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 with Level 1 Autism and Their Lack of Showing Affection

“Is it common for children on the high functioning end of autism to hate touch and avoid being hugged, held, etc.? My grandson will rarely show affection.”

Although it can happen, it is rare for kids with Level 1 Autism (High-Functioning Autism) to "refuse" to be touched at all times - in all situations. However, it is fairly common for these kids to have tactile sensory issues, which may make them avoid certain types of physical contact with others on occasion.

BUT... this really has nothing at all to do with the inability - or lack of desire - to show or receive affection. Autistic kids are the most loving and affectionate people I know! So please don't make the mistake of taking your grandson’s lack of interest in physical contact as a personal insult.

One of the most pervasive myths that surround Level 1 Autism is that a youngster who has it will never show affection and can’t accept getting affection from anyone. There have been hundreds of stories of parents taking their youngster to a psychologist and the doctor telling the parents something like, "Your youngster can’t possibly have an Autism Spectrum Disorder because he gives you a hug now and then."

While this assessment is incorrect, studies have shown that Level 1 Autistic kids do process sensory touch differently than a "typical" youngster, and that this is where the myth that kids on the spectrum don’t like to be touched comes from.

Level 1 Autism and the way it affects kids really runs the gamut from light to severe. An excellent point to remember when dealing with an autistic child is that everyone is different and will react to almost everything differently.



Here are some tips for showing your grandson affection:

1. For a few Autistic kids, a simple, random hug can be sensory overload. They can become agitated, upset and even violent if they are touched without prior warning. You will probably need to have a trial and error approach when it comes to hugging and touching your grandson. Some methods may be responded to in a positive way, other ways won’t be. You just have to try and see.

2. If you think your grandson needs a hug, instead of rushing into his personal space and just taking one, speak to him, bend down to his level and open your arms. Smile and let him know that he is loved and see what the response is. If he doesn't come running in for a hug, don’t be offended. It may just not have been the right time.

3. If your grandson is too sensitive to hugs or touches to show affection, you can try positive reinforcement in addition to hand singles. Things like a simple thumbs up accompanied by a smile and some positive comments can let him know he is loved and what he did was good. You can also offer him a chance to hug during these situations - and he might just take you up on it.

4. Make sure everyone is on the same page. If you are starting to make progress on getting your grandson to be more affectionate, you don’t need his sibling, another family member, or a teacher who doesn’t know or understand his boundaries messing up all of your hard work. If you’ve begun to implement an affection program with him, make sure everyone who would possibly try to hug or touch him knows the rules.

Consistency and repetition are crucial to kids on the autism spectrum, and this applies to a situation like this as well. Trying to figure out a puzzling condition like high-functioning autism and Asperger’s can be a lifelong challenge. For many parents and grandparents, the affection issue may be the biggest. But with patience and learning to go by the youngster’s cues and not your own, you will be able to connect with your grandson in a deep and meaningful way.


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