Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Common Social Deficits of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

“Is it common for a child with high functioning autism to have difficulty interpreting the messages others give in conversations? Our son does not seem to understand the rules of social interactions. If he doesn’t understand what someone is saying or doing, he will always be unable to give the appropriate response.”

Yes, these issues are very common. This is why social-skills training in crucial for young people with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger’s. Skills that “typical” children gain naturally do not become so automatic for kids on the spectrum. Below are some of the socially-related deficits that are part of the disorder.

The child may:
  • “Tell” on peers, breaking the “code of silence” that exists (he will then be unaware why others
    are angry with him).
  • Avert eye contact, or keep it fleeting or limited.
  • Avoid observing personal space (is too close or too far).
  • Avoid turning to face the person he is talking to.
  • Be unable to use gestures or facial expressions to convey meaning when conversing.
  • Be unaware of unspoken or “hidden” rules.
  • Confront another person without changing his face or voice.
  • Engage in self-stimulatory or odd behaviors (e.g., rocking, tics, finger posturing, eye blinking, noises such as humming/clicking/talking to self).
  • Fail to assist someone with an obvious need for help (e.g., not holding a door for someone carrying many items or assisting someone who falls or drops their belongings).
  • Fail to gain another person's attention before conversing with them.
  • Have body posture that appears unusual.
  • Experience difficulty with feelings of empathy for others. 
  • Have interactions with others that remain on one level, with one message.
  • Have tics or facial grimaces.
  • Ignore an individual’s appearance of sadness, anger, boredom, etc.
  • Lack awareness if someone appears bored, upset, angry, scared, and so forth (therefore, he does not comment in a socially appropriate manner or respond by modifying the interaction).
  • Have little awareness of the facial expressions and body language of others, so these conversational cues are missed.
  • Lack facial expressions when communicating.
  • Laugh at something that is sad, or ask questions that are too personal.
  • Look to the left or right of the person he is talking to.
  • Make rude comments (e.g., tells someone they are fat, bald, old, have yellow teeth).
  • Respond with anger when he feels others are not following the rules.
  • Discipline others or reprimand them for their actions (e.g., acts like the teacher or parent with peers).
  • Smile when someone shares sad news.
  • Stare intensely at people or objects.
  • Talk on and on about a special interest while unaware that the other person is no longer paying attention, talk to someone who is obviously engaged in another activity, or talk to someone who isn’t even there.
  • Touch, hug, or kiss others without realizing that it is inappropriate.
  • Use facial expressions that do not match the emotion being expressed.
  • Use gestures, body language, or facial expressions infrequently or atypically when interacting with others.

Also, when questioned regarding what could be learned from another person's facial expression, he may say, “Nothing.” Faces do not provide him with information. Unable to read these “messages,” he is unable to respond to them.

For information on providing social-skills training, click on the link below…

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Feeling Guilty for Setting Limits with Your Aspergers Child?

How To Tell Your Adult Child That You Think He Has High-Functioning Autism


What issues should I consider when contemplating broaching high functioning autism to my 28-year-old son? I want to help him -- he has no social life, lives at home, is rigid in his short is on the spectrum in both me and my husband's opinion. Should we tell him what we're thinking?


Re: Should we tell him what we're thinking?

Yes. My bias is that it is better to know than not to know. If somebody has High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's and doesn’t know, it affects him anyway.

If the person does know, he may be able to minimize the negative impact and leverage the positive. Without the knowledge that you have the disorder, you often fill that void with other, more damaging explanations (e.g., I'm just a failure, weird, stupid, etc.).

Re: What issues should I consider when contemplating broaching Aspergers to my 28-year-old son?
  1. Lead with strengths! ALL people on the autism spectrum have significant areas of strength (even if this has not been translatable into tangible success). Bring up areas of strength with your son. 
  2. Next, tactfully point out the areas in which he is struggling. 
  3. Then, suggest that there is a name for this confusing combination of strengths and struggles, and it might be "High-Functioning Autism."

Once the question of HFA has been raised, your son may wonder if he should pursue an official diagnosis. For some young adults, doing their own research through support and information organizations, books, the Internet, etc., provides the best explanation and enough answers regarding difficulties that they have faced, as well as the unique strengths that they may possess. Others may prefer a formal diagnosis from a professional. Either form of discovery is perfectly acceptable.

==> Launching Adult Children With Aspergers and HFA: How To Promote Self-Reliance

High-Functioning Autistic Children and Difficulty with Reciprocal Social Interactions

Many kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s have an inability - or a lack of desire - to interact with their friends and classmates. Moms and dads are often concerned with their youngster’s interactions with others and the quality of those interactions. It is very important to observe how your child interacts with same-age peers. Below are a few of the reasons a youngster with HFA has difficulty finding and keeping friends. 

The child:

1.  Compromises interactions by rigidity, inability to shift attention or “go with the flow,” being rule bound, and needs to control the play/activity

2.  Displays a lack of desire to interact

3.  Displays a limited awareness of current topics, activities, songs, etc.

4.  Displays a limited awareness of the emotions of others and/or how to respond to them, for example, does not:
  • ask for help from others
  • know how to respond when help is given
  • know how to respond to compliments
  • realize the importance of apologizing
  • realize something he says or does can hurt the feelings of another
  • differentiate internal thoughts from external thoughts
  • respond to the emotions another is displaying (missed cues)

5.  Displays narrow play and activity choices (note: best observed during unstructured play/leisure activities: look for rigidity/patterns/repetitive choices, inability to accept novelty)

6.  Does not care about her inability to interact with others because she has no interest in doing so. She prefers solitary activities and does not have the need to interact with others, or she is socially indifferent and can take it or leave it with regard to interacting with others.

7.  Engages in unusual behaviors or activities (e.g., selects play or activity choices of a younger child, seems unaware of the unwritten social rules among peers, acts like an imaginary character, uses an unusual voice — any behaviors that call attention to the child or are viewed as unusual by peers).

8.  Initiates play interaction by taking a toy or starting to engage in an ongoing activity without gaining verbal agreement from the other players, will ignore a negative response from others when asking to join in, will abruptly leave a play interaction.

9.  Spends all free time completely consumed by areas of special interest. Her activities are so rule bound, it would be almost impossible for a peer to join in correctly. When asked about preferred friends, the child is unable to name any or names those who are really not friends (e.g., family members, teachers).

10.  Is unable to select activities that are of interest to others (unaware or unconcerned that others do not share the same interest or level of interest, unable to compromise).

11.  Lacks an understanding of game playing — unable to share, unable to follow the rules of turn taking, unable to follow game-playing rules (even those that may appear quite obvious), is rigid in game playing (may want to control the game or those playing and/or create her own set of rules), always needs to be first, unable to make appropriate comments while playing, and has difficulty with winning/losing.

12.  Lacks conversational language for a social purpose, does not know what to say — this could be no conversation, monopolizing the conversation, lack of ability to initiate conversation, obsessive conversation in one area, conversation not on topic or conversation that is not of interest to others.

13.  Lacks the ability to understand, attend to, maintain, or repair a conversational flow or exchange — this causes miscommunication and inappropriate responses (unable to use the back-and-forth aspect of communication).

14.  Observes or stays on the periphery of a group rather than joining in.

15.  Prefers structured over non-structured activities.

16. Sits apart from others, avoids situations where involvement with others is expected (e.g., playgrounds, birthday parties, being outside in general), and selects activities that are best completed alone (e.g., computer games, Game Boy, books, viewing TV/videos, collecting, keeping lists).

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

Fail-Safe Method for Setting Your High-Functioning Autistic Child Up for Success

If you have few (if any) chances to "catch your child in the act of doing something right" (because he rarely behaves in accordance with your expectations), then use a bit of reverse psychology. In other words, catch him in the act of "not doing something wrong."

Highly Acclaimed Parenting Programs Offered by Online Parent Support, LLC:

Educating Others About Your Child's "Odd" Behavior

"My 8 year old son is going to begin testing in a few weeks. I'm not sure if he has high functioning autism or not, but he sure has many of the behaviors and tendencies. He does have sensory issues and severe anxiety. My question is about the constant judgment and ignorance of other parents and teachers. I do have plenty of supportive friends, but recently I've had some intense altercations with my son's teacher (saying he's only "oppositional" with me, he's fine at school and this is "something I need to work out in therapy"). Her comment was so ignorant - she knew nothing about his level of anxiety, his sensory issues or how he melts at the end of each day after just trying to hold it together. I also had another mom leave our playdate the other day because of inappropriate behavior (slamming a door b/c of frustration). She couldn't believe I let that happen. Ugh!! My parents and even husband have called me a pushover and too "soft" with my son. I feel like ALL of the blame is put on me!! I look forward to getting some answers through testing so I can educate others about the extreme difficulty and unpredictable nature of parenting a child with these challenges. It has been a very lonely and deflating parenting experience. Does anyone else have this experience or advice? Thank You!"

You are not alone. This is a very common dilemma for parents of kids on the autism spectrum. Here are some concrete tips to help others understand High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's:
  • Ask others how they would feel if they were stuck in a foreign country where they could not make anybody understand what they wanted. Point out that this is how your youngster feels.
  • Describe the kinds of social interactions HFA kids have problems with (e.g., it is difficult for them to understand how to connect effectively with their peer group). It's not because of behavioral problems – it is how their brain works.
  • Educate people about the level of functioning these "special needs" kids can have. Tell them about different skills they find challenging (e.g., making eye contact, accepting change, showing appropriate emotions, etc.).
  • Explain that HFA is a form of autism and that it is on a “spectrum” (i.e., there are different levels of severity). Not all sufferers act like the "Rain Man."
  • Explain that your youngster's inappropriate behavior comes from misunderstanding, not contrariness.
  • Explain to others that the disorder is, in some instances, a part of your child’s personality and not simply just a physical disability.
  • Many people make the mistake of associating HFA with a sickness or a disease. Remind them that it is neither and that it is just something your child has to contend with having.
  • Soothe other people's discomfort about repetitive or strange actions by telling them that it has to do with how your child’s brain processes information. Assure them that your child can't help this behavior.
  • Educate people about the nature of the disorder. It's neurological, not psychological or behavioral. It has an organic origin.

Highly Acclaimed Parenting Programs Offered by Online Parent Support, LLC:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

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

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.

What other parents have to say about this issue:

•    Anonymous said…  I'm going to play devils advocate here, teachers are over worked with way too many students. I've worked in a school and with special needs and see how passionate the teachers are. Even if your child is main stream the teachers (most) do their best with the resources at their disposal and with the professional development offered. Most go above and beyond, and there are other children that need to learn also sorry to say but your child can't be their only priority.
•    Anonymous said… I have issues with my sons school too. Teachers are terrible ignorant and arrogant bullies. Ive called the minster of education in twice within the 2yrs hes attended. His anxiety of going to school is extreme now because of what the teachers have done to him.
•    Anonymous said… I have the issues with my daughters school x
•    Anonymous said… Most of my son's teachers have been great, but this year is not going very well. His teacher sent a very judgmental email yesterday and he reported she humiliated him in front of his classmates after sending the email. It is heartbreaking and brings out the mama bear in me.
•    Anonymous said… My child was always a hand full and difficult. With 20 to 25 other children to deal with on a daily basis the teacher doesn't have time to give the child individual time. If the child is a challenge at home, one can only image school. There is going to be some tension. That is reality. I'm thankful my teenager did not give his teacher a mental breakdown. Some child are a real challenge and some are not. Challenge at home and challenge at school.... I'm not going to trash the teacher. Teachers need to educate themselves on behaviour patterns, triggers, meltdowns, repetitive behaviors, and sensory. There are tools to help teachers have a much better day. Some teachers feel like it is not their job to go the extra mile. This is sad but true.
•    Anonymous said… My daughter is the same way thankfully her school is working with me and accommodating all of her needs. For those who are having school issues. Has your child been diagnosed!
•    Anonymous said… My son does have a diagnosis and most of his teachers have been eager to learn and work as a team to provide for his needs. This year he has a teacher who is nearing retirement and is very judgmental and ignorant. She believes his executive functioning deficit does not exist and he is merely lazy. Yesterday she sent an email, berating him and us, to his team of teachers and aides. We live in a very rural area and education is lacking on ASD, ADHD, and many learning disorders. Each year I enter the school armed to teach the teacher about his many diagnosis. Some years it is well received, other years I am talking to the wall. It sounds like your school is very supportive and that is awesome!
•    Anonymous said… We have my son in a very small private school. There are 6 in his class and he is doing very well so far. I agree with what some of the others have said... 20-25 kids in a class is overwhelming to the teacher as well as any student, but especially an Asperger's student.
•    Anonymous said… Well that is very unfortunate that she is that way. Maybe go to the school board or request a new teacher? Sorry just trying to give you ideas. Sounds like you are doing everything you can and that is awesome. Some people just don't get it. And no matter how much info you give or educate them they are just ignorant on the subject. I will pray for you and I hope things get better for you, my heart goes out to you!!
•    Anonymous said… Some parents do not want to have evaluations done because they would rather not have a diagnoses. However, as you point out,it would be comforting for you to have a diagnoses because then others will have to believe what you have been trying to tell them. Furthermore with a professional evaluation then it is much easier to have support and accommodations set up in school for your child.
•    Anonymous said... My son is five years old. The testing came back pdd-nos however his dr. says he has aspergers from my reading i do agree. I have been told for years that i spoil my son. I don't feel that i spoiled him i was just trying to avoid the meltdown. I told a friend about his diagnoses. She said but he has feelings. How do I explain to people who really have no clue without getting upset. Maybe I said something about it to soon because I am still having trouble with it.
•    Anonymous said... My 5 year old son has Asbergers. I noticed differences in him since he was very young. He practiced things forever over and over until he got it. He wakes up if you are not next to him. It takes hours to put him down. I am a single parent with no help from his father. He has a super high vocabulary and is very intelligent. He has been in daycare forever. I also put him in OT for sensory issues and into a social group. All have helped. His overly precise language drives me crazy. His tantrums are unbelievable and exhausting at times. I pick my battles with him. When he gets edgy and we have plans a few hours later, I push him tell he melts to avoid a melt down later. When his meltdown is beginning to come and we are in public I either leave or give in to avoid a melt down and when people give me a look in the store I say he is on the Autism Spectrum and walk away. No one knows what Asbergers is only Autism. I put him on sport teams that are fast paced. I found a coach with an Asbergers son. He will be on his team Forever. I talk to mothers who go through the same things as me. I educate those I can and IGNORE those I can't. I have chosen to let some friends go because I am tired of the judgments. Teaching Special Ed High School Kids I realize that his tantrums will become less frequent and long. I spend my time educating my family and my mom helps. It is tough, but you have to see your son's strengths build them and work on their weaknesses with Specialists. In fact I am beginning to take my son to a speech therapist for Communication Speech and to help him Generalize. Good luck

Post your comment below…

Is My Child Melting Down or Simply Tantrumming?

Meltdown or tantrum? Do you sometimes wonder which one your child is doing? This video will explain the difference...

Highly Acclaimed Parenting Programs Offered by Online Parent Support, LLC:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

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

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.

It’s High-Functioning Autism! How do you share the news?

"How do we tell others about our daughter's recent diagnosis of autism (high functioning)? Who needs to know - and who doesn't?"

Finding out that one’s child has been diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Aspergers can be scary. Some moms and dads naturally feel guilty, even though there isn’t anything yet known that could have prevented the disorder. Through all of this comes the need for telling others about the disorder and how it affects the child.

If you are faced with having to tell those around you that your child has HFA, the first thing you want to do is understand and read about the disorder so that you can answer questions appropriately and truly be an advocate for your child.

You will also want to start with those closest to you, beginning with the siblings of the affected youngster. Telling younger children that their sibling has a brain condition that causes him/her to have problems talking with others, causes him/her to focus inordinately on certain subjects to the exclusion of others, and results in him/her performing ritual behaviors may be enough.

These kids have seen everything already and just need to know that there is a reason behind the behaviors. It can help siblings be less frustrated with their "special needs" sibling - and they can also become advocates for the HFA child. Having a name for what the siblings are seeing can help a great deal.

After the family becomes accustomed to the diagnosis, it’s time to speak with the extended family. Encourage them to read what they can on the subject, and help them connect the symptoms they see with a brain disorder that can’t be helped. If they know that much of the behavior is beyond the control of the child, family members can come to love the child at the level he or she is at.

Certainly, teachers need to understand the diagnosis and how it is affecting your child. Plans need to be made to alter the educational style the teacher(s) use to help teach the child in an effective manner. A frank discussion of the diagnosis should be followed with problem-solving methods that will help the child thrive as best he or she can in the educational world.

Beyond family, educators, and perhaps daycare workers, parents of an HFA child don’t necessarily need to tell the rest of the world, especially if others don’t see much of a problem in the child’s behavior. What you do eventually say can be as simple as “my child has a brain disorder” or as complex as explaining the disorder to its fullest to interested friends or acquaintances.

Certainly, the conversation needs to take place every year as new teachers come into the picture but, in today’s times, autism spectrum disorders are more well known and more easily understandable than they once were.

As one parent stated: "I find it helps to say . . .'but don't worry, its not catching'."

Highly Acclaimed Parenting Programs Offered by Online Parent Support, LLC:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

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

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.

Kids on the Autism Spectrum Who Steal Other People's Belongings


I am the dubiously proud mother of a 7-year-old girl with Aspergers. As with many "Aspies" she likes a certain sense of order in her surroundings, and will rearrange other people's belongings to accommodate her own preferences. We have spoken to her time and time again about not touching other people's things... all to no avail. Now her teacher reports she is taking things from others. This has been happening in our home rather regularly, and we have tried everything we can think of to stop or prevent the behavior, but it seems to be getting worse not better. Any help you can give me would be MUCH appreciated!


I don’t see this as an Aspergers (high functioning autistic) trait per say. The desire for forbidden objects overwhelms many kids, making the temptation to take them too much to resist. Your daughter probably just can't control her “desire” to have other’s belongings – but it is possible for her to control her “behavior.”

Often times, kids take things because they lack impulse control and haven't developed a strong sense of right and wrong just yet. But you should also ask yourself if there is another reason your daughter is taking things that don't belong to her (e.g., lack of attention at home, not enough friends in school, etc.).

Whatever the reason for your daughter’s behavior, it does infringe on the rights of the other kids.

As one mother stated, "My son is 13 and is still grabbing and touching other people's belongings. His hands are as busy as a toddler's only now the things that interest him are not grandma's shiny breakables, but someone else's cell phone or ipod. He will pick them up and start pushing buttons, etc. His world is "all about me" and he doesn't notice how appalled or annoyed people are with him. In a few years, I'm afraid someone will really take him to task over this. The cute factor is long gone. He also has stolen other people's belongings, if they are related to his special interest. His reasoning? 'I wanted it!' " 

Your first goal should be to stop this undesirable behavior and help your daughter to respect the belongings of others. Here are a few ideas:

1. Acknowledge her desires. It's important to validate your daughter’s feelings while also maintaining leadership and stopping the behavior. You might say, "I know you want that toy, but it's Michelle’s. You need to ask her if you can play with it." Or you might say, "You really want that doll, don't you? But it belongs here in school so the other kids can use it."

2. Anticipate and remove temptations. Make a box where kids can keep the toys they bring in, and place it out of reach.

3. Give two choices; this helps children learn decision-making skills.

4. Realize you must teach your child boundaries; children are not born with them.

5. Recognize and respect the child’s boundaries. For example, knock on their closed bedroom door instead of just walking in.

6. Review the rules. Make sure that your daughter knows that "don't take things that do not belong to you" is a school rule. Have her return the object or classroom material, but do not force her to apologize.

7. Set your own boundaries as the parent, and have consequences for crossing them.

8. Share your opinions with your child. Allow your child her opinions. Opinions are not right or wrong. This will help her think for herself.

9. Teach impulses control. Help your daughter learn to stop and think before she takes other’s stuff. Explain to her that she needs to ask herself, "Who does this belong to, and can I play with it?" Point out to her that if the item in question belongs to another youngster, she should ask the owner whether she can use it and accept the response. If she uses the object, she needs to return it when she's done.

10. When you recognize that boundaries need to be set, do it clearly, do it without anger, and use as few words as possible.

==> My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns 

Dealing with Self-Stimulation Behaviors in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"What can be done about  an autistic child (high functioning) who does things repeatedly like rocking back and forth, spinning and flipping objects, making strange vocal noises over and over again? This constant non-stop behavior can be so annoying (and embarrassing) at times."

Most of our "leisure activities" are nothing more than self-stimulation behaviors that have become highly ritualized over time and made socially acceptable. There is nothing intrinsically valuable or reasonable about leisure pursuits such as bungee jumping, playing cards, dancing, playing video games, listening to music, smoking, etc.

People participate in these different activities because they find them to be pleasurable and because the activities alter their physical state. Each activity provides us with a particular type of sensory input.

There is not necessarily a great difference in so-called self-stimulation behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders and some of these activities, beyond the fact that some are more socially acceptable and "normal" in appearance than others.

Most parents find that their child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism is more likely to participate in self-stimulatory behaviors when he or she is idle or stressed. Interacting with your child in some way may break up the self-stimulation. If the behavior appears in response to stress, finding ways to help him relax (e.g., massage, being wrapped up in a quilt, etc.) may reduce the amount of time spent in the behavior you find inappropriate or harmful. If your child is left alone; however, it is likely he/she will re-engage in this activity as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Some behaviors may present problems because they are considered socially inappropriate. These behaviors can be used as a way to explore the child's preferred sensory channels for receiving information from the world. With this information, parents may identify preferred sensory experiences around which they can develop more "mainstream" leisure activities that their children will also come to view as "leisure" (e.g., if the youngster enjoys the visual sensation of lights, find age-appropriate toys that can be motivating to him).

Take time to observe the types of self-stimulation that your child participates in - and when this behavior occurs. Watch him or her and make notes about what you see and when you see it. Then try to see if there is any pattern to these behaviors that would give you insight to the type or types of stimulation he/she prefers and the purpose it serves.

At the same time, note what types of activities your youngster finds aversive. When you have a good understanding about his or her preferences, begin to brainstorm ways that you can offer other stimulatory activities, modify or expand on the preferred self-stimulation.

Look at children of the same age, and try to find toys or activities that may make the self-stimulatory behavior appear more "normal." Sometimes your child's favorite self-stimulation activity can be modified or expanded in a way that will make it more socially acceptable.

As one mother with Asperger's herself states, "I totally agree, it can be annoying, even embarrassing at times, but they cant help themselves. Its part of the acceptance we as parents have to do. Ive even had to go to counseling myself. My child's father was so ashamed that he left. If u really love ur child, u have to just deal with it minute by minute & second by second. I personally am blessed to have 2 adult children that are always willing to watch my son for a few hours to give me a break. Ill be praying for all the other aspergers parents out there cuz we understand all too well what that missing puzzle piece means."

Can Autism Spectrum Disorders Be Inherited?

"Can Aspergers and high functioning autism be inherited? Our son was recently diagnosed, and now I am wondering if my husband has it too ...their behaviors are very similar."

There is strong evidence that Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is, at least in part, an inherited condition. If one twin develops the disorder, there is a 60% likelihood that the other will develop it as well. Younger kids born into families with an older child on the autism spectrum have a 5-6% likelihood of also having the disorder.

Even though the incidence of Aspergers and HFA is higher among related family members, no specific gene has been linked to its development. Also, there is currently no way to test for the genetic predisposition towards the disorder.

Aspergers is a neurobiological disorder in which known areas of the brain are affected in ways scientists do not yet completely understand. The disorder is considered to be inherited in a complex fashion (e.g., more complicated than disorders such as color-blindness or Huntington’s disease).

Researchers are getting closer to finding a genetic basis behind autism spectrum disorders. Rett’s syndrome is an autistic disorder for which the exact genetic cause is believed to have been found. In Aspergers and HFA, studies suggest problems in several chromosomal (genetic) regions, including areas on the chromosomes 2q, 7q and 15q. While the 7q region is considered the most promising area of study, research studies involving this chromosome in the disorder have failed to observe its linkage to this region.

For reasons doctors do not completely understand, there are far more boys "diagnosed" than girls (although there may be as many girls with the disorder as boys, males get diagnosed with the disorder more often). Scientists have evaluated whether or not Aspergers and HFA represents an X-linked genetic disorder (i.e., one passed down generally from a mother to a son). Unfortunately, there have been cases of father to son transmission of the condition, which means that the disease can't be X-linked.

In at least one case, two parents with Aspergers had a child that also had Aspergers, but did not have a severe case of the disorder, nor did the child have autism. In another case, identical twins both had Aspergers, but this is not always the case.

While some scientists support the idea that at least a portion of the disorder isn’t genetic at all, there have been no specific findings associating it with any environmental conditions (e.g., pregnancy complications).

Highly Acclaimed Parenting Programs Offered by Online Parent Support, LLC:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

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

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.

Inaccurate Stereotyping of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"Is it fair to say that some people unfairly stereotype children and teenagers who have an autism spectrum disorder? It seems to me that society views this population as "trouble-makers" or mentally handicapped - and even dangerous (e.g., they get blamed for some school shootings), which is just plain ignorant in my opinion. What's your opinion please?"

Young people with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are often viewed largely in negative terms by some. And to make matters worse, this inaccurate stereotyping often leads to inappropriate interventions, which can lead to long-term damage.

Here are some examples of stereotyping. A child with Aspergers or HFA:
  • Can't do things that require social interaction, especially with strangers
  • Dislikes establishing eye contact
  • Dislikes using the telephone, preferring email or person-to-person instead
  • In social situations with a lot of noise and conversations, has trouble hearing and easily gets disoriented
  • Is easily depressed
  • Is not very good at small talk, especially intimate bantering
  • Often assumes that any comments or remarks require a response
  • Often does not care what other people think
  • Often fails to read other peoples' standard body language
  • Often feels rejected if an important project or idea gets a mixed or lukewarm response
  • Often makes others very angry because of the way he or she interacts
  • Often responds angrily to frustrating situations
  • Often says things in conversation that are inappropriate, divergent, or tactless
  • Talks forever, without pause, about favorite topics
  • Usually keeps silent and does not interact if faced with a question or topic that is difficult to answer

Do some children and teens with Aspergers/HFA have some of these characteristics to varying degrees from time to time? Yes.

Do all of these young people have all of these characteristics all the time? No.

It has been well documented that those on the autism spectrum are vulnerable individuals who will face certain difficulties. These are often highlighted by people who see only the negatives rather than the positives such differences could represent. This lack of positive awareness, combined with an inconsistency of knowledge, can lead to inaccurate stereotyping and resultant interventions that are far more harmful than helpful.

The reality is that a children with Aspergers and HFA are  unique individuals who have a lot of skills and abilities. Yet, they are often deemed incapable of learning; thus, an ability to achieve much in life may be overlooked. All too often, the focus continues to be on forcing them to fit into damaging, inflexible environments, which not only prohibits them from reaching their full potential, but also contributes to long-term mental health problems that could otherwise be avoided.

Having an autism spectrum disorder can be worrying and upsetting for all those concerned, but there will be areas in which these "special needs" kids will excel compared to the general population. For example:
  • A sensitivity to sound could lead to working in sound recording or music.
  • With a sensitivity to the taste and texture of food and drink, people with Aspergers and HFA could become great gastronomes and food critics.
  • A sensitivity to visual information can be useful in photography, drawing and visualization used by architects and artists.
  • These individuals are generally free from sexism or racism.
  • They can be very sensitive to the plight of disadvantaged people around the world. 
  • They can use their sensitivity and wider differences to help others who are in the same position as themselves, or act as arbiters and mediators in dispute situations.
  • They have proved themselves to be great innovators and inventors – not only of products, but also of ideas concerning literacy and story-telling.
  • They often speak out frankly and honestly; they are sincere truth-tellers who will tend to follow the rules of the job.
  • Many are intelligent and have high IQs. They may, for example, have an excellent memory for facts and figures, or a good memory for past situations.
  • Many possess powers of deduction that, when coupled with an attention to detail, could be useful in criminal investigations.
  • People with Aspergers and HFA tend to make very loyal friends.

Little research has been conducted into “gifted” individuals, although those who are described as such often show the same qualities seen in people on the spectrum. Individuals with high IQs question the world which surrounds them. They are usually single-minded and can throw themselves into their work for long, intense periods. These are all aspects associated with the "disorder."

In short, the way these young people think should be regarded as a positive attribute, which the rest of society can learn from. When their differences are embraced, the positives definitely can outweigh the negatives. The goal should not be about “normality,” but encompassing acceptance, love, and communication.

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

Teaching Students on the Autism Spectrum Using Visual Imagery

"What would be the most important teaching strategy to use with my students who are on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum?" 

The short answer is: capitalize on the child's natural visual-thinking skills...

Children with Aspergers (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often think differently than other children. They often have what is known as 'visual thinking'. While many of us think in words or abstractly, kids on the autism spectrum think in pictures and films playing in their head.

They have a difficult time seeing a generic representation of, say, a cat, and instead recall exact images of cats they have seen. Some researchers believe that the way AS and HFA people think is a good way of compensating for losses in 'language thinking'. This is what often makes these kids good at building things and seeing the end product of something before it is done.

Using this visual thinking to an advantage can help parents and teachers educate Aspergers students better. Teaching them through videos, pictures and other visual aids can help them learn while getting around the areas they have trouble with.

One AS student stated, “I think totally in pictures. It is like playing different DVDs in a DVD player in my imagination.” Many AS and HFA children and teens can manipulate the pictures in their imagination, which helps them to learn different things. To access spoken information, they can be taught to replay a “video image” of the person talking to them. In some cases, this represents a slower way of thinking, but it generally gets the job done.

Visual thinking often puts people with AS and HFA in jobs that involve architecture or design. Not only is their visual learning superior, but their learning memory is more intact than other ways of remembering things.

Many individuals on the spectrum can create elaborate visual images of things as complex as computer programs and musical pieces, and then can fill in the rest of their knowledge around that. The thinking is often non-sequential so that pieces of knowledge are filled in like jigsaw puzzle pieces in no particular order.

When parents and teachers catch on to this method of thinking, it becomes easier to see the strengths the "special needs" student has -- and it becomes easier to find ways of using the visual imagery to teach concepts.

==> Teaching Students with Aspergers and HFA

Helping Teens on the Autism Spectrum to Cope with the Loss of Normalcy

“I have a 16 y.o. teen with high functioning autism who seems to be down in the dumps a lot lately. He has stated he knows he is ‘different’ than his friends and classmates, and may be feeling a sense of shame about that (IDK?). How can I help him to not feel so alienated from his peer group?”

Regardless of the individual developmental route, most young people with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) start realizing that they are not quite like others at some point during their adolescence. Around that age, they have a higher level of interest in others, but don’t have the skills to connect in socially-accepted ways. Also, they’re at the age where they have a higher level of insight into their difficulties with social interaction.

Signs that your HFA or AS teen is feeling depressed about his dilemma include:
  • Withdrawing himself from the rest of the family
  • Refusing to participate in group activities
  • Putting himself down (e.g., saying he is ‘stupid’)
  • Not being able to fall asleep
  • Waking up in the middle of the night and having difficulty falling back to sleep
  • Making remarks such as he hates life, he hates you, nobody loves him, or wishing he was dead
  • Losing interest in activities he usually enjoys
  • Eating less or more than usual
  • Complaining that he is tired all the time and wanting to take naps during the day
  • Blaming himself unfairly for anything that goes wrong
  • Becoming irritable and angry with the drop of a hat so that parents start walking on egg shells
  • Appearing sad for most of the time

Once the HFA or AS teenager realizes that he has significant difficulties effectively engaging in social relationships as compared to his peers, he needs deal with this loss, just like dealing with any other loss. Understanding the thoughts, feelings and behavior of your son is the necessary first step in helping him and being there for him. Considering this coping process in a few stages may make your job easier:
  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Depression
  4. Acceptance
  5. Adaptation

Most commonly, the teen will not go through these stages one after another, but rather display a larger or smaller aspect of each at any given time. This is a painful process for not only the teen, but for parents as well. Moms and dads may find themselves compelled to forget the whole thing and act as if nothing is happening (we are all tempted to avoid pain – and denial is an excellent pain-killer).

The good news is, as much as the denial is contagious, seeing his parents dealing with the pain calmly and matter-of-factly will encourage the teen to talk about his anger and frustration. This will in turn help him get closer to acceptance and adaptation.

How parents can help:
  • You don’t have to bring up the fact that your teen feels alienated from the peer group, but when he does, give him a good listening ear and be patient.
  • When your teen starts to bemoan his circumstances, don’t try to change the subject (unless he does so).
  • Sometimes you have to be very political trying to sell an idea to any teenager. The mere fact that the idea is coming from you, his parent, may make him refuse it. Let the idea come from a family friend, teacher, or a neighbor he trusts. Give him time to think about it. He may come back to the suggestion when he feels he is ready.
  • Offer the option of counseling, because sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger; however, try not to push the idea directly, even if you feel that your teenager clearly needs professional help.
  • Most teenagers with HFA and AS excel in one or two subjects. They tend to accumulate a lot of information on the subject and love to talk about it over and over. Unfortunately, family members eventually end up losing interest and start getting bored with the same topic over and over again. Rather than avoiding the subject, try finding out new ways to engage your teen in the subject. Structure the topic in a different way. Find a way to challenge him. Be creative and let sky be the limit! Your interest will make him feel better about himself, and realizing his mastery on the subject will boost his self-esteem.
  • Help your HFA or AS teen to resolve his sense of loss by turning the issue upside down. In other words, rather than clinging to depression and despair, help him to find his identity in his disorder. Help him get in touch with other young people on the spectrum. Encourage him to educate his peers about the disorder at school. Your “special needs” teenager could also set up a web site, chat room, and even write a book about it. Encouraging your teen to focus on the strengths associated with the disorder, and providing him means to this end and removing the obstacles in front of him may turn out to be the best anti-depressant treatment ever. 
  • Don’t try to minimize his difficulties – but also don’t let him exaggerate, providing gentle “reality testing.”

All of this may seem remote and you may not know where to start. Consider the following tips:
  • Leave brochures, leaflets and other information about teen groups around to catch the attention of your teenager.
  • Invite your friends and acquaintances to your house and encourage them to bring their adolescents (e.g., for a pizza party and movie).
  • Get in touch with the organizations like the Autism Society of America or Asperger Syndrome Coalition of the U.S. and contact their local chapters.
  • Attend support groups for parents and make acquaintances.
  • If your attempts to reconcile this issue of alienation don’t work right away, don’t get discouraged and keep trying, always letting your teen make the first move in showing an interest in processing and resolving his challenges.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers & High-Functioning Autistic Teens

Crucial Strategies for Social-Skills Training: Tips for Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

For most children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS), the most important parenting strategy involves the need to enhance communication and social know-how. This emphasis is not an attempt to stifle individuality and uniqueness - and does not reflect a societal pressure for conformity. Instead, it reflects the fact that most children on the autism spectrum are not “loners” by choice.

As these “special needs” children become teenagers, they often experience a sense of hopelessness, negativism, anxiety, or depression due to their increasing awareness of personal inadequacy in social situations - and repeated experiences of failure to make and/or maintain relationships. The typical limitations of insight associated with the disorder often prevent the child from engaging in spontaneous self-adjustment to social and interpersonal demands.

The practice of social skills does not mean that the HFA or AS child will eventually acquire social spontaneity and naturalness (i.e., social skills are not intuitive to children on the autism spectrum as compared to “typical” kids). However, it does better prepare the child to cope with social and interpersonal expectations, thus enhancing his or her attractiveness as a conversational partner or as a potential friend.

Here are a few suggestions intended to foster relevant skills in this important area:

1.  Explicit verbal instructions on how to interpret other’s social behavior should be taught and exercised in a rote fashion, not unlike the teaching of a foreign language (i.e., all elements should be made verbally explicit and repeatedly drilled). For example, parents (and teachers) can teach the meaning of various inflections as well as tone of voice, non-literal communications (e.g., humor, figurative language, irony, sarcasm and metaphor), gaze, facial and hand gestures, eye contact, etc. The same principles should guide the training of the child’s expressive skills. Concrete situations can be practiced at home, and gradually tried out in naturally occurring situations.

2.  The effort to develop the child’s skills with peers in terms of managing social situations should be a priority. For example, ending topics appropriately, feeling comfortable with a range of topics that are typically discussed by same-age peers, shifting topics, the ability to expand and elaborate on a range of different topics initiated by others, topic management, etc.

3.  Encounters with unfamiliar people (e.g., making acquaintances) should be practiced until the child is made aware of the impact of his or her behavior on other people’s reactions to him/her. Strategies in the program could be: practicing in front of a mirror, listening to the recorded speech, watching a video recording of behavior, etc.

4.  The child with HFA or AS should learn to recognize and use a range of different means to disagree, discuss, interact, mediate, negotiate, and persuade through verbal means. Also, it is important to help the child to develop the ability to anticipate multiple outcomes, to explain motivation, to make inferences, and to predict in order to increase the flexibility with which he or she thinks about - and uses - language with others.

5.  The child on the autism spectrum should be taught to monitor his or her own speech style in terms of: adjusting depending on proximity to the speaker, context and the social situation, naturalness, number of people, background noise, rhythm, and volume.

Other crucial skills that parents and teachers can teach include:
  • reading the body language of others
  • learning to cope with mistakes
  • learning peer group problem-solving
  • becoming aware of their emotions
  • maintaining eye contact
  • maintaining appropriate personal space
  • understanding gestures and facial expressions
  • resolving conflict
  • taking turns
  • learning how to begin and end conversations
  • determining appropriate topics for conversation
  • interacting with authority figures
  • identifying one's feelings
  • recognizing the feelings of others
  • demonstrating empathy
  • decoding body language and facial expressions
  • determining whether someone is trustworthy
  • making choices
  • self-monitoring
  • understanding community norms

Social interactions are very complex, and the list presented above is not exhaustive in terms of the skills that HFA and AS children may need to successfully navigate social situations. Furthermore, each child’s “social-skill profile” is different. Some of these young people may have strong foundation skills but lack appropriate interaction skills, while others may require assistance in developing more basic skills (e.g., starting a conversation).

Traits of Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism that May Influence Criminal Behavior

“I'm currently studying law and was wanting to know what some of the characteristic features are that predispose to criminal offending for teens with high-functioning autism?”

First of all, let me be clear that there is little to no evidence that teens on the autism spectrum engage in criminal behavior any more than the general population of similar age. Second, the following characteristics may apply to some “typical” teenagers, not just those with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA):

1.   Social naivety and the misinterpretation of relationships can leave the AS or HFA teen open to exploitation as a stooge. His or her limited emotional knowledge can lead to a childish approach to adult situations and relationships, resulting in social blunders (e.g., in the mistaking of social attraction or friendship for love).

2.   Overriding obsessions can lead to offenses (e.g., stalking, compulsive theft). Harshly reprimanding the teen can increase anxiety - and consequently a reflective thinking of the unthinkable that increases the likelihood of repeating the offense.

3.   Misinterpreting rules, particularly social ones, teens on the spectrum may find themselves unwittingly embroiled in offenses (e.g., date rape).

4.   Lacking motivation to change, these young people may remain stuck in a risky pattern of behavior.

5.   For those teens who have been traumatized by teasing, rejection, and bullying from their peer group, “revenge-seeking behavior” may become their method of establishing equality (i.e., to even the score).

6.   The teen’s tendency to misjudge relationships and consequences can result in a risky openness (i.e., dangerous self-disclosure) and the revealing of private fantasies which, although no more shocking than any teen’s, are best not revealed.

7.   Impulsivity, sometimes violent, can be a component of comorbid ADHD or of anxiety turning into panic.

8.   Difficulty in judging the age of others can lead the teenager into illegal relationships and acts (e.g., sexual advances to somebody under age).

9.   An innate lack of concern for the outcome can be problematic (e.g., an assault that is disproportionately intense and damaging). Young people with AS and HFA often lack insight and deny responsibility, blaming someone else, which may be part of an inability to see their inappropriate behavior as others see it.

10.   An innate lack of awareness of the outcome can lead the teen to embark on actions with unforeseen consequences (e.g., fire-setting may result in a building’s destruction).

Many of the traits listed above affect the AS or HFA teen’s ability to make logical decisions, thus limiting his or her level of responsibility. Whether the teen is identified as an “offender” (as distinct from someone who has committed an offense) depends on chance factors in his or her environment (e.g., effectiveness of his/her supervision, the recognition of AS and HFA and the understanding of those around.

Parenting Programs Offered by Online Parent Support, LLC:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

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

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.

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…

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…

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.

Click here for the full article...

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