorations. Sometimes less is more !

•    Anonymous said... Ask him what he wants. Maybe a day with mom and dad that he can plan with you would be awesome. Dad could cook his favorite breakfast (or go out if it's possible), then mom could do an activity with him. Then for dinner have his fave people there. My aspie thinks so different than I do, sometimes he has an idea of fun that I would never think of.

•    Anonymous said... We keep Julian's parties simple.. Not a lot of other kids because all the noise can cause a meltdown.. We keep it to one activity, cake and presents. Also we talk to him about it in advance.

•    Anonymous said... We did my boys film parties (luckily we have a projector in the house) so set up a few chairs, invited a few friends and did cinema food, got the boys to pick the film and they sat and watched. That way they had friends round, it was their party, but in familiar surroundings and without lots of noise and excitement :-)

•    Anonymous said... Holidays are especially stressful and equal more meltdowns... thanks for the tips!

•    Anonymous said... We've learned to change our opinion on what makes a b-day special. Why freak a kid out on their own b-day?? Ask what THEY want to do, and do that. The day is about joy and love, not balloons, clowns, crowds and cake. Follow their lead and let them determine what will make them happy.

•    Anonymous said... My son is five and we are in line for him to be evaluated for aspergers. We saw 1 woman who didn't even talk to him and just asked us a few questions and was ready to diagnose him based on a few things we said. Anyway, he has always been very afraid of people singing happy birthday, not only at his parties but at anyone's birthday. If we are going to a bday party he asks us in advance if they will be singing happy birthday and to tell them to whisper. Other than that though, he loves birthday parties as long as their isn't a lot of loud noise.

•    Anonymous said... I agree with other posters. We have split up celebrations thruout the week. She wants cupcakes @ school-early dinner (avoid crowds) @ her choice place. We have same 2 friends over for a fun day with same activities for last 2 yrs. It bores me but they have fun! So be it!

•    Anonymous said... Let him decide what he would like to do. There are so many fun things to do to celebrate his birthday without adding in needless stress for him.

•    Anonymous said... We just had DS's 7th birthday and it went really well. We kept it short and structured, at home and only a few friends that he picked. Each boy got a Lego race car to build, then they all went outside with their cars and chalk to draw roads and play with them, then we had cupcakes and opened presents. Quick, predictable and manageable :)

•    Anonymous said... Pick a place or a theme that your child likes. For my son's ninth birthday, we knew there was a robotics learning store that he loves going to. They offer birthday party packages that included most of food, supplies and entertainment. Our son loved it because it was a place he was familiar with and knew the staff. It was an activity that he loved he felt comfortable. The other kids and their parents all loved it because they had never heard or it, thought the robots were cool, and it was easy. Most of the dads that came seemed to have as much fun as their sons. It worked well.

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Medications, Supplements, and Dietary Strategies for HFA and AS

"Obviously there's no 'cure' for autism, but are there any medications or supplements that parents have used that help treat some of the symptoms in their high-functioning autistic child?"

There are no medications that specifically treat High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Aspergers (AS), but there are some medications, supplements, and dietary strategies that may improve certain associated symptoms (e.g., anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, etc.) that can occur in many kids on the autism spectrum.

Some examples include the following:

1. SSRIs: Drugs such as Luvox may be used to treat depression or to help control repetitive behaviors. Possible side effects include restlessness and agitation.

2. Risperdal: This medication may be prescribed for agitation and irritability. It may cause trouble sleeping, a runny nose and an increased appetite. This drug has also been associated with an increase in cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

3. Zyprexa: Olanzapine is sometimes prescribed to reduce repetitive behaviors. Possible side effects include increased appetite, drowsiness, weight gain, and increased blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

4. Revia: This medication, which is sometimes used to help alcoholics stop drinking, may help reduce some of the repetitive behaviors associated with HFA and AS. However, the use of low-dose naltrexone (doses as low as two to four mg a day) has been gaining favor recently. But, there's no good evidence that such low doses have any effect on the disorder.

5. Intuniv: This medication may be helpful for the problems of hyperactivity and inattention in kids on the autism spectrum. Side effects may include drowsiness, irritability, headache, constipation and bed-wetting.

6. Abilify: This drug may be effective for treating irritability related to the disorder. Side effects may include weight gain and an increase in blood sugar levels.

Because there are no definitive treatments for HFA or AS, some moms and dads may turn to complementary or alternative therapies. However, most of these treatments haven't been adequately studied. It's possible that by focusing on alternative treatments, you may miss out on behavior therapies that have more evidence to support their use.

Of greater concern, however, is that some treatments may not be safe. The FDA has warned about over-the-counter chelation medications. These drugs have been marketed as a therapy for autism and other conditions. Chelation is a therapy that removes heavy metals from the body, but there are no over-the-counter chelation therapies that are approved by the FDA. This type of therapy should only be done under the close supervision of medical professionals. According to the FDA, the risks of chelation include dehydration, kidney failure and even death.

Other examples of alternative therapies that have been used for HFA and AS include:

1. Avoidance diets: Some moms and dads have turned to gluten-free or casein-free diets to treat Aspergers. There's no clear evidence that these diets work, and anyone attempting such a diet for their youngster needs guidance from a registered dietitian to ensure the child's nutritional requirements are met.

2. Melatonin: Sleep problems are common in kids on the spectrum, and melatonin supplements may help regulate the youngster's sleep-wake cycle. The recommended dose is 3 mg, 30 minutes before bedtime. Possible side effects include excessive sleepiness, dizziness and headache.

3. Other dietary supplements: Numerous dietary supplements have been tried in children with HFA and AS. Those that may have some evidence to support their use include: Carnosine, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B-6, Magnesium, and Vitamin C (usually in combination with other vitamins).

4. Secretin: This gastrointestinal hormone has been tried as a potential treatment. Numerous studies have been conducted on secretin, and none found any evidence that it helps.

Other therapies that have been tried, but lack objective evidence to support their use include:
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • massage and craniosacral massage
  • immune therapies
  • hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • chiropractic manipulations
  • antifungal drugs
  • antibiotics

This is a serious issue and a difficult one for parents to deal with. It is almost impossible for any parent to know all of the potential risks associated with medications. Speak with your physician and your pharmacist about any medications your child may need to take. Keep asking questions until you feel that you are prepared. Your local pharmacist is a wealth of information about the medications he or she is dispensing and can be a valuable resource.

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


•    Anonymous said... I have decided to start our 12 year old son on melatonin for getting off to sleep. I don't know how that will work yet. We use to give him daily "rescue remedy" herbal drops when he was feeling nervous which seemed to help a little.

•    Anonymous said... I take a low dose of antidepressants, and have since I was 15. It helps with the anxiety, especially socially

•    Anonymous said... It is hit or miss with what chemical reaction works for any individual and their body. I giver our household Omega 3 supplement pilss with olive oil, safflower oil, ++ recommended brand that helps all of us with focus. my Aspie uses Adderrall 20mg in the AM and then 5mg in the afternoon to get him through til bedtime. he says the pills help his brain to not overwhelm him and we visually see a difference in 30 minutes from the time he takes his pill on his body control and ability to respond to his own needs and others talking to him.

•    Anonymous said... Low dose anti-depressant, plus Atenelol to help with impulsivity.

•    Anonymous said... My daughter does not have the hyperactivity with her ADD...That would actually help. Most of those kinds of meds would make her they tent to treat the hyper part. Is there something that can make her focus without the drowsiness part?

•    Anonymous said... My daughter is 10 weeks into Lovan (anti depressant) I cannot tell you the difference it has made for not only our family but mostly for her. For the first time she is a happy 9 year old that enjoys life without the stress, anxiety, depression, anger, impulsiveness the list goes on!! It is only early days yet, but I wish we had considered this a year ago when it was first offered. She has high functioning autism/aspergers, and recently the pead thinks she is exhibiting ADHD tendencies. There are minor side affects such as a little tiredness which just makes it harder to do homework (care factor zero), a little loose bowel movements and weight loss. So far she has lost 2.5kgs which is fine as he felt she was slightly over the recommended weight anyway. Will just have to keep an eye on it for now. Everyone is different, but so far we have had a positive experience

•    Anonymous said... My son is 7 years old and he is on Risperidone, Zoloft at night and Ritalin. I NEVER wanted to medicate him, but after many consultations we were left with no choice. He is happy, and is a lot more focused.

•    Anonymous said... My son started on Prozac (generic) a year ago, after we resisted the idea of med for a long time. He still takes the starter dose, in liquid form. Takes it together with cran-grape juice to mute the taste. It made him drowsy the first few weeks, but now it's just a good thing to calm his panicky edge, so he is less reactive, hostile, defensive. His humor can shine through, he can calmly consider options, etc. Of course everyone's different. Oh, also has long half-life, so if forget a dose it's not a dramatic up/down.

•    Anonymous said... Risperdal or abilify and adderral. Huge difference in behaviors. I too refused to medicate until my son was 8 he is now 16. My decision changed his life monumentally (no pun intended lol). If you don't offer the medication, you are doing a grave disservice to them and your entire family.

•    Anonymous said... My son who has Aspergers has been taking Low Dose Naltrexone, as mentioned in this article for a year now. He started on 3mg and now is at 4.5mg 2x per day. Once in the morning and once at night before bed. It has helped with his mood, energy, and production and he hardly gets colds or other illnesses anymore. I am also taking it at 4.5mgs per day for Fibromyalgia and am pain free because of it.

•    Anonymous said... My 14 year old son's dr wants to try Abilify for aggression. I am afraid of some side effects. Anyone else tried this med and been met with alarming side effects such as stiffened muscles and twitches?

•    Anonymous said... my sons doctor referred to ability and reaper idol as "the big guns" and wanted to try an sari med first. She said that while it was more anxiety causing the aggression than depression, the med would treat both. Also, for our daughter, we got her off meds with a product called stress relief complex. It can be found at

•    Anonymous said... I highly recommend Namenda. Research it.

•    Katina said... We got the results we wanted with Abilify, but my 13 year old daughter gained 50 pounds in 9 months. She's been off it for 4 months, and has lost 20 pounds so far.

•    Caren said... My son has Aspergers and general anxiety disorder. We avoided drugs until 3rd grade, when we put him n risperadal. Then I felt bad for not getting him on drugs earlier. Unfortunately for us, risperadal had a small sweet spot for our son, where too much caused more aggression, and after a growth spurt we couldn't find it again. We were on a merry go round of different drugs, so at one point I took him off of everything to see what he was like unmedicated. Unmedicated for us means daily meltdowns with physical aggression. So we slowly added medications back, attempting to max out the benefit of a drug before adding another or deciding to try something else. My son is 13 now, and takes depakote, abilify, and lexapro. They enable him to remain calm enough to think and use his "tools" to avoid a melt down. Depakote has been the difference between physical aggression that would make it impossible for him to stay in our home and a normal life. Luckily, we live in Chicago and have access to top medical facilities. The depakote and abilify have caused him to gain weight, so we watch his diet. He has blood tests every few months to monitor drug levels in his blood and insure everything is fine. We were anti medication when we started this journey, but the relief and happiness that my son feels now that he has enough self-control have convinced us it was the right treatment for him.

•    We have had no bad side effects, other than weight gain. I recommend trying meds, but doing it slowly and only one medicine at a time. If it doesn't work, then stop, but when it does work, life becomes so much easier.

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High-Functioning Autism and Anxiety Overload

"Our child (high functioning) gets quite worried and anxious about most things that fall out of his comfort zone. Problem is, we are never really sure what is in - and what is out - of this zone. Any tips for a very anxious little boy?"

Autism spectrum disorders and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. High Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's (AS) may affect a youngster’s ability to communicate effectively with others and to understand the world around him -- and that’s bound to cause anxiety. Anxiety can become even worse when there is a change in the child’s routine. Even positive and “fun” changes (e.g., school field trip, visit to the zoo) can increase anxiety and aggressive behaviors.

For parents, the best course of action is to anticipate upcoming changes and help the child prepare for them. Many moms and dads find it helpful to use social stories and pictures to prepare their "special needs" child for impending disruptions.

If it’s a field trip to the zoo, for example, use pictures to show your son what he’ll see at the zoo, what the zoo will be like, and what sort of things to expect. Do this each day for three or four days prior to the trip. That way, when the trip actually happens, your son won’t be entirely out of his element, but will already understand and appreciate some of what will be happening.

This father reported the following: “Social stories and plans do the trick for my son. we use plans also to become familiar with the fact of change: we put them up together on a piece of paper for the activity in question, and he takes it with him. if something changes he notes it down on the plan. we do this often as a game: he is the news reporter and takes notes during the activities and tells me all about afterwards.”

Other changes in routine are less enjoyable, but still necessary. Getting a new teacher can be traumatic, as can moving to a new house. If at all possible, try to spread out the major changes. If you move to a new house, try to do it during the summer, so that your son won’t have to deal with the added anxiety of getting a new school and new teacher mid-year.

You can also introduce your son to the concept of “change” in a positive way by practicing with non-negative things. For example, just for practice, give him a little extra TV time instead of homework time one night, to show that changes in the routine can often be fun and good. Then practice with a neutral change (e.g., homework after dinner instead of before dinner), then with a negative one (e.g., changing play time into chore time). This process can help your son grow accustomed to the idea of change and learn to adapt without becoming anxious.

As one mother stated, "We have two boys, one diagnosed, and one suspected. They both have different triggers for anxiety and both have very different personalities. We find they need more preparation in advance, they need to know it may make them uncomfortable, and that it will end. We suggest coping strategies beforehand, and sometimes we have code words so they don't feel singled out by our suggesting coping strategies for them in the situation. Sometimes, the only solution is to take them out of the situation and trying another run at it another time."

Another parent had this to say, “Just roll with it. let him guide you. he is the driver in his world quite frankly. my child is the same. he gets very nervous and anxious about trying new things like sports, which he is very great at, but he's afraid people are watching him and picking on him, so he wont participate. maybe some confidence boosters of some sort will help. mine 13 y.o. is still this way. he sure would make one heck of a basketball player, but just wont do it. and I dont make him. I let him drive his life. and with gentle loving guidance he does ok.”

For continual, severe anxiety, some moms and dads have begun using anti-anxiety medications for their HFA and AS children. Usually, the medications are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (also used for obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression). Prozac, Luvox, Zoloft and Anafranil are all common medications for anxiety in these young people.

Medication should be the last resort for anxiety, not the first. You and your doctor should monitor your child’s progress very closely, using the lowest dose of medication possible, to see if what improvements it makes and whether there are any adverse reactions. There are a number of natural remedies available if you don’t want to go down the drug route. But try behavioral and dietary modifications first, to see what improvements can be made naturally.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

30 Famous Autistic People in History

Coping with Transitions: Tips for Teachers of Students on the Autism Spectrum

"One of my new students this year has Autism (high functioning female, age 6). She will throw a major temper tantrum whenever she is asked to stop one activity and get ready for the next one, which is very disruptive to the entire class. What can I do to help her move from one task to the next quickly and without resistance? It's like she has to complete the first project completely and perfectly before she is willing to go to the next."

First of all, your student may be experiencing a "meltdown" rather than a tantrum (click here to see the difference). Transitions are very difficult for children with Aspergers (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA). It's an interruption to their day and a change in their schedule. In order to minimize difficulty in transition, try to keep their schedule as routine as possible. Always let them know ahead of time that a transition in routine is coming. 

Using sensory integration techniques can be very helpful for some AS and HFA students. It is best to have an occupational therapist work with you to first determine if your student is hyper-sensitive or hypo-sensitive (e.g., does she crave movement and the feeling of different textures and stimulation, or does she avoid movement and textures?).

There was a young autistic student who had a great deal of difficulty with the transition from home to school, and with transitions that occurred in his school day. The school created a sensory room that was just his. He craved movement, running and jumping on furniture, loved to feel his saliva against smooth surfaces, and loved strong odors. In his sensory room, there was a large hammock for him to lie in that would hold him tight. The ceiling was lined with colored lights. There were boxes with potpourri for him to smell. He would spend 20 minutes in this room at the beginning of his school day, 20 minutes before lunch, and 20 minutes before returning home. While he was in the room, he was encouraged to take in as much sensory information as he could. Once he left the room, he was calm and ready to learn.

Of course, not every school has the resources for a sensory room - and this won't work for every "special needs" student - but demonstrates how some creative thinking can benefit even the most challenging behaviors. Prior to the intervention of the sensory room, the school was ready to expel him. With the sensory room in place, he became much more compliant, calm and willing to work with teachers and other students.

Here are some additional techniques that will help make transitions easier for your HFA student:

•    When attempting a transition, keep the focus on the enjoyment your student had with her activity and ask questions while you move on to the next activity. It helps her shift from being upset about leaving the current activity to keeping the good feeling with her longer (it’s like saying, “Don’t be upset that the activity is over …be happy that it happened”).

•    Try to avoid giving sudden orders and directions. Before wanting your student to transition, go into her “safe zone” (i.e., whatever she is doing at the moment) and connect with her mentally, emotionally and physically. Talk to your student about what she is doing or something she truly loves. Then, keep that connection going and take it with you while you both move to the next activity.

•    Talk to your student about transitions, and be willing to listen and observe. A good way to start a discussion about transitions, in general, is through social stories. Consider creating a story around “how to calmly move from one task to the next.”

•    Picture schedules and cards can be helpful for AS and HFA students who have a hard time following verbal directions. Pointing to the picture of the next activity, or handing your student the picture and letting her carry it to the next activity can be helpful in transitioning.

•    Give your student a notice when transitions are approaching. A simple, "In 10 minutes, we are going to do our history lessons," is enough to give her a little warning. This lets your student know she should be finishing up what she is working on and allows her the chance to ease into a new state of mind.

•    Create a list of “classroom rules” and review them with your student periodically. The rules should include what to do during specific transitions (e.g., how to move from study-time to getting ready for recess). Post the rules where your student can see them. She will become accustomed to the rules, and understand what to do and what to expect throughout the day.

•    Allow your student enough time to transition. Whether you are preparing for a short-term transition from reading-time to lunch-time, remember that AS and HFA children process change in their own time; they need time to “grow through” the change depending on how drastic that change is going to be.

Transitions will always be difficult for kids on the autism spectrum. Developmentally, they're simply not well-equipped to leave an activity they're enjoying and move to a potentially less desirable one. But thankfully, there are many ways teachers can help their students through these transitions.

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


•    Anonymous said... Also a lot of the tips work well for all kids of that age. That way it won't make her feel singled out and self conscious which can cause more meltdowns. I know my daughter is a perfectionist and has high expectations of herself. Anything that makes her feel like she stands out negatively will push her tolerance threshold.
•    Anonymous said... Count downs have saved our little guy from time to leave, to bath, to bed and even on trips, always needs to see the count down
•    Anonymous said... Do you have the day's schedule written out? How about a reminder that you are changing tasks in 5 minutes, then 3..
•    Anonymous said... I always give my Aspie daughters a five minute warning before doing a new activity, leaving the park, leaving a friend's house, etc. "Do your last favorite thing," is what I would tell them when they were younger. It seems to work really well! They know what to expect and what is expected of them.
•    Anonymous said... I found that visual timetables DIDN'T really work for my aspie son, but giving him real reason why something needed to happen was the key. He understands reasons. The Time Timer (you can get various sizes from the Sue Larkey website) was and still is the best tool in my arsenal though. Having THAT visual gave him some element of control back. Also giving them the opportunity to finish at a later time can sometimes help. If they finish other work quickly or instead of play...My son would recognise that this was our routine and then transition better knowing that he could come back to it.
•    Anonymous said... I give a fifteen minute countdown with a reminder at each 5 minute mark. Your class environment will go as smoothly as you plan it to. Learn about Aspergers and talk to her parents. They will give you tips and they'll work iF you follow through with them.
•    Anonymous said... Let her finish the first project.
•    Anonymous said... please listen to the parents about what works best for them at home and adjust that accordingly to fit your particular needs. I have had little success with teachers over the past seven years mainly in part to them not being willing to try the simplest strategies. The child will only benefit if she is comfortable at any given moment and there is an open line of communication between the teachers and parents.
•    Anonymous said... She still might be overwhelmed despite a countdown (I would be); do you have free time built in where she/they can finish unfinished activities? She might also feel better knowing she can come back to it before the end of the day (and knowing exactly when, not "later").
•    Anonymous said... We had this problem in kindergarten. I give my 7 year old daughter a run down of what we will do that day, and then warning half an hour before the event, and I know I will have to get her new teacher to do the same cos it's worked best for us. Now that she can tell time, I can do that as well ("We are going at 10:00 am," etc)
•    Anonymous said... without reading all of the previous comments..... From experience (16 yr old) there is no such thing as 'quickly, without resistance' ! ..... The key is regular warnings/countdowns to the change over time AND as Rebecca ^ stated....'real/true/logical' reasoning...these kids are smart and because they are so black and white....very, very realistic!
•    Anonymous said... Would it hurt you or the other students to give her a little more time and let her finish? I'm sure the "melt down" (not temper tantrum) effect's the other students way more then trying to force her to stop a activity. In my son's IEP he is allowed to get up and wonder around in the class room or go outside. He is not expected to do what all the other students are doing....he isn't the same.
•    Anonymous said... Written schedules help tremendously. Come up with a signal that she and you agree on to let her know the transition is coming, and give her double the warning you give the other kids.
•    Anonymous said... You can't expect anyone with aspergers to transition quickly. They need prompting and visuals. The Time Timer is a wonderful tool. It's useful for all kids and doesn't single her out. Visual schedules posted clearly and reviewed every morning are also helpful for all kids. Don't assume because she has a dx that there aren't other kids in the class being overlooked, treat them all the same and things will run smoothly:) Anytime you sneak attack a change in routine, expect the behaviors. Guess what, we as adults are no different. Think about a traffic jam and you have a schedule to keep;) Unmet expectations are frustrating to us all. We need clear cut expectations. Be patient and good luck.


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Anger-Management "Tools" for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"Is it common for children with high functioning autism to be highly explosive? My daughter can fly off the handle in a heartbeat for what seems to be rather trivial matters (to me anyway)."

Children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s often have a difficult time controlling their anger as compared to “typical” children, which is due to the fact that they have problems understanding their emotions and their impact on others.

In addition, they aren’t living in a void in which they don’t understand that they’re different from other kids. Often teased and rejected by their peers, they can have emerging anger they don’t understand and can’t easily control.

Helping these children with anger problems requires direct communication about the effect of their anger on others as well as methods of improving their low self-esteem and poor sense of self-worth, which is often at the root of the youngster’s anger.

Anger that’s acted-out badly needs to be treated like any other unwanted behavior. Some form of reasonable consequence directed at getting the point across that the behavior is wrong needs to be combined with a pragmatic discussion of the meaning behind the anger and other ways to control it. Remember that effective discipline for the HFA child can be much different from the discipline that works for other children.

If the anger seems to be a part of your daughter’s frustration over how she is being treated by others or from depressive feelings, finding better avenues to discuss what is really going on can help her deal with the issues without using anger as an outlet. Most children on the spectrum are of greater than average intelligence and have the resources to understand the relationship between their anger and the underlying social issues their dealing with.

Creating an Anger-Management Plan—

The basic idea in developing an anger-management plan for kids on the autism spectrum is to try many different strategies and find the management techniques that work best for them. This is an ongoing process. As working strategies are identified, they can be added to the anger-management plans and used when the youngster starts to feel angry.

Children on the spectrum should be encouraged to refer to their anger-management plans as their “toolbox” and the specific strategies they use to manage their anger as their “tools.” This analogy can be very helpful. You can take this even further by creating a physical box for your HFA daughter to put the strategies in (i.e., written on pieces of paper).

You could be really creative and have the pieces of paper shaped like various tools. Also, discuss how different tools should be used for different situations (e.g., point out how a screwdriver can be very useful, but not for pounding in nails).

Again, it’s important to identify the specific strategies that work best for your daughter. These strategies should be put down in a formal anger-management plan for referral when your daughter encounters an anger-provoking event. It’s also important to explore how different techniques may be used at different times.

For example, your daughter may feel better after running around in the yard, but this may not be possible when she is getting angry at something in the classroom. Strategies need to be in place to handle the different situations that may arise.

An effective strategy that many kids on the spectrum use is to talk about their feelings with someone that they can trust (e.g., parent or other family member). By discussing anger, they can begin to identify the primary emotions that underlie it and determine whether the thinking and expectations in response to the anger-provoking event are rational.

Often an outsider can see the event from a different point of view, and offer some guiding words of wisdom. HFA kids can sometimes view an event as un-winable or un-escapable when there is a very simple solution which can be reached.

As one mother of a child with Asperger’s stated:

“My son struggled with anger problems throughout elementary and most of middle school. He is now 15, and through many talks, discussions and maturity, he seems to be controlling his anger/frustration rather well. I have always been open and honest with him about how others can be, why they can be that way, and how he is ‘different’ than most kids his age. In time, he grew into his own, better understood himself and his own actions - and I'm so proud of him. I would explain to him why things would affect him the way they do, but he was never to use having Aspergers as an excuse to not be in control of his own actions and emotions. We have an open relationship and he knows he can talk to me about anything. That has been our biggest tool I think. He also did receive consequences when he would misbehave. I don't treat him differently just because he has Aspergers. They get treated differently enough as it is.”

High-Functioning Autism and Comorbid Conditions

"Is it common for a child with Autism (high functioning) to also have other disorders? My son had been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD, but now they think he may also be on the autism spectrum."

Children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's (AS) are known to have several comorbid conditions. Comorbid conditions are those conditions that go along with having an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

One of these conditions is known as ADHD. Sometimes, these young people can be misdiagnosed as only having the more common ADHD, with the ASD diagnosis being missed.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be a comorbidity with HFA and AS. In some cases, this doesn’t show-up until the youngster is an adult. What both conditions have in common is the need for order, and the presence of compulsive, sometimes irrational, repetitive behaviors. Some researchers believe that there is a neurological relationship between the two conditions.

Because those with HFA and AS know they are different and have difficulty relating to others, they often suffer from acute or chronic depression. Others can have anger or violent symptoms out of frustration for being “out of place” (e.g., ODD).

There have been reports of suicide and suicide-attempts among youth on the autism spectrum. The symptoms of depression can respond to antidepressant therapy and also to psychological therapy, aimed at helping the child feel more accepted and acceptable to others.

In addition, seizures are a common comorbidity, with some researchers believing that up to 30% of kids on the spectrum also have a seizure disorder. Medication can work in some cases, while other sufferers require specialized brain surgery to be free of seizures.

While the disorder itself has no known cure or medications specifically designed for it, many of the comorbidities can be treated effectively. Not only can seizures and depression be treated, but the ADHD and obsessive compulsive symptoms have known medical therapies directed at helping them. Using these medications can often make symptoms more tolerable and increases the functioning of the child or teen who is experiencing it.

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism


•    Anonymous said... Mine has both. Diagnosed about 5 years with ADHD and with Aspergers when he was 8.
•    Anonymous said... Mine was diagnosed with Aspergers, then they mentioned he also has ADHD.
•    Anonymous said... My 11 yr old grandson was diagnosed bipolar when he was 3 & as Aspergers in elementary school.
•    Anonymous said... My 7 year old son has ADHD and Asperger's and according to his neurologist this is very common.
•    Anonymous said... My son also has anxiety and depression disorders to deal with, which are getting markedly worse with puberty.
•    Anonymous said... My son has adhd and Aspergers
•    Anonymous said... My son has been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and Asperger's. I have also noticed a worsening now that he is 10.
•    Anonymous said... my son was diagnosed with ADHD at 7 and Aspergers at 11 sometimes I think you can spot when things arent straight forward not that things are ever straight forward with any condition as such, i just mean there can be extra behaviours that can point to other conditions like Aspergers
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed with ADHD at age five and Aspergers at age seven.
•    Anonymous said... My take (based on my experience) is depression is more of a causality of the conditions these kids must deal with, and not a direct chemical disorder in the brain(the conventional cause of depression). I wasn't diagnosed with ADD until college, and never formerly diagnosed with aspergers, but have and show many of the traits. Depression was a result of my inability to properly socialize with others. Left unabated it leads to apathy, and was only abated by my family's strong support.
•    Anonymous said... My take on this is that Asperger/autism (ASD) is the primary neurologic condition, and that these other diagnoses are just symptom clusters that frequently appear in people with ASD. That said, treating the symptoms can help overall function so in that way it's helpful/sensical to have another diagnosis. But it's not a new "disorder."
•    Anonymous said... Technically, according to the DSM, you can't be diagnosed with ADHD and a spectrum disorder on Axis 1, although some psychologists do it. It is a tough call for some evaluators because ADHD symptoms definitely are often seen with Autism. Paired with social isolation,or self-stimming behaviors, the default diagnosis is the spectrum disorder.
•    Anonymous said... Yes. Depression... and my kiddo too is getting worse with puberty. They diagnosed him with apraxia to explain his speech slowness, I took him in for ADD testing in 4th grade and that's when they finally diagnosed him with Asperger's... which explained ALL of the observations I'd had... and yes Kristina, it's getting worse, or at least different, with puberty...
•    Anonymous said... Yes... ADHD then Aspergers then Sensory Integration.

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High-Functioning Autism and Family-Stress

"I have two boys, one of which has high functioning autism. My husband has been diagnosed as well. I often feel like I'm in a constant state of playing mediator (and sometimes feel like I'm parenting 3 children, rather than 2 children and one adult). Is this common for families like ours, and what can I do to reduce our stress?"

Being a member of a family in which one or more members have High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's can be extremely stressful at times. Sometimes it seems as if the entire family focus is on the "special needs" child and on the various tantrums, meltdowns, and other and behaviors that come with it. ALL family members can feel a low level of anxiety in anticipation of what could happen next.

Are you too stressed? Ask yourself these questions:
  • Are symptoms of stress impeding my functioning?
  • Am I finding it hard to get through the day's activities?
  • Am I having a hard time eating, sleeping, or getting up in the morning?

Discipline for an HFA youngster is often very different than the way you would discipline a neurotypical child. So a parent is often left feeling helpless and not knowing what to do, and feeling they have nowhere to turn in getting a break from parenting. In fact, a lot of moms and dads actually feel guilty for even wanting a break, let alone taking one.

The idea of a few hours away from their youngster makes them feel as though they are failing him or her as a parent. For some reason, some parents feel that to parent their "special needs" youngster, that means being around him/her and caring for him/her 24/7 without any outside help.

As one wife/mother stated: "Being the only neuro- typical is a nightmare! My life has never been mine to live as I want. You lose urself to keep the peace. Believe me when I say: Living like this can scar you for life. You never blossom because you are in a constant compromising caregiver position. Married for 25 years without empathy from anyone is sheer agony. I used to be the crazy emotional one; that side of me got squashed along with any dreams or expectations of loving behavior. This is my life. I will always be married to an Aspergers spouse and a parent of 2 ASD adults." 

If you're exhausted and overwhelmed on a regular basis, you're more susceptible to physical and mental disorders. You may need time and help to recharge your batteries and find coping mechanisms. And it's important to take action now for the future. After all, when you're the mother or father of an autistic youngster, you're in it for the long term.

Take steps as a parent to take time for yourself away from the situation when things feel overwhelming. Take turns with the other parent so you each have peaceful times away from the situation. When possible, spend one-on-one time with the other children in the home. This will reduce their stress level as well.

Get plenty of sleep. If your HFA son has difficulty sleeping, speak with his doctor to find ways to help him sleep better so you can get your sleep, too. Don’t be afraid to take naps so you have enough rest to cope with whatever comes.

Don’t skip meals and eat as healthy as you can. If your son is on a special diet, make sure that the rest of the family - and you - get the type of nourishment that suits you best and revives your energy levels.

Consider exercising with or without your son. Take walks or bicycle rides to calm your nerves and increase your body’s endorphin levels. Stress levels automatically decrease with exercising just a few times per week.

Hire a competent babysitter, get family to help, or  ask a friend for help! The point is this: Get out of the house alone or with your spouse for a few hours and enjoy yourself. You can’t change any of the issues your son may have, but you can get a break. You can get out a few hours a week alone to unwind and you can get help to allow you to get that much needed break.

Some herbal supplements like kava kava, valerian root, and St. John’s Wort have relaxation and calming properties. In serious situations, these herbs can come in handy when you just can't seem to stem the anxiety on your own.

If the family appears to be in crisis over the stress and anxiety of some of its members, family therapy can be very helpful. Individual therapy is also an option for those family members needing extra help. Often the therapist can coach you in the coping skills necessary to stay healthy and to raise your HFA child as best as is possible.

An experienced professional can help give you concrete ideas for finding time and space for yourself. He or she can also work with you to develop specific coping strategies. Changes in attitude can make a big difference, and there are many ways to work on your own feelings. It may also be helpful to have an appropriate time and place to let out pent-up frustration that's so often a part of coping with a youngster who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The main thing parents with an HFA or Asperger's youngster need to know is that they are not alone. There is help out there! Even if you are a single mom raising kids alone, there is help. It's up to the parent, however, to realize that it's not a sign of failure as a parent to need and accept help in caring for the autistic child.

Children on the autism spectrum are special indeed – and we love our children very much. But we as moms and dads need to be able to unwind and relieve the stress so that we are better able to parent. Never feel guilty for needing to ask for help - or needing time for yourself! Bottom line: If you're not the person you normally are, then that's a reason to get help, or at least consider that possibility.

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

Aspergers and HFA Kids: Problems with Board Games

"How do I make my child understand the rules of board games like monopoly? He wants to play it only his way and gets extremely angry if he has to pay a penalty. He does not understand the sets of rules for different games and only wants to win with his own rules."

The child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) may get upset over game rules, sharing, or taking turns. This applies especially when following the rules means that sometimes the child with HFA loses the game! Hence, your son’s insistence on playing with his own rules. He does not understand that others want to win a game sometimes, too. And, even if he does come to understand that, he may not care about their feelings enough to play the game appropriately.

While some children act as “the warden” or keeper of the rules, others find it hard to grasp the give and take of peer relationships, including following rules while playing games with others.

To help your son with this problem, target “fairness” strategies. Step-by-step, teach causes and effects in feelings, behavior, and consequences, along with how following rules and social/emotional reciprocity leads to positive rewards. But of course that is much easier said than done!

Many children on the autism spectrum are more successful in structured situations. Playing games on “neutral turf” in the community often provides the means for structuring activities. For example, a play date at mini-golf has an inherent structure and it will be difficult for your son to change the rules, as other players can say, “Everyone has to follow the rules of the golf course.” Pair him with a friend who understands his difficulty. The friend may be able to help him accept the fact that rules are necessary.

If you son has trouble taking turns, plan some games that are based on just that! For example, in Parcheesi, all players might be given “a point” when they take a turn when they are supposed to and don’t complain when others have a turn. Write the points down in clear view of everyone. At the end of the game, these points are added up. For each 10 points earned, a small reward is given, such as an M&M, a penny, etc. Everyone participates and everyone earns the reward – a bigger amount of reward is earned by the players who are most cooperative at taking turns. Don’t take points away for misbehavior or your son may not get any reward for the times he did behave appropriately!

In the card game War players choose a card, turn it over and the highest card takes both. The person with the most cards at the end wins. This can be a learning experience for your son. Play with only cards 2 through 10 as the face cards may be confusing. In this game, your son may win often enough to prevent him from becoming angry. If not, explain to the players that as well as the highest card taking both, each player who accepts losing a card gracefully will earn a point. Write the points down in clear view of everyone. Give a reward for highest points at the end, as well as one to the winner of the most cards.

Chutes and Ladders is a good game for your son to play as it’s difficult to change the rules. You roll the dice, move, and either climb the ladders or slide down the chutes. Again offer points for gracious acceptance of sliding down a chute. The winner at the end and the one with the most points both should receive a small reward. Parcheesi is another good game that is simple, requires taking turns, and rolling the dice to determine moves. There are no penalties involved to create frustration.

Many children with HFA enjoy computer or hand held, electronic games. With a little research, you can find games that will interest your son. Start with the simplest ones; ones at which he can easily be successful. The penalties and rewards are built in. He won’t be able to change them or the rules. If he gets angry while playing, he’ll have to learn how to move beyond anger to win the game. If he gets physically angry (hits the computer or throws the game, etc.), take it away, but let him try again in a few days.

Over time, he may accept the need for rules when playing. If he plays for a period of time without anger, give him a lot of praise. Since the games can be played at various levels and be restarted if he wishes, he has some control. With these games, he is free to fail without having to deal with another person winning and “lording it over him” which kids often do. Increase the complexity of the games as he matures. Avoid violent games, though.

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


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Hailey said...Both my husband and daughter are Aspies. We have discovered Family Pastimes board games. They are cooperative and involve a lot of problem solving. We take turns but we have the same goal. We have two of these games. Our favorite has been Granny's House. We have also played these with NTs and it always goes much better than any other board game.

Anonymous said...I had to stop playing board games with my son for awhile because he would get angry, have attitude and sometimes meltdown if he was losing a game. I find now that he is a little older (11) he seems to be able to manage his behavior a little better. Plus we enrolled him in a local FREINDS group where they teach them some social skills and play ALOT of games with them to help them learn how to win and lose gracefully.

Anonymous said...When my son finally was able to sit long enough to play a board game, one of the first things I taught him was how to be a gracious loser and a gracious winner. At the end of the game, the loser tells the winner, "Nice job!" (or something of the like.)

Anonymous said...We also had to wait it out. My son was not diagnosed till he was 8 1/2 and we were basically working on instinct. We picked out battles and stuck to our guns!! I was pretty firm with the house rules and if we were not having any fun then we weren't going to play. After his diagnosis it was easier for us to understand him and how to manage things, but we still kept up the same rules. He is now 11 and does very well with all sorts of games and sports. He is actually quite the card shark!! He still has his moments, but the difference is such a relief. I no longer feel I have to watch every move while holding my breath waiting for the next blowup! Phew!!!!

Anonymous said...our clinicians just keep having us play the game, our son has shown improvement. It was very unpleasant at first, but we hung in there. Last night the clinician pointed out to him that he was having fun, and he was not winning! It's been over a year of regularly playing games.

Anonymous said...Sometimes I find putting the 'rules' I a concept easier to understand, landing on a hotel is like being in a car park too long so you have to pay extra

 Anonymous said...Start with board games that have a lot less rules. Chutes and Ladders, Parcheesi, that our Aspergers children can explain to others, rules and all.

Anonymous said...That's interesting. My aspie son (6 yrs) ever only wants to follow the rules as written, and gets really upset if his 3 year old sister makes up her own rules.

Anonymous said...We got our son to read the rules himself, and explained them to him, only problem ended up with an explosion at someone else if "he" felt someone else wasn't following the rules to the letter.

 Anonymous said...we just kept at it and explained it and kept playing and he made progress and then one day it was like everything clicked and he made a huge leap in progress... I was so surprised but now I know that the perseverance paid off and pays off Anonymous said... We still don't play board games.

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

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

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