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

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Obsessions in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"Why is my 6-year-old son (high functioning autistic) so engrossed in Minecraft, and how can I tell if it is an unhealthy obsession rather than just a fun time activity for him?"

The intensity and duration of the child’s interest in a particular topic, object or collection is what determines whether or not it has become an “obsession.” Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) will often learn a lot about a thing they are obsessed with, be intensely interested in it for a long time, and feel strongly about it. There are several reasons why these kids may develop obsessions, including:
  • they can get a lot of enjoyment from learning about a particular subject or gathering together items of interest
  • those who find social interaction difficult might use their special interests as a way to start conversations and feel more self-assured in social situations
  • obsessions may help children cope with the uncertainties of daily life
  • obsessions may help children to relax and feel happy
  • obsessions may provide order and predictability
  • obsessions may provide structure
 
Many children with Aspergers and HFA have sensory sensitivity and may be over- or under-sensitive to sights, sounds, smells, taste and touch. This sensitivity can also affect children’s balance ('vestibular' system) and body awareness ('proprioception' or knowing where our bodies are and how they are moving). Obsessions and repetitive behavior can be a way to deal with sensory sensitivity.



Although repetitive behavior varies from child to child, the reasons behind it may be the same:
  •  a source of enjoyment and occupation
  • a way to deal with stress and anxiety and to block out uncertainty
  • an attempt to gain sensory input (e.g., rocking may be a way to stimulate the balance or vestibular system; hand-flapping may provide visual stimulation)
  • an attempt to reduce sensory input (e.g., focusing on one particular sound may reduce the impact of a loud, distressing environment; this may particularly be seen in social situations)
  • some adolescents may revert to old repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand-flapping, rocking if anxious or stressed)

Reality to a child on the autism spectrum is a confusing, interacting mass of events, people, places, sounds and sights. Set routines, times, particular routes and rituals all help to get order into an unbearably chaotic life. Trying to keep everything the same reduces some of the terrible fear.

Many children with the disorder have a strong preference for routines and sameness. Routines often serve an important function. For example, they introduce order, structure and predictability and help to manage anxiety. Because of this, it can be very distressing if the child’s routine is disrupted.

Sometimes minor changes (e.g., moving between two activities) can be distressing. For others, big events (e.g., holidays, birthdays, Christmas, etc.), which create change and upheaval, can cause anxiety. Unexpected changes are often most difficult to deal with. 

Some children on the spectrum have daily timetables so that they know what is going to happen, when. However, the need for routine and sameness can extend beyond this. You might see:
  •  a need for routine around daily activities such as meals or bedtime
  • changes to the physical environment (e.g., the layout of furniture in a room), or the presence of new people or absence of familiar ones, being difficult to manage
  • compulsive behavior (e.g., the child might be constantly washing his hands or checking locks)
  • rigid preferences about things like food (e.g., only eating food of a certain color), clothing (e.g., only wearing clothes made from specific fabrics), or everyday objects (e.g., only using particular types of soap or brands of toilet paper)
  • routines can become almost ritualistic in nature, having to be followed precisely with attention paid to the tiniest details
  • verbal rituals, with a child repeatedly asking the same questions and needing a specific answer

Children's dependence on routines can increase during times of change, stress or illness and may even become more dominant or elaborate at these times. Dependence on routines may increase or re-emerge during adolescence. Routines can have a profound effect on the lives of children with Aspergers and HFA, their family and care-takers, but it is possible to make a child less reliant on them.

Obsessions versus Hobbies—

Most of us have hobbies, interests and a preference for routine. Here are five questions that can help us distinguish between hobbies/interests versus obsessive behavior:
  1. Can the child stop the behavior independently?
  2. Does the child appear distressed when engaging in the behavior or does the child give signs that he is trying to resist the behavior (e.g., someone who flaps their hands may try to sit on their hands to prevent the behavior)?
  3. Is the behavior causing significant disruption to others (e.g., moms and dads, care-takers, peers, siblings)?
  4. Is the behavior impacting on the child’s learning?
  5. Is the behavior limiting the child’s social opportunities?

If your answer to any of the questions above is 'yes', it may be appropriate to look at ways of helping your youngster to reduce obsessive or repetitive behavior. Think about whether, by setting limits around a particular behavior, you are really helping your youngster. Is the behavior actually a real issue for him, for you, or for other people in his life?

Focus on developing skills that your youngster can use instead of repetitive or obsessive behavior. Try to understand the function of the behavior, then make small, gradual changes and be consistent. Here are some ideas to help you:

1.     Coping with change: If unexpected changes occur, and your youngster is finding it hard to cope, try re-directing them to a calming activity, or encourage them to use simple relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises. You could use praise or other rewards for coping with change. In the long term, this may help make your youngster more tolerant of change.

2.     Explore alternative activities: One way to interrupt repetitive behavior is for a youngster to do another enjoyable activity that has the same function (e.g., a youngster who flicks their fingers for visual stimulation could play with a kaleidoscope or a bubble gun;  a youngster who puts inedible objects in their mouth could have a bag with edible alternatives that provide similar sensory experiences such as raw pasta or spaghetti, or seeds and nuts; a youngster who rocks to get sensory input could go on a swing; a youngster who smears their poop could have a bag with play dough in it to use instead).

3.     Intervene early: Repetitive behaviors, obsessions and routines are generally harder to change the longer they continue.  A behavior that is perhaps acceptable in a young child may not be appropriate as they get older and may, by this time, be very difficult to change. For example, a youngster who is obsessed with shoes and tries to touch people's feet might not present too much of a problem, but a teenager doing the same thing - especially to strangers - will obviously be problematic. It will help if you can set limits around repetitive behaviors from an early age and look out for any new behavior that emerges as your youngster gets older. Making your youngster's environment and surroundings more structured can help them to feel more in control and may reduce anxiety. If anxiety is reduced, the need to engage in repetitive behavior and adhere strictly to routines may also, in time, be reduced.

4.     Pre-planning: You may be able to help your youngster to cope with change, or activities and events that could be stressful, by planning for them in advance.  Change is unavoidable, but it can be really difficult for many children with the disorder. You may not always be able to prepare for change a long time in advance, but try to give your youngster as much warning as possible. Gradually introducing the idea of a new person, place, object or circumstance can help them cope with the change. Try to talk about the event or activity when everyone is fairly relaxed and happy.  Presenting information visually can be a good idea, as your youngster can refer to it as often as they need to. You could try using calendars so that your youngster knows how many days it is before an event (e.g., Christmas) happens. This can help them feel prepared. Your youngster might also like to see photos of places or objects in advance so they know what to expect (e.g., a picture of their Christmas present) or a photo of the building they are going to for an appointment. Using social stories could also be helpful. These are short stories, often with pictures, that describe different situations and activities so that children with Aspergers and HFA know what to expect.  Pre-planning can also involve structuring the environment. For example, a student with HFA might go to use a computer in the library at lunchtime if they find being in the playground too stressful – or if a youngster has sensory sensitivity, minimizing the impact of things like noises (e.g., school bells) or smells (e.g., perfumes or soaps) can help them to cope better.  It is possible that more structured environments may reduce boredom, which is sometimes a reason for repetitive behavior. You might prepare a range of enjoyable or calming activities to re-direct your youngster to if they seem bored or stressed.

5.     Self-regulation skills: Self-regulation skills are any activities that help your youngster to manage their own behavior and emotions.  If you can help your youngster to identify when they are feeling stressed or anxious and use an alternative response (e.g., relaxation techniques or asking for help), you may, in time, see less repetitive or ritualistic behavior.  Research has also shown that increasing a child’s insight into an obsession or repetitive behavior can significantly reduce it. This includes children with quite severe learning disabilities.

6.     Set limits: Setting limits around repetitive behavior, routines and obsessions is an important and often essential way to minimize their impact on your youngster's life. You could set limits in a number of ways depending which behavior concerns you. For example, you can ration objects (e.g., can only carry five pebbles in pocket), ration places (e.g., spinning only allowed at home), and ration times (e.g., can watch his favorite DVD for 20 minutes twice a day). Everyone involved with your youngster should take the same consistent approach to setting limits. Have clear rules about where, when, with whom and for how long a behavior is allowed. You could present this information visually, with a focus on when your youngster can engage in the behavior. This may help if they feel anxious about restricted access to an obsession or activity.

7.     Social skills training: Teaching social skills (e.g.,  how to start and end a conversation, appropriate things to talk about, how to read other people's 'cues') may mean someone with Aspergers or HFA feels more confident and doesn't need to rely on talking about particular subjects (e.g., a special interest). 

8.     Understand the function of the behavior: Obsessions, repetitive behavior and routines are frequently important and meaningful to children on the  spectrum, helping them to manage anxiety and have some measure of control over a confusing and chaotic world. For others, the behavior may help with sensory issues. Take a careful look at what you think might be causing the behavior and what purpose it might serve.  For example, does your youngster always seem to find a particular environment (e.g., a classroom) hard to cope with? Is it too bright? Could you turn off strip lighting and rely on natural daylight instead?

9.     Visual supports: Visual supports (e.g., photos, symbols, written lists or physical objects) can really help children with Aspergers and HFA.  A visual timetable could help your youngster to see what is going to happen next. This makes things more predictable and helps them to feel prepared. It may lessen their reliance on strict routines of their own making. Visual supports like egg timers or 'time timers' can help some children with an autism spectrum disorder to understand abstract concepts like time, plan what they need to do, when in order to complete a task, and understand the concept of waiting.  Visual supports can also be useful if your youngster asks the same question repeatedly. One parent wrote down the answer to a question, put it on the fridge and, whenever her son asked the question, told him to go to the fridge and find the answer. For kids who can't read, you could use pictures instead of words.

10.   Make use of obsessions: Obsessions can be used to increase your youngster's skills and areas of interest, promote self-esteem, and encourage socializing. You may find you can look at a particular obsession and think of ways to develop it into something more functional. Here are some examples:
  • A child with a special interest in historical dates could join a history group and meet others with similar interests.
  • A child with knowledge of sport or music would be a valuable member of a pub quiz team.
  • A strong preference for ordering or lining up objects could be developed into housework skills.
  • An interest in particular sounds could be channeled into learning a musical instrument.
  • An obsession with rubbish could be used to develop an interest in recycling, and the youngster given the job of sorting items for recycling.

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

 

COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Mine is 17 and still obsessed. I think we have every game, plus the cards, and watch the cartoon. HELP!
•    Anonymous said… My 14 year old- obsessed with Pokemon. Sets him noticeably apart from his peers, and is definitely an issue. frown emoticon
•    Anonymous said… my 25 year old son with ASPERGERS is obsessed with stunt riding.. he is getting good at it. came 12th in the british stunt championships last year. wink emoticon
•    Anonymous said… My Aspie son was too at that age. Rest assured, he will move on to other things but with just as much obsession! Whatever makes them happy.....
•    Anonymous said… My lad of 21 now he has aspergers.was mad on pokemon and digimon.
•    Anonymous said… My son is obsessed with this too!
•    Anonymous said… My teenager( Aspergers) at age 6 was obessed with Spongebob. We would turn the Television and he could repeat the episode without pictures or words. I think that they just love different things and have a likeable interest. My normal 6 year old is obsessed with Sonic. He is at the top of his class and this is the 2nd 9weeks weeks of report cards. He wants every character. At least it is a good thing and not something bad.
•    Anonymous said… Pokemon was created by an autistic man, so I can see why they can become an interest.
•    Anonymous said… Sounds familiar our 12 year old loves pokemon magic the gathering mine craft and Spider-Man
•    Anonymous said… This is an excellent article! Our 7-year-old grandson is obsessed with Minecraft. We have to curb his enthusiasm for discussing Minecraft every single minute of the day, or we would go completely batty! We tell him that although he loves Minecraft, not everyone shares his interest, and it's important to find out what other people's interests are, and not to monopolize conversations talking about his interests only.
•    Anonymous said… When our Aspergers son got into Pokemon it was actually a HUGE help for him socially. Since all the kids were into it, he actually had common interests and they could all talk Pokemon. We saw a lot of social growth during this phase so the obsession was actually very healthy for him.

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How to Reduce Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

As the years go by, are you seeing your Aspergers or HFA child rapidly becoming reduced to a person who is surviving on: anger, being a mistake, depression, hate, isolation, low self-esteem, resentment, sadness and self-hate.

Have you heard your Aspergers or HFA teenager say things like: I'm a mistake. I'm dumb. I'm useless. I hate myself. I wish I was dead. What is wrong with me? Why was I born?

If so, then alarm bells should be going off. You know changes need to happen! Low self-esteem and behavioral problems go hand-in-hand!!!

Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


From the office of Mark Hutten, M.A. - Counseling Psychologist

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Learn How to Reduce - and Eliminate - Meltdowns, Tantrums, Low-Frustration Tolerance, School-Related Behavior Problems, Sensory Sensitivities, Aggression, Social-Skills Deficits, and much more...




Dear parents,

I'd like to talk to you about my parenting system that significantly reduces problematic behavior in children and teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. But first, here's a word about terminology: 

The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) now refers to Asperger syndrome as "Level 1 Autism," also informally called "high-functioning autism" (HFA). However, this only applies to the U.S. In the rest of the world, the disorder is still referred to as Asperger syndrome. So, I will be using these two terms interchangeably, because they are fundamentally the same disorder with two different names. Having said that...

"Parenting Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism" is a 4-part downloadable eBook (along with audio instruction) designed to help parents of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic kids who are experiencing behavioral difficulties. The program contains prevention, identification, and intervention strategies for the most destructive of autism-related behaviors.

Although Asperger's is at the milder end of the autism spectrum (i.e., high-functioning autism), the challenges parents face when raising a child on the autism spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an "average" child. Complicated by symptoms associated with the disorder, the Asperger's or HFA child is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels, unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” children and teens do not take into account the many issues facing a youngster with a neurological disorder. Meltdowns, shutdowns, aggression, sensory sensitivities, self-injury, isolation-seeking, and communication problems that arise are just some of the issues that parents of these young people will have to learn to address.

Parents need to come up with a consistent parenting plan ahead of time, and then present a united front and continually review their strategies for potential changes and improvements as the Asperger's or HFA child develops and matures.


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Kids on the autism spectrum possess a unique set of attitudes and behaviors:

Social Skills— Social conventions are a confusing maze for young people with Asperger's and HFA. They can be disarmingly concise and to the point, and may take jokes and exaggerations literally. Because they struggle to interpret figures of speech and tones of voice that “neurotypicals” (non-autistic children) naturally pick up on, they may have difficulty engaging in a two-way conversation. As a result, they may end up fixating on their own interests and ignoring the interests and opinions of others.

Sensory Difficulties— Children on the autism spectrum can be extremely sensitive to loud noise, strong smells and bright lights. This can be a challenge in relationships as these "special needs" kids may be limited in where they can go, how well they can tolerate the environment, and how receptive they are to instruction from parents and teachers.

Routines and Fixations— These young people rely on routine to provide a sense of control and predictability in their lives. Another characteristic of the disorder is the development of special interests that are unusual in focus or intensity. These children may become so obsessed with their particular areas of interest that they get upset and angry when something or someone interrupts their schedule or activity.

Interpreting and Responding to Emotion— Children and teens on the spectrum often suffer from “mindblindness,” which means they have difficulty understanding the emotions others are trying to convey through facial expressions and body language. The problem isn’t that these kids can’t feel emotion, but that they have trouble expressing their own emotions and understanding the feelings of others. “Mindblindness” often give parents the impression that their child is insensitive, selfish and uncaring.

Awkwardness— Children with Asperger's and HFA tend to be physically and socially awkward, which makes them a frequent target of school bullies. Low self-esteem caused by being rejected and outcast by peers often makes these kids even more susceptible to “acting-out” behaviors at home and school.

School Failures— Many Asperger's and HFA children, with their average to above average IQs, can sail through grammar school, and yet hit academic and social problems in middle and high school. They now have to deal with four to six teachers, instead of just one. The likelihood that at least one teacher will be indifferent or even hostile toward making special accommodations is certain. The adolescent student on the autism spectrum now has to face a series of classroom environments with different classmates, odors, distractions and noise levels, and sets of expectations. Asperger's and HFA teenagers, with their distractibility and difficulty organizing materials, face similar academic problems as students with ADHD. A high school term paper or a science fair project becomes impossible to manage because no one has taught the teenager how to break it up into a series of small steps. Even though the academic stress on a "special needs" teenager can be overwhelming, school administrators may be reluctant to enroll him in special education at this late point in his educational career.

Social Isolation— In the school environment where everyone feels a bit insecure, children and teens that appear different are voted off the island. Asperger's and HFA students often have odd mannerisms. Isolated and alone, many of these "special needs" students are too anxious to initiate social contact. They may be stiff and rule-oriented and act like little adults, which is a deadly trait in any popularity contest. Friendship and all its nuances of reciprocity can be exhausting for the kid on the spectrum, even though he wants it more than anything else. 

As the years go by, are you seeing your child rapidly becoming reduced to a person who is surviving on:
  • anger
  • being a mistake
  • depression
  • hate
  • isolation
  • low self-esteem
  • resentment
  • sadness
  • ...and self-hate?

Have you heard your child say things like:
  • I'm a mistake.
  • I'm dumb.
  • I'm useless.
  • I hate myself.
  • I wish I was dead.
  • What is wrong with me?
  • Why was I born?

If so, then alarm bells should be going off. You know changes need to happen! Low self-esteem and behavioral problems go hand-in-hand!!!

The program "Parenting Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism" is guaranteed to (a) improve your child's behavior and self-esteem, and (b) empower parents and assist them in starting to enjoy their amazing and talented child or teen.

Parenting young people on the autism spectrum is tough!  If you don't know how, that is. In this program, you will discover how to:
  • Be your child's best advocate
  • Help her comply with rules and expectations
  • Help him learn positive ways to "work with" his differences - not to "fight" them
  • Learn the specifics of autism-related behavior and how to keep it in perspective
  • Look at mistakes as lessons - not as major set-backs
  • Re-evaluate your expectations
  • Take your power back as the parent
  • Tune-in to who your child genuinely is - not what the stereotypical child is (based on social beliefs)
  • Cope with your child's difficult and aggressive behaviors
  • Understand what is really going on inside her head
  • Help him cope better in the community and at school
  • Keep the peace at home with the rest of the family
  • Greatly improve your child's self-esteem, because "special needs" kids with low self-esteem have very little - or no - motivation to change behavior

==> If you have tried talking, screaming, punishing, pleading, and negotiating - but your Asperger's or HFA teenager still walks all over you… 

==> If you find yourself "walking on eggshells" around your child trying to avoid saying something that will set him off… 

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==> If you are frustrated and exhausted from constant arguing… 

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  • Begging to get your child to respond to simple requests
  • Getting pulled into pointless, never-ending arguments
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  • Feeling powerless and stress-out because nothing you say to your child gets through

Now, when you talk, your youngster will listen and respond appropriately. Don’t go another day being a hostage in your own house. Get back in control of your child today.


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I can tell you from over 20 years of experience that "bad autism-related behavior" does NOT change without an intervention like the one I'm giving you here. Inside this program, you will get all the tools you need to improve your child's behavior. And as always, I guarantee your success - or your money back! 

The problem is that most parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum have tried very hard to get just a little respect and compliance, but with little - or no - success. And it seems the harder the parent tries, the more the child feels frustrated, which often results in tantrums, meltdowns, or non-compliance.

I often hear the following statement from parents: “I've tried everything with this child – and nothing works.” But when they download this program, they soon discover they have NOT tried everything – rather they have tried some things.

You now have the opportunity to learn "cut-to-the-chase" parenting strategies that work immediately rather than weeks or months down the road. And I guarantee your success or you get your money back – and you can keep the 4-part eBook. This is how confident I am that this information is going to work for you!

No, I’m not a miracle worker. But you don’t need a miracle! All you need is this set of proven parenting techniques – specific to the Asperger's and HFA condition – to use with your "special needs" child or teen.

If parents don’t have the techniques outlined in this program, all they are left with are typical disciplinary methods. And as you may have discovered, typical methods don't work with an Asperger's or HFA child.

Here is a partial list of typical parenting strategies. Parents have found these strategies to have little - or no - effect on their "special needs" child's behavior:
  • Trying to "reason" with the child
  • Having heart-to-heart talks
  • "Confronting" the child or being assertive
  • Grounding
  • Taking away privileges
  • Time-outs
  • Counseling
  • Trying to be a nicer parent
  • Trying to be a tougher parent
  • "Giving in" and letting the child have his way
  • Verbal warnings
  • Ignoring misbehavior
  • Medication
  • Having the child go live with his other parent (if parents are separated or divorced)
  • Having another family member "talk to" or attempt to "mentor" the child
  • Threatening to send the child away to a juvenile facility
  • Threatening to call the police
  • and so on...

I’m giving you the chance to break the cycle of confusion and non-compliance …to bring some peace back into your household again …and to keep your child from potential self-destruction. And you can start in just 5 minutes from now!

  1. The Comprehensive Handbook on Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum
  2. How to Stop Meltdowns and Tantrums
  3. Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management
  4. My audio book entitled “Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism”
In addition, you will receive:
  • The “Parenting Defiant Asperger's and HFA Teens” audio course
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I say "better-than-risk-free" because this whole package is yours to keep even in the unlikely event you decide to ask for a refund. If for any reason you aren't completely satisfied with your purchase, just contact me within 60 days (that's right – two months!), and I'll give you a 100% prompt and courteous refund...  no questions asked!  I’m the one taking the risk here – not you.

I’ve learned a lot in my 20+ years of working with families affected by autism spectrum disorders. And this counseling psychologist is putting all of his best tools in this one package that can now be yours.

I trust that you’ll take a step of faith here and get started with this on-line program today. 

~ Mark Hutten, M.A.



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With this parenting toolkit, you will finally be able to manage your child's meltdowns, tantrums, attention difficulties, behavior problems at home and school, picky eating, problems completing homework, rigid thinking, rituals and obsessions, sensory sensitivities, sleep problems, social skills deficits, verbal and physical aggression ...and much more!


About the Author: 

Mark Hutten, M.A. is the executive director of Online Parent Support, LLC. He is a practicing counseling psychologist and parent-coach with more than 20 years’ experience. He has worked with hundreds of children and teenagers with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism (HFA), and presents workshops and runs training courses for parents and professionals who deal with Asperger's and HFA. Also, Mark is a prolific author of articles and eBooks on the subject.

Contact Information:

Online Parent Support, LLC
2328 N 200 E Anderson, IN 46012
Phone: 765-810-3319
Email: mbhutten@gmail.com


Testimonials :

"Mark.  I just wanted to tell you that I have purchased so many Parenting programs for help with my son with Aspergers. While they do touch on related issues, they seem to operate on the principle that these kids are from the same mold and will all respond to the same forms of discipline. Your program is the first (and I think the last) one that has actually helped my situation. Thank you!!!" ~ D.H.

"Today I spoke to my son's former counselor (whom I was asking for a referral for another counseling, which I did before I found your program). I told her, 'I think I don't need it for now,' because I found your site. I gave her your site and told her to spread the word about your program, since her job deals with parents and kids of similar problems. Thanks for all the help!" ~ A.D.

"Thanks Mark. I have been very impressed with your advice and felt I should 'pay it forward' as we feel we are getting such extreme value for our money. As such, I sent your email address to the doctor who was 'trying' to help us. Our son was so extremely disrespectful during our visit with the doctor that he was exasperated at the end and told us there was nothing more he could do and so we should consider kicking him out at 18 and prior to that, send him to a home for 'raging' teens if his behaviour continued. I also note that our doctor has a Psychology degree. I know he has many cases such as ours, so I sent him your website to pass on to other parents who would benefit from this resource. Kindest regards!" ~ S.F.

"I just started your program, but I am already seeing an amazing and positive difference in my HFA daughter. We have struggled with her behavior since she was 9 months old. I was humbled and astounded to learn that I was a big part of the problem in the way that I was reacting to her. We actually have some peace in our home and she even hugs us and says 'I love you' on a regular basis. She has  even begun apologizing for getting angry and being unreasonable. The next step is to help her bring her grades up and stay out of trouble at school. I have every confidence that we have turned a corner and I’m referring everyone I know to your program. Thank you!" ~ T.E.

"My Asperger child (high functioning) had been on medication for ADD for several years.  It never seemed to help the way we hoped. His anger was out of control and most of the walls in our home had holes from him punching them.  He was violent with his siblings and distant from us. I found your program while looking for a treatment facility to send him away to.  I knew it was not safe for his brother and sister if he stayed in our home. About 2 and a half weeks into your program we were able to take him off the medication and he continued to improve. (His doctor insisted we were making a huge mistake and that medication was the only way to help him.)  He is changing into a more confident self-controlled person thanks to your program. He used to scream at me how much he hated me.  Now when he does not get his way he will yell, 'Why are you such a good parent???' He will try to sound angry, but he is letting me know he is happier with the way things are now.  He is learning to diffuse tense situations as well.  We have both become better people.  Thank you for giving me my son back." ~ K. M.

"Nothing has helped as much as this common sense advice. We've been to counseling, read books, you name it.  We can't even put into words what we owe you.  Thank you so much for your help." ~ L.B.

"I have purchased your program ... just wanted to say how amazing your work is proving to be.  I work in psychiatry but have struggled to discipline my son and to understand his behaviour.  I have put in to practice the first week session and already it is working.  Your insight into teenagers with Asperger syndrome is amazing... it was like you had written it all for my son and I.  Thank you, a thousand times, thank you.  I’ll keep you informed of J__’s progress." ~ T.J.

"I wanted to say thank you for all your support, sound advice, and speedy email responses. You were the only person I could speak with, and you helped me enormously. I will never forget your support Mark - when I was terrorised and totally overwhelmed, you gave me the strength and support from half way around the world that allowed me to do my very best for my asperger son. God bless you for your generosity of spirit and your great work." ~ V.T.

"I am so thankful and blessed I found your website.  I am incorporating your suggestions into my life with my 15-year-old daughter on the spectrum – and things are going so much better.  We are both trying and, though she still goes to counseling, I feel like I have tools to work with her now.  Thanks a $$$million and God Bless You!" ~ J.P.

"I started using the language and skills suggested and WOW what a difference it's making already! My most defiant Aspie is being positive, kind and respectful to me. It's hard to change, but I'm convinced this is going to work for my family. I've learned that my actions have a direct effect on my child, and when I show him respect, I get it right back! Thank you so much for retraining me!!!" ~ M.H.

"I have seen such a change in myself and my son, it's amazing. Not that the problems are all gone, but simply by saying I'm not arguing and honoring that, even though I've said it before, surprised him (and me) and put an end to so many problems. It was like I was the MOM again. I guess just having the support of the program helped and knowing there were others out there with the same problems." ~ T. A.

"I just wanted to say THANK YOU. I was trawling the WWW at 02.30 for some help and found your sight and thought I would have a look. I sat in tears listening to you... it was like you had stepped into my home and seen the destruction, the tears became tears of relief that I could possibly make a change in my parenting that could help change my child's behaviour, and so I signed up. It has taken me 2 weeks to get though the first part of the program, but I have already seen tiny creaks for the better in all our behaviour." ~ E.B.

"Thank You Mark! Our prayers were answered with your program/ministry.  We are gradually reclaiming control of our family. THANK YOU for bringing love, peace and harmony to our family once and for all this time.  Yes there are still those idle complaints here and there and the occasional gnashing of teeth. But we have seen so many improvements in our special needs child since we, the parents, have changed our perspective and attitude." ~ R.W.

"I wanted to just take a minute to Thank You and to share my results thus far with my teen son (aspergers, high functioning) using your methods. We have been in counseling since February of this year and yesterday, we withdrew. In all these months, I never felt like we were making any permanent progress....just dancing around, two steps forward, one step back..etc. Since utilizing your strategies along with having our counselor as a sounding board, here are some of the things that have changed: arguments are fewer and less in intensity, a prevailing sense of peacefulness has come back into our home, my son has become more responsible, he has become more respectful towards me, I now have less "guilt" about saying "No" and less difficulty MEANING it, and there is no longer any question about who the parent is now. I can only hope and pray and continue to implement your strategies to see that he does move forward into his adult life in a more positive manner." ~ A.S.

"I am very glad to have you here working with us parents and "our" kids.  I appreciate your insight and your "heart" for these kids.  I just watched "Take the Lead", which is based on a true story about a man who made a commitment to teach ballroom dancing to inner city kids in New York who were in "detention" for the remainder of the school year.  No one else would work with them.  His message to them was simple:  have enough confidence in yourself to lead; enough trust in yourself to follow; and to always show respect for others. Very powerful stuff. There are only a few of you around, Mark. Keep doing what you love - it shows." ~ K.H.

“During these past few weeks, my husband and I have been implementing many steps, successfully. Our Aspergers son has been completing his weekly chores with not much complaint.  There haven't been any melt-downs around here, and the few irritable times we've had have been much less stressful. I hope it's still ok to email you from time to time to say hi and fill you in on our progress.” ~ T.P.

"My daughter simply couldn't understand her peers and did not socialize well at all. Unfortunately, she knew when she was being teased and became very hostile toward the teaser. Her retaliation often resulted in her having to leave the classroom and spend the rest of the morning in the "quiet room" all by herself. Fast forward... we have been working on "how to interject" and the SENSE method that you discuss in the material. These two skills alone have made just a big difference in her coping ability and level of empathy toward others." ~ M.K.

“I have fired the counselors, weaned my child off medications, and I am ready to begin the work of becoming a stronger, more focused parent. My soon to be ex-husband has also agreed to purchase the program and we intend on working it together to get our teen back on track. I thank you for your help and guidance.” ~ W.S.

"Glad I found these parenting skills. Wish I had known about it long before now. Would have saved us a lot of sleepless night." ~ B. F.

“I wanted to let you know how much I really appreciate your program. It is full of really practical and easy-to-use information to help parents with their Asperger’s and HFA children, and also the rest of the family. As a journalist, I know a thing or two about writing - and this is definitely put together and written very professionally.”  ~ I.K.

"I wish my child's teachers would read your ebooks. Since I've been working with him, he does much better at home, but school is still an issue - mostly because his teachers don't get it." ~ N.W.

“In just one week of the course, I saw huge changes in my child with Aspergers Syndrome – and even the teacher noticed. He’s a happier person due to this program. Thank you… thank you …thank you!” ~ C.D.



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, resistance to change, and much more...

High-Functioning Autism/Asperger's and Delayed Speech

Question

Does a child with level 1 autism typically have delayed speech?

Answer

Approximately 50% of kids with high-functioning autism (HFA) have delayed speech. While many of them grow out of this by age five, others go on to experience other language problems. These generally fall into one or more of the following three areas of linguistics:

1. Pragmatics—

Pragmatics refers to language usage and the way that context relates to meaning. Kids with HFA often have difficulty in holding a normal conversation where there is give and take and social interaction. While most children learn these skills by observing others, those with the disorder may need some personal coaching. Problems with pragmatics manifest in the following forms:
  • does not allow the other person to talk
  • does not use people’s names
  • focuses exclusively on topics that interest them
  • gives too much detailed information
  • interrupting others
  • lack of facial expression and eye contact
  • lack of greeting
  • oblivious to boredom in others
  • oblivious to emotional reactions in others


2. Semantics—

Semantics is defined as the meaning or interpretation of a word, sentence, or other language form. While many children with HFA and Asperger's are extremely intelligent and avid readers, they often struggle in this particular area. They may have problems with the following:
  • difficulty in understanding jokes
  • difficulty in understanding metaphors and figures of speech
  • interpreting everything literally
  • pedantic speech
  • problems with understanding teasing
  • sarcasm is not understood

3. Prosody—

Prosody refers to the tonal and rhythmic aspects of speech. Kids on the autism spectrum often have a strange manner of speaking. It may come across with words enunciated precisely and formally and the speed, volume and rhythm may be odd. Problem areas to look out for include the following:
  • difficulties in coordinating speaking and breathing
  • little or no inflection
  • monotonous sound
  • stilted or formal speech
  • strange rhythms of speech
  • talking loudly

Help for Linguistic Difficulties—

HFA kids and grown-ups with language problems can benefit from one-on-one training with a parent or speech therapist. The problems are often tackled individually and it takes perseverance and repetition to see lasting results. Methods vary but could include the following:
  • practicing eye contact and body language
  • practicing normal pronunciation and inflection
  • teaching how to start a conversation
  • training them not to interrupt
  • use of pictures to explain figures of speech

Unless they observe other areas of "slowness" during early development, moms and dads may hesitate to seek advice. Some may excuse the lack of talking by reassuring themselves that "he'll outgrow it" or "he's just more interested in physical things." Knowing what's "normal" and what's not in speech and language development can help you figure out if you should be concerned or if your youngster is right on schedule.

It's important to discuss early speech and language development, as well as other developmental concerns, with your physician at every routine well-child visit. It can be difficult to tell whether a youngster is just immature in his ability to communicate, or has a problem that requires professional attention.

These developmental norms may provide clues:

• Before 12 Months: It's important for children this age to be watched for signs that they're using their voices to relate to their environment. Cooing and babbling are early stages of speech development. As babies get older (often around 9 months), they begin to string sounds together, incorporate the different tones of speech, and say words like "mama" and "dada" (without really understanding what those words mean). Before 12 months, kids should also be attentive to sound and begin to recognize names of common objects (for example bottle, binky, etc.). Babies who watch intently but don't react to sound may be showing signs of hearing loss.

• By 12 to 15 Months: Children this age should have a wide range of speech sounds in their babbling (like p, b, m, d, or n), begin to imitate and approximate sounds and words modeled by family members, and typically say one or more words (not including "mama" and "dada") spontaneously. Nouns usually come first, like "baby" and "ball." Your youngster should also be able to understand and follow simple one-step directions ("Please give me the toy," for example).

• From 18 to 24 Months: Though there is a lot of variability, most toddlers are saying about 20 words by 18 months and 50 or more words by the time they turn 2. By age 2, children are starting to combine two words to make simple sentences, such as "baby crying" or "Daddy big." A 2-year-old should also be able to identify common objects, common pictured objects, indicate body parts on self when labeled, and follow two-step commands (such as "Please pick up the toy and give it to me").

• From 2 to 3 Years: Moms and dads often witness an "explosion" in their youngster's speech. Your toddler's vocabulary should increase (to too many words to count) and he or she should routinely combine three or more words into sentences. Comprehension also should increase — by 3 years of age, a youngster should begin to understand what it means to "put it on the table" or "put it under the bed." Your youngster also should begin to identify colors and comprehend descriptive concepts (big versus little, for example).

Language vs. Speech—

Speech and language are often confused, but there is a distinction between the two:

• Language is much broader and refers to the entire system of expressing and receiving information in a way that's meaningful. It is understanding and being understood through communication — verbal, nonverbal, and written.

• Speech is the verbal expression of language and includes articulation, which is the way sounds and words are formed.

Although problems in speech and language differ, they often overlap. A youngster with a language problem may be able to pronounce words well but be unable to put more than two words together. Another youngster's speech may be difficult to understand, but he or she may use words and phrases to express ideas. And another youngster may speak well but have difficulty following directions.

Warning Signs—

If you're concerned about your youngster's speech and language development, there are some things to watch for.

An infant who isn't responding to sound or who isn't vocalizing is of particular concern. Between 12 and 24 months, reasons for concern include a youngster who:
  • has difficulty understanding simple verbal requests
  • has trouble imitating sounds by 18 months
  • isn't using gestures, such as pointing or waving bye-bye by 12 months
  • prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate by 18 months

Seek an evaluation if a youngster over 2 years old:
  • can only imitate speech or actions and doesn't produce words or phrases spontaneously
  • can't follow simple directions
  • has an unusual tone of voice (such as raspy or nasal sounding)
  • is more difficult to understand than expected for his or her age. Moms and dads and regular caregivers should understand about half of a youngster's speech at 2 years and about three quarters at 3 years. By 4 years old, a youngster should be mostly understood, even by people who don't know the youngster.
  • says only certain sounds or words repeatedly and can't use oral language to communicate more than his or her immediate needs

Causes—

Many things can cause delays in speech and language development:

• Ear infections, especially chronic infections, can affect hearing ability. Simple ear infections that have been adequately treated, though, should have no effect on speech.

• Hearing problems are also commonly related to delayed speech, which is why a youngster's hearing should be tested by an audiologist whenever there's a speech concern. A youngster who has trouble hearing may have trouble articulating as well as understanding, imitating, and using language.

• Many children with speech delays have oral-motor problems, meaning there's inefficient communication in the areas of the brain responsible for speech production. The youngster encounters difficulty using and coordinating the lips, tongue, and jaw to produce speech sounds. Speech may be the only problem or may be accompanied by other oral-motor problems such as feeding difficulties. A speech delay may also be a part of (instead of indicate) a more "global" (or general) developmental delay.

• Speech delays in an otherwise normally developing youngster can sometimes be caused by oral impairments, like problems with the tongue or palate (the roof of the mouth). A short frenulum (the fold beneath the tongue) can limit tongue movement for speech production.

What Can A Speech-Language Pathologist Do?

If you or your physician suspect that your youngster has a problem, early evaluation by a speech-language pathologist is crucial. Of course, if there turns out to be no problem after all, an evaluation can ease your fears. Although you can seek out a speech-language pathologist on your own, your primary care physician can refer you to one.

In conducting an evaluation, a speech-language pathologist will look at a youngster's speech and language skills within the context of total development. Besides observing your youngster, the speech-language pathologist will conduct standardized tests and scales, and look for milestones in speech and language development.

The speech-language pathologist will also assess:
  • if your youngster is attempting to communicate in other ways, such as pointing, head shaking, gesturing, etc.
  • sound development and clarity of speech
  • what your youngster can say (called expressive language)
  • what your youngster understands (called receptive language)
  • your youngster's oral-motor status (how a youngster's mouth, tongue, palate, etc., work together for speech as well as eating and swallowing)

If the speech-language pathologist finds that your youngster needs speech therapy, your involvement will be very important. You can observe therapy sessions and learn to participate in the process. The speech therapist will show you how you can work with your youngster at home to improve speech and language skills.

Evaluation by a speech-language pathologist may find that your expectations are simply too high. Educational materials that outline developmental stages and milestones may help you look at your youngster more realistically.

What Can Parents Do?

Like so many other things, speech development is a mixture of nature and nurture. Genetic makeup will, in part, determine intelligence and speech and language development. However, a lot of it depends on environment. Is a youngster adequately stimulated at home or at childcare? Are there opportunities for communication exchange and participation? What kind of feedback does the youngster get?

When speech, language, hearing, or developmental problems do exist, early intervention can provide the help a youngster needs. And when you have a better understanding of why your youngster isn't talking, you can learn ways to encourage speech development.

Here are a few general tips to use at home:

• Read to your youngster, starting as early as 6 months. You don't have to finish a whole book, but look for age-appropriate soft or board books or picture books that encourage children to look while you name the pictures. Try starting with a classic book (such as Pat the Bunny) in which the youngster imitates the patting motion, or books with textures that children can touch. Later, let your youngster point to recognizable pictures and try to name them. Then move on to nursery rhymes, which have rhythmic appeal. Progress to predictable books (such as Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear) that let children anticipate what happens. Your little one may even start to memorize favorite stories.

• Spend a lot of time communicating with your youngster, even during infancy — talk, sing, and encourage imitation of sounds and gestures.

• Use everyday situations to reinforce your youngster's speech and language. In other words, talk your way through the day. For example, name foods at the grocery store, explain what you're doing as you cook a meal or clean a room, point out objects around the house, and as you drive, point out sounds you hear. Ask questions and acknowledge your youngster's responses (even when they're hard to understand). Keep things simple, but never use "baby talk."

It is never too late to seek help for speech difficulties. While a child may never sound completely normal or be able to hold a perfect conversation, there are definitely ways to work towards a great improvement. The key to success is often a commitment from a parent or family member to work with the youngster for extended periods of time.

Whatever your youngster's age, recognizing and treating problems early on is the best approach to help with speech and language delays. With proper therapy and time, your youngster will likely be better able to communicate with you and the rest of the world.


Helping Children on the Autism Spectrum to Transition to a New School

Question

We are going to be moving to a nearby town in a few weeks, and starting the first week in September, my son (with high functioning autism) will be attending a new school. The timing is not very good for this move as we had hoped to wait until he finished grade school at the current location. In any event, how can we make this transition without having major meltdowns and/or behavioral problems?

Answer

The transition to a new school can include changing from elementary school to middle school - or middle school to high school. It can also include moving to a new school district. In any event, your high-functioning autistic (HFA) youngster will rely on you to guide him toward making predictable sense of it all.

Changing schools, relocating to a new home, and having a new baby sister are all exciting times for the HFA child – but they are also stressful, overwhelming times. Even the word “change” may be disturbing for some kids on the autism spectrum, because it may be associated with “loss of security” and “unpleasant circumstances.”

Below are 15 important tips to ease your son’s transition to a new school. (Note: It may not be possible to implement all of these suggestions; some schools are more accommodating than others.)

1. A school-team meeting should take place to (a) plan for your youngster's transition, (b) ensure consistency, and (c) document the steps agreed upon. If the school does not offer such a meeting, contact your youngster's school to request that the principal schedule one.

2. Acknowledge that changing schools can be a scary or frustrating time because of so much being unknown. Moving up in grades is also a measure of growth and maturity. Reinforce with your youngster that he is growing and learning, and that he certainly wouldn't want to stay in his present grade level, even if it meant remaining in the same building.

3. As the ‘first day of school’ grows near, be prepared for your child’s anxiousness to grow. Be ready to offer reassurances and answer questions. Transitioning to a new school will be taxing and stressful for your youngster, but with preparations in place, it should be much more manageable.

4. HFA and Asperger's students usually don’t do well without structure. So ask school officials if there are any responsibilities that can be assigned to your child during unstructured activity times. Some schools offer structured indoor activities as alternatives to recess and other unstructured times.

5. Be sure that your youngster has his own way of visually counting down the days until the transition by marking off a calendar or some other timekeeping device.

6. Give the transition as much attention and importance as it carries for your child, but balance it with an air of fun and adventure. Remember, your youngster will reflect back to you what you project upon him. If your anxiety shines through, it will directly affect the intensity of his anxiety.

7. Have your youngster meet next year's primary or homeroom teacher before the end of his current school year. In addition, arrange for that teacher to observe your youngster in his current class to glean firsthand information about his learning style.

8. If your youngster has anxiety about being identified as an easy target for bullies, find out about the new school's bullying policy and obtain it in writing to review and share with your youngster. Follow up with the administration if you have any questions or concerns about incident investigation or accountability. Your youngster should know exactly who he can tell about any incidents in which he has felt bullied – verbally or physically.

9. Obtain a map of the new building’s layout for your youngster to keep. Specify all the areas, rooms, and exits he may use (e.g., location of his locker). This will help him to prepare and plan some subtle adaptations or accommodations.

10. Partner with your youngster in information-gathering prior to the transition, or at the least, provide daily updates to quell his fears and butterflies.


11. Pledge to support your youngster in demystifying as many of the unknowns as possible.

12. Schedule at least one visit to the new building and provide your youngster with a camera or camcorder to record the visit, allowing him to be in charge of directing the “movie” for the day. In this way, your youngster can relieve some of his anxiety by reviewing the images as often as he wishes at home where he feels safe and comfortable.

13. See if the school can provide a peer-mentor or some other student who can show your youngster around in a discreet, non-stigmatizing way with the potential for friendship.

14. Understand that many educators may not know much about autism spectrum disorders if they haven't had a child with HFA previously. It will be your job to help educate them.

15. Ask your child’s new teacher if she can provide your child with a clear, up-to-date photograph of herself. In addition, attached to the photograph, the teacher may add any personal data she feels comfortable sharing. Share this information and the photo with your child. Some examples of personal data include:
  • Birthday (month and day only)
  • Car make, model, color and year
  • Favorite color
  • Favorite music
  • Favorite places to vacation
  • Favorite sports
  • Full name, with an indication of how the teacher is to be addressed (e.g., Mr., Mrs., Miss)
  • Hobbies
  • Loved ones and their names
  • Pets and their names

With a little assistance and reassurance from parents, the child on the spectrum can be expected to succeed – and enjoy – his new school environment.

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

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...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content