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Primary Comorbid Conditions Associated with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

In 1987, I started doing music therapy with children who had High-Functioning Autism (HFA). Although we didn't call it HFA at that time, we knew that some autistic children were higher functioning than others. I have always said - and continue to believe - that if you have an undiagnosed HFA child WITHOUT any comordid conditions, you have a child who may go his or her entire life without ever being diagnosed with HFA.

The child might be viewed as a little weird by peers, but without any comorbid conditions, few - if any - adults (e.g., parents, teachers, etc.) would ever suspect that the child had HFA. This is because HFA has few problematic symptoms in-and-of itself. Most often, it is the conditions associated with HFA that indicate something is not quite right. For example, an alarming number of children who were eventually diagnosed with Asperger's were first diagnosed with ADHD years earlier.

Unfortunately, in my 25+ years of experience, I have never met a child with HFA or Asperger's that did NOT have at least one comorbid condition. But, the good news is that most comorbid conditions are very treatable.

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.

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Anonymous said...

I would love to know if anyone else has noticed dyspraxia, but in the opposite extreme. My 8yo Aspie is unusually coordinated. Within a week of walking he was running. By 15 mo. he was jumping with 2 feet. He could swing by 3, ride a bike by 4, skateboarding by 5, swim team by 6. Now he spends the majority of his days skateboarding and doing gymnastics. Just wondering if anyone else has seen such extreme coordination in their Aspie child. My Aspie also deals with anxiety, depression and SPD.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very true.

My son was recently diagnosed at age 10 with Asperger’s (3 opinions- wanted to be sure!). Four years earlier he was diagnosed with ADHD. It wasn’t until he was out of the “silliness” stages after about age 8-9 that I started seeing more distinct behaviors. Most particularly, some flapping of the hands, taking things literally, and something just not connecting, after which I sought the evaluations.

I am so glad I found out to help him, we are in group therapy and going forward!

Anonymous said...

My son with HFA has four comorbid conditions. This is all so much for a teenager to handle.

Anonymous said...

In response to the person who wrote about "extreme coordination", I'd say my child is a real mix in that sense. He'll bump my foot when he comes up from behind (even after 3 years of OT for SPD), but then he's as agile as a cat (can climb anythign and look like a professional climber while doing it). He is athletically adept in other ways (great at shooting baskets, can outbike most kids his age, holds his own easily at waterpolo). At 9 months he walked, but we had to cover every sharp corner in sight because he fell constantly and was sooo clumsy.

Anonymous said...

My youngest son with Aspergers is unusually coordinated as well. My oldest Aspie is a klutz. They at first said my youngest could not be ASD because his sensory needs were too extreme. Huh?

Anonymous said...

My daughter was quite clumsy from the time she could walk - couldn't go for more than a few steps without falling - constant bruises on her legs. Not realizing she had Aspergers at the time I signed her up for ballet and she continually was involved in sports which I believe helped her overcome her clumsiness and go on to swim and run in high school and run in college. It took many years though and she still has her clumsy moments.

Anonymous said...

Comorbidity can really hide things. From a young age, it was clear to us that my son had Bipolar Disorder and ADD. (I have Bipolar Disorder and ADD, and my mother's family have a high occurrence of Bipolar Disorder).

It was not until he was 19 that we received additional diagnoses of PDD-NOS, impulsivity and reading disorder (for a total of five DSM-IV diagnoses).

We thought the ADD and Bipolar Disorder were enough. It was not until we sent him to wilderness therapy that he under went more thorough psychological and educational testing. We had psychologists evaluate him at 8 and 14, confirming the add but failing to detect the pdd-nos and receptive communication problems.

We knew that he had odd traits but we kept assuming that it was the Bipolar Disorder. Small things kept cropping up: hearing problems (but hearing tests were good), his relationship with friends were odd, his relationships with girls were odd, he took many things literally, he frequently had black and white thinking, his lack of smiles in response to good things, bullying, ...

I am amazed that WE managed to get a high school diploma. In the end, with the 504 and intermittent homebound, he did graduate. What a relief. Or so we thought, ...

After graduation, I attended and took two of his community college classes with him after graduation. He managed to fail 3 of his 4 classes. He passed one class which was primarily based on class work (and I was there with him).

Finally, when he became so addicted to online gaming that he was stealing thousands of dollars from us, we had to do something and sent him to wilderness therapy.

In wilderness therapy, I pushed the psychologist to determine why we had to repeat things so often. I based my forcefulness on a cousin (on my father's side of my family this time) who seemed spacey, lived at home until she was 40+ and always had to have things repeated. She had been diagnosed as ADD. However, she was not helped by stimulants. So, I never was comfortable with a pure ADD diagnosis for her. [My son and I cannot function without a stimulant and are both much more focused].

Everyone has some odd traits. When you throw in a diagnosis that can explain most of the traits away, it is so easy to stop looking. Keep looking. Make sure that your psychologist is aware of everything and can explain everything. A second opinion does not hurt.

Properly diagnosing all of the problems early may not cure the problems. However, it can help avoid some unneeded pain for the child and you alike.

Linda said...

To the person asking about coordination; my son has always been exceptionally coordinated; he was walking and climbing steps at a very early age, rode a bike at 3 (no trainers), and played all sports. He now plays hockey. His only difficulty seems to be in fitting in with a "team" mentality; e.g. not really getting the other kids

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...