Students on the Autism Spectrum: Crucial Tips for Teachers

Tips for Teachers with Students on the Autism Spectrum

Social Aspects—

Students with ASD level 1, or High Functioning Autism (HFA) may fall anywhere in the continuum between withdrawn and active but odd. These children want to communicate with their peers - but may lack the ability to do so. They do not understand what people are feeling or thinking and have difficulty empathizing with them.

When asked to imagine themselves in a particular situation, they experience great difficulty and may not be able to role-play. There is a lack of understanding of body language and social conventions, and they have great difficulty in making and sustaining friendships.



Because of this, HFA children miss out on many aspects of teenage culture. For example, they may have no knowledge of pop music, football, fashion etc. Therefore, when such topics are used to stimulate interest in examination questions, they can be at a disadvantage.

These children have little appreciation of personal space and often get too close to people. This, combined with inappropriate body language, can be misinterpreted by others as threatening behavior.

They find it difficult to work in pairs, to be part of a team, or to participate normally in classroom discussions -- and need direct teaching. Because of their desire for friendship, HFA children can be very vulnerable and easily persuaded to do things without being aware of the consequences.

Disruptive behavior (e.g., self-directed injury, tantrums and aggression) is thought to be the result of communication difficulties, but the teacher in the classroom may be concerned for the safety of other students and restrict the use of certain equipment in practical lessons and participation in outside activities. Hence, the student with HFA may have had a narrower educational experience than his or her peers.

==> The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Communication Difficulties—

Most of the social difficulties described are the result of communication problems. Syntax and grammar are rarely a problem, but there is often a non-productive, pedantic, literal use and understanding of language. Speech may be flat and robot-like, and possibly accompanied by distracting gestures (e.g., body swaying or grimacing).

HFA children try to understand what the words mean rather than what the speaker means - and may be confused by idioms and metaphors.

A question such as "Can you tell me the names of  _____" is likely to be answered with a 'yes' or 'no'.

These children tend to find the written word easier to understand than the spoken. Some may be able to read mechanically beyond the level of their understanding (hyperlexia). Their writing shows a rigidity of thought, and they often produce learned patterns of phrasing in answers to examination questions.

Orally, HFA children can be very boring, because they spell out everything in great detail and because of their preoccupation with a particular interest or topic. They can't build on what others say, have poor topic maintenance, and are unlikely to make appropriate eye contact.

Clumsiness—

It is not uncommon for these kids to have had delayed milestones in their motor development - and for clumsiness to persist into adulthood. Both fine and gross motor skills are involved, thus their performance in sports will be affected.

The arrangement of written work is often poor with deeply marked crossing-out. Handwriting varies from being very small and almost illegible to being large with poorly formed letters which overlap the lines.

Stress and the Environment—

Kids on the autism spectrum are perceived to be intolerant of individuals as well as the environment. They become very anxious in unstructured settings and where people are moving at random. Many may not be able to tolerate people close to them. Noise, whether it is sudden or it comes from general background activity, can cause acute stress, fear and even panic - and at the very least the student will be distracted and unable to concentrate. Factors causing stress are very individual, although all find alterations to routines very disturbing and have difficulty in making choices.

Some respond to stress by antisocial behavior. Repeated swearing is not uncommon, and others may have to remove themselves physically from the situation. A quiet environment, free from distractions and where rules are followed rigidly can do much to help these "special needs" students to concentrate.

Carrying an object can give them a sense of security. The nature of this can seem quite bizarre to others (e.g. a AAA battery). But without it, HFA children may be unable to settle or concentrate. Some derive comfort from repeating a set ritual of some kind - and it can be long and complex.

It goes without saying that the ritual, however time-consuming, will have to be carried out in an examination situation, and the comfort object allowed to be present if the student is to be able to cope with the stress of taking the examination.

==> The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Intellectual Functioning—

Verbal ability tends to be stronger than non-verbal, and this results in uneven attainment across the breadth of the curriculum. This is reflected in examination results and also within subject papers. The student may be able to do exceptionally well recalling facts or applying well practiced methods - but may score poorly or not at all when asked to imagine a situation or to comment on the nuances of a fictional text.

Some show areas of exceptional ability. But these are usually confined to one subject and may be in a limited area of that subject. But, the young person displays an insight and a knowledge way beyond others in their age group. Often this is linked to their main interest or obsession.

Obsessional Interests—

Obsessional interests tend to dominate the thinking and much of the life of many students on the spectrum. Sometimes these change abruptly - but many persist for years and perhaps for life. These young people become very knowledgeable about their interest and go to extreme lengths to pursue it. In an examination, whether written or oral, the student will tend to see everything in terms of this interest and bring it in to all answers. It will tend to take over, and the student will wander off the point of the question and not know when to stop.

Special Arrangements for Examinations—

1. The examination room: There may be a request for the student to be supervised separately because:
  • it would give the student a less stressful setting where he could concentrate without what for him are overwhelming distractions
  • the student can move around if this is helpful in relieving undue stress
  • the student would not distract others by her ritualistic behavior or by extraneous movements and noises which are beyond her control

There may be a request that a comfort object is allowed in the examination room.

2. Extra time: A request for extra time should be made to examining boards, because students on the autism spectrum find it hard working on a time limit. While working on a time limit may cause excessive stress to some HFA students, it could be counterproductive to others who would feel that they had to keep writing even if they had completed their answers.

3. Presentation of examination papers: There may be a request that the question paper is presented on plain paper and in one color, because the student finds a range of colors confusing.

4. Use of language in question papers: There may be a request that carrier language of questions is modified to be as clear as possible. This would be similar to the request made for congenitally deaf students who also need clear, unambiguous instructions and an avoidance of abstract ideas, except when understanding such ideas is part of the assessment.

5. Prompting of the student when it is time to move on to the next question: This may be requested because of the student's obsessional behavior, which may cause him or her to keep writing on a particular topic, totally unaware of the passage of time. The student may have been used to being moved on in class, and such prompting is allowed in examination conditions.

6. Word-processing and handwriting: If the student's writing is illegible or if motor control is so impaired that handwriting is difficult or excessively slow, word-processing may be the usual method of written communication in class and may be requested for examinations. Alternatively, there may be a request that the student be exempt from the assessment for handwriting, etc.

7. Request that the answer papers are scrutinized at some point by someone aware that the student has HFA and who is familiar with the disorder. There could be a number of reasons for this including:
  • the possible use of bad language or other expletives which may be triggered by a distraction, or because excessive feelings have been aroused in response to the question. Using bad language in this way is beyond the control of the student and is not an attempt to be rude to the examiner
  • the language used and the obsessional content of the answer
  • the general appearance of the paper, including diagrams and labeling, etc.

8. Oral tests: It would be very difficult for anyone to conduct an oral test with a student with HFA without being apprised of the situation and of the particular behavior and difficulties of the student. Indeed, examiners might feel threatened by the student unless they were aware of the disorder. Examiners should be made aware that the student may display some of the following behavior:
  • avoiding eye contact, and possibly writhing, twisting, swaying and walking around during the interview
  • echoing questions, even to the extent of copying the voice and accent (this is not rudeness, but a lack of understanding)
  • failing to understand abstract ideas and taking jokes, exaggerations and metaphors literally
  • getting too close to the examiner
  • the student will not have had the usual day-to-day experience of life (this particularly applies to relationships and doing things with the peer group, for example, he might not be able to respond to a question about what a student did with his friends over the weekend because he would not perceive himself as having any friends)
  • making inappropriate, over-familiar or over-formal remarks
  • not understanding body language
  • stilted speech, unless the topic is the obsessional interest, in which case it will be hard to stop or divert the conversation to another subject

==> The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism


Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
 

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD
 
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Is it Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD), an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or Both?!





==> Click here for more information on comorbid conditions associated with ASD...


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

Executive Function Deficit in Children on the Autism Spectrum

Children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) often face challenges related to their ability to interpret certain social cues. A term relating to these challenges is “executive functioning,” which includes skills such as inhibiting inappropriate responses, organizing, planning, and sustaining attention.

Difficulties with executive functioning can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Some HFA and AS children have difficulty maintaining their attention or organizing their thoughts and actions. Some have difficulty with complex thinking that requires holding more than one train of thought simultaneously. Others pay attention to minor details - but fail to see how these details fit into a bigger picture. Problems with executive functioning can also be associated with poor impulse-control.

Executive function is a set of mental qualities that help the child execute certain skills, specifically (a) regulation (i.e., taking stock of the surroundings and changing behavior in response to it) and (b) organization (i.e., gathering information and structuring it for evaluation). These skills are controlled by an area of the brain called the frontal lobe. Executive function helps the child to avoid saying or doing the wrong thing, do things based on his or her experience, manage time, multitask, pay attention, plan and organize, remember details, and switch focus.



Your HFA or AS child may have significant problems with executive function if he or she: 
  • has to be constantly reminded to do homework or complete chores around the house
  • avoids tasks that require multiple steps or sustained attention
  • forgets to bring home materials for homework
  • completes homework and then forgets to hand it in
  • gets in trouble for talking during class
  • is consistently disruptive when the teacher is talking
  • gets upset when things don’t go his or her way
  • has difficulty when given instructions that have two or more steps
  • has trouble prioritizing homework assignments
  • has trouble organizing and planning long-term assignments
  • is disorganized and messy
  • is easily distracted
  • often blurts out answers and interrupts others when they are talking
  • starts homework assignments, chores, or work on a hobby, but often loses interest before the task is completed
  • tends to put off doing homework, school projects, studying for tests, or completing chores until the last minute
  • gets stuck on one possible solution when faced with a problem
  • has trouble coming up with alternative solutions

Additional warning signs that your youngster may be having problems with executive function include trouble in telling stories (verbally or in writing), starting activities or tasks, remembering, planning projects, memorizing, and estimating how much time a project will take to complete.

==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's and HFA Children

How can parents and teachers manage executive function problems in children with HFA and AS? Here are 20 crucial tips:
 
  1. A posted classroom schedule can be very helpful for students on the autism spectrum (see above).
  2. Allocation of sufficient time for instructions, repetition of instructions, and individual student assistance is crucial.
  3. Assignment checklists can be used to break large, overwhelming tasks into manageable units. Teachers can break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each one.
  4. Creating pictorial checklists (e.g., cartoon picture of the student opening her Math book) and a visual reminder (e.g., countdown timer) of how long each task will take is another helpful strategy.
  5. Day planners, including PDAs, can help organize the HFA or AS child.
  6. Ask the school for permission to donate a beanbag chair that can be used as a "safe spot" for your child to go to briefly when he or she is feeling over-stimulated. The place should be quiet and peaceful (e.g., next to the secretary's desk, an adjoining room, a corner of the room partially closed off by furniture).
  7. Teachers can create separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities.
  8. It’s important to make a checklist for getting through assignments (e.g., get out pencil and paper, put name on paper, put due date on paper, read directions, etc.).
  9. Have the child create his own visual schedules that he can look at them several times a day.
  10. Parents should meet with their child’s teacher on a regular basis to review work and troubleshoot problems.
  11. Minimizing clutter is vital.
  12. Having an organized work space is also very helpful.
  13. Parents and teachers should plan for transition times and shifts in activities.
  14. Preferential desk placement near the teacher and away from distractions is a good idea for kids on the spectrum.
  15. Have the child schedule a weekly time to clean and organize his or her work space.
  16. Teachers can use a weekly homework log that is sent from school to home and back, keeping all parties informed of work due and progress.
  17. Use calendars to keep track of long-term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
  18. Take advantage of tools such as time organizers, computers, or watches with alarms.
  19. Teachers should write the due date on the top of each assignment.
  20. Parents can use visual reminders (e.g., cartoon pictures of certain tasks) to remind their child when it’s time to start homework or complete a chore (see below).

The 7 executive functions include: emotional self-regulation, inhibition, non-verbal working memory, planning and problem solving, self-awareness, self-motivation, and verbal working memory. If your HFA or AS youngster can only remember two or three things at a time, often feels overwhelmed at school, has trouble getting started on tasks, and struggles with problem solving, he or she might have an executive function deficit.




==> More crucial information on how your child thinks can be found here...

 
 
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The Social Traits of Students with Asperger's and HFA: Tips for Teachers




==> More information on the specific traits associated with AS and HFA can be found here...


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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==> More parenting strategies for dealing with your child's stress and anxiety can be found here...

 
Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
 

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD
 
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The Family Contract: How to Set Effective Boundaries for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

“How do I set clear boundaries that I can enforce - and my child with high functioning autism will obey?”

The key to setting effective boundaries is to involve the entire family in the process. Get everyone on the same page. This is accomplished by implementing a “family contract” in which the house rules - and the consequences for violating those rules - are clearly explained and written on an actual contract.

In a family contract, parents agree to do certain things, for example:
  • encourage the child to achieve in all areas of life
  • hold the child accountable for the choices he makes, and ensure that he experiences privileges and unfortunate consequences that go with each choice
  • listen, and not overreact or judge the child for things that don't make sense to her
  • love the child for who she is
  • make themselves available to the child whenever he or she needs them – even when they are “busy”
  • never view the child as a failure, even when she makes mistakes
  • provide a comfortable, safe and mutually respectful place to talk honestly
  • provide the child with housing, food and clothing



In exchange, the AS or HFA child agrees to do certain things, for example:
  • apply himself in school and other activities
  • avoid threatening to do harm to self or others
  • avoid the use of drugs and alcohol
  • be honest, even when he or she doesn’t feel like it
  • be respectful towards everyone in this home
  • keep her promises and strive to be trustworthy
  • talk to parents when he is angry, upset or confused

All of these stipulations are written into the family contract, which is then placed in a visible area of the house to be reviewed and revised as often as needed.

==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's and HFA Children

Regardless of the developmental stage of the AS or HFA youngster, some basic principles can help guide the process of developing an effective family contract: 
  • An effective family contract does not instill a loss of trust, shame, negative guilt, or a sense of abandonment; rather, it instills a sense of greater trust between the youngster and the parents.
  • The purpose of the contract is to help the child internalize rules, organize himself, and acquire appropriate behavior patterns.
  • The temperaments of the youngster and the parent require flexibility. Kids with “special needs” and developmental delays need additional accommodations.

Kids raised without reasonable limits will have difficulty adjusting socially out in the real world. In a family contract, rules are established so that the AS or HFA child can learn to live cooperatively with other people in the family. This is a crucial skill for kids on the autism spectrum because (a) they already have social skills deficits by virtue of the disorder, and (b) we are all social creatures by nature, and therefore must learn to get along (e.g., at home, school, work, and the community at large).

Here are a few tips that will help promote an effective family contract:
  1. Just concentrate on two or three rules at first.
  2. Allow for your youngster’s temperament and individuality.
  3. Apply consequences as soon as possible.
  4. In general, it is more effective to anticipate and prevent undesirable behavior than to punish it. Thus, when possible, deal with the difficult behavior in advance - or away from - the actual misbehavior, not in the heat of the moment. An “away-from-the-moment” discussion can help prevent undesirable behavior by giving you the opportunity to teach your youngster the desirable behavior in advance. 
  5. Apply rules consistently.
  6. Avoid nagging and making threats without consequences.
  7. Do not enter into arguments with your youngster during the correction process.
  8. Ensure that your youngster knows the correction is directed against the behavior and not him or her as a person. 
  9. Always guard against humiliating your youngster during the corrective process. 
  10. Model forgiveness and avoid bringing up past mistakes.
  11. Ignore unimportant and irrelevant behavior (e.g., swinging legs while sitting at the dinner table).
  12. Know and accept age-appropriate behavior (e.g., spilling a glass of milk is not willful defiance for a 4-year-old, whereas refusing to wear a bicycle helmet after repeated warnings is willful defiance in a 6-year-old).
  13. Make the consequences brief (e.g., time-outs should last one minute per year of the youngster’s age, to a maximum of five minutes).
  14. Mean what you say – but say it without yelling at your youngster. 
  15. Be sure to prioritize. Safety always comes first, correcting behavior that harms people and property comes second, and unwanted behaviors (e.g., whining, tantrums, interrupting etc.) comes third. 
  16. Reinforce desirable behavior (e.g., praise positive behavior and “catch” your child being good).
  17. Make consequences realistic (e.g., grounding for two weeks may not be feasible).

 ==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's and HFA Children

How do you know whether or not you have an effective family contract in place? It’s effective if you are accomplishing most of the following:
  • your child can tolerate discomfort when necessary
  • discipline is applied with mutual respect in a firm, fair, reasonable and consistent way
  • your child is assertive without being aggressive or hostile
  • it fosters the development of your youngster’s own self-discipline
  • your youngster always knows that you love and support him or her
  • it helps the youngster to develop a healthy conscience and an internal sense of responsibility and control
  • it helps your youngster fit into the real world happily and effectively
  • it teaches and guides the child, and doesn’t just force him or her to obey
  • your child is considerate of the needs of others
  • it protects the youngster from danger
  • your child is able to postpone pleasure
  • he or she is able to respect your authority - and also the rights of others

The bottom line is this: Social skills deficits are what give children on the autism spectrum the most problems in life. This is why it’s so terribly important for them to get acquainted with social order as soon as possible. And the best way to accomplish this goal is through the ongoing use of a formal family contract. In this way, when the child begins school life and encounters the list of “school rules” to abide by, the idea of following established rules - and receiving consequences for violating those rules - will not be a foreign concept to the child.

==> Methods for dealing with meltdowns, shutdowns, and tantrums in these "special needs" young people can be found here...

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==> More parenting advice for behavioral problems in kids on the spectrum can be found here...


Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
 

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD
 
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==> More information on how your child with ASD thinks and processes the world...


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

Help for the Easily Agitated Child on the Autism Spectrum: Tips for Parents

“My son with high functioning autism will get so upset and frustrated to the point of meltdown. He becomes very aggressive and there is no calming him down or discussing things with him once he has crossed this line. And to make matters worse, there is no rhyme or reason to his explosions. What upsets him to no end one day doesn’t seem to bother him on another day. This makes it very hard to predict what’s coming. Help!”

Due to the associated symptoms, kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) are more likely to become agitated than “typical” kids. There are numerous issues related to the disorder that may contribute to your son’s distress, for example:
  • Difficulty handling changes to the daily routine
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired communicating skills
  • Strong reliance on fixed routines
  • Over-sensitivity to stimuli through the five senses 
  • Stress in the environment
  • Tendency to be clumsy
  • Difficulty identifying, understanding, and describing his emotions
  • Tendency to misinterpret or misunderstand gestures and facial expressions
  • Trouble interacting with others  
  • Underlying behavioral, developmental, or health conditions (e.g., ADHD)



Also, your son may be more likely to become agitated if you react too strongly to his behavior or give in to his demands.

All kids get frustrated and act-out from time to time, and there is no reason why young people on the autism spectrum should refrain from this stage of development. But how do you know whether or not an agitated child's behavior is "normal"? When the behavior escalates to the point of violence, is it still just simple agitation, or are there deeper issues that need to be looked at?

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Agitation and resultant “problematic behavior” (i.e., the child’s way of coping with distress) are very common problems in HFA and AS. The child may appear to go into a state of rage or anxiety for no apparent reason (e.g., screaming, crying, resisting contact with others, pushing others away, etc.).

Parents often have great difficulty calming their HFA or AS child once he or she has reached the boiling point. The youngster may seem inconsolable, and the episode can last a long time – and can even involve of more aggressive behaviors (e.g., hitting, biting, pinching, etc.). Also, the “emotional release” that typically accompanies the end of “throwing a fit” for non-autistic kids rarely occurs in the HFA or AS child. Similar episodes of anxiety and anger may be seen all through childhood, adolescence – and even into adulthood.

Paying attention to the things that trigger your son’s frustration can help you act before his emotions escalate beyond the point where he can control them. Identifying the cause of the behavior is very important. There is ALWAYS some “yet-to-be-unidentified” trigger that brings on difficult behavior.

As with such behavior in all young people, there are a number of possible causes. There may be underlying reasons (e.g., feeling upset, anxious or angry), and immediate triggers (e.g., being told to do something). But with kids on the autism spectrum, problematic behavior is usually directed by frustration and agitation.

Disruption of Routine and Structure—

As with most children on the autism spectrum, your son most likely relies heavily on ritualistic behaviors and structure. Structure is a method that helps him to define the world in terms of set rules and explanations, which in turn helps him function. Most kids on the spectrum find their own methods of imposing structure and maintaining consistency. They need this structure because the world is confusing to them; the world is complex and almost impossible to understand. The information your son receives through his senses is no doubt overwhelming and hard to bring together into a strong whole. Also, if he has a learning disability, it makes it especially hard to apply cognitive skills to all these areas at once.

When some form of structure or routine is disrupted, the world becomes confusing and overwhelming again (e.g., feeling homesick, losing a comforting toy when feeling alone, starting a new school year, etc.). This disruption of structure may be obvious to you (e.g., having a collection of objects disturbed, being made to go a different way to school, getting up at an unusual hour), or it may be hidden (e.g., subtle changes in the environment which the youngster is used to). Some of these triggers may be out of the control of your son, and some may be avoidable.

Problems with Communication—

Most children on the autism spectrum have difficulty understanding others and communicating with them. Thus, frustration, anger and anxiety often build-up. Also, their problematic behaviors often directly serve as a form of communication (i.e., they may act-out because a particular need is not being met, but they don’t know how to use their words to get what they need). Natural tantrums (e.g., in response to changes in routine, or requests to do something the child does not want to do) may well become usual over-reactions in the eyes of parents.

When to Seek Help from a Professional—

HFA and AS children who continue to act-out their frustration in destructive ways after the age of 4 usually need outside help learning to deal with their negative emotions. Problematic behaviors that continue (or start) during the school years may be a sign of other issues (e.g., learning difficulties, social skills deficits, etc.).

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Talk with a health professional if difficult behavior frequently lasts longer than 15 minutes, occurs more than 3 times a day, or is more aggressive. This may indicate that your son has an underlying medical, emotional, or social problem that needs attention. These are not considered normal child tantrums. Problematic behaviors can include biting, hair pulling, head-banging or inflicting self-injury, hitting, kicking, pinching, scratching, throwing or breaking things, etc.

It's especially important to seek outside assistance if:
  • Your son’s outbursts occur more than 3 times a day
  • They frequently last longer than 15 minutes
  • He hurts himself, other people, or objects when he is agitated
  • His behavior does not improve after 4 years of age
  • You have serious concerns about his destructive behavior
  • You have problems handling his behavior
  • You have concerns that you might accidently hurt your son when trying to hold him back or calm him down
  • You need help with learning to cope with your own feelings during his outbursts

This is where support is needed both in the form of direct interventions related to the behaviors, and in advising and helping you manage episodes in ways that can be applied at home. These difficulties can be improved slowly through education and other interventions.

In the meantime, you can help by making an effort to manage the environment so that your son is more comfortable (e.g., providing structure, avoiding distracting information when engaging in tasks, allowing personal space where necessary, etc.). When your son acts-out, this is his way of trying to communicate his needs. Therefore, the cause of the behavior (i.e., an unmet need) must first be identified before teaching and developing other means of communicating.

Think like this: “My child is behaving badly. So, he is trying to tell me something through his behavior, because he hasn’t learned to use his words yet. What might he need in this moment? How can we use this episode as a learning opportunity? And how can I help my child find the words to describe what’s going on as an alternative to acting-out his feelings?”


==> Crucial information on how to help your child deal with frustration...



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

Why Asperger's and HFA is Largely a Disorder of Social Skills




==> Strategies for teaching social skills to children on the autism spectrum...


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

How can children with High-Functioning Autism cope with anger and depression?



==> More strategies for dealing with anger in kids on the spectrum...


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

Video Blog for Parents of Children and Teens on the High-Functioning End of the Autism Spectrum


Here's our sister site that provides education and support for parents of children and teens with the specific diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism (Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder).

==> MyHighFunctioningChild.com

Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors and Anxiety in Kids on the Autism Spectrum



==> More information on anxiety in kids on the autism spectrum can be found here...



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

Affective Education: How to Teach Children on the Autism Spectrum About Emotions


Most children with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) lack emotional intelligence to one degree or another. Emotional intelligence is the ability to (a) identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups; (b) harness emotions to facilitate various cognitive activities (e.g., thinking and problem solving); (c) detect and decipher emotions in faces, pictures, voices, and cultural artifacts, including the ability to identify one's own emotions; (d) comprehend emotion language; and (e) appreciate complicated relationships among different emotions.

Emotional intelligence consists of four attributes:
  1. Social awareness: Understanding the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, picking up on emotional cues, feeling comfortable socially, and recognizing the power dynamics in a group.
  2. Self-management: Being able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, managing emotions in healthy ways, taking initiative, following through on commitments, and adapting to changing circumstances.
  3. Self-awareness: Recognizing one’s emotions and how they affect one’s thoughts and behavior, knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, and having self-confidence.
  4. Relationship management: Knowing how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.



Affective education is basically teaching children with Asperger’s and HFA why they have emotions, their use and misuse, and the identification of different levels of expression. Some of the skills obtained through this form of education include (but are not limited to) the ability to use humor and play to deal with challenges, resolve conflicts positively and with confidence, recognize and manage one’s emotions, quickly reduce stress, and connect with others through nonverbal communication.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

When parents or teachers begin the process of teaching the Asperger’s or HFA child about emotions, it’s best to explore one emotion at a time as a theme for a project. A useful starting point is happiness or pleasure. A scrapbook can be created that illustrates the emotion. This can include pictures of people expressing the different degrees of happiness or pleasure – and can be extended to pictures of objects and situations that have a personal association with the feeling (e.g., a photograph of a rare lizard for a child with a special interest in reptiles).

Another important component to affective education includes helping the child to identify the relevant cues that indicate a particular level of emotion in facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and context. The face is described as an information center for emotions. The typical errors experienced by children on the autism spectrum include not identifying which cues are relevant or redundant, and misinterpreting cues. Parents and teachers can use a range of games and resources to “spot the message” and explain the multiple meanings (e.g., a furrowed brow can mean anger or bewilderment, or may be a sign of aging skin; a loud voice does not automatically mean that a person is angry, etc.).

Once the key elements that indicate a particular emotion have been identified, it is important to measure the degree of intensity. Parents and teachers can create an “emotion thermometer” and use a range of activities to define the level of expression (e.g., use a selection of pictures of faces, and place each picture at the appropriate point on the “thermometer.”

But, keep in mind that some children on the autism spectrum can use extreme statements such as “I am going to kill myself” to express a level of emotion that would be more moderately expressed by a “typical” child. Therefore, you may need to increase your Asperger’s or HFA child’s vocabulary of emotional expression to ensure precision and accuracy.

Affective education can also include activities to detect specific degrees of emotion in others and in oneself using internal physiological cues, cognitive cues, and behavior. Both the parent and child can create a list of the child’s physiological, cognitive, and behavioral cues that indicate his increase in emotional arousal. The degree of expression can be measured using the “emotion thermometer.” One of the aspects of affective education is to help the child perceive his “early warning signals” that indicate emotional arousal that may need cognitive control.

When a particular emotion and the levels of expression are understood, the next component of affective education is to use the same procedures for a contrasting emotion (e.g., after exploring happiness, the next topic explored would be sadness; feeling relaxed would be explored before a project on feeling anxious, etc.). The child is encouraged to understand that certain thoughts or emotions are “antidotes” to other feelings (e.g., some activities associated with feeling happy may be used to counteract feeling sad).

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Other activities to be considered in affective education are the creation of a photograph album that includes pictures of the child and family members expressing particular emotions, or video recordings of the child expressing her feelings in real-life situations. This can be particularly valuable to demonstrate the child’s behavior when expressing anger.

Lastly, it’s important to incorporate the child’s special interest in this educational process. For example, one teacher worked with an Asperger’s student whose special interest was the weather, so the teacher suggested that the student’s emotions be expressed as a weather report. A poster was created with a picture of a calm sunny day on the right side (representing happiness) and a picture of a tornado on the left side (representing rage). Various other pictures of weather patterns were place in between these two extremes to illustrate other more moderate emotions often experienced by the student.


In a nutshell, through the use of affective education, children with Asperger’s and HFA can begin the process of developing emotional intelligence. In an ideal world, the child will develop the following skills in the end:
  • Taking responsibility for his own emotions and happiness
  • Showing respect by respecting other people's feelings
  • Paying attention to non-verbal communication (e.g., watch faces, listen to tone of voice, take note of body language)
  • Looking for the humor or life lesson in a negative situation
  • Listening twice as much as she speaks
  • Learning to relax when his emotions are running high
  • Getting up and moving when she is feeling down
  • Examining his feelings rather than the actions or motives of others
  • Developing constructive coping skills for specific moods
  • Being honest with himself or herself
  • Avoiding people who don't respect his feelings 
  • Acknowledging her negative feelings, looking for their source, and coming up with a way to solve the underlying problem

==> Click here for more information on teaching social skills and emotion management...



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


NOTE: Below is a list of common emotions that can be incorporated into an affective education program. Each program should be tailored to the child’s specific needs.

•    Affection
•    Anger
•    Angst
•    Anguish
•    Annoyance
•    Anxiety
•    Apathy
•    Arousal
•    Awe
•    Boredom
•    Confidence
•    Contempt
•    Contentment
•    Courage
•    Curiosity
•    Depression
•    Desire
•    Despair
•    Disappointment
•    Disgust
•    Distrust
•    Dread
•    Ecstasy
•    Embarrassment
•    Envy
•    Euphoria
•    Excitement
•    Fear
•    Frustration
•    Gratitude
•    Grief
•    Guilt
•    Happiness
•    Hatred
•    Hope
•    Horror
•    Hostility
•    Hurt
•    Hysteria
•    Indifference
•    Interest
•    Jealousy
•    Joy
•    Loathing
•    Loneliness
•    Love
•    Lust
•    Outrage
•    Panic
•    Passion
•    Pity
•    Pleasure
•    Pride
•    Rage
•    Regret
•    Relief
•    Remorse
•    Sadness
•    Satisfaction
•    Self-confidence
•    Shame
•    Shock
•    Shyness
•    Sorrow
•    Suffering
•    Surprise
•    Trust
•    Wonder
•    Worry
•    Zeal
•    Zest

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