Helping Resistant Children with Transitions

"My child with autism (high functioning) still has trouble with transitions. Social stories don’t work that well for him. To get him to stop doing what he’s doing to get ready for bed (as just one example) is like pulling teeth. Help!"

Here’s a 7-step plan for giving your youngster with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism (HFA) plenty of warning and helping him make transitions more calmly:

1. 10-minute warning: Tell your youngster, "You’ve got 10 more minutes" (parent’s secret: unless your youngster is watching the clock or is a stickler for accuracy in this area, you can give this warning well before you actually only do have 10 more minutes). Let’s assume that your youngster is ignoring you at this point (e.g., he may be thinking he has plenty of time yet).

2. 5-minute warning: About halfway into the 10-minute warning, say, "You’ve got 5 more minutes" (get at least an acknowledgment that your youngster has received the message at this point). As HFA children often do, let’s assume that your youngster is still ‘dilly dallying’ around (i.e., taking his sweet time).

3. Warnings by the minute: Just as some snooze alarms get louder each time you hit the button, make your warnings more frequent at this point (e.g., give a 4-minute warning …3-minute …2-minute (parent’s secret: the countdown doesn't have to actually correspond to factual time; you can say, for example, that he only has 2-minutes left, but he may actually have 2 ½). In any event, let your youngster know that it's time to get organized for a change.

4. Warnings by the second: At this point, your youngster should be at least reluctantly moving toward change. Count down in 10-second increments at this point (e.g., you’ve got 50 seconds …40 …30 …and so on).

5. An extra 10-count: If your youngster is still goofing off, tell him he has a count of 10 to get with it. Then count up from 1 to 10. And move on.

6. This technique should work with those kids on the autism spectrum who have difficulty with motor planning and change. However, you will want to calibrate the amount of time used to your particular youngster's needs. The countdown described above is merely an example, and one that can be tailored according to the situation – and your child’s temperament.

7. A stopwatch or a timer can sometimes also be effective countdown tools. When choosing a timer, opt for one that will be most appropriate for your youngster, and make sure that it is something that he will easily understand. While a digital timer may be an appropriate choice for older kids, this may not be well suited for younger ones. For younger kids who still do not have a concept of time, the hourglass timer usually works best – not only because it is more interesting, but also because it is easier to understand. Since younger kids may not know how long 3 minutes is, the hourglass timer gives them a visual of how long 3 minutes actually is.

Before you use the timer, let your youngster know what the timer is for. Let him know that the timer keeps track of when he needs to switch activities (e.g., “When the timer goes off, it is time for you to stop playing your video game and get ready for bed.”). Explain it simply and use words that will make him understand.

When using the timer, it is also important that you provide warning signals (e.g., ringing of a soft bell, gentle snapping of the fingers, etc.) when the time is almost over. This way, your youngster will be ready when the time runs out and will not feel surprised or rushed. The important thing is to be consistent and to always use the same warning signals. This way, it will become part of the routine.

Tips to help you be successful with the “transitioning” method outlined above:

1. Be consistent. Use the same warning time and words every time. This makes it easier for your youngster to understand and adjust to the transitions. By knowing what the expectations are, he will transition easier.

2. Do as much as possible beforehand. Pick out clothes the night before, make sure his shoes are readily available, etc.

3. Evaluate situations that are difficult. If there is a particular situation that causes major problems during transitions, evaluate the circumstances surrounding the situations. For example, it could be that your child doesn't want to do the next activity due to sensory issues or other problems. It could be that the schedule needs adjustment, or that other accommodations need to be in place.

4. Make sure all of the “extra activities” are taken care of beforehand. It is easier to get out the door when the boy or girl can’t pause when it opens and exclaim, “I have to go to the bathroom!” Take care of those needs before you walk out the door. Do the same with food and drink. Better yet, bring a water bottle and a snack (one less excuse for your youngster to dawdle).

5. Make your youngster part of the team. Enlist his help in order to get out the door on time. Have a checklist and allow him to check off what gets done, or have him help load important items into the car if you are leaving.

6. Negotiate transitions when possible. For example, if he’s playing video games and you want him to stop so he can get some homework done, you can say, “Do you want to continue playing your game for another 30 minutes and then do your homework – or do you want to stop for now, do some homework, and then go back to your game for 60 minutes? So, 30 minutes now – or 60 minutes later …what’s your preference?”

7. Never underestimate the power of a good social story. If you’ve tried social stories, but they didn’t work, it may have just been a poorly applied story. Social stories are a wonderful tool for working with Aspergers and HFA children. The value of seeing his name in print with clear expectations will be golden for your youngster. A social story is a simple story naming the youngster along with the story of what you want him to accomplish.

8. Respect your youngster’s need for a warning. When an HFA child is engaged in an activity, it is very difficult for him to move on to the next activity. Teaching him how to transition takes patience and time on your part. By giving a warning, the youngster will have an easier time accepting transitions.

9. Teach your child to tell time. The sooner you do it, the easier it becomes for your son or daughter to understand the passage of time and how it works.

10. Use rewards. When a kid on the spectrum is engaged in an activity, sometimes it is difficult to get him to transition to a new activity. In order to help him, offer some incentive to change activities (e.g., a preferred food or item, a desired activity later in the day, etc.).

A plan for blatant resistance: “This Tantrum Is Not Solving Your Problem”

If your child flat-out refuses to make the transition from the current activity to the next one – or worse yet – throws a temper tantrum, help him understand that “resistance” and “throwing a tantrum” will not help him get what he wants. For example, let’s say he’s watching television …then you come along and want him to get ready for dinner. Your first request for this transition is met with stiff confrontation (e.g., yelling and throwing the remote). You can say, “If your problem is that you want to watch TV, then yelling and throwing the remote is not solving that problem …it’s just prolonging the problem! If you want to solve that problem, then come and eat a few bites, then you watch TV some more.”

==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Kids on the Autism Spectrum


•    Anonymous said... for the ideas
•    Anonymous said... Hi my son is 15 and he still has no concept of time I'm finding him very hard work ATM he never wants to do anything he can be snappy towards me has anyone any ideas please or suggestions many thanx x
•    Anonymous said... I have those magnet ones, my iphone app I got works great too. We use them for night time routines usually now. I used to have one in each area of my home.
•    Anonymous said... I've learned that my son needs a "5 minute warning" before a transition (even if it's not a true five minutes). If I spring something on him, he wigs out.
•    Anonymous said... jp always needed a warning 10 min then 5 min and then i had to say time for dinner and lead the way. sometimes we sang a tidy up song before bed and we still have an identical bedtime routine. i find routine and consistency the best for him
•    Anonymous said... Just make sure the timer is a pleasing noise!! My son is now scared of timers because the load noise bothers him! The timer we used had a ringing noise and it actually caused more problem than the transition!
•    Anonymous said... My son is 5-1/2 and we use an hourglass timer. And also a picture to do list. Pictures of the activities in order is something he has really been able to follow and with the timer for each activity it really helps him feel like he can be prepared for what's next.
•    Anonymous said... Thanks for sharing the link to that timer - it is really cool! I usually do a verbal time warning. I used to do 10 minutes then 5 minutes and so on. We can now do a 5 minute warning, then a 2 minute and 1 minute warning before any kind of change - getting off the computer, time to leave, etc...
•    Anonymous said... The tricks depend on the age and what kinda kid. My son does better with "finish the chapter" than time as I think he's a bit OCD and really compulsive about finishing and saving (like in Minecraft--Roblox has been hugely frustrating for the lack of saving "all that work"). For recurring transitions, predictable "transition helpers" work for us. Like (pls don't blast me for the food thing) when we leave McD's after eating and playing, my kids get their dessert (a cookie) in the car. On the computer, we have been using Family Safety in Win8 to regulate time spent. I especially love that I can really customize the curfew settings by adding in 1/2 hr curfews for meals in addition to the whole time limit for the day. Most kids get really wrapped up and forget to eat. Good luck!
•    Anonymous said... There are great visual timer apps for the iPad and smart phones. They have worked well for my 4 -year-old daughter. She also has trouble with transitions.
•    Anonymous said... there are some cool timers used in autistic classrooms that work on the principal of a traffic light, green, yellow, red,this gives the child a warning,, and a visual indicater
•    Anonymous said... This is my son exactly!! Especially at dinner time. But not only is it a challenge to get him to the table, it's also a nightmare to get him to stay there. Or to do anything I ask of him really.
•    Anonymous said... We don't uses timers but I am thinking would be good to show some patience. Any meal time I have our 5 yr old help I incorporated his schooling time with cooking time. Now he is not a big eater so we are working on it. The more we do meal cooking really new stuff he will try a lil bit. That is a huge step.
•    Anonymous said... We set the oven timer and remind him every few minutes of how long he has until whatever it is we want him to do eg, pack his school bag, turn off the Wii, brush his teeth, come to the dinner table. It always works. We can never just spring something onto him...he is very literal and visual.
•    Anonymous said... we use a hand held cooking timer ($6 @ walmart) but try it out before buying because the bell/ringer can be too loud! We let our 5yr old son set it himself so he feels some control over what's going on. before beginning any activity, we let him know how much time is allowed for that event (10 min.) & when it's over, we will move on to the next activity (name it - bath time, dinner, etc.). he likes knowing what the upcoming activity is, but not more than that. At the 5 min. mark, I countdown each minute until the bell rings, he loves it! At 2 min. mark, I explain that he has 2 minutes left, but that the next activity (eating) will be great because (we're having his favorite dish). It helps make the transition smoother when he's down to the last minute. My son really likes a schedule, a time-table of events/activities, but has to be fore-warned when changing from each activity.
•    Anonymous said... Welcome to my life. I find that touching him and speaking directly works well. Calling from downstairs I do not reccommend unless you want to call atleast 10 times. When he is playing lego he is lost in his own world.

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The New Diagnostic Criteria for Autism

The publication of the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) will have a huge impact on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Aspergers and PDD-NOS will disappear, new criteria will be used to diagnose ASD, and new categories have been developed which are likely to absorb many individuals now diagnosed with ASD.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Must meet criteria A, B, C, and D:

A. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across contexts, not accounted for by general developmental delays, and manifest by all 3 of the following:
  1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity; ranging from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back and forth conversation through reduced sharing of interests, emotions, and affect and response to total lack of initiation of social interaction.
  2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction; ranging from poorly integrated- verbal and nonverbal communication, through abnormalities in eye contact and body-language, or deficits in understanding and use of nonverbal communication, to total lack of facial expression or gestures.
  3. Deficits in developing and maintaining relationships, appropriate to developmental level (beyond those with caregivers); ranging from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit different social contexts through difficulties in sharing imaginative play and in making friends to an apparent absence of interest in people.

B. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities as manifested by at least two of the following:
  1. Stereotyped or repetitive speech, motor movements, or use of objects; (such as simple motor stereotypies, echolalia, repetitive use of objects, or idiosyncratic phrases).
  2. Excessive adherence to routines, ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior, or excessive resistance to change; (such as motoric rituals, insistence on same route or food, repetitive questioning or extreme distress at small changes).
  3. Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus; (such as strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests).
  4. Hyper-or hypo-reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of environment; (such as apparent indifference to pain/heat/cold, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, fascination with lights or spinning objects).

C. Symptoms must be present in early childhood (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities).

D. Symptoms together limit and impair everyday functioning.

The DSM is a manual that organizes behaviors and symptoms into diagnostic groups for the purposes of clinical diagnosis and recommended treatment. Over time, the DSM has changed significantly. The concept of an "Autism spectrum" is relatively recent, and major changes to criteria for Autism diagnoses will change what we presently think of as the "spectrum." Most significant for individuals in the autism community will be the removal of two existing Autism spectrum diagnoses from the manual: PDD-NOS and Aspergers.

Treatments will probably not vary much as a result of the DSM change. Also, there should not be a shake-up in terms of services and therapies. People and their needs aren't changing, just the way we capture their diagnoses.

The new criteria attempt to better describe and identify what Autism is, including what social communication is (separate from general learning disabilities). The DSM will also incorporate a dimensional aspect to ASD, indicating how much support an person needs in his/her community to focus on what the person should be doing at their age and developmental levels. This acknowledges that there is a range of causes in ASD, with a different range of functions.

An individual with present symptoms of Aspergers will fall in the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and there will probably be additional “specifiers” (e.g., without intellectual disability, with fluent speech, etc.), which may better describe the diagnostic picture for such an individual than is currently done with the term Aspergers alone.


Preventing Meltdowns: Diversion Tactics for Parents

When it comes to parenting a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), there are a few scenarios that are fertile ground for meltdowns. Some examples include (but are definitely not limited to):
  • all afternoon shopping trips
  • an endless car ride
  • long wait at the doctor's office
  • slow service at a restaurant
  • too many homework problems

These are moments where a meltdown is coming on fast, but can still be diverted. These are the times when moms and dads need “diversion tactics” (i.e., a supply of items and ideas that can fill a moment or turn a head).

While diversion tactics come in handy with any youngster, it's particularly imperative for kids with an Autism Spectrum Disorder who are often significantly less able to amuse themselves, negotiate transitions, or avoid meltdowns. A parent needs to be quick, versatile, creative, and resourceful to keep things running smoothly. Planning ahead can help.

Here's how to make sure you always have plenty of tricks in your bag:

1. Your diversion tactics should do one of these (and preferably more than one): Soothe, Entertain, and Distract. They must be deployable at a moment's notice, especially in stressful situations. The space of time between the need for soothing, entertainment and distraction, and the onset of complete disaster can be brutally short.

2. Some of the tactics in your “diversion kit” will be actual items (i.e., things you keep in your purse or pockets for emergencies). It doesn't hurt to have some on hand at all times (that's why most of these are small) and then to load up with extras when you know you might need them. Some possibilities (depending on the age of your ASD child) include:

• Animal crackers
• Coins
• Crayons/coloring book
• Deck of cards
• Dice
• Doll
• Fidget toys
• Finger puppets
• Flash cards
• Hard candy
• iPad
• iPhone
• iPod
• Keys
• Little notepad and pen
• Magnetic travel game
• Photos
• Pretzels
• Puzzle book
• Raisins
• Small storybook
• Stickers
• Toy cars

3. Some of the tactics in your “diversion kit” will be ideas that you can implement without any need for props. You may have to go through a few before you find one your ASD youngster will run with, so keep a list if you can't keep them all in your head. Some possibilities include:

• 20 Questions
• A is for ..., B is for ...
• Blowing a raspberry on his or her arm
• Clapping games
• Getting a drink from a water fountain
• Hide something in fist -- guess which hand?
• I Spy
• Let youngster choose what to do next
• Looking out window
• Math facts
• Play with youngster's hair
• Pushing hard against each other's hands
• Rock-paper-scissors
• Saying something silly
• Taking a walk
• Tell me three things you did today
• Tickling
• What color am I looking at?
• Whispering secrets
• Word games where each person adds an item, alphabetically, and the next person must remember the whole string of words

Putting together a good list of diversion tactics is one thing, maintaining it is another. As your ASD youngster gets older, changes interests, gets bored with some things and taken by others, you'll want to keep changing and replenishing the tactics in your "diversion kit." Remember, the objects don't have to be big, they don't have to be fancy, and they only have to be able to run your youngster past a bit of boredom, anxiety, or a little rough behavioral spot. But they do have to soothe, entertain, and distract.

Note: If you only have a couple diversion tactics, they can fade with overuse. The more tactics you've got in your “bag of tricks,” the better.

==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Kids on the Autism Spectrum


Raising Kids on the Spectrum: Dealing with Parental Stress

Of course, not all moms and dads of children with ASD level 1, or high functioning autism (HFA), are under stress, but many are. As one mother states, “You learn to live with a significant amount of stress and you throw yourself into your everyday job as a parent when you have a youngster with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you work outside the home, you work even harder - and you don't think much about taking care of yourself.
Click here for the full article...


Getting Your Child with ASD to Obey: The "Silent 30 Count"

When it comes to getting "typical" children to do what they're told, “3” seems to be the magic number in most cases. The success of your own mother or father in telling you when you were a kid “you’ve got until the count of 3 to hop to” may make you assume that if your child doesn't get moving in a similar time-frame, he’s being defiant.

But for kids with ASD level 1 [High-Functioning Autism], three may not be a very realistic number. Think about what you're asking your youngster to do when you give an order and start counting. He has to (a) decipher what it is you want done, (b) think about how to do it, and (c) try to do it – quickly. Can your youngster accomplish these 3 steps in 3 seconds? Don't be too quick to say “sure he can!”

Consider these possible challenges:
  • Stress management: Some kids on the autism spectrum find deadlines energizing, but others can become paralyzed by them. Anxiety caused by “deadline pressure” can take over your youngster and cause her to be unable to focus on the task at hand. Then, since she’s not doing what you want fast enough, you may become even more impatient, thus paralyzing her even more.
  • Motor planning: For some of these special needs kids, contemplating how to physically do something (even something as obvious as stopping what they're already doing) can be a multi-step process. Planning and sequencing that activity may be a bigger job than a count of 3 will allow.
  • Frustration tolerance: If your youngster seems unable to obey for some reason, it may seem easier to just issue a consequence than to do what's called for. A count of 3 gives your youngster very little time to work through other possibilities.
  • Auditory processing: If he or she has trouble processing language, it may take more than a count of 3 for him to figure out what you want done, much less how to accomplish it.

If any of these are issues for your youngster, you may find you will have more success if you do two very important things:
  1. extend that “3 count” to a “30 count” (i.e., 30 seconds)
  2. count silently (under your breath)

Counting to 30 gives your youngster adequate time to (a) process your request or ask for clarification, (b) transition from what he is doing to a different activity, and (c) deal with frustration without becoming overly anxious. Counting to yourself (rather than out loud) helps him or her to be able to focus on the task at hand rather than on your "distracting" voice.

You may find that your youngster sometimes needs less than 30, at which point you can provide praise and encouragement. But if your “silent 30 count” is reached and the behavior hasn't changed, you can then issue a consequence.

Alternative to the “silent 30 count”:

Depending on the situation, you may want to opt for the “0 count” method (that’s right …the ‘zero’ count method). How does that work, you ask?

When requesting your child to follow your directions, you can allow him to decide when he will comply. Let’s use “doing chores” as an example:

The parent asks her child to clean his room before he takes-off over to a friend’s house. Five minutes later, the child declares that he is finished and starts to leave. Upon quick inspection, mom notices that his room is still a mess. So she says, “Hey …before you leave, I need to tell you something. Your chore isn’t done yet. Take as much time as you need, but you can’t leave until your room is cleaned-up.”

Statements like “take as much time as you need” are powerful in helping the child understand that his behavior determines when he may have the things he wants (in this case, the privilege of spending time with a friend).

Giving your youngster more time to do what you ask may seem like a sign of weakness on your part, but if you have reason to believe that she can't comply in short order, it's not only compassionate - but sensible - to extend the deadline. Your goal, after all, is to have your directions followed. In the end, it's far more time efficient to spend 30 seconds and get what you want, than to spend hours seeing to it that your child follows through with the consequence for non-compliance.

Anonymous said...This is a hard one for me since the counting method is my old standby My son tells me "Don't count Mom unless you're doing math!" I will try the Silent 30 count see if it helps

Anonymous said...I do the back counting method and it works better with my kid.

Anonymous said... THANK YOU for your website! It is the only one I recommend over and over. I have searched and searched for information and help with raising our daughter with Asperger's and your site has been the one that I've subscribed to. The information is well researched and very insightful and most importantly, it works!

Anonymous said... I usually count to 5. It usually works. It doesn't work when my son is angry. I usually have to let him finish being angry, then I can get him do what do is requested.

Anonymous said... i have found that to be very frustrating as at 3 my 10 yr old still doesnt do as asked so he starts a half hr - hr screeming fit that me or partner cant control does anybody else have child like that how do u deal with them any help/ tips would be much appreciated .....

Anonymous said...we have had that problem in the past with our 7 yr old. Breaking the meltdowns was very difficult not that he never has one but they are few and far between now. I will say for us we had to watch our tone ( I especially tend to yell and get stressed & frustrated which just agitates him) when he starts losing it I tell him I cannot understand him and refuse to talk to him until he is calm. I think that appeals to his rational side the most. He still gets mad and cries but it brings the volume down. If he is REALLLY out of control I hold him against me and whisper to him to do his breathing until he calms down. Right now I am trying to work on a system of earning things like TV & video game time with him. That is one of our major issues because he doesn't want to turn things off to do homework or eat dinner etc. Trying to make it more of a routine for him so he knows ok my time is up I think will help.
Anonymous said...we do the holding and the talking to him as we do find that helps..... sometimes and the working towards ds time or tv etc but when he doesnt seem to calm down and help with things asked of him he turns violent and starts smashing things or slamming/kicking doors. I feel like we r fighting a loosing battle :-(
Frank L. Ludwig said...As someone who grew up without being diagnosed, I distincly remember that the best (if not the only) way to break my defiance was a plausible explanation why I was supposed to do (or not to do) something.


Home-Schooling the Child on the Autism Spectrum: Pros and Cons


The public school hasn't worked for my daughter because she wasn't diagnosed until recently, and they didn't know how to work with her. Consequently, her needs weren't met, and their ignorance resulted in what I would call 'abuse'. The school refused to allow her to call home last Monday, and they put her into a room to allow her to compose herself, which terrified her.

Now my daughter has a very bad feeling about this school. Intuitively, she believes something terrible is going to happen to her physically if she attends school there. She expressed it was not anxiety like she normally feels ... just her intuition. However, the school is pushing for her to attend and therefore anxiety has kicked in. We attempted yesterday, but when we arrived, she went into meltdown form. She refused to leave the car.

She has lost any trust they had previously built with her. She was traumatized and they didn't get it. She feels unheard and disrespected. Also, the event was a trigger from the past school district. Based on their reaction Monday, she feels confident they don't get it and therefore she isn't safe in that environment. She fears she won't be able to protect herself in an environment if she doesn't feel heard. Now she is convinced if she feels unsafe and needs to call home, they will deny her. So, I'm struggling with this issue. I honestly don't know if she has the ability to overcome her fears and do the work required to work through this challenge.

We're supposed to meet at the school tomorrow. I doubt I will be able to get my daughter to go with me. Our plan is to sit down and outline our concerns. Honestly, based on their reaction and response to the situation Monday, I don't think they understand the diagnoses and how to deal with her effectively. However, my daughter wants me to withdraw her and home-school. I surrender ... if that is a part of my journey then I'll take it on. However, I just want to be sure that I have exhausted all possibilities and know that this is the right path for her.

Any feedback you have would be greatly appreciated.


This may not be the answer you were hoping for, but given all that you’ve said, I can say without a doubt that there would not be a better candidate for home-schooling than your daughter. However, you are certainly not alone on this.

Growing numbers of parents of children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are citing dissatisfaction with the level of their child's education as the primary reason for homeschooling. Most mothers and fathers in this group have had a child in public and/or private schools, but decided to home-school because of the lack of individual attention, inadequate teaching methods, and declining academic standards, as well as poor school performance by children that excel at home. Also, concerns about school safety have increased in recent years, resulting in an increase in the number of kids who begin home-schooling during the middle and high school years.

Having said this, I’m going to shift the conversation over to talking about the pros and cons of home-schooling so that, in case you decide to go this route, you can at least make an informed decision. Let’s look at the cons first…

Cons of home-schooling—

Home-schooling does not produce angels. Just because you take your daughter out of the current school system does not mean that she is going to immediately change some of her undesirable traits. If you decide that your main reason for home-schooling is because she presents a discipline problem for the teacher, don’t necessarily think that her attitude will change when you teach her. If, for example, she is accustomed to whining and getting her way on the little things around the home, she will not do an about-face just because you are the teacher.

You simply may not be able to gain enough control to be able to home-school. Please be realistic about this reality of home-schooling. I know of one mother who was angry with the school because the school always seems to think that her child was involved in any unfortunate incident. The mother, without trying to get to the root of the problem, jerked the youngster out of the school and decided to home-school. There was little if any teaching that took place. The child rode his bicycle seemingly all day while the regular students were in school. The mother was simply too busy with the other kids to make him do his lessons. I tried very hard to help this particular HFA child the following year when his mother put him back in public school, but he was not willing to give up the previous freedom that he had enjoyed. His attendance was very sporadic. So, do NOT take on the task of home-schooling as a last resort because you are angry with some teacher or the school system!

Home-schooling is not free and the government does not provide home-school vouchers. The cost varies with each program. In some programs you purchase workbooks and teacher's editions for each subject (call around and find other parents that are home-schooling because they may be ready to sell you their teacher's edition or the text at a reduced rate.)

If you decide to do home-schooling, you need to reduce the amount of time watching TV. This does not mean that the TV must stay off entirely, but you can use some of the evening TV time to enrich your daughter’s reading. It is very healthy for a child to see parents reading at night. Television does not stimulate good reading habits. The youngster needs to see that movies are seldom as good as the book. Former “television time” may be the time that some of the household duties can be done.

Some home-schooled children are not required to work on a time frame (not a good idea with Aspergers kids since they crave structure). If your daughter should return to a regular classroom at some point in the future, that teacher does not have "all day" for her to work 5 math problems. (If you home-school, it will be foolish to allow unlimited time - or no time frame - to complete a task. This habit will be carried into the work force when she becomes an adult). Many times the home-schooler can’t cope with the 50-minute class frames that are prevalent in a regular classroom.

Another "con" concerning home-schooling is the fact that there is usually a state guideline for home-schooling. Some states require home-schoolers to take a standardized test.

Also, your daughter will suffer academically if your commitment is only to teach the subjects that she has an interest in.

You must carefully weigh the challenge of time. You may barely have enough time to do what you are already obligated to do. There are going to be days that you are going to feel overwhelmed and wonder if life is passing you by. Home-schooling is a job.

The largest "con" for home-schooling is the fact that there is little time for you to “distress.” For example, there is no such thing as "I'll be there in a minute” as you try to talk on the phone. Answering the phone devalues the importance of home-schooling. It is an open invitation to losing control because of the interruption. For many moms and dads, phone calls control their day. Not answering the phone requires a special kind of discipline. It is necessary for the home to have an answering machine (however, the answering machine will not help your school day if you are constantly running to the machine to see who called.) Thus, turn the ringer off if possible during the school day. A fax or an email may work better in some cases. You must be serious about your new job of teaching if you decide to home-school. Once you establish this rule, calls will diminish during school hours. 

Pros of home-schooling—

Many families with kids on the autism spectrum enjoy the flexibility that home-schooling provides. The child can learn about things she is interested in and at a time in her life when she is ready to learn (i.e., no preconceived schedule forces her ahead or holds her back).

Your daughter will learn about the 'real world' by being a part of it (no artificial settings are needed to 'provide exposure'). She can receive a superior education attuned specifically to her own needs, learning style, personality, and interests (at far less cost than that of a private school). Being allowed to learn at her desired pace with a minimum of stress, your daughter will have the time and space to internalize and use what she learns.

Some home-school programs offer classroom videos that the youngster uses and actually sees a classroom teacher teaching the lesson. This is especially good for Jr. High and High School and for technical subjects such as advanced math. To offset the cost, you may want to consider the fact that your youngster does not need to have such an extensive wardrobe. These savings could apply toward some of the school supplies. You will save money on school clothes, gym clothes, uniforms, or unnecessary school fees.

Also, home-schooling families spend a lot amount of time together living, learning and playing. They have the opportunity to develop a depth of understanding and a commitment to the family that is difficult to attain when family members spend their days going in separate directions.

Lastly, another nice side benefit to home-schooling is that vacations and other outings can be planned for times when the family is ready - and often when the crowds are smaller or the costs are lower.

Good luck in your decision making process!

==> Learn the Behavioral Modification StrategiesUsed by Therapists Who Work withAsperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Children


*   Anonymous said... I've got two boys with aspergers and have had serious problems with my eldests school he's nearly 16 and they have never helped him in any way with his autism yet my five year olds school has been fantastic in every way both schools are next to each other yet seem so far apart in their actions

*   Anonymous said... We are in our third year of homeschooling our 11 year old son. Our only regret is that we allowed him to be abused and ignored by the school system as long as we did. Homeschooling is not for everyone and it is not easy, but I can honestly say that the worst day homeschooling is better than our best day in public school. My son thanks me quite frequently for homeschooling him and tells me now how horrible his experience in school was. I decided I could waste all of my energy and resources on fighting an educational system that was not trustworthy and did not really care for my child and ultimately get no where, or I could take that energy and passion for helping my child succeed and put it into homeschooling. We knew what our son needed and were weary of trying to force the school to provide that. The improvements we have seen in our lives are nothing short of miraculous. We are so grateful we took the road less traveled, it has made all the difference in our lives. Best of wishes to you and your family for better days ahead.

Please post your comment below...


Pick and Choose Your Battles Carefully

Not every behavioral misstep is worth fighting over. As moms and dads of Aspergers and High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) children, we all want to be consistent disciplinarians. We know our kids will see waffling as a sign of weakness, and not take us seriously if we don't stand by our convictions. But kids with the disorder sometimes present us with so many opportunities for behavioral correction that if we pursued every one, they would never be ungrounded!

How do we let our Aspergers and HFA children know that rules are important, and still use discretion when it comes to discipline? Here are some tips on being a caring, yet authoritative parent:

Tip #1: Doing a behavior analysis can help in determining what behaviors will respond to disciplinary action, which ones will be better served by changing the environment or your own expectations, and how to negotiate those that will respond best to that tactic. Here’s how to do an analysis:

A. To start with, you'll want to narrow your focus to one particular behavior to analyze and change. Although it's tempting, don't just choose the thing that most annoys you. A better choice will be something that particularly puzzles you:
  • Why can your youngster do math just fine some days, and balks on other days?
  • Why does he insist on punishment even when it upsets him?
  • Why does he get so wound up and wild?
  • Why is your youngster sweet and compliant sometimes, then resists to the point of tantrum over something inconsequential?

As long as you're going to be a detective, you might as well give yourself a good mystery. While you're stalking one behavior, you may need to let others slide, unless it's a matter of safety. Don't try to change everything all at once.

B. Keep a journal -- or, if it is a frequently occurring behavior, a chart -- for noting every incidence of the targeted behavior. Think of what might have happened directly before the behavior, and also earlier in the day. Include the time of day the behavior occurred, and what happened before, during, and after. Think of what happened directly after the behavior, and whether it offered the youngster any reward (even negative attention can be rewarding if the alternative is no attention at all). Ask yourself:
  • After a certain event?
  • Around transitions?
  • Does the behavior tend to be more frequent during a certain time of day?
  • In anticipation of something happening?
  • When routine is disrupted?
  • When something happens or doesn't happen?
  • When things are very noisy or very busy?

Keep track over the course of a few weeks and look for patterns.

C. It may seem as though your youngster saves his worst behavior for public places, where it causes you the most embarrassment. But there may be a reason for that.
  • Does he have a hard time resisting touching and banging things like buttons or doors?
  • Does he have trouble in places where he needs to stay still and quiet, like church?
  • Does he resist places where children may be cruel, like the bus or the playground?
  • Does he panic in places that are busy and noisy, like the mall?
  • Does he shy away from places with strong smells or bright lights?
  • Is there something about those places that might be distressing?

Notice reactions to different environments and add these insights to your journal or chart.

D. You can stubbornly insist that your youngster is responsible for his own behavior and wait for him get in line, but you're liable to be waiting for a long time. While you may find the behavior annoying, disruptive, or inappropriate, it may be filling a need for your youngster. And even if your youngster is genuinely unhappy about the negative consequences of his behavior, he may not understand it enough to control it. In the end, it is far easier for you to change -- your expectations, actions, reactions, responses -- than for your youngster to change. You will need to do some detective work to determine the support your youngster needs to improve his behavior, and provide it. Ultimately, you can teach your youngster to do this for himself. But you have to lead the way.

E. Take the data from your journal or chart, the patterns you've turned up there, the observations on environments, and see if you can figure out what's behind the behavior. Maybe he blows up over something inconsequential because he's used up all his patience weathering frustrations earlier in the day. Maybe he balks at math when he sees too many problems on the page. Maybe he gets wound up because being good gets him no attention. Maybe he begs for punishment because going to his room feels safer than dealing with a challenging situation. Once you have a working theory, make some changes in your youngster's environment to make it easier for him to behave.

Tip #2: If you decide a rule is important enough to be enforced without negotiation and without exception, then enforce it every single time. Never let it slide, even when it would be convenient for you to do so. Your youngster needs to know that the outcome in those situations will be the same every single time, or else she's going to argue with you every single time.

Tip #3: If your youngster is impulsive, or can't handle stress very well, or perseverates on phrases and activities once he is put "in the pipeline," one of the worst things you can say is, "If you do that one more time, you'll be punished." You may find that your youngster will be irresistibly drawn to do just that, at once -- whether because you've set an impulse in motion, because he can't deal with the stress of waiting for the other shoe to drop, or because he gets stuck on what you've said.

On other occasions though, an ultimatum seems to be what's called for. You can't just let behavior go on forever, yet you don't want to deal the consequence without giving your youngster a chance. Instead of specifying one more time, try saying something along the lines of, "I have a number of times in my head, and you're not going to know what that number is. But when you hit that number, you will get a consequence." This allows you to give your youngster extra chances if he seems to be trying without going back on a threat, and gives your youngster a little comfort zone to know that he can slip once or twice. Some children will dislike the uncertainty of it, and for them, this might not be the best technique. But if certainty is more pressure than your youngster can handle, it may just do the trick.

Tip #4: If you've determined to allow negotiations for some behaviors, allow them every time. Don't clamp down sometimes and ease up others. Your youngster needs to respect that you will listen to him as promised.

Tip #5: If you've determined to let some things slide, let them slide every time. Don't suddenly decide to swoop down because you're in a bad mood and your youngster has been pushing your buttons. If he has to play by the rules, so do you.

Tip #6: Figure out which battles to choose, and which to let by. Here’s how: Use three baskets, one for things that are truly nonnegotiable, one for things that are important but allow for some compromise, and one for things that just aren't important enough to make a scene over. The first basket should be the smallest, and the last the largest. Think of the things you fight with your youngster over. Could any of them get tossed in the second or third baskets?

Tip #7: Instead of presenting your youngster with a choice between doing it your way or being punished (at which many children on the autism spectrum will automatically choose the punishment), try to present a choice between two options that would both be agreeable to you. Saying, "Put on your shoes right now or you're in big trouble!" may be less likely to bring compliance than, "Which do you want to put on first, your shoes or your jacket?"

Good luck …you can do this!


Aspergers Traits: A Positive for Many Careers

Trait #1—All He Cares About in the World Is One Thing

If you've ever worked at a museum, lab or university, you'll find worlds full of single-minded, passionate individuals. To an academic, their area of interest, no matter how small, is desperately interesting. The same is true of museum professionals and archaeologists, who spend their lives studying individual artifacts, bones or textiles.

Trait #2—He Can't See the Forest for the Trees

It's a common trait among Aspergers (high functioning autistic) individuals: they see the parts instead of the whole. It's a problem in some settings, but a terrific attribute if you're looking for deep space anomalies (e.g., as an astronomer), unique cells (e.g., as a lab technician), differences among species (e.g., as a biological researcher), or particular qualities of objects (e.g., as a gemologist, antiques appraiser, or art historian).

Trait #3—His Only Friends Are His Family

This trait may not get you invited to the prom. But it's a wonderful attribute if you're a forest ranger, a self-employed writer or artist, a caretaker at an estate, a gardener or horticulturalist, or even a paleontologist (i.e., dinosaur scientist). After all, lack of interest in other individuals is not indicative of lack of interest in or ability to manage things, animals, or systems. And it's not easy to find a qualified person who's willing to spend extended periods on their own.

Trait #4—He's So Rule-Oriented

In a typical workplace, most individuals bend and break the rules. This is very tough for many Aspergers individuals, who need and respond to structure. But there are plenty of work places in which rules are absolute -- for everyone. Of course, the most obvious choice for rule-oriented individuals is the military. But even in hospitals and labs, rule-following is not only important -- it's critical.

Trait #5—He’s So Detail-Oriented

Q: Since when have passion, meticulous attention to detail, and lack of interest in office gossip been problems in the workplace? A: Since the workplace was defined as a 9-5 social setting! It's true that offices -- and the stock rooms at Wal-Mart -- are "typical" work settings. But Aspergers individuals aren't typical. And neither are the careers for which they're ALREADY good candidates.

Trait #6—He Likes Animals, Not People

It's not easy to become a veterinarian. But consider some of the many animal-oriented careers available. For example:
  • animal tech at a veterinary practice or kennel
  • animal wrangler for the entertainment industry
  • caring for horses at a stable, horse-farm or track
  • naturalist or husbandry expert at a museum or aquarium
  • pet store employee
  • working on a farm
  • zookeeper or animal curator at a zoo or petting farm
…and the list goes on and on!

Trait #7—He Thinks In Pictures

Some Aspergers individuals can, with virtually no effort, envision a 2-dimensional photograph as a 3-dimensional object. With appropriate training, such individuals are ideal candidates for jobs in areas like CAD (computer aided design), architectural model construction, industrial design, exhibit prototyping, and much more. The key is finding and supporting the training that can lead to such careers.

Disappointment With The Diagnosis


We recently received a diagnosis of high functioning autism on our 7-year-old son. My husband is not doing so well with this recent news. Is there any way to lessen the blow to his disappointment?


To your husband:

Realize that you are not alone in this and that your feelings (which run the gamut from fear, to guilt, to anger, to depression, etc.) are just the symptoms of a broken heart. So go ahead and look at your grief. Observe your thoughts and feelings.

Accept them and be kind to yourself about having them. It doesn’t help to pretend to be positive when underneath you may be lonely, afraid, or sad. You can grieve. You can complain. You can mourn. This helps you to go on, make the best of the situation, and enjoy life.

It is natural to wonder about what might have been. The longing for the “normal” youngster of your dreams - or a typical life for you and your family - may endure. You have to learn to live with that yearning, and you can do that, but you don’t have to lie to yourself about how hard this can be. It takes time to heal a confused and broken heart, and the difficulties that you must cope with everyday are nearly constant reminders and may trigger your grief over and over.

Try to accept yourself as you are—a kind and loving father doing your best with your youngster who is undoubtedly doing his best under trying conditions. A perfectly lovely youngster with special needs can be very hard to be with because of his behavioral, social, or communication issues. But people often believe that when you love somebody, you love to be with them.

When you don’t feel that and think you should, the guilt can be unbearable, and your heart aches. As you can accept yourself in a kind and compassionate way, your heart heals, and then the grief lightens. The sun comes out, and change is more likely.

Accepting our pain - and ourselves - leads to accepting and enjoying our autistic kids – and our family. This is the gateway to love and happiness. That deep connection that a father feels with a newborn, or a youngster’s first steps, or first words can be felt at any moment when we are truly aware and attuned to our "special needs" youngster.

That deep connection is alive inside you. As you rekindle it, you can actually experience very deep happiness. That’s not to say that your life will be easy. But it can be happy and fulfilling.


40 Tips for Parenting Defiant Teens on the Autism Spectrum

Parenting teenagers is hard enough...right? But throw "Asperger Syndrome" (high-functioning autism) into the equation, and now you really got a mountain to climb. Do not despair!


The Myths and Facts About High-Functioning Autism and Aspergers

Moms and dads with an Aspergers or high functioning autistic (HFA) youngster tend to overwhelm themselves with research, treatments, and general anxiety over their kid’s welfare. While this is natural, it's not particularly good for you, your child, your marriage, or the rest of your family. And the truth is this: it isn't even necessary!

Let’s dispel some myths that some parents have about HFA and Aspergers…

Myth #1: I Somehow Missed "The Cure" for My Youngster's Disorder

Did you somehow miss out on a pill, a supplement, a special treatment or a new therapy that could be "the one" that could have cured your youngster's disorder? The truth is, while many kids respond well to various therapies, even kids who are supposedly "recovered" still have some of the traits. Since there is no cure, there's no need to worry about it.

Myth #2: I Will Have to Cope with This Alone

When your youngster is diagnosed, you feel like you've just been tossed out of the "parent club." After all, your youngster is different, which means you may never “fit in” again. Luckily, there's a whole world of support groups, list-serves, pal clubs, parent groups and events where you're more than welcome. In fact, your presence is requested!

Myth #3: I Shouldn’t Expect Much from My "Special Needs" Child

Your youngster has a developmental disorder, so you need to lower your expectations – right? Wrong! Children with this condition may not have a lot of social skills (yet), and they may have some significant challenges ahead. But they also have great talents (as you probably have discovered already).

Myth #4: I Won’t Be Able to Have a Normal Life

When your youngster has HFA or Aspergers, you may feel ostracized from the ordinary world. In fact, though it may be a bit tougher, you can join in most of what life has to offer, even WITH an HFA youngster. From vacations to family holidays to visits to grandma - most of it is a matter of planning, patience, and a sense of humor. And for some people, success is even sweeter when it requires overcoming a challenge.

Myth #5: I Need To Do a Whole Lot of Research on Autism

Is there another article on Applied Behavioral Analysis I should be reading? Is fish oil really going to help my youngster? How about the gluten-free diet? There's always another question - and the web holds a million answers. Take a break, have a bubble bath, and re-connect with your spouse and the rest of your family. Research is O.K. to do some of the time, but too many parents make “research” an obsession.

Myth #6: I Have to Find Out What Caused my Youngster’s Disorder

The media is full of stories of what causes it, and you'll find answers galore, from TV to pitocin, from vaccines to Lyme Disease. Could one of these answers be correct? Absolutely. Do we know for sure WHICH is correct? No. You can sift and weigh the evidence and formulate an opinion, but as of today no one really knows what really causes the disorder. As a result, you're free to focus on the future instead of the past.

Myth #7: It’s probably too late to help My Youngster

Whether your son or daughter is three, thirteen, or twenty-three, he/she will still benefit from therapy. In fact, while early intervention is always helpful, the proverbial "window of opportunity" for treatment is a bit of a myth. So whatever your youngster's stage of life, you're not too late to make a difference.

We’ve looked at the myths, now let’s look at the facts…

If you're sick of hearing about all the "deficits" challenging children with HFA and Aspergers, join the club. But for every downside, there is a positive – and unusual trait that rarely appears among "typical" children, but shines-out among kids on the autism spectrum. These positives are worth celebrating:

Fact #1: Children on the Spectrum Are Less Materialistic

Of course, this is not universally true -- but in general, these children are far less concerned with outward appearance than their typical peers. As a result, they worry less about brand names, hairstyles and other expensive, but unimportant, externals than most children do.

Fact #2: Children on the Spectrum are Passionate

Of course, not all HFA and Aspergers children are alike. But many are truly passionate about the things, ideas and special interests in their lives. How many "typical" children can say the same?

Fact #3: Children on he Spectrum Play Fewer Head Games

Most of these children don't play games -- and they assume that you won't either. It's a refreshing and wonderful change from the typical B.S. that tarnishes too many typical relationships!

Fact #4: They  Rarely Lie

We all claim to value the truth, but almost all of us tell little white lies …all, that is, except children with this disorder. To them, truth is truth - and a good word from a child on the spectrum is usually the real deal.

Fact #5: They Live in the Moment

How often do typical children fail to notice what's in front of their eyes because they're distracted by social cues or random chitchat? Children with HFA and Aspergers truly attend to the sensory input that surrounds them. Many have achieved the ideal of mindfulness.

Fact #6: Children with HFA and Aspergers Are Not Tied to Social Expectations

If you've ever bought a car, played a game or joined a club to fit in, you know how hard it is to be true to yourself. But for children with an autism spectrum disorder, social expectations can be honestly irrelevant. What really matters to them is true liking, interest and passion -- not keeping up with the current trends and fads.

Fact #7: Children on the Spectrum Have Terrific Memories

How often do typical children forget directions, or fail to take note of colors, names, and other details? Children on the spectrum are often much more tuned in to details. They may have a much better memory than their typical peers for all kind of critical details.

Fact #8: They Rarely Judge Others

Who's in better shape? Richer? Smarter? For children with HFA and Aspergers, these distinctions hold much less importance than for typical kids. In fact, they often see through such surface appearances to discover the real person.


Setting Your Aspergers Child Up For Success: 2-Minute Tip

You've heard it time and time again: Praise your child for good behavior. Why? Because "praising" your child when he/she behaves properly is "reinforcing" (i.e., it feels like a reward to the child, thus making it more likely that his/her good behavior will be repeated). However, many parents of Aspergers (high functioning autistic) children often say something like, "If I have to wait for good behavior in order to praise, we will be waiting until the end of time."

So, what can parents do if they (a) want to use the "praising" parenting technique, but (b) rarely - if ever- see any good behavior to praise?  Watch this video to find out:

==> My Aspergers Child: Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns



Aspergers/HFA and Delayed Speech


Does a child with level 1 autism typically have delayed speech?


Approximately 50% of kids with high-functioning autism (HFA) have delayed speech. While many of them grow out of this by age five, others go on to experience other language problems. These generally fall into one or more of the following three areas of linguistics:

Click here for the full article...


Aspergers Teens and Poor Academic Performance: 2-Minute Tip

You, the parent, have complained ...threatened ...taken away privileges ...grounded ...and even begged, but your Aspergers teenager still fails to perform according to your (and his teacher's) expectations. If your Aspie continues to bring home nothing but D's and F's, then you may want to follow these tips in order to stop the cycle of "bad grades":

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

What to Expect After the Diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism

Most of the time, High-Functioning Autism (HFA) - or Aspergers - is diagnosed by a developmental doctor, neurologist, psychologist, or team of professionals. The diagnosis is made on the basis of behaviors, delays, and language deficits. That means that no one can diagnose HFA in an infant, and unless your youngster has Rett syndrome or Fragile X, no medical test can "prove" that a youngster truly has the disorder.

Most professionals will provide a specific diagnosis on the spectrum. You may walk away with a diagnosis of Level 1 Autism, Level 2, or Level 3. Occasionally, your youngster will receive additional diagnoses such as "social anxiety" or "non-verbal learning disorder." All of these are descriptive of your youngster's behaviors, and different diagnosticians may give different labels depending on their experience and preference.

What parents can expect from their child’s physician after the diagnosis:

1. Your physician may offer suggestions for treatment. He may support your suggestions for additional treatments. But don't expect your physician to have any idea how you are supposed to pay for those treatments. While some may, in fact, be covered under insurance and/or early intervention programs, it's rare to find a physician who can guide you through that maze.

2. Moms and dads will wonder whether they should press to have their youngster included in typical classrooms, provided with a special class, or educated privately. Since every youngster, school, classroom and program is different -- and since physicians have never seen your youngster in a group setting -- reputable physicians will rarely recommend specific educational setting for your youngster.

3. Your physician can't tell you for sure which treatments will work for your youngster. He may recommend a particular diet, supplement, or treatment program. But until you try it, there's no way to know whether it will work for your individual son or daughter.

4. Unless your youngster has Fragile X or Rett syndrome (both of which can be identified through genetic markers), your doctor will not know why your youngster has HFA. Depending on his leanings, you may hear words like "genetics," "vaccines," or "inflammation." But the truth is that no physician has enough information to reliably explain the factors that lie behind your youngster's diagnosis.

5. Most moms and dads will ask questions (e.g., “Will my youngster get better?”). Most reputable physicians will respond with vague answers – or even no answer at all. That's because no one really knows how far your youngster will develop, and even kids with profound disabilities can amaze moms and dads and professionals with their developmental leaps.

6. While some physicians may recommend specific biomedical treatments, neither they nor any other medical professional can tell you which of the many available non-medical treatments will be best for your youngster. They may suggest applied behavior analysis (ABA) based on a general understanding that ABA is well-researched. But no expert can tell you whether ABA is a better choice than, say, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

What ABA involves:

Done correctly, ABA intervention for HFA is not a "one size fits all" approach consisting of a "canned" set of programs or drills. On the contrary, every aspect of intervention is customized to each child's skills, needs, interests, preferences, and family situation. For those reasons, an ABA program for one child might look somewhat different than a program for another child. But genuine, comprehensive ABA programs for these children have certain things in common:
  • Abundant positive reinforcement for useful skills and socially appropriate behaviors
  • An emphasis on positive social interactions, and on making learning fun
  • An emphasis on skills that will enable HFA children to be independent and successful in both the short and the long run
  • Detailed assessment of each child's skills as well as child and family preferences to determine initial treatment goals
  • Frequent review of progress data by the behavior analyst so that goals and procedures can be "fine tuned" as needed
  • Instruction on developmentally appropriate goals in skill areas (e.g., communication, social, self-care, play and leisure, motor, and academic skills)
  • Intervention designed and overseen directly by qualified, well-trained professional behavior analysts
  • Intervention provided consistently for many hours each week
  • Many opportunities - specifically planned and naturally occurring - for each child to acquire and practice skills every day, in structured and unstructured situations
  • No reinforcement for behaviors that are harmful or prevent learning
  • Ongoing objective measurement of child progress
  • Parent training so family members can teach and support skills during typical family activities
  • Regular meetings between family members and program staff to plan, review progress, and make adjustments
  • Selection of goals that are meaningful for the child and the family
  • Skills broken down into small parts or steps that are manageable for the child, and taught from simple to complex
  • Use of multiple behavior analytic procedures - both adult-directed and child-initiated - to promote learning in a variety of ways
  • Use of techniques to help trained skills carry over to various places, people, and times, and to enable HFA children to acquire new skills in a variety of settings

Competently delivered ABA intervention can help HFA and Aspergers children make meaningful changes in many areas. Quality ABA programs address a wide range of skill areas, but the focus is always on the individual child, so goals vary from child to child, depending on age, level of functioning, family needs and interests, and other factors. The rate of progress also varies from one child to the next. Some acquire skills quickly, others more slowly. In fact, an individual child may make rapid progress in one skill area (e.g., Math), but need much more instruction and practice to master another (e.g., interacting with peers).

What CBT involves:

Children on the autism spectrum can be prone to depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders and other mental health issues. CBT is one of a range of treatment options. It is a psychotherapy based on modifying everyday thoughts and behaviors, with the aim of positively influencing emotions. The particular therapeutic techniques vary according to the particular child or issue, but commonly include keeping a diary of significant events and associated feelings, thoughts and behaviors; questioning and testing assumptions or habits of thoughts that might be unhelpful and unrealistic; gradually facing activities which may have been avoided; and trying out new ways of behaving and reacting.

Relaxation and distraction techniques are also commonly included. CBT is widely accepted as an evidence-based, cost-effective psychotherapy for many HFA clients. It is sometimes used with groups as well as individuals, and the techniques are also commonly adapted for self-help manuals and, increasingly, for self-help software packages.

CBT is based on the idea that how we think (cognition), how we feel (emotion) and how we act (behavior) interact together. Specifically, our thoughts determine our feelings and our behavior. Therefore, negative - and unrealistic - thoughts can cause us distress and result in problems. One example could be a child who, after frequent bullying and failed attempts at making friends, thinks "Nobody likes me." This will impact negatively on mood, making the child feel depressed; the problem may be worsened if the child reacts by avoiding social activities all together. As a result, a successful experience becomes more unlikely, which reinforces the original thought of being "hated."

In therapy, this example could be identified as a self-fulfilling prophecy or "problem cycle," and the efforts of the therapist and the child/teen would be directed at working together to change this. This is done by addressing the way the child/teen thinks in response to similar situations and by developing more flexible thought patterns, along with reducing the avoidance of social activities. If, as a result, the child/teen escapes the negative thought pattern, the feelings of depression may be relieved. The child/teen may then become more active, succeed more often, and further reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.

The Bottom Line:

Even today, the disorder is a mystery. No one really knows for sure what causes it, what cures it, or even what it is. Some physicians will give you their opinion. But the moment you start digging deeper, you'll find that there are many other well-supported opinions out there. This doesn't mean your physician can't help at all, but it does mean that you'll have to look elsewhere for direction as you think through treatment options, educational settings, behavior management and other issues. For example:
  • Autism conferences, which are now held all around the world
  • Books (check carefully to be sure you know who the author is and whether he or she has a particular ax to grind)
  • Parent support groups, which offer a wealth of experience in areas ranging from therapies and therapists to schools and school programs
  • Regional centers, which offer a range of services and treatment options
  • School-based parent education programs
  • The Internet

In the long run, for better or for worse, you will be making many decisions based on your own parental perspective, knowledge, preferences and comfort level. Of course, that's the case for most parenting decisions, and it seems to be the case that when moms and dads are engaged in the process of helping and working with their autistic youngster, outcomes are improved over time.

Raising Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parents' Grief and Guilt

Some parents grieve for the loss of the youngster they   imagined  they had. Moms and dads have their own particular way of dealing with the...