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

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Kids on the Autism Spectrum Who Talk Excessively about Special Interests

Self-Test: Does Your Child on the Autism Spectrum Have a Learning Disability?

“I think my son with Asperger syndrome may have a learning disability. How can I know for sure? And what should I do about it?”

Many kids with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism have difficulty with writing, reading comprehension, or other learning-related tasks, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have a learning disability. A youngster with a learning disability often has several related signs, which persist over time. The signs of a disability vary from child to child.

Each learning disability has its own signs. Also, not every child with a particular disability will have ALL of the signs. Common indicators include:
  • Difficulty finding the right way to say something
  • Difficulty listening well
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Difficulty staying on task (i.e., easily distracted)
  • Difficulty with concepts related to time
  • Difficulty with reading and/or writing
  • Immature way of speaking
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Inappropriate responses in school or social situations
  • Inconsistent school performance
  • Poor coordination
  • Problems paying attention
  • Problems staying organized
  • Problems understanding words or concepts
  • Problems with math skills
  • Trouble following directions

Here are some common learning disabilities and the signs associated with them:


Dyspraxia—

A child with dyspraxia has problems with motor tasks (e.g., hand-eye coordination) that can interfere with learning. Other symptoms of dyspraxia include:
  • Trouble with tasks that require hand-eye coordination (e.g., coloring within the lines, assembling puzzles, cutting precisely, etc.)
  • Sensitivity to touch (e.g., irritation over certain clothing textures)
  • Sensitivity to loud and/or repetitive noises (e.g., ticking of a clock)
  • Problems organizing oneself and one's things
  • Poor balance
  • Breaking things

Dysgraphia—

Dysgraphia is characterized by problems with writing, which cause a youngster to be tense and awkward when holding a pen or pencil to the extent of contorting his body. The youngster with very poor handwriting that he does not outgrow may have dysgraphia. Other signs of Dysgraphia include:
  • Trouble writing down thoughts in a logical sequence
  • Trouble writing down ideas
  • Saying words out loud while writing
  • Problems with grammar
  • Leaving words unfinished or omitting them when writing sentences
  • A strong dislike of writing 
  • A quick loss of interest while writing

Dyscalculia—

Signs of this disorder include problems understanding basic math concepts (e.g., fractions, number lines, positive and negative numbers, etc.). Other symptoms include:
  • Trouble with understanding the time sequence of events
  • Trouble recognizing logical information sequences (e.g., steps in math problems)
  • Trouble making change in cash transactions
  • Messiness in putting math problems on paper
  • Difficulty with verbally describing math processes
  • Difficulty with math-related word problems

Dyslexia—

Children with dyslexia usually have trouble making the connections between letters and sounds. They also have difficulty with spelling and recognizing words. Other signs include:
  • Trouble learning foreign languages
  • Trouble distinguishing left from right
  • Slowness in learning songs and rhymes
  • Slow reading
  • Poor spelling
  • Poor self-expression (e.g., saying "thing" or "stuff" for words not recalled)
  • Giving up on longer reading tasks
  • Failure to fully understand what others are saying
  • Difficulty understanding questions and following directions
  • Difficulty recalling numbers in sequence (e.g., telephone numbers and addresses)
  • Difficulty organizing written and spoken language
  • Difficulty learning new vocabulary (either through hearing or reading)
  • Delayed ability to speak

30 - 50 % of children with ADHD have a learning disability. The reverse is true, too. 30 – 50 % with a learning disability have ADHD. If a youngster has been diagnosed with ADHD and continues to have problems academically, he or she may a learning disability.

Below is a self-test that will give parents clues about whether or not their youngster has a learning disability.

Preschool:
  • My youngster has problems with remembering routines, information, and multiple instructions.
  • My youngster has poor physical coordination and uneven motor development (e.g., delays in learning to run, color, use scissors, etc.).
  • My youngster has delays in socialization (e.g., playing with - and responding to - his peer group).
  • My youngster has communication problems (e.g., slow language development, difficulty with speech).
  • He finds it hard to understand what is being said or communicating his thoughts to others.

Kindergarten to 4th Grade:
  • My youngster loses work she has done or forgets to turn it into the educator.
  • My youngster is challenged when it comes to doing math.
  • My youngster has trouble with reading comprehension.
  • She has problems forming letters and numbers.
  • She has problems with basic spelling and grammar.
  • My youngster has trouble understanding oral instructions.
  • He has difficulty expressing himself verbally.
  • My youngster has trouble organizing information, materials (e.g., notebook, binder, papers), and concepts.
  • My youngster has trouble blending sounds and letters to sound out words.
  • She has trouble remembering familiar words by sight.
  • My youngster has problems with rapid letter recognition and with learning phonemes (i.e., individual units of sound).
  • He has difficulty remembering facts.

5th and 6th Grades:
  • My youngster finds it hard to stay organized in school.
  • He loses personal belongings, papers, assignments, or forgets to turn them in.
  • My youngster has difficulty learning new math concepts and successfully applying them.
  • She has difficulty organizing her thoughts for written work.
  • My youngster is challenged when it comes to reading material independently.
  • He has trouble retaining what he read.

Middle School: 
  • My youngster has difficulty with time management, organization, and developing learning strategies.
  • My youngster has trouble retaining what was read (i.e., reading fluency).
  • He has difficulty organizing and writing answers on papers and tests (i.e., writing fluency).
  • He has problems mastering more advanced math concepts.

High School:
  • My youngster has increased difficulty with time planning and organization as more independent work is expected.
  • My youngster has increased difficulty with writing papers, reading assignments, and understanding math concepts.

If parents agree with a majority of the statements above, they should discuss their concerns with their child’s educator(s). Most public schools use a 3-tier model for evaluation:
  1. The educator observes the youngster. If she or he agrees with the parent’s concerns, a special-education teacher will observe the youngster in class.
  2. Modified teaching strategies will be tried.
  3. If the special-education teacher agrees, a formal evaluation will be done to determine if the child has a learning disability.

If the youngster’s educator does not respond to parents’ concerns, they should speak with the principal. If the youngster is in a private school, parents are entitled to speak to the principal of the public school their youngster would have gone to and request help.

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

What I Want You, My Child's Teacher, To Know

The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling a Child with Asperger’s or High-Functioning Autism

“I’m considering homeschooling my 8-year-old daughter who has high-functioning autism. She goes to a private school that focuses too much on Christian indoctrination. Public school isn’t an option. We’ve been that route before with disastrous results. I’m not doubting my ability to teach, I’m just not sure whether or not it’s the right thing to do. Should I do it?”

Home-schooling is a popular educational alternative, especially if you are tired of nagging school officials to accommodate your Asperger’s or High-Functioning Autistic youngster. But, there are some important factors to consider before making the decision to home-school. For example:
  • What are the home-schooling laws in your state? Some states require the home-schooling parent to have a level of education.
  • How will you arrange to meet your child's socialization needs? Does she have opportunities to play and learn with other children in the neighborhood, in a scout group, at church, etc.? 
  • How does your spouse feel about home-schooling? It can be very difficult to home-school on a long-term basis without approval and support from your child's other parent.
  • Can you afford it? The decision to home-school results in limited income potential for the primary home-schooling parent.

Another part of the decision-making process would be to look at the pros and cons of home-schooling.

Let’s look at a few of the advantages of home-schooling:
  • provides a high teacher-student ratio for the child
  • promotes good communication and emotional closeness within a family
  • prevents premature parent-child separation, avoiding inappropriate pressure on kids 
  • allows the child to have time to pursue her special interests and talents 
  • creates/maintains positive sibling relationships 
  • child often enjoys unlimited educational resources; the world is her classroom, and resources abound in the community 
  • child will likely view parents as an integrated part of her world and as natural partners in learning
  • child can become an independent thinker who is secure in her own convictions
  • child is largely free from peer pressure
  • home-schooled children are usually comfortable interacting with people of all ages
  • research shows that the two most important factors in reading and overall educational success are positive home influence and parental involvement; home-schooling provides both
  • child is allowed to mature at her own speed
  • family values and beliefs are central to academic development
  • family life revolves around its own needs and priorities rather than the demands of school
  • child’s education can be tailored to her unique interests, pace, and learning style

Now let’s look at a few of the disadvantages:
  • If you have had frequent power-struggles to get your child to do homework when she was in public school, you need to be prepared for those struggles as a home-schooler.
  • Know that public school teachers may have a better education than you do. You may simply be unprepared to be the “go-to” person for everything under the sun. Thus, you must be willing to do the research if a question can't be answered on the spot.
  • Not being able to learn with peers, and not being able to associate and congregate with other students the same age can lead to some developmental problems in your child.
  • The cost of homeschooling can start to come into play when you purchase textbooks and teaching materials. Further costs come into play when you consider the opportunity cost of a parent staying home, and not bringing in a second income for the family. 
  • There will likely be a lot of frustration coming from your youngster when you are covering hard subjects. When she gets flustered, you can't allow yourself to do the same. You must be able to separate at times the role of parent and educator.
  • Understand that you will be teaching year-round, and that it really is going to be a full-time job. Thus, you will need to treat it like one, and not like a free pass from getting a public paid job.
  • You may need to spend some time with a particular subject so you can get to the point where you can “teach” that subject.

RE: "Should I do it?"

Take this short quiz:
  1. Are you frustrated with the school system?
  2. Are you seeing your daughter’s love for learning starting to wane?
  3. Do you and your daughter spend more than 90 minutes a day on homework?
  4. Do you enjoy adding creativity and fun to your daughter’s day, but find that creativity had to stop once she started heading off to school?
  5. Do you have a daughter who is exceptionally bright?
  6. Is she currently bored in school? 
  7. Is she struggling in school?
  8. Do you want to instill faith and values into your daughter?
  9. Do you (or will you) work less than 20 hours per week outside the home?
  10. Has your daughter become discouraged and/or started calling himself dumb?
  11. Have you lost the ability to be spontaneous due to tight schedules?
  12. Would you like to have more control over your daughter’s education?

If you answered “yes” to most of the above, then home-schooling is likely to be a good option for you and your child.

Before taking the leap into the world of homeschooling, be sure to pick the brains of a few parents who are currently doing it. Inquire about what they found that works – and what didn’t. What were some of the early mistakes they made, and how can you avoid making those same mistakes? How about cost?  Make a list of questions and get the advice from at least three other home-schoolers before making your decision.

Many of the members of our support group home-school their children. I'm sure they would be happy to offer some advice to those parents who are considering going this route. CLICK HERE to join.


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

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism
 
 
COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Christian doctrine may well lead her to a life of love, compassion, hope, faith and the fullness of life. Lord Jesus we trust in you!
•    Anonymous said… Go for it! I homeschooled my 2 boys (1 adhd and 1 aspergers)for a year and a half. They decided before christmas they wanted to try school again and both have settled really well back really well x
•    Anonymous said… I enrolled my hfa son in virtual school. In our state it's a free public option. I couldn't stomach the idea of him attended public middle school. The bullying was already bad. He graduated South Carolina Connections Academy high school with honors. I was very happy with it. I do wish I had been able to get him more social interaction but it was way more interacting than he wanted so I'll take it. He took a year off to focus on his personal growth and will start college this summer.
•    Anonymous said… I started homeschooling my then 6 year old hfa son midway through 1st grade in a public school. He was absolutely miserable with the sensory overload and was being bullied (in 1st grade!) He was also beginning to get in trouble a lot in school for "defiance" and meltdowns. I have beem homeschooling him using an online program for the past year and he has never been happier and more interested in learning. At first I tried a more traditional workbooks and written lessons. That did not work at all for him. It was a bit of a rocky start at first, but once we got into a routine of the online learning he has really been thriving. I do hope to mainstream him back into school through a partial homeschool/charter school option next year. I also send him to extracurricular STEM school classes and he loves it and gets to interact with other kids who have similar interests (because I do worry about lack of social interaction). It was a tough decision to make at first and I am sure what is right for one child may not be for another, but it has really been a positive thing for my son.
•    Anonymous said… IF I could afford a private school, I would do so, in a heartbeat. I know I'm not equipped , in any way, to effectively homeschool .
•    Anonymous said… Is a Charter School an option?
•    Anonymous said… is a free online homeschooling website that I use for my daughter, who has Aspergers, & I highly recommend it, as she's learning more now than ever! 
•    Anonymous said… It is online school with certified teachers and curriculum provided by an accredited school but administered at home with a parent learning coach. Here is the link to the one my son attended.
•    Anonymous said… Our hfa is enrolled in AZVA. A virtual public school. Her grades have improved sooo much! We are lucky hete to have a brick and mortar building option also and there are only 10 pupils in her classroom.
•    Anonymous said… Same situation here. I pulled him out last September and have seen nothing but gains and progress. Do it if you can! And don't doubt your ability to do it. There is so much support and help out there. This can work!
•    Anonymous said… We have done cyber charter school for 8th and 9th grade and it has been a good alternative to the regular school. He goes to a social skills group to get some interaction with peers.
•    Anonymous said… We've homeschooled, (my 11 year old Aspie and her younger brother 8) since the beginning. It's hard work, but I know its been the best thing for all of us. She wouldn't have it any other way. A bonus is that she is pretty close with her younger brother because they spend school days together, a regular phenomenon of homeschooling, and I think they learn a lot from each other.
•    Anonymous said… What exactly is virtual school, and how does it work. I've heard of it before, but when I Googled it, the results were extremely overwhelming.

Post your comment below…

School-Related Stress in Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Loneliness in Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Attention Problems in Children with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism

“My son with high functioning autism has always struggled with paying attention to things (except those things that he really enjoys, of course). And now I’m getting reports from his teacher that his lack of attention span is severely affecting his grades for this upcoming report card. According to the teacher, my son is also having ‘increased behavioral problems’. Any suggestions on what I can do here at home to help him do better in school?”

A common misconception about Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) kids with attention difficulties is that they don’t pay attention at all. This is not necessarily the case. In actuality, these young people often pay attention to everything. Their problem is deciding what to focus on – and maintaining that focus.

Kids with AS and HFA usually have deficits in “executive function” (i.e., the ability to think and plan ahead, control impulses, organize, and complete tasks. As a result, parents need to take over as the executive, providing extra guidance while their youngster gradually acquires executive skills of his or her own.

Although many of the traits of AS and HFA are nothing short of frustrating at times, it’s important to remember that the youngster on the autism spectrum who is inattentive or ignoring is not acting willfully. Having an autism spectrum disorder is just as frustrating for your youngster.

Here are some essential tips for helping children with AS and HFA who have attention difficulties:

1. The youngster on the autism spectrum often becomes more distracted and agitated if there are many after-school activities. Thus, parents should make adjustments to their youngster’s after-school commitments based on her abilities and the demands of particular activities.

2. Be on the lookout for good behavior – and praise it. Praise is especially important for kids with AS and HFA, because they typically get so little of it. During a typical school day, many of these “special needs” kids receive constant correction, remediation, and complaints about their behavior, but little positive reinforcement.

3. Model “paying attention.” For example, when your youngster interrupts your work, it’s natural to shift your focus to him. But, this rewards inattentive behavior. Therefore, calmly tell your child that you are busy right now and trying to concentrate on what you’re doing. Also, “provide acknowledgment” when you catch your child paying attention. For example, when he is quietly concentrating on a task that he doesn’t like or finds difficult (such as homework), let him know that you recognize and appreciate his efforts.

4. Consider placing clocks throughout the house, especially in your youngster’s bedroom. Allow enough time for what your youngster needs to do (e.g., homework, getting ready in the morning, etc.). Also, use a timer for homework or transitional times (e.g., between finishing up play, getting ready for bed, etc.).

5. Create a “buffer time” (i.e., a time for quieter activities like coloring or reading) to slow down the activity level for an hour or so before bedtime. Also, consider using lavender or other aromas in your youngster's room (these have a calming effect).

6. Food can - and does - affect your youngster's mental state, which in turn affects behavior. Monitoring and modifying what, when, and how much your youngster eats can help decrease the symptoms of AS and HFA. Prevent unhealthy eating habits by scheduling regular nutritious snacks and meals no more than 3 hours apart.

7. Kids with AS and HFA are more likely to be successful in completing tasks when the tasks occur in predictable places and in predictable patterns. The parent’s job is to create and sustain structure in the home so that the youngster knows what to expect.

8. Educate your child on what it means to procrastinate, how everybody does it, and what a strong force it exerts on people. Teach her the difference between taking a much-needed break versus avoiding an activity. Also, teach your child how to spot her own reasons for procrastinating (e.g., unacknowledged fear of failure, believing the task is too difficult, etc.).

9. Kids with AS and HFA tend to spend a lot of their time playing computer games (a sedentary activity). Therefore, it’s important for parents to provide opportunities for their child to “get physical.” The benefits of exercise are endless (e.g., improves concentration, decreases depression and anxiety, promotes brain growth, leads to better sleep - which in turn can reduce some of the traits of AS and HFA).

10. Make sure your “consequence system” is an effective one. For example, (a) always follow through with a consequence; (b) consequences should be spelled out in advance and occur immediately after your youngster has misbehaved; (c) remove your youngster from situations and environments that trigger inappropriate behavior; (d) try time-outs and the removal of privileges as consequences for misbehavior; and (e) when your youngster misbehaves, ask what he could have done instead, then have him demonstrate it.

11. Make sure your “reward system” is an effective one. For example, (a) reward your youngster for small achievements that you might take for granted in your other children; (b) always follow through with a reward; (c) change rewards frequently (kids on the spectrum get bored if the reward is always the same); (d) immediate rewards work better than the promise of a future reward, but small rewards leading to a big one can also work; (e) make a chart with points or stars awarded for good behavior so your youngster has a visual reminder of her successes; and (f) reward your youngster with privileges, praise, or activities, rather than with toys or food.

12. Research shows that kids with AS and HFA benefit from spending time in nature. They often experience a greater reduction of symptoms of their disorder (including attentional difficulties) when they play in a park full of grass and trees instead of on a concrete playground.

13. Set a time and a place for everything to help your youngster understand and meet expectations. Establish simple and predictable rituals for meals, homework, play, and bed.

14. The child with AS or HFA often has significant social skills deficits. He may talk too much, become easily distracted, struggle with reading social cues, interrupt frequently, or come off as aggressive. His relative emotional immaturity can make him stand out among his peer group and make him a target for rejection, teasing, and bullying. Thus, parents will do well to teach a few social skills. For example, (a) be careful to select playmates for your youngster with similar language and physical skills; (b) help him learn to read people’s faces and body language and to interact more smoothly in groups; (c) help him to become a better listener; (d) invite only one or two friends at a time at first, watch them closely while they play, and have a zero-tolerance policy for hitting/pushing/yelling; (e) make time and space for your youngster to play, and reward good play behaviors often; (f) role-play various social scenarios with your youngster, and trade roles often and try to make it fun; and (g) speak gently but honestly with your youngster about his challenges and how to make changes.

15. The youngster with AS or HFA needs consistent rules that he can understand and follow. Make the rules of behavior simple and clear. Write them down, and hang them up in a place where he can easily read them. Pictorial depictions of the rules can be helpful as well.

16. Lastly, investigate to see whether or not your child may have ADD. If you answer “yes” to most of the traits below, then strongly consider seeking a diagnosis from a professional:

(Yes or No)
  • My youngster fails to think through what he is about to do or say (i.e., leaps without looking).
  • He has difficulty adjusting to sudden changes in routines.
  • He has difficulty paying attention to the things that others (e.g., teachers) want him to do (e.g. instructions).
  • She has difficulty waiting for rewards and delaying gratification. 
  • She has difficulty waiting in line, sharing, and cooperating.
  • He is inconsistent in his work and behavior (i.e., he’s fine one day, but not the next).
  • My youngster overreacts to minor disturbances.
  • He is often restless, fidgets, and squirms.
  • He needs a lot of supervision to complete tasks (e.g., school work, chores, etc.), which require sustained attention.
  • Her attention span is getting worse relative to other kids the same age.
  • Her schoolwork, belongings, time-management, and personal functioning seem very disorganized.
  • It is hard for my youngster to follow routines (e.g., getting ready for school, getting ready for bed, etc.).
  • My youngster’s ability to control impulses is not improving with age.
  • My youngster has difficulty waiting for a turn, (e.g., interrupts others, blurts out answers before a question is completed, etc.).
  • He notes details that interest him, but misses the main idea.
  • He often gets into potentially dangerous situations.
  • Her school grades do not reflect her true ability (i.e., she underachieves).
  • He seems always on the go as if driven by an engine.
  • He shows rapid mood swings.
  • My youngster honestly “forgets” to bring her assignments home. 
  • My youngster’s activity level is inappropriate for the situation (e.g., has difficulty sitting still in class, during meals, church, etc.).
  • She daydreams, drifts into her own little world, and is often oblivious to what’s going on.
  • She has difficulty paying attention to things I want her to do.
  • She is easily bored.
  • He does pay attention to things he wants to do.
  • He doesn’t pay attention to important details and often makes careless mistakes in schoolwork. (e.g., + and – signs in math).
  • She is very interested in an activity I have difficulty dragging her away.
  • When he is working on his own hobbies or creating his own projects, he is extremely focused and organized.

Moms and dads are usually worried when they receive a note from school saying that their youngster doesn’t listen to the teacher and causes problems in class. Even though the youngster with AS or HFA often wants to be a good student, attention difficulties and impulsive behavior frequently interferes. Parents know that their youngster is struggling, but may not know exactly what’s wrong. By utilizing the steps listed above, you should be able to help your child to be more focused and composed while in the classroom – and at home.


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

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Breaks (movement and mini's / possibly shortening the class or the day). Lessen some of the demands. Shorten the day or add some study halls for him. I would ask him. Usually they want choices. They could do work at home and reading at school. They could do half the work assignment or none at all if they are getting the "knowledge". Less busy work is always good for them. Projects tend to help them.
•    Anonymous said… Call an IEP meeting and if he doesn't have an IEP, get him one. The classroom setting he is currently in is not accomodating his needs.
•    Anonymous said… Great suggestions above. We used some of them, but once he went to HS, things kind of fell apart. I decdied to homeschool him. It allows me to work with him one-on-one, take frequent breaks, and assign smaller assignments (vs HS). We go thru a homeschooling program that offers a special services program which helps as well. Good luck!
•    Anonymous said… I have high-functioning autism, myself. When I was your son's age, what whipped me into shape was positive reinforcement. If I did what I was supposed to, I was rewarded with the things I enjoyed doing. For example, I earned the privilege to go to a Rolling Stones concert with my parents for getting my grades up. The IEP thing is also a good idea. Good luck with helping your son! Hope it helps hearing feedback from someone that was in his place at one time.
•    Anonymous said… My son was the same way. His grades were suffering and he would have a meltdown daily which sometimes ended with him hiding from the teachers & aides under the desks and tables at school. I would end the day with having to go to the classroom sit on the floor and wait for him to calm down while we’re both on the floor with him in my arms. This was not only hard on him, but hard on his twin brother who would get teased constantly about his brother’s behavior. We opted for the restricted special education class this year. Less than half the kids of an integrated classroom. Less stress on him, no longer needs a 1 on 1 aide, his grades are coming up. He absolutely loves his electronics. So His teacher has been rewarding his good behavior with time on an iPad at the end of each day! He does get homework, but within his ability which now he does on his own! He’s doing fantastic this year! Point being...it may only take some modifications in his daily work to help. If the other students have, let’s say 20 math problems, giving your Aspie child 8-10 may help. I found my son would finish at the same time as the other children which gave him confidence and he was less frustrated. His behavior changed because of this and his rewards.
•    Anonymous said… We've done IEP, therapy and meds. My 3 boys are on varying degrees of the spectrum and ADHD. They have come a long way with these strategies.

Post your comment below…

Language Problems in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Why Some Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism Can Become Aggressive

Learning Difficulties Associated with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism: Crucial Strategies for Parents and Teachers

“I have a high functioning autistic student in my class this year. I’ve been having quite a problem in helping him with reading comprehension, problem solving, staying organized, and completing assignments… just to name a few. Any tips on how I can better assist this student in these areas will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!”

Children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) tend to NOT have difficulty reading, decoding language, or learning information in a rote fashion. However, they DO have difficulties that involve other kinds of learning (e.g., understanding information, relationships, ideas, concepts, patterns, etc.). This issue can be viewed as the opposite of dyslexia.

These challenges are all related to the right hemisphere of the brain, and often affect the youngster’s ability in a number of areas (e.g., with organizing thoughts, physical coordination, planning, problem solving, and social interaction). The ability to recognize patterns or concepts – and then apply them to new situations – is very problematic for these “special needs” children.

Here are some of the learning difficulties associated with AS and HFA:

1. The child on the autism spectrum often has difficulty organizing his thinking, planning and carrying out actions, and problem-solving. For example, he may struggle with breaking down an assignment into smaller pieces, or grasping the steps that need to be taken to complete a project.

2. The child with AS or HFA has difficulty identifying the main idea in something, the details that support the main idea, and the relationships among them. This affects her ability to comprehend reading, to write, to take notes, and to tell a story effectively.

3. Many children with AS and HFA are very good at rote learning. Thus, they may do well with Math simply by memorizing data. But as they get older, they often have difficulty solving more advanced Math problems that are based on recognizing patterns and concepts.

4. These kids also have difficulty interpreting nonverbal cues. As a result, they may not know what’s going on in social interactions. They don’t know what’s appropriate behavior in a given situation, because they miss the social patterns that other “typical” children pick up automatically. Problems with social communication is one reason why an AS or HFA child often focuses (sometimes obsessively) on technology (e.g., in a video game, the child doesn’t have to deal with all the nonverbal things).

Children with AS and HFA have significant problems interpreting nonverbal cues if they:
  • Ask a lot of questions
  • Are repetitive and inappropriately interrupt the flow of a lesson in the classroom
  • Have trouble coping with transitions and changes in routine
  • Are clumsy
  • Have trouble following multi-step instructions
  • Are often lost or tardy
  • Have trouble generalizing previously learned information
  • Have difficulty recognizing facial expression or body language
  • Impart the “illusion of competence” because of their strong verbal skills
  • Make very literal translations
  • Need to verbally label everything that happens to comprehend circumstances, directional concepts, coordination, and spatial orientation
  • Show poor psycho-motor coordination
  • Seem to be constantly “getting in the way” (e.g., bumping into people and objects)
  • Have difficulty with fine motor skills (e.g., tying shoes, writing, using scissors, etc.)

5. A child on the spectrum may have difficulty understanding visual imagery. For instance, if he is asked to copy a shape (e.g., a cube), he may may draw something that appears nothing like a cube. He can’t accurately perceive the cube - or the forms that make up the cube. Therefore, he can’t copy it.

6. The child may also have difficulty evaluating visual-spatial information (i.e., has difficulty grasping the relationships between things she views, and has no clear sense of where they are). This can make her physically awkward.

Techniques that teachers - and parents - can use to help AS and HFA children with their learning difficulties include the following:
  1. Allow them to abstain from participating in activities at signs of overload.
  2. Avoid assuming they will automatically generalize concepts or instructions.
  3. Explain metaphors, nuances, and multiple meanings in the reading material.
  4. Implement creative programming or a modified schedule.
  5. Minimize transitions, and give several verbal cues before transition.
  6. Never assume they understand something simply because they can “parrot back” what you’ve just said.
  7. Number - and present - instructions in sequence.
  8. Offer added verbal explanations when they seem lost or confused.
  9. Rehearse getting from place to place.
  10. Simplify and break down abstract concepts.
  11. Thoroughly prepare them in advance for field trips or any other changes, regardless of how minimal.
  12. Verbally point out similarities, differences, and connections.
  13. When they ask questions excessively, answer a couple of their questions, but let them know a specific number (e.g., “two”), and that you will answer two more question at recess or after school.

Other tips for teaching students with AS and HFA include:
  • Analyze the child’s errors for clues about processing difficulties (e.g., if he reads the sentence “I pet the cat” as “I pet the car,” he may be having trouble using context clues to decipher meaning.
  • Help the child to organize and use his time effectively.  Kids on the autism spectrum often have difficulty completing daily classroom tasks. Therefore, (a) break large tasks into smaller ones, and set a short time limit for each subtask; (b) provide a folder in which the child transports homework assignments to and from school; and (c) show the child how to create “to-do lists” and establish a daily routine that he posts on his desk.
  • Minimize distracting stimuli as much as possible. Because many children with AS and HFA are easily distracted, minimize the presence of other stimuli that may compete for their attention (e.g., ask the child to keep her desk clear of objects and materials she doesn’t need for the task at hand, pull down window shades if other classes are playing outside, etc.).
  • Modify the child’s schedules and work environments. The problematic symptoms of AS and HFA tend to get progressively worse as the day wears on. Thus, when possible, have most challenging subject matter in the morning instead of the afternoon. Also, moving the child’s desk close to you, the teacher (where behavior can be monitored) can enhance his attention-span.
  • Offer outlets for excessive energy.  To help the AS or HFA child to control excess energy, try to intersperse quiet academic work with frequent opportunities for physical exercise. Also, give her some “settling-in time” after lunch and recess (e.g., time to read her favorite book) before asking her to engage in an activity that involves quiet concentration.
  • Have plenty of study aids on hand.  A child on the autism spectrum usually studies more effectively when he has scaffolding to guide his efforts (e.g., let the child copy - or receive a duplicate of - the class notes of high-achieving peers; provide graphics, study guides, and outlines that help the child to identify and interconnect important concepts and ideas).
  • Teach learning strategies and study skills.  Kids with AS and HFA benefit from being taught specific techniques for performing tasks and remembering subject matter. For instance, give the child questions to try to answer as she reads a story or textbook passage, teach certain mnemonics (i.e., memory aids) to help her remember particular facts, teach concrete strategies for taking notes and organizing homework assignments, and so on.
  • Lastly, employ a variety of ways to present information.  Because these children have trouble learning through a particular modality (e.g., via hearing or vision), try to be flexible in the ways you use to communicate information (e.g., incorporate videos, graphics, and other visual materials; when teaching the child how to read and spell a particular word, write the word, say its letters aloud, and have the him trace or write the word while repeating its letters).

==> Teaching Students with Aspergers and HFA

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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

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content