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How can I teach empathy to my child with Aspergers?

One of the most common areas of weakness mentioned to me by moms and dads is empathy. Aspergers causes an individual to lack empathy. Showing emotions and acknowledging another person's feelings are very important skills. Without empathy, a person is seen as cold and unfeeling, therefore making it difficult to develop personal relationships with others.

If you were to complete an Internet search on empathy and Aspergers, you would find a topic that is very well covered. This weakness is quite well-known. The problem lies within the inability to determine another individual's feelings, more so than an actual inability to feel. Once your child becomes aware of another person's feelings, he is likely quite capable in showing empathy of a variety of emotions. The key to teaching empathy is helping him learn to understand and recognize other people's true feelings and emotions.

As a parent, you should definitely teach empathy. Aspergers doesn't eliminate the desire to learn, even though it can make it a bit difficult. Here are some ideas you can use to help your child develop a healthier emotional outlook.

• Social stories can be used to teach a variety of skills. You can purchase books of social stories or create your own personal versions. Feel free to make some of them silly and fun, while others are more sad and serious.

• Occupational and Speech/language therapy practice at home is important to your child's development. Make sure you are meeting with his therapists regularly and working on the goals that help with empathy: sensory issues, social cues and language, and pretend-play, to name a few.

• Social skills groups/classes can be found through your child's school, doctor's office, or your local Autism support group. Good social skills will automatically enhance your child's empathy. If you cannot find a social skills group for your child, speak with the special education department at his school for tips you can use at home. Better yet, convince them of the need to start a social skills group at school, complete with peer buddies. (Peer buddies are neuro-typical classmates who have a desire to help with the challenges some of the special needs students face at school.)

• Video, peer, and self-modeling are all good ways to teach empathy. Using videos, your child can learn to connect feelings by watching facial expressions while listening to the conversations that take place. Once a video has been implemented, bringing in a peer to help re-create the video will bring about a new dimension. Likewise, have your child use a mirror to see different facial expressions while talking about their meanings. Seeing, hearing, and doing will help your child make important connections that will stick with him.

While planning to assist a youngster by teaching empathy, Aspergers specialists and moms and dads must also balance the need for good communication skills. Social cues and gestures are an important part of emotional connection. A good speech/language therapist can help your child learn better social skills and empathy by improving his verbal and nonverbal language skills.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

Aspergers Children: Emotions and Being Silly

It can be very difficult for a youngster with Aspergers to control his impulses and regulate his emotions. Hyperactivity, dulled responses, anxiety, and sensory meltdowns are all common occurrences and can seriously interfere with the ability to stay on task.

The symptoms and characteristics of Aspergers vary widely from person to person. Self-regulation may always be an issue with which your child struggles. However, as he continues to grow and learn, his responses may improve dramatically. Here are some things you can do now to help him find a balance and that will allow him to better self-regulate his emotions.

The first step to learning self regulation is to know what triggers certain negative responses. For instance, if play time with loud music and bright lights brings on unmanageable hyperactivity, this could mean that there is a sensory overload happening. By simply changing play time to a calmer, quieter atmosphere, you can change the behavior, which will improve attitudes for the activities that come after play time. This is not to say that loud music and bright lights should always be eliminated. It just means that the situation that follows the loud music and bright lights needs to be assessed to avoid these emotional difficulties. Dealing with sensory overload while taking a test, for example, is very unpleasant.

Here are some additional ideas that can help your child learn to self regulate:
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medications may be needed in some cases. Anti-anxiety drugs, mood stabilizers, and ADHD drugs are commonly used in various combinations to help kids with Aspergers find balance and calmness.
  • Occupational therapy can help your child (and you) learn tips and techniques that will help relieve sensory overload. Something as simple as joint compressions and get your child back on task quickly and quietly.

If your child has great difficulty regulating his emotions and actions, it is a good idea to begin with medical and psychological examinations. Your child's medical team can then come up with a medical plan and therapies suited specifically for his needs.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

Can my son with ASD truly understand love?

"My son is 8 yrs old. He is fairly high functioning. Here's the problem. I don't feel like he loves me. Can he truly understand love at all. He does not hug, kiss or cuddle. He never has. He likes to have his back scratched at night, but that's it. He struggles emotionally at school- a lot of anger. But at home you would notice anything out of the ordinary. He has no problems sharing emotions with his father who lives outside of the home. How can I help him to open up to me?!"
 
 
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Meltdowns and Punishment

One of the most important things to realize is that meltdowns are part of the Aspergers (high functioning autism) condition. Children on the autism spectrum can't avoid them. The best parents can do is try to reduce the damage.

==> Here's how...

Shutdowns: A Specific Type of Meltdown

"Are shutdowns actually avoidance behavior, in other words, the child is simply trying to get out of doing something uncomfortable? And how is it different than a meltdown? I'm not sure exactly where to draw the line between intentional and involuntary acts with my 10 y.o. (high-functioning)." 

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How do I bond with my 6yr old son that has ASD?

How do I bond with my 6yr old son that has ASD? It's very hard for me …I need help.
 
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"He has had numerous meltdowns..."

Parent's Name = Ramona
Aspergers-related Comments/Questions/Story =

I really like the section on meltdowns and temper tantrums. We are going through the process of getting our son in inclusion classes at school.It has been a long, hard struggle because he makes good grades and we were told he didn't qualify for assistance. He has had numerous meltdowns and the teacher and principal told us that this was all our son's fault. They have put him in ISS and even laughed at him and told him that he acts like a 2 year old. Hopefully, we are going to have some success at getting help because we went to the Board of Education and one of the psychologist's told the assistant director of special ed that he does qualify under the ASD group. I am going to tell them about this website and hope that they will look at it so no other child has to go through the stress and anxiety that my son has the last two and a half years.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

Is it true that you shouldn't push someone who has ASD to be more independent?

"My brother has ASD and dyspraxia. I can’t help but feeling that my Dad is halting his independence. My brother has traveled to London with my dad on average every month to spend the weekend with our mum since he was 6 my mum met them in London as the half way point and took him to her home on the Isle of Wight. Since my brother was fifteen he has traveled to the Isle of Wight from London alone (thanks to my mum encouraging his independence) this involves a coach and then getting onto a cat across to the island. He is now 20 and my dad still say's that he is not ready to travel to London alone (1 train, no changes, no underground) "London is a scary place" he said. I think my brother is capable of doing this alone easily. I asked my dad when was the last time he asked my brother if he thought he could do it alone and he replied the last time they went my brother said he preferred to have dad with him. My dad said he doesn't want to push him to do something that he's not comfortable with. I replied that sometimes everyone needs to be pushed a little, he replied "EVERYONE DOESN'T HAVE AUTISM". My brother was pushed slightly to do the second part of the journey alone and is fine with it. Is it true that you shouldn't push someone who has ASD to be more independent?"
 
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I want to help my son with ASD to get employment...

I want to help my son with ASD to get employment in the field that he does well at, but there is no one out there who will give him a chance-Help! 
 
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Motivating Teens with Autism

I need to put drive in my 15 yr old son with autism. When I discipline him with taking things away ... nothing seems to work unless I TOTALLY get frustrated ... then he reacts. I would like him to CARE. 
 
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Keeping in touch with my grown child with Aspergers now that he has left...

Question

I am worried about the future and keeping in touch with my grown child with Aspergers now that he has left. Any advice?

Answer

Individuals with Aspergers (high functioning autism) usually have problems building and maintaining solid, long-lasting relationships. However, they can and do form bonds with a select few. 
 
Their moms and dads are likely to make the list of permanent contacts. Your child may be grown and out of the house, but you weigh heavily on his mind. You were there for every special occasion, creating memories that burn brightly in his highly intelligent mind.

The point that bothers you is probably his inconsistent contact. Isolation is a common issue in people with Aspergers. Your child’s core nature is to be alone. He is more comfortable living among his things and obsessions than he is with people, even his own parents. It’s not intentional. This is one of those areas in which you will have to take control.

Be honest with your adult child. Tell him that, unlike him, you do not have Aspergers. You need the conversation and company that he is so willing to avoid. As his parent you have to maintain contact. It’s your job to think about him and worry about him, no matter how old he is.
 

Perhaps you could make a calendar schedule for him. On the calendar, you could fill in the dates that you’d like to hear from him by telephone and dates for actual face-to-face visits. With the calendar, your child will have a visual timetable in which to refer. 
 
Make sure you give him a little space; he is an adult. As his parent, a daily visit or phone call would be perfect. As the adult child, he’s probably thinking a couple of calls a week and maybe a visit.

Make plans to visit his home regularly. Not daily, maybe bi-weekly, but definite monthly visits should be tolerable. You’ll need to assure yourself that he is taking care of his household chores, his body, his health and wellness, his bills, and any other areas of his life.

Letting go of control is difficult for most moms and dads. Your child’s needs make it that much harder for you. You can take comfort in the fact that you have raised your son to be the best he can be. Try not to worry; concentrate on his happiness and success. He may not say it, but he’ll be thankful for your involvement in his own way.

==> Launching Adult Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance
 
 

The schools do not understand the characteristics of ASD...

"My 8-year-old son has ASD and ADHD. The schools do not understand the characteristics of autism spectrum disorder, let alone recognize it. What do parents do to get the schools to help these kids; they do have rights!"
 

How do I help my son with Aspergers to gain the appropriate life skills...?

Question

How do I help my son with Aspergers to gain the appropriate life skills so that he will someday be able to support himself as independently as possible?

Answer

There is nothing quite like the joy felt as you watch your baby grow from a tiny, helpless infant to a big, strapping, independent man. Ah, success-you’ve accomplished the job set before you. Sometimes, however, the journey is difficult, filled with obstacles of all kinds. Asperger’s Syndrome can be an obstacle, but not one that is too big to manage.

You’ve been with him through the struggles of making friends, keeping friends, sensory issues, obsessions, and his reluctance to change. You’ve taught him ways to overcome the weaknesses on some level and enhance the positives as much as possible; there are positives to Asperger’s, as you well know. Over the years you’ve read and wrote social stories and scripts to help him work through situations like dating and sports. And when you couldn’t figure out a way to help him, you fought for support or therapy from the school system or the medical community.

The most important change you’ll have to make now is switching control over to him. It is time to allow him to become more involved in the process. Let him know that you will be available for him, but help him see that he will be capable of taking care of himself without your constant supervision. It’s time to form a plan.

Contact your local Autism support organization and ask for suggestions for life skills classes, social skills classes, and financial planning assistance. Some groups may call these services transitional skills. Your son can learn skills like managing housework, finding a job, learning to develop relationships with other adults in his situation, making and sticking to a budget, and paying his bills.

Many communities provide support for all citizens with disabilities. They offer career counseling and job placement services, among other advocacy assistance. They may also offer assisted living in your community. Sit down with your son and decide which services he needs, and then make plans to contact the appropriate offices.

You can do this! More importantly, your son can do this. He is well on his way to making this transition because of the support you’ve given him all along.

He has stopped going to school...

"We are desperately trying to motivate our teenager to graduate from high school. He is a senior who needs 20 more credits to graduate. He has stopped going to school. Any advice? HELP!!!"
 
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content