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

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

Search This Site

The Importance of Early Therapeutic Intervention for Kids with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Early intervention is key to optimal outcomes for kids on the autism spectrum. There's little doubt that young people with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) who undergo therapy at an early age, be it behavioral or developmental, do better than kids who don't. And there's certainly no good reason for parents to wait to provide such therapy. Even a little progress is far better than none, especially when that progress comes in the form of new social skills that allow the special needs youngster to “fit-in” with his or her peer-group. While early intervention is extremely important, intervention at any age can be helpful.

Even if your youngster has not been diagnosed with AS or HFA, he may be eligible for early intervention treatment services. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act states that kids under the age of 3 who are at risk of having developmental delays may be eligible for services. In the U.S., these services are offered through an early intervention system in each State. Through this system, parents can ask for an evaluation. Also, treatment for particular symptoms (e.g., speech therapy for language delays) often does not need to wait for a formal diagnosis.



The first five years of life are crucial to a child’s development and growth. To intervene before age five can help the AS or HFA youngster learn new social and communication skills at a time when she is most able to grasp them. In addition, she can unlearn problematic behaviors before they become deep-rooted. Kids on the autism spectrum who are younger are usually easier to teach because they have less time to develop unwanted behaviors before they become habit. For example:
  • Speech therapy works best with younger kids. Correcting errors in speech early on can be easier than waiting years later after the youngster has already become used to certain mouth movements and pronunciations.
  • It is easier to implement new dietary interventions with a younger boy or girl before long-term food preferences are entrenched. A preschool child, while having some food preferences of course, can often be convinced to change her diet with repeated introductions to new foods. This is essential since many therapeutic interventions address possible food allergies (e.g., gluten, casein).
  • It is much easier to teach a 4-year-old not to tantrum as compared to a 7-year-old.

There are many different types of therapies available (e.g., vitamin therapy, sensory integration therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, music therapy, facilitated communication, discrete trial training, auditory training, anti-yeast therapy, etc.). The different types of therapies can generally be broken down into four categories:
  1. Medication
  2. Dietary Interventions
  3. Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  4. Behavior and Communication Interventions

Medication— While there are no medications that can “cure” AS or HFA, or even treat the main symptoms, there are medications that can help most children with related symptoms (e.g., hyperactivity, inability to focus, anxiety, depression, seizures, etc.). (Click here for more information.)

Dietary Interventions— Many biomedical interventions call for changes in the child’s diet (e.g., removing certain types of foods, using vitamin or mineral supplements, etc.). Dietary therapies are based on the idea that the lack of certain supplements and/or food allergies cause (or worsen) symptoms of AS and HFA. (Click here for more information.)

Complementary and Alternative Therapies— To relieve the symptoms of AS and HFA, some moms and dads use therapies that are outside of what is typically recommended by their doctor (e.g., special diets, treatment to remove heavy metals like lead from the body, biologicals, deep pressure, etc.). (Click here for more information.)

Behavior and Communication Interventions— Behavior and communication methods that help kids with AS and HFA are those that provide structure, direction, and organization for the youngster in addition to family participation. A notable treatment method for these special needs children is called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA has become widely accepted among mental health professionals and is used in many schools and treatment facilities. ABA discourages negative behaviors and encourages positive behaviors in order to improve a variety of skills. There are different types of ABA (click here for more information), for example:
  • Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI) is a type of ABA that focuses on teaching verbal skills.
  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT) aims to increase the AS or HFA youngster’s motivation to learn, monitor her own behavior, and initiate communication with others. 
  • Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) is a type of ABA for younger kids on the autism spectrum (below the age of 5).
  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT) is a type of therapy that uses a series of trials to teach each step of a desired behavior or response. Lessons are broken down into their simplest parts, and positive reinforcement is used to reward correct answers and behaviors while incorrect answers are ignored.

Additional Therapies— Other therapies that can be part of a complete treatment program for a youngster with AS or HFA include the following:
  • The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) uses picture symbols to teach communication skills. The child is taught to use picture symbols to ask and answer questions and have a conversation.
  • TEACCH uses visual cues to teach certain skills (e.g., picture cards can help teach a youngster how to get dressed by breaking information down into small steps).
  • Speech therapy helps to improve the child’s communication skills. 
  • Sensory integration therapy helps the child deal with sensory information. The therapy aids the AS or HFA youngster who is troubled by certain tastes, smells, sounds, or does not like to be touched.
  • Occupational therapy teaches skills that help the AS or HFA adult live as independently as possible. 
  • FLOORTIME focuses on emotional and relational development (e.g., feelings, relationships with parents/teachers/peers). It also focuses on how the youngster deals with sensory overload.

What about moms and dads whose kids on the spectrum weren’t identified soon enough for early intervention?

Many kids with AS and HFA are indeed “high-functioning” enough that they are not identified until they enter elementary school. It is only as they get older and their classmates surpass them socially and behaviorally that problems become noticeable. Not every youngster shows signs of autism before the age of 6, or the signs are so few and far between that they are missed. The higher-functioning youngster can compensate for his deficits, and peers may just pass him off as being odd or “quirky.” The entire pattern of behavior has to be evaluated, and unless the youngster is having issues that significantly disrupt his daily functioning at home or school, no “red flags” pop up.

Parents should not blame themselves in this case. Simply begin the process of seeking help when you discover the need for it. Later intervention is certainly better than no intervention. Rather than dwelling on what wasn’t done or what you “should have noticed,” focus on what can be done now. With the right intervention, older kids with AS and HFA (since they are high-functioning) can catch up rather quickly in most cases.

Finding Hidden Meaning Behind Problematic Behaviors in Kids with Asperger's and HFA

Many parents of children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have discovered that some of their youngster’s behaviors make no obvious sense and do not serve any clear purpose. But when AS and HFA children engage in “odd” or confusing behavior, they are also sending the parent hidden clues about things that are important to them. Thus, it’s the parent’s job is to break the code so she can interpret the clues.

By becoming more like a “detective,” parents can begin to notice coded messages they didn’t see before, and as a result, find more effective ways to help their “special needs” youngster. Becoming a good detective also helps parents respond more carefully to peculiar behaviors so they don’t unintentionally reinforce or reward them.

Parents of AS and HFA children can begin to develop “investigator skills” by recording problematic behaviors, similar to how Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees. For example: 
  • Is the child attempting to avoid a demanding task?
  • What activities or interactions take place just prior to the problematic behavior? 
  • Does the same thing often happen first?
  • What time do these events most often happen?
  • Are there any settings where the behavior does not occur?
  • In what settings is the behavior observed? 
  • Is the behavior problem associated with certain social or environmental conditions? 
  • What usually happens immediately after the behavior? 
  • Who is present when the behavior occurs?

Most difficult behaviors are triggered by an event. Just as you might suddenly feel thirsty as you walk past a lemonade stand, there are “triggers” in your youngster’s life that elicit certain behaviors. Use a diary to try to identify these triggers for your youngster’s most challenging behaviors. Instead of getting upset with your child when he or she acts-out, look for how the context is out of synch with him or her. View the incident as an opportunity to learn more about your child.



Here is a good example of items to list in your diary:

Behavioral Investigation—

Date: ______
  1. Describe the behavior of concern: _______________
  2. How can I tell the behavior is about to start? _______________
  3. How intense is the behavior? _______________
  4. How long does it last? _______________
  5. How often does the behavior occur? _______________
  6. What behavior(s) might serve the same function for my child that is appropriate within the social/environmental context? _______________
  7. What conditions are most likely to precipitate (“set-off”) the behavior? _______________
  8. What does my child get or avoid? _______________
  9. What is happening when the behavior occurs? _______________
  10. What is the likely function (intent) of the behavior (i.e., why do I think my child behaves this way)? _______________
  11. What usually happens after the behavior? _______________
  12. When/where is the behavior most/least likely to occur? _______________
  13. With whom is the behavior most/least likely to occur? _______________
  14. What other information might contribute to creating an effective behavioral intervention plan (e.g., under what conditions does the behavior not occur)? _______________

Cognitive, Behavioral, and Moral Inflexibility in Kids on the Autism Spectrum 



Here are some crucial things to consider when doing your investigation:

1. As with any child, being hungry, thirsty, or tired can make your youngster grouchy. A chronic illness or low-grade infection can cause behavioral issues as well. Try to discover any – and all – possible sources of pain (e.g., abscesses, broken bones, bruises, cuts and splinters, gut, infections, acid reflux, sprains, teeth, etc.).

2. Consider sensory and emotional regulation. Your youngster’s sensory experiences are very different from the “typical” child. He is likely easily overwhelmed by information coming in through the senses (e.g., loud noises) and isn’t getting enough input from the senses responsible for self-awareness and regulation. We all know about the five senses: taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight. But there are two additional senses that are important to understand: the vestibular sense (controls balance) and proprioception (the sense of one’s body in space). In many AS and HFA children, some of the information from these senses is too little, too much, or distorted –  leading to feelings of anxiety, physical pain, or disengagement. As a result, the child may “act-out” behaviorally as a way to cope.

3. Coordination problems can contribute to stress and behavior issues. For example, as anyone who has ever been picked last for a team knows, gym class can be nerve-wracking. If your youngster has trouble undoing zippers or buttons, the short time allotted for bathroom breaks or locker room changes can add tremendous pressure. Also, if the child walks awkwardly, negotiating a crowded hallway between classes is anxiety-producing. These issues often influence “acting-out” behaviors that, unfortunately, may result in the child receiving some form of punishment.

4. Peer-rejection is a big contributor to difficult behaviors. For example, maybe your son realizes he has no friends, so recess time is particularly tough for him. Also, do some investigation to see if bullying or teasing is an issue.

5. Attention-span difficulties can influence behavior, resulting in unwarranted punishment from teachers. For example, your youngster may “tune-out” during class because the teacher or the subject matter isn’t engaging enough. Talk with your child’s teacher if this appears to be an issue.

6. Some problematic behaviors, especially those that seem abrupt or particularly odd, may be due to seizures. If you think this could be an issue, keep a very careful record of what you observe. Also, see if your youngster’s teacher has similar observations.

7. Changes in home-life can contribute to behavior problems (e.g., health crisis, job change, move, new sibling, mom and dad going through a divorce, etc.). Often times, well-meaning parents think their “special needs” child is handling everything fine, so there is no reason to be concerned. But if parents are stressed about something, chances are their youngster will be, too – especially if she is powerless to do anything about it.

8. Try to identify any food sensitivities or allergies that could be troubling your youngster. Look for the signs of a problem in this area (e.g., red/flushed cheeks or ears, diarrhea within a few hours of eating a particular food, etc.). Food sensitivity is often one of the biggest contributors to “mysterious” and sudden changes in behavior.

In summary, rather than viewing your child’s behavior as “misbehavior,” look attentively for the clues that he or she is sending by conducting your own investigation. With a little good detective work, parents can narrow down exactly what initiates certain unwanted behaviors. Then, once the problem has been identified, parents are in a much better position to employ effective prevention and intervention strategies.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's and HFA Children

Helping Kids on the Autism Spectrum Avoid the "Back To School Jitters"

"I have a little boy with high functioning autism that is feeling some dread regarding his return to school next week. I would welcome some ideas on how to make this transition as smooth and stress free as possible."

Preparing kids with Aspergers (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) for the new school year requires a little more than making sure uniforms fit and backpacks are filled with all the necessary school supplies. Most U.S. schools will open their doors in August. Before then, moms and dads need to ensure all their documents are in order, transportation is prepared, and good communication is established with their youngster's school.

Here are 25 ways in which you can help your youngster prepare for the new school year:

1. Ask the school whether you will be able to walk your child into the classroom and hand him off to the teacher.  Find out how long you will be able to stay.  If you suspect that your son or daughter might have a hard time saying goodbye, by all means speak with the teacher now and make a plan for how to handle the first day. 

2. Ask the teacher to provide you with the daily class routine so that you can review this schedule with your child at home.

3. Be sure all children lay out clothes the night before, that lunches are made, and that everyone gets enough sleep and a healthy breakfast.  Plan to arrive at school early so you have time for meaningful goodbyes.  And don’t forget that “first day of school” photo before you leave home!

4. Bring a camera and ask to take photos of the new classroom, teacher and surroundings.

5. Create a “Transition Book” for your child. This is a book about your youngster’s new teacher and class. You can use the photos you took during your meeting at the school. Look at the book regularly to help your child become familiar with the new environment.



6. Encourage your child’s questions by asking what she thinks school will be like.  Emphasize the things you think she’ll enjoy, but be sure not to minimize her fears. Children can be stricken by worries that parents might find silly (e.g., finding the bathroom at school). Normalize any fears and reassure her that she will have fun, that the school can reach you if necessary, and that your love is always with her even when you aren’t.

7. Facilitate bonding with the other children. Children are always nervous about their new teacher, but if they know any of the other children, they’ll feel more at ease.  

8. Facilitate your child’s bonding with the teacher.  All children need to feel connected to their teacher to feel comfortable in the classroom.   Until they do, they are not ready to learn.  Experienced educators know this, and “collect” their students emotionally at the start of the school year. 

9. Find out what other children are in your child’s class and arrange a play date so she’ll feel more connected if she hasn’t seen these children all summer.

10. Get your child back on an early to bed schedule well before school starts.  Most children begin staying up late in the summer months.  But children need 9 ½ to 11 hours of sleep a night, depending on their age. Getting them back on schedule so they’re sound asleep by 9pm to be up at 7am for school takes a couple of weeks of gradually moving the bedtime earlier. Imposing an early bedtime cold turkey the night before school starts results in a youngster who simply isn’t ready for an earlier bedtime, having slept in that morning and with the night-before-school jitters.  In that situation, you can expect everyone’s anxiety to escalate.  So keep an eye on the calendar and start moving bedtime a bit earlier every night by having children read in bed for an hour before lights out, which is also good for their reading skills.

11. Get yourself to bed early the night before school so you can get up early enough to deal calmly with any last minute crises. 

12. If a younger sibling will be at home with you, be sure your child knows how boring it will be at home and how jealous you and the younger sibling are that you don’t get to go to school like a big kid.  Explain that every day after school you will have special time with your big girl to hear all about her day and have a snack together.

13. If you’re new in town, make a special effort to meet other children in the neighborhood.  Often schools are willing to introduce new families to each other, allowing children to connect with other new students in the weeks before school starts. 

14. If your youngster gets teary when you say goodbye, reassure her that she will be fine and that you can’t wait to see her at the end of the day.  Use the goodbye routine you’ve practiced, and then hand her off to her teacher.  Don’t leave her adrift without a new attachment person, but once you’ve put her in good hands, don’t worry. 

15. Let your child choose his own school supplies, whether from around your house or from the store, and ready them in his backpack or bag. 

16. Make sure you’re a few minutes early to pick your child up that first week of school.  Not seeing you immediately will exacerbate any anxieties he has and may panic him altogether.  If your child cries when you pick him up, don’t worry.  You’re seeing the stress of his having to keep it together all day and be a big boy.

17. Moms and dads need to review special education documents such as individualized education plans, or IEPs, and meet with principals and, if possible, educators to ensure everyone is on the same page as far as the students' needs are concerned -- from modified teaching lessons to transportation.  Moms and dads should go through their youngster's IEPs before the school year starts and make a list of anything ambiguous, or something you don't quite understand.  After completing your homework, you may realize that your child's IEP is lacking or needs adjustment. You may want to consult with an independent professional (e.g., psychologist or behaviorist) and/or convene with the IEP team to discuss your youngsters changing needs. Moms and dads can call an IEP meeting at any time, and the district is required to hold the meeting at a mutually convenient date/time within 30 calendar days (beginning with the first day of school and excluding any breaks that are two weeks or more). As always, be sure to make your request in writing.

18. Once school has started, check-in with your child’s new teacher on a regular basis to see if the transition has been successful.

19. Research shows that children forget a lot during the summer.  If your child has been reading through the summer months, congratulations!  If not, this is the time to start.  Visit the library and let him pick some books he’ll enjoy.  Introduce the idea that for the rest of the summer everyone in the family will read for an hour every day. 

20. Share your own stories about things you loved about school.

21. Start conversations about the next grade at school or about beginning school.  One good way to do this is to select books relating to that grade.  Your librarian can be helpful. Get your children excited by talking about what they can expect, including snack, playground, reading, computers, singing and art.  If you know other kids who will be in his class or in the school, be sure to mention that he will see or play with them. 

22. Take advantage of any orientation opportunities.  Many schools let new students, especially in the younger grades, come to school for an orientation session before school begins.  If the school doesn’t have such a program, ask if you and your child can come by to meet the new teacher for a few minutes a day or so before school starts.  Educators are busy preparing their rooms and materials at that time, but any experienced teacher is happy to take a few minutes to meet a new student and make him feel comfortable, since she knows that helps her students settle into the school year.

23. The day before school starts, talk about exactly what will happen the next day to give your child a comfortable mental movie. Be alert for signs that he is worried, and reflect that most children are a little nervous before the first day of school, but that he will feel right at home in his new classroom soon. 

24. There are many books and computer applications for kids that tell social stories. Provide your child with social stories that model appropriate behavior at school and with other kids.

25. Try to arrange for your child to travel to school that first morning with a youngster he or she knows. Even if they aren’t in the same classroom, it will ease last minute jitters.

Pragmatic Language Impairment in Kids on the Autism Spectrum


"Any tips on how to help my high functioning child who has problems making friends, mostly because he initiates conversations that are off-topic or one-sided? He also has problems following conversations from others - so he reverts back to his topic of interest (make sense?)."

Pragmatic speech is language used to communicate and socialize (e.g., knowing what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and generally how to “act” around others during conversation). Many children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have difficulty using language in various social situations – even though they may have large vocabularies and are able to speak in full sentences that are clearly articulated. These “special needs” children may say words clearly and use long, complex sentences with correct grammar, but still have a communication problem if they haven’t mastered the rules for social language known as pragmatics.

Children with pragmatic speech issues may embarrass their parents (albeit unintentionally because they lack social skills) by making what others view as rude comments. They may have little variety in language use, say inappropriate or unrelated things during conversations, or tell stories in a disorganized way.



Pragmatics involve 3 major communication skills:
  1. Changing language according to the needs of the listener or situation (e.g., talking differently to a baby than to a grown-up, speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground, giving background information to an unfamiliar listener, etc.)
  2. Following rules for conversations and storytelling (e.g., how close to stand to someone when speaking, how to use facial expressions and eye contact, how to use verbal and nonverbal signals, introducing topics of conversation, rephrasing when misunderstood, staying on topic, taking turns in conversation, etc.)
  3. Using language for different purposes (e.g., requesting, promising, informing, greeting, demanding, etc.)

All kids have pragmatic difficulties in some situations. But, if problems in social language use occur often and seem inappropriate considering your youngster's age, he or she may have a pragmatic disorder. Children with Pragmatic Language Disorder have particular trouble understanding the meaning of what others are saying, and they are challenged in using language appropriately to get their needs met and interact with peers.

Young people with the disorder often exhibit the following: 
  • aphasic speech (e.g., word search pauses, jargoning, word order errors, word category errors, verb tense errors)
  • delayed language development
  • difficulty explaining or describing an event
  • difficulty extracting the key points from a conversation or story
  • difficulty following conversations or stories
  • difficulty in distinguishing offensive remarks
  • difficulty in making and maintaining friendships and relationships because of delayed language development
  • difficulty in reading comprehension
  • difficulty understanding choices and making decisions
  • difficulty understanding contextual cues
  • difficulty understanding questions
  • difficulty understanding satire or jokes
  • difficulty with organizational skills
  • difficulty with pronouns or pronoun reversal
  • difficulty with reading body language
  • difficulty with verb tenses
  • stuttering or cluttering speech
  • tendency to be concrete or prefer facts to stories
  • tendency to get lost in the details
  • tendency to initiate conversations that are "off-topic" or "one-sided"
  • tendency to repeat words or phrases

Pragmatic disorders often coexist with other language problems (e.g., vocabulary development, grammar). In addition, pragmatic problems often lower social acceptance (e.g., peers may avoid having conversations with the affected child).


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



Pragmatic Language Skills Development—

Moms and dads can help their AS and HFA children to use language appropriately in social situations (i.e., pragmatics). Here are some general suggestions to help develop these skills:

1. As often as needed, encourage your child to rephrase or revise an unclear word or sentence. Provide an appropriate rephrase or revision by asking, "Did you mean _____?"

2. As often as possible, take full advantage of naturally occurring “teaching-situations” throughout the day. For instance, have your child practice (a) requesting necessary materials to complete a project, (b) greetings at the beginning of a day, (c) saying goodbye to friends, (d) asking siblings what they want to eat for lunch, and so on.

3. Demonstrate how nonverbal cues are important to communication (e.g., talk about what happens when a facial expression does not match the emotion expressed in a verbal message, such as using angry words while smiling).

4. Pretending to talk to different people in different situations is a great pragmatics exercise (i.e., role-playing different conversations). For instance, create a situation in which your child has to explain the same thing to several people, such as how to make a grilled cheese sandwich or play a particular game. Model how your child should talk to a peer versus a grown-up, or a sibling versus a stranger.

5. Teach storytelling skills. Provide visual cues (e.g., pictures, objects, etc.) or a story outline to help tell a story in sequence.

6. Teach the use of “persuasion.” For instance, ask your child what she would say to convince you to let her do something. Discuss different ways to present a message. For example, indirect (“I wish I could go next door to see my friend.”) versus direct (“Can I go next door and see my friend?”), or impolite (“I’m not going to eat those green beans!”) versus polite (“Can I please have something other than green beans for my vegetable?”).

7. When your child speaks, respond to his “intended” message rather than correcting his grammar or pronunciation. Also, provide an appropriate model in your own speech. For instance, if your child says, "That's how it doesn't work," you can respond with, "Correct. That's not how it works.”

Kids with pragmatic language impairment are often unable to vary their language use, to relate information or stories in an organized way, or to say appropriate and “on-topic” things during conversations. Pragmatic speech disorder can also be related to difficulties with grammar and vocabulary development. As kids get older and more social skills are demanded, peers may avoid conversation with the child experiencing pragmatic speech problems. As a result, these “special needs” kids have fewer friends, are less accepted in social situations, and may be bullied or teased by peers.

If you think your AS or HFA youngster may have a pragmatic speech problem, contact a local licensed speech pathologist for an evaluation.


Best Social Stories for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Social stories are written with the purpose of teaching a youngster specific behavior patterns. They have often been used to help kids on the autism spectrum to learn social skills and behavior management. Here are our top 12 picks for social stories:


























The Easily Discouraged Student on the Autism Spectrum: Tips for Parents and Teachers

If you have a youngster with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), you’ve likely experienced some aggravation over the numerous outbursts and unexpected meltdowns brought on by an unexpected trigger. However, many of the triggers that result in behavioral issues may be directly related to the child’s frustration over not being able to complete a certain task or perform to his or her self-imposed expectations. This can, in turn, contribute to feelings of discouragement that result in the child “giving-up” (i.e., refusing to give things a second try).

The easily discouraged AS or HFA child may exhibit any or all of the following:
  • a general pervasive mood of unhappiness
  • a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems
  • aggressive and even violent behavior
  • difficulty building or maintain interpersonal relationships
  • discipline problems at home and/or school
  • inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances
  • lack of social-interaction skills
  • low self-esteem
  • mild to severe defiance issues toward parents, teachers, and other authority figures
  • severe academic and/or social frustration
  • trouble bringing emotions under control

There are two schools of thought when it comes to the education of the easily discouraged child. Some educators believe the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is in the “mainstream” classroom, while others believe the LRE should be in an environment that gives the correct amount of structure for that individual youngster. No matter where the youngster is placed, the right techniques can help in the right kind of environment. Research has shown that AS and HFA kids do best in an environment that is predictable, stable, and structured. These kids need help in frustration-management and self-control through coaching, modeling, and teaching.


Assessing social skills is very important for understanding emotional problems.  Observations of the AS or HFA youngster’s behavior with friends, classmates, and grown-ups in natural settings (e.g., special education classroom, lunch room, recess, etc.) can provide information about social skills and relationships that is crucial when reporting on a potential emotional disturbance case. Observing behaviors during social skills instruction or role-playing situations provides a more direct method for measuring specific social areas (e.g., social problem solving, social reasoning, etc.).

The following strategies can be highly effective with children exhibiting frustration and other emotional problems in the classroom:

1. Ask – don’t tell: If the child has a positive relationship with the educator, it may be effective just to “ask” that the unwanted behavior stop due to the problems that it’s creating in the classroom. In this way, no consequence or reward is intended or implied; rather, it’s just a simple, straightforward request from teacher to student.

2. Teach problem solving skills: Help the AS or HFA child to solve his own problems, and reinforce responsibility. By doing this, you imply that the child is not a helpless victim, that he is powerful and can take control of many aspects of his lives. Ask leading question, such as: What is the problem? What have you done so far? What else can you do? What is your next step?

3. Change of environment: Remove the AS or HFA child from a stressful situation before inappropriate behaviors occur; however, be careful not to inadvertently reward the other child (or children) who may be instigating the problem.

4. Impromptu change of activities: If an activity is not successful, change it as quickly as possible. Try to always have a backup plan (e.g., moving from an interactive game to something like Bingo that requires no interaction). This can be done smoothly when a group is becoming over-stimulated. At other times, offering a choice may be more effective (e.g., the children can choose to cover information orally through discussion, or copy notes from an overhead projector).

5. Bonding: Connect with the “special needs” student at a very personal level by discovering as much as possible about him. Find out more than just his challenges – discover his strengths and interests, too.

6. Intentional ignoring: Behaviors that are exhibited for the purpose of attention-seeking and don’t spread or interfere with safety or group functioning may be effectively terminated through intentional ignoring; however, this strategy should never be used with aggressive behaviors. The classmates of the AS or HFA student may need to be taught to do this as well, because peer-attention can be even more powerful than adult-attention for some kids.

7. Forget about “attitude”: Do not criticize the “easily discouraged” child for having a bad attitude. Of course he has a bad attitude! His attitude reflects his experience. For a child that has experienced a lot of frustration and discouragement in the classroom, to have a “positive attitude” about school would be unreasonable. Nonetheless, the “special needs” child is often scolded for his poor attitude. Change his experience from frustration to success, and his attitude will follow – and so will his behavior.

8. Kick start: When it appears that the child is beginning to feel frustrated, assist him with the difficult section(s) of a task or assignment.

9. Do a success review: When the child does experience success, talk about what effort made that success happen, specifically, and insist on pride in that effort and the increasing level of skills that follow.

10. Nonverbal signals: If the child is calm enough to respond, has a positive relationship with the educator, and is free from uncontrollable impulses, a nonverbal cue (e.g., softly snapping the fingers) might be all that is needed to assist the child in regaining focus.

11. Learning from mistakes: Teach the child to learn from – rather than feeling defeated by – mistakes. Reaffirm that “learning from making mistakes” is often the best form of learning.

12. Rearranging: Change the seating arrangement or the small-group assignments of children to avoid specific behavioral problems; however, try to do this in a non-punitive and undetectable way.

13. Restriction of tools and space: Rather than taking away certain items that distract after the child is already engaged with them, keep them out of sight from the start. This is crucial when meltdowns escalate to unnecessarily dangerous or reinforcing proportions due to a lot of extra items being available for breaking and/or throwing.

14. Use of distraction: Change the activity or tempo, comment on the child’s work, or ask about a known interest related to the assignment if the child shows signs of frustration or restlessness. Be sure to do this BEFORE off-task behavior occurs.

15. Use of humor: Humor can often stop unwanted behavior if it’s used in a timely and constructive manner. (Note: sarcasm, even of a friendly nature, is not an appropriate use of humor for AS and HFA students).

16. Use of proximity and touch: Move closer to the child experiencing frustration, or place your hand on his shoulder. In this way, you are showing support in a nonthreatening way; however, when using this strategy, avoid using it as an opportunity to point out inappropriate behavior. Also, comment positively on any move toward compliance.

17. Use of routine and structure: Schedules and routines are often overlooked by teachers when considering behavior-management interventions. Knowing what to do – and when to do it – provides a sense of safety, structure, and predictability for children who may not experience such structure in other areas of their lives.

In a nutshell, here’s how can you break the cycle of frustration and resultant discouragement. The “special needs” child must: 
  • Never feel anonymous
  • Learn the satisfaction of hard work done well
  • Learn the pleasure of mental involvement
  • Have clear evidence of accomplishment attributable to skill and effort rather than luck or easy work
  • Feel valued and cared about
  • Experience a classroom that is free of negative competition and peer-pressure
  • Be with grown-ups who like him – and demonstrate it
  • Be taught to take himself seriously as a learner

Asperger's and HFA Children and Their "Resistance to Change"

One very common problem for young people with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is difficulty adjusting to new situations. While all of these children love new material things (e.g., toys, games, digital devices, etc.), most of them have difficulty adjusting to a new environment, new homes, different teachers at school, or any other major changes in their daily routines. Even new clothes or changes in their favorite food or drink can cause frustration and emotional outbursts.

Children on the autism spectrum need a steady routine and a familiar, consistent environment because it helps them to stay organized and to know what to expect or how to act. So, they rigidly stick to old habits, and their rigidity often results in obsessive and/or compulsive thoughts and behaviors.



While there are many reasons AS and HFA children resist change, most of these reasons have a common source: FEAR. These fears are often related to loss associated with the change. All change involves loss at some level, and this can be difficult to contemplate. 

Some typical reasons for resistance to change include the following:
  • Resistance can stem from perceptions of the change that AS and HFA children hold (e.g., kids who feel they will be worse off at the end of the change are unlikely to cooperate).
  • Change gets these “special needs” children out of their comfort zone. When we talk about a comfort zone, we are really referring to routine. Kids on the autism spectrum love routine, because it helps them feel safe and secure. So there is bound to be resistance whenever change requires them to do things differently. Whether it's new rules, new seating arrangement in the classroom, new academic subject matter (e.g., moving from addition to multiplication in math class), or a new baby in the home, changes to routines are very uncomfortable. 
  • Don't mistake compliance for acceptance. Children who are overwhelmed by continuous change may resign themselves to it and go along with the flow. You may have them in body, but you do not have their hearts. Thus, motivation to cooperate is low. 
  • When these children do not trust in their ability to cope with change, resistance often results. This may be related to their experience of change in the past. They had to make a change back in the day that was very distressing, so today they view ALL change as distressing.
  • Misunderstanding about the need for change may result in resistance. If the child does not understand the reason why things need to be done differently, you can expect resistance – especially if he or she strongly believes the current way of doing things works just fine. 
  • Not being consulted often results in resistance. If these children are allowed to be part of the change process, there is less resistance. They get the sense that they are being heard and that their feelings count.

Some examples of “uncomfortable” change kids must face include the following:
  • A friend moving away
  • A new baby in the family
  • A parent taking a new job or losing a job
  • Abandoning bad habits or picking-up good habits
  • Adopting a different routine or schedule
  • Attending a new school 
  • Different financial circumstances
  • Hospital stay
  • Illness
  • Meeting new people
  • Moving to a new of house
  • New teacher or new friends
  • Parent making new childcare arrangements
  • Recent death in the family
  • Separation or divorce of parents
  • Visiting a new place with new settings

There are a number of symptoms that AS and HFA children exhibit that are signs of an adverse reaction to change. These may include:
  • Active attempts to disrupt or undermine the change process
  • Aggression 
  • Anger
  • Anxious, clingy behavior
  • Attention-seeking
  • Become withdrawn
  • Complain of headaches, stomach pains, or over-sensitive to minor scrapes
  • Have a tough time concentrating at school
  • Insensitive and disagreeable behavior
  • Lose interest in things that earlier interested them
  • Loss of appetite
  • Not listening
  • Not responding
  • Portraying themselves as innocent victims of unreasonable expectations
  • School refusal
  • Seems disinterested
  • Sleep problems
  • Tantrums
  • Unusual flare-ups of emotion

Of course, each of these does not necessarily mean that these children are opposing change. They might be indicators, but could just as easily be indicators of other issues in their life. Real resistance usually occurs after their uncertainties and questions regarding change have not been adequately answered.

Kids with AS and HFA often develop rigid thinking. They want a particular thing done at a particular time, in a particular order, and in a particular way. This is because they often feel a loss of control over important aspects of their lives. What is normal and routine for “typical” children can be difficult and frustrating for AS and HFA children. Imagine having your body respond clumsily when you’re trying to play, or being dragged from place to place by your mother or father and not having the cognitive ability to understand why. By holding tightly to what they can predict, these kids find a little bit of comfort in their otherwise chaotic world.

A youngster who is totally inflexible to change is going to have a lot of difficulty coping with reality. Life is random, full of last minute mishaps, misunderstandings, schedule changes, etc. The sooner you can acclimate your AS or HFA child to change, the better.

"Structure-Dependent" Thinking in Kids with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism 



Here are some strategies for dealing with a rigid-thinking youngster:

1. Let your AS or HFA youngster know of some changes in life you have undergone – and how you managed them. Your examples are a way of helping him cope with change in the future. Relate to his situation. Tell stories about when you have had to weather the storms of change. Also, you can talk about what you might have done differently – something that could have facilitated a better outcome. Alternatively, you can talk about the changes within the other family members and how they changed with circumstances.

2. Always demonstrate love and appreciation when your child “tries” to accept a new situation with courage – even if he is unsuccessful. In other words, be sure to reward effort with acknowledgment and praise, regardless of whether or not the desired outcome occurred.

3. Create behavior incentives using something that is the same each time (e.g., tokens, tickets, stickers, etc.). Let the sameness of the identical token be the familiar thing during the unfamiliar situation. You can also use marbles dropped into a jar (the smooth texture and “clicks” when they drop is satisfying to most kids). For example, explain to your youngster, “When we leave the park today, if you don’t cry, you’ll get a marble to put in the jar when we get home.” Let her cash in the marbles for a reward at the end of the day.

4. Don’t unintentionally reward your youngster for acting-out due to an unwanted routine change. Uncontrolled anger warrants a predictable, swift consequence. Losing a particular privilege may be the best consequence for AS and HFA children. Be firm. Don’t underestimate your youngster’s ability to manipulate you. Even severely autistic kids can be master manipulators.

5. Focus on just a few areas where flexibility is needed most. For example, if your youngster is constantly distressed when you’re out running errands, this is the place to start. If he is upset over having a babysitter, start there. If he won’t leave the grandparents’ house without a tantrum, focus on that issue.

6. While helping your “special needs” child to deal with change, be prepared to weather the storm. There will be sadness, tears and tantrums – followed by parental guilt. It’s all part of the process. Remain calm, and accept you youngster for who and what she is.

7. Change itself can come quickly or slowly, but adjusting to the new state of affairs takes time. Make sure you give your youngster – and yourself – the luxury of having time to adjust. Try not to expect too much too soon. Some changes are easy to adjust to, others aren’t. Some AS and HFA children adapt quickly to change, some don’t. As the parent, simply keep doing what you are doing and know that most changes eventually leave everyone in better places than where they began.

8. Attempt to see things from your child’s point of view. Ask her how she perceives a particular change. A child who airs her misgivings about unwanted changes is more likely to cope better. Talk about the details of what will happen, where she will be, and what she will have to do. Doing so repeatedly helps your child feel prepared.

9. Encourage your AS or HFA youngster to explore and engage in new activities and interests. In this way, you help her cope with change that will come later in life. When she goes through various new experiences, it provides a fundamental base that strengthens her emotional muscles. It helps her feel good about herself and develops self-confidence.

10. Kids on the autism spectrum love to follow a routine. Anything away from that worries them. They feel best when they are able to predict things. They feel safe when they know what is on the agenda for the day or what they have to do next. They want to know how other people are likely to behave or react, and what will happen from day to day. So, if you and your youngster are undergoing a significant period of change, try to keep most of his routine the same.

11. Turn the change into an adventure. For example, turn “Are you ready to start a new school year” into “Wow, just think. You’ll get to see all your classmates again.” Since any change can seem frightening to children, the language you use can turn the change into a fun adventure. Changing the tone to one of excitement can make a world of difference in your child’s attitude.

12. Prepare your AS or HFA youngster for what may happen – and be honest. Voice your plans in a reassuring tone. Explain to him in concrete terms where you will be going, or what may happen along the way, so that he is prepared well before and ready for the change. Also, answer your child’s questions, and tell him the truth (i.e., don’t sugar-coat the situation) so that trust develops. Many tantrums can be avoided, because you keep reminding him throughout the day of what’s going to happen so he is ready for change.

13. Read articles and books about the change in question. Almost any change that your child is going through has been written about (e.g., potty training, new siblings, moving to a new neighborhood, etc.). Go to the library and get as many books as you can on the topic and read together. Reading helps open the lines of communication to talk about the difficulties of the change.

14. Help create sameness by repeating a similar comfort phrase (e.g., “Sometimes we have to change our plans, and we will be O.K. when that happens”). Use this exact phrase (or something similar) every time flexibility is needed. This helps to bring a sense of control and predictability during chaos. Your youngster will remember that you said that the last time a change was needed – and everything eventually turned out just fine.

15. Many kids on the spectrum have difficulty with the concept of time. But, you can provide your child with simple strategies to measure time (e.g., use an alarm clock or kitchen timer for task transitions, clean up times, or evening rituals). Let your child place a calendar centrally, and help her keep track of important dates (e.g., birthdays, holidays, vacations, the first day of school, etc.). Signal your child verbally or set countdowns for when she must leave an activity that she is enjoying (e.g., “I’m going to turn off the computer 10 minutes because we are getting close to lunch time”).

If you want your AS or HFA child to accept change, you must first understand why he may resist. By anticipating his likely reaction to a change in routine, you can make intelligent decisions about how to introduce the change.

Change involves strong feelings. Think about a recent change that you have had at home or work. How did you feel in that situation? Excited, motivated, happy, energized and optimistic? Or worried, angry, depressed, sad and anxious? Maybe your emotions were both positive and negative. But the odds are that you felt something very strongly. If you still remember that change, it's probably because there was a feeling attached to it. For “special needs” children, the initial response to change is often negative. Young people who have difficulty with change seem to unconsciously scan a new situation for anything that is not to their benefit – then they resist and complain. This negative focus often blocks their awareness of any positive aspects related to the change in question.

Change also involves loss (e.g., when moving to a new town, your child loses one set of friends, but hopefully gains a new set of friends). If you want your child to accept change, you need to invest time in planning and communication. All too often, well-meaning parents just throw a change out there and expect their child to say, “Oh, I have to change my routine now? Well, O.K.” To get your child to accept change, the first step is to understand what – from her perspective – she feels that she is losing. If you can first empathize with her feelings, then begin to compensate for her loss, you have taken a big first step towards getting her into acceptance.

In summary: 
  • AS and HFA children need to feel that those who have power (e.g., parents, teachers, etc.) care about their concerns and will listen to them.
  • When possible, give your child options (e.g., “We have to change this or that. Which one are you the most comfortable with?”). The more choices your child has, the more he feels in control. Some of the energy that previously went into resisting change will then be diverted to accepting it.
  • “Special needs” children are more likely to adjust to change when they feel that they have the skills, knowledge and abilities to succeed. The faster parents and teachers can help these kids move through the learning curve, the faster they will accept the change. 
  • The AS or HFA child is more likely to accept change if she has some input into how it will be implemented. When possible, ask for her opinions or suggestions about any aspect where input may actually be used. However, never ask for input that you don't plan to consider. That will only make matters worse.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Dealing With Meltdowns That Are In Full Swing


"I read your article on preventing meltdowns, but what can be done when a child is already in a meltdown? My autistic son (high functioning) will experience meltdowns that can literally last for an hour or more."

There are a number of ways to handle a meltdown in a child with high-functioning autism once it has started. 



Some simple strategies include the following:

1. You can positively distract the youngster by getting him focused on something else that is an acceptable activity. For example, you might remove the unsafe item and replace with an age-appropriate toy.

2. You can place the youngster in time away. Time away is a quiet place where she goes to calm down, think about what she needs to do, and, with your help, make a plan to change the behavior.

3. When possible, hold the youngster who is out of control and is going to hurt himself or someone else. Let the youngster know that you will let him go as soon as he calms down. Reassure the youngster that everything will be all right, and help him calm down. Parents may need to hug their youngster who is crying, and say they will always love him no matter what, but that the behavior has to change. This reassurance can be comforting for a youngster who may be afraid because he lost control.

4. Unlike a meltdown, you can ignore a tantrum if it is being thrown to get your attention. Once the youngster calms down, give the attention that is desired.

5. Try to intervene before the youngster is out of control. Get down at her eye level and say, “You are starting to get revved up, slow down.” Now you have several choices of intervention.

6. Think before you act. Count to 10 and then think about the source of the youngster’s frustration, his characteristic temperamental response to stress (e.g., hyperactivity, distractibility, moodiness), and the predictable steps in the escalation of the meltdown.

7. Talk with the youngster after she has calmed down. When she stops crying, talk about the frustration she has experienced. Try to help solve the problem if possible. 

8. For the future, teach her new skills to help avoid meltdowns, such as how to ask for help. Teach her how to try a more successful way of interacting with a peer or sibling, how to express her feelings with words and recognize the feelings of others without hitting and screaming.

9. Remain calm and do not argue with the youngster. Before you manage him, you must manage your own behavior. Spanking or yelling at the youngster will make the meltdown worse.

10. If the youngster has escalated the meltdown to the point where you are not able to intervene in the ways described above, then you may need to direct him to time-away (not to punish, but to remove him from the current environment). If you are in a public place, carry your youngster outside or to the car. Tell him that you will go home unless he calms down. In school, teachers can warn the child up to three times that it is necessary to calm down and give a reminder of the rule. If the youngster refuses to comply, then place him in time-away for no more than 1 minute for each year of age (again, not to punish, but to remove him from the current environment).

Post-tantrum management:
  • Do not reward the youngster after a meltdown for calming down. Some kids will learn that a meltdown is a good way to get a treat later.
  • Explain to the youngster that there are better ways to get what he or she wants.
  • Never let meltdowns interfere with your otherwise positive relationship with the youngster.
  • Never, under any circumstances, give-in to a temper tantrum (which sometimes looks like a meltdown). That response will only increase the number and frequency of the tantrums. Also, when the youngster on the autism spectrum has become accustomed to successfully manipulating parents with tantrums in the past -- but then doesn't get his way with today's tantrum -- it can often escalate into a meltdown. Now the parent has two distinctly different problems (that may look the same) to address.
  • Teach the youngster that anger is a feeling that we all have and then teach her ways to express anger constructively.

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

Sensory Integration Dysfunction in Kids with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's


Many young people with Asperger’s (AS) and High-functioning Autism (HFA) have a dysfunctional sensory system. Oftentimes, one or more senses are either over-reactive or under-reactive to stimulation. Such sensory issues may be the underlying reason for certain behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorders (e.g., rocking, spinning, hand-flapping, etc.). Although the receptors for the senses are located in the peripheral nervous system, the problem appears to stem from neurological dysfunction in the central nervous system.

Sensory integration refers to the accurate interpretation of sensory stimulation from the environment by the child’s brain. Conversely, sensory integrative dysfunction is a disorder in which sensory input is not organized appropriately in the brain, thus producing varying degrees of problems in development, information processing, and behavior.

Sensory integration focuses primarily on 3 basic senses: (1) proprioceptive, (2) vestibular, and (3) tactile. Their interconnections start forming before birth and continue to develop as the child matures and interacts with his environment. These 3 senses are also connected with other systems in the brain, and even though they are less familiar than other senses (i.e., taste, smell, sight, and hearing), they are critical to basic survival.

Dysfunction within these 3 senses manifests itself in many ways. For example, the child:
  • has an activity level that is either unusually high or unusually low
  • is in constant motion or fatigues easily 
  • is over- or under-responsive to sensory input
  • becomes impulsive, easily distractible, or shows a general lack of planning
  • experiences gross and/or fine motor coordination problems
  • has difficulty adjusting to new situations and may react with frustration, aggression, or withdrawal
  • has speech and/or language delays

Let’s look at each of these 3 senses in greater detail...


Proprioceptive—

The proprioceptive system refers to components of muscles, joints, and tendons that (a) provide the child with a subconscious awareness of her body position, which is automatically adjusted in different situations (e.g., sitting properly in a chair, stepping off a curb smoothly, etc.), and (b) allow the child to manipulate objects using fine motor movements (e.g., writing with a pen, using a spoon, buttoning a shirt, tying shoe laces, etc.). In addition, proprioception involves motor planning, which is the ability to plan and execute different motor tasks.



Some common signs of proprioceptive dysfunction include the following:
  • tendency to fall
  • resistance to new motor movement activities
  • odd body posturing
  • minimal crawling when young
  • lack of awareness of body position in space
  • eating in a sloppy manner
  • difficulty manipulating small objects (e.g., buttons, snaps)
  • clumsiness

Therapy may include:
  • bouncing on a trampoline or a large ball
  • skipping or pushing heavy objects
  • wearing weighted belts
  • weighted blankets
  • weighted vests

Vestibular—

The vestibular system refers to structures within the inner ear that detect movement and changes in the position of the head (e.g., tells the child when his head is upright or tilted, even with the eyes closed).

Dysfunction within the vestibular system may manifest itself in two different ways:
  1. Hyposensitivity: The AS or HFA youngster may actively seek very intense sensory experiences (e.g., excessive body whirling, jumping, spinning, etc.). This type of youngster demonstrates signs of a hypo-reactive vestibular system (i.e., he is trying constantly to stimulate himself).
  2. Hypersensitivity: The youngster may (a) be extremely susceptible to vestibular stimulation; (b) have fearful reactions to ordinary movement activities (e.g., swings, slides, inclines, ramps. etc.); (c) have trouble learning to climb or descend stairs or hills; (d) be apprehensive about walking or crawling on uneven or unstable surfaces; and (e) appear clumsy.

Therapy can include:
  • cartwheels
  • dancing
  • hanging upside down
  • rocking chairs
  • rolling
  • somersaulting
  • spinning
  • swings

All of these actions involve the head moving in different ways that stimulate the vestibular system. The therapist will observe the youngster carefully to be sure the movement is not over-stimulating. The most stimulating movement tends to be rotational (i.e., spinning) and should be used carefully by the therapist. Merry-go-rounds, being tossed on to cushions, or jumping on trampolines can be favorite activities with some AS and HFA kids. Back and forth movement is typically less stimulating than side-to-side movement. A rocking motion will usually calm a youngster, while vigorous motions like spinning will be stimulating. Ideally, therapy will provide a variety of these movements.

Tactile—

The tactile system includes nerves under the skin's surface that send information to the brain (e.g., light touch, pain, pressure, temperature, etc.), which plays an important role in perceiving the environment – and protective reactions for survival.

Dysfunction in the tactile system can be seen in the following:
  • avoiding getting one's hands dirty (e.g., with glue, sand, mud, finger-paint, etc.)
  • complaining about having one's hair or face washed
  • refusing to eat certain textured foods 
  • refusing to wear certain types of clothing
  • using one's finger tips rather than whole hands to manipulate objects
  • walking with heels of the feet off the floor
  • withdrawing when being touched

A dysfunctional tactile system can lead to a misperception of touch and pain, and may lead to self-imposed isolation, general irritability, hyperactivity, and distractibility. Tactile defensiveness is a condition in which the child is extremely sensitive to touch, which can result in behavior problems, inability to concentrate, and negative emotional response to touch sensations.

Therapy may include the following:

For AS and HFA kids who enjoy the feel of sticky textures, the therapist may use certain materials (e.g., glue, stickers, play dough, rubber toys, sticky tape, water, beans, rice, and sand). On the other hand, kids who are very sensitive to touch may go through a brushing program that attempts to desensitize them to touch by systematically brushing their body at regular intervals throughout the day.

Some AS and HFA kids enjoy a sense of firm overall pressure. This can be provided by weighted blankets, weighted belts, being squeezed by pillows, and firm hugs. Also, making tunnels or tents from blankets over furniture can be soothing to these “special needs” children.

Other therapeutic approaches for AS and HFA children with dysfunctional sensory systems may include the following:
  • Difficulty with using both sides of the body simultaneously can occur in some of these young people. The therapist may encourage the youngster with hopscotch, crawling, skipping, playing musical instruments, playing catch, or bouncing balls with both hands to help with bilateral integration.
  • Hand and eye coordination can be improved with activities such as popping bubbles, hitting a ball with a bat, beanbags and balloons, and throwing/catching balls. 
  • Skills such as riding a bike or tying shoe laces can be difficult for some AS and HFA children, because they involve sequences of movements. Therapy to help in this area may include obstacle courses, swimming, mazes, constructional toys, and building blocks.

Evaluation and treatment of sensory integrative dysfunction is performed by an occupational and/or physical therapist. The therapist's general goals are to: 
  • assist the youngster in inhibiting and/or modulating sensory information
  • assist the youngster in processing a more organized response to sensory stimuli
  • provide the youngster with sensory information which helps organize the central nervous system

Sensory processing functions on a continuum. Everyone has difficulty processing certain sensory stimuli (e.g., a certain touch, taste, smell, sound, movement etc.) – and everyone has sensory preferences. Processing difficulties only become a Sensory Processing Disorder when an individual is on extreme ends of the continuum or experiences disruptive, unpredictable fluctuations which significantly impact developmental skills and everyday functioning.

If you believe your AS or HFA child may be experiencing some form of sensory integration dysfunction, ask your child’s doctor for a referral to an occupational and/or physical therapist for treatment.

16 Simple Ways to "Prevent" Meltdowns in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"Is there a way for parents of children with ASD to prevent meltdowns from happening in the first place? I ask because once my autistic son (level 1) gets up a head of steam, there's no way of getting him to calm down."

It is much easier to prevent meltdowns than it is to manage them once they have erupted. Here are 16 tips for preventing meltdowns and some things parents can say to their high-functioning autistic children:



1. When visiting new places or unfamiliar people explain to the youngster beforehand what to expect. Say, “Stay with your assigned buddy in the museum.”

2. Signal kids on the autism spectrum before you reach the end of an activity so that they can get prepared for the transition. Say, “When the timer goes off 5 minutes from now it will be time to turn off the TV and go to bed.”

3. Reward them for positive attention rather than negative attention. During situations when they are prone to meltdowns, catch them when they are being good and say such things as, “Nice job sharing with your friend.”

4. Provide pre-academic, behavioral, and social challenges that are at the youngster’s developmental level so that the youngster does not become frustrated.

5. Make sure that kids on the spectrum are well rested and fed in situations in which a meltdown is a likely possibility. Say, “Supper is almost ready, here’s a cracker for now.”

6. Keep off-limit objects out of sight and therefore out of mind. In an art activity keep the scissors out of reach if kids are not ready to use them safely.

7. Keep a sense of humor to divert the youngster’s attention and surprise the youngster out of the meltdown.

8. Increase your tolerance level. Are you available to meet the youngster’s reasonable needs? Evaluate how many times you say, “No.” Avoid fighting over minor things.

9. Give them control over little things whenever possible by giving choices. A little bit of power given to the youngster can stave off the big power struggles later. “Which do you want to do first, brush your teeth or put on your pajamas?”

10. Establish routines and traditions that add structure. For teachers, start class with a sharing time and opportunity for interaction.

11. Do not ask them to do something when they must do what you ask. Do not ask, “Would you like to eat now?” Say, “It’s suppertime now.”

12. Distract them by redirection to another activity when they begin to meltdown over something they should not do or cannot have. Say, “Let’s read a book together.”

13. Create a safe environment that kids can explore without getting into trouble. Childproof your home or classroom so kids can explore safely.

14. Choose your battles. Teach these "special needs" children how to make a request without a meltdown and then honor the request. Say, “Try asking for that toy nicely and I’ll get it for you.”

15. Change environments, thus removing the youngster from the source of the meltdown. Say, “Let’s go for a walk.”

16. Avoid boredom. Say, “You have been working for a long time. Let’s take a break and do something fun.”



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

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.

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here for the full article...

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.

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here to read the full article…

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."

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here to read the full article...

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.

Click here to read the full article...

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.

Click here
to read the full article...

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.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content