Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Helping Kids on the Autism Spectrum to Deal with Disappointments


How can I help my 14-year-old child with high functioning autism to handle disappointments? Almost on a daily basis, he feels mistreated by one of his friends, or something at school doesn’t go just right, or he gets into trouble here at home and receives an undesirable consequence. I don’t want to send him into a depression – but at the same time, I want him to be more resilient and responsible. Also, I’ve heard you talk about how we, as parents of autistic children, tend to be over-protective – and the damage that we do as a result of this kind of parenting. Is there some way I can help him without being over-protective?


If there is one lesson that no parent enjoys teaching their youngster, it is “the art of getting over disappointment.” This is partly because no one likes to be disappointed or have their hopes shattered—but it is a raw and honest part of life. Figuring out how to teach our High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) and Asperger's kids this lesson can be difficult though. We don’t want them to give up or lose heart. Here are some ways to help you teach your son how to cope with – and overcome – disappointments in life, and to grow from experience.

1. Allow your son to make mistakes. True learning involves making mistakes, which often leaves kids frustrated. Frustration requires a level of determination to see the problem through. Unfortunately, many kids lack a sense of resolve and give up on a task immediately if they don’t get it the first time, thinking that it’s too hard, or worse, that they’re “stupid”. Why is this? One theory is that our “drill and kill” methods have eliminated the development of creative problem solving, teaching kids that there is one and only one answer to most problems. Unable to get the one “right” answer, they lack the motivation to try alternate strategies. Another idea is that kids who are accustomed to a steady stream of positive reinforcement, often for insignificant accomplishments, are paralyzed when faced with something they cannot do immediately. Because they perceive things as coming to them easily, it is a threat to their ego to find something that challenges them. It is less threatening to give up.

2. Be understanding. Your son may not get over the disappointment immediately. This doesn't mean you are doing anything wrong, but not all kids bounce back at the same rate. Be patient and understanding and soon your son will grow to forget the disappointment itself, but your reaction to it and what he learned in the process will say with them.

3. Give your son time and space to deal with his disappointment. Not all disappointments are simple or minor, and even some that are will not appear that way to children. Not being able to play a video game, in a parents estimate, is not the end of the world. But for a kiddo who has been looking forward to that game all week, missing it may seem major indeed. This is why the best parenting advice for teaching children about disappointment is to carve out some time and space for kids to feel their disappointment. After trying to help your son see that this is a disappointment that may not be as serious as he thinks, sometimes you will have to step back and direct your son to continue dealing with his disappointment in the privacy of his bedroom. After a reasonable time, check on your son – and usually you will find that he has calmed down and has put things into perspective. This is a much more successful approach than telling him to simply stop being upset. When kids realize that they have a place to go and think about their disappointment, they will learn how much or how little time they really want to assign to their disappointment.

4. Don’t try to fix it. As a mother, your first instinct may be to try to fix the problem(s). However, just as it is a parent’s role to help her child become proficient in feeding himself, assist her preschooler in learning to use a potty, and teach her grade-school child to tie his shoelaces, it is a parent’s often unhappy duty to give a blossoming young adult the tools they need to cope with disappointment. Even if your son wants you to come to his rescue, resist the urge to pacify his hurt by taking action or dwelling on things that can’t be changed. This is not easy, but kids are often more resilient than we give them credit. Though children of all ages may be quick to dramatize their displeasure, many bounce right back. Look carefully at your son for cues, don’t bring up his disappointment if, by the next day, all seems right with the world again. Accept that your son may have recovered more quickly than you have!

5. Don’t try to save your son from disappointments (related to #4 above). Many parents erroneously believe that for kids, disappointment should be avoided at all costs. Everybody makes the team, everybody gets the same grade, and everybody is included. There are several problems with this attempt to make everyone feel good about themselves. First of all, it isn’t fooling anyone. Telling someone they’ve done a great job when they clearly haven’t is not only insulting, but it tends to set a tone of low expectations. Self-esteem is built through mastery, not through pretense. Second, it isn’t grounded in reality. Giving a child false expectations about his abilities and skills is not only dishonest – but unethical. Lastly, letting children face the letdowns of life, however painful, is necessary for emotional growth. Children who haven’t had practice developing coping skills for disappointment fall apart later on when no one is standing there ready to rescue them. Though the pains of life can be heartbreaking at times, they are learning experiences that, when faced with the loving support of a faithful parent, help prepare children to deal with struggles in the future.

6. Listen, don't talk. You'll be tempted to start pointing out all the reasons why the situation is "not so bad," but kids don’t function the same way grown-ups do. Logic plays very little part in soothing a disappointed child. Listen intently to what your son tells you about his thoughts and feelings.

7. Congratulate your son when he handles disappointments reasonably. Nothing encourages kids to face and deal with disappointments reasonably as much as moms/dads who display pride over their child's actions. Kids love to hear parents say, "I'm so proud of you for not losing your temper" …or "You did a good job understanding that you couldn't go to the movies with your friends today." Words of support and encouragement each time a youngster makes a decision to deal with a disappointment can really help to turn inappropriate behavior around. Kids seldom tire of hearing that they handled a situation with good judgment. The desire for parental approval and praise is one of the chief motivational forces in a youngster's life.

8. Offer personal experiences. Once your son settles down from the “bad” experience, tell him about a similar personal experience that happened to you. This will show him that he is not alone in his disappointment. You can even point out that, as an adult, you are still disappointed by things that happen to you.

9. Offer perspective. Whatever the situation may be, you can find a way to help your son put it into the proper perspective without ever using the dreaded phrases "It's not so bad..." or "It could be worse."

10. Be patient, then be a little more patient, and then have even more patience as your son figures out how the real world operates.

Key questions to ask your son so that he can brainstorm some ideas on how to resolve the problem himself include:
  • Are you going to try again?
  • How big is the problem? It feels like a disaster. On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is it?
  • How can we make sure that this problem doesn't mess up anything else in your life?
  • How long do you want this disappointment to make you feel bad about?
  • How long will the disappointment last? A day, a week?
  • How upset do you want to be about this now, given that it is going to feel better soon?
  • Is there a part of this issue that you can control, change, or improve?
  • Is there anything you would’ve done differently?
  • What are some alternative things to say to yourself to counter the alarm messages going through your mind?
  • What can you do now to make the situation better?
  • What do you think went wrong?
  • What is the worst part of it for you?
  • When will it be time to move on? Often times, the sooner people get going on Plan B, the sooner they start to feel better.

The key is for the youngster on the autism spectrum to learn to be able to distinguish between serious disappointments and trivial ones. Disappointments are a part of everyone's daily life. But, your son won't be disappointed in your attempts to help him deal with difficulties if you consider using some of parenting strategies listed above.

==> Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns in Aspergers and HFA Children


Anonymous said...OUR youngest SON is 19. HE left the house 5 WEEKS ago after getting extremely upset due to a little misunderstanding with his 21 year old sister. HE BECAME SO ENRAGED and MAD and as antagonizing his father and 25 year old brother thanks God they behaved very wise. Until that day we thought everything was good between members of the family, except the normal growing up problems in families. I have to say there is no abuse in the family. SO IT WAS UNTIL OUR 19 year old and youngest left after his father asked to leave (to cool down), that I began searching for anything that will lead me to something that will describe his character. It was like a brick hit me when I came across the asperger's syndrome, that described his character more than anything else. WE ARE A VERY CLOSE FAMILY and this is the first time that a son does that; leaves and DOES NOT TAKE OUR CALLS OR RETURN OUR MESSAGES. we want him back home but we can't communicate. HE STOPPED GOING TO COLLEGE CLASSES the next day he left the house and is working full time. The family that he lives with now is a decent family that we didn't know before but I called them over to see what can we do to take things back to normal. They are nice but I don't ever get any information about our son or whether they are really trying to help him go back home. IT IS A STICKY SITUATION. THE MOM HAD TOLD ME THAT THE FATHER (THE HOST FAMILY) is getting information about their son from our son because he asks him about their son and our son tell it all, I think they are benefiting from this situation, and they gave our son a scooter to ride to work, since he does not have his car, something they know we are against. I went to talk to a therapist to see what I can do and did not go anywhere.

T-WAC said... I like the article. My ten-year-old brother, though he does not have Asperger's, has an incredibly difficult time dealing with disappointment. Our whole family has some autism spectrum in them, and none of us cope well with disappointment, but my brother is by far the worst with that. I should show this article to my mom sometime....

Anonymous said... That's a really nice summary of a lot that I've learned over the past 2 years in dealing with my son. I would like to add a word: be careful about asking too many of those questions at once, or you could come across as blaming the child for the disappointment. I've seen my son withdraw from his therapist when she's too quick to ask him what he could have done differently. The first response must always be empathy.

Anonymous said... I don't know what I could tell you about my child. My wife and I ached for a child for 10 years and he was born to us almost 5 years ago. He came home from the hospital angry and irritable, and his entire life with us has been spent "dealing" with him. I don't know how to describe our life with him other than that everything is a fight - even the simplest of actions - waking, eating, playing, going to bed - everything - is met with his resistance, interference, or constant bickering. Zero cooperation. Talking, reasoning with him, time-outs, punishments, nothing works. And yet when he goes to pre-K they have a very structured day and he is ok. I try to talk with parents who have normal children, and they think they understand, but I get nowhere and feel alone and even more isolated with what we have to deal with. Weekends are the hardest - any sustained time with him in which every single minute is not programmed out to the last detail leads to meltdowns, temper tantrums, screaming and relentless pursuit of his goals. I think sometimes he doesn't know what he really wants, but if my wife or I want it, he's sure that's the only thing he doesn't want. I can't teach him anything, show him anything, share anything with him. I'm beginning to think that the only hope for him and for us is arranging an open adoption with parents who may know how to handle a child like this.. My wife has given up - she can't have a single interaction with him that isn't met with defiance. He disrespects any adults who are kind to him. I have been a successful school teacher for 25 years with hundreds of kids, and I've never encountered a situation like this. We feel isolated in our home, like mice in a box with a cat that toys with us endlessly. We have social relationships at church and a pre-k group on Sunday nights that he's starting to poison with his abusive treatment of kids. He will suddenly - out of the blue - do something completely unexpected - like hit a kid in the face with a basketball at close range; or smack a kid in the face in the play group with a toy gun and cut his face open; or suddenly run into the street in front of a car; or run away from us in a crowd and disappear. He especially does these things in front of our friends and the overall affect is to make us hide from others in shame. He makes us look horrible, like we are the worst parents in the world. We're humiliated; we're angry; our life with him seems so very very wrong, but there's nothing we can do about it. He seems to have an indomitable, relentless will to selectively ignore what he doesn't want to hear and make demands for what he wants. Although he's only 4 years old, each week it gets incrementally worse. And we dread any kind of free time with him. It's like your jailer demanding that you entertain him. If I was to look into his future I see drugs, gangs, promiscuity, anti-social behavior, juvenille hall, and ultimately a life in prison - and we seem powerless to change it; and if I was to say this to anyone they would assure me that I was intensely negative and unfairly resigning him to the dung heap. We're the problem; not him. My wife and I love each other; we always have; we are secure in our relationship; there is no smoking gun that I can see. We have a lot of love we could give him if he could just find a way to accept it; but any moments of tenderness, where we feel we've "finally turned a corner" with him, are immediately followed the next day by some outrageous act that dashes it all. He's now resorted to pee-ing on the carpets in his room.

NGUP said... I am so sorry for your grief! It is heart wrenching to love when we are pushed away over and over, especially by our young children. I went through a couple years where my second oldest was out of control in his communication, pushed us away, and would react instantly in aggression. My husband and I would feel as if we were terrible parents. We did eventually put him on medication, and I took the mottto "Rock the love into Him", which meant, when he was able, I would hold him and rock him. A lot of times that was when he was still upset. When people meet my son today they cannot believe that he would ever be that kid. He is driven, because he is so persistent, and he has been able to use that persistence to achieve his own goals. Moms adore him, girls swoon over him, he has his own amazing story of overcoming obstacles. Keeping his mind and body busy with activities helps him. We have been fortunate that our two youngest didn't have these struggles, and by all definition "normal", but my eldest son had also had his own share of struggles. He would throw the biggest temper tantrums, it would happen when he was young. Finally, I realized it was in smaller spaces, like the car, anywhere it was noisy, if someone cried, too much stuff going on, textures in clothing. If we had been anywhere, like a grocery store, it had to be quiet and peaceful when we got home, no tv, quiet instrumental music sometimes. It took a long time to realize it was anxiety, part of Aspergers, he didn't know how to explain being so young. We are going through phases to learn to deal with teaching new methods to cope. We each have our own journey to travel. I cannot say that I understand yours completely, as we are all unique in nature. I am sure you have received lots of advice, but don't give up. Dr. James Dobson wrote a book that helped me, it's titled "The Strong Willed Child". Make sure your no is no and your yes is yes. I pray you find the right psychologist to help him, most of these struggles are disabilities we do not always see with the eye. Remember that no one is a perfect parent, or knows all the right answers. I don't blame you for being embarrassed about his choices, but my hope is that you aren't embarrassed about him or yourself as a parent. That was the best advice someone gave me, was to never be embarrassed of your kiddo. Pray often help tremendously, many blessings to you. 

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Traits That Your HFA Child's Teachers Need To Be Aware Of

“Would there be a list of traits associated with high functioning autism that I could share with my son’s teacher to help her understand him more? Also, some helpful tips in dealing with my son’s challenges would be greatly appreciated as well.” 

Below are some of the most prevalent features of High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s observed in the classroom and other group settings, along with a few strategies that the teacher can use to help your son cope better.

Common Features—
  • failure to comprehend that the eyes convey information on a person’s mental state or feelings
  • strong preference to interact with adults who are far more interesting, knowledgeable and more tolerant and accommodating of their lack of social awareness
  • tendency to interrupt; have difficulty identifying the cues for when to start talking
  • tendency to make irrelevant comments
  • less aware of the concept of personal space
  • often aware of the poor quality of their handwriting and may be reluctant to engage in activities that involve extensive writing
  • often very stoic, enduring pain with little evidence in their body language and speech that they may actually be experience agony
  • may become aware of their isolation and, in time, are genuinely motivated to socialize with other students their age – but their social play skills are immature, and rigid and other students often reject them
  • may be detached from - or having difficulty sensing - the feelings of others
  • may be lost for words due to a high level of anxiety 
  • can be confused by the emotions of others or have difficulty expressing their own feelings
  • can be very sensitive to particular sounds and forms of touch, yet lack sensitivity to low levels of pain
  • may appear “lost in their own little world” – staring off into space
  • do not seem to be aware of the unwritten rules of social conduct and will inadvertently say or do things that may offend or annoy other people
  • eye contact breaks their concentration
  • predominantly visual style of thinking (and learning)
  • strong desire not to appear ‘stupid’
  • difficulty establishing and coping with the changing patterns and expectations in daily life
  •  lax joint and rhythm problems
  • difficulty conceptualizing and appreciating the thoughts and feelings of another person
  • lack of ‘central drive for coherence’ (i.e., an inability to see the relevance of different types of knowledge to a particular problem)
  • lack subtlety in retaliating when threatened; may not have sufficient empathy and self-control to moderate the degree of injury to peers
  • less able to learn from mistakes
  • may avoid team sports because they know they lack competence, or are deliberately excluded because they are a liability to the team 
  • may have only one approach to a problem 
  • may have signs of Tourette syndrome (motor, vocal or behavioral)
  • may talk to themselves or “vocalize their thoughts” 
  • may talk too much or too little, lack cohesion to the conversation, and have an idiosyncratic use of words and patterns of speech
  • may not be good at ball games, which results in the exclusion of the HFA student from some of the most popular social games on the playground
  • may not look at others
  • inappropriate laughter may appear (perhaps upon hearing a certain word or phrase that produces almost hysterical laughter)
  • once their mind is on a particular track, they appear unable to change (even if the track is clearly wrong or going nowhere)
  • prefer factual, nonfiction reading
  • prefer to be left alone to continue their activity uninterrupted
  • routine is imposed to make life predictable and to impose order, because novelty, chaos or uncertainty are intolerable 
  • seem to evoke the maternal or predatory instinct in others
  • social contact is tolerated as long as the other students play their game according to their rules
  • sometimes social interaction is avoided not simply because of lack of social play skills, but because of a desire to have complete control over the activity
  • often have the inability to ‘give messages with their eyes’
  • ungainly or ‘puppet-like’ walking or running can be quite conspicuous, and other students may tease the HFA student as a result (leading to reluctance to participate in running sports and physical education at school)

Helpful Strategies—
  1. Try to be are aware of auditory sensitivity and try to minimize the level of sudden noises, reduce the background conversation of others, and avoid specific sounds known to be perceived as unbearably intense.
  2. Be aware of two characters. The student may be very conscious of the necessity to follow the codes of conduct in the classroom and try to be inconspicuous and behave like other students. This pressure to conform and retain self-control can lead to enormous emotions tension, which like a compressed spring, is release when the student returns home. 
  3. Explain alternative means of seeking help. The HFA student may consider the teacher as the only source of knowledge and assistance. It is important to explain that when a problem arises, help can be requested and obtained from other students rather than always referring to the teacher.
  4. It may help initially to identify and encourage interaction with a restricted number of students who are keen to help the HFA student learn how to play with them. They may become the student’s guardians when teased or bullied by others. 
  5. Many HFA students will not try a new activity if they have the slightest suspicion they will fail or there is the slightest hint of disappointment. The teacher needs to adopt an encouraging attitude, avoiding any suggestions of criticism. 
  6. Provide supervision at break times and on the playground. For most ordinary students, the best time in the school day is free play on the playground. However, a lack of structure and supervision and an atmosphere of intense socializing and noise are often not enjoyable for the student with HFA. 
  7. There is the problem of other students taking advantage of the HFA student’s naivety. It is important that teachers are aware that there may be no mischievous intent and ask the “special needs” student, “Did anyone tell you to do this?’ before considering punishment.
  8. They may lack motivation for any activity the teacher suggests. However, they have enormous motivation and attention when engaged in their special interest. The strategy here is to incorporate the interest in the activity that is non-motivating or perceived as boring. Also, they can gain access to the special interest by complying.
  9. Use other students as cues to indicate what to do. The HFA student may be disruptive or intrusive because he/she is not aware of the codes of conduct for the classroom. When errors occur, remember to ask the HFA student to first look at what the other students are doing (e.g., sitting still, working silently, waiting in an orderly line). Inform the student that what he or she must do is observe the other students and copy what they are doing (assuming what they are doing is appropriate).
  10. A teacher aid may be required. Their role is crucial and complex, but their main responsibilities are to:
  • Provide instruction on feelings and friendships
  • Provide instruction for specific learning problems
  • Implement a program to improve gross and fine motor skills
  • Help the student to recognize the codes of conduct
  • Help the student to develop and apply special interests as a means of improving motivation, talent and knowledge
  • Encourage the understanding of the perspectives and thoughts of others
  • Encourage the student to be sociable, flexible, and cooperative when playing or working with other students
  • Encourage conversation skills
  • Enable the student to cope with their auditory sensitivity

More Strategies:

One Little Trick to Help Kids on the Spectrum Sleep Longer & Deeper at Night & During Naps

As parents of kids on the autism spectrum, we've all heard about weighted blankets. But do they actually work. Listen to what this grandmother has to say about the Snuggle Pro weighted blanket:

"I bought this blanket for our 6 y.o. granddaughter (who is high functioning on the autism spectrum). After just one night, my daughter told me it really does the job. My little girl is absolutely in love with her new blanket, so much so that she tried to take it to school (LOL). She gave up her other worn out blanket without a tantrum. Super soft and hypoallergenic. Easy to clean since it's machine washable. Very thoughtful packaging. Comes with a free storage bag. Bamboo fabric too!!!

When she’s over to visit, it’s been hard to keep my granddaughter down for naps – until now! She recently said "Nonnie, that was THE BEST NAP EVER" :) ...and she woke up super relaxed (rather than her usual grouchy self). Not only does she sleep longer, but she also likes to have it nearby when she watches Sponge Bob (her favorite cartoon). She also loves that one side is cool and the other side is warm. Very satisfied Customer!! This is a “must-have” product if you have a preschooler with an autism spectrum disorder."

Snuggle Pro Weighted Blanket for Kids - 7 lbs Heavy Blanket, 41''x60'' - Set with Bamboo & Minky Reversible Duvet Cover - Natural Sleep Aid for Children, Adults - Calming Comfort Weighted Blanket

  • Anonymous said... We tried one as it was recommended by a receptionist at the doctor's believe it or not! It was amazing! We were at our wits end and as soon as it arrived it was like a miracle!
  • Anonymous said... My son loves his.
  • Anonymous said... One more thing to add, my son wet the bed until he was almost five years old. We used a weighted blanket and he stopped within about two to three days!

Snuggle Pro Weighted Blanket for Kids - 7 lbs Heavy Blanket, 41''x60'' - Set with Bamboo & Minky Reversible Duvet Cover - Natural Sleep Aid for Children, Adults - Calming Comfort Weighted Blanket

Best Education Games for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Here are our top 10 picks for educational games to assist children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:

Helping Kids on the Autism Spectrum Who Get Frustrated Easily


When my 15y/o son with autism (high functioning) meets with disappointment, and when things don't go just as he wants them to, he has his meltdown …then it is so difficult to get him redirected back to doing what he should be doing. Are there any tips you can give me about how to try to get him back on track, to help him accept that something didn't work out or that he can't do or have something he really wanted?


What you’re referring to here is low frustration tolerance (i.e., needing immediate pleasure or needing to avoid pain at the cost of long-term stress and defeatism). Low frustration-tolerance originates from the youngster’s dysfunctional and irrational beliefs. Behaviors are then the result of avoiding frustrating events which, paradoxically, lead to increased frustration and even greater mental stress.

Low frustration tolerance occurs when the youngster gets very frustrated and has an unwillingness or inability to tolerate the necessary short-term discomfort that is sometimes required for long-term gain. The opposite of this would be HIGH frustration tolerance. High frustration tolerance is simply the ability to tolerate or cope with discomfort and hard work in the short-term in order to achieve one's long term goals. Kids and teens with high frustration tolerance tend to be much more flexible, logical, rational and calmer in their thinking, behavior and general approach to life – and they are far less likely to suffer mental health problems as a result.

Here is what I would say to your son if I were meeting with him one-on-one…

Low frustration tolerance is just what it sounds like. You do not tolerate even the most minor frustrations well. You are easily irritated. You have a short fuse. Now …here is how you can increase your ability to deal with stressors, irritations and frustration without blowing your cool:

When the irritation happens and before you lose your cool, you have a thought or some belief which either lowers or increases your frustration. Consider some of the situations that irritate or annoy you. Look at some of the thinking which may be causing you to be more irritated or frustrated than you need to be. Here are some examples:
  • "I can't stand being frustrated, so I must avoid it at all costs."
  • "I can't take this."
  • "I can't wait that long."
  • "I should always be happy and content."
  • "It shouldn't be this difficult."
  • "It shouldn't be this way."
  • "My mom should stop doing things which annoy me."
  • "Things must go my way, and I can’t stand it when they don't."
  • "This is too much."

It is important to listen to what you are thinking, because then you can change what you are thinking. If you change your view of what is happening, you can change how you feel about it. If you can tune-in to what is going on in your head, you can rewrite the script. A large part of feeling frustrated comes from feeling helpless. Realize that you aren't completely helpless.

Now here is what I have to say to you, the parent...

There are nine distinct dimensions reflecting differences in temperament that influence how kids on the autism spectrum respond to the world around them. Understanding these may better help you to understand your son and figure out strategies for coping better with his temperament:

1. ACTIVITY measures the amount of physical energy a youngster puts into behavior and daily activities. An active child moves around a lot, even when sleeping. These kids prefer more active kinds of play over quiet activities such as reading. Many resist sleeping and fall asleep only when they're exhausted. Moms and dads need to notice what works when they are trying to calm an active youngster at bedtime.

2. ADAPTABILITY measures a youngster's adjustment to changes and transitions. Highly adaptable kids can be taken anywhere, anytime. They can sleep anywhere. As they get older, they are easy going. Kids low in adaptability react negatively to changes and need a lot of time before settling into situations. Unexpected situations can arouse strong reactions. Kids low in adaptability resist change, and often insist that every detail of daily routines be followed. They frequently are clingy. You can help them feel more in control by giving them simple choices to make (e.g., “Would you prefer doing your homework before or after dinner?”).

3. APPROACH/WITHDRAWAL measures a child’s initial reaction to a new activity, person, or situation. “Approaching” children tend to have a positive first reaction. These kids are often also very active and may go barreling into new situations, sometimes frightening other kids nearby. Helping them to slow down a little is very useful. “Withdrawing” kids have a negative reaction to the first time they experience something new. Sometimes they slowly warm-up to a situation, so it's important not to rush them into things. Let them set the pace at which they assimilate into what is going on.

4. DISTRACTIBILITY measures a youngster's tendency to be diverted by noise, interruptions, and other things going on around them. Highly distractible kids are acutely aware of everything that's going on around them. Simply explaining to a youngster, "You're getting distracted" can help him become more aware and regain his focus. Kids low in distractibility focus well, even in challenging environments, such as school.

5. INTENSITY refers to the level of energy a youngster puts into self-expression (i.e., the amount of volume and drama in the youngster's life). Intense kids express themselves with great vigor and gusto. Older kids speak in extremes (e.g., “Today was THE BEST or THE WORST day ever”). When they are in a good mood, they can be delightfully enthusiastic about something. When they are in a bad mood, a negative reaction from a parent can unleash a major tantrum or meltdown, abusive back-talk, threats of violence, or threats of running away. Moms and dads of intense kids need to learn how to not escalate with them. You should speak in a matter-of-fact tone of voice with them. After an eruption is over, try to help them learn more appropriate ways of expressing themselves that will be less offensive to others around them.

6. MOOD is a measure of a youngster's disposition. Some kids complain a lot. Others smile a lot and are always content. Some tend toward optimistic, others pessimistic. Kids who are more serious may have an analytical way of looking at things. If they tend toward pessimism or negativity, you can use their analytical perspective to your advantage. Speaking in a measured tone, help them understand what is upsetting them; help them broaden their perspective. Help them see things in new, more adaptive, ways.

7. PERSISTENCE/FRUSTRATION TOLERANCE measures a youngster's ability to complete a task in the face of obstacles. Kids with low frustration tolerance tend to give up easily when something doesn't go easily. Children and teens with low frustration tolerance do not like to be left alone. Kids who are low in frustration tolerance can be helped to increase their persistence by gradually stretching out the “adult response-time” to their kid's demands for help. Try breaking tasks down into smaller and easier pieces. Encourage them to do something until they can complete it. Kids with high frustration tolerance can persist in the face of difficulties and are more comfortable entertaining themselves. They sometimes find it difficult to walk away from something unfinished. You can help by giving them advance warnings (e.g., “Dinner is in five minutes”).

8. REGULARITY measures how predictable or unpredictable a youngster's biological functions are (e.g., hunger, fatigue, bowel movements, etc.). “Irregular” kids will rarely do anything with any predictability. Moms and dads should resist nagging a youngster about eating with everyone else. Instead, try making healthy snacks and food available for when they ask for it. Kids who are more irregular may handle chaos and spontaneity better than kids who are very “regular” and who do better in predictable and structured environments.

9. SENSITIVITY is a measure of a youngster's sensory threshold. A youngster low in sensitivity is better equipped to handle a stimulating situation (e.g., crowds or shopping). A youngster high in sensitivity has a low tolerance for exciting or stimulating situations, and will be prone to meltdowns. He over-reacts to physical stimuli (e.g., sights, sounds, taste, smell, and touch). Sensible accommodations to help sensitive kids can make coping easier for the youngster (e.g., learning when to turn down the volume).

Understanding your son's temperament will go a long way toward helping him fit into a society that is quick to judge harshly behaviors and emotions that are "different." To the extent that a mother or father can learn to accept a youngster for who he is, it greatly helps that child or teen to learn to feel good about being himself.

==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

The Female Version of High-Functioning Autism

“What are some of the traits of high functioning autism that are unique to girls with the disorder?”

High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s affect behavior, personality, and the way the child interacts with others. The symptoms of HFA in females are usually displayed in a more subtle manner, which often results in missed or incorrect professional diagnoses, a lack of access to special education services and provisions in school, and a greater chance of social and emotional problems in adulthood.

Several distinct differences exist in regard to the ways that females with HFA behave as compared to their male counterparts, for example:
  • “non-autistic” females will play with dolls by pretending that they are interacting socially, but HFA females may collect dolls and not use them to engage socially with their peers
  • a girl with HFA is more likely to have interests that are common to “typical” females, whereas an HFA male is more likely to have an unusual interest (e.g., a girl may be obsessed with horses, while a boy may be obsessed with AAA batteries)
  • acceptance from peers can sometimes mask the issues that these girls have so that they are not recognized by educators and parents, and as a result, they are less likely to suggest psychological and social evaluations for them
  • they are highly intelligent, but like their autistic counterparts, possess poor language skills 
  • they are not often aggressive when they get frustrated; instead, they tend to be withdrawn and can easily "fly under the radar" in classrooms and other social environments
  • fascination with certain subjects can lead to them lagging behind their peers in terms of maturity and age-appropriate behavior (e.g., a 13-year-old girl with HFA may be fascinated with stuffed animals or cartoons long after other peers her age have outgrown these things
  • females with HFA may be more likely to internalize their emotions and experience inward or passive signs of aggression, whereas males often express their feelings and frustrations through emotional outbursts (these gender-related behaviors may be part of the reason that fewer females are diagnosed)
  • females with the disorder often display obsessive tendencies in regard to animals, dolls, and other female-oriented interests
  • girls on the autism spectrum are often less talkative than other females their age 
  • they are often protected and nurtured by their “non-autistic” friends who help them cope with difficult social situations
  • girls with the disorder may be mistakenly assumed to have a personality disorder because they mimic typical kids, but use phrases inappropriately
  • they are intrigued with fantasies that include magical kingdoms, princesses, and other fairy tale elements 
  • their behaviors are more passive than those typical of males with HFA
  • girls on the spectrum often attempt to mimic the interests, behavior, and body language of others in an attempt to "fit in" – in fact, they become quite adept at this mimicking, causing them to elude diagnosis and treatment throughout life in many cases
  • they are more able to express their emotions in a calmer way than their male counterparts
  • they tend to be bored with others their age and have difficulty empathizing with peers

As females on the spectrum become adults, they may feel isolated because they react differently to certain "stressful" situations. Their comments can seem insensitive and uncaring, when in reality, they simply may not fully understand the concept of empathy. These young ladies often look for companionship with other adult females who have similar behavior patterns and outlook.

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

Signs That a Toddler May Have High-Functioning Autism

“I read the article ‘Can Parents Detect High-Functioning Autism In Their Infant?’ And I was wondering if I could get the answer to the same question – except for toddlers rather than infants? What are some of the symptoms of high functioning autism at that age approx.?”

While symptoms of High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger’s are sometimes noticeable as early as infancy, many moms and dads sense something different about their undiagnosed youngster by his or her 3rd birthday. In some cases, early language skills are retained, but the lag in motor development may be the first sign that something is different than "typical" 3-year-old behavior.

Toddlers (approximately ages 1 to 4), may not show specific symptoms of HFA or Asperger’s, but certain behavioral oddities may be noticed by parents as follows:
  • Actions (e.g., waving or giving a toy when asked) seem like simple tasks. However, to a youngster with HFA, these simple gestures may not occur "on schedule" and may instead be delayed. This is because such gestures involve interaction between the youngster and another individual, which are difficult for kids on the autism spectrum.
  • Anomalies in nonverbal communication are often apparent in these young people. A lack of eye contact may occur accompanied by limited facial expressions which correspond with words the toddler is speaking. The youngster may also exhibit unusual body movements and gestures. These anomalies become more apparent by the age of 3.
  • Joint attention is the concept that two individuals (e.g., child and parent) can be focused on the same thing (e.g., looking at a picture in a book together). A toddler with HFA may have a hard time getting this concept.
  • Most HFA toddlers need to establish rigid repetition and routine in their daily activities in order to minimize “meltdowns,” sensory overload, anxiety, etc.
  • A toddler with HFA may also show symptoms of ADHD. 
  • One of the developmental milestones of the first year of life is to be able to point to a desired object. By one year of age, a youngster will probably be pointing to objects that interest him or her. However, a toddler with HFA may not reach this milestone until later.
  • One of the most apparent symptoms of HFA in toddlers is their intense interest in a single topic (e.g., fans, trains or maps). They often want to know - and spend a lot of time trying to learn - about their hobby or interest, and they may use an advanced vocabulary and exhibit a high level of expertise on the subject.
  • Problems with motor skills are a common symptom. Delayed learning is usually noticeable in kids on the autism spectrum by the age of 3 (e.g., playing catch, potty training, learning to ride a bike, walking on tip toes, etc.). Their movement may be described as clumsy or uncoordinated. 
  • Repetitive interests and behaviors are defining components of the diagnosis of HFA. However, repetitive interests are essentially very normal in toddlers. While it is very difficult to determine with such young kids, some signs that behaviors and interests have crossed the line from, for example, "a normal toddler who loves planes" to "an obsessed toddler who seems too wrapped up in planes" may be noticed by parents. These include a very specific interest (e.g., not just "planes" but "the wings of planes") – an interest that is unusual compared to the HFA child’s peers (e.g., a 3-year-old who intensely focuses on AAA batteries). The child may also find it difficult to shift focus from the area of interest to other things.
  • Some toddlers on the autism spectrum will have an unusual sensitivity to loud sounds or lights. They may also be bothered by other physical stimuli (e.g., sensitivity to the way certain clothing or material feels, the need to have their socks to be on their feet in a particular way, etc.).
  • The interests of a toddler with HFA tend to be very limited, causing the youngster to have a very narrow focus of activities and interests.
  • The child may seem to have one-sided social interaction and limited ability to form friendships.
  • He or she may often talk incessantly about one subject, without acknowledging the listener.
  • Toddler’s with HFA usually have difficulty in social situations (e.g., imaginative play with other kids).
  • They are often not diagnosed until later in childhood as they sometimes learn to read very early. The perceived advancement overshadows the fact that the youngster with HFA often can’t comprehend the words he or she is reading.
  • Unlike toddlers with autism, a toddler with HFA generally does not experience difficulties in language development and speech. Vocabulary is often advanced with HFA, though as language develops, the parent may notice that the youngster has difficulty properly using his or her vocabulary.

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Can Parents Detect High-Functioning Autism In Their Infant?

“Are there some symptoms of high functioning autism that can be observed in infants? My daughter has a son, 7 months old, and she is worried that he may have this condition. Is it too early to tell?”

High-Functioning Autism (and Asperger’s) consists of problems with socializing and communication with others. While the average age of diagnosis of is around age 7 to 9, recent research regarding early warnings signs may enable clinicians to diagnosis prior to 12 months.

Many infants and toddlers exhibit signs or symptoms of HFA from time to time; however, this may reflect normal child behavior. Failure to meet expected developmental milestones doesn’t necessarily reflect a symptom of the disorder.

With these facts in mind, some symptoms of HFA may be detected in infancy:
  • Some kids with HFA fail to attain certain “expected” milestones within the first year (e.g., unassisted standing, crawling, simple gestures including waving, etc.).
  • An infant with HFA may fail to interact appropriately with his or her environment (e.g., avoid eye contact and interactions, prefer solitude, avoid attention or affection, etc.).
  • Later in infancy, some may show problems reacting with activities and objects (e.g., over react - or fail to react at all). 
  • Initial signs of repetitive behaviors may emerge at this time (e.g., rocking).
  • Babies with HFA can exhibit abnormal methods of non-verbal communication (e.g., failure to look another person in the eye and have appropriate facial expressions, failure to exhibit predictable body postures or gestures). 
  • They may not exhibit a social smile until much later on in life. 
  • Infants no the autism spectrum may totally ignore the voices of the parents or strangers, or conversely cry and become irritable when confronted with any form of social contact. 
  • The child’s first words are often unusual. For example, more complex words, such as "mountain" or "sheetrock" may emerge before simpler words, such as "Mama" or "Dada."
  • They may become obsessed with complex topics (e.g., intricate patterns or music).
  • These kids may be unable to focus on any other aspect of the environment once they notice the object of their obsession. 
  • Uncoordinated movements are a common symptom in HFA. Kids with the disorder may be seen moving clumsily and be unable to coordinate movements of the hands or feet. They may exhibit an odd posture or have a stiff, rigid gait. In addition, they may show a delay in learning how to crawl or walk, and can exhibit a delay in fine motor movements (e.g., grasping an object).
  • Infants with HFA appear to demonstrate abnormal reflexes versus “normal” kids. They tend to exhibit a persistence of the asymmetrical tonic neck reflex beyond their fourth month of life (when the reflex generally disappears). When infants 4 months and older without HFA roll over, they turn in the same direction that their head is facing. Asymmetrical tonic neck reflex is the opposite of this (i.e., the infant turns over in the opposite direction to where the head is facing). 
  • They may lack reflexes that should develop by a certain age, such as the head-verticalization reflex at 6 to 8 months. An infant who has developed this reflex will maintain his head in a vertical position when his body is tilted. Infants with HFA show delays in this reflex (i.e., their heads will tilt along with their bodies).

Detecting HFA and Asperger’s is crucial in improving the long-term outcomes for these kids. Prevention of later life problems may be avoided with early intervention. Therefore, knowledge of early symptoms of the disorder in infants remains paramount in mitigating outcomes.

Tips for Teachers: Strengths-Based Education for Kids on the Spectrum

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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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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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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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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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