Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Applied Behavioral Analysis for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"I've heard that ABA therapy is very effective for children with high functioning autism. Is this true, and how does it work?"

It is often difficult to understand why the child with Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) behaves the way he does. However, there is a reason for his behavior, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) helps us understand the behavior and determine a method of support for the child so that he no longer needs the behavior to meet his needs.

Using ABA, you can determine the antecedents to behavior, identify the behavior, and identify the consequence for the behavior, or what is currently maintaining the behavior. Using this process, you can determine alternative behaviors that are more appropriate, yet will meet your child's needs, without displaying the inappropriate behavior. This aids moms and dads in understanding their child better and helps outline a method to change their behavior.

ABA is widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders. It has been endorsed by a number of state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Surgeon General and the New York State Department of Health. Over the last decade, the nation has seen a particularly dramatic increase in the use of ABA to help children and teens with HFA to live happy and productive lives. In particular, ABA principles and techniques can foster basic skills (e.g., looking, listening and imitating) as well as complex skills (e.g., reading, conversing and understanding another person’s perspective).

ABA treatment can include any of several established teaching tools:
  • verbal behavior
  • pivotal response training
  • incidental teaching
  • fluency building
  • discrete trial training

1. An ABA-related approach for teaching language and communication is called "verbal behavior" or VB for short. In VB, the therapist analyzes the youngster’s language skills, then teaches and reinforces more useful and complex language skills.

2. Pivotal response training uses ABA techniques to target crucial skills that are important (or pivotal) for many other skills. Thus, if the youngster improves on one of these pivotal skills, improvements are seen in a wide variety of behaviors that were not specifically trained. The idea is that this approach can help the youngster generalize behaviors from a therapy setting to everyday settings.

3. Incidental teaching uses the same ideas as discrete trial training, except the goal is to teach behaviors and concepts throughout a youngster’s day-to-day experience, rather than focusing on a specific behavior.

4. In fluency building, the therapist helps the youngster build up a complex behavior by teaching each element of that behavior until it is automatic or "fluent," using the ABA approach of behavioral observation, reinforcement, and prompting. Then, the more complex behavior can be built from each of these fluent elements.

5. In discrete trial training, an ABA therapist gives a clear instruction about a desired behavior (e.g., “Pick up the paper.”); if the youngster responds correctly, the behavior is reinforced (e.g., “Great job! Have a sticker.”). If the youngster doesn’t respond correctly, the therapist gives a gentle prompt (e.g., places youngster’s hand over the paper). The hope is that the youngster will eventually learn to generalize the correct response.

Through ABA, moms and dads can learn to see the natural triggers and reinforcers in their youngster’s environment. For example, by keeping a chart of the times and events both before and after Michael’s temper tantrums, his mom might discover that Michael always throws a temper tantrum right after the lights go on at night without warning. Looking deeper at the behavior, Michael’s mom might also notice that her most natural response is to hug Michael in order to get him to calm down. In effect, even though she is doing something completely natural, the hugging is reinforcing Michael’s temper tantrum.

According to the ABA method, both the trigger (lights going on at night without a warning) and the reinforcer (hugging) must be stopped. Then a more appropriate set of behaviors (e.g., leaving the room or dimming the lights) can be taught to Michael, each one being reinforced or prompted as needed. Eventually, this kind of approach will lead to a time when the lights can go on without warning and Michael still does not throw a temper tantrum.

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

==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's Children

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's Teens

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's: How to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Everything You'll Ever Need to Know About Parenting Asperger's Children

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

==> AudioBook: Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism

Parents’ Comments:

•    Anonymous said... my 12 year old son started 3 weeks ago. It is hard right now, but I know it will get better when we get past all of his manipulation. he likes to control situations if they become difficult he will refuse and shut down . we are trying to stand our ground and undue some bad behaviors that have formed over years of us giving in...
•    Anonymous said... my 7 year old son has been in ABA therapy for about 6 months (only 3 hours per week). We are seeing slight improvement in eye contact and listening skills. From a parent's perspective, it seems like they are just playing with your child, but they have assured me that there is a method to their madness.
•    Anonymous said... it's a therapy. It will only work if the child is receptive. Our 7 year old likes the attention and is doing okay. I would like to more results, but anything is better than nothing. I love my boy and I want him to be able to function happily through life so i want more than he is getting but that is what it is.

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Video Game Obsessions in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"How can I get my son (high functioning autistic) to focus less on his favorite video game (Call of Duty) and spend more time doing other things? He is truly obsessed with war games. It's all he ever talks about."

One of the hallmarks of High Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's (AS) is the child's tendency to be obsessed with particular topics. He might want to constantly talk about video games, race cars, cartoon characters, movies, or even bugs. It can be very frustrating for parents and teachers to deal with an obviously bright, articulate youngster who is somehow "stuck" in one particular frame of reference.

How can you get a child on the autism spectrum to have less obsessive thoughts and ideas? The honest answer is: You will not be able to entirely eliminate them. Some HFA and AS kids will gradually leave one special interest behind, only to quickly fixate on a new one.

There are two ways to classify these thought-consuming interests. Some are considered "primary obsessions," and others are "secondary interests." Often it's difficult to tell which of the two you're dealing with.

Primary obsessions are intense enough that it is very difficult to get the youngster to think of anything else. The obsession monopolizes conversation and daily activities. It may also interfere with schoolwork. The youngster is consumed by the thoughts.

Secondary interests are a challenge and are somewhat obsessive for the youngster, but ultimately can be managed. Not only that, but secondary interests can be used as motivators to help the boy or girl succeed in school or improve behavior. 

Here are some suggestions:

1. Working with your son's teacher, use the "favorite" topic to promote learning. If he likes war video games, apply them to math problems (e.g., "If there are 5 tanks on the battlefield, and then 7 more line up, how many tanks in all?"). Art projects that teach different techniques could involve the topic. Science experiments could address the topic in some way. Reading can be promoted by providing your son with books on the topic. Use the interest as a starting point, and then build upon it, slowly expanding his areas of interest.

2. Use the topic to motivate good behaviors. Buy a book associated with the topic. Your son can read it when homework is finished, or after sitting quietly. Perhaps allow him to watch a movie on WWII when he's completed a job around the house.

3. Reward your son for making conversation that is correctly related to what's going on at the moment (something other than his special interest). For example, if your son looks at the sky and says, "I see an airplane," and that's a comment which is appropriate and in the moment, then immediately respond with attention and praise (e.g., "You're right! I see it too! Look, it's very far away. You've got good eyes. Do you think you'd like to fly in a plane someday?").

4. Give less of a response to random, meaningless comments about the obsession. If your son mentions the obsessive topic when it has nothing to do with what's currently going on, either don't respond, or act confused. For example, gently reply, "We're not on the topic of video games right now," or "why are you talking about that?" If your son becomes agitated, give a simple "ummm hmmm" with little eye contact. Then ask him a question, which requires him to engage in the present activity or conversation.

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


•    Anonymous said... A nine year old that plays video games and surfs the net for hours does not become a computer programmer or video game maker. They become 25 year olds that play video games and surfs the net all day. The electronics allow them to be non-verbal, non-social, and obsessive, all the things that are comfortable for my 16 year old. He can control his environment and is confident and competent within the world of the game. I found that he is more social and plays well with other kids at his level, especially other aspies. I took the video games away completely and internet time is at the end of the day as a reward for good behavior. Some days this really sucks and he turns from aspie to a-hole. But he has friends, he plays some sports, and can be social. You have to make them uncomfortable so they will be comfortable in the long run.
•    Anonymous said... By the way, words written out of grief of mama heart, not to frustrate anyone who posted on the set limits topic. And I meant "advice".
•    Anonymous said... Explain how video games can be addicting. Compare and contrast to something else that is addicting. Then ask how will they know when playing their game becomes a problem for them. What are the signs they see? How can they monitor themselves? Do they need a timer set for instance...All children on the spectrum unwind with video games but they must be taught to self monitor themselves and balance that with outdoor activities.
•    Anonymous said... I appreciate the "set limits" thoughts BUT, my 9 year old Aspie is ONLY interested in video games, computers and electronic devices. I get frustrated with the onslaught of advise to replace the activity because in the case of autism, sometimes you simply cannot. We had him in play therapy since he was a tiny toddler and he has NEVER EVER played. So yes...I homeschool...then he has chores...but by afternoon when all is done there is literally nothing else that can occupy his time. Outside stuff? No. Legos, puzzles, coloring, cars, board games, books...absolutely no interest. If you take away the electronics (which of course I have done a million times), he simply doesn't replace it and he does nothing (and that hurts a mama's heart). I had to rant a bit here because I am up to my eyeballs in advise that doesn't work and it is very frustrating. I wish my son could learn to love other activities (and it is not that we don't try - he starts archery class tomorrow) but it is what it is sometimes.
•    Anonymous said... I think Erik has hit the nail right on the head. You can't help your children by doing things that make them comfortable, especially when they have Aspergers. Most day-to-day things make a kid with Asperger's uncomfortable and the only way to help them grow is to push them out of their comfort level and do the things that don't come naturally.
•    Anonymous said... My boy is more violent and less caring for others especially his siblings when he has been playing fast action video games. We completely banned him from them over a year ago and his behaviour has much improved. He was a little upset, but he knows they affect him and get him into trouble, so those times when he is logical it's easy enough to get over the reasons why which he's accepted. thereare plenty of other games he can play, even some educational ones, he loves maths games.
•    Anonymous said... my boy loves anything to do with games and the internet! too... think I let him play on them too long myself... But then he says you like Facebook and being online too Mom!... He's right it is very addictive.... kids can't just go play outside like I did as a kid, that's why I let both my kids be online and on games more then I should.... Wish my kids could have the freedom that I had..... Say la vie... Goodluck will def be reading the comments
•    Anonymous said... there are a lot of jobs in video games, computers and electronic devices. is he interested in taking them apart and putting them back together? enroll him in computer class or take him to video game conventions for socialization. buy him books or check out books at the library about the video game. get the call of duty lego sets. embrace the obsession. he may outgrow it and appreciate that you accepted it or he may turn the obsession into a career.
•    Anonymous said... try introducing him to sports games, like NBA 2013 or FIFA which is a fun soccer game- my son switched from Halo and Call of Duty to the sports xbox games and loves them.
•    Anonymous said... We also have limits on time for video games. It's my sons down time after school. He gets 30-45 mins depending on what events we have for the evening (homework, etc). I don't let him earn the time but we have a printed schedule that he helped create that I refer to if I have a problem.
•    Anonymous said... We set a daily time limit on video games. He has to do chores to earn the time.
•    Anonymous said... When you take the video games away and he doesn't replace them, how much time are you giving him to choose something else? Maybe he hasn't gotten bored enough. He's old enough, in spite of his condition, to make the choice to be bored. Though it may be upsetting to you to see him "doing nothing" its not hurting him a bit. Adults go to meditation retreats and do nothing for days on end, and its considered a good thing. My son likes to do two things - legos and TV. Due to discipline issues, I took both away for a week. The first day was HELL, I can't believe we made it a day, gradually we did things he didn't normally do and it turned out to be not so bad.
•    Anonymous said... Wow this is my son to a tee, he to is addicted to "call of duty" on his xbox. i hate it he will play al day and have the night if i let him. he is 14yrs old, and was into legos for awhile but he's starting to outgrow them. i just worry in the future that it will be more important then the things he needs to do like school or work. im finding it very hard to set limits.

*   Anonymous said... I didnt see this thread and just posted about this same issue. Its sooo hard. My daughter is getting 'lost' in the world of Pokemon and i do get her interested in other things but Pokemon are everything to her. They are real to her and she relates to them. Its excluding other things. I know its a result of her trying to organize her world and feel safe but i want to help her feel safe somehow without always needing them. i hired her a babysitter over the summer i knew was aware of pokemon but little did i know the 21 year old girl was still obsessed with them herself and it put my daughter over the edge! i feel like she gets angry that i'm not a big pokefan myself. its almost like her and the pokemon vs the world. sad. i wish there were a better way to help her with her anxiety. i get her outside a lot and spend time with her and have done everything i can to get her socialized/friends. i advocate for her at school (but still believe its her big stressor) and i know that there are changes in our life that are hard. i got her a counselor but all she talked about there was pokemon and she didnt connect with her... thanks for letting me vent

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Defiance in Teenagers with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

"My son (high functioning autistic) is now 13 ...he was diagnosed at the age of 8. All of a sudden he is acting out, cussing all the time, lying, being disrespectful and verbally abusive, and has an overall grumpy attitude. Are these years the hardest, or is this just the beginning? When he finally hits puberty, will things get better?"

Yes, the teen years are the hardest, whether your son has High Functioning Autism (HFA) or not! He has probably “hit” puberty already, but it’s just beginning.

Raging hormones and frustration with social interactions at school can cause a lot of anger and bad behavior during the teen years, especially for adolescents with "special needs!" Many need counseling to negotiate this time in their lives successfully. Peer-rejection, teasing, bullying, and all other other stressors that your son may have to endure can take a psychological toll, which may in turn influence him to act-out his frustration on a "safe" target at home (i.e., YOU).

Your son is exhibiting rebellious behavior, and this type of behavior fulfills his needs. For example, he may have the need to:
  • Avoid responsibility (e.g., attending school, obeying parents)
  • Get something (e.g., his way in a decision, your attention, control over a situation)
  • Manage pain (e.g., physical and/or emotional stress that must be alleviated)
  • Fulfill sensory needs (e.g., relief from heat, cold, or to satisfy thirst)

Having a developmental disorder such as HFA or Asperger’s is no excuse for being verbally abusive. However, it is important for you to understand that some of the associated symptoms do contribute to defiant behavior. Teens on the autism spectrum may display some - or all - of the following characteristics, many of which contribute to problematic behavior:
  • the teen may be able to talk extensively on a topic of interest, but have difficulty with more practical tasks such as recounting the day’s events, telling a story, or understanding jokes and sarcasm
  • sensitivity to criticism 
  • preference for playing alone or with adults
  • narrow field of interests (e.g., a teen with HFA may focus on learning all there is to know about cars, trains or computers)
  • language may be considered to be very advanced or ‘precocious’ when compared to their peers
  • lack of appreciation that communication involves listening as well as talking (e.g., they may not allow their communication partner an opportunity to engage in the conversation)
  • inability to understand the rules of social behavior or the feelings of others
  • difficulty ‘reading’ body language (e.g., a teen with HFA may not understand that someone is showing that they are unhappy by frowning)
  • having rules and rituals that they insist all family members follow
  • difficulty in forming friendships
  • behavior varies from mildly unusual, eccentric or ‘odd’ to quite aggressive and difficult
  • apparently good language skills, but difficulty with communication
  • anger and aggression when things do not happen as they want

Your son is unlikely to identify with your feelings or comprehend others’ objections to his behavior. The only explanation you should use with him is to specifically state that the objectionable behavior is not permitted. Your son needs to follow rules, and following rules can help to focus and modify his rebellious behavior.

Behavior modification is a therapeutic approach that can change your son’s behavior. You need to determine the need that his rebellion/aggression fulfills and teach him an acceptable replacement behavior. For example, your son can be taught to ask for, point to, or show an emotion card to indicate the need that he is trying to fulfill.

Sometimes, self-stimulating behaviors such as rocking or pacing are taught as replacement behaviors, but it will take time for your son to integrate these behaviors into his daily activities. If your son is severely out of control, he needs to be physically removed from the situation. Granted, this may be easier said than done, and you may need someone to help you; yet, behavior modification can be helpful, and it must be started as soon as possible.

For adolescents on the autism spectrum, the importance of maintaining a daily routine can't be stressed enough. A daily routine produces behavioral stability and psychological comfort. Also, it lessens their need to make demands. When you establish a daily routine, you eliminate some of the situations in which your son’s behavior becomes demanding. For example, by building in regular times to give him attention, he may have less need to show aggression to try to get that attention.

Ideally over time, your son will learn to recognize and communicate the causes of his aggression and get his needs met by using communication. Unfortunately, teens who get their needs met due to aggression or violence are very likely to continue and escalate this defiant behavior.

A behavior therapy program may help; however, an individualized program has to be designed specifically for your son because adolescents on the spectrum vary greatly in their challenges and/or family circumstances. Treatment approaches that work well with other diagnoses may not work with HFA. Consult a psychiatrist who can oversee a treatment plan as well as any medication regimen that your son may be need.

In addition to the suggestions listed above, here are a few simple parenting tips that may help:
  • Take care of yourself. Counseling can provide an outlet for your own mental health concerns that could interfere with the successful management of your son's defiant behavior. If you're depressed or anxious, that could lead to disengagement from your son, which can trigger or worsen oppositional behaviors. Let go of things that you or your son did in the past. Start each day with a fresh outlook and a clean slate. Learn ways to calm yourself, and take time for yourself. Develop outside interests, get some exercise, and spend some time away from your son to restore your energy.
  • Set up a routine. Develop a consistent daily schedule for your son. Asking him to help develop that routine can be helpful.
  • Set limits and enforce consistent reasonable consequences.
  • At first, your son is not likely to be cooperative or appreciate your changed response to his behavior. Setbacks and relapses are normal, so be prepared with a plan to manage those times. 
  • Remind yourself that your son’s defiance is most likely a temporary inconvenience rather than a permanent catastrophe.
  • Recognize and praise your son's positive behaviors. Be as specific as possible (e.g., "I really liked the way you cleaned up your room tonight").
  • Pick your battles carefully. Avoid power struggles. Almost everything can turn into a power struggle — if you let it.
  • Model the behavior you want your son to exhibit.
  • Develop a united front. Work with your partner/spouse to ensure consistent and appropriate discipline procedures.
  • Remember that behavior often temporarily worsens when new limits and expectations are set. However, with persistence and consistency, the initial hard work will pay off with improved behavior.
  • Build in time together. Develop a consistent weekly schedule that involves you and your son being together.
  • Assign your son a household chore that's essential and that won't get done unless he does it. Initially, it's important to set him up for success with tasks that are relatively easy to achieve, then gradually blend in more important and challenging expectations.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens


•    Anonymous said... Its so good to not feel alone in this. My son emailed the principle and councilor this week with a page of cuss words, then says "he doesn't remember it". He never talks at home like that. Trying to find alternatives for anger, like using a punching bag. But that day I had no idea he was even upset that is what scares me. Praying lots and lots.
•    Anonymous said... My Son doesnt like going outside at all eather!... Not very nice if he's got a little Sis that does want to go and do nice things tho... But tried to take him out today, but it was Far to Busy! Really made him have a Noise overload in his head till now... We'v been back for 10 hours... Must be horrible for him...
•    Anonymous said... my son like that as well. Does not want to go outside because the kids are making poor choices
•    Anonymous said... Not only does the stew of Aspie issues flare up at new situations and new social expectations. But puberty hits and the hormones kick in like they do in non-Aspie kids. So you get a double dose of Teenage attitude.
•    Anonymous said... Puberty makes them begin to resemble something of aliens. lol Seriously though they do become quite difficult. The acting out, cussing, lying, etc., all are magnified x 3 during this time. Counseling and keeping the schedule has helped us. In the end however not much helps lately. Praying a lot. Good luck.
•    Anonymous said... There may be commorbid conditions. Mine has ODD and ADHD. But, yes, teens will always test limits. Be thankful he's a boy; ) Deep breaths. And approach delicately. Never demand, request. Always give him time to respond, and make a consequence that fits the "crime" and stick to it. Consistency is key to any austism spectrum disorder. Hugs.
•    Anonymous said... We have been through hell with my son since he turned 13 and now he is 16. I try to see the silver lining with him having to deal with ASD - one is that he doesn't want to leave the house because of his heightened social anxiety - so I know where he is at all times! At least he is not out hooning around and making bad choices with other idiot teenage boys. I'm hoping that by the time he is happy to engage again with society he will be dealing with other guys whose frontal lobe has developed (him too).
•    Anonymous said... You have to adjust your responses to the outbursts and also reinforce what good choices look like for your child as well as what bad choices look like. The teen years are rough for everyone, but Aspergers and kids in the Autism Spectrum have it even harder. Pick your battles. You do not always have to win an argument. Actively listening and explaining what is going on is the best win for both you and your family.

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Explaining "the Birds and the Bees" to Teens on the Autism Spectrum

"My son (high functioning) is 14. He knows he is different from other 'typical' teenagers, and he wants to know why. What do I say to him? Also, how would you start explaining sex and changes his body is going through?"

This is a tough question to answer, but at 14, your son is certainly ready for some explanation of his disorder. Here is a statement for you to follow when you answer your son’s question:

Lots of people have problems and challenges in life to deal with. Some of them can be seen and some can't. You have a condition known as high-functioning autism. We don’t know why you have it. Sometimes it is inherited from other people in a family. High-functioning autism has something to do with the genes that are in our bodies, and something may have happened to some of them before you were born. Children have the condition from the time they are born, but some children are going to school before the doctors diagnose it. More and more people are being diagnosed with this condition, but that’s probably because doctors and psychiatrists know more about it and what to look for than they did in the past. You are not the only teen with it - a lot of teenagers have it, so you are not alone.

Some kids and teenagers can be very critical of a peer who doesn’t act, talk or think like them. And a child with Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can easily take this criticism as a sign that he or she isn't good enough or cool enough to be in the group. It is important for you to stress to your son that “different” does not mean inferior.

Re: explaining sex...

Sex education basics may be covered in health class, but your son might not hear or understand everything he needs to know. That's where the parent comes in. Sex education is a parent's responsibility. But if you wait for the perfect moment, you might miss the best opportunities. Instead, think of sex education as an ongoing discussion.

Here are some tips to help you get started and to keep the conversation going:

1. Clearly state your feelings about specific issues (e.g., oral sex, intercourse, etc.). Present the risks objectively, including emotional pain, sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy. Explain, for example, that oral sex isn't a risk-free alternative to intercourse.

2. If you're uncomfortable, say so — but explain that it's important to keep talking. If you don't know how to answer your son's questions, offer to find the answers or look them up together.

3. Don't lecture your son or rely on scare tactics to discourage sexual activity. Instead, listen carefully. Understand your son's pressures, challenges and concerns.

4. Let your son know that it's perfectly acceptable to talk with you about sex whenever he has questions or concerns. Reward questions by saying, "I'm glad you came to me."

5. Your son needs accurate information about sex — but it's just as important to talk about feelings, attitudes and values. Examine questions of ethics and responsibility in the context of your personal or religious beliefs.

6. When a television program or music video raises issues about responsible sexual behavior, use it as a springboard for conversation. Remember that everyday moments (e.g., riding in the car together, walking in the park, putting away groceries, etc.) may offer the best opportunities for discussing the topic.

With your support, your son can emerge into a sexually responsible grown-up. Be honest and speak from the heart. Don't be discouraged if your son doesn't seem interested in what you have to say. Say it anyway. Studies show that teenagers whose moms and dads talk openly about sex are more responsible in their sexual behavior.

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism


•    Anonymous said... He already knows he's HFA. We talk about the birds and bees stuff. He's more uncomfortable with it than I am. But I tell him. .you gotta know! He runs in his room, then I tell him some more another day. Its an ongoing process.
•    Anonymous said... He should know he has HFA. We told my nephew as soon as he could understand.
•    Anonymous said... I guess for me since I have a daughter was to be honest, brutally honest about all of it, because of the "woman" stuff she had to know a little sooner but being honest and open has its perks
•    Anonymous said... I think this woman's son knows he's HFA. I hope he does!
•    Anonymous said... I told my son at an early age, all in correct terms, he then had more education in school starting in the 4th grade. He still comes to me with any questions. I make the conversation matter of fact. My son was 11 and asked me if he had Asperger's while watching a news special during Autism awareness month. He has recently asked me when I knew he was different. (He is 15 this month) I asked if he remembered the first time he wanted a toy~ we literally threw him in the minivan and immediately drove to Toys RUS! It's really something seeing him mature. Good Luck1
•    Anonymous said... If he's super factual, maybe some medical/science-type books on reproductive development. My 6-year-old has been looking at my Netter's Anatomy books since he was like 3. He's obsessed with them.
•    Anonymous said... 'making sense of sex by' sarah attwood , written specifically for teens with AS. Has everything about growing up, bullying, crushes, hygiene etc....
•    Anonymous said... My son wasn't interested in books that were recommended to help him understand AS. I finally got the idea to give him the WebMD print out on it. Worked like a charm. He needed the facts, and only the facts. He knew he was different and needed to know why. And most importantly that he is not alone.
•    Anonymous said... Tony Attwood has done a lot of research and has information on this as well.

*   Anonymous said... My 5 YO HFA son is doing a sexual behavior which keep me worried about him. He always looks to my chest and start behaving very strange, open legs pushing his lower body forward. Could`nt get the  reason behind this behavior which scares me alot ...he is only 5!

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Teaching the High-Functioning Autistic Mind

"I’d love to see some information about how to teach in a way that a high functioning autistic mind will absorb, particularly rote facts such as math measurements and such. I’d also love more information about teaching basic social skills, manners, and social graces."

Children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's have excellent rote memories and often show intense interest in one or two intellectual areas, such as math, transportation, history, or the characters in a television series.

Sometimes the special interest is so absorbing that they ignore all other subjects. They learn every fact about the chosen topic and talk about it endlessly, whether or not their listeners are interested. The child may have little understanding of the meaning of these facts.

But, if you can tie rote information into the area of interest, you may find it easy to teach him or her - and the learning will be remembered. For example, if the child is interested in transportation, you might be able to involve him in measuring the length of railroad tracks or distances airplanes travel on various routes.

Often using a computer and rote learning computer games helps kids on the autism spectrum to retain factual information. Surprisingly, they often respond well to flash cards and other rote teaching methods also. Some are very good with visual memory and remember things they read or see on charts very well.

HFA students typically exhibit strengths in their visual processing skills, with significant weaknesses in their ability to process information via auditory means. Thus, use of visual methods of teaching, as well as visual support strategies, should always be incorporated to help the "special needs" student better understand his/her environment.

Visual learners learn well using formats such as:
  • watching someone else perform a task or activity
  • watching a video or DVD
  • viewing themselves performing a task or activity via filming and subsequent play back on a video camera
  • using visual recall as a learning strategy
  • looking at whole words printed on a page
  • looking at photos or images on a screen
  • following visual cues and landmarks during a journey or task
  • "imagining" what something looks like so they can remember it

Tailor your teaching strategies for visual learners to include some of the above approaches. This will ensure visual learners are given information in a way which suits their preferences, but also helps them build other learning style skills.
Etiquette and social graces are like a foreign language to kids with HFA. Social skills, such as saying “Hi” or “Good morning” or looking others in the eyes when conversing, are often taught by communication specialists or in social training groups. Imitating and practicing new skills in situations which are as realistic as possible is very effective.

Skills-training includes:
  • learning nonverbal behaviors, such as using appropriate hand gestures, smiling, and verbal behaviors
  • interpretation of nonverbal behaviors of others
  • processing of visual information with auditory information
  • social awareness

Another idea for teaching social skills is to set a weekly or monthly goal. The goal is to learn a specific skill and be able to apply it in a variety of situations.

Here is the procedure:
  1. Decide which skill you would like the child to learn, for example responding to the question “What’s new?”
  2. Teach the child the question/skill and several possible responses. Explain that there are many ways to respond. Model lots of options.
  3. Involve family, friends, and school staff in setting up situations that require practicing the skill.
  4. Develop a plan for how the questioner should prompt or respond, if the child doesn’t respond correctly.
  5. Keep track of the child’s responses to see if he/she uses the skill consistently.
  6. Use a lot of praise for appropriate behavior, especially when it is used without prompting.

The HFA child may form friendships with others who share his interests. Computer or math clubs, science fairs, Star Trek clubs, etc. are possible avenues to consider. Many of these children will develop coping and social interaction skills, and the ability to “fit in” as a result. For those that don’t, counseling and social “training” may help.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Crisis Intervention Tips for Parents of Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

"I know they talk about how 'prevention' is key when trying to deal with meltdowns in children with autism (high functioning), but what about when the child is already full-swing into a meltdown? Is it just too late at that point to make any difference?"

It's never too late to intervene, but the task of actually putting the brakes on a meltdown will be much more difficult once it is underway. Having said that, here are some suggestions...

Crisis Intervention Tips for Parents of Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:

1. A step isn't completed until the child has given you his verbal consent to the conditions of the step. For example, [parent gently restraining the child] "I will let you go when you stop slamming your bedroom door. O.K.?" Be prepared to repeat steps if additional meltdowns occur before moving on to the next step.

2. Allow the child, whenever possible, to make choices as you move through the crisis intervention steps. For example, "Do you want to take your time-out in your bedroom or in the living room?" However, do not offer choices if they would compromise what you are trying to achieve.

3. Have a calm voice and demeanor, but convey firmness.

4. Help the child to see you as a problem solver. Let him know that you are aware of how difficult the situation is for him. Tell him your job is to help with this difficulty. Explain clearly that your help does not mean avoiding the situation or doing it for the child, but rather helping him to do it. For example, "You have a problem, and I am here to help you solve it."

5. Ignore or interrupt irrelevant comments. Respond with: "That doesn't make sense, I can't pay attention to that," or "That is off the topic, so I will have to ignore what you are saying," or "I can't help you with your problem while you are talking nonsense."

6. Keep your goal in mind as you go through the crisis intervention steps. For example, "My goal is to help my child use his words to express his frustration rather than using physical violence." Also, create new rules for responding in the future.

7. Make it clear to the child that you are in control. Don't plead or make second requests.

8. Practice/rehearse what has been decided as the appropriate solution to the problem. This may involve completing an activity, accepting a change, or restoring the environment after a meltdown.

9. Say what you mean and mean what you say at all times during the crisis.

10. Stay on topic during the crisis. The child may bring up extraneous or unrelated issues to try to justify his behavior.

Multiple Diagnoses in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"We have been to many professionals over the years to get help for our son. It seems as though each therapist or psychiatrist we see comes up with a different diagnosis. First, our son had ADHD ...then he had OCD ...then it was ODD it's autism (on the high functioning end of the spectrum). Who are we to trust? Can he really have all of these disorders? Help!"

When parents seek help for their youngster with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's (AS), they encounter varied opinions from family, friends, teachers, and even professionals. For example: "he'll outgrow it" ... "leave him alone" ... "he's just being lazy" ... "he's just being defiant" ... "it's no big deal" ... "he just wants attention" ... "he's probably got ADHD" ...and so on.

Many professionals try to work with the "special needs" youngster as if his disorder is like other developmental disorders, but it is quite different. In most cases, there is a great misunderstanding by many people of the needs of kids on the autism spectrum. 

For the inexperienced, recognizing the defining characteristics of the disorder can be difficult, and misdiagnoses are quite common. This is further complicated by the fact that an HFA or AS youngster has many of the same characteristics found in other disorders. These various characteristics are often misinterpreted, overlooked, under-emphasized, or over-emphasized. As a result, the youngster may receive many different diagnoses over time or from different professionals. 

For example, if a young person with HFA demonstrates a high degree of attention deficits and/or hyperactivity, ADHD might be the only diagnosis he receives. However, this is a common characteristic of kids on the spectrum. The same holds true if obsessive or compulsive behaviors are displayed – the youngster gets labeled with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) instead of HFA. 

The following traits are also commonly seen in those on the spectrum in varying degrees. However, just because these traits are there, it doesn't mean that the youngster should be diagnosed differently; these traits should be noted as significant features of HFA:
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty with pragmatic language skills
  • Hyperlexia (advanced word recognition skills)
  • Motor deficits
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Sensory difficulties
  • Social skills deficits

Professionals who do not have much experience with HFA or AS have a hard time identifying the defining characteristics. For example, social skill deficits may be noted by a professional, but then they are often downplayed because the child or adolescent appears to be having appropriate conversations with others or seems to be interested in other people. But with an HFA child, the conversations are not generally reciprocal, so the boy or girl must be carefully observed to see whether or not there is true back-and-forth interaction. 

Also, many kids on the autism spectrum have an interest in others, but you need to clarify if the objects of their interest are age appropriate. Do they interact with peers in an age-appropriate fashion? Can they maintain friendships over a period of time or do they end as the novelty wears off? These are the types of observations and questions that must be asked in order to ensure a proper diagnosis. 

Another example of an overlooked area is the narrow routines or rituals that are supposed to be present. This does not always manifest as obsessive-compulsive behavior in the typical sense (e.g., repeated hand washing or neatness), but rather in the insistence on the need for rules about many issues and situations. These kids may not throw tantrums over their need for rules, but may require them just as much as the child who has a meltdown when a rule is violated. In essence, there is no single profile of the typical HFA or AS child.

Because of these subtleties and nuances, the single most important consideration in diagnosis is that the clinician making the initial diagnosis be familiar with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD). They should have previously diagnosed numerous clients who fall on the spectrum.

To make a proper, initial diagnosis requires the following:
  1. It is important to include a speech and language evaluation, as those with HFA or AS will display impairments in the pragmatics and semantics of language, despite having adequate receptive and expressive language. This will also serve to make parents aware of any unusual language patterns the youngster displays that will interfere in later social situations. Again, these oddities may not be recognized if the evaluator is not familiar with ASD.
  1. The youngster should see a neurologist or developmental pediatrician (one familiar with ASD) for a thorough neurological exam to rule out other medical conditions and to assess the need for medication. The physician may suggest additional medical testing (e.g., blood, urine, fragile X, hearing).
  1. Both parents and the "special needs" youngster should have sessions with a psychologist where the child is carefully observed to see how he responds in various situations. This is done through play or talk sessions in the psychologist's office and by discussions with both parents. The psychologist may ask parents to complete checklists or questionnaires to gain a better understanding of the youngster's behaviors at home and/or school. If the boy or girl is in school, the psychologist may call the student's teacher or ask her to complete additional checklists. The checklists or questionnaires used should be ones that are appropriate for young people on the autism spectrum. It is important to determine the IQ level of the youngster as well. An average or above-average IQ is necessary for a diagnosis of HFA or AS.
  1. An evaluation by an occupational therapist familiar with sensory integration difficulties may provide additional and valuable information.

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

==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's Children

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's Teens

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's: How to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Everything You'll Ever Need to Know About Parenting Asperger's Children

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

==> AudioBook: Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism


My name is Kim and I am writing in regards to my daughter, Naomi, who is eleven and will be in the 5th grade. I apologize ahead of time if this becomes a bit lengthy. When Naomi was in first grade, her teacher mentioned that she thought Naomi could possibly have Asperger’s. I did some research and because Naomi shows emotions and can read emotions, I dismissed this notion Although she does misplace her emotions, laughing inappropriately a lot. However, I did at this time recognize some repetitive behaviors but thought well that’s not enough to search any further. Naomi has been in speech for language impairment (receptive and expressive) since first grade and this year was reevaluated to see if she still qualified for services. After 3 years, her scores dropped significantly. In addition, her 4th grade teacher toward the end of the school year mentioned to me she thought Naomi may have Asperger’s. The combination of these two events sent me on a tail spin. I started searching and studying and was totally astonished by what I was finding. Of course, I had a couple more years of observing more behaviors since I first looked up Asperger’s. 

I always knew Naomi was different and we have struggled for years with her but really kept most of these struggles to ourselves and close family members. I kept thinking her maturity level would get better but found this year it had seemed to plummet and my concerns for her only having one more year before middle school really hurt my heart for her. I wanted to get help this summer hoping that we could get something in place this school year to prepare her for middle school. Our family doctor referred us to a pediatric psychiatric. He spent an hour with my husband and I the first visit and the second visit was suppose to be the same for Naomi. He only spent 30 minutes with her. I think this is because she does not elaborate on anything with others, sort of like school she shuts down. I had prepared and reflected back for weeks before going and made extensive notes on behaviors we have observed. When my husband and I returned for the 3rd visit, we were told she had generalized anxiety disorder. He noticed our faces drop and said, “I can sense you are not satisfied with what I’ve said.” I didn’t want to seem unappreciated of his professional opinion but in my hearts of all hearts I know my girl and I just feel like there is more to it.

Reflections of Naomi

Very Literal-

Naomi’s uncle tells her she has grown a foot. She looks very puzzled and sadly a little scared and looks down at her feet.
I tell her that I ran into someone at the store. She replies “Oh, did you hurt them.”
I was explaining to Naomi that we would be having these appointments because her teacher felt she was having some trouble….before I could explain with her language skills, she burst out crying saying she never gets in trouble and only pulled a card one time in first grade when she didn’t know that she wasn’t suppose to look at other people’s papers.
Eye appointment-Couldn’t read the smallest line after being ask several times because she didn’t see a line on the chart.


Naomi is compelled to dress in a certain order. She gets upset if her shoes are in the bathroom and a sibling is showering. I have worked with her and she is beginning to realize that she can eat or brush her hair while waiting on her shoes but it is like she still has this need to do it.
She knows this certain route we take to the orthodontist and if it changes she letting me know we are going the wrong way.
When she was younger she wanted us to repeat back everything she said before going to bed. After we would leave the room she would keep saying goodnight and wait and if we didn’t repeat it back she would yell it out louder. Then she would say, “see you in the morning” and wait for us to repeat. This was over and over for a long time. We would tell her she had to stop and go to bed. She would get very upset. This was every night probably for a couple of years.
This last school year for the first six weeks, Naomi would ask me every day before getting out of the van “am I a car rider today?” I would reply, “Yes, you are a car rider every day and have always been a car rider.” She has been a car rider for 4 years.
About five years ago, several family or friends passed away. Every night for at least a year she would ask me “Are you going to be here in the morning?”
Still tells me and she is 11 that she’s got to use the bathroom (it’s almost like because I told her when she was potty training: “make sure you tell me if you need to use the bathroom” that it has become ingrained into her and even if I tell her she doesn’t need to tell me anymore she can’t stop. NOT every time but still a lot of the time-and I mean at home.

Dates and Times-

If Naomi knows when any appointment is she will remind you constantly. I had to schedule her appointments so she didn’t hear because she would tell me every day or every other day for a month until that appointment time.
One teacher told me that she always would remind her about certain dates or times.
If we have company coming and she knows what time that are suppose to come and they are late; Naomi will ask every few minutes where they are at until they arrive and tension mounts the later it gets.
If the time clock at a basketball is not started or the period doesn’t get changed she gets very anxious. Once at team camp, they forgot to start the clock for 3 minutes. That was the longest 3 minutes EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!! She doesn’t play sports we were watching her sister.


No middle ground with Naomi
She is either extremely happy or very upset
Still cries over a bunny that died 2 years ago (sometimes not sure if she is just trying to get attention)
Laughs inappropriately a lot of the time
Very small things that seem like nothing can set her off. She could go on and on and on for an hour sometimes (having a tantrum or meltdown?).
Doesn’t want anyone to be upset with her
She worries about everybody. If someone is hurt she has lots of compassion. (if someone her daddy knows at work father dies, she will cry and she doesn’t even know them)
She cries over people on biggest loser being so over weight (she feels sorry for them)
She comes home from school upset. She will say “Mommy, I never get a card pulled.” I will tell her that’s good Naomi. She repeats and I ask her if someone got a card pulled and she starts crying. Same thing if someone gets pebbles taken out of the jar. She gets upset and tells me.
Along this same line, she tells on her brother and sister all the time for everything under the sun. If they didn’t say thank you or if they didn’t carry their dishes over to the sink or if they don’t answer when I call them she yells and tells them they need to answer me.
There was a field trip I could not attend this school year. She said the night before she couldn’t sleep because her heart was beating so hard.
Crying and throwing a fit for 30 minutes and out of the blue she starts laughing
Makes random noises a lot.
Especially when she was younger would go outside and be singing songs with words that didn’t make sense or going from one subject to another
If she is upset and you ignore she gets louder and louder (screams answer me or listen) If you answer her and it’s not what she wants to hear or she doesn’t understand the answer she keeps on and on and on

Seems to be obsessive-

List making over and over of the same thing at times even erased and rewritten over the top. List of foods. List of people at her school. People in the world. Same list over and over on different paper. I started saving and have a file folder full (This has slowed down)
When she was younger she would work the same puzzle over and over and over
Colored same picture probably 100 times would copy it over and over

Maturity level-

She talks really small (like she is 4 ) It has gotten to the point (especially at home that I am wondering if it has almost become the normal and I can’t remember her regular voice.
Fixated on princesses
Poor hygiene (not wanting to wipe) putting dirty under clothes in drawers
Wetting clothes at times
Been wearing a bra for over a year and can’t put it on correctly


Very inward at school
If a teacher request Naomi to do errands like going to get something from the office or take something to the classroom across the hall –she will not
Doesn’t want to get in trouble at all and makes sure she tells me when she gets home if anybody else gets in trouble
Doesn’t play kickball on playground (ask her why)-she says she’s afraid she won’t understand what to do and will be embarrassed. With this being said, I really feel like she would want to deep down. Her brother and sister both play basketball and at times I think she would have liked to but she doesn’t want the coaches to yell at her and is afraid to be out in front of everybody.
All teachers have loved her and students seem to be protective especially knowing she as peanut allergy
Gets behavior awards at school
Hangs on to me if others approach and we are out in public
Whispers if she wants to tell me something and others are around (at a ballgame or even at her Nana’s)
Tells on everybody all the time no matter how big or how small
Gets along with children who are younger than her because they like the same things


When Naomi was younger and I would be talking to her and the expression on her face would be as if she just didn’t get what I was saying as if it was going over her head. She will use words inappropriately (let me tell you a question) and say words that are not words
Ask her what 77 minus 1 is equal to and she is most likely will not be able to verbally tell you.
Recently, I owed her $10. Gave her a twenty and was showing her I was taking $10. She did not understand this at all. No matter how I showed her. She thought I was giving her too much. Finally, she just agreed she understood but I knew she didn’t.
She will agree a lot of the times if she doesn’t understand. This concerns me because she could easily be taken advantage of.
For two years I have had to walk to the sink at the orthodontist with Naomi (even if I am sitting 2 feet away) and finally the last few times she has gone by herself.


 More comments:

•    Anonymous said... We often focus so much energy on finding a diagnosis that we forget at the end of the day the label does not define what our child needs or who they are. Figuring out how your going to help your child reach their maximum potential is what matters!
•    Anonymous said... They are all very similar and intertwined. I just think teaching them how to cope with the umbrella of symptoms is the most important part. They are just labels that's all. Each kid is unique and different and we as parents just need to help them along the way.
•    Anonymous said... My son has them all plus sensory disorder and he has Aspergers
•    Anonymous said... I have been through same problem. Some things you mentioned are misdiagnosed because they are similar to parts of aspergers. Main thing I keep in mind is no one knows my son better than me and just because someone has letters behind their name doesnt mean they know everything.

Post your comment below…

How to Change Stubborn Thinking in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"Once my son (high functioning) has an idea in his head, he won't budge. For example, somewhere he heard that looking into the sun will blind you (which is true). But he has taken this to a whole new level by refusing to go anywhere without his sunglasses. If he doesn't have them before we walk out the door - it's meltdown city! I've told him countless times that as long as he isn't staring directly into the sun, he's not going to lose his eyesight. This discussion goes in one ear and out the other, and this is just one of dozens of examples. My question is: how do you change the mindset of a stubborn child who refuses to listen to reason?"

In all discussions with a High-Functioning Autistic or Asperger's child about a challenging situation, there will be two aspects:
  1. the selling of an idea (your part)
  2. the buying of an idea (your son's part)
Both parts must always be considered together. The best "sales pitch" is incomplete if the new idea is not accepted or "bought." This process requires constant monitoring of progress by the "salesperson," who should look and ask for feedback from the "buyer" regarding this step-by-step approach. A cardinal rule is to never move ahead to the next step without checking to see if the "buyer" is moving with you. If he is not, repeat the last step in another way.

For your son with HFA, this means that you need to convince him that there is a better way to look at - and react to - a situation than what he has shown you. He needs to hear what you are saying, maybe even see it, and then accept it if a better behavior is to occur. 

But you must realize that new thinking doesn't occur easily, because your son is not a blank slate. He already has a competitive version of your idea. Different stories and interpretations are present in his mind that will compete with your new story or mindset. If the new mindset or thinking is to succeed, it must replace, suppress, complement, or outweigh every other story or competing version or idea. Only the most powerful argument will win-out when it comes to changing the opinion of a child on the autism spectrum.

Your prior history with your son is a very powerful force in this equation. All previous unproductive discussions and interventions that you have had with him will make your job that much harder, and must be replaced as well. To deal with these factors, you must be persistent, stick to the point, not allow irrelevant items to be brought into the conversation, and provide GOOD reasons for the new thinking (in this case, being outdoors without eye protection is not likely to lead to blindness).

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

==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's Children

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's Teens

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's: How to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Everything You'll Ever Need to Know About Parenting Asperger's Children

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

==> AudioBook: Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism


•    Anonymous said... Books books books! I could tell my girl something a dozen times and its like talking to a wall. Once its written down, for some reason it sinks in almost instantly.
Why not go to an *eye* website and find something that you can print off .. maybe you can find something that says *prolonged exposure to sub can damage eyes* ... maybe just seeing it like that will make it *click* that it will just damage the eye instead of blinding him.
•    Anonymous said... Doctors and nurses can help too. My son refused to wear socks despite my every attempt to get them on his feet. Finally last year I had the school nurse call him in with her white jacket on and explain to him how socks were necessary, especially with stinky snow boots. She gave him "scientific" hygiene tips and a pair of socks that I provided and wrote him a "prescription" to wear them every day. I haven't had a problem since getting him to wear them.
•    Anonymous said... First of all, I'd like to let you know that i totally understand your own frustration with the unflexibility of your child, it can be so frustrating to us as parents who just want our child to listen to reason. At times my son would get an idea in his head and to me it sounded so unreasonable but in his mind seemed so logical. It does get easier when they get older because you can just let them do the research themselves, when they are younger they tend to not understand idioms. I focused on teaching the understanding that all things people say are not always exact, and if they have a doubt do research... Im pulling for you, it gets easier, i promise!
•    Anonymous said... Having this same problem, I try to let the small battles go. But once my son has an idea formed, there is no letting it go. I have noticed that if someone else tells him, besides his Father or I, he does have more of a tendency to believe them.
•    Anonymous said... HUGS. I have had some success with having my son research the topic on the internet, and then write a couple of ideas down, such as things he can/should do, and things he can't/shouldn't, based upon the research. He won't believe what I tell him, but he will listen to "scientists." And yes, pick your battles! Some things are important in the long term (for self-esteem, education, etc) and some are not.
•    Anonymous said... I allow mine to have his individuality.. When we go through these stages I always make sure I have backup.. ie an extra couple pair of sunglasses in the vehicles in my purse etc etc..
•    Anonymous said... I can empathize & I agree that showing him the info in written form can help since visual cues often work where talking doesn't . Having teachers, etc. reinforce it would be good as long as it's not all at once, just when it naturally comes up. Otherwise, he might feel overwhelmed/ganged up on. Not sweating "small" stuff is good too
•    Anonymous said... I don't try to change my child's mindset, instead for the time being, I let him continue to have what he needs, as long as it doesn't harm him, and continue to let him know that it works a particular way. I also encourage other adults around him (Scouting Leaders, Teachers, Parents of friends, etc) to tell him the same thing, thus showing him it's not just Mom or a Parent in general who is telling him this. You will run into this more and more as he learns more at school and his mind runs wild with the knowledge. My son is now 13 and is doing much better with understanding that everything he hears isn't 100% true, that there are other ways to look at things, although sometimes it doesn't come quickly. Hang in there!
•    Anonymous said... I think some of this gets easier with age and your continual teaching and instructing. Mine used to cry and meltdown even if the diversion in the schedule was getting ice cream something she loves. Now she is 9 and says it is still very hard to deviate the plan but she does it with no meltdown because she is beginning to understand this world is always changing. I always try to give her a list of where and what we are doing so this helps and if I think a change will happen I express it up front. She still has these at times but way less than before.
•    Anonymous said... My aspie son does the same but I let it take its course providing it does not cause him harm. Anyway wearing sunglasses is not a bad thing as it protects the eyes from harmful uv rays and cuts down on wrinkles. I try so hard to get my son to wear them.
•    Anonymous said... my heart goes out to you and to your son. No one can understand that for all of us there are just no easy answers. Keep strong and keep connected.
•    Anonymous said... My son does that occasionally and then we start reasoning with him. In this case, I would say "so many people go outside and their eyesight is fine" if they lost their vision would they still be going outside?" He will think about it for a minute and then say "okay, that sounds ridiculous". There still are some things that he is very stubborn on though.
•    Anonymous said... My son is 14 and, for me, it's getting more difficult with age. I'd love to just "enjoy him" and I find I'm enjoying him less. Much of it has to do with this exact poster's question. At 14 people (and I so I realise I need to work on myself) expect him to b able to reason and understand and agree to cultural norms. It truly is like talking to a brick wall and its crazy making for me (and him). These things don't seem to ease his anxiety if I 'allow' them to run their course. His perseverating actually increases his anxiety and ensures he's even more isolated and depressed once he becomes aware he doesn't fit in or is liked (something else that's increased with age - his awareness of his 'situation'). He understands that he doesn't understand cultural norms and it actually devastates and/or angers him, and definitely alienates him more. I worry for his future and for our relationship. We r desperate for advice in this area!
•    Anonymous said... My son is 16 and, when he was younger, his ideas needed to be everybody's ideas and he didn't understand why they weren't. He took (and still does depending on what it is) everything so literal that when somebody said it was raining cats and dogs outside, he cried and cried and looked out the window thinking he was going to see cats and dogs falling from the sky. What Lori and Angela say is 100% correct and sometimes the only thing that you can do. Now that my son is in his mid-teens, he still has moments where his ideas need to be everybody else's ideas, but I just gently tell him that he needs to do or think what he thinks and not force those things on others because everybody is going to have their own mindset, just as he does. Whether he thinks what others think is right or wrong, he still needs to respect other's way of thinking just as others respect his. Once he is able to process through what I say, it seems to make sense to him but it is just giving him the time to identify those certain mindsets for himself and come to his own conclusions, whether they are right or wrong.
•    Anonymous said... My son wore a bike helmet for months bc he was convinced the sky was going to fall. We just went with it. I've found that most of these fixations run their course if you reinforce a positive outcome and Not focus too much on it unless its a danger or harmful in any way. Wishing you luck and patience in these situations. I hope it gets easier for you both.
•    Anonymous said... One lesson I learned was to try and invade their thoughts with them and then redirect to something else.Example I heard was a little girl would not go sit at restaurant with family,as she was ocd about tracing letters on a sign in the building.The mom had to go to the sign and trace the letters with her hand on her daughters,and then gently break away from it with her. If you can figure out how,getting inside his thoughts and going thru it to another alternative may help. Good luck.
•    Anonymous said... Pick your battles carefully. Put your foot down about the important things, not wearing sunglasses. I do, however, also like the idea of looking up reference info to show him in hopes it could lower his anxiety.
•    Anonymous said... The child's reasoning is sound reasoning for him at that time. My son would have an absolute fit when his early elementary class (regular class) would deviate from the "literal" instructions the teacher would give- of course, as you all know, the instructions were not to be taken literally but rather idiomatic. He will learn for himself when he sees the thousands of people walking around without sunglasses that he doesn't need to wear them all the time. We take so much solace that now our son, now 12 years old, asks for clarity when he senses that there may be something he is not quite understanding the way everyone else is.
•    Anonymous said... You don't. You just have to deal with it. My son is now 23 and those ideas he got into his head somehow long ago are still with him.
•    Anonymous said… My son is an adult now. Asbergers was not a thing when he was younger. I would have given anything for someone to tell me the following when he was a child: your son lives in an exceptional world. I can almost promise you that he is never going to adapt to your world because he simply cannot. You, however, can adapt. It will be a lifelong journey, but to have to REALLY listen without your own agenda or itinerary. Listening without expectation or judging based on our truth. Listen without arguing. Your son will begin to feel that talking to you is SAFE and you will be introduced into a world thst will surprise and challenge you. It is amazing. As you begin to understand how and why he thinks like he will learn how to teach him truths that matter to him because you are speaking his language. I promise you will never convince him that you sre right through any amount of reasoning.
•    Anonymous said… science, really, if you can find information on the retina in an (almost) age appropriate format (usually aimed at a slightly older age group as aspies are often ahead intellectually) and show it to him, I always find my boy feels safer when he has as much information as possible, and a safe boy has less meltdowns x
•    Anonymous said… That is an amazing insight. My son is 5yo. On the end of the diagnosis stage. I really appreciate your view. Thank you. It will help me immensely!

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Tips for Teachers: Understanding Your “Difficult” AS and HFA Students

"My daughter was diagnosed with high functioning autism earlier this year. What critical details can I provide to her 5th grade teachers to help them understand her cognitive, emotional and social characteristics? (I am a teacher as well, 7th grade, different school). She apparently is not doing so well in the current classroom environment."

Most children with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) are impaired socially. They often do not detect social clues and are frequently unaware when they irritate others. Since they miss these social clues, they miss the lesson associated with the experience. As a result, they tend to repeat the irritating behavior since they are unaware of its effects.

Many of the traits of AS and HFA are "masked" by average to above average IQ scores. This often results in the student being misunderstood by teachers. They assume the child is capable of more than is being produced. This lack of understanding may result in teachers treating the "special needs" student just like a "typical" student.

Another misunderstanding is the relationship between the classwork and social education. For instance, an AS or HFA youngster may find a social setting overwhelming and distracting. If kids are placed in a small group to work together on a project, this could become a social setting to the AS/HFA child. As a result, the child may be over-stimulated by the social aspect to the point where he or she can’t focus on the project itself.

The typical school environment is often very stressful for AS and HFA students, for example: (a) enduring “socialization hell” in the form of recess, lunch, gym, and the bus ride to and from school; (b) regular noises from alarms, bells, schoolmates, band practice, and crowded hallways; (c) periods of tightly structured time alternating with periods lacking any structure; (d) numerous daily transitions with a few surprises thrown in here and there; and (e) an overwhelming number of peers to contend with. Little wonder why AS and HFA students have the proverbial “meltdown” on occasion. All of these stressors should be taken into consideration when evaluating what types of teaching techniques to use with these youngsters.

Taking the above challenges into account (and there are many more than those listed), let’s now look at some specific techniques to employ with students on the high-functioning end of autism:

1. Although AS and HFA kids have difficulty figuring out most principles of social interaction, they are usually pretty good at understanding “cause-and-effect” principles. This suggests that, although these young people may be unaware of another person’s desires or emotions, they usually are aware of theirs. This can be useful in education if the teacher takes the time to figure out what is pleasing to the youngster. Once this pleasure has been discovered, the teacher can request the desired behavior and reinforce the behavior with the object or activity of desire.

2. AS and HFA children, like all others, change teachers each year. Additionally, there is the requirement of moving from elementary to middle school, and then on to high school. Thus, it’s important to have a "transition-planning meeting" scheduled prior to such transitions. This meeting allows the previous teacher to inform the incoming teacher on successful techniques, as well as provide general education on the traits of AS and HFA. The child should be orientated as well. Allowing the child extra time to become familiar with a new environment will prevent unnecessary stress during transitional periods.

3. AS and HFA students are visual learners. Thus, a visual schedule of the day's activities, a visual depiction of the type and length of the work expected, and instructions presented visually in addition to verbally can be very helpful. Visual instructions and schedules help these children to feel more secure and less stressed.

4. Because AS and HFA children have difficulty learning in a traditional manner, mild to severe depression can occur. These children have the capability to acquire information, but their performance is hindered. A depressed child will undoubtedly have some academic struggles. For AS and HFA children, depression is just one more barrier to education. Thus, teachers should be on the lookout for signs of depression in these “special needs” students and make a referral to the school counselor when needed.

5. Imagine nails scraping on a chalk board. It sends a chill down your spine – right?! To a youngster with AS or HFA, every day sounds can have a similar affect. Thus, it’s important for the teacher to take inventory to determine sounds difficult for the child to hear. Consider allowing him or her to listen to soft music with headsets during class times when there is a lot of distracting noise. Earplugs are another solution.

6. In middle and high school, passing periods are a desirable time of socializing for most “typical” children. For the AS or HFA child, passing periods are a social zoo. Thus, allowing the child to leave 5 minutes early in order to avoid the overwhelming social interaction is recommended. Without such an option, the child may spend most of the next class trying to recover from the distressing sensory overload experienced during the previous passing period.

7. Many students with AS and HFA are impulsive.  You may have a child who loves class participation, but has trouble sensing when he or she should stop talking and give someone else a chance.  Thus, work out a signal that only the two of you know (e.g., tapping your chin with your index finger, standing in front of that child's desk, etc.) that cue him or her that it's time to stop talking.   If you have an AS or HFA child who is especially eager to participate, you may want to routinely call on that child first so he or she isn't jumping out of the chair in an eagerness to contribute.

8. Minimizing the stress and worry AS and HFA children face is critical to education. Frequent changes in routines make it difficult for these kids to focus on the schoolwork due to preoccupation concerning what will come next in the day. Teachers should try to minimize transitions and insure the environment is predictable. When there are changes in the routine, these children should be prepped ahead of time in order to help them avoid excessive anxiety.

9. Oftentimes, “teacher frustration” can develop from a lack of understanding that an AS or HFA child is unable to generalize the skills that he or she learns. For instance, the teacher may give instructions on “how to address me as your teacher” (e.g., raising your hand first, saying “Mrs. Johnson” rather than “Hey teacher”). Typically, this skill would then be generalized to any adult in a position of authority. However, the child with AS or HFA is likely to only apply the skill to the teacher initially used as the target of respect in the learning process. The child will probably not apply this behavior to the principal, school counselor, school police officer, etc. Thus, teachers may need to repeat a particular “social skills lesson” several times so that all the possible scenarios are covered (i.e., addressing the teacher, addressing the principal, addressing the dean, and so on).

The inability to generalize can also pose a problem in classroom assignments. For example, giving instructions to open an arithmetic book to a certain page does not communicate to additionally begin solving the problems. Thus, teachers should verbally give all the steps necessary to complete an assignment rather than assuming the AS or HFA child will automatically know what to do next.

10. There is another critical aspect of learning that is not obvious to AS and HFA children. This aspect of learning includes the basic “how to’s” of living. These are things that “typical” children seem to just know. The social know-how that tells most kids what is inappropriate conversation material may be foreign to an AS or HFA child. Thus, teachers instructing children struggling in this area should make use of social stories and role-playing. Social stories and role-playing give examples of proper actions in given public settings.

Teachers need to understand what the disorder is – and how it hinders affected children. Without a clear understanding of this disorder, teachers will not understand the "special needs" child. Actions that are clearly a part of the disorder can be confused with behavioral issues and dealt with inappropriately. Also, teachers must educate themselves on effective teaching techniques for students on the spectrum. 

The basic principles that prove effective with “typical” children work for those with AS and HFA. Every “special needs” youngster needs to be evaluated, and have a plan established addressing areas of weakness – as well as acknowledging areas of strength. Perhaps most importantly, teachers should “believe in” the child and expect him or her to reach appropriate grade level requirements.

==> The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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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.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content