Basic Guidelines for Parents of Aspergers and HFA Children and Teens

You say you need some quick tips for parenting your Aspergers or High Functioning Autistic child?  No problem!  Here you go mom:

1. Although it is not the youngster’s fault, he will still ultimately be the one to take the consequences of his behavior. It will help your youngster if you can explain the consequences clearly and logically when he is able to listen.

2. Celebrate your youngster's humor, creativity, and passion.

3. Do you want to understand your youngster`s actions? Just ask yourself: What behavior would make sense if you only had 4 seconds to live?

4. Don’t argue; nag; or attempt unsolicited and spontaneous transplants of your wisdom to your youngster. Instead, either a) decide that the issue is aggravating but not significant enough to warrant intervention; or b) make an appointment with your youngster to discuss the issue.

5. Especially with teens, negotiate, negotiate, and negotiate. Moms and dads need to model negotiation, not inflexibility. Don’t worry about losing control: the parent always gets to decide when negotiation is over and which compromise is accepted. Remember: negative behaviors usually occur because the Aspergers or HFA youngster is spinning out of control, not because he is evil. While evil behavior would need to be aggressively squelched, the much more common overwhelmed behavior needs to be calmly defused.

6. Forgive your youngster and yourself nightly. You didn’t ask to live with the effects of Aspergers or HFA any more than did your youngster.

7. Head off big fights before they begin. Seek to diffuse, not to inflame. When tempers flare, allow everyone to cool off. Serious discussion can only occur during times of composure.

8. If it is working, keep doing it. If not, do something else.

9. Imagine your youngster delivering your eulogy. What do you want him to say about you? Keep those bigger goals in mind as you choose your interactions/reactions to your youngster.

10. Instead of punishing wrong behavior, set a reward for the correct behavior you would rather replace it with. Rewards should be immediate, frequent, powerful, clearly defined, and consistent. Also remember that a behavior always gets stronger before it changes.

11. Keep a sense of humor. Seek to enjoy, not to scream.

12. Pick your fights. Is the issue at hand worth chipping away at your relationship with your youngster? Can your youngster really control the offending behavior at this moment?

13. Plan ahead. Give warnings before transitions. Discuss in advance what is expected, and what the results might be. Have the youngster repeat out loud the terms he just agreed to.

14. Recognize that attention issues in the youngster are only the tip of the iceberg that the whole family must address.

15. Remember that a youngster with Aspergers or HFA is still a kid with thoughts and feelings, and that you are the adult she looks to for support and guidance.

16. Remember that kids on the autism spectrum have two time frames: Now, and 'Huh?'. There is no future. There is only now. The past is non-negotiable.

17. Review this text, and others, periodically. You are going to forget this stuff, and different principles will likely be needed at different stages.

18. The kids who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways.

19. The patient in Aspergers or HFA is the whole family.

20. This is hard work. It is also hard work for your youngster.

21. This is not a contest with your youngster. The winner is not the one with more points. The winner is the one whose child still loves them when they graduate from high school.

22. You do not have a standard youngster. You can view the issue as a disability. Or, you can view it as wonderful uniqueness. Or, you can view it as both. This "disability outlook" will help because it eliminates blame; sets reasonable expectations thereby minimizing anger; and points the way for moms, dads and teachers to see themselves as "therapists" not victims.

23. You will make it through this -- you have no choice.

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