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Does My Student Have An Autism Spectrum Disorder?

“I teach the first grade at East Side Elementary in my hometown. I currently have a student who I suspect may be a high functioning autistic (Asperger). What are some of the telltale signs to look for, and should I mention this to the parents?”

A good first step would be to ask the parents how well their child functioned prior to elementary school. Kids with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) frequently enter kindergarten without having been adequately diagnosed. In most cases, there will have been some red flags in the preschool years, for example:
  • the youngster may have be viewed as being somewhat unusual
  • concern over "immature" social skills and peer interactions
  • behavioral concerns such as hyperactivity, inattention, aggression, outbursts, etc.

If these problems are more severe, special education may be suggested now, but most kids with AS and HFA do fairly well in a mainstream setting.

Often, academic progress in the early grades is an area of relative strength (e.g., rote reading is usually quite good, calculation skills may be similarly strong). However, writing skills are often considerably weaker. The teacher will probably be struck by the youngster's "obsessive" areas of interest, which often intrude in the classroom setting.

Most AS and HFA kids will show some social interest in their peers (although it may be reduced). However, they are likely to show weak friend-making and friend-keeping skills. They may show particular interest in one or two peers around them, but usually the depth of their interactions will be relatively superficial. On the other hand, a number of kids with AS and HFA present as pleasant and "nice," particularly when interacting with adults.

The course through elementary school for AS and HFA students will vary considerably from youngster to youngster, and overall problems can range from mild and easily managed to severe and intractable, depending upon factors such as:
  • appropriateness of management at school
  • parenting at home
  • temperamental style of the youngster
  • the presence or absence of complicating factors (e.g., hyperactivity/attentional problems, anxiety, learning problems
  • the youngster's intelligence level

In any event, if you suspect that your student may have an autism spectrum disorder, then you should indeed share your concerns with the parents so they can seek a formal assessment.

As one mother of an HFA child states:  

"YES, YES!!! Tell the parents and have a printout of the behaviors that are attributed to AS and HFA. I wish the teachers and coaches that suspected it would have talked to me. I didn't get my son diagnosed until he was 11, and is not buying into any counseling or therapy. Life has improved dramatically for us, but he would have been better off if we had started sooner. You may want to check with the school counselor what is the best way to approach your suspicion with the parents. Good luck and thank you for being such a caring teacher!!"

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

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

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

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

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.

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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...