Aspergers Teens and Behavior Problems at School

Question

Can you help me with behavior management for teenagers with Aspergers Syndrome in mainstream school (e.g., interrupting, joking, attention seeking)?

Answer

Social boundaries are not always understood by teenagers with Aspergers (high-functioning autism). Teens as a whole may have difficulty with these concepts; however, the teen with Aspergers may have a tougher time understanding how his behavior is disruptive or unacceptable. Teenagers with Aspergers struggle to understand how to control their feelings. Anger, stress, anxiety, and frustration can build quickly. This can cause inappropriate behaviors as the teenager strains to maintain control. Other times the teenager may act improperly without realizing what has happened.

Here are some commonly used treatment options:

• Individual counseling— Much like Cognitive-behavioral therapy, a trained professional counselor will attempt to develop a relationship with the teen with Aspergers. Teens can benefit from the one-on-one of basic counseling sessions that deal directly with the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of emotions and actions. This type of therapy may last for years.

• Cognitive-behavioral therapy— Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a time controlled intense therapy that is based on the belief that a teen’s individual thoughts are the cause of his behavior. In other words, the people around you and the situations that occur are not the cause, but an effect. Since this is the reality, a person should then be able to change the outcome of actions and feelings by changing the way they think about them, and not by changing the situations.

Without strong support at home, Aspergers teens may not make much progress with dealing with emotions and poor behavior. Any therapy will include homework. Some families, either by choice or desire, may choose to handle the adolescent years without the assistance of private therapy. In many instances, this can be an acceptable alternative.

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