Caring For Your Aspergers Child Throughout The Lifespan

"I’m feeling very weighed down right now because my son was just diagnosed with Asperger’s, and I’m a single mom with two other children. What can I do to help my son now – and as he grows older?"

After a youngster is diagnosed with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, the parent may feel unprepared or unable to provide the youngster with the necessary care and education. Know that there are many treatment options, social services and programs, and other resources that can help.

Some tips that can help you and your son are:
  • Contact your local health department or autism advocacy groups to learn about the special programs available in your state and local community.
  • Keep a record of conversations, meetings with health care providers and educators, and other sources of information. This will help you remember the different treatment options and decide which would help your youngster most.
  • Keep a record of the doctors' reports and your youngster's evaluation. This information may help your youngster qualify for special programs.
  • Talk with your youngster's doctor, school system, or autism support groups to find an autism expert in your area who can help you develop an intervention plan and find other local resources.

Understanding Adolescents with Aspergers—

The adolescent years can be a time of stress and confusion for any growing youngster, including adolescents with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism.

During the adolescent years, young people become more aware of others and their relationships with them. While most adolescents are concerned with acne, popularity, grades, and dates, adolescents with Aspergers may become painfully aware that they are different from their friends. For some, this awareness may encourage them to learn new behaviors and try to improve their social skills. For others, hurt feelings and problems connecting with others may lead to depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders.

One way that some adolescents with Aspergers may express the tension and confusion that can occur during adolescence is through increased autistic or aggressive behavior. Teenagers with Aspergers will also need support to help them understand the physical changes and sexual maturation they experience during adolescence.

If your adolescent seems to have trouble coping, talk with his doctor about possible co-occurring mental disorders and what you can do. Behavioral therapies and medications often help.

Preparing for Transition to Adulthood—

The public schools' responsibility for providing services ends when a youngster with Aspergers reaches the age of 22. At that time, some families may struggle to find jobs to match their adult son’s or daughter’s needs. If your family cannot continue caring for an adult child at home, you may need to look for other living arrangements.

Long before your youngster finishes school, you should search for the best programs and facilities for young people with Aspergers. If you know other moms and dads of adults with Aspergers, ask them about the services available in your community. Local support and advocacy groups may be able to help you find programs and services that your youngster is eligible to receive as an adult.

Another important part of this transition is teaching young people with Aspergers to self-advocate (i.e., that they start to take on more responsibility for their education, employment, health care, and living arrangements). Grown-ups with Aspergers must self-advocate for their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act at work, in higher education, in the community, and elsewhere.

Living Arrangements for Aspergers Adults—

There are many options for grown-ups living with Aspergers. Helping your son or daughter choose the right one will largely depend on what is available in your state and local community, as well as his/her skills and symptoms. Below are some examples of living arrangements you may want to consider:

1. Some individuals with special needs may choose to live in group homes or apartments staffed by professionals who help with basic needs. These needs often include meal preparation, housekeeping, and personal care. Individuals who are more independent may be able to live in a home or apartment where staff only visits a few times a week. Such residents generally prepare their own meals, go to work, and conduct other daily activities on their own.

2. Some families open their homes to provide long-term care to grown-ups with special needs who are not related to them. If the home teaches self-care and housekeeping skills and arranges leisure activities, it is called a "skill-development" home.

3. Long-term care facilities are available for those with low-functioning Autism who need intensive, constant supervision.

4. Government funds are available for families who choose to have their son or daughter with Aspergers live at home. These programs include Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Medicaid waivers. Information about these programs and others is available from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Make an appointment with your local SSA office to find out which programs would be right for your “Aspie.”

5. Most grown-ups with Aspergers are able to live on their own. Others can live in their own home or apartment if they get help dealing with major issues (e.g., managing personal finances, obtaining necessary health care, interacting with government or social service agencies, etc.). Family members, professional agencies, or other types of providers can offer this assistance.

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