Poor Concentration in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Question

My son was diagnosed last yr with aspergers -high functioning- and i have had no help from his school. He can't concentrate and we spend hrs at night doing work that he could not finish in school. Is there any medication to help him with this? Where should i go from here ? thank you

Answer

There is no one specific medication for Aspergers or high-functioning autism (HFA). Some are on no medication. In other cases, we treat specific target symptoms. One might use a stimulant for inattention and hyperactivity. An SSRI, such as Paxil, Prozac or Zoloft, might help with obsessions or perseveration. The SSRIs can also help associated depression and anxiety. In children with stereotyped movements, agitation and idiosyncratic thinking, we may use a low dose antipsychotic such as risperidone.

Students with an autism spectrum disorder:
  • are distracted by internal stimuli
  • have difficulty sustaining focus on classroom activities (often it is not that the attention is poor but, rather, that the focus is "odd"; the individual with Aspergers or HFA cannot figure out what is relevant, so attention is focused on irrelevant stimuli)
  • are off task
  • tend to withdraw into complex inner worlds in a manner much more intense than is typical of daydreaming and have difficulty learning in a group situation
  • are very disorganized

Because parents are not in the classroom to assist their child with his studies, they should share the following information with the teachers, which will help them employ educational techniques specific to children on the spectrum.

Suggestions that parents of Aspergers and HFA children should share with their child’s teachers:
  • A tremendous amount of regimented external structure must be provided if the youngster with Aspergers or HFA is to be productive in the classroom. Assignments should be broken down into small units, and frequent teacher feedback and redirection should be offered.
  • Students on the spectrum with severe concentration problems benefit from timed work sessions. This helps them organize themselves. Class work that is not completed within the time limit (or that is done carelessly) must be made up during the youngster's own time (i.e., during recess or during the time used for pursuit of special interests). Students with Aspergers and HFA can sometimes be stubborn; they need firm expectations and a structured program that teaches them that compliance with rules leads to positive reinforcement (this kind of program motivates the youngster to be productive, thus enhancing self-esteem and lowering stress levels, because the youngster sees himself as competent).
  • If a buddy system is used, sit the youngster's buddy next to him or her so the buddy can remind the youngster with Aspergers or HFA to return to task or listen to the lesson.
  • In the case of mainstreamed students on the spectrum, poor concentration, slow clerical speed and severe disorganization may make it necessary to lessen his or her homework/class work load and/or provide time in a resource room where a special education teacher can provide the additional structure the youngster needs to complete class work and homework (some students with the disorder are so unable to concentrate that it places undue stress on parents to expect that they spend hours each night trying to get through homework with their youngster).
  • Seat the youngster with Aspergers or HFA at the front of the class and direct frequent questions to him or her to help him or her attend to the lesson.
  • The teacher must actively encourage the special needs youngster to leave his or her inner thoughts/fantasies behind and refocus on the real world. This is a constant battle, as the comfort of that inner world is believed to be much more attractive than anything in real life. For young Asperger students, even free play needs to be structured, because they can become so immersed in solitary, ritualized fantasy play that they lose touch with reality. Encouraging a youngster with Aspergers or HFA to play a board game with one or two others under close supervision not only structures play but offers an opportunity to practice social skills.
  • Work out a nonverbal signal with the youngster (e.g., a gentle pat on the shoulder) for times when he or she is not attending.
  • Be prepared to handle meltdowns (i.e., intense temper tantrums) in the classroom.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Aspergers Children


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Adhd medication made my sons tics exponentially worse but we asked for reduced assignments. Rather than do 25 math problems, he does 3 to 5. He stops when he shows mastery of a topic.
•    Anonymous said… essential oils and gemstones are a great compliment to any treatment
•    Anonymous said… Get an IEP or 504 plan set up for him asap. My son hated school and homework was a nightmare for both of us. Once his 504 plan was developed his teachers gave him only enough to learn it. The rest he skipped. He is now a sophmore on the honor roll every marking period. Made the biggest difference
•    Anonymous said… I have no experience with meds, but First thing id do tbh is stop the work from skool. It not helping him, he should be winding down. N it should make skool rethink their approach. Do u know Asd kids dont have to do homework at all, though my daughter really gd at doing it (if she understands it)
•    Anonymous said… I'd consider a different school, if they aren't going to help with statement and support, rather than loading him up with meds. Sending luck and support your way xx
•    Anonymous said… It will get better in time. My son is a teen, now. I call it stages. K- 7th grade was a challenge. I thought I was going need meds. It will get better. The attention span is a problem when their younger. Sometimes, meds. will not fix the problem with Asperger's. You may try various meds. before one really works. Watch out for side effects. Some meds can actually make them rage and alter behavior.
•    Anonymous said… It will get better. We had our son on concerta because it's in the system for only 12 hours. He did have appetite changes and such so we ended up switching to essential oils. We also started homeschooling and he is now almost 12 and concentrates fairly well but has to be challenged. He just started pre algebra because his other math wasn't challenging him so we had melt downs.
•    Anonymous said… Many children on the spectrum also have ADHD. We have found ADHD medication to be very helpful for our son.
•    Anonymous said… no meds.aspergers kids need quiet environment with no stress etc and 100% are being bullied becayse they fir perfectly into "victim profile".asperger kid will not tell you about bulling because he dont know how. and after time it becomes so normal to a child that he wont otice the wrong. stress prevents kids from learning.aspergers kids have no learning disabilities unless diagnosed with something extra. my child is Aspie.he is 8,5.fo 4y he has been bullied .just recently I took him out of school.last week and he already learnt so much and he is so relaxed.and not raging my fridge compulsively like he used to after school. aspergers kids are not retarded or disable so no meds exist for that.change school carefully or HE. pm if u need x
•    Anonymous said… poor concentration is an environment fault.unless diagnosed with something else. aspergers kids tend to learn what they like and not what they dont like.thats all.
•    Anonymous said… We are also finding ADHD medicine to be helpful.
•    Anonymous said… We did ask for IEP/504 but the school wants an updated psychologic evaluation report, rather than the one that was four years old in case there were changes in daughter's DX. So more waiting. So they will try and work with her. Sigh...not happy about it.
•    Anonymous said… We found non stimulate adhd medication helpful. It helps with his anxiety that triggers stimming .
•    Anonymous said… We spend nearly 2 hours on homework every night after a 6 hour day in school. My daughter get discouraged so I just focus on what she CAN do instead of allowing the school to grade her on what "normal" kids can do. I refuse medications. We're in the process of getting her on IEP but it's taking forever.
•    Anonymous said… You can approach this problem in two different ways. One is education and another is medication. Meds could be helpful but not always and can't be the ultimate solution. Education skills will teach your son to solve the problem and make him comfortable. So I think you need a special educator.

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