Rigidity in Children with ASD Level 1 [High-Functioning Autism]

Have you ever wondered why your child can be so stubborn? Here's why:


Anonymous said...
Thank you! This describes my son to a T! He had a meltdown last night because I hadn't warned him that a meeting was starting 1/2 hour earlier than he was used to. This helps explain that!

Anonymous said...
I have a 6 1/2 year old that has just been diagnosed last week with Asperger's, we were told from age 13 months when we adopted him that people thought he was Asperger's but never got a diagnosis, it has been a very trying few years let me tell you! I know nothing about Asperger's and would really like some support, reading some of the articles below and comments alot of them sound like my son! If nothing else it's nice to read that my son isnt the only child with these issues, meltdowns are a major problem we have had with him...any comments and idea's / help is appreciated

Anonymous said...
My son is 13 years old and was just diagnosed about a month ago.........I always had a feeling however it still took forever for the diagnoses. One thing I have found is routine is imperative........When we do change up his schedule I always give him a heads up prior to the change and that makes all the difference in the world!! Meltdowns use to happen almost daily, now it's about once every 2 weeks.

Anonymous said...
I never knew much about Asperger's at all but have been told by different people that have worked with Zak that they thought he might be that, but getting a diagnosis from a doctor takes forever! Honestly when he gave me that diagnosis I was relieved but yet worried that I don't know what to do for Zak. he has had MAJOR meltdowns and is better on Concerta and all the other meds he takes (which I feel like a drug store) but still has them daily, its like he wants everything to be his way, he actually told me the other day he doesnt want to live here because we wont give him his way all the time, I keep saying its like he is a spoiled brat?? though we do give him a lot we try to be firm with him.


Teaching Self-Care Skills to Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

When our challenged Aspergers or high-functioning autistic (HFA) kids are young, it’s natural for parents to want to do things for them. Learning new skills is frustrating, and finding ones at the right developmental level is tricky. However, recognizing that these kids can never have any degree of independence if moms and dads don’t teach them to take care of themselves is an important step first toward showing your youngster "the ropes."

For some kids on the autism spectrum, even the simplest things require carefully thought-out teaching. Lacing-up shoe strings, dressing, hand-washing, teeth-brushing, bed-making, etc. are all projects you may want to tackle with your youngster, but it's not always easy to see how to teach things that seem so simple and so obvious.

One of the most useful instructions is teaching skills backwards: Do everything for your youngster up to the final step, then let him complete the task at hand (e.g., give shoelaces that last tightening tug). Gradually, over days or weeks, you’ll add more and more steps until he is starting at the very beginning. It’s a great way to ensure that teaching sessions always end with success.

Here are some more important tips for teaching self-care skills:

1. Be consistent. Use the same cues, gestures, words, prompts, and procedures.

2. Because moms and dads often lack the time or energy to spend long hours of intense work with the youngster, most activities must be planned to fit into the routine of the day, or they will not be carried out (e.g., when traveling in the car, work on “the use of hand wipes” after your child has taken the last lick of his ice cream cone).

3. Do not hurry; be patient. Progress may be slow at first. It's normal to feel some frustration. Think back to when you last learned a difficult task. If you need to take a break or relax, go ahead.

4. Give both the youngster positive feedback and lots of encouragement for his efforts.

5. If one way does not work, try another way until you find one that does!

6. Once the youngster can do a skill, let her do it on her own – even if it takes longer. If your youngster thinks you will help, she will stall long enough for you to do it. The youngster needs to know that she can do things and that her mother and father can expect that of her.

7. Once the steps to a particular task have been identified, you can choose to use – and then fade-out – physical prompts with backward or forward chaining. In backward chaining, full manipulation of the youngster is given on all steps until the last one, which the youngster performs independently. As training progresses, prompts are faded to the next to the last step and so on until the youngster performs the entire task without help. In forward chaining, fading begins with the first step, and then assistance is given on the others. Forward chaining should be used if the youngster already knows some of the steps.

8. Seize teachable moments (e.g., if all of a sudden one day your youngster decides he is going to make his first peanut butter sandwich all by himself – and it’s not going so well – stop what you are doing and turn the experience into a “sandwich making” lesson.

9. Some moms and dads feel that they can only work on one specific objective at a time. They become very concerned with small tasks and forget to let the youngster be a kid. During times such as bathing, outside exploring, feeding, washing dishes and playing, many skills can be taught or reinforced without thinking things like: "I cannot do that now, I am working on another skill this week" or "I do not know all the steps to teach that skill yet."

10. Teach skills within age-appropriate, functional activities with real objects to help the youngster generalize information.

11. Analyze the behaviors involved in completing a certain task. Write those steps down into a workable sequence, and then put it in “social story” format.

12. Try doing the task in question yourself – blindfolded! What steps do you go through? How do you do it? How would you deal with the difficult steps?

13. Use common sense. Teach new skills when and where they happen so that the youngster learns there is a reason for what he is doing.

14. Use of consistent routines is critical. Routines give the youngster a sense of control and an understanding of what comes next or what will happen. When routines are disrupted, the youngster on the spectrum may be fussy and take a day or two to get back into the routine.

15. Reward yourself and your youngster for the "big" successes that occur (e.g., “Great! You have officially learned how to tie your shoes. Hurray!!! Let’s go get an ice cream cone to celebrate.”).

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


Dealing with People Who Judge or Criticize Your Child with ASD

 "Help! I have a mother-in-law who believes that all my boy (high functioning autistic) needs is a 'good wippin' ...please, give me a break ...like spanking a special needs child will get him to snap out of it. What do you do with a person like this who has such a narrow perspective? She has no clue!"

Do you have a family member, friend, or coworker who talks about your youngster's problems as if he/she wasn't standing right there …who consistently criticizes your parenting skills …who questions your judgment …who glares at your youngster as if he/she is a freak …or who treats him/her like a “problem child” who simply needs to “learn how to behave”?

No doubt, you as the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have probably found yourself on the receiving end some narrow-mindedness, intolerance, and downright discrimination among those who are (a) ignorant about the condition, and (b) quick to judge.

Managing the judgmental people in your life takes some special “people-skills” that you wouldn’t need if you didn’t have a special needs child.

Here are some tips for dealing with the critics:

1. Just as you know your youngster is bound to behave unacceptably in certain situations, accept that judgmental people are going to state their opinions whether you want to receive it or not. One idea is to change the environment by removing yourself from it. Avoid these people if you possibly can. If you can't, plan your escape just the way you might plan to get in and out of the shopping center quickly with your easily over-stimulated youngster. Have a reason prepared for leaving early, or hanging up quickly.

2. Looking at judgmental people as “specimens to be examined” rather than “idiots who should know better” can take away some of their power.
  • Are they so rigid in their thinking that they can't imagine anybody having a different opinion?
  • Are they so unhappy with their own lives that they want others to be unhappy, too?
  • Do they get a feeling of power from making inconsiderate comments?
  • Do they talk that way because they're insecure and want to build themselves up by tearing others down?
  • Is it possible that they're speaking out of caring and concern, but are just really bad at it?

As with your youngster, if you can figure out what the “critics” are getting out of their behavior, you can try to give them the same reward for behavior that is more acceptable.

3. Just as you can't expect your youngster to act his chronological age, you can't expect your mother-in-law (to use her as an example) to - all of a sudden - appreciate your parenting the way you would like. You may hope for a gradual improvement, and you may find ways to tolerate her attitude, but every time you expect her to act in ways she is fundamentally unable to, you set yourself up for disappointment. In the end, as with your child, you can only truly control yourself.

4. Keep the conversation away from negative comments about your child’s behavior by increasing positive comments about theirs. Flattery may get you everywhere. A kid on the autism spectrum benefits from hearing lots of enthusiastic, positive statements and observations, with negatives delivered as unemotionally as possible. Try that with the judgmental people in your life. If they turn the conversation toward your child’s shortcomings, turn it back with something nice about them. Use distraction as a tool to covert negativity into positivity.

5. If you know you're in for a stressful encounter, talk to a empathetic friend ahead of time to strengthen yourself emotionally. During the encounter, think only about what a great story this will make later on. Then, when you get home, share the outrageous behavior with your friend or a support group. If you've ever vented about your youngster's behavior, you'll know just what to do.

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


•    Anonymous said... All I can say is forgive her for her ignorance, she doesn't get it! You know ur child better than anyone, and know what it is they need. Pay NO attention to the rest who have no clue or idea! Cherish every little difference he has...a child with Special needs isn't given to just anyone! Take care of u, too!!

•    Anonymous said... Hear you well, I keep my mil at a distance as she deliberately winds him up which then the only solution is to leave, so now I just say why bother going there. I'm the one that then has to spend the next few hours calming him down, not her.

•    Anonymous said... I also feel your pain, and I found it so difficult until I remembered that I'm his parent and he is my child, my child who I love and want the best for and being swayed in any way by other people is not what is best for him or any child x

•    Anonymous said... I feel your pain! I have some family members who say similar things and aren't interested in being more educated about what it can mean to live with Asperger's and that harsh physical punishments DO NOT WORK. The hardest part is that my son feels their judgments and knows that they treat him differently because of it.

•    Anonymous said... I have a MIL that blames me for how he is. She said "I don't mean to insult you but it's your fault he is like this". My jaw hit the floor and of course my husband was not around at the time. She continued to go on and say I should have read to him more, disciplined him better..etc. I took a long breathe and just let it go. I did not argue with her because I feel she is ignorant and if she feels she has to blame someone let it be me. I can take it!

•    Anonymous said... My son is 8 and I would never dream of smackin him thats cruel. We now have cards that we show to people who huff and puff when hes having a meltdown

•    Anonymous said... Well, I wouldn't really suggest taking my advice! However, my sister in law told me I needed to whip my son's bottom once. I looked at her and told her I couldn't spank autism out of my son any more then I could slap the ignorance out of her. She hasn't said anything since lol. don't mess with momma bear!

•    Anonymous said... Your spouse tries to educate her. If she persists, then she doesn't have access to your child any longer. It's that simple.

•    Anonymous said…  Sounds like your mother in law needs her attitude adjusted by means of an ass whoopin' herself. Rudeness and ignorance are not disabilties or medical conditions.

•    Anonymous said… Back in our early days we also had people of the same opinion, the day we started giving a smack was the day he started hitting us when he was upset or angry, all it did was teach him that's what you do when your cross. It took us close on 2 years to get him to stop.

•    Anonymous said… Change your ignorant mother-in- law!!!!

•    Anonymous said… Detach and protect your child.

•    Anonymous said… Detach... like Marisol said! I have had similar comments from family and it is heartbreaking. Not only because you are going through such intense emotional ups and downs but also having little support and understanding. We are the only ones who know what is best for our kiddos. Stay strong!!!!

•    Anonymous said… Educate her. Ask her to educate herself. Have her come to a doctors appointment with you and your son so the doctor can inform her. I'm sure you just suggesting these things to her will help her perspective on the matter.

•    Anonymous said… Either educate her or keep your child away

•    Anonymous said… Eliminate them from your inner circle. Reduce contact.

•    Anonymous said… Just think how quickly autism/Aspergers would be cured if beatings worked!

•    Anonymous said… Get her to Google autism....then she can babysit for a few days.

•    Anonymous said… grandparents are gold aren't they? I educated my parents by giving them tons of stuff to read. they stopped offering advice after that.

•    Anonymous said… Great advice. Thank you.

•    Anonymous said… I do spank my Aspie son well not anymore he is 13 BUT i also can tell a meltdown from just him being disobedient dont getting all judgmental I don't tell anyone how to raise there kids and I dont beat my son. I have the typical teenage behavioral issues but hes a doll at school and he knows how to act. Also he does not have ODD or any disorder such as so I think in my situation is fine. If you dont think thats what your child needs that OK and you could also tell them it has nothing to do with him being a ASPIE and you just disagree with spankings

•    Anonymous said… I think this is a common issue... Its so easy to sit on the other side of the fence and judge our patenting...

•    Anonymous said… I would try to give her info on it and let.her know she can either support you and your husband or keep her mouth shut cause its not helping the situation and its putting more stress on both the parents and child. I hate it when ppl try and tell you how you need to raise your child

•    Anonymous said… I'd Ban her from my home! Which is exactly what Iv done with mine! My Philosophy has become "If you don't accept my ASD Son for who he is ur not welcome in my home!" My Priority is my sons happiness not a MIL or anyone else who can't accept him!

•    Anonymous said… I'd say take him I. Will pick him up in two weeks . Good luck . She won't say it again also get some info leaflets leave them about . Xx

•    Anonymous said… Ignore them! Simple enough...

•    Anonymous said… It's a little unconventional, but I had a grandmother say this a few times and I finally said, "Go ahead! He's all yours, I'll pick him up in a few days. " She actually got quiet and never said it again. I love her and I know she loves me and him, she's just uninformed (like so many). Her biggest issue wasn't so much his behavior, but she was worried about me and my stress level. She'll still make comments here and there, but she's 91 so I let a lot slide.

•    Anonymous said… Mine just left after 6 days...she doesn't think we should offer any negative consequences and enables all his negative behaviors...so I can relate to not feeling supportive! I agree thT this person can't be in your inner circle and you can't trust them to supervise the child. We have opted to have minimal contact...lots via phone or emails with pictures...but minimal with actual presence so as to avoid added stress of her opinions to both of us and our son! Key is focus less energy on people like that...direct it at your child and your husband!!! You guys staying on the same page as parents is where the energy needs to go!!

•    Anonymous said… My mother feels the same way. I told her to get lost.

•    Anonymous said… My whole family thinks this about my son.

•    Anonymous said… Offer to smack the stupid out of her.... I have a special needs child with autism/Aspergers & I will not "spank it" out of him.

•    Anonymous said… Phahah some people!! Shes be wiped off my list of people I call family or friend straight away!! She needs to learn the right way to deal with an aspie and if not jog on!!

•    Anonymous said… Punitive punishment does not work on Aspies. She needs to buy a clue. What worked for our son when he was young ..was to lock him "out" of his room, hide the Nintendo (the original), and when he got older password protect the computer and up to and including disconnecting the internet.

•    Anonymous said… So many believe this. Sadly, I once did but I read alot & it just isn't the right way at all.

•    Anonymous said… Some of my family too. No stress people don't underatand and always have opinions when they spectators

•    Anonymous said… Spanking doesn't work. It like dealing with a permanent diagnosis everyday/24/7. It does not go away. You can use routine, schedules, and behavior therapy, and behavior modification. Now, I am 46 years old and normal. A spanking worked for me. To each its own. Spanking doesn't work for Aspies. It may work as a last resort for my others but not special needs. I believe in discipline as a last option for my others kids. I will go to every extreme to avoid a physical discipline. I turned out great.

•    Anonymous said… Tell her to read about Asperges children b4 she starts telling you how to bring your child up .sort her behaviour out b4 she stats to critisize you what a bitch she knows nothing.

•    Anonymous said… There is nothing to be done. The MIL isn't the parent, and while mom and dad can be kind and communicative with grandma, parenting the child is for the mom and dad. If you have differing opinions on how to handle things, that is ok.

•    Anonymous said… Wip the MIL.

•    Anonymous said… You can't spank the Autism out of a child (or any other learning/neurological difference for that matter either).

•    Anonymous said… You have to cut family like this off they don't make a good support net work! And you wouldn't ever trust them to take care of your child.

•    Anonymous said… You tell her if she is going to continue that way of thinking, she's not welcome around your family. That's what I would do. I have zero tolerance for ignorance and violence.

•    Anonymous said… Your MIL's philosophy is so misguided. I would not allow my child with her unsupervised. Shame on her.

•    She's very ignorant! The best thing you could do is actually find a very good book on the subject. Read it yourself and highlight things on it then pass it onto her to read! Hitting doesn't solve anything!

•    Anonymous said… When my MIL did this, my response was: "I live with your son, who has no respect for you and won't even visit. How'd that work for you?" Didn't shut her up, but I felt better about it.

Post your comment below…


Eating at a Restaurant: 25 Tips for Parents of Children on the Autism Spectrum

Eating out as a family can be a lot of fun, or it can be a terrible catastrophe if your Aspergers or high-functioning autistic (HFA) son or daughter can't be accommodated in a way that helps you keep the peace. With a little preparation and these simple tips, you can give your dining experience the greatest chance at success.

You'll also be able to cut and run when you need to. And always remember, your child doesn't need to actually eat supper at the restaurant if he's a picky eater. Is he refuses to eat what he ordered – it’s not worth fighting over. Simply get a “to go” box.

Eating at a Restaurant: 25 Tips for Parents of Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism—

1. Ask for a booth. Child-containment is easier in a booth than at a table. Put your  youngster between an adult body and the wall, or between two adult bodies.

2. Ask for food right away. A hungry youngster is a cranky youngster. Ask for crackers or a small appetizer as soon as you sit down.

3. Ask for the bill right away. One of the most dangerous moments of restaurant dining comes when your youngster wants to get out of there – NOW! But you still have to get the waiter's attention, get the check, get the change, and leave the tip. Even if the staff is prompt with your requests, that tense time of waiting can make the difference between a successful outing and an unsuccessful one. Request the check when the food comes, pay while you're eating, and be ready for a quick getaway.

4. Be a regular. Kids with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism often thrive on routine, so going to a familiar place may buy you better behavior and less agonizing over what to order. Then, too, if the staff gets to know you, your family may receive more personalized service and more generous understanding. If you find a place that's particularly accommodating, reward them with repeat business. Tipping generously wouldn't hurt, either.

5. Bring food. Sounds crazy to bring food in a restaurant, right? Depending on the popularity of the restaurant and the food you order, there are times when the wait for food is too long for Aspergers and HFA children. There is the option of appetizers, although most are not overly healthy options and will likely spoil a youngster's appetite before dinner arrives. Instead, take a small snack (e.g., a handful of crackers, a few fruity snacks, etc.). Yes, moms and dads tend to think of this when the diaper bag is still around, but even at 6 years of age, your youngster can get hungry when a restaurant is moving extra slow. The little snack saves you money and keeps him from filling up before dinner.

6. Bring props. A restaurant can be a boring place with nothing to do except stab things with salad forks. It will be well worth it if you keep a bag of small (silent) toys just for restaurants, waiting rooms, and other times when you need a happy child (e.g., tiny "magic writers," crayons and a little notebook, small books, dime store games, etc.).

7. Call Ahead. Ask if the restaurant is a child-friendly environment. Mention that you’ll be bringing a “special needs” youngster so that the staff is ready when you arrive. This will also increase your chances of getting a waiter who’s good with children. If you anticipate coming back, leave a good tip.

8. Dine at off-times. Honestly, if you're taking your youngster out for dinner at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night, you deserve the nightmare of long wait-times, cramped dining rooms, and slow service that you're sure to get. Get to the restaurant early in the evening and/or on weeknights for a more leisurely, low-stress dining experience (and fewer disapproving fellow diners).

9. Do some advance research. If you're not sure a restaurant will have something that fits your youngster's dietary needs or picky tastes, see if you can find a menu online. Many chain restaurants have websites that give nutritional information and other previews of what your mealtime choices will be. If the restaurant you're investigating has no such online presence, call and speak to a staff member, or stop by and preview the menu prior to dining there.

10. Don't allow any bad behavior. If your youngster acts up, then the minute he starts, scoop him up and remove him from the situation. You don't have to punish him. You just have to remove him to a place where he will not bother anybody. Explain to him that he was upsetting people, and when he's feeling calm, you can go back. If he's truly in a meltdown state, get a doggy bag and wait a month to try again.

11. Everyone to the bathroom right after drinks come out. This way even if they don't have to go, they get a chance to try, and their hands are washed before dinner. No more getting up and spending 5 minutes in the restroom while your food gets cold. The added bonus for fidgety children is the chance to get out of their seat and move around a bit while their food is cooking.

12. Have fun! This is the biggest one of all. Happy kids are easy to handle. Be silly, make it enjoyable and your youngster will naturally be much easier to deal with.

13. Hide the condiments. If the table has bottles of salt and pepper and sugar and ketchup and what-all sitting conveniently in the center of the table where you youngster just will not stop playing with it, move it. Put it out of your youngster's reach, put it on a nearby empty table, or ask the server to take it away. Even bland food is more tolerable than spending an entire meal saying “put that down!” and scooping up spilled spices.

14. If your youngster has allergies, ask questions. The menu may say pasta with marinara sauce, but when it arrives with that unwanted sprinkle of cheese on top (because he is lactose intolerant), your kid is not going to be happy about waiting while a new plate is made for him. Also, be sure to check the food to ensure an entirely new plate was made and not just scraped off the old one.

15. Make it quick. No youngster, no matter how well behaved, will sit nicely on his hands for 1½ hours. Be realistic when you choose a restaurant and a time for going.

16. Pack some hand sanitizer so you don't have to stress too severely if your fidgety youngster crawls under the table.

17. Pick places where your youngster will be welcome. Eating at a restaurant is going to be hard enough. Don't add the burden of taking your youngster someplace where perfect behavior will be a necessity. Save the fancy joints for a rare night out with friends or your spouse. There are enough loud kid-friendly restaurants around most neighborhoods to give you adequate choice and your youngster a little wiggle-room.

18. Practice beforehand. Host tea parties or fancy suppers to teach your child proper manners. Let her dress up if you like and make it fun. Explain about how adults eat and what good manners are. It will be much easier for her to act polite in restaurants if it feels like old hat.

19. Relax. Calm down. Your “tantrumming” youngster is not a reflection on your parenting skills or on your image. Do not let your youngster's annoying behavior make you cranky. Take some deep breaths and let go of any anger, embarrassment or resentment you may be feeling.

20. Remember that it's not a battle. You are not enemies at war with each other. You are your youngster's ally! If he starts to misbehave, then lovingly find a way to help him act better. Threats, insults, ignoring or grabbing will only give you a more upset youngster. You can be firm without being unfeeling, and you can discipline – and still be a loving, caring parent.

21. Request extra napkins. The napkins the restaurant sets out will probably quickly make their way to the floor, or get messed up by the time the salad course is cleared. Request extra napkins when you order so that you're ready when your youngster has a face-full of chili or hands full of spaghetti sauce. He who hesitates gets covered with it, you know.

22. Respond to trouble before it happens. This is the biggest way to keep your youngster well behaved in restaurants. If you wait until he's climbing the back of the booth and trying to sit on someone's head before you freak-out and drag him to the bathroom, you've lost. Instead, pay attention to his cues. When he starts to get fidgety and whiny, step in and find a way to redirect him. Once Aspergers or HFA children are being a full-fledged nuisance, there's no real way to correct it without making a scene.

23. Sit In The Back. When making a reservation, request an out-of-the-way table. If your children get cranky or hyper, they won’t disturb other diners.

24. Talk about it beforehand. Even a very young kid can understand if you explain that restaurants are places where we must have very good behavior. Right before entering, remind your youngster that nobody is allowed to be noisy or run around in restaurants.

25. Walk around. Go on at least one stroll. Take your child by the hand and slowly wander in whatever direction you’re not going to trip a waitress or annoy anybody. It gets the child out of his seat and lets him stretch, relieves boredom, and kills time while waiting for food. If your child is starting to get too cranky, take him to the bathroom or outside. There, let him unwind a little, and talk to him nicely about acting a little better.

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


Preparing For An Evaluation

"We are going to a psychiatrist tomorrow to have our 7 year old son evaluated (who we suspect has asperger syndrome, high functioning). What can we expect to happen, and is there anything we should take to the appointment?"

Being well prepared for the evaluation can help you make the most of your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what you can expect from your son’s psychiatrist:
  • Ask a family member or friend to join you and your youngster for the appointment, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
  • Make a list of any medications as well as any vitamins or supplements that your youngster is taking.
  • Write down any symptoms you've noticed in your youngster, including any that may seem unrelated to an autism spectrum disorder.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Preparing a list of questions ahead of time will help save time for the things you want to discuss most. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For Aspergers and high-functioning autism (HFA), some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
  • Are there any specialized programs available to help educate my son regarding social skills?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • What is likely causing my son’s behavior?
  • What kinds of tests does my son need?
  • What should I tell his school?
  • What treatments can help?
  • What's the prognosis for my son?
  • Will he outgrow this condition?
  • Would changes in diet help?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your psychiatrist, don't hesitate to ask additional questions during your appointment.

Your psychiatrist will probably ask you a number of questions too, including:
  • Does anything seem to improve your son’s symptoms?
  • Does your son have close friends?
  • Have these behaviors been continuous, or occasional?
  • Have you noticed a change in his level of frustration in social settings?
  • What are some of your son’s favorite activities?
  • What specific behaviors prompted your visit today?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your son’s symptoms?
  • When did you first notice these symptoms in your son?
  • When did your son first crawl?
  • When did your son first say his first word?
  • When did your son first walk?

Because Aspergers and HFA varies widely in severity and signs, making a diagnosis can be difficult. If your son shows some signs of the disorder, your psychiatrist may suggest a comprehensive assessment by a team of professionals. This evaluation will likely include observing your son and talking to you about his development. You may be asked about your son’s social interaction, communication skills and friendships.

Your son may also have a number of tests to determine his level of intellect and academic abilities. Tests may examine his abilities in the areas of speech, language and visual-motor problem solving. Tests can also identify other emotional, behavioral and psychological issues.

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.


Helping Your Adult Child with Aspergers or HFA to Live Independently

If you are in a situation where your adult child with Aspergers (HFA) is living with you and it is mutually beneficial (or at least mutually respectful), then this article may not be for you. However, if he or she is overly-dependent and lives at home in a situation that has become uncomfortable or intolerable, then read this now!

CLICK HERE for full article...

==> Launching Adult Children With Aspergers and HFA: How To Promote Self-Reliance


The Walmart Woes: Help for Over-Stimulated Kids on the Autism Spectrum

When you take a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) to a large retail store (e.g., Walmart, Home Depot, Best Buy, the Mall, etc.), you are risking replacing your serenity with a migraine. These children tend to become over-stimulated when exposed to large, noisy crowds – which may result in meltdowns or shutdowns.

To be able to manage your youngster’s behavior when going to a busy shopping center, it is always a good idea to take her preference into consideration. Identify the type of environmental conditions that make her upset. Usually, bright lights, huge crowds, long lines, weird smells, and loud noises are among the most common offenders. Take note of these and identify the places which she could find particularly stressful.

Of course, there will be certain situations (e.g., funerals, weddings, birthdays, holidays, etc.) when you will be compelled to bring your youngster with you to places which are outside his comfort zone. In cases like these, it is a good idea to let him know ahead of time ‘where’ you will be going, ‘when’ you are going, and ‘how long’ you will be there. In this way, he will know what to expect. When possible, it will also be helpful to show him some photos of where you are going (Google Earth works great for this). If you do not have any photos with you, you can always do a search online.

The main thing to remember when you bring your youngster along with you is to always have a plan. Do your research ahead of time and come up with options and alternatives to help make her feel comfortable and at ease. Also be prepared to leave when she is having a bad time.

Super stores can be overwhelming places for kids on the spectrum, but that doesn't mean you can never go shopping, but it does mean you have to plan carefully.

These five tips will make your trip shorter, smoother, and less stressful:

1. Consider bringing another grown-up. Shop with your spouse, your sister, your most understanding friend. A spare adult can (a) wait outside with your child while you run into stores, (b) supervise him while you try on clothes, or (c) take him (while he is approaching a meltdown state) to the car while you finish up.

2. Have an escape route. Maybe you miscalculated your youngster's tolerance. Maybe you're both having a bad day. Maybe there's something extra stressful at the Mall (e.g., Girl Scouts selling cookies at every entrance and exit). Whatever the reason, if your youngster loses the ability to behave in an acceptable way, don't argue or cajole or bribe or threaten or whine. Just get the hell out of there. Right now. Be aware, every moment, of how you are going to do this - if needed.

3. Make a plan. Figure out what you can reasonably do within the time limit you've set. Be realistic. Do not count on being able to rush around frantically, or find everything you want instantly. Schedule yourself for a few stops, then out. And choose a time when the store is least likely to be packed with customers. Take a pass on those big sale days, or find a babysitter and leave your youngster at home.

4. Pack supplies. If your youngster has an iPod, this is a good time to bring it along. If you have a bag of tricks for your youngster, make sure it's in your purse or pack. Snacks that won't make too much mess and a juice box or two can keep children busy in a crunch. Books, portable CD and DVD players, travel games, toy cars, etc. – whatever can be easily toted and deployed to distract – can be brought along.

5. Set a time limit. Figure out how long your youngster can control his behavior in a noisy, active, distracting environment. Subtract 15 minutes. Set that amount of time as your absolute, unbreakable deadline for getting in and out of that place.

Good luck …you’ll need it!

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


Students with HFA, ADHD, and Anxiety: Tips for Parent and Teachers


My 14 year old son has been diagnosed with high functioning autism and ADHD when he was 9 years old. He attended public elementary school and has been at a small private school for 7th grade and is currently in 8th grade. He suffered in elementary school due to a few kids, however, the private school has been such a positive experience for him, he could be himself and his self esteem grew.

Here’s the issue: He has been suffering from a “virus” since the end of August. He remains symptomatic and has been to numerous doctors and testing, all negative. His stomach pain, fevers, pains are all real; however, a few doctors have suggested that they may be psychosomatic in nature. In September, he was not able to walk, or bear weight due to acute muscle pain in his legs. Along with Migraine headaches and Flu like symptoms. His muscle pain has just recently subsided, after months of physical therapy, Gabapentin (he’s being weaned off), acupuncture, Advil and whatever we can do to help him... He has not made it through a full week of school to date. His only coping mechanism was to dive into music (grunge; Nirvana, Foo Fighters, and rock; Pink Floyd, etc.) . He has become the expert and has taught himself the guitar. He was on months of bed rest, so his room became his safe haven. He is admittedly suffering from depression and has been hearing “voices” that tell him what to do. He doesn’t sleep through the night, and the voices yell at him and put him down. He is a sweet, child who is so special...he used to be very convicted with his love for Jesus, but now can’t even say His name.

Sorry for the length of the email, but I felt that you needed some type of background on him. He currently sees a Psych MD every 2 months (15 minute visits) just for medication management and has been seeing a counselor for social skills since he was 9 years old, and outgrew the services...he hasn’t been to that therapist since the summer because the sessions had become “gab” sessions...

His PCP and Psych MD have taken him off Concerta 54mg and he’s completely off Gabapentin for a 2 week trial that’s medication free. He has NOTICEABLY improved with energy and NO stomach pain at all!! He still feels depressed inside, even though he appears to be energetic and happy... OK... what to do from this point forward?


Re: He remains symptomatic and has been to numerous doctors and testing, all negative. His stomach pain, fevers, pains are all real; however, a few doctors have suggested that they may be psychosomatic in nature…

I would agree that it is mostly psychosomatic. Sometimes a child continually complains of a discomfort or a pain for which a doctor cannot find a cause. The pain or the discomfort, however, is very real to the child. Physical complaints with no apparent medical basis may be a reflection of a stress, such as nervousness in a social situation, a demanding school setting, separation from parents, or other stressful situation. Stress, as it affects the body and the mind, has an effect on some illnesses and can influence how a child perceives the symptoms of the illness, how he deals with the illness, and the rate of recovery.

Re: He has not made it through a full week of school to date…

This is probably related to some school anxiety issues. High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) children of all ages commonly experience school anxiety (i.e., school-related stress). This is often most apparent at the end of summer when school is about to start again, but it can occur year-round. This post explains school anxiety – and what can be done to help the "special needs" child become more relaxed and confident.

Social Stressors—

Many children with HFA and Asperger's experience some level anxiety in social situations they encounter in school. While some of these issues provide important opportunities for growth, they must be handled with care:

• Bullies— Many schools now have anti-bullying programs and policies. Though bullying does still happen at many schools, even those with these policies, help is generally more easily accessible than it was years ago. The bad news is that bullying has gone high-tech. Many children use the Internet, cell phones and other media devices to bully other children, and this type of bullying often gets very aggressive. One reason is that bullies can be anonymous and enlist other bullies to make their target miserable. Another reason is that they don't have to face their targets, so it's easier to shed any empathy that they may otherwise feel.

• Peers— While most children would say that friends are one of their favorite aspects of school, they can also be a source of stress. Concerns about not having enough friends, not being in the same class as friends, not being able to keep up with friends in one particular area or another, interpersonal conflicts, and peer pressure are a few of the very common ways children can be stressed by their social lives at school. Dealing with these issues alone can cause anxiety in even the most secure children.

• Educators— A good experience with a caring teacher can cause a lasting impression on a youngster's life -- so can a bad experience. While most educators do their best to provide children with a positive educational experience, some children are better suited for certain teaching styles and classroom types than others. If there's a mismatch between student and teacher, a youngster can form lasting negative feelings about school or his own abilities.

Scheduling Stressors—

Many grown-ups find themselves overwhelmingly busy these days—work hours are getting longer, vacations are shortened or skipped, and people find themselves with little down time. Sadly, our children are facing similar issues. Here are some of the main scheduling stressors they face:

• Lack of Family Time— Due in part to the busyness of kids' lives and the hectic schedules of most moms and dads, the sit-down family dinner has become the exception rather than the rule in many households. While there are other ways to connect as a family, many families find that they’re too busy to spend time together and have both the important discussions and the casual day recaps that can be so helpful for children in dealing with the issues they face. Due to a lack of available family time, many moms and dads aren't as connected to their children, or knowledgeable about the issues they face, as they would like.

• Not Enough Sleep— According to a poll on this site, a large proportion of readers aren't getting enough sleep to function well each day. Unfortunately, this isn't just a problem that grown-ups face. As schedules get busier, even young children are finding themselves habitually sleep-deprived. This can affect health and cognitive functioning, both of which impact school performance.

• Over-scheduling— Much has been said in the media lately about the over-scheduling of our children, but the problem still continues. In an effort to give their children an edge, or to provide the best possible developmental experiences, many moms and dads are enrolling their children in too many extra-curricular activities. As children become teens, school extracurricular activities become much more demanding. College admissions standards are also becoming increasingly competitive, making it difficult for college-bound high school children to avoid over-scheduling themselves.

Academic Stressors—

Not surprisingly, much of the stress of school is related to what children learn and how they learn it. The following are some of the main sources of academic stress for children on the autism spectrum:

• Homework Problems— Children are being assigned a heavier homework load than in past years, and that extra work can add to a busy schedule and take a toll.

• Learning Styles Mismatch— You may already know that there are different styles of learning -- some learn better by listening, others retain information more efficiently if they see the information written out, and still others prefer learning by doing. If there's a mismatch in learning style and classroom, or if your youngster has a learning disability (especially an undiscovered one), this can obviously lead to a stressful academic experience.

• Test Anxiety— Many of us experience test anxiety, regardless of whether or not we're prepared for exams. Unfortunately, some studies show that greater levels of test anxiety can actually hinder performance on exams. Reducing test anxiety can actually improve scores.

• Work That's Too Easy— Just as it can be stressful to handle a heavy and challenging workload, some kids can experience stress from work that isn't difficult enough. They can respond by acting out or tuning out in class, which leads to poor performance, masks the root of the problem, and perpetuates the difficulties.

• Work That's Too Hard— There's a lot of pressure for children to learn more and more and at younger ages than in past generations. For example, while a few decades ago kindergarten was a time for learning letters, numbers, and basics, most kindergarteners today are expected to read. With test scores being heavily weighted and publicly known, schools and educators are under great pressure to produce high test scores; that pressure can be passed on to children.

Environmental Stressors—

Certain aspects of an HFA youngster's environment can also cause stress that can spill over and affect school performance. The following are some stressors that moms and dads may not realize are impacting their kids:

• Lack of Preparation— Not having necessary supplies can be a very stressful experience for a youngster, especially one who's very young. If a youngster doesn't have an adequate lunch, didn't bring his signed permission slip, or doesn't have a red shirt to wear on "Red Shirt Day," for example, he may experience significant stress. Younger children may need help with these things.

• Lack of Sleep— As schedules pack up with homework, extracurricular activities, family time and some “down time” each day, children often get less sleep than they need. Operating under a sleep deficit doesn’t just mean sleepiness, it can also lead to poor cognitive functioning, lack of coordination, moodiness, and other negative effects.

• Noise Pollution— Believe it or not, noise pollution from airports, heavy traffic, and other sources have been shown to cause stress that impacts kids' performance in school.

• Poor Diet— With the overabundance of convenience food available these days and the time constraints many experience, the average youngster's diet has more sugar and less nutritious content than is recommended. This can lead to mood swings, lack of energy, and other negative effects that impact stress levels.

Signs of school anxiety in HFA and Aspergers kids include:

• Clinging behavior
• Difficulty going to sleep
• Exaggerated, unrealistic fears of animals, monster, burglars
• Excessive worry and fear about parents or about harm to themselves
• Fear of being alone in the dark
• Feeling unsafe staying in a room by themselves
• Headaches
• Lying
• Meltdowns
• Negative attitude
• Nightmares
• Refusing to go to school
• Severe tantrums when forced to go to school
• Shadow the mother or father around the house
• Stomachaches
• Withdrawal, regressive behavior, or excessive shyness

What Can Be Done To Reduce School Anxiety In Students On The Spectrum?

Here are 12 important tips:

1. Understand the value of tears. Crying can be a great stress reliever. It flushes out bad feelings and eases tension. It's hard to see your youngster crying, and your first instinct may be to help him stop as soon as possible. But after the tears have all come out, your youngster may be in a particularly open and receptive mood for talking and sharing. Provide a soothing and sympathetic presence, but let the crying run its course.

2. Set a regular time and place for talking with your youngster, whether in the car, on a walk, during mealtimes, or just before bed. Some of these young people will feel most comfortable in a cozy private space with your undivided attention, but others might welcome some sort of distraction to cut the intensity of sharing their feelings.

3. Routines are good. They help alleviate stress. Establishing a regular bedtime, get-up time, and bath time is important at any age. It also helps children with the disorder learn to develop routines themselves. Family meetings are important. At the beginning of school, set a weekly time to regroup and to talk about what's going on and how it will work: who gets the shower first, what time to set the alarm clocks for. Give everybody a chance to talk.

4. Resist the urge to fix everything. There are some instances in which moms and dads do have to take action. If your youngster is in a class that's too challenging, or is having trouble because an IEP isn't being followed, there are steps you can take. If a teacher or a classmate is truly harassing your youngster, you will want to follow up with that. But you'll also want to teach him that some things in life just have to be dealt with, even though they stink. Fix only what's really badly broken.

5. Know when to get help. Most kids experience school anxiety to some extent, and some feel it more deeply and disruptively. When does it become a big enough problem to require professional help? Some signs to look for are major changes in friendships, style of clothing, music preferences, sleeping and eating habits, attitude and behavior. If you've established a good rapport with your youngster and he suddenly doesn't want to talk, that's a sign of trouble as well.

6. Keep the lines of communication open. Let your youngster know that he can always talk to you, no matter what. It's not always necessary even to have solutions to his problems. Sometimes just talking about things out loud with a trusted adult makes them seem less threatening. And if the situation does become overwhelming for your youngster, you want to be the first to know about it.

7. Do some role-playing. Once you have some concrete examples of anxiety-provoking events, help your youngster figure out an alternate way to deal with them. Discuss possible scenarios and play the part of your youngster in some role-playing exercises, letting him play the part of the demanding teacher or bullying classmate. Model appropriate and realistic responses and coping techniques for your youngster.

8. Be aware that all students feel anxiety about school, even the ones who seem successful and carefree. Knowing this won't lessen your youngster's anxiety, but it may lessen yours.

9. Ask, "What three things are you most worried about?" Making your request specific can help your youngster start to sort through a bewildering array of fears and feelings. If he's unable to name the things that are most worrisome, have him tell you any three things, or the most recent three things.

10. Ask, "What three things are you most excited about?" Most students can think of something good, even if it's just going home at the end of the day. But chances are your youngster does have things he really enjoys about school that just get drowned out by all the scary stuff. Bring those good things out into the light.

11. Acknowledge the problem. Does hearing, "Don't worry!" help when you're anxious about something? It probably doesn't comfort your youngster much, either. The most important thing you can do for a youngster experiencing school anxiety is to acknowledge that his fears are real to him. If nothing else, you'll ensure that he won't be afraid to talk to you about them.

12. When school anxiety persists, parents should consult with a qualified mental health professional who will work with them to develop a plan to immediately return the child to school and other activities. Refusal to go to school in the older Aspergers child or teen is generally a more serious illness, and often requires more intensive treatment.

Re: He is admittedly suffering from depression…

Depression is one comorbid condition of HFA and it is one disorder which is seen in almost every child suffering from an autism spectrum disorder. This very disorder makes its appearance when the child is as young as three years of age and the parents will find that the child is prone to crying several times a day. This number can be more than twenty or thirty times in a single day and that too for the most trivial reasons. The youngster is unable to explain as to why he is crying as one with the disorder has a difficulty in expressing their own feelings.

Re: …and has been hearing voices that tell him what to do…

Hearing voices in itself is normal – but – it is possible to become ill from hearing voices if you cannot cope with them. This means that it is coping with hearing voices that is the problem and not the voices in themselves. This little known fact is based on a lot of research. Several large scale population studies have shown that about 4% of the population hears voices. Of these 4% of the people who hear voices about 30% seek assistance from mental health services. Among children however, even more of the “normal” population hears voices (8%) and as with adults about 30% are referred to mental health services.

What this means is that there are apparently many more people who hear voices who do not require the support of mental health services than those that do. This is because they can cope with the voices and function well in their everyday lives.

Examples of the kinds of traumas that trigger voices include the death of a loved one, divorce, losing a job, failing an exam, but also longer lasting situations like being physically, emotionally or sexually abused. With children the percentage was even higher at 85%, with some traumas specifically related to childhood. These traumas might include being bullied by peers or teachers, or being unable to perform at a certain level at school, another commonly reported traumatic incident related to hearing voices is being admitted to a hospital for long periods because of a physical illness. I would say that hearing voices is mostly a reaction to a situation or a problem the child cannot cope with.

Re: He doesn’t sleep through the night…

Studies find that approximately 73% of kids with the disorder experience sleep problems, and these problems tend to last longer in this group than they do for kids without the disorder. For example, kids on the spectrum are more likely to be sluggish and disoriented after waking. Laboratory research has begun to describe the unique physiological presentation associated with sleep problems in kids on the spectrum, including disruptions in the sleep stage most associated with cognitive functioning (i.e. REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep). In addition to physiological differences, some of the sleep difficulties in this population may be related to anxiety.

The impact of poor sleep is unequivocal. Poor sleep negatively impacts mood and exacerbates selective attention problems commonly found in kids with HFA, as well as impairing other aspects of cognitive function.

There is no one panacea to manage sleep problems in kids with HFA. However, there are many interventions that are likely to be helpful. In general, moms and dads need to understand and be prepared for resistance to change that these kids often show. Moms and dads should also be prepared for problems to get worse before they get better as kids often initially challenge but then gradually become accustomed to new routines.

A good place to start an intervention targeted at improving sleep is changing lifestyle behaviors and environmental conditions that can influence sleep/wake patterns. These include exercise, napping, diet, and aspects of the bedroom and sleep routine.

Exercise & Activity—

The goal is decreasing arousal as bedtime approaches. To achieve this it may be useful to have a scheduled period before bedtime (approximately 30-45 minutes) in which the aim is calmness and relaxation. During that period, media such as television, computers, electronic games, and music should be limited as they can stimulate the youngster through activity, sound, and light. The availability of VCR and DVR technology makes it easier to control when kids can watch particular shows, thereby avoiding conflict over missing favorite programs that are shown in the late evening. The presence of televisions in kid’s bedrooms has been consistently associated with sleep problems and should be avoided at all costs. Likewise, computer access in a youngster’s bedroom is discouraged for sleep as well as for safety reasons.

In general, exercise during the day is associated with better sleep. However, exercise within 2-4 hours of bedtime can lead to difficulties in falling asleep, as it can disrupt the natural cooling process of the body that leads to rest at night. Having the youngster soak their body, particularly their head, in a calm bath that is as warm as can be tolerated 90 minutes before bedtime may be useful too. When the youngster gets out of the bath, core body temperature will drop rapidly; this is believed to help them to fall asleep faster. Using a waterproof pillow and avoiding the pulsation associated with showers is recommended. The use of progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing and imagery exercises is the most widely researched treatment for insomnia in kids and may be useful for kids with HFA and Aspergers as well.


Controlled and limited (e.g. 20-30 minutes) napping is generally positive. However, longer daytime sleeping can be negative in that it makes it more difficult for the youngster to fall asleep at the ideal time in the evening. If the youngster’s sleep problems are associated with falling asleep, which is common for kids on the spectrum, it is advisable to avoid daytime napping.


It is recommended that kids with sleep problems avoid all caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, high fat food, and monosodium glutamate (MSG). In contrast, food rich in protein may promote better sleep. Large meals within 2-3 hours of bedtime should also be avoided. A small carbohydrate/protein snack, such as whole wheat bread and low-fat cheese or milk before bedtime can be helpful to minimize nighttime hunger and stimulate the release of neuro-chemicals associated with falling asleep. For kids who often wake during the night to use the bathroom, and then have trouble falling back asleep, limited fluid intake in the 2 hours prior to bedtime is also recommended.

Melatonin is a natural brain hormone associated with sleep onset. There is some evidence that natural production of melatonin may be reduced in autistic kids. While melatonin supplements may be useful, a common side effect may be increased sluggishness in the morning. As discussed above, this is already a common problem for kids with the disorder. Use of melatonin and other alternative remedies should be discussed with a physician.

The Bedroom—

It is important that the bed and the bedroom are associated with sleep and are not associated with activity. When kids have sleep problems, it is highly recommended that their bed and bedroom activity be limited to sleep only. It is important to make sure that extreme changes in temperature are avoided during the night. Increasing light is associated with decreases in the release of the neuro-chemical melatonin which triggers sleep onset. Thus, it is important to get the sunlight flowing in the youngster’s room as soon as possible in the morning. Conversely, darkening the room at night is critical. When a youngster’s fear of the dark is an issue, behavioral psychotherapy may be necessary. We also recommend moving the clock so that the youngster is not watching the time while lying in bed.

Sleep Routine—

Setting and maintaining a regular time to sleep and wake may be critical. Moms and dads often make the mistake of allowing their kids to sleep much later on non-school days to “make up” for sleep. While this may be useful to a certain extent, allowing the youngster to sleep late in the day makes it difficult for them to fall asleep at an ideal time later in the evening. It is easier to wake a sleeping youngster then to force an alert youngster to go to sleep. Thus, we recommend that you keep your youngster on a regular schedule on non-school days and avoid drastic changes in the time that the youngster wakes. Likewise, having your kids go to bed when they are not tired conditions them to be awake in bed. It is recommended that you let your kids stay up until they are tired while maintaining their waking time in the morning. Then once they begin falling asleep within 10 minutes of going to bed, begin to move bed time earlier by 15 minutes at a time.

With carefully monitoring and patience, many moms and dads can make changes in a youngster’s life that promote better sleep. Improved sleep supports better mood, sustained attention and general health. However, for many families professional consultation is often necessary to design or maintain the appropriate intervention. When you need help, speak with other moms and dads of Aspergers kids about their experiences and ask your primary care doctor for referrals to a sleep expert.

Re: OK... what to do from this point forward?

My assessment, based on the information I have, is this is mostly an anxiety issue which is at least partially derived from past trauma (bullying in elementary school). You are on the right track with having a psychiatrist, but I would definitely have him work with a therapist who can help him deal with anxiety and past trauma.

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


Helping Kids on the Autism Spectrum to Sit Through Church Services


"We are a Christian family who would like to attend church on a regular basis. However, since our child with high-functioning autism has certain issues (e.g., hates big crowds, hates wearing a dress shirt, hates sitting still for longer than a few minutes at a time, hates the loud organ music, hates the feel of the hard wood pews, and on ...and on ...and on), we have found that it is just easier to stay home. Is there anything we can do to help him with this?"


Making it through a church service with a youngster with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can be a true test of faith. Between keeping him under control and warding off the evil eye of fellow church members, you may feel that no one in your family is getting anything out of the service.

If you have your heart set on some kind of ideal worship experience in which your neatly dressed youngster sits quietly for every minute of the service, you’re probably out of luck. But that doesn’t mean your family should give up and stay home.

Try these techniques for getting the most out of each church service (even with a child on the spectrum):

1. Be careful that what you’re offering as an incentive actually encourages good behavior (e.g., threatening to leave if behavior does not improve may backfire if leaving the church is exactly what your youngster wants to do). Make sure the alternative to sitting through church is even more painful (e.g., sitting in the car by himself until the service is over).

2. Big rewards with long time-frames often backfire. If your youngster feels unable to comply after a short while, he may decide the reward is unattainable, and then have no incentive to behave at all. Offer your youngster very small reinforcements after very short intervals of successful behavior control (e.g., a sticker or a cracker or a chance to play with your keys every 5 minutes, a walk to the bathroom every 15 minutes, etc.).

3. Practice sitting through church. As with all "training" – it starts at home. Pull together half-a-dozen chairs or so and arrange them in a row (like the pews at church). Then you and your youngster (along with any other family members that want to join in) sit in them for short periods of time. Your Aspergers child and his siblings might sit there while you read them a story or do a puzzle. These are short periods of time (e.g., just 5 minutes to start with). Then go a little longer (e.g., 10 minutes).

4. If certain objects or activities (e.g., drawing, writing, crackers, fidget toys, stuffed animal, chewy tube, weighted vest, etc.) help your youngster control impulses and stay calm in other settings, bring it along to your church service. You may see a few raised eyebrows, but not as many as you will if your youngster has a meltdown during church.

5. Consider sitting in front. Most moms and dads have a tendency to sit in the back because they don’t feel like the whole church sees when their kids act up, and they can make an easy exit. But crouch down to your youngster’s level. They can’t see anything besides the back of people’s heads. They don’t see why they are there. They often behave a lot better when they can see what is going on. In many churches, there are side aisles, so while you sit up front, you don’t necessarily sit front and center, so you can still make an easy exit. Your place of worship may even have a door off to the side to a hallway. But even if you don’t have that, it is less distracting to everyone than you think if you need to walk down the aisle to the exit.

6. If your youngster is unable to sit still and be quiet and behave appropriately in any other place, don’t expect church to have some sort of magical transforming effect on him. Don’t set your youngster up for failure by setting goals he is unable to achieve.

7. Consider using headphones for the quietest times of the church service and allowing your youngster to listen to soft, calming music.

8. Try different areas of the church for sitting. You may have sat in the very back pew for years but now find that it can be helpful to move up.

9. Don’t neglect your own spiritual needs during the task of keeping your youngster quiet and contained. Put less emphasis on having the ideal church experience, and more on experiencing the moment.

10. You don’t have to make it all the way through the service for it to be a good experience. Sometimes planning for success involves knowing when to leave. If you have noticed your Aspie can be good for the first 20 minutes and then loses it, leave after 20 minutes and make a big deal about how great that was. Then set 30 minutes as the next goal ...then 45 …then maybe your child can go the full hour or so.

11. Over time, you can drop some of the “supports” that enable your Aspie to participate in the service. You may find that familiarity breeds success. Your youngster knows what to expect, how long church lasts, and even that going to Communion means it’s almost over.

12. Use the “going-out-to-eat-after-church” method. Some Aspergers children can sit still and act halfway civil for extended periods of time IF they know they will be going to one of their favorite restaurants immediately after church.

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


•    Anonymous said... Attend Saturday night mass
•    Anonymous said... Get him involved in sunday school during the church service. Tell the teacher at sunday school about his condition so they can give him extra attention. I am sure they wouldn't mind...
•    Anonymous said... I let my daughter play on her Kindle Fire while we are siting with all of the people. I know she is paying more attention while playing then she would be with me trying to get her to sit still. It is something we have had to work up to, even on bad days we still sit outside the doors.
•    Anonymous said... I think staying home is the best option. Besides secondary school, being forced to go to church was the worst nightmare of my childhood.
•    Anonymous said... I wanted to take my children church as well. I went through an ugly divorce a few years back. My son is high functioning Aspergers. We went to an old church in the country, and those folks were so accepting of us and my son's behaviors. When I was downstairs, the pastor discussed with the parishioners my son's diagnosis. They were wonderful, and loving and generous. They are in church, not to judge, but to share their faith. We eventually moved to a church with children's program, but I will always be thankful for them. For your son, ask if you can reserve a corner in the back pew, then you can take turns leavin g with him if needed.....don't worry what about he wears, he's in church and there is no dress code for God, let him wear what he is comfortable in....let him bring a cushion, or pillow, or fabric he would enjoy sitting on.....let him wear ear plugs, (my son wears the headphones that came with our van to go to movies...it muffles the sound).....give him a puzzle or activity he can do quietly during church. I tell my children God likes variety and if our children are welcome anywhere...it better be in God's church. Blessings.
•    Anonymous said... Many churches now have groups for autistic children. Ours does! Call around and ask.
•    Anonymous said... My asd 10year old helped run the creche for holiday club this year, 10 years of God's love and he's keen to give back. There are times people comment on all the children's behaviour at church, just smile, breath deeply and remember that Jesus said, let the children come to me. I know not everyone on here is a Christian, but everyone needs support and I'll b praying for you.
•    Anonymous said... My children attend church every week, in fact our lives revolve around our faith, but they never wear smart clothes, and everyone knows my elder son is autistic. Church isn't there for the good, quiet kids an their families. Church is there for the lost and the broken. Anyone in church not helping you find a way of accessing faith for your children is not a Christian, I'm afraid churches can be full of judgemental non Christians. But look deeply, ask for support and be prepared to look around. We could not get through life without the support of our church family, pray for guidance and the right place will happen. X
•    Anonymous said... My daughter used to take a tea set to church each week and wander around giving cups of pretend tea and coffee to people. No one was offended by this and now she is 10 and can sit through a service also helps holding babies and supports other children. I could not get through the past 6 weeks without my faith and church.
•    Anonymous said... Why would you put your child through that for your beliefs?
•    Anonymous said... you could find another church. My cousin is Catholic but with her autistic son she is going to a less formal Evangelical church and has for many many years. Not all churches want formal dress and many can be laid back and understanding. When my daughter was small, before her diagnosis, we went to a local one that is happy just to let the little ones, autistic or not, just wander about and play. When my daughter got older she liked the order of the litergy and we went back to mass, but people there are ok with us sitting at the back, her just reading/with nintendo as that what it takes for her to be able to sit still, and for her to quietly nip out if the crowds/noise got too much. God made our children the way they are and they should be accepted the way they are in a church.
•    Anonymous said…  Churches need to have an ante-room for small children, mothers with babies, and others. Ours has a speaker fitted in the room and glass panels so the adults don't miss out on the service. York Street Church of Christ is where I go.
•    Anonymous said…  Find a church thats more interested in Christianity and not vanity..there is no reason you should have to dress up for church..
•    Anonymous said…  Keep him in comfy clothes and let him bring a few items that comfort him. My son with HFA loves to bring hot wheels, he doesn't even play with them he just keeps them because they make him feel good. We also take him out during the greetig time which is too overwhelming for him. Your church is probably a loving and accepting environment so dont stress. Jesus said "let the children come" and that meant all kinds.
•    Anonymous said…  Maybe teach the church to be more accepting of him would be a good start? Is there any reason that he HAS to dress a certain way or sit in the pews? Can he bring a bean bag/comfortable chair? The Church should be accepting of ALL Gods creations, not just NT ones. I have often found that they need reminding of this.
•    Anonymous said…  My son is 10 and will only wear soft clothes. Church isn't about wearing fancy clothes, let him wear whatever he's comfortable in. We tried getting himto wear nice clothes, but it was a losing battle, so now he can just wear what he's comfortable in. Does your church have a kids area? My son cannot stand being in the service as he can't sit still for long and finds it boring. Looking at it from kid's view point, I can understand that.
Have you prayed, asking God what direction you should go in? Maybe look at having a time of fellowship/church at home? Just a thought.
•    Anonymous said…  My son to this day will not wear a button down shirt. (Age 32) when he was little he wore Polo shirts to church. I have seen elderly folks bring seat cushions. We usually say in the front that way he didn't notice the crowd so much. The piano didn't phase him and organ was seldom used. Oddly enough he didn't mind the sign of peace or shaking hands with priest as we exited after mass.
•    Anonymous said…  Our church does not have a dress code, tshirt and jeans are perfectly fine, the kids have their own room where they have music (noise reduction headphones are provided for those who need them) and we have a sensory room so that if any child needs a break they can go in there to use the beanbags, weighted stuffed animals or blankets, etc and then rejoin the rest of the group when they aware ready. There aware churches like mine who understand different needs and meet them. Call around your area and talk to the Children's Director, if they don't already have something like this in place then encourage them to do so in order for everyone to be able to attend church and know God's love.
•    Anonymous said…  Our son has the same problem. Do not fear. We go to a Catholic Church. Our son used to scream and throw a fit. We use to take turns going to Mass not because we weren't accepted but because we couldn't relax and focus. We not take our son every Sunday. He is 10. He still gets upset if we have an older priest who talks to slow. He has learned to handle it. We ignore many of his antics and ignore anyone who seems to have a problem. Most of the parishioners know us and our family and love our son. Just relax and don't let people make you look unkindly on your church. Go for you and then take him gradually as he grows up. Our Dr. Said there is no reason he should not be going with us. you are in our prayers. We have been there and still are. Persevere.
•    Anonymous said…  We use black ear plugs for loud singing. They are small. My teen must attend church. special plan for your child. They are a blessing. :)

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