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Teaching Interpersonal Relationship Skills: Tips for Parents of Kids on the Spectrum

"In any type of social setting, my daughter (high functioning) is very withdrawn and will rarely speak to anyone unless they speak to her. How can I teach her to be just a bit more social in a way that fits her comfort level?"

Because Aspergers and high-functioning autistic (HFA) youngsters often have difficulty perceiving the “ins and outs” of typical social interactions, your daughter may feel uncomfortable or be pegged as socially “awkward” when it comes to conversation with friends, family, teachers, etc.

Navigating the “ebb and flow” of everyday interactions can be an art for anyone – but it can be especially precarious for a child on the autism spectrum. However, with parental support, these young people can grow to learn ways to improvise and improve the quality of those interactions.

Some Aspergers and HFA kids appear shy and withdrawn, rarely speaking unless spoken to. Others may dominate the conversation with lengthy discussions about their special interests. Your youngster may reflect these traits at different times, or generally fall somewhere in between. The social skills you teach your youngster now will have long-term benefit as he matures through the teenage years and into adulthood. Learning how to develop social circles and relationships that can lead to true friendship is important to your youngster's future successes and mental health stability.

The youngster who appears shy and withdrawn often wants to “fit-in” and get along with others, but doesn't know where to begin. Similarly, the youngster who is overly verbal knows how to talk circles around a particular topic and may think that everyone has the same degree of interest such that they are spellbound. This youngster also doesn't realize the “give and take” of social interactions and needs some help with interpersonal relationship skills.

How Parents Can Teach Interpersonal Relationship Skills—

1. Use cartoons to teach relationship skills. Your youngster may respond well to understanding social conversation when his favorite TV cartoon show is involved. It is best to record the cartoon on DVD so that you can start and stop the show and highlight “good versus inappropriate” conversation styles. Help your youngster to reinforce what he's just seen by drawing it out on paper. Suggest that you both modify the conversation a bit.

2. Teach “conversation-starters” and “conversation-enders.” Many kids on the spectrum have terrific rote memories if they are able to create images of situations to best “match” the conversation “starter” or “ender.” To begin, partner with your youngster to break down, in writing and pictures, lists for each area. Here are a few sample conversation starters and enders:
  • “Good morning Mr. Smith.”
  • “Hello” or “Hi”
  • “Hey!”
  • “How's it going?”
  • “What are you doing after school?”
  • “What did you do over the weekend?”
  • “What did you watch on TV last night?”
  • “What's up?”
  • “I gotta go now.”
  • “I'll catch you later.”
  • “I'll see you tomorrow.”
  • “I'll talk to you after school.”
  • “See ya Friday.”
  • “Take it easy.”

Sit down with your youngster and come up with additions to the list above. What do your child’s favorite cartoon or TV characters use as conversation starters or enders that are socially acceptable and fit well on the list? Talk about how no one “owns” these conversation starters or enders – anyone can use them!

3. Teach your child to provide “feedback” to the other person during conversations. Feedback is a response to conversation starters or enders initiated by someone else. Providing feedback may include responding with a question in order to elicit more information from the other person. Tell your child that providing feedback is like building a sky scraper. Each piece of the conversation adds layers to the foundation either person began. When the conversation changes topic, the process of building the sky scraper starts over. Providing feedback is always a useful tool to “fall back on” whenever your child is uncertain of what to say. For example:
  • “Awesome!”
  • “Cool!”
  • “I don't know what that is – tell me more!”
  • “I never heard of that before. Can you explain it to me?”
  • “I'm sorry about that.”
  • “That's interesting!”
  • “That's really neat!”

4. Teach your child how to “interject” in an appropriate manner. Interjections are socially acceptable alternatives to interrupting conversation. Your youngster will need to appreciate, through words and images, that it is considered rude to interrupt in conversation, but there are ways to “interject” without being rude. You and your child can identify when this works best (usually during a conversation lull or when someone has stopped talking). Interjections may include:
  • “Can I say something now?”
  • “Excuse me, please.”
  • “May I add to what you're saying?”
  • “Pardon me for interrupting, but…”
  • “Can I tell you about something similar that happened to me?”

Some of these statements might be too formal for a young person and would be better suited for an older teenager. Perhaps you and your son or daughter can come up with other statements to add to this list (ones that are more your child’s style).

Mistakes and unexpected circumstances are bound to occur, and these will require private and respectful debriefing to explain. With time, you and your youngster can modify and adapt his “bag of conversational tricks” to become adept in carrying on a good conversation.

5. Find opportunities that are available in your community by which you can support your youngster in making contacts to build on his special interests (e.g., passion for insects, astronomy, Japanese animation, etc.). If you are uncertain, start by pursuing the following:
  • After-school activities sponsored by your school district
  • Community classes such as arts and crafts, or martial arts
  • Community projects or special celebration days
  • Opportunities offered through local television and radio stations
  • Opportunities offered through the newspaper or local circulars
  • Programs and special events offered by your local historical society or museums
  • Programs and special events offered by your local library
  • Special events sponsored by local athletic leagues

One of the most powerful ways to connect with others with similar passions is through the Internet. The possibilities are endless. Your youngster may learn more about other children of the same age, beyond just the passion they share, by locating them on a map and learning about the local industry, economy, and more. The youngster passionate about Japanese animation may even have the chance to communicate with someone of that culture. They can compare notes and exchange ideas about the video games each is developing.

6. Consider forming a group for children with Aspergers in your community. These groups provide a forum for unconditional acceptance in a safe and comfortable environment. Such groups do not advocate exclusion from neurotypical kids; rather, they are an opportunity for some kids to learn social skills in a place where it's perfectly acceptable to mess-up as you learn and practice.

Your local school district or county human service program may be able to tell you if any such group already exists in your town - or a neighboring town. Most likely, moms and dads previously unconnected will want to meet to discuss the similarities of their lives, but the focus should stay on supporting the kids to meet their individual needs in a comfortable atmosphere.

7. Don’t force your child to be more “social” and “conversational” than he is comfortably able. “Social” should be defined differently for each person, depending on that individual’s needs. You, as a neurotypical parent, may value many friends as a mark of being socially successful. Some Aspies, however, are content with just a few, select friends.

Most kids on the spectrum are not social butterflies …don't wish to be …and never will be. Unless they want to become more out-going, such individuals may simply be completely comfortable with a small group of close-knit friends. As a mother or father, you can arrange to expose your youngster to a variety of people within a range of environments and circumstances. Your youngster will guide you to those with whom he feels connected and wishes to know better.

Aspergers Teenagers and Problems with Depression

All teenagers experience depression from time to time due to the normal pressures faced during adolescents. Also, people with Aspergers (high functioning autism) experience depression occasionally due to dealing with the symptoms associated with the disorder. So, little wonder why a teenager WITH Aspergers may have more than his fair share of depression symptoms.

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Helping Your Child on the Autism Spectrum to Cope with Frustration

"If things are not the way my son (high functioning) wants/needs them, we often hear swearing or he will just ignore me when i ask what is wrong (like he expects me to mind read)....i think he finds it difficult to put his feelings into words, so it often pours out in yelling and abusive names. Any suggestions?!"

Does your high-functioning autistic (HFA) or Asperger's child seem to experience more than his fair share of frustration? And does he often slip into a meltdown once he’s frustrated? If so, then read on…

Most kids on the autism spectrum go through peaks of frustration throughout their childhood. Younger ones often express their frustration in tantrums. At that point, many of them learn the word “frustrated,” and moms and dads and teachers help them to find compromises and alternatives and to develop at least some degree of “frustration tolerance.”

In the preschool years, further triggers for frustration emerge (e.g., comparisons with peers, new expectations, observations of older kids - especially siblings - and grown-ups, etc.). A youngster may be prone to frustration if he has minor delays in some developmental area, if he has easily succeeded at many things and does not remember the process of learning them, or if he is developing a somewhat perfectionistic personality style.

How your child deals with frustration is influenced by how you react to it. If you model an unhealthy response to the frustration you experience in your life (e.g., with impatience, anger, etc.), your child may learn that this is an appropriate way to deal with frustration. If you are calm, positive, and look for solutions when you get frustrated, your child will likely adopt this approach to frustration.

Here's how parents can help HFA and Asperger's kids cope with frustration:

1. Explain that everyone, including grown-ups, feels frustrated sometimes. Talk about the process people go through of not being able to do something and then practicing and getting better at it.

2. Give lots of encouragement for small accomplishments. If a youngster reaches a plateau with a new task, celebrate how far he has come. Reassure him that, in his own time, frustration will diminish, reappearing occasionally as a signal of his hard work.

3. Help them develop a strategy of taking one small step at a time in approaching new things.

4. Identify how your child expresses frustration and the activities (or social situations) that tend to elicit it.

5. Instead of recognizing that failure is temporary, an youngster on he autism spectrum often concludes, “I’ll never succeed.” That’s why encouragement is by far the most important gift you can give your frustrated youngster. Take his dejection seriously, but help him look at his challenge differently: “Never,” you might reply, “is an awfully long time.” Eventually, he’ll learn from your encouraging words to talk himself out of giving up.

6. One of the first mistakes that many kids on the spectrum make – and that moms and dads often encourage – when faced with frustration is to just increase their effort (i.e., do whatever they are doing - more and harder). But then they are violating the Law of Insanity: doing the same thing and expecting different results. When frustration first arises, rather than plowing ahead, your youngster should do just the opposite (i.e., step back from the situation that is causing the frustration). For example, if your youngster can't solve a math problem or learn a new sports skill that he is practicing, he should set it aside and take a break. Stopping the activity creates emotional distance from the frustration, thus easing its grip on them.

7. Provide alternatives to unacceptable expressions of frustration. Since frustration is a form of pent-up energy, doing something physical to burn-off the negative energy often works quite well. Going for a brief - but brisk - walk, jumping up and down for a minute or two, or some other physical activity helps to semi-exhaust the child so that little energy is left over for tantrum-behavior (e.g., throwing things, yelling, hitting, etc.).

8. You can help your child learn to soothe himself by demonstrating patience and self-control, and by suggesting self-calming strategies (e.g., cuddling with a favorite stuffed animal, singing a favorite song, taking a break and doing something fun, beginning the task again with a smaller step so that there is a first success to build on, etc.). Your long-term goal is for him to learn to recognize when he’s frustrated and what he can do about it on his own.

9. You can help your youngster hold on to his sense of self-worth by helping him remember his past successes – and the struggles that preceded them. Put his current struggle into perspective by recalling other times that he thought he’d never succeed, until he did. Help him learn to notice the strengths that he can count on to help him triumph — guts, determination, endurance, careful observation (no matter how fledgling some of these qualities may still be).

10. You can help your youngster recognize that learning involves trial and error. Mastering a new skill takes patience, perseverance, practice, and the confidence that success will come. To a young person, achieving success, whether it’s writing his name or hitting a baseball for the first time, can seem monumental.

==> My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums

Aspergers in the Elderly

Although Aspergers has been around for many years, it was only classified as a distinct condition in 1992. This means that many elderly folks could not have been diagnosed as kids because the signs and symptoms were not recognized.

There is evidence that Aspergers can run in families, and elderly folks may become aware of their condition when a younger family member is diagnosed. Moms and dads normally read up on the signs and symptoms and may recognize the same signs in their older relatives.

Grown-ups with Aspergers present with similar signs of the condition as do children and teens. In some cases, the problems may not be quite as pronounced as the grown-up may have developed coping mechanisms.

Elderly folks with Aspergers normally display the following symptoms:
  • Social interaction is difficult, and the Aspie is normally too detached or too intense. They struggle to understand the full meaning of relationships, and sexual issues may be a problem. Some are unable to distinguish between date rape and seduction.
  • Obsessional interests are common, and the Aspie may work in a position that is related to this interest. Computers are frequently the focus of attention. Collectibles (e.g., stamps and coins) are also favored. Some elderly folks with Aspergers may also be obsessed with trains, airplanes or other forms of transport.
  • Elderly folks often like routine, and Aspergers may magnify this to extremes. They may have rigid routines and become unsettled and difficult if they are pressed out of their comfort zones.
  • Communication problems are common, and the Aspie often engages in long-winded, one-sided conversations, not realizing they are boring the other party. Information may be shared in a lecture-like manner and with little or no facial expressions. Body language is weak and eye contact poor.

While some older folks find a diagnosis helpful, others refuse to accept it and prefer to carry on as they have been for years. Accepting a diagnosis means the individual will often look back and examine past actions and decisions. For an elderly man or woman set in his/her ways, this may be an alarming prospect.

Currently, there is no single diagnostic tool for Aspergers that is universally recognized. A family member may read an article about Aspergers and the elderly and see the signs in an aged relative. If the subject is broached, it is possible the potential Aspie will visit a doctor for confirmation. An evaluation may include a review of childhood behavior, analysis of school reports if available, and a questionnaire. Even if medical opinion is not sought, the knowledge that signs and symptoms of Aspergers are apparent can bring relief and understanding in some areas.

A firm diagnosis of Aspergers in an elderly man or woman may be met with resistance - but can be helpful. Even if the Aspie does not want to change or alter his/her behavior and routines, it can be comforting to know there is a reason behind the behavior.


Anonymous said...   As long as you are not struggling in a particular facet of your life, then receiving a formal diagnosis does not matter, however if you are struggling, a psychotherapist can help, and if you have health is generally covered.
Anonymous said...   I had struggled my whole life in many facets. I no longer struggle now because I accept I am different. Now I can happily dance to my own tune. I hope others are as lucky!!
Anonymous said...   My dad is 65.... I think he has aspergers.... My eldest son is 23 yrs old and was diagnosed aged 10 with aspergers /adhd and I see so many similarities in them.... It has made it easier having my son to understand my dad if that makes any sense?....
Anonymous said...   National Autism day is coming up soon in April - not sure of the date. I think there might be T Shirts available. Anyone know?
Anonymous said...   Same here ... But I have a hard time justifying the expense of a diagnosis when I'm not sure what it would do for me.
Anonymous said...   That is my point. I can't afford to get a diagnosis privately and don't feel inclined to go through the stress of trying to get diagnosed through the health service. I know I'm Aspergers and I can live my life accordingly now.
Anonymous said...   The hard part if finding trained professionals who understand enough to give you any guidance or help.
Anonymous said...   Yes my Father is 92! with Aspergus.
Anonymous said...  . It was classified in the U.S. as a distinct condition in 1994 in the DSM-IV (with an update in the DSM IV-TR in 2000) and in the ICD-10 (also in 1994). However, it was a distinct condition that was diagnosed in Europe in the 1940s onward. What's more, prior to Asperger Syndrome being added to the DSM or the ICD, childhood schizophrenia was the diagnosis most often given. With the addition of AS in the DSM and the ICD, the number of diagnoses for childhood schizophrenia decreased at a similar rate to the increase diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome.
Anonymous said...  I was diagnosed in adulthood. No help or understanding in schools colleges or work.
Anonymous said...  Just so that you know, the most Aspie of us who lived life without the diagnosis have been living as mimics for our whole lives. I would mimic the behaviour of "normal" people my whole life and that's how I managed to get where I am now. I was beat up a lot during my childhoood and still suffer some bullying by "atypicals" to this day but I still find that aping behaviours seen in "typicals" help me in everyday life. I feel bad for those Aspies who cannot mimic!
Anonymous said...  My little boy is now 5. After he turned 2 he started regressing and showing signs of autism. When I was going through the lengthy process of getting him diagnosed, I recognised a lot of likenesses between his actions and behaviours and my own, both as a child and indeed right through my adult life. After we got him diagnosed (he is low functioning, non verbal), I couldn't help but listen to the nagging voice telling me to find out more about myself. I have taken the Autism Quotient test time after time over a period of time and constantly come out with a score of 47. I have found out as much as I can about Aspergers and I am yet to find a facet of my personality which doesn't map over as typical Aspergers. Every action and decision of my adult life can be explained with Aspergers, and the fact that I have always felt that I am different to what is classed as the 'norm'. I didn't go to school for the final year, so sat no exams, but even with that, I sat an IQ test with around 8 work colleagues when I was in my late twenties and even though some of them had masters degrees in technical subjects, I still scored higher than all of them with 146. I am not inclined to pursue a diagnosis, but let me assure you, now that I understand myself, it's like the weight of the world is lifted from my shoulders instead of beating myself up (emotionally) every day.

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Aspergers Teenagers and Feelings of Low Self-Worth

"My son (high functioning autistic) has been spending his summer vacation pretty much isolating in his bedroom playing computer games.... has no friends... no desire to find a friend... says 'people don't like me anyway, so why try'. How can I help him develop some confidence and self-esteem?"

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Revealing Your Child's Diagnosis To Extended Family

"How should we go about telling my parents (and other family members) that our son has been diagnosed with autism (high-functioning)? They have always thought his behavior was odd. We believe strongly they should know so they can help to one degree or another with his special needs."

Click here for the answer...

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.


How will your other children be affected by your Asperger's or HFA child?

An estimated seven million "typically developing" American kids have siblings with some type of “disorder” (e.g., ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, depression, anxiety, etc.). These kids face many of the same challenges - and joys - as their moms and dads, but they also face other problems. Some resent the extra demands placed on them at an early age by the affected sibling, and many feel neglected by their often overburdened parents.

Some kids say they fear "catching" their sibling's disorder. Others may wish that they, too, had a disorder so that they could get all the attention their sibling does. And many suffer embarrassment about their sibling's inappropriate behavior or abnormal appearance, and then feel guilty about it.

On the other hand, some siblings welcome the early maturity and responsibility that come with having an Aspergers or high-functioning autistic (HFA) sibling. They are often well versed in the details of their sibling's behavioral traits and quirks, and they take pride in being able to explain them in sophisticated ways.

So, exactly how will your other children be affected by your "special needs" child? 

That depends on how you, the parent, deal with this challenge. Your neurotypical (i.e., non-autistic) kids will take their cues from you and your husband/wife. The attitudes and actions you model will be reflected in them. They will not only project the values about their Aspergers or HFA sibling's differences within the family, they will demonstrate these beliefs in school, the community, and the world at large.

Thus, parents need to work toward setting a positive tone when first presenting their youngster's disorder to his siblings. It not only influences the quality of your immediate family relationships, but it also affects the ways in which all your kids perceive all people with differences for the rest of their lives.

When you introduce the topic of autism spectrum disorders to your neurotypical kids, consider these points:

1. Allow for process time and questions.

2. Begin by highlighting the ways in which individuals are more alike than different.

3. Decide if it's best to share the information with each sibling in privacy or if it should be done with the family as a group.

4. Discuss the gifts and talents of your other kids first and then discuss those of your Aspie.

5. Discuss the ways in which the entire family is going to strive toward being more sensitive to the needs of your HFA child — needs previously unacknowledged or unrecognized.

6. Don't play the pity card — you want your children to be children and to maintain their typical relationships as siblings, not walk on eggshells.

7. Don't put unfair or unrealistic expectations on your neurotypical kids about increased responsibilities or the burden of future care-taking.

8. Emphasize autism spectrum disorders as a natural experience, and dispel fears about it being a contagious disease or something that can suddenly happen to just anyone.

9. Partner with your "special needs" child about the issue of disclosure to agree on how much or how little to reveal.

10. Talk about respecting your autistic youngster’s ownership of confidentiality, discretion, and disclosure.

11. Wherever possible, try to engage all your kids in any activities that can include them all. Are there games and routines that your entire family can engage in? This will work toward family bonding, patience and tolerance – and it will make learning fun for your Asperger's or HFA youngster.

12. The more you treat your child’s way of being as “natural” and “no big deal,” the more his neurotypical siblings will automatically pitch in, help out, and pick up the slack without thinking or complaining beyond typical sibling rivalry.

There will be occasions when your neurotypical kids require some strong parental support when they are unable to manage internal and/or external pressures.  

Some pitfalls to be mindful of in observing your neurotypical children may include coping with:
  • Becoming weary and worn out from constantly defending their Aspergers or HFA sibling
  • Being ostracized by their friends who don't want to hang around them or come over to your house because of the affected child
  • Feeling guilty when they want to go places and do things alone
  • Feeling perpetually pressured to “parent” or protect their Aspergers or HFA brother/sister
  • Feeling pressured by peers to reject their Aspergers or HFA brother/sister
  • Mental health issues due to the stress associated with having a "special needs" sibling, especially in older daughters who may develop depression or an eating disorder
  • Perceived embarrassment caused by their Aspergers or HFA sibling's behavior, especially in public

If you recognize problems in any of these areas, it will be important to have a private "family meeting" with your neurotypical kids to offer your love, praise and reassurances. Are there ways that you can compensate in partnership with them, especially if they've been feeling left out?

Be willing to admit it's true if you have unintentionally been neglectful, and plan some quality time with your them apart from the rest of the family.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.


Aspergers Children and Social Impairment


I’m a family therapist who is in the beginning stages of learning how to counsel Aspergers clients, specifically children between the ages of 5 and 12. What is the main thing I need to look for in working with these children.


One main issue that comes up routinely in therapy for Aspergers (high functioning autistic) children and teens is "social skills deficits." There are three broad categories into which we can classify social deficits:

1. Social awkwardness -- Socially awkward Aspergers kids are typically higher functioning children who may try very hard to gain and keep friends, but are hindered due to:
  • focusing on their favorite topic or topics to the exclusion of most everything else
  • an inability to learn social skills and taboos by observing others
  • a lack of reciprocity in conversation and interest

2. Social avoidance -- Children who would fall into the category of socially avoidant might be those who tantrum, shy away from, or attempt to escape from social situations. Often, children that are this avoidant of social situations are doing so because they have some hypersensitivity to certain sensory stimuli. Consequently, those sensory needs must be addressed prior to attempts at teaching social skills. A kid who is constantly overwhelmed by his environment is likely not going to be successful in many interventions.

3. Social indifference -- Social indifference is the social impairment common to the majority of Aspergers kids. Kids who are socially indifferent are those who do not actively seek social interaction, but at the same time, do not aggressively avoid such interaction.

So, in addressing social skills deficits, it is helpful to know the child's social style (i.e., awkwardness, avoidance, indifference).

When Aspergers Runs In The Family

Aspergers (high functioning autism) is often an invisible disability. Because it is so subtle, it can go undetected. It is very likely that there many people on the spectrum living and working in your community who are undiagnosed.

Click here for the full article...

Pet Therapy for Aspergers Kids

Man’s best friend can truly be your "Aspie’s" best friend, according to some studies on the interaction between pets and Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) kids.

Many moms and dads are surprised to see the connection between their youngster and pets. You might see it happening spontaneously — just when you are wondering how to help improve your child’s communication and social skills, you notice that he acts playful, happier, and more focused when around a friend's pet. Or perhaps you have heard about the profound impact pets can have on some Aspergers kids from another parent. Whatever prompts you, it may be time to introduce your Aspie to the world of pets.

Being around household pets or having structured contact with pets can be a great addition to treatment for kids with Aspergers. There are many reports from both parents and clinicians that interacting with pets, formally called animal-assisted therapy, can offer both physical and emotional benefits to these kids.

Animal-assisted therapy can be as simple as bringing a family pet into the household - or as structured as programs that offer horseback riding or swimming with dolphins. Interaction with pets can help Aspergers kids become more physically developed and improve their strength, coordination, and physical abilities. More importantly, many of these children derive much joy from their relationship with pets, which can help them have a better sense of well-being and more self-confidence. Pets can relate to Aspergers kids – and Aspergers kids (who have a hard time relating to peers) can really relate to pets.

While more research is still needed to determine the effects and confirm the benefits of animal-assisted therapy specifically for kids on the spectrum, a number of studies have suggested it can help. In the 1970s, researchers began studying how interactions with dolphins affected kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). They found that being around dolphins increased the children’s attention, enhanced their thinking, helped them learn faster – and retain information longer.

More recently, one study looked at the effects of ASD children interacting with dogs. For this particular study, kids were exposed to a ball, a stuffed dog, or a live dog under the supervision of a therapist. The kids who played with the live dog were in a better mood and more aware of their surroundings than the kids who were exposed to the ball or stuffed dog.

If you are interested in animal-assisted therapy for your Aspie, talk with your child’s doctor. There may be horseback-riding, dolphin-therapy, or other animal-therapy programs in your area that the doctor could refer you to.

If you are ready to make the commitment of bringing a pet into your home, you may want to consider a service dog that has been specially trained to work with ASD kids. These dogs can be wonderful additions to families and can even accompany kids when they are away from home (e.g., school), helping to keep them calm and comforted.

Pets quickly become a treasured member of the family, offering love and companionship. And for the family that includes an Aspergers boy or girl, the rewards can be even greater.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Aspergers Children and Sibling Aggression

"My son is an 8 yr old fraternal twin. He was diagnosed with ADHD and generalized anxiety disorder in the summer of 2016 and was diagnosed with autism (high functioning) in the summer of 2018. He is the oldest of 5 boys ranging from 8 to 14 months. My question is: How do I keep him from physically attacking the baby when he gets frustrated? This has only been happening physically since September of last year, but verbally has always said he hates the baby, wants the baby to die, etc. since he was born. I know it has to do with him feeling he's not getting the attention he wants, but with 5 kids, the youngest being of an age that is very demanding, I don't always get to focus on the 8-yrear-old as much as he would like."

Click here for the answer...

Self-Help Strategies: 25 Tips for Teens on the Autism Spectrum

“I'm dumb.” “Nobody likes me.” “I can’t find any friends.” “I can’t talk to girls.” “I’m such a nerd.”

Do any of these statements sound familiar? Are you used to putting yourself down? If so, you're not alone. As an Aspergers (AS) or high functioning autistic (HFA) teen, you're going through a ton of changes. And as you change, so does your image of yourself. Lots of teens have trouble adjusting, and this can affect their self-esteem.

Here are some self-help strategies to help you rid yourself of negative, defeating self-talk:

1. A positive, optimistic attitude can help teens with AS and HFA develop strong self-esteem - for example, saying, "Hey, I'm human" …instead of, "Wow, I'm such a loser" …when you've made a mistake, or not blaming others when things don't go as expected.

2. As one Aspergers teenager said, "Parents just don’t understand" (understatement of the year, huh?). It may seem like there’s no way your mother or father will be able to help, especially if they are always nagging you or getting angry about your behavior. The truth is that parents hate to see their children suffering. Parents may feel frustrated, because they don’t understand what is going on with you or know how to help. Many moms and dads don’t know enough about the disorder to know how to deal with it. So, it may be up to you to educate them. You can refer them to a website, or look for further information at the library.

3. Family life can sometimes influence self-esteem. Some mothers and fathers spend more time criticizing their teens and the way they look than praising them, which can reduce the teen’s ability to develop good self-esteem. So, if your parents are overly critical, tell them that you need some encouragement from time to time. They may not realize they have been coming down hard on you.

4. For many teen on the autism specrrum, common strengths include high intelligence and a strong interest in at least one area of narrow focus. While this narrow focus can have its drawbacks, it can also be harnessed as an asset in many ways. For example, a lover of video games may become a computer programmer someday.

5. Identify which aspects of your appearance you can realistically change and which ones you can't. Everyone has things about themselves that they can't change and need to accept — like their height, for example, or their shoe size.

6. If there are things about yourself that you want to change, do this by making goals for yourself. For example, if you want to get fit, make a plan to exercise every day and eat nutritious foods. Then keep track of your progress until you reach your goal. Meeting a challenge you set for yourself is a great way to boost self-esteem!

7. If you learn to be kind to yourself and avoid judging yourself, you will find that what you practice and what you apply from self-help techniques can and will be very helpful.

8. If you’re depressed, you may not feel like seeing anybody or doing anything. Just getting out of bed in the morning can be difficult, but isolating yourself only makes depression worse. Make it a point to stay social – even if that’s the last thing you want to do. As you get out into the world, you may find yourself feeling better.

9. If your feelings are uncontrollable, tell yourself to wait 24 hours before you take any action. This can give you time to really think things through and give yourself some distance from the strong emotions that are plaguing you. During this 24-hour period, try to talk to someone—anyone. Talk to a parent or a friend. What do you have to lose?

10. It is important to realize that a lot of what "special needs" teenagers do differently, or the ways in which they may think differently, can be positively framed in realizing their capability to function in and through what is a different ability.

11. Knowing what makes you happy and how to meet your goals can help you feel capable, strong, and in control of your life. A positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle (such as exercising and eating right) are a great combination for building good self-esteem.

12. Making healthy lifestyle choices can do wonders for your mood. Things like diet and exercise have been shown to help anxiety and depression. Ever heard of a "runners high"? You actually get a rush of endorphins from exercising, which makes you feel instantly happier. Physical activity can be as effective as medications or therapy for depression, so get involved in sports, ride your bike, or take a dance class. Any activity helps! Even a short walk can be beneficial.

13. Many teens on the spectrum exhibit extensive knowledge of a specific interest and therefore are capable of major accomplishments.

14. One of the major aspects of self-help is learning more about self-acceptance and respecting differences, to the degree that you understand the ways in which you are different from the “neurotypical” teenager.

15. Regarding your body-image, recognize that your body is your own, no matter what shape, size, or color it comes in. If you're very worried about your weight or size, check with your doctor to verify that things are OK. But it's no one's business but your own what your body is like — ultimately, you have to be happy with yourself.

16. Some AS and HFA teens may become depressed, lose interest in activities or friends — and even hurt themselves or resort to alcohol or drug abuse. If you're feeling this way, it can help to talk to a parent, coach, religious leader, guidance counselor, therapist, or an adult friend. A trusted adult — someone who supports you and doesn't bring you down — can help you put your circumstances in perspective and give you positive feedback about your skills and abilities.

17. Spend time with friends, especially those who are active, upbeat, and make you feel good about yourself. Avoid hanging out with those who abuse drugs or alcohol, get you into trouble, or who make you feel insecure. It’s also a good idea to limit the time you spend playing video games or surfing online.

18. Stress and worry can take a big toll, even leading to depression. Talk to a teacher or school counselor if exams or classes seem overwhelming.

19. The AS or HFA teen is NOT disabled; rather, he is “differently abled.” The key is changing the way you think about difference and being the one that is different.

20. Understand that self-esteem is all about how much people value themselves, the pride they feel in themselves, and how worthwhile they feel. Self-esteem is important because feeling good about yourself can affect how you act. A person who has high self-esteem will make friends easily, is more in control of his or her behavior, and will enjoy life more.

21. What neurotypical people call “dysfunction” can be turned into your own understanding of many different ways that you actually DO function.

22. When you hear negative comments coming from within yourself, tell yourself to stop. Try building your self-esteem by giving yourself three compliments every day. While you're at it, every evening list three things in your day that really gave you pleasure. It can be anything from the way the sun felt on your face, the sound of your favorite band, or the way someone laughed at your jokes. By focusing on the good things you do and the positive aspects of your life, you can change how you feel about yourself.

23. You can create change in your life just like anyone else. Change for some teens on the spectrum means personal growth and evolution in understanding and learning. For others, it might be more about finding productive and workable compensatory strategies.

24. You may be tempted to drink or use drugs in an effort to escape from your feelings and get a "mood boost", even if just for a short time. However, substance use can not only make depression worse, but can cause you to become depressed in the first place. Alcohol and drug use can also increase suicidal feelings. In short, drinking and taking drugs will make you feel worse—not better—in the long run.

25. You might be surprised at how many other AS and HFA teens suffer from anxiety and/or depression. You are not alone, and your negative emotions are not a hopeless case. Even though it can feel like your unwanted emotions will never leave, they eventually will.

Here's what one parent had to say about her HFA teen: "In our family, we embrace the 'nerd' thing. Hang out with other nerds, watch TV shows with nerds. Being a nerd is OK. I have raised 5 kids, I would much rather have nerdy kids than 'cool' kids :)"

Resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

What is the best treatment for teens with Aspergers and HFA?

“My husband is ashamed and embarrassed that our oldest son has autism (high functioning) and is not what he calls normal. If my husband knew that I was typing this, he would become very irate and the yelling would start between the two of us as he does not like it when I try and seek help. James is 15 and in the years gone by He has called him a retard to his face, he even used to hit him across the back of the head. James does not seem to get along with our 13-year-old and often hurts himself as well as our other son. Because of this, I try not to leave the two of them home alone. The other evening, I went to visit my parents for two hours leaving them with their dad. Apparently, the boys started into each other and instead of separating them and talking with them, he told the oldest with the problem. ‘I wish you would just beat the shit out of him and teach him a lesson’. When I found out about this, I became very irate and tried to explain to Michael [husband] that he just gave James permission to beat up his brother. He does not really understand right from wrong at times. So now I wait for the day they fight and he says, ‘dad said I could’ without realizing the damage he could cause or the consequences. My husband refuses to seek help, says he reads up about what is going on but I find that hard to believe otherwise he would know better how to deal with issues. Is there anything you can suggest in the way for treatment for James? I can’t change his dad but maybe I can get James some help for his disorder. I am starting to think that my feelings do not matter and I need to put my children first and remove Michael from my home so that our eldest will have a home that understands him. Even our 13 year old understands him better than his own dad. ppls 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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