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Autistic Children/Teens and Sleep Problems

I'm a single mother and don't know how to deal with my 13 yr old anymore. He doesn't want to go anywhere or do anything which is hard when you have to, and I am now homeschooling him due to trouble going to school. A big problem right now is sleep issues… he is so active at night and tired during the day. At the moment he is not falling asleep till about 1 or 2 am, and I've tried waking him up earlier to reset his body clock but I can't get him out of bed. I don't know how to get him back into a healthy sleep routine.
 
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I want to teach my preteen with asperger syndrome about appropriate sexual behavior – but how?

Question

I want to teach my preteen with asperger syndrome about appropriate sexual behavior – but how?

Answer

Everyone wants to be loved. Kids seek love from their parents and eventually, they will seek love from their peers. Kids with Aspergers (high-functioning autism) want to feel love and affection just like everyone else, but they are hampered by their inability to form solid relationships. Building a strong parent-child bond early in life will help teach your Aspergers youngster about relationships, love and the closeness necessary to form intimate bonds. There will be more work to do later, as you’re realizing now.

Sexuality should be openly discussed at the appropriate level at all ages. Once your youngster hits puberty, it’s time to talk about sexual behavior. Talk, talk and talk some more. Having a clear path of communication with your youngster will enable you to have conversations about important life lessons. Make sure you respect his needs for adjusted communication. Talking while walking for example, or while driving through town, will give him a chance to voice his thoughts without having to maintain eye contact. Plus, he may be more willing to open up about his true thoughts and feelings when he knows you are not focusing solely on him.

Kids with Aspergers like to have the facts. No cutesy stories, no made-up names, and definitely no personal details. Stick to clear, concise facts using proper terminology. Have him make a list of the facts. In addition, have him make a list of do’s and don’ts in relation to sexual behavior. This will appeal to his need for order. Here are some suggestions to start a list of do’s and don’ts:
  • I should not touch a person’s face, hair, or body without permission. 
  • I should not touch my own body in public. Touching myself is private. 
  • I should stand a foot away from another person. People need their space.

Your youngster is going through major physical and emotional changes. He may find it difficult to cope with these changes and how they relate to all areas of life. His body and hygiene, friendships and dating, maturity and behavior will all be affected by becoming an adult. With your guidance, he can make these changes and approach adulthood well educated on the subject of sexuality and proper sexual behavior.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums

He is having meltdown after meltdown...

Our son Nathan is four, turning five next month and has ASD. We have placed him in a mainstream school, grade RR and it has been a hectic week for him, us, his teachers at school. He is having meltdown after meltdown and is lashing out at the other kids by punching them, scratching them, or biting them severely. The parents are not happy and neither are the teachers. Please give us advice on how to deal with these abusive and often violent meltdowns as he refuses to go to timeout and threatens to punch the teachers. They don't know what to do or where to start to assist him.   

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Learning to Parent a Child with a Diagnosis of ASD

Our son now 6 went for assessment (Ireland) last Friday after a lot of form filling on his history etc. and doing tests with him, they - like me - have come to conclusion he has all the signs of a child with ASD (high functioning). Now that I finally have medical proof of what I have suspected for years, where do I go from here? How can I make his day easier? Basic tasks are major hurdles. 
 
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Asperger’s Tantrums & Meltdowns: Prevention, Intervention, Post-Meltdown Management

I'm so frustrated! My 4 year old son was diagnosed with high-functioning autism last year, and for the year prior to that I was dealing with his overwhelming emotions. Now it seems like even if he's happy, he's too much for me. When he's not happy, he throws things, slams doors, screams, climbs furniture etc. So basically I have the same behaviors no matter how he's feeling. I fear the thought of going out anywhere with him. I have 4 other children, and he has drained everything I have inside me. I just don't know how to cope with him anymore. He is aggressive to the baby… I have to fight with him to change his clothes. I just feel like I've done all I can and now I'm back at square one again without the ability to do it again. Any advice on how to get through to him and calm him some?

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What is the best way to teach social skills to my adolescent son who has Aspergers?

Question

What is the best way to teach social skills to my adolescent son who has Aspergers?

Answer

Asperger’s Syndrome (high-functioning autism) makes it hard for people to handle social situations. It is important to remember that a person can appear socially comfortable, using proper speech, good behavior, and impeccable manners. However, these things do not make a person socially able. Having these qualities will not help with the real issues of socialization. You have to find ways to teach basic, age appropriate social skills so your son will feel natural among his peers.

Social skills therapy is used to teach real interaction within a peer group. At school, your son should be able to participate in a social skills group. This type of therapy is guided by a therapist and includes kids in the same age and social ability ranges. The therapist will initiate conversation within the group, and then have the kids practice some basic pre-scripted situations among themselves. They are given the tools they need during therapy to use in real-life opportunities.

Some schools have peer group shadowing. Peer shadowing enlists the aid of a select group from the general education population, preparing them to assist children with Asperger’s in the daily communication and interaction skills they are missing. The shadows are trained to break down the normal conversations that they automatically understand and deliver the skills in a step-by-step fashion. For example, the peer is taught to ask about another child’s day in simple terms and then how to respond in a straight-forward manner to keep the conversation going. The child with Asperger’s is then able to mirror the behavior he sees coming from his peer. The peer learns valuable lessons in tolerance while the child with Asperger’s learns the basic social skills he so desperately needs. Not only will your son learn how to deal with social situations this way, he will also get a chance to interact with kids at school that may have never given him a chance.

Social stories are a very popular option for teaching social skills. More often thought about for younger kids, you can now find them written specifically for the needs of the adolescent or teen Asperger’s kids. Some are even in comic book form. Your son may find these interesting, easy to read and effective. Plus, he will be in control of the situations he learns about. As he ages, he probably will not want his parents to know everything about what he’s thinking on a social level.

Direct involvement is one of the best ways to reach kids this age. Give your son ownership by allowing his input when searching for answers. Adolescence is the time to encourage a bit of independence. Let him know that he can learn to handle and even enjoy relationships.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

Grandparenting an Aspergers Child

If your grandkid has been newly diagnosed, then welcome to the world of Aspergers (high functioning autism). It is a mysterious and sometimes overwhelming world, but it is not one to be afraid of. Even if you are saddened, disappointed or angry about the diagnosis, keep in mind that it’s for the best. The earlier the diagnosis, the earlier the intervention, and the better the prognosis in the long run.

For some grandparents, the news seems to come right out of the blue. Sure, there were difficulties at school - but then, school isn’t as strict as it used to be. And yes, there were some problems at home, but none of them sounded like anything that “good old-fashioned discipline” couldn’t solve. Why, then, do the parents seem to be clinging to this diagnosis as if it were a life-raft in the high seas? And why are counselors, psychologists, occupational therapists and special education teachers suddenly getting involved?

=> Is this kid really so different?

As grandparents, you have a lot of questions to sort out. But along with the confusion comes an opportunity to get involved where you are really needed. Kids with Aspergers have a special need in their lives for ‘safe’ people who won’t criticize them or put them down for their differences. They need loving, non-judgmental grandparents who accept them as they are and make a place for them in their lives. If you can reach out to them, they will treasure your relationship with them for the rest of their lives.

=> I’ve read articles about Aspergers. But I still don’t understand what it is.

Aspergers is a type of autism, and autism is a neurological disorder that affects the way a person interacts with others and his or her world. It’s not a mental illness, and it is not caused by weak parenting. In its more severe forms, it’s a disorder because it causes disorder in the life of the kid. In its milder forms, it is more of a marked difference from the norm. In our culture, which judges people on the way they interact with others, these disorder-differences can have a profound impact on a person’s life.

You’ve probably heard the parents complaining about the difficulties they’ve had with the kid in the home - obsessive behavior, irrational outbursts, wild fears, and irritability over the smallest issues. These problems are not misbehaviors, but rather the kid’s responses to an inability to comprehend what is going on around them and inside them. Some experts have called it a “mind blindness,” one that causes the person to stumble and bump into complex social situations that they can’t “see.”

Yet by effectively “blinding” the mind to certain aspects of daily life, Aspergers enables the kid’s mind to focus in a way that most of us are incapable of. They feel their feelings more intensely, experience texture, temperature and taste more powerfully, and think their thoughts more single-mindedly. In many ways, this ability to focus is the great gift of Aspergers, and is the reason why a great number people with Aspergers have become gifted scientists, artists and musicians.

It is as if the Aspergers brain is born speaking a different language. It can learn our language through careful instruction or self-instruction, but it will always retain its accent. While Aspergers adults go on to successful careers and interesting lives, they will always be considered unusual people.

=> I’ve never heard of it before.

That’s not too surprising. Pediatricians don’t study it in medical school, teachers don’t learn about it in college, and the mass media rarely covers it. Until the 1980s, the condition didn’t even have a name, even though Hans Asperger’s original work was done in the 1940s. It is only very recently that the condition has received much attention at all. However, as professionals are becoming more informed about the condition, they are discovering that there is a fair amount of Aspergers out there.

You may remember an “odd” kid from your grade-school years - one that had no friends, who was always preoccupied with some obsessive interest that no one else cared about, who said the strangest things at the strangest times. Though the syndrome has only recently been named, these kids have been living and growing up alongside other kids for centuries. Some have become successful and happy as adults despite their undiagnosed problems, teaching themselves over time how to navigate around their deficits. Others have gone on to live lives of confusion and frustration, never understanding why the world didn’t make much sense to them.

With the recognition of Aspergers, we now can give a new generation of Aspergers kids a chance at the same kind of life that other kids have.

=> Great. So how do we fix it?

We can’t fix it. Despite all the marvels of modern science, there are still some problems that can’t be cured. Nobody knows what causes Aspergers, though most scientists acknowledge a genetic factor. So the deficits your grandkid has can only be understood, minimized and worked around. They will require accommodating on everyone’s part. But in time, with proper programming, the kid’s behavior and understanding of the world should improve.

Specialized therapies for autism disorders are available, but in most cases, the parents must bear the full cost. This can cause tremendous financial strain on the family. In addition, while most regions require specialized programming for Aspergers kids, these programs are rarely sufficient for the kid’s needs. So the parents must fill in the gaps with their own home-made programming.

Drug therapies are also sometimes available in cases where extreme behavior needs to be controlled. But these drugs don’t treat the cause of Aspergers. So even if some of the symptoms can be relieved with drugs, the central problems still remain.

=> A lot of youngsters have these sorts of difficulties. It’s just a part of growing up, isn’t it? After all, he looks perfectly normal to me.

He is normal. And he has the capacity to grow up to become a wonderful, normal adult - especially now that he has been diagnosed and is receiving special training. But he is normal with a difference.

The deficits that comprise Aspergers are not always readily apparent, especially in milder cases. The kid is usually of average intelligence or higher, yet lacks what are essentially instincts for other kids. If your grandkid seems “perfectly normal” despite the diagnosis you’ve been told about, then he is probably working very hard to make sure he fits in - and it’s not as easy as it looks.

It is best to treat your grandkid for what he is - normal. But be prepared to take some advice from those closest to him regarding what is the best way to handle certain situations.

It may not look like much to you, but Aspergers is a cause for concern. It’s not at all the same thing as the sort of developmental delay that some kids experience, and a professional trained in its diagnosis can determine the difference. Certainly misdiagnoses are possible. But in such cases, it’s always wiser to err on the side of caution. The wait-and-see method is risky when there is evidence suggesting a neurological problem.

=> So what if she doesn’t do what other youngsters do? She’s advanced for her age.

Un-childlike behavior doesn’t mean that a kid is “too smart” for play-dough and playgrounds. Even if she is smart, she still needs to learn the skills of play, because play is how kids learn - about things, about life, and about each other. Precociousness is cute and is sometimes a source of pride for grandparents, but it is also often an indication that there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed - and the earlier the better.

=> If Aspergers is genetic, then does that mean we have it too?

You might, or you might not. Usually at least one of the parents has some Aspergers qualities to their personality, and so it seems likely that the same might be true of the grandparent generation.

But before you get defensive, remember that Aspergers shouldn’t be regarded as a source of family shame. It’s a difference more than a disorder. And we know it takes all kinds of people to make the world go around. Many famous people are believed to have had Aspergers, including Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Anton Bruckner, and Andy Warhol. It seems a touch of autism often brings out genius.

And that’s not such a bad thing to have in the family!

=> What if I don’t believe the diagnosis?

That’s your privilege. But keep in mind that the kid’s parents believe it. They live and work with the kid daily and are in a unique position to notice the deficits. Because they care deeply about that kid’s future, they aren’t concerned about the stigma of a label, as long as it means the kid is eligible for the specialized programming she needs. They have put their pride aside for the sake of the kid and expect the same from the rest of the family.

Consider carefully what could possibly be gained by refusing to believe the diagnosis. Then consider what could be lost. The parents are already living with a great deal more stress than other parents, and they don’t need the added strain of skeptical or judgmental grandparents. Otherwise you may suddenly be faced with the pain of being unwelcome in your grandkid’s home.

=> The kid’s mother looks exhausted all the time. Could that be a cause?

It’s more likely an effect. Consider what her life is like: she has to constantly monitor what is going on regarding her Aspergers kid, thwart anything that might trigger a meltdown, predict the kid’s reactions in all situations and respond immediately, look for opportunities to teach the kid social behavior without creating a scene, and so on - every minute, every day. So it’s not surprising that she doesn’t feel like sitting down for a cup of tea with you and making small talk!

The truth is that the majority of mothers of Aspergers kids struggle with depression. While the special services she will receive over the next few years should help in some ways, she will still be the one to deal with the day-to-day difficulties of raising an unusual kid. For many mothers, this means ceaseless work, often to the exclusion of their own needs. Their physical, mental and emotional exhaustion can have a profound effect on the health and happiness of the entire family.

For this reason, mothers of Aspergers kids need those closest to them to give their full, unconditional support, both in words and in action.

=> I’d like to help out and get involved. But my son and his wife always get defensive no matter what I say.

Your son and daughter-in-law are now so used to defending their kid that it comes as second nature. Give them some time. Once they are more certain of your support, they will be less sensitive.

In the meantime, think carefully before you speak. Choose expressions that suggest sympathy and genuine curiosity, and avoid those that convey criticism. For example, instead of saying ‘He looks perfectly normal to me’, you can say ‘He’s doing really well.’ Phrase ideas as questions, not judgments by saying ‘Have you thought about…’ rather than ‘It’s probably…’.

The most destructive things you can say are those that convey your lack of trust in their ability to parent, your disdain for the diagnosis, and your unwillingness to make accommodations. Here are some real-life examples gathered from mothers of Aspergers kids:

‘Just let him spend more time with us. We’ll whip him into shape!’ 

‘She may act that way at home, but she’s not going to do that in MY house!’

‘He wouldn’t act this way if you didn’t work.’

‘I managed all by myself with four youngsters. You’ve just got two, and you can’t handle them!’

‘Don’t believe everything those psychologists tell you. He’ll just grow out of it, wait and see!’

‘There’s nothing wrong with her. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Are you sure you’re not the one that needs to see a psychologist?’

‘He’s having all these problems because you took him out of school for that home-schooling nonsense.’

‘Everybody’s got to have a problem with a fancy name these days!’

‘All you ever do is complain about how hard your life is.’

=> Ouch!

Keep in mind that parents of Aspergers kids face these hurtful, humiliating attitudes every day - from bus drivers to teachers, doctors to neighbors. Their tolerance level for such opinionated criticism is low, especially since they spend every bit of their energy raising their difficult kid. So avoid insensitive comments at all costs. And if you unwittingly blurt out something the wrong way, be sure to apologize.

=> So then what can I do for them?

Look for ways to be supportive. Let them know that there is another heart tugging at the load - and it’s yours. Keep on the lookout for articles about Aspergers and send them copies. This shows that you are interested. Ask lots of questions about the special programs the kid is in. Be enthusiastic and optimistic. Let them know you think they’re doing a great job. At other times, be a sympathetic sounding board when they have difficult decisions to make, or when they just need to tell someone what an awful day they’ve had.

If you live close by, consider how much you can help by giving the parents an evening out. If you’re not certain how to handle the kid on your own, then spend some time shadowing the parents to learn how to do it - or offer to babysit after the kid is in bed. Whatever you can do to help will be appreciated.

=> What does my grandkid need from me?

He needs to know that you are a safe haven in a bewildering world. It may seem a lot to ask to be flexible with a kid who appears to be misbehaving, but inflexibility will only put distance between you and the kid. If the kid’s manners and mannerisms drive you crazy, ask the parents for suggestions on how to set expectations for your house.

Learn to listen to the kid when he says he doesn’t want to do something. Maybe some kids are happy to spend a couple of hours at a flea market, but think very carefully before dragging an Aspergers kid there. Accommodate to his needs, or you run the risk of ruining your time together.

When in doubt, ask the parents for advice.

But in general, just make the decision now that you will spend your time enjoying the kid for what he is - a unique and unusual person. That annoying stubborn streak you see in him is going to be his greatest survival skill. And even though he seems to be afraid of just about anything, recognize that he is like a blind person - it takes tremendous courage for him just to walk through each day. Celebrate his courage and tenacity.

=> To tell the truth, I don’t feel comfortable around my grandkid. I have no idea what to do when she acts in her odd ways.

No one said it would be easy. But most Aspergers youngsters are easiest to handle in one-on-one situations, so look for opportunities to go for walks or spend time in the work-shed puttering around together. Tell your grandkid your stories, especially those that touch on aspects of her life affected by Aspergers. She will love hearing about the time when you were a girl that you blurted out the secret, or how difficult it was for you to learn to tie your shoes. You might tell her about times you wished you knew how to say something, or times when you wanted to be alone. Stories like these can create a powerful bond between you and your grandkid.

You may discover that all she wants to talk about is her pet subject. Don’t despair. If it’s something you know nothing about, then this is an opportunity to learn something. Search for some magazine articles on the topic so that you always have something new to share together. In time, you may find that you have ideas for helping her expand her interests into other subjects. But even if you do nothing more than listen and share her enthusiasm for her favorite topic in the whole world, your grandkid will learn that Grandma cares.

When you spend time with her with other people or in public places, it might be helpful to think of yourself as a seeing-eye dog. Remember, she is “blind” in certain ways. Point out trouble-spots and guide her around them, explain social situations that she can’t “see,” and narrate what you are doing as you do it. By doing so, you’ll help her to feel more secure with you, and you’ll be actively participating in her special programming.

One word of caution: watch the emotional levels. Aspergers kids often have great difficulty sorting out emotions. If you get angry, the kid could lose control because she is unable to deal with your anger and her own confusion at the same time. Reign in your temper when the kid is clumsy, stubborn, or frustrated. In situations where you feel you really need to be firm, keep your tone calm, your movements slow and even, and tell the kid what you’re going to do before you do it. Get advice from the parents how to deal with little meltdowns so that you are prepared in advance, but do your best to avoid triggering them.

Here are some simple DO’s and DON’T’s to remember when spending time with your grandkid:

• Do acknowledge the kid’s expressions of frustration.
• Do control your anger.
• Do get involved in the kid’s interests.
• Do learn what sorts of activities are recommended for the kid.
• Do praise the kid for his strengths.
• Do respect the kid’s fears, even if they seem senseless.
• Don’t compare him with his siblings.
• Don’t feel helpless - ask for help.
• Don’t joke, tease, shame, threaten, or demean the kid.
• Don’t talk to him as if he were stupid.
• Don’t tell the kid she will outgrow her difficulties.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

"My 15-year-old just had a melt down..."

Question

My 15-year-old just had a melt down because we couldnt afford to purchase his wrestling match but only realized it about an hour before and he had been obsessing about it all week. When in the throws of a meltdown where he keeps repeating himself and he is angry, kicking the wall and slamming doors and wont look at me or listen to me what can I do to help him?? Not yet diagnosed, going in Tuesday to begin process, 100 % sure he is AS High Functioning until high school.

Answer

You will want to consider downloading the eBook entitled My Aspergers Child, which goes into great detail re: how to prevent tantrums and meltdowns in Aspergers children and teens.

U.S. Schools for Aspergers Children

Question

My husband and I have just started looking into special schools for our 11 year old with Aspergers. He's very bright and does well in the public school academically, but suffers from the usual social problems of an Aspergers child. His psychiatrist also does not think his intellect is being sufficiently challenged or developed by the public school curriculum. Can anyone suggest some school that is not too far from the Essex County area?

Answer

I’m not sure where Essex County is located. Here are a few schools below. Consider contacting the school closest to you and ask a staff member if he/she knows of any schools near Essex County.

• Baltimore, Maryland-- The Millennium School Opening Fall of 2004: The Millennium Day School in Baltimore, Maryland will open its doors in the Fall of 2004. The school will have a fully integrated social skills curriculum and will serve the needs of children with Aspergers and related disorders in an inclusive environment. For further information, visit their web site at www.MillenniumSchool.com

• Belmont, Massachusetts-- Pathways Academy: This school is for AS children from ages 1st -12th Grade. McLean Hospital is a Teaching Facility of Harvard Medical School and an Affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital. McLean Hospital / 115 Mill Street / Belmont, Massachusetts 02178 / 617-855-2847 / For more information send an e-mail to Sarah Medeiros at medeirs@mcleanpo.Mclean.org / Visit their web site at www.mclean.harvard.edu/cns/pathways.htm

• Bethlehem, Connecticut-- Woodhall School: Boys residential school. For information contact: Woodhall School / PO Box 550, Harrison Lane / Bethlehem, CT 06751-0550 / Phone: 203-266-7788

• Boiceville, New York—ASPIE: The School for Autistic Strength, Purpose, and Independence in Education: This Day school is for teens with AS, HFA, PDD and cousin disabilities. Serves students within busing are of Boiceville, New York. For more information contact: Valerie Paradiz, Ph.D. / Program Director / ASPlE / The School for Autistic Strength, Purpose and Independence in Education / P.O. Box 489 / Boiceville, NY 12412 / (845) 657-7201 / email to: info@aspieschool.org / Visit their web site at: www.aspieschool.org

• Boston, Massachusetts-- McLean Hospital - Kennedy Hope Academy: The Kennedy Hope Academy is a 13-bed residential school providing intensive treatment for children with pervasive developmental disorders who have serious psychiatric illness or behavior problems. If you are interested in more information about this program, please contact David Rourke, MS / Program Manager / (617) 779-1670 or visit our website at www.mclean.harvard.edu/patient/child/kha.php

• Carbondale, Illinois-- Brehm Preparatory School: "Empowering Students with Complex Learning Disabilities to Optimize their full potential." For more information contact: Brehm Preparatory School / 1245 East Grand Avenue / Carbondale, IL 62901 / 618.457.0371 / fax 618.529.1248 / Email to: brehm1@brehm.org / Visit their web site at: www.brehm.org

• Cherry Hill, New Jersey and Medford Lakes, New Jersey-- Y.A.L.E. School: The Y.A.L.E. School offers specialized program options for children with Aspergers. Serves children ages 8-15. This program offers rich academic environment, speech and language services, social skill training and positive motivational systems. For additional program information or to schedule a program tour, contact Jim Conley at 856-795-3566 ext. 106 or Dr. Mieke Gooseens at 856-795.3566, ext. 309

• East Bay, California-- The Springstone School: The Springstone School, located in Concord, California, is an independent middle school that promotes and develops academic, social and prevocational skills for students with Aspergers and Nonverbal Learning Disabilities. The professional and experienced staff fosters values of independence, responsibility and community in preparation for high school, and beyond through intensive, individualized instruction in small structured classrooms. Contact Information: The Springstone School / 1035 Carol Lane / Lafayette, CA 94549 / (925)962-9660 / Fax: (925) 962-9558 / email: info@thespringstoneschool.org / website: www.thespringstoneschool.org

• East Haddam, Connecticut-- Franklin Academy: This is a boarding school program. For more information: Franklin Academy / 106 River Road / East Haddam, CT 06423 / Phone:860-873-2700 / Fax: 860-873-8861 admission@fa-ct.org or visit their web site at: www.fa-ct.org

• Houston, Texas-- The Monarch School: The Monarch School is a therapeutic day school located in Houston. Their prime mission is to help children develop executive functioning skills, relationship development and ownership of learning and to prepare all of the students for success. About 1/4 of the students are AS with the other's having ADHD, LD, Bi-polar disorder, Tourettes and other dx. The school is for children from 4-16 and they will be adding one additional HS year each year for the next two years. It is a non-profit, private school and the staff to student ratio is 20 staff to 60 students. For more information visit their website at www.monarchschool.org

• Huntington Station, Long Island, New York-- Gersh Academy: The I Am I Can Program was developed for high functioning students with Neurobiological Disorders (NBD), including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome, Aspergers, Childhood-Onset Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Depression. The program uses a cognitive behavioral approach, allowing students to better understand their neurobiological limitations and how to self-manage and regulate their symptoms. The Elementary Program (K-5) is a 6:1:1 ratio and the Middle School (6-8) and High School Programs have an 8:1:1 ratio. The Gersh Academy High School is located in Hauppauge. Gersh Academy follows the New York State curriculum and standards. For More Information Contact: West Hills Montessori School / 165 Pidgeon Hill Road / Huntington Station, NY 11746 / Phone: (631) 385-3342 / Web site: www.gershacademy.org

• Melbourne, Florida-- The College Internship Program: "The College Internship Program at the Brevard Center provides individualized, post-secondary academic, internship and independent living experiences for young adults with Aspergers and Nonverbal learning differences. With our support and direction, students learn to realize and develop their potential." For information about their program visit their web site at: www.brevardcenter.org

• New York, New York-- LearningSpring Academy: A Model School for High-Functioning Elementary School Children Grades K-5 with Aspergers and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. For more information visit their webpage at http://www.learningspring.org

• Newbury Park, California-- Passageway School: Day School for children with Aspergers. Our Philosophy is to work with children in small classroom settings (4 to 7 children per class). Tailor their education to their IEP's and to work individually on their behaviors thru positive reinforcement. Our class day tends to be very structured. We do allow and encourage the children to develop their individuality, while maintaining classroom discipline. Our discipline methods are developed according to the needs of the child. We prefer to use reward systems that daily and weekly inspire the child to change his or her behavior. Contact Shirley Juels at 805-375-4950 or e-mail to: PassagewaySchool@aol.com or, visit their web site at www.passagewayschool.com

• Rindge, New Hampshire-- Hampshire Country School: The best candidates for Hampshire Country School are those who will respond to the attention of its faculty, seek the help of its teachers, enjoy being part of a small school community, and enjoy its outdoor activities. Most students, however, have not had such success elsewhere, and many parents are quite discouraged by the time they first inquire about the school. Many students have had trouble fitting into the structure of larger schools and many have had difficulty adapting to the demands of peers. Many are more comfortable with adults than with age mates. Hampshire Country School can provide appropriate structure and support for certain students with nonverbal learning disabilities, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, Aspergers, and other disorders; but it is not a treatment program. It is designed instead to involve and educate the bright, active, and interested side of each child rather than to dwell on the student's limitations and difficulties. Students who experiment with alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs are not accepted; and the school is not set up for students who are primarily oppositional or confrontational. For more information, visit their web site at: www.hampshirecountryschool.org

• San Francisco Bay Area, California-- Orion Academy: Orion Academy is a nonprofit College Preparatory Day School located in San Francisco's East Bay area for High School Students with Neuro-cognitive Disabilities. Mission: To educate secondary students with NLD, Aspergers and Other neuro-cognitive disorders in a program that equally emphasizes academics, social competency and pragmatic language development. If you are interested in more information about this school, please contact Rosemary at 925-377-0789 or visit their web site at www.orionacademy.org

• Sherman Oaks and Culver City, California-- Village Glen School: Sponsored by the The Help Group, the Village Glen School is a therapeutic day school program for children with challenges in the areas of socialization, communication, language development, peer relations, learning disabilities, and academic performance without significant behavior problems. Many of the students served at Village Glen experience special needs related to Aspergers and high functioning autism. Visit their web site at: www.villageglen.org

• Sudbury, Massachusetts--Corwin Russell School: "The Corwin-Russell School at Broccoli Hall is an independent school for high-potential students 11-19 years old with varied learning styles, average to superior intelligence, exceptional creativity, attentional issues, untapped interests, talents, and strengths, and disparity between innate ability and past production." For more information: Phone: 978-369-1444 / E-mail: brochall@aol.com / Or visit their web site at: www.corwin-russell.org

• Toledo, Ohio-- LHS Maumee Youth Center for Asperger’s Disorder: A new residential center for children and youth ages six to eighteen-plus who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder is opening. The Center is situated on 13 acres near Neapolis, Ohio, south of Toledo, Ohio. LHS Family and Youth Services, Inc. is a social service agency with headquarters in Toledo, Ohio, serving children, youth and families through community-based residential treatment group homes and other services. The LHS Maumee Youth Center for Asperger’s Disorder serves up to twenty children and youth in its residential program. Most children and youth placed in the residential setting will tend to be aggressive and have multiple diagnosis/needs. All staff, in addition to their undergraduate and graduate work, are trained in the core competencies of residential child and youth care and will be trained by experts in the autistic spectrum disorder field. For additional information on the Center, or to make an inquiry regarding a potential referral to the Center, please contact Steve Plottner at splot@infinet.com or by phone at 419-798-9382.

• Washington, Connecticut-- Glenholme School: The Glenholme School is a boarding school for "special needs students situated on over 100 idyllic acres of Connecticut countryside. Children ages 8-16, at admission, who need a highly structured learning environment can prosper in this safe, nurturing school. It provides a value-based program to show students the way to academic success." Visit their web site at: http://www.theglenholmeschool.org/os

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns

How can I help my daughter with ASD to deal with bullying...?

Question

"How can I help my daughter with ASD to deal with bullying and feeling like ‘she is an alien’ (her words)?"

Answer

It is very common for children with ASD (i.e., high-functioning autism) to feel different. These children are very intelligent and the fact that they have struggles in many different areas is very obvious to them. You frequently hear children and adults with ASD refer to themselves as “from another world”. They spend much of their lives trying to fit into a world that doesn’t seem to accept them.

Here is a child who has trouble making and keeping friends, may appear clumsy and awkward, is sensitive to sound or light, has strange obsessions she talks about all the time, and has difficulty with changes in routines or schedules. All of these things are bombarding your daughter’s mind when everyone around her is going through the day happily in a group, while she watches from afar. It’s not surprising she is feeling like an alien.

Because of the differences that make children on the autism spectrum stand out from the crowd, they also frequently have to deal with bullying. They are smart, capable of handling their school work for the most part, but keen on following the rules and doing what is right. You will read about kids on the spectrum being labeled as geeky or nerdy.

A child who is being bullied may not realize that she is supposed to tell someone that it is happening. When you struggle with communication, it is difficult to know when or even how to speak up. She may be realizing for the first time that she has been a target all along.

Assure your daughter that you understand her statement regarding feeling out of place. Tell her that there are ways to control bullying and come up with a written plan of action. Talk to her about the specifics and help her see that she can find her way around these trying situations.

Involve your daughter’s school personnel. They may be able to offer suggestions that can be added to her educational plan to make things easier for her, such as additional individual therapy or social skills classes.

With help, your daughter can get past her feelings of alienation and helplessness. Having the support of her parents and professionals will prove invaluable and in time, she’ll be feeling less like a target and more like the capable human being she is.
 
 
 

 

How to Motivate Aspergers Children

Question

I am looking for more tips on how to get a 9-year-old with Aspergers to enjoy writing more.

Answer

Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) kids respond best when their motivation level is high; when the answer to the question "What's in it for me?" is something an Aspergers youngster most wants or desires. Kids with Aspergers never really make the leap from instant gratification to internal motivation or drive, such as self-satisfaction in a job well done, or pride in their ability to face a challenging situation. Aspergers kids are simply wired differently emotionally, and parents and educators soon come to realize that motivation to attempt or complete tasks is closely linked to perceived personal gain or reward for the youngster.

For Aspergers kids to achieve and keep on achieving, the possibility of personal reward must be present as a motivator. Often this reward revolves around the special interest of the Aspergers youngster.

So how do we achieve a state of constant motivation and satisfy the need for almost instant gratification without bankrupting our finances?

I believe Token Economy best suits the needs of kids with Aspergers. A Token Economy is a system where the Aspergers youngster earns tokens as a reward for desired behaviors or actions. A predetermined number of tokens are then exchanged or “cashed in” for an item or activity the Aspergers youngster desires.

Token Economies that use money tokens seem to be the most successful with Aspergers kids in increasing their ability to delay gratification, and lessening the risk of satiation (overuse of a reward can result in the youngster no longer viewing it as a reward). Using money in a Token Economy negates the need for the Aspergers youngster to decode an abstract concept, as in the ‘real’ world people are paid money for completing tasks by way of employment.

A token economy works well with Aspergers kids at school and at home right through Elementary School, and can continue to be used successfully at home throughout High School.

Aspergers kids take a long time establish trust, and for this reason a token economy should focus on rewarding desired behaviors and actions. Once the program has been established for a number of years, you may then be able to introduce “fines” or response costs, where the Aspergers youngster is fined for inappropriate behavior. This correlates the Token Economy program with real-world experiences for Aspergers kids. However, the focus of the program must be on the positives, because kids with Aspergers are prone to quickly losing their motivation and trust.

Be creative with the reinforcers offered as motivation for Aspergers kids. Offering a ‘menu’ of rewards to choose from seems most successful. Initially for kids with Aspergers “cashed in” rewards need to be fairly instant i.e. at the end of each day. Over time this can be stretched to the end of each week. As the Aspergers youngster matures this delayed gratification may be able to be stretched to a month or term, however small rewards and motivators should be offered consistently along the way.

My Aspergers Child: How to Prevent Tantrums

Aspergers and Picky Eating

Question

My nephew (10 yrs ) has aspergers and eats very little variety of food. How can his parents change this? He is quite thin and not healthy. He is low to moderate on the spectrum.

Answer

Because of their sensitivity to smell, temperature, taste and texture, kids with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism are often "picky" eaters. Some develop fetishes such as only eating beige-colored foods or foods with creamy textures. They often like very sour or very spicy tastes. Some develop chewing fetishes and as a result, they constantly suck on pens, pencils or times of clothing.

These kids also sometimes have issues with developing gastric problems such as acid reflux, hiccups, diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation. They are susceptible to celiac disease, which is caused by poor absorption of certain nutrients. The danger is that celiac disease damages the digestive system. Aspergers children frequently suffer from Dermatitis herpetiformis, which causes skin rashes and tissue damage in the intestine. It has also been shown that gluten can aggravate behavioral symptoms in those with Aspergers that are sensitive to these foods.

It becomes a challenge for moms and dads to make sure their Aspergers child gets proper nutrition. One trick that works for many moms and dads is to change the texture of a despised food. If your youngster will not eat peas, try serving pea soup. If she refuses orange juice, try orange slices. Most clinicians believe that the less you indulge food fetishes, the less entrenched they become. If an Aspergers child creates a rule that "no foods can touch on my plate," it can easily become a lifelong rule if moms and dads do not intervene.

One promising food therapy is the "Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet" or GFCF diet. The theory behind it is that a youngster with Aspergers cannot digest casein (found in dairy) or gluten (found in grains). It is true that undigested molecules of these substances frequently show up in their urine samples. These amino acid chains (called peptides) affect neurological function and can worsen a youngster's symptoms. Peptides may have an opiate effect on some kids.

Moms and dads begin the diet by first eliminating either the casein or the gluten food group. No gluten means no bread, barley, rye, oats, pasta, all kinds of flour, food starch, biscuits, cereals, cakes, donuts, pie, pretzels, pizza, croutons, and even crumbs stuck in the toaster. You can substitute gluten-free products. Next, you eliminate all dairy products including milk, cheese, goat's milk and cheese, ice cream, yogurt, most margarines, puddings, and so forth. If you eliminate the dairy group, you may have to give your youngster calcium supplements. You also need to cut out "trigger foods" including chocolate, food colorings, caffeine, and peanut butter. The GFCF Diet website offers all kinds of resources for moms and dads such as cookbooks, food products, and DVDs.

Many moms and dads believe that the GFCF diet really helps their kids. In an unscientific survey of over 2000 moms and dads who tried it, most saw significant improvement and five reported "miracles."

Research into diet and vitamin therapy for kids with Aspergers is very sketchy at this point. Nevertheless, many moms and dads try them. One scientific study of alternative therapies found that over half of all moms and dads of kids with autism spectrum disorders have tried diets, herbs or vitamin therapy and 72% felt they were worthwhile. Many moms and dads swear by the GFCF diet, others prefer the Feingold diet or megavitamin therapy. You can buy supplements of herbs and vitamins specifically made for kids with Aspergers. Such supplements often include calcium, fish oil, omega -3 -6 or -9, vitamin B-6, HNI enzymes and DMG or dimethylglycine. If you use these diets and therapies, the best thing to do is to keep written records of how often your youngster tantrums or exhibits other behaviors. This way you can tell if the therapy is working.

There have been a few scientific studies of the GFCF diet. In one three-month study of fifteen kids ages two to 15 years old, there was no difference between the kids who followed the diet and those who did not. However, researchers at the Loma Linda Medical Institute in California concluded that the diet was mostly helpful and improved nonverbal cognition, but that more double blind studies are needed.

Many moms and dads have tried the GFCF or Feingold diets and found that they were not worth the effort. These diets make it extremely hard to buy regular grocery foods or to eat in restaurants. If there are other kids, you end up cooking different meals for them. Trying to keep to the diets causes parental burnout and that may not be worth their benefits.

My Aspergers Child: How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums

How can I cope with my son with Aspergers’ sensory problems?

Question

How can I cope with my son with Aspergers’ sensory problems?

Answer

Having a child with sensory integration issues can be a challenge for a parent. Sensory integration dysfunction is a neurological disorder where a person has difficulty processing sensory information. This difficulty can be on one of the five senses – hearing, sight, smell, touch, or taste – or in a combination of senses. Sensory integration dysfunction (SID) can include hypersensitivity as well as a hyposensitivity.

Kids with SID have a difficult time navigating the world. Many kids have a hypersensitivity to sounds. The vacuum cleaner will be too loud, or the hair dryer. Socks won’t feel right or they won’t wear shirts unless you cut the tags out. Many kids with SID will only eat certain foods.

If you have a child who you feel has SID issues, the first step in coping with them is to get a proper diagnosis. The diagnosis can help you understand the depth and breadth of the issues. Consult your physician about treatment for the issues.

When you are coping with sensory issues at home, you’ll need to be patient and understanding of your child’s needs. It’s important to remember that your child is truly affected by sounds and smells and tastes that may seem perfectly normal to you. Learn to understand what situations cause a problem for your child. It is advisable to try to avoid those situations with your child, and if you do have to encounter them, work with your therapist to teach your child how to better cope with the situation.

Often, a child with SID, especially when he is very young, will react badly in a situation by doing something such as throwing a tantrum. When this happens, you’ll need to try to figure out what triggered the reaction. You’ll need to trace back the steps and try to discover the sound or the smell or the taste that set your child off.

Often, kids with sensory issues have trouble adapting to school. The classrooms can be too loud or the cafeteria smells can be overpowering. Sometimes it can be the proximity of the other kids that will upset a SID child. Work with your occupational therapist to come up with behavioral techniques to help teach your child how to better deal with these situations. Your occupational therapist will likely put your child on a sensory diet that will incorporate movement, sound and smells. In a safe environment, your child will be exposed to different sensory experiences.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns

Aspergers and HFA Children: Behavior Problems

Not knowing what to do, or being unable to do what is appropriate, results in anxiety that leads to behavior problems. In his post, we will discuss the following:
  • Reasons for Rigidity 
  • Not Understanding How the World Works
  • Frames of Reference 
  • Preferred and Non-preferred Activities 
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors and Anxiety 
  • Behavioral Manifestations of Anxiety 
  • Black-and-White Thinking
  • Mind-blindness 
  • Questions to Ask about Your Youngster's Behavior

CLICK HERE for the full article...

Aspergers: Parenting Strategies 101

Aspergers (high functioning autism) is a developmental disorder falling within the autistic spectrum affecting two-way social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and a reluctance to accept change, inflexibility of thought and to have all absorbing narrow areas of interest. Individuals are usually extremely good on rote memory skills (facts, figures, dates, times etc.) many excel in math and science. There is a range of severity of symptoms within the syndrome, the very mildly affected youngster often goes undiagnosed and may just appear odd or eccentric.

While Aspergers is much more common than Autism it is still a rare condition and few people, including professionals, will know about it much less have experience of it. It seems to affect more boys than girls. In general terms they find making friends difficult, not understanding the subtle clues needed to do so. They often use language in a slightly odd way and take literal meanings from what is read or heard. They are happiest with routines and a structured environment, finding it difficult to decide what to do they fall back on to their preferred activities. They love praise, winning and being first, but find loosing, imperfection and criticism very difficult to take. Bad behavior often stems from an inability to communicate their frustrations and anxieties. They need love and tenderness, care, patience and understanding. Within this framework they seem to flourish.

Kids with Aspergers are for the most part bright, happy and loving kids. If we can help break through to their 'own little world' we can help them to cope a little better in society. They have a need to finish tasks they have started. Strategies can be developed to reduce the stress they experience at such times. Warnings that an activity is to finish in x minutes can help with older kids. With younger kids attempts to 'save' the task help - videoing a program, mark in a book etc.

As the kids mature some problems will get easier, but like all other kids new problems will emerge. Some teenagers can feel the lack of friendships difficult to cope with as they try hard to make friends in their own way but find it hard to keep them. This is not always the case; many have friends who act as 'buddies' for long periods of time. Social skills will have to be taught in an effort for them to find a place in the world ... so take all opportunities to explain situations time and time again ... and one day.......it may work!

How do children with Asperger’s cope with physical illnesses?

Question

How do children with Asperger’s cope with physical illnesses?

Answer

There is no one specific way that children with Asperger’s react or deal with physical illnesses. Some children with Asperger’s tend not to be very in tune with their bodies or they don’t know how to express what they are feeling. If a boy has a sore throat, he may either not notice this or he may not understand that this is a physical symptom that should be reported to a parent. Some children with Asperger’s respond to illness with anxiety. They become upset if they are sick.

Most children with Asperger’s tend to find illness upsetting not only because they feel bad but also because it can disrupt their daily routine. If they have a stomach flu, not only are they physically uncomfortable, but they can also be kept home from school. These disruptions can be disturbing for a child with Asperger’s who thrives on order and routine.

Dealing with doctors and hospitals can be unsettling for children with Asperger’s Syndrome. Doctor’s offices and hospitals are designed to be efficient places and often nurses or doctors are not aware of a child with Asperger’s special needs. In her book entitled “Prescription for Success: Supporting Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Medical Environment,” Jill Hudson, M.S., CCLS, looks at ways to make the medical experience easier for children with Asperger’s and their families. This book contains information that medical staff, parents, and educators can use to better interact with children with Autism spectrum disorders. The book contains a CD with printable forms and worksheets, which can be distributed to the people who work with your child.

It is a good idea to talk through some different medical scenarios with your child, before he or she gets sick. Children might not understand what would happen to them if they broke a bone or if they fell off their bike and needed stitches. Exposing them to these ideas before they become a reality can be very helpful should an emergency situation arise.

It can also be helpful to a child with Asperger’s if you talk to him about his own body and how it feels and how it should or shouldn’t feel. Sometimes, children with Asperger’s don’t know if some body part feels wrong or funny, and they don’t know that they should mention it to a parent. Talking through these options with your child can help raise his awareness.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

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

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD 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 Children on the Spectrum

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 or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your 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 Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the 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 ASD 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 ASD 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.

Click here
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