HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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I Think My Child May Have High-Functioning Autism

“I think my child is on the autism spectrum. I would like to know some traits to help clarify what high functioning autism is and how I can recognize it.”

Here are the main characteristics of children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA):

The Need for Routine—

Perservation is a common characteristic of the youngster with HFA. Perservation involves repetition in language and/or behavior. For example, with language a perservative tendency is to repeat certain phrases over and over. In terms of action or behavior, the Asperger youngster may line objects up and insist the objects not be disturbed. Completing a certain set of rituals in a specific order also demonstrates perservation.

Sensory Sensitivity—

The youngster with HFA may be underactive to a sensation, or s/he may be intensely reactive to a sensation. The sensitivity could involve one or involve many of the senses. For example, before my son was diagnosed, as a parent I was appalled when he wanted to run outside in the middle of winter with no shoes or boots. I was so afraid he would sneak out of the house and get severe frostbite. I also remember he was fascinated by lights. Some moms and dads of Asperger kids detail how their youngster may scream when the vacuum is turned on or how their youngster refuses to brush their teeth due to the sensation caused by the tooth brush.

Motor Clumsiness—

Sometimes, but not always, kids with HFA display poor coordination because they experience difficulties with either or both fine and gross motor skills. This problem is due to difficulties with motor planning in completing the task. For example, the youngster may experience difficulty in riding a bike because of planning the different steps to successfully complete the task.

Difficulty with Social Interaction—

Although the HFA youngster may want to interact with others, s/he lacks the skills. The Asperger youngster fails to understand both verbal and nonverbal cues, and communication with others breaks down. The Asperger youngster may lecture others, fail to ask questions to continue a discussion, or simply not even acknowledge the other person by looking at them. The desire to communicate may be there, but the language abilities others seem to develop naturally just don't develop easily for the HFA youngster. But HFA kids develop these skills with early interventions and teaching.

Development of a Narrow Range of Interests—

If a youngster seems stuck on a certain topic and seems a bit obsessed about always talking about that topic, s/he demonstrates narrow interests -- this a characteristic of HFA. Often the youngster learns everything s/he can about this special interest and then feels compelled to share information about the topic with everybody around them. Usually focusing on narrow interests affects social interactions negatively.

Delayed or Impaired Language Skills—

If your youngster starts talking late and exhibits lagging language skills, this may be a sign of HFA. My son, who has HFA, talked late, but when he did, he began with full phrases and sentences. He also mixed up pronouns. The HFA youngster also fails to understand the "give and take" of communication; in other words, the youngster may want to monopolize a conversation and fail to acknowledge the comments of others. The youngster with HFA understands communication as a way to share information but fails to recognize communication as a way to share thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Cognitive Difficulties—

Frequently the HFA youngster experiences difficulty with empathizing with others and says inappropriate things because the youngster fails to consider others' feelings. A significant problem for the HFA youngster, mindblindness occurs when the Asperger youngster is unable to make inferences about what others are thinking. Mindblindness hinders communication with others.

Although some of these traits are common to other disabilities, the whole bunch together certainly suggests further investigation into an HFA diagnosis. A professional, like a psychologist or a psychiatrist, should be consulted because early intervention is very important. 

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

==> 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

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Support and Education for Parents of Children and Teens with Asperger's
and High-Functioning Autism

Is Aspergers/HFA Simply a Difference Rather Than a Disability?

"What are you thoughts on this concept of viewing people on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum as 'differently able' rather than 'disabled'. Would this shift in the public view do more harm than good? Or would this be a better way to understand the 'disorder'."?

If one examines the facts, attempting to be non-judgmental about them, Aspergers and high functioning autistic (HFA) kids could be said to show the following differences (these are based on diagnostic features):
  1. communicates less than other children do
  2. has a strong preference for experiences that are controllable rather than unpredictable
  3. has strong, persistent interests
  4. is very accurate at perceiving the details of information
  5. may be fascinated by patterned material, be it visual (shapes), numeric (dates, timetables), alphanumeric (number plates), or lists (of cars, songs, etc.)
  6. may be fascinated by systems, be they simple (light switches, water taps), a little more complex (weather fronts), or abstract (mathematics)
  7. may have a strong drive to collect categories of objects (bottle tops, train maps), or categories of information (types of lizard, types of rock, types of fabric, etc.)
  8. notices and recalls things other people may not
  9. possesses a view of what is relevant and important in a situation, which may not coincide with other people’s view
  10. shows relatively little interest in what the social group is doing, or being a part of it
  11. spends more time involved with objects and physical systems than with people
  12. tends to follow their own desires and beliefs rather than paying attention to, or being easily influenced by, others’ desires and beliefs

The list could be expanded, but these 12 behavioral features are sufficient to illustrate that Aspergers and HFA kids are different in ways that can be described in value-free terms, none of which imply any necessary disability.

Most of the above facts show the youngster as immersed in the world of things rather than people, which might be a basic way of defining the difference between a child with Aspergers or HFA and one without it. Being more object-focused than people-focused is clearly only a disability in an environment that expects everyone to be social. These young people would cease to be disabled as soon as society’s expectations change.

For many years now, there has been a movement underfoot to reclassify this disorder as a condition of being “differently able” rather than “disabled.” Although parents and advocates of their "special needs" youngsters may beg to differ, those in favor of changing the classification do make some compelling points. 

Here are the main ones currently:

1. Routines are symptom of the "disorder," and it has been documented that kids on the autism spectrum have the hardest time functioning in a classroom setting where such order is frequently interrupted or even missing. This may be seen as a disability to some, but others simply believe it to be a sign that the youngster has a very serious affection for that which he can control versus the unknown.

2. The mere fact that these young people are seen paying attention to those things for which they have a general interest (as opposed to those that teachers believe they should notice) does not make Aspergers or HFA a disability. Instead, it may be viewed as a tacit nod to absolute honesty in one’s desires, and therefore is simply an ability to overcome social conditioning.

3. The systematic organization of things and items may be of unique interest in a youngster diagnosed with Aspergers or HFA. It does not really matter if this is the means of taking a picture with a camera by holding down a button, turning on and off a light, or delving into the intricacies of a physics equation. The problem arises when the system in which the youngster shows interest is simple, and soon has some clamoring at needing to be outgrown.

4. What earned these children the description of ‘little professors’ may not be a disability, but could be much more aptly described as a strong interest in a given field of study. This causes the child to notice nuances others do not and thus renders him differently able and perhaps even superior in perception.

5. What has been referred to as latent antisocial behavior so often exhibited in young kids diagnosed with Aspergers or HFA (characterized by their inability or unwillingness to interact with moms and dads extensively) is found to be an expression of their desires to pay more attention to the world of objects as opposed to subjects. This may be attributed to a simply matter of preference, not a disability.

6. Perhaps the most convincing fact used by those suggesting that Aspergersr or HFA is not a disability rests in the fact that the mere decision to value one trait or situation more than another is one of personal preference, not one born from a lack of ability. Therefore, a child who does not interact well with others – but instead finds it far more important to invest time in physics and other subjects he deems important – may be considered eccentric, but it does not render him disabled.

It is not clear why the object-focused child is seen as doing something less valuable than the people-focused child - or why this behavior should be seen as an indication of impairment.

To all our readers of this post, we would be interested in your opinion on this matter. Feel free to comment below...

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

How to Get the School to Meet Your AS or HFA Child's Needs

"From experience with an autistic son (high functioning) with an IEP in our school district, it has been a nightmare this past school year. Due process is not at all a fair and objective process if or when you run into problems and or violations. It is costly going against county attorneys that are well versed on tactics to intimidate and bully parents in attempts to make them go away. For anyone in which the process does work, you should feel very fortunate. How can I get the IEP process to work for my child so we don't go through this terrible dilemma again next year?!"

An evaluation for your child with Aspergers (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA) should determine his special education needs and will generate an appointment for a team meeting to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP is the document that will detail, in writing, an individualized approach to meeting the unique needs of your youngster. The team should include:
  • A school representative who can make decisions about the delivery of services
  • One regular education teacher
  • One special education teacher
  • Someone who can interpret the evaluation results as they apply to your child's educational instruction
  • You and your spouse
  • Other participants with special expertise or knowledge of your child

Your child may also participate if he/she chooses to be present. Participants with special expertise may include a parent-advocate knowledgeable about the IEP process, a professional consultant who specializes in developing IEPs, or a professional consultant who specializes in autism spectrum disorders. Finding a specialist can be a crucial issue, and it can be frustrating to both moms and dads and school officials when one is not accessible.

It may not be realistic to expect that an educator experienced in teaching children with Aspergers and HFA will be teaching your child. Because you know your youngster best, you may become fiercely protective and defensive of what you believe your youngster needs. On the other hand, most willing and cooperative school districts may lack such expertise and may be of the position that they are doing all they can.

If you have requested that your school district evaluate your youngster, the district must comply, and this process should be completed within sixty days after your first written request. After this, the district will ask that you sign a “Permission to Evaluate” form. The evaluation should be completed within sixty days after your original written request, not sixty days after you've signed the permission form. Once the evaluation is completed, a team meeting should be convened to review the evaluation. You should receive your youngster's evaluation well in advance of the team meeting, but no later than ten days prior to such a meeting. This team meeting may also serve as the first IEP meeting if you wish.

If your youngster has been deemed eligible for services, IEP team members should be identified, and the first meeting should occur within thirty calendar days of the original determination of eligibility. The completed IEP must then be implemented within ten school days. It must also be reviewed yearly and can be revisited in a team meeting upon your request outside of the annual meeting date. The IEP must also be in effect for your youngster at the beginning of each new school year.

The initial IEP meeting is the time and place to develop the document that will be the blueprint for your youngster's educators. The draft document should be transcribed into the final document immediately after the meeting. It should include:
  • acknowledgment of your child's eligibility
  • area for you to sign, acknowledging that the school district has provided you with a copy of your rights during the process, known as “procedural safeguards”
  • basic information such as your contact numbers and address, your youngster's date of birth, and anticipated year of graduation
  • cover sheet with a sign-in page listing all participants
  • list of “special considerations,” such as visual or hearing impairment, behaviors that impede your youngster's ability to learn, and communication issues
  • summary of your youngster's needs
  • summary of your youngster's strengths, passions and interests

A strong IEP team should be able to find a balance between your youngster's strengths and needs. Too often, such meetings can focus upon issues that others may perceive as “behavioral” or emotional disturbances. When this occurs, teams get sidetracked and lose their focus. Teams may digress and deteriorate. Moms and dads may leave feeling angry or upset, and the self-fulfilling prophecy is perpetuated. For this reason, and particularly in very sensitive situations, it is advisable to have a professional in attendance that fits the bill of “other participants with special expertise or knowledge of your child.” In partnership with the team, this person can help keep things focused on your youngster as a youngster first and foremost.

The next step is to set IEP goals that are specific to your child's strengths and needs in order to track your youngster's educational progress and ensure that the team is implementing what it committed to doing. The goals should be realistically achievable for your youngster and written in such a way that they are easy to track or “measure,” in order to see your youngster's growth and keep the team accountable. For example, an appropriate goal for a child with Aspergers or HFA of any age might be in the area of developing computer skills. While this may sound rather generic, the spin here is to make it specific to your youngster's disorder.

The purpose of the goal should be clearly stated, such as a goal for accessing the Internet: “The child will develop skills to use a computer to communicate, to gain information, and to increase social relationships independently three out of five times.” Next, objectives to meet the goal should be identified in sequence. The sequence for the computer goal might look like this:
  • The child will create and access a file and store information she wishes to save in the file.
  • The child will learn methods to access social interaction through electronic media (email).
  • The child will learn the functions of the computer, including turning the computer on, signing on to the Internet, and using the keyboard and other functions while exploring her passions (such as searching for information about insects as they relate to a lesson plan).

This ensures accountability as well as consistent support. A method and schedule of evaluation for each goal objective should also be included. For example, the method for the last objective listed might read, “During computer learning opportunities, the child will be afforded opportunity to increase social interactions by learning to use e-mail and other communication avenues.”

A goal for enhancing self-advocacy might address your youngster's ability to identify and communicate her sensory sensitivities in the school environment. A goal or objective might read, “The child will be able to communicate in a socially acceptable manner the specific change she requires in her educational environment four out of five times.” The method should include supporting the youngster to identify environmental stimuli that are irritants and detract from learning.

The IEP should also list “program modifications and specially designed instruction” that may include elements incorporated into goal areas, which team members should bear in mind. Such a useful list may include examples like:
  • Allow extended wait time and processing time.
  • Be consistent with the expectations established for the child.
  • Explain directions clearly, in steps and with visual representations.
  • Limit or eliminate visual and auditory stimulation and distractions in the learning setting.
  • Provide advance notice of schedule and special situations.
  • Provide an individual, weekly schedule to follow.
  • Use photo depictions where possible instead of cartoons or drawings.

The IEP document will also indicate the projected date for implementation of services, the anticipated duration of services, and any revision dates. Specifications addressing how the school district intends to report IEP goal progress should be clearly stated. There must also be a statement reflecting why your youngster's current educational placement represents an inclusive environment as fully as possible as opposed to an alternative placement.

Some moms and dads and school districts are possessed of more experience and greater expertise in educating kids with Aspergers and HFA than others. There will always be kinks to iron out in the IEP process, and these can usually be addressed at the annual IEP meeting or at a requested reopening of the IEP. When moms and dads encounter resistance from a school district it is usually because the district:
  • Doesn't “see” the challenges as a viable diagnosis
  • Believes your youngster's challenges to be exclusively behavioral issues
  • Believes it is meeting the goals and objectives of the IEP to its best ability

Where moms and dads resist a school's efforts, it is usually because they are extremely frustrated that the school district doesn't understand the disorder and, as a result, doesn't “get” how to educate their youngster. Ignorance can be used as an initial excuse, but it is not an acceptable long-term excuse. School districts have a responsibility to make provisions for the continuing education of educators and to seek outside technical assistance and expertise as necessary.

Moms and dads have a responsibility to serve as a resource concerning their youngster's strengths and needs, as well as to direct the district to viable resources and expertise wherever possible. When the circumstances of educating your youngster through proper implementation of the IEP goals and objectives become less than satisfactory, you have recourse available to you, provided by the IDEA law.

You may request an Impartial Due Process Hearing at any point in which disagreement arises about the delivery of education to your youngster. This includes your youngster's identification, evaluation, placement, or implementation of the IEP.

The Impartial Due Process Hearing takes place with an “impartial hearing officer.” The hearing officer is the “fact finder” who hears all the evidence and makes a ruling on the issues presented during the meeting. Such individuals are employed by your state government's education office of dispute resolution and are of varied background and position, such as former education administrators, attorneys, or psychologists.

A hearing is to be held within thirty days of the request. The school district must forward a mother/father's request to the office of dispute resolution within five days of its receipt by the district office. The hearing officer's decision must be issued within forty-five days of the request for the hearing.

There are often delays in scheduling or a hearing officer may not be timely in making his final determination to settle a dispute. During the dispute, the youngster in question is to remain in her current educational placement. The hearing officer's decision may be appealed and taken to an appeals panel within thirty days. The appeals panel must render a decision within thirty days after the review request.

Such measures will be entirely avoidable, but if a mother/father remains dissatisfied after exhausting local administrative avenues, action may be brought in any state court of competent jurisdiction or in any district court of the United States, as provided for in IDEA. There is no statute of limitations for commencing such action in federal court, but it is advisable to file as soon as possible. There may be time-frame limitations for filing a case in your state court.

Moving to file a case is stressful, frustrating, and draining for all parties involved. However, court rulings can set precedent for changes in law to the benefit of all. Any time significant change has occurred in how kids with differences are educated, it has been at the instigation of passionate moms and dads simply wanting fair and equal opportunities for their kids.

You may be a persuasive advocate when interacting with your Aspie's school district. You just may be the person to educate and enlighten the professionals in your district if they require a better understanding of Aspergers and HFA. In some extreme instances, families have moved to another school district or another state in order to have their child attend a certain school program. Unfortunately, in addition to the stress on the whole family that this type of upheaval can cause, it also allows school districts to remain uneducated about how best to support children with autism spectrum disorders.


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

The 3 Interventions to Prevent Meltdowns

"Mark, You refer to 'meltdowns' quite frequently in your articles. Is it not similar to a tantrum... if not, what can be done to prevent them?"

A meltdown is not identical to a tantrum (although there is an overlap on occasion). From a biological standpoint, a meltdown is an emotional outburst wherein the higher brain functions are unable to stop the emotional expression of the lower (i.e., emotional and physical) brain functions. Kids who have neurological disorders are more prone to meltdowns than others (although anyone experiencing brain damage can suffer from meltdowns too).

From a psychological standpoint, there may be several goals to a meltdown, which may or may not be the "rewards" that are consciously desired by the youngster. To many parents and teachers, these goals may seem irrational, inappropriate, and sometimes criminal. To kids familiar with - or trained to recognize - the psychological causes of such behavior, however, there are clear emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and biochemical correlates to meltdowns.

The three major interventions that are usually most effective in preventing a meltdown from manifesting in children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) include (1) managing emotions, (2) a sensory diet to maintain optimal sensory regulation, and (3) visual supports.

1. Managing emotions:

Most often, the youngster's feelings are way too big for the situation. Managing felt emotions does not come automatically, but can be learned over time with systematic instruction. CBT is one example of an effective therapy for managing emotions.

2. Sensory diet:

Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism usually do not have sensory systems that regulate automatically; rather, they must discover how to keep themselves regulated. This is most often accomplished by employing a sensory diet.

Just as a youngster needs food throughout the course of the day, he needs sensory input – and opportunities for getting away from stimulation – spread out over the whole day. A “sensory diet” is a carefully designed, personalized activity plan that provides the sensory input an Aspergers child needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day. In the same way that you may soak in a hot tub to relax, kids on the autism spectrum need to engage in stabilizing, focusing activities, too.

Each Aspergers/HFA youngster has a unique set of sensory needs. Generally, a youngster whose nervous system is causing him to be hyperactive needs more calming input, while the youngster who is more under-active or sluggish needs more arousing input.

The effects of a sensory diet are usually immediate and cumulative. Activities that perk up your youngster - or calm him down - are not only effective in the moment, but they actually help to restructure your youngster’s nervous system over time so that he is better able to (a) handle transitions with less stress, (b) limit sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors, (c) regulate his alertness, (d) increase his attention span, and (e) tolerate sensations and situations he finds challenging.

3. Visual supports:

 “A picture is worth a thousand words” is the absolute truth. Although each child on the autism spectrum has a unique experience, processing written and spoken words is not considered to be her “first language.” Visual supports can be anything that shows rather than tells. Visual schedules are often used successfully with many Aspergers and HFA children. Having a clear way to show beginnings and endings to the activities shown on the visual schedule helps the child to have smooth transitions, thus keeping a meltdown from gathering momentum. For the best results, visual supports need to be in place proactively rather than waiting until the child's behavior unravels to pull them out.

==> My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns


COMMENTS:

Anonymous said… Meltdowns are not always "temper tantrums." I am a certified Aspie and my meltdowns usually have nothing to do with temper to anger. Meltdowns are the result of overstimulation in some area. It could be related to sensory issues such as a certain noise, or certain colored lights, or it could be a reaction to an emotionally charged situation (we don't understand emotions so when emotions are high it is unnerving and we can't handle it). I recently wrote about a meltdown on my own blog The Christian Aspie. It is a first hand account, through the eyes of an Aspie. It is horrible to experience. There is a lot of anxiety and stress, an out of control feeling. I have had milder meltdowns when people lie to me. I have also had rather serious meltdowns when I have just been overloaded in one way or another (usually sensory related). The thing to remember is that 1. We can't help it. Sometimes I have to stomp or flap my hands to release the pressure. 2. There is nothing you can do about it except to try to get the person into a sensory friendly (low sensory input - low lights, muted sound, isolated, etc) area.

Anonymous said… I think a lot of it is semantics. The closest term to describe a 'Meltdown', is a severe temper tantrum, altho a temper tantrum in a 'normal' child is generally caused by a child that is simply not getting his way and has learned that if he pitches a big enough fit, he will get his way. No Aspie or Aspie parent wants that perception to be used to describe an Aspie meltdown. I think there is also a big difference between a 'meltdown' and a 'shutdown', depending on how the aspie deals with the anxiety and often overwhelming experience of trying to navigate the 'normal' world. Some aspies INternalalize their feelings and emotions, and some EXternalize them. An internal 'meltdown' I would describe more as a 'shutdown'. They may be just as devastating to the child, but don't have the same outward effect on those around them, as a full-blown 'meltdown' can have. Especially if it happens in public. In my opinion, the term 'meltdown' has become way overused by some parents to describe anytime their child, aspie or not, cries or doesn't behave perfectly. I often want to tell these parents, "you apparently have never seen a real meltdown". In our experience, Mark Hutton described a meltdown perfectly, and I think the overuse, and misuse of the term minimizes what Aspies and their caregivers deal with daily. Thank you Mark for clarifying this. 


Anonymous said... A meltdown can be very subtle. Essentially they are overwhelmed with emotion or sensory input. Early on this can be expressed as irritability (early in the meltdown). It can go into a tantrum/screaming fit or just as easily into what I call a shutdown (retreating somewhere "safe" and trying to block the world out).

Anonymous said... A meltdown is NOT the same as a tantrum. A meltdown is involuntary, it is not under the child's control, and it is usually due to sensory overload, something important getting changed unexpectedly, or some kind of "straw that broke the camel's back," when somebody's been under chronic stress and there's a final incident that they just can't take anymore. Good ways to avoid one are to tell a child in advance if something in their plans or schedule is getting changed--not waiting until the last minute. Figure out what kind of environmental/sensory stresses cause them sensory overload, and avoid those, or make sure they have a way to escape if they need to.

Anonymous said... I found my meltdowns used to occur mostly in social situations that were noisy -- too much noise, too many people talking, too much input. I have learned to handle them by staying to the side of a room, so it is not all around me and occasionally having a time out (from the noise) where I would go outside or to the bathroom & just breath and calm down. But them I am over 50 and have had many years to figure out what works. It is not a tantrum which, as I understand it, comes from anger and not having ones own way; it seems to be a sensory overload which explodes.

Anonymous said... Tantrums are typically from not getting their own way. Meltdowns or at least with my son are usually because he got overwhelmed with something and doesn't know how to properly express it to me. Kudos for finding something that works for you!
 

Post your comment below…
 

What To Do When The School System Fails To Meet Your Child's Special Needs

"We've had a rough school year with our son (6 year old with high functioning autism). So glad it's coming to a close in a couple weeks! My husband and I are seriously considering some alternate form of education for him in the next school year. What have other parents done in a situation where the school is simply not meeting their child's special needs?"

All Aspergers and high-functioning autistic (HFA) children are different and will have unique characteristics and behavior. Various traits will be displayed differently in every one diagnosed with the disorder. This can make it difficult for schools to adjust their program or restructure the environment in the classroom to accommodate the "special needs" child. As a result, some parents discover that the traditional school setting is not the best scenario for their child.

If you are considering a different educational route for your youngster, then one of the following alternatives may prove to be a good option:

Home Schooling—

The number of home-schoolers in America continues to grow and now totals more than 1.4 million children. The typical home-schooled child is involved in 5.2 social activities outside the home each week. These activities include afternoon and weekend programs with conventionally schooled children, such as ballet classes, Little League teams, Scout troops, church groups and neighborhood play. They include midday field trips and cooperative learning programs organized by groups of homeschooling families. For example, some Washington, D.C., families run a home-school drama troupe that performs at a local dinner theater.

Increasingly, moms and dads of students with Aspergers and HFA are choosing to home-school their kids. This may be because they are dissatisfied with their youngster's school district, his curriculum, or issues related to his IEP. Some moms and dads may feel they know best how to meet their youngster's educational needs, or they wish to afford their youngster individualized educational opportunities that build on passions and interests and provide one-on-one attention. In the most disconcerting circumstances, kids with the disorder may be home-schooled because they have been taunted and bullied by other children, or because educators have misperceived them as “lazy” or devalued them as “underachievers.”

The superintendent of the school district in which the family resides has the responsibility for the supervision of a home-schooling program. When an initial decision is made to home school a child, a mother or father submits a notarized affidavit to the superintendent indicating the plan to home-school the child. The affidavit should be accompanied by a set of objectives that are to be worked on for that school year. This process may be done at any time in the initial school year; however, in subsequent school years August 1 is the deadline for submission.

The school district is required to provide books to the home-schooling family of the texts used by the children in the school who are in the same grade level as the home-schooled child. There is a wealth of curriculum offerings available to home-schooling families as most major educational publishing houses have come to recognize the home school market. Some families choose to invest in one curriculum and use it exclusively; other families pull resources from various places. The one substantial advantage to educating from a traditional homeschooling model is that the supervisor of the program has the flexibility to make decisions that she feels are best for the child and to use materials that are consistent with the needs and abilities of the child.

Throughout the school year the supervisor of the program should keep a record of the days of instruction and all the subjects logged by the child. Some use a plan book, some use a calendar or computerized log. The supervisor also should be consistently and regularly gathering examples of the work done by the child for the portfolio to be assembled for the end-of-the-school year evaluation.

In addition, tutors may be accessed for various areas that the home school supervisor doesn't feel qualified to teach. Private schools or educational institutions affiliated with religious denominations may offer a more individualized curriculum with one-on-one instruction, but the cost of enrolling your youngster may be prohibitive.

When deciding to home-school, parents should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling so they can prepare for any challenges they may encounter.

Waldorf School Model—

Waldorf schools offer a developmentally appropriate, balanced approach to education that integrates the arts and academics for kids from preschool through twelfth grade. It encourages the development of each youngster's sense of truth, beauty, and goodness, and provides an antidote to violence, alienation, and cynicism. The aim of the education is to inspire in each child a lifelong love of learning, and to enable them to fully develop their unique capacities.”

Though most Waldorf schools are autonomous institutions not required to follow a prescribed curriculum, there are widely-agreed guidelines for the Waldorf curriculum, supported by the schools' common principles. Government-funded schools may be required to incorporate aspects of state curricula.

The Waldorf curriculum has from its inception organically incorporated multiple intelligences. There are thus a few subjects largely unique to the Waldorf schools. Foremost among these is Eurythmy, a movement art usually accompanying spoken texts or music which includes elements of role play and dance and is designed to provide individuals and classes with a "sense of integration and harmony". The arts generally play a significant role throughout the pedagogy and Waldorf education's unique integration of the arts into traditional content has been cited as a model for other schools.

The school considers that each phase of childhood requires different perspectives. This translates into seven-year spans, starting at birth through age twenty-one. Throughout, the emphasis is about sequentially teaching what is good, truthful, and beautiful. By these standards, educators honor the work of all kids. The individual interpretations of each youngster are valued in balance with the contributions of others. Kids are shown with care how to be discriminating, thoughtful, and prudent.

Virtual Charter School—

The virtual charter school is like a “public school in a home environment,” but it is not the same as home schooling. Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett and some others started a company called K12, headquartered in McLean, Virginia. K12 provides the curriculum and management services; the virtual charter school hires the educators and support staff. The head of the school, the controller, and a few others are employees of K12.

Why choose a Virtual Charter School?
  • Academic accountability
  • Co-curricular learning opportunities
  • Community involvement
  • Diamond Model Partnership - parent, teacher, family support coordinator and excellent K12 Inc. curriculum
  • Flexible learning opportunities
  • Safe and nurturing home-based learning environment that offers education at an appropriate pace
  • Socialization and outings
  • State-of-the-art technology

To attend a virtual charter school, the child's mother/father withdraws him from the local school district and enrolls him in the virtual charter school. The school district funding follows the child and encompasses books, materials for art and for science experiments, a computer, and other materials. The child also receives a regular education teacher, a special education teacher, and an IEP, just as in the local school district.

The educators become the educational supports working in partnership with the moms and dads (who have the lead) to educate the youngster and ensure he takes all the state-mandated standardized tests. The mother or father must log time daily on a website and track the child's progress, such as what lessons he has completed; lesson plans are also received via the website. Frequent field trips, all of an educational nature, are planned as a way for the kids, educators, and moms and dads to connect with one another.

Charter Schools—

Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The "charter" establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success.

The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3-5 years. At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school's contract. Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor (usually a state or local school board) to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract.

The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: (1) the sponsor that grants them, (2) the parents who choose them, and (3) the public that funds them.

Most states have an educational option called charter schools, in which the school district has received a “charter” from the state. The charter provides rules, such as where it is located and the maximum number of children permitted to attend. With a charter, the school district receives the funding and allocations based on the number of children. The state department of education grants the school district funding to pay for teacher salaries, equipment, and materials to meet the individual needs of each child in a charter school.

Charter schools are considered “public schooling” and must abide by all state regulations. The charter school may have an emphasis on the arts or science with a smaller teacher-child ratio.

Delta Program—

DELTA is best described as a cooperative endeavor among students, parents, and teachers to develop personalized learning programs which best meet the needs and interests of individual students while providing a shared sense of community effort. An important goal is to help students become responsible, independent learners and contributing community members through experiential learning activities and community involvement.

Since its 1974 inception, the Delta program has become a national model for alternative, “nontraditional” educational programming for eligible kids from grades seven through twelve. Delta is founded on the belief that children are motivated to do their best when they are responsible for their own learning. Classes are not arranged by grade level, but by learning level, from introductory to mid-level to high level.

Delta is a partnership between the child, moms and dads, and staff through shared decision-making. Enrollment does not exceed 200 children at a time in order for educators, administrators, and support staff to provide quality, personalized interactions with children. Children are required to complete all state-mandated requirements for education the same as their peers. The program differs in that each child has an advising team (like an IEP team), and an open campus structure allows for flexibility, experiential learning, and community service projects.

Each semester, children in tandem with their advising team design personal educational schedules by choosing from courses offered in required subject areas. However, as a guide, each course has a difficulty level that ranges from introductory to mid-level to high. When planning child schedules, the set number of credits required in each subject area is taken into account along with the difficulty level. In advance of course enrollment, each Delta child is aware of the course content, learning objectives, and the manner in which his work will be evaluated — all of which serves to promote independence and personal responsibility in learning.

Benefits of Alternative Educational Programming—
  • Alternate educational placements may benefit the youngster with Aspergers or HFA through smaller teacher-child ratios, leading to more individualized attention and quality assurance in your youngster's learning comprehension.
  • Educational curricula in alternate settings may have greater flexibility and provide for enhanced opportunities to reinforce curricula in ways that may be tangible and concrete for the youngster on the autism spectrum, such as regular field trips to museums, businesses, landmarks, and other community attractions.
  • Greater individualized attention may mean that your youngster's personal passions can be used to underscore his learning in ways that might prove difficult or impossible in larger public school classes.
  • Smaller class size may afford instructors the luxury of time to focus attention on meeting the unique educational needs of each youngster.
  • There may be opportunity for creative programming in which the youngster may have myriad choices from which to select when planning class projects, presentations, or reports.

Disadvantages of Alternative Educational Programming—
  • A disadvantage to alternative educational programming and placement may be the cost.
  • Social opportunities may be more limited with smaller or one-child classes unless efforts are made to compensate for this.
  • If a newly designed program is considered, planning, implementation, and start-up time are all factors that may be deterrents for some.

Your local school district or state department of education should be able to provide you with details about a range of education program options, as well as funding options and obligations in order for you to make an informed decision about where your youngster receives his or her education.


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

Remarkable Traits That Your Child on the Autism Spectrum Has That “Typical” Kids May Not Have

In the social world, there is not a huge benefit to a precise eye for detail; however, in the worlds of cataloguing, computing, engineering, linguistics, math, music, and science, such an eye for detail is crucial.

The genes for Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) include a combination of abilities that have operated throughout recent human evolution and have made remarkable contributions to human history.

Here are just a few of the “abilities” associated with AS and HFA (i.e., a low central coherence cognitive style):

1.    Visual, three-dimensional thinking – most people on the autism spectrum are very visual in their thought processes, which lends itself to countless useful and creative applications.

2.    Logic over emotion – although people with AS and HFA are very emotional at times, they spend so much time ‘computing’ in our minds that they get quite good at it, and they can be very logical in their approach to problem-solving.

3.    Internal motivation – they are motivated internally, as opposed to being motivated by praise, money, bills or acceptance - which ensures a job done with conscience and with personal pride.

4.    Independent, unique thinking – people on the spectrum tend to spend a lot of time alone and will likely have developed their own unique thoughts as opposed to a ‘herd’ mentality.

5.    Honesty – the value of being able to say “the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.”

6.    Higher IQ – some experts say that those with AS and HFA often have a higher than average general IQ.

7.    Higher fluid intelligence – scientists have discovered that AS and HFA kids have a higher “fluid intelligence” than neurotypical kids, which is the ability to (a) find meaning in confusion and solve new problems, and (b) draw inferences and understand the relationships of various concepts, independent of acquired knowledge.

8.    Focus and diligence – the AS or HFA person’s ability to focus on tasks for a long period of time without needing supervision or incentive.

9.    Attention to detail – sometimes with painstaking perfection!

Kids with AS and HFA are a varied group of people who are mostly bright, funny, articulate, caring, logical, honest, and persistent – and who just happen to think and behave a bit differently.

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

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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.

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Your Child on the Autism Spectrum: What the Future Holds

*** Prognosis ***

There is some evidence that kids with Asperger's (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) may see a lessening of symptoms as they mature. Up to 20% of kids may no longer meet the diagnostic criteria as grown-ups, although social and communication difficulties may persist.

People with AS and HFA appear to have normal life expectancy, but have an increased prevalence of comorbid psychiatric conditions (e.g., major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder) that may significantly affect prognosis.

Although social impairment is life-long, the outcome is generally more positive than for people with lower functioning autism spectrum disorders. For example, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) symptoms are more likely to diminish with time in kids on the high functioning end of autism. Although most students with the disorder have average mathematical ability and test slightly worse in mathematics than in general intelligence, some are gifted in mathematics. AS and HFA have not prevented some grown-ups from major accomplishments such as winning the Nobel Prize.

Kids on the spectrum may require special education services because of their social and behavioral difficulties, although many attend regular education classes. Teens with the disorder may exhibit ongoing difficulty with self care, organization and disturbances in social and romantic relationships. Despite high cognitive potential, most young adults with AS and HFA remain at home, although some do marry and work independently.

Anxiety may stem from (a) preoccupation over possible violations of routines and rituals, (b) being placed in a situation without a clear schedule or expectations, or (c) concern with failing in social encounters. The resulting stress may manifest as inattention, withdrawal, reliance on obsessions, hyperactivity, or aggressive or oppositional behavior.

Depression is often the result of (a) chronic frustration from repeated failure to engage others socially, and (b) mood disorders requiring treatment may develop. Clinical experience suggests the rate of suicide may be higher among teens on the autism spectrum, but this has not been confirmed by systematic empirical studies.

Education of families is critical in developing strategies for understanding strengths and weaknesses. Helping the family to cope improves outcomes in these young people. Prognosis may be improved by diagnosis at a younger age that allows for early interventions, while interventions in adulthood are valuable, but less beneficial.

As one parent stated, "I keep telling my 7 year old that things may be more difficult for him than other kids but he is smarter than his brain (the best way i can describe it at his age) and that he can train his brain to over come most any obstacle. i truly believe that this is possible with a lot of hard work."

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Aspergers and HFA

Kids on the Autism Spectrum and Amusement Parks: Avoiding Over-Stimulation

Amusement parks and recreational theme parks can quickly propel the high-functioning autistic (HFA) or Asperger's youngster into total overload if you, the parent, are not careful.

Your youngster may have enthusiastically anticipated the trip, but no youngster deliberately seeks the public embarrassment and humiliation of a meltdown near the exit to the roller-coaster ride because of improper planning or pacing. This “behavioral” communication (i.e., meltdown) is a last resort when all else has failed.

Going to the Amusement Park: 25 Tips for Parents—

1. At first, start slow with gentle rides, paying careful attention for signs of over-stimulation.

2. After each ride, process the experience with your youngster to gather his impressions and tolerance level. Some children absolutely relish the sensory feedback they derive from seemingly violent, whirling, spinning, upside-down-turning rides – but some don’t, and after the ride is over, they may flip into a full-blown meltdown.

3. Allow your youngster to record the highlights of your activities with a camcorder, with your youngster directing the “movie” and providing the narration, of course.

4. Appoint your youngster the responsibility of taking photographs to share with family and friends. Disposable cameras make this easy and inexpensive, even if you are also using a camera of your own.

5. At some point during the day, know that your child may need the total solitude offered by a nap or reading time in the hotel room.

6. Be aware that many amusement rides feature flashing and spinning lights that may vary in intensity or kick up in intensity once the ride starts. The concern here is that this constant “strobe light” flickering may induce a meltdown in those kids who are overly-sensitive to visual stimuli.

7. Before arriving at the park, play visual memory games about the surroundings, review the day's written agenda, and discuss what you anticipate may be experienced on the rides.

8. Consider museums. Museum may provide a calmer, slower-paced atmosphere that your youngster may find conducive to becoming absorbed in the subject matter.

9. Consider purchasing an “easy pass” or “fast pass” offered for some attractions. Learn about the rules and premium costs involved to access such a system. The passes may be available only at certain times for certain rides, which may cause you and your youngster to rearrange your schedule.

10. Create a “schedule-of-events” with your youngster before arriving at the park.

11. Engage your youngster in assisting you to prepare for attending a theme park by researching all the details (e.g., how far, mode of travel, where to stay, how much, etc.).

12. Ensure that your HFA or Asperger's youngster is clear in understanding the written rules about the ride (e.g., keeping arms and hands inside, staying seated, etc.).

13. Have a quiet lunch somewhere in order to give your child a break from the environmental stimuli (e.g., noise, congestion, etc.).

14. If the theme park is located in an area with other “spin-off” type activities and amusements on a smaller scale, consider attending one of those instead of the park.

15. If there is a way to link any of the theme park activities to one of your youngster's passions, do it! For example, if your youngster is interested in monkeys, then the nearest zoo might be a better option over some other attraction.

16. If you feel anxious about how you would feel riding a certain ride, it's probably a good measuring tool to deny your youngster admittance. As a guide, many amusement parks offer brochures that are coded to indicate appropriate age levels.

17. If your youngster becomes easily distracted by noise — especially unpredictable noises like train whistles, buzzers and bells, or other loud sounds emanating from rides — wearing an iPod and listening to favorite music will be a good survival tool.

18. In addition to scheduling downtime, it may be best to pace the sequence of activities (e.g., riding a roller coaster followed by attending the dolphin show, then on to an exhibit display before tackling another fast-paced ride).

19. Know that riding certain rides can look tempting and exciting — until you're a passenger!!! Take the time to carefully observe any ride you are considering with your youngster prior to boarding. The thrill of most amusement rides is based on surprise, fear, and strong centrifugal force. The extreme emotional and physical stimulation may be too much for your youngster to endure.

20. Make sure that your youngster (a) is hydrated with cold drinks throughout the day, (b) wears sun-block (and a hat, if tolerated), and (c) stays as comfortable as possible while waiting in very warm conditions. He may not know to express his growing discomfort or may be oblivious to it entirely.

21. Many theme parks offer a faster, alternate line for children with disabilities to quickly board rides and other amusements. Selecting this alternative may be ‘stigmatizing’ for your youngster, however many moms and dads with kids on the spectrum swear by this convenience.

22. Stick to the schedule to the very best of your ability and pay attention to your youngster for any signs that the vacation is wearing thin on him, which he may not be communicating.

23. Theme parks are notorious for large crowds and long lines. You know your youngster best and have a sense of his endurance and tolerance thresholds. Build in breaks and downtime throughout the day.

24. Waiting in line can be a frustrating exercise in patience for many children. The HFA youngster may not immediately understand why it's necessary to wait in line. It may be helpful to prepare a written story, in advance of the trip, to review with your youngster before and during long waits in line (include details about what to do and how to conduct oneself while waiting).

25. Weigh whether you think an amusement park vacation is appropriate for your youngster in the context of your family makeup.

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

Kids on the Autism Spectrum Who Spoil the Family Vacation: Tips for Parents

 "We're planning a family vacation for the end of this month. Past vacations have been super stressful due to our child's  tantrums and meltdowns (he has high functioning autism). His behavior turns what would be a very relaxing time into ...honestly, pure hell. We're almost glad to get back home so our son can get back into his usual routine (i.e., comfort zone). Any tips on how to make this next trip less of a headache?"

Some parents find it hard enough to venture out to the grocery store with a high-functioning autistic (HFA) or Asperger's youngster, much less go on a week-long vacation. Like most things, it takes a little planning and preparation. A youngster on the spectrum tends to react much better when he knows what to expect.

Even “neurotypical” kids (i.e., children without the disorder) tend to become irritable and frustrated in constantly changing environments, crowds, and loud noise – but for the HFA youngster, these things are magnified and can frustrate him to the point of boiling-over.

Grown-ups with the disorder tend to become withdrawn when they are over-stimulated or stressed, but HFA kids tend to externalize their stress, which often leads to a meltdown. As a parent of a youngster on the autism spectrum, you will face unique challenges when you break his normal routine. 

Trying the strategies below can make vacations easier for both you and your son:

1. Always travel with comfort food and toys. “Toys” is a broad ranging term, meaning anything from stuffed animals for your youngster to an iPod for your husband.

2. Prepare to be flexible. Even the best laid plans can go awry, especially with an HFA child as part of the group. You were going to have a great family reunion, and then your youngster had a meltdown. That's ok! Just tell the family "Randy isn't feeling well, and we'll need to take off early." Head back to Hotel, put on a video, and kick back. After all, it's your vacation, right?

3. Bring your routine along. As much as possible, attempt to stick to your youngster's normal home routine while you are away. When you must break the routine, make sure to prepare your youngster in advance for what is to come.

4. Check into the all the possibilities. You may have decided against Disneyland based on noise level or food issues. But think again. Disneyland, like many destinations, offers a variety of options for different kinds of visitors. Before you decide that a place will not suit your family, ask about special services and amenities. Research the options and find services that suit your special needs.

5. Choose "off" times for fun. Most children on the spectrum do better with quiet, low-key experiences. If it is summer and you're at the beach, hit the waves early or late in the day or year. If you're considering a theme park, wait until fall or early spring. Early Sunday morning is a great time to explore popular museums.

6. Choose your destination wisely. As you plan your vacation, choose a place that is as calm and quiet as possible. You can find plenty of quieter options that are still lots of fun (e.g., a lake) that take into account your desire for something new and different and your youngster's dislike for noisy, chaotic environments.

7. Chances are that, sometime during your vacation, you'll run into someone who will make a judgmental comment about you, your family, and your child. That someone should not be allowed to spoil your vacation. Be prepared to ignore rude comments and move on to the next activity.

8. Have a plan. Before going on vacation, think about what you will be doing and plan some activities that you know your youngster is comfortable with and will enjoy.

9. Keep it simple. Don't plan too much for any one day, and remember that this is vacation. Try not to make plans that can't be changed if your child has a tough day.

10. Keep your sense of humor throughout the trip.

11. Look for special hotel accommodations. When selecting a hotel, think about what special amenities (e.g., an in-room refrigerator and dining area) might make your youngster more comfortable. Be sure to put in your requests in advance at the time of your booking.

12. Make a memory. Take pictures of the event and work with your youngster to make a book of pictures that can help your youngster remember the things that you did.

13. Pack familiar things. Bring some familiar things from home, such as favorite bedding or a personal DVD player, to make your youngster more comfortable.

14. Bring earplugs and snacks for plane trips, music and picnic food for car trips, and portable music and video for all long-distance travel.

15. Practice beforehand. In the days and weeks leading up to the event, use role-play and rehearsal to let your youngster practice and learn how to deal with the upcoming social situations.

16. Tools like visual planners and social stories can make all the difference to your youngster's experience. If you're going back to a place you've been before, make a memory book from last year's photos. If not, use the Web to find images from Google or tourism websites. You can also create a personalized "social story," describing the whats, wheres, whos and whens of your planned vacation.

17. Relax. If you are stressed, your youngster will sense it. So stay calm and relax as much as possible so that you can enjoy yourself and decrease your youngster's anxiety.

18. Structure your days. It's true that vacations are supposed to be opportunities to kick back and take things as they come. For a child with HFA, however, unplanned time can be extremely stressful. That doesn't mean a planned activity for every hour of the day, but it does mean a daily structure.

19. Travel during less-crowded times. Instead of taking a flight at the same time everyone else does, book an off day or during low season to reduce stress and receive more attention and service.

20. Consider shorter vacations. Rather than going on the traditional week-long excursion, consider a “weekend get-away” or a 4-day trip. Why go away for 7 days if the last 3 days are going to be pure hell.

It may not be effortless to enjoy a vacation when your youngster has an autism spectrum , but with some planning and adjustments, you can make these occasions memorable events that your whole family can enjoy.



COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Can you get a disability pass from Disney for a child with ADHD and Aspergers? I doubt my son will tolerate the lines so, I was hoping to get a pass to cut the time down.
•    Anonymous said... I learned last year onour trip to Universal that my boys need to know what is going to happen on amusement park rides to help with their anxieties about them. We are planning a trip to Disney next year and I plan on researching the rides beforehand. I want to have detailed descriptions of them so that my sons can look over them so they will have an idea of what is coming.
•    Anonymous said... I've learned I have to tell my son ahead of time before we go anywhere. He needs to know where we are going and why. I also try to give him an estimate of how long it should take. Giving him something to do like "can you put the items in the cart when we find them" is another good thing to keep his mind on a task instead of just dreading his walking way through a store for 20 minutes.
•    Anonymous said... We are wanting to go camping this summer, so we are preparing our son by going on short outings to where we want to camp, and making each trip there a little longer. We are also finding out what we will need to bring for him as entertainment as well, with each trip we take we learn more Hope you all have a wonderful summer!

Please post your comment below…

Trouble-Shooting for Defiant Behavior in Autistic Teens

Children on the Autism Spectrum: How Parents Can Provide Communication-Skills Training

If you have a child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's, one of his or her greatest challenges is in the area of communication...

As a parent, you will want to (a) communicate in ways that will support your youngster's ease of understanding, and (b) discover how best to assist your youngster in deciphering communication in everyday conversation. Your youngster wants to be socially accepted by his peers and others, and your efforts to foster a mutual comfort level where communication is concerned will be critical in achieving this goal.

How to help your child develop communications skills:

1. Accept your youngster's (a) “ballpark” approximation of direct eye contact if he stares at your ears, mouth, or some area of your face other than your eyes while you are talking, (b) his need to look away from your eyes in order to formulate a thoughtful, articulate response, and (c) his need to make fleeting eye contact, look away, and then look back.

2. Allow for process time in between steps of instruction. After you've finished talking, give your youngster a chance to ask clarifying questions. Also, ask your youngster if he's ready for more information before going on to the next piece of instruction.

3. Allow your child to make liberal use of the computer. Computers are a tremendous benefit to kids with HFA Asperger's. The computer is liberating because your youngster is free from social pressures with regard to immediacy of response, body language, facial expressions, personal space issues, and eye contact in conversation.

4. As part of “communication-skills training,” request your youngster to model his recall of others' body language and facial expressions, or model them yourself and ask, “Is this what you saw?”

5. Be cautious about over-loading your youngster with too much information all in one shot. As your youngster's mother or father, you will be able to best gauge how much or how little your youngster can absorb at once.

6. Because your youngster will probably interpret others' communications in a very literal sense, he will expect you to do the same. So in communicating with your youngster, do what you say you're going to do by keeping your promises — you'll be held to it!

7. Before giving your youngster instruction, ask him to prepare to make pictures or movies of what you're conveying. Check back on this during your communication by saying something like, “Can you see it?” or “Do you see what that's supposed to look like?”

8. Counsel your youngster in the nuances of neurotypical (i.e., non-autistic) behavior, especially as he enters his teen years (a time when children rely less on their moms and dads and interact with greater social freedom).

9. Develop a written list of key phrases that your youngster can use as a socially acceptable entry into conversation (e.g., “Hey, what's up?” … “What's new with you?” … “What did you do over the weekend?” … “What did you watch on TV last night?”).

10. Ensure your youngster's understanding of what you've communicated by asking him to describe what you've just said.

11. For your youngster, getting the “hang of” people may just come harder and require more effort to understand. The goal isn't one of mastery, but of knowing just enough to get by and be okay.

12. If you must break a promise, apologize to your youngster as soon as possible and let him know precisely when you will fix the situation or make it right.

13. If your youngster tends to have a flat affect, you may be unable to tell through body language or facial expressions if he understands what you have said — even if he says he does.

14. Know that your youngster may be challenged when interacting with peers and others because he: (a) doesn't understand how to maintain personal space, (b) has difficulty understanding the rhythmic flow (i.e., “give and take”) of conversation, (c) has trouble deciphering people's body language, (d) is brutally direct and honest, which may be offensive to others, and (e) talks off topic or interjects information that doesn't fit the moment.

15. Many kids with HFA and Asperger's will not be as successful as they could be when given instruction if they are required to make direct eye contact while you deliver your instruction. Many moms and dads demand direct eye contact from their neurotypical kids by saying something like, “Look at me when I'm talking to you!” But for the youngster on the autism spectrum, NOT making eye contact will help him retain information much better. The youngster with HFA who appears not to be listening may be taking in all – or nearly all – of what you are saying, as opposed to the youngster who is compelled to make direct eye contact to “prove” he is paying attention.

16. Most kids on the spectrum are visual thinkers (i.e., they think in constant streams of images and life-event “memory” movies). This way of thinking is a flowing, seamless, and natural manner of thought for many of these children.

17. Reinforce that it is always considered acceptable to politely request that someone repeat what they've said, or ask for clarification by simply stating, “I don't know what you mean. Can you please say it another way?”

18. Slow down and carefully measure the amount of information you dispense to your child in order to avoid confusion. If your youngster is unable to visualize what you verbally communicate, he is less likely to retain it.

19. Slow the pace of your instruction — especially if it's about something new and different. Also, rethink what you intend to communicate. Can it be simplified?

20. Sometimes you will want to simply abandon all expectations of trying to understand what just happened in favor of providing a gentle hug or allowing your youngster to have a good cry or personal space to temporarily shut down. These “unspoken” communications may have as much, if not more, impact than your verbal communications in the moment.

21. The youngster with an autism spectrum disorder says what he means and means what he says (e.g., ‘no’ means ‘no’ and ‘yes’ means ‘yes’). Your youngster's anxiety and frustration will likely escalate if you repeatedly ask the same question or ask him to change his mind without explanation.

22. Your child’s idea of communication to others, or expressive language, may be skewed from what is considered the norm. Try “debriefing” social situations that were confusing or upsetting to your child by privately, gently, and respectfully deconstructing them portion by portion.

23. Try reaching your youngster with pressing questions and concerns by sending him an email (you may get a reply that will surprise and enlighten your own understanding of the situation at hand).

24. Try videoing at family gatherings, picnics, parties, while playing games, or some other activity, and then use the video as “communication-skills training” to deconstruct your child’s social interactions (do this as naturally as possible; if your youngster knows you are singling him out, he may “overact” and play to the camera).

25. Know that your youngster may be quite challenged in his ability to process receptive language (i.e., understanding what others are communicating). You may be frustrated by his apparent unawareness of the social repercussions of interrupting or saying something with brutal directness.

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

==> 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

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

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers 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.

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

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 child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s 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.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

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

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers 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 Aspergers 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."

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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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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.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content