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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Teenagers on the Autism Spectrum and Learning to Drive

"My daughter is 18 and has Aspergers. Hers is particularly with anti-social behavior and thoughts. My entire family is ridiculing me for not forcing her to get her drivers license, but she is scared and doesn't want to. Should I force her to? Am I wrong?"

RE: "Should I force her to?" No. I'm pretty sure that would backfire. When teens get their driver’s license, parents get worried. And this worry is justified! Here are the alarming national teen driving statistics:
  • 16- and 17-year-old driver death rates increase with each additional passenger.
  • 16-year-olds are 3 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than the average of all drivers.
  • 16-year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age.
  • About 2 out of every 3 teenagers killed in motor vehicle crashes are males.
  • About 2,014 occupants of passenger vehicles ages 16-20 who are killed in crashes are not buckled up.
  • About 2,500 drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 die in motor vehicle crashes every year.
  • About 31% of drivers ages 15-20 who are killed in motor vehicle crashes are drinking some amount of alcohol and 25% are alcohol-impaired (i.e., have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 grams per deciliter or higher).
  • About 37% of male drivers ages 15-20 who are involved in fatal crashes are speeding at the time.
  • About 63% of teenage passenger deaths occur in vehicles driven by another teenager.
  • About 81% of teenage motor vehicle crash deaths are passenger vehicle occupants.
  • Among deaths of passengers of all ages, 19% occur when a teenager is driving.
  • Crashes involving 15- to 17-year-olds cost more than $34 billion nationwide in medical treatment, property damage and other costs.
  • Drivers age 15-20 account for 12% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes and 14% of all drivers involved in police-reported crashes.
  • Hand-held cell phone use while driving is highest among 16- to 24-year-olds.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year-olds.

Now, throw Aspergers (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) into the mix – and parents really do have something to worry about. For a teenager on the autism spectrum, it often takes quite a bit longer to learn all the implications of driving. What may be a problem for the young driver is the ability to judge what other road users, pedestrians, animals, etc. might do and how this should affect his driving. Understanding that not all drivers and other road users obey all of the rules all of the time is a real challenge for young drivers on the autism spectrum.

Neurotypical (i.e., non-autistic) teens effortlessly talk on their cell phones when driving. They smoke cigarettes, eat a sandwich, sing to the radio, and nonchalantly discuss all sorts of topics with their passenger-friends. While they are doing all this multi-tasking, they also have to watch out for other cars in front of and behind them, shift gears, reverse, use the windshield wipers, brake, and so on.

However, for teens with AS and HFA to perform all the above tasks simultaneously is very difficult due their input system. When performing a task which requires concentration, most teens on the spectrum prefer total silence (or at least very little noise). They may not mind listening to a bit of music, but usually don't like someone talking to them because they have to (a) listen to what the other person is saying, (b) think of an answer, and (c) reply.

So how can parents ensure that their "special needs" teenager will not end up killing himself while on the road? Below are some critical tips to consider.

Driving Tips Specifically Related to AS and HFA—

1. Long before driving comes into the picture, be sure to help your child learn how to ride a bike. Learning to ride a bike as a youngster is a very good foundation for anyone with an autism spectrum disorder. Bike-riding skills will help the child become more aware of the possible actions of other drivers and pedestrians. Also having an instructor who is aware of the anxieties and other issues that AS and HFA teens will have goes a long way toward positive lessons where what is taught and being learned is remembered and recalled.

2. Have your teen take driving lessons with a driver education instructor, but double the amount of physical driving practice to help him really get used to reacting to normal driving situations.

3. Ask the instructor to allow your teen to take frequent breaks during driving instruction sessions.

4. Ask the instructor to use physical cues to help with estimating speed and distance. Also ask that the driving instructions be broken down into small sections.

5. Bring information that can help the driving instructor adapt strategies to help your AS or HFA teen understand better.

6. Don't let your teen use computer simulation when practicing to drive. The teenager on the autism spectrum may not generalize the information well enough from computer to real life situations, plus it could confuse him.

7. Have a driving instructor assess your teen’s visual/motor skills. You want to know how easily he gets distracted.

8. Have you teen drive along familiar routes as often as possible. New routes and not knowing where they are going can easily distract and upset teens on the spectrum.

9. Have your teen continue to practice his driving skills even after he has already passed his driving test.

10. Help your teen apply for a driving license at the normal legal age, but be sure to put down Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism on the application at the DMV. It's against the law not to declare this on the application, but it won't disqualify your teen for getting a license.

11. Simulate situations in an empty parking lot that require avoidance steering, emergency breaking and distractions like loud music, water on the windshield and pedestrians until the teen driver is comfortable.

12. Teach your teen to remain calm when other drivers break the rules of the road. AS and HFA teens follow the rules of the road and the signs concretely, sometimes to a fault. Help your teen anticipate the actions of other cars by observing their behavior.

With the above information in mind, parents should be able to have some peace-of-mind knowing that their young driver with special needs will make it home safely with nothing more than an occasional fender-bender.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers & High-Functioning Autistic Teens

How to Discuss Puberty with Your Preteen on the Autism Spectrum

"Our son with high-functioning autism (age 12) has never really had the 'official' discussion about what to expect in puberty. We may have waited too long at this point, but in any case, how can we approach this topic in a way that a person with his challenges can understand (he takes most things very literally by the way - and is a bit immature for his age)?"

The teenage years can be trying for kids and their moms and dads. An autism diagnosis compounds the journey and makes it more complex. Thinking about a future of surging hormones can be very scary for moms and dads. We, as parents, feel a part of ourselves back in that intense and sometimes scary world of our own adolescence. Try not to let your own fears about your youngster’s changing hormones scare him or make him feel that the change he is going through is scary or bad.

A youngster with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can learn to cope with the trials and tribulations of puberty and the teenage years. Your son or daughter may have many questions, and it is important for parents to be tuned-in to what the teenager might be asking for. There are plenty of teachable moments in everyday life. For the conscious and aware mother or father, more often than not, kids teach us as much or more than we teach them. There is no shame in educating (or re-educating) ourselves to be equal to the task.

Many changes happen around puberty, and these changes can certainly affect behavior, including in areas where your teen has already made so many strides. As with all teens, your adolescent may regress in some areas even while he continues to move forward in others. Furthermore, these changes can be unexpected and unpredictable.

Aspergers and HFA teens need information that matches their level of understanding. Your child needs to learn about puberty and the physical and emotional changes he may go through so that he can take some responsibility to piece together what will be happening to him.

Don't wait for your youngster to come to you with questions about his or her changing body — that day may never arrive, especially if your youngster doesn't know it is acceptable to talk to you about this sensitive topic. Ideally, as a mother or father, you've already started talking to your youngster about the changes our bodies go through as we grow.

It's important to answer questions about puberty honestly and openly — but don't always wait for your youngster to initiate a discussion. By the time children are 8 years old, they should know what physical and emotional changes are associated with puberty. That may seem young, but consider this: some females are wearing training bras by then and some males' voices begin to change just a few years later.

With females, it's vital that moms and dads talk about menstruation before they actually get their periods. If they are unaware of what's happening, females can be frightened by the sight and location of blood. Most females get their first period when they're 12 or 13 years old, which is about two or two and a half years after they begin puberty. But some get their periods as early as age 9 -- and others get it as late as age 16.

On average, males begin going through puberty a little later than females, usually around age 11 or 12. But they may begin to develop sexually or have their first ejaculation without looking older or developing facial hair first.

Just as it helps adults to know what to expect with changes such as moving to a new home or working for a new company, children should know about puberty beforehand.

Many children receive some sex education at school. Often, though, the lessons are segregated, and the females hear primarily about menstruation and training bras while the males hear about erections and changing voices. It's important that females learn about the changes males go through and males learn about those affecting females, so check with teachers about their lesson plans so you know what gaps need to be filled. It's a good idea to review the lessons with your youngster, because children often still have questions about certain topics.

When talking to children about puberty, it's important to offer reassurance that these changes are normal. Puberty brings about so many changes. It's easy for a youngster to feel insecure, and as if he or she is the only one experiencing these changes.

Many times, adolescents will express insecurity about their appearance as they go through puberty, but it can help them to know that everyone goes through the same things and that there's a huge amount of normal variation in their timing. Acne, mood changes, growth spurts, and hormonal changes — it's all part of growing up and everyone goes through it, but not always at the same pace.

Females may begin puberty as early as second or third grade, and it can be upsetting if your daughter is the first one to get a training bra, for example. She may feel alone and awkward or like all eyes are on her in the school locker room.

With males, observable changes include the cracking and then deepening of the voice, and the growth of facial hair. And just as with females, if your son is an early bloomer, he may feel awkward or like he's the subject of stares from his classmates.

Children should know the following about puberty:
  • A girl's period may last 3 days to a week, and she can use sanitary napkins (pads) or tampons to absorb the blood.
  • Both females and males have a growth spurt.
  • Both females and males often get acne and start to sweat more.
  • Males grow facial hair and their muscles get bigger.
  • Males' penises and testicles grow larger.
  • Males sometimes have wet dreams (i.e., they ejaculate in their sleep).
  • Males' voices change and become deeper.
  • Females and males get pubic hair and underarm hair, and their leg hair becomes thicker and darker.
  • Females become more rounded, especially in the hips and legs.
  • Females' breasts begin to swell and then grow, sometimes one faster than the other.
  • When a girl begins menstruating, once a month, her uterine lining fills with blood in preparation for a fertilized egg. If the egg isn't fertilized, she will have a period. If it is fertilized, she will become pregnant.

Not surprisingly, children usually have lots of questions as they learn about puberty. For you, it's important to make sure you give your youngster the time and opportunity to ask questions — and answer them as honestly and thoroughly as possible.

Let your youngster know that you're available any time to talk, but it's also important that you make time to talk. As embarrassing or difficult it may be for you to talk about these sensitive topics, your youngster will likely feel even more uncomfortable. As a parent, it's your job to try to discuss puberty — and the feelings associated with those changes — as openly as possible.

It can be made easier if you're confident that you know the subject matter. First, before you answer your youngster's questions, make sure your own questions have been answered. If you're not entirely comfortable having a conversation about puberty, practice what you want to say first or ask your youngster's doctor for advice. Let your youngster know that it may be a little uncomfortable to discuss, but it's an important talk to have.

If there are questions or concerns about pubertal development that you can't answer, a visit to your youngster's doctor may help provide reassurance.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management



Best Comment:

They should also be educated on the social changes. Aspies are socially and emotionally delayed producing an 9yr in an 11 or 12 yr old's body. My son became very confused when girls stopped playing with him and why boys his age didn't want to play with toys.

This is when girls and boys break into groups and say that boys/girls have 'cooties'. Some girls will have monthly mood swings, so explain to boys what's happening to the girl. (My Aspie nephew watches the calendar and stays out of his mother's way one week a month.)

It's also a time when boy have increased testosterone causing some to act as if they were in a primitive society that requires competition between males for their standing in the 'clan' (increase bullying, rule enforcers or 'tattle tales', female protectiveness, and so on.) If your son already has frequent melt downs, he'll have even more during puberty. 

Teach them early to control their anger and frustration. Explain what the bullies will do and act out situations so that your son will know what to do. If not, some Aspies, as a defense mechanism, will, after repeated bullying, become the bully. An example: my son has had to lean to ignore the bullies instead of hitting them; however, if he sees a girl or disabled kid being bullied, he becomes the protector - by hitting the bully. We are currently trying to teach him to either get a teacher or escort the victim away from the situation.

COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS (April, 2019)

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I am at the end of my rope and just need some guidance as I am about to just let go.
I pulled my child out of public school to help her. We were getting no assistance and no one was able to figure out her problems. We now do a private school 3 days a week, home school 2 days and weekends. Since then we have gotten our Asperger's diagnoses, below average working memory and ADD.
My problem is motivation. She has none. No desire to do any of the work. No desire to study for tests. Could Care less if she fails. I am paying an arm and leg for this school and am doing homework with her 30+ hours a week. And she doesn't care.
How do you teach that? We have had a lot of services for everything else and she is very high functioning in the social department now with the small school setting and good friends. But how do I keep paying all this money, sacrifice my life and time for a child who doesn't care about grades, homework or tests. If she fails they will kick her out. I am not asking for all A's (though I know she is smart enough to have them). She has a big test tomorrow and she hadn't studied a bit till I asked her this evening and we spent 3 hrs studying and I bet she knows about 25%.
I seriously just want to get in my car and drive away. I am so beside myself. And I can't hold my anger back which only upsets the situation more. But HOW DO YOU GET ACROSS HOW MUCH THEY NEED TO CARE WHEN THEY DONT!!??

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Dear Mister Hutten,
my name is Andrea and I am a 47 year old Asperger person living in Italy.
I was diagnosed as Asperger person in 2014 by one of the best specialist in Italy that, to make me feel sure that the diagnosis was right, sent me to another doctor to be diagnosed one more time.
The second doctor confirmed me as an Asperger adult person.
Since 2014 I have been with my girlfriend and we are living together since 2016. It is not easy to cope with someone like me but we really want to stay together very much.
Because of that I have been looking around for a blog like yours.
Have you ever though about having your book translated to italian? I think that many couples ASD/NT would be more than happy to ready it.
I will download the book and read it to with my girlfriend so she will be able to understand since her english is not good enough to read it by herself.
Thank you for your good work and support to people like me and couple like us.

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last night we went out with a group of people for dinner ... there were a few other kids there however my son only wanted to play on his iPad. When his iPad ran out of battery ( about 15 minutes after we got there) he started crying .. and then complaining he was tired and getting loud. We ended up having to leave shortly after as to not ruin the night for everyone else. He continued the meltdown into the parking lot, in the car and we told him this behavior was not expectable. He insisted he was just tired and his behavior had nothing to do with the iPad .( we know that is not true he would be on the iPad 24 hours a day if we let him). We removed all electronics from his room when we got home and he went to sleep. I don’t know what to do in this situation how to prevent it or what to do make him understand this is not going to be tolerated . I want him to understand his behavior has consequences which is why we removed all electronics. Can you offer any advice ? This type of situation is a common occurrence. Help ?

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I can’t really relate to younger children issues and I didn’t realize until my son was a sophomore in high school that the amount of behavioral issues and disrespect what not just me having a difficult child. I gave guilt for not seeing it earlier and helping him. He struggled some in middle school and then failed his first class in 8th grade.

He started on drugs, we ended up sending him to an intense daily program. It helped him tremendously. It taught him how to handle conflict and make good choices. Well that only lasted so long and he snuck out, Met a friend and they both got high. I seem to have a 2nd sense about this stuff and wasn’t sleeping when he left. I just felt like something was wrong and got up to find him gone. We started searching for him, as it was extremely cold and I had no idea what to expect. Nothing like this had ever happened to me. He was gone about 2 hours, I found out he was going out out side fence because he found out that was how to avoid the cameras we have. My husband found him, very high, and brought him home. There was no use trying to discuss with him or talk to someone when they are in that state. My husband stayed up with him because he had just started a medication through the program he had started. His excuse was, that he wanted one more day to just do it.

My husband and I are having a difficult time understanding because neither of us and our older (by 19 months) daughter, have never tried drugs. So I don’t understand the feeling, addiction, or pull it has on him.

He did graduate from the drug program. He felt better than he had in a long time and he told us the whole truth of how he was on very hard drugs, but he had a friend that died of overdose and so he was just vaping and marijuana. No matter what his psychiatrist said, or the number of articles I’ve shown him have gone on deaf ears.

He is rude, condescending, I’ve felt scared that he was going to hit me. It’s been extremely hard. I love my son more than anything. I could even go as far as saying we have always been close. So this has all wounded me pretty deeply.

He turned 18 in December. He is doing online high school (after I pulled him from the regular high school as a junior because of the friends and drugs. He was just going down hill and they were helping him get there) and after many tests for an IEP we now know how much he struggles. He only has 2 classes left to graduate. He is ignoring them and unfortunately I’m trying to talk to him while doing some of his work for him, while getting short and rude answers. He has moved out, the environment in our house when he was here was extremely dark. I have my own mental health problems and he was putting me in a very bad place because I am so helpless against him. His dad tries and ends up getting angry because of the way I am being treated and he just wants to refuse all help for him. I am struggling with that.

He is living with his sister and working mostly full time. I am just waiting for the day that he gets fired. He was fired from his last job because of wreck less behavior, which was him trying to “play” with someone he considered a friend. Who was not and went straight to management to get him fired. He pays rent at her house and I don’t know how much longer she will keep him there.

At that point I don’t know where he will go. Do I let him come home? Start our problems all over again? Do I tell him, he has made his choices not to be a part of our family...I do feel that mentally he is at about the age of a 15/16 year old. I don’t think he has a clue how to be an adult.

We’ve given him all the tools he needs to be successful in his job and life. All he has left is the 2 classes for high school. I know that if he doesn’t pass I can say for certain he will not be able to pass a GED class. We found out on certain classes and learning skills he has at about a 4th grade level. While in others he is at a college level.

We buy his groceries each week, we gave him our car (not the newest, but nice and in great condition). That was my request so he had no excuse not to get to a job. We still pay his insurance and phone. Other stuff we are leaving to him to figure out. Eventually, we will pull each thing from him.

I’m not even sure what I’m asking for. My husband thinks that I need to just cut off everything (especially me trying to help him finish school). This feels like cutting off an arm, taking away a piece of my heart. I am the one most affected by this, as I am the one he lashes out on and is the most awful to.

He has lost 20lbs and at 6’1”, he is below average weight at 140lbs. The last time he was this thin, it was due to drugs. I hate that my mind goes there.

At what point do you say enough is enough and truly let go. He is 18, I cannot force him into at home testing, like we were doing. I cannot make him do school. I can’t even make him go rotate his tires, or get a haircut when I am paying for it. I don’t know how to step back on a child that owns so much of my heart.

I would appreciate an outsiders opinion.

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I read your article about parents with Aspergers and the disturbing reports from children. I need some direction. I’ve been dating a man for a little over two years. I’m extremely familiar with Aspergers (education in Early Childhood Development and Psychology) and know my boyfriend is on the spectrum. I have a six year old and have determined it is not in my child’s best interest to be parented by someone on the spectrum. (My sons father passed away when he was just 2.5 and he doesn’t remember his dad) I’ve kept my son out of the relationship, entirely. I’ve decided that it’s best if I end the relationship. Here’s my struggle. My boyfriend has three boys. A 22 year old diagnosed with Aspergers, a neurotypical 19 year old and a 17 year old. I’ve grown attached to the 17 year old. I see me when I look at him. He exhibits classic ADD (inattentive) like myself, struggles in school, is talented in music, and has a similar upbringing. Like him, I have a father with undiagnosed Aspergers. Also like him, I have an extremely narcissistic mother. His mother has severe ADHD, a history of adultery, during which she exposed this boy to the men) and is predisposed to inappropriate relationships with teenaged boys. Both parents are extremely, verbally abusive to this boy. They are not abusive to the other two. They call him a “little bitch,” “piece of shit,” “loser,” and many other things. They are both extremely unpredictable in their moods and meltdown routinely. Screaming is a daily occurrence, along with all the other issues associated with those afflicted with Aspergers and ADHD. The son recently moved in with his father. He is very neglected. He’s been on multiple SSRI’s and has severe depression with bouts of mania. He sees the same psychiatrist as the son diagnosed with Aspergers. So here’s my issue. To my knowledge, his doctor has no clue about either of the parent’s issues or abusiveness, the neglect or what this kid is dealing with, or the extent of his depression or manic episodes. I’ve encouraged his father to seek a diagnosis for himself, but he just has a tantrum and screams he’s not Autistic and he’s “nothing like my autistic son.” I’ve also encouraged him to enroll his depressed son into therapy so he has someone to talk to. He refuses. He doesn’t want his son to have a male mentor that’s not him. I want SO BADLY to write a letter to this child’s doctor testifying to some of the abusive and neglect I’ve witnessed as well as the child’s unreported behavior. He’s now engaged in high-risk behavior, he’s defiant, oppositional, breaking laws, ignoring curfew, getting drunk alone at his mothers house during the day when he skips school, etc, etc.

Here’s the million dollar question.

If you were this child’s doctor, would you want to know these things? Would this help this boy if you knew? And if so, how would you want to be told or approached?

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I have been dating/ living with my boyfriend for almost a year now.  A little back ground on me is I am 51 years old, divorced for almost 4 years, mother of a wonderful 24 year old young man Lane, his fiance' Christina and my wonderful 2 year old gran daughter Chesni.  I also have a 18 year old granddaughter named Kelisy who is the daughter of my son that was killed in 2003 in an auto accident.  My oldest son's name was Kenny, and he was the most wonderful, caring, kind, old soul you would have ever met.  I did not give birth to Kenny but I started raising him when he was 2.  First as his babysitter, then as his mother.  With that being said, I know how to be a great parent.  Not perfect, but a loving caring disciplinary.   So, here is where the my problem begins.  My boyfriends son Halen.  He just turned 14 and I am positive he has Asperger's or HFA that has never been diagnosed.  I have mentioned it to his parents but they just sweep it under the rug. Halen will not function in today's society. Greg (Halen's dad) has tried everything in his power to help Halen and his behavior.  But nothing is working.  Greg asked me last night, "Why is he so wierd?".  I want to help both of them badly, just like I wanted to help my brother quit drinking.  He died at 36 from sirossis. Only those who help themselves. I just thought if I gave a little push. Halen is not going to thrive like I know he can unless something is done.  They wanted to try counseling but Halen didn't want to go so guess what, they didn't go.  Halen spends 24/7 watching YouTube or playing video games.  Nothing else.  I am not exaggerating.  24/7 on his phone or tablet then straight to his room for more gaming or videos.  He is constantly cussing and making derogatory comments about other races.  He and his father fight constantly about taking a shower.  He will not take a shower.  He cannot socialize  with family members at  get togethers.  I love the kid but I am getting to the point where he makes me feel uncomfortable some times with showing affection.  Please Mark,  I need your advice on what to do for Halen.  Or should I cut the cord and run from this relationship now?  If I cannot get his parents to admit he has special needs he will never be able to function in society as an adult.  My family all say he is just a spoiled brat.  But I have worked with special needs children and teens before and I know special needs when I see it.  I hope you can understand this email. I'm sure I am rambling but I just found you on the internet and was very excited to hear more from you.

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Hi there,

I bumped into your article on parenting teens with RAD and thought I would ask about your services, especially around parenting support. Our 15 yo internationally-adopted son is going to be retuned home relatively soon from foster care, and nothing has changed from when he left. The standard "help" the system is providing isn't changing anything and even though we have found an attachment therapist who we feel could move the needle, our boy won't go.

DCF blames our poor parenting for his problems, and it is increasingly clear to me that if there is any immediate hope, it may be with us bringing new/better parenting to the table. Your article synthesized so much of what I have been taught or read, but I guess haven't understood as a whole, or have failed to do consistently. And while I don't wan to do more work on this than he is willing to do, that is currently the case.

So, curious about your services. You clearly understand about RAD, and so few really do.

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I am convinced my husband of 15 years has Aspergers.  He has not been diagnosed. Not sure how well he would take the news. 

My question:  While we courted, I did not pick up on any evidence.  He was romantic, sensitive to my needs, very attentive…etc…    Is it possible that they can put great effort into something they really want?  It seems that as he got “comfortable” in our marital relationship, the evidence became very clear.  Over the years I have researched, done the tests (because I know him so well), and he fits the bill.

I have accepted it…work with it…love this man and I know his heart.  I think we are at a place where I need to sit down with him, and we approach this together. He will be 65 in June.  I am 64.

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 Need help with my husband's great nephew.  He is defiant and has an eating 
disorder.  He lived with us for 10 months and is currently living with his 
Aunt, but now his aunt cannot handle him and wants us to take him back.  My 
husband does not want to put him out on the street nor turn him over to the 
state and wants to give him another try to living with us, but I do not 
want him to come back because I don't think he want s to change.  His 
mother does not want him and his father is in jail and he has really nobody 
to take him.  Can you give me any suggestions???

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Dear Dr. Hutten,
I am so happy to have found your videos and wealth of information on Asperger's and HFA!! I am in the midst of a situation involving my daughter Jessica and my grandson Sam.
Sam is 18 and since the age of 2, I have been convinced he has Asperger's. He has so many of the traits and has experienced terrible melt-downs all these years. Recently, Sam was evicted from his home by the police the day after a particularly severe melt-down.  I live in Ontario Canada and Sam and my daughter live in British Columbia. I was horrified at what had taken place. Sam was ambushed, he had no idea this was going to take place. I am the grandparent who lives away, my daughter's former in-laws and ex-husband all live in the same area. They all know he is different, he has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. However, no one has bothered to research Asperger's and attempt to help him. He is continually punished for his odd behavior.
Sam called me a few hours after this event and was in a terrible way. I have never heard another living being in that kind of pain. He was confused, felt betrayed and abandoned.
His mother without warning to him preplanned the entire event. She arrived home after work with her father in law, a corrections officer neighbour and the police, Sam was home cleaning the apartment in an attempt to say sorry for his meltdown when the event took place
I calmed Sam by speaking in a soothing, quiet voice assuring him that I was here for him and he was not alone. I told him I love him and that together we would work things out. I bought him a plane ticket and a few days later he came to me. Together we have been working on a plan for Sam. I am in big trouble with my daughter and her inlaws. I don't care. I have begged her for 17 years to research Asperger's and get him the proper help. I know she is tired and worn out. I get it. I lived in Vancouver and I spent the first six years with Sam and witnessed first hand the symptoms. He has sensory issues, hates change, is fact- oriented, food issues, bright lights bother him, he is extremely intelligent and the list goes on. Dr. Hutten, I have read articles for years trying to figure all this out in order to protect my grandson. I now have Youtube on the television and your videos confirm everything I have always believed!
Now that Sam is 18 I am able to help him without interference from his parents. He has asked me to be his advocate and together we will sort this all out. I have to send him home on Thursday and I am terrified. Sam and I have been putting a plan together to help him job search, look at post-secondary education and future living arrangements. He has a girlfriend Morgan who is a tremendous support! Without her, Sam would have been in danger of hurting himself of that I am certain.  Sam and I are very close, we always have been and he trusts me. I have introduced him to Asperger's and he agrees that it fits. I sense the relief in him. Now, finally after all these years it is starting to make sense to him. He is open and willing to investigate things further. I have written but not sent a letter to the family. I explain what Sam and I have been doing this past week and what his intentions are going forward. I talk about Asperger's and how as a family we can all help him be his best self.
Sam is an incredible young man! I have every confidence with the right help and guidance he will be happy and successful in his life.
What can I do Dr. Hutten to prepare him for the inevitable blowback that he and I will receive from the others? He knows they will be critical and judgemental. He will be living at his father's until he has found a job and is able to move out.
Any advice you can give me will be greatly appreciated.

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I stumbled across your e-book in search of answers.  I've been dating a guy for three years now. He says he is in love with me, wants to marry me, and have a family.  I'm not sure about that because my life has been glimpses of heaven and for the most part Hell in this relationship!  At first I thought maybe he was cheating on me, and needs a reason to leave my house each time we argued.  I just didn't understand.  Until one day I decided to leave him at my place alone just to see if he was entertaining another woman. And to my surprise he was just watching one of his favorite movies. Then something very strange happened. While watching the movie alone, he got stuck on this one line "my brother," and rewound that line about 1,000 times!  He played it over and over and over again!!! It wasn't until his phone rang, that snapped him out of the "my brother" trance!
I've also found him to be very controlling and clingy. Of course he doesn't think he is but this is how I feel.  He calls me every hour of the day, wanting to know my play by play. I'm so tired of it!  I dare not answer the phone because he will go off and accuse me of cheating on him!  That's why I thought he was cheating on me, when all he was doing was rewinding a line from his favorite movie 1,000 times!  This is so crazy! 

All he wants to talk about is his tech business that he owns! I'm a successful professional singer, and have been for over 15 years with cover bands! I rarely work on my own original material, but this particular night I got inspired to record a "Christmas song."  I was so excited about it and I couldn't wait for him to hear it.  I couldn't believe he acted sooooo uninterested. Then he had the NERVE to say, "You Don't Have To Impress Me!"  I was so hurt and offended because singing has been my life forever besides cosmetology.  I'm an "Artist" ok?! This is who I've been for years before we ever met!  He says I'm EVERYWHERE!  But I'm not! I can't loose myself to him and his insecurities.  He has all these "man" rules, that no one knows of but him... I'm ready to leave him! I can't be myself in this relationship!  That's also the issue because I keep trying to break up with him and it goes in one ear and out the other!  He argues with me all the time. I tell him every argument that If I make him so unhappy than he should leave me!  I want him to be with someone who isn't "EVERYWHERE!"
I am going to purchase your book this weekend! I don't want this relationship to work! I want to leave and be able to communicate that clearly this time!  My father looooves him!  I think he's on the spectrum too!  I am 37 with no children and, I want to be free of this!  I deserve someone who will love and respect me!  All I want is Peace!!! Hopefully I can find this in your book!  Do you do offer any online counseling? If so, please send me the info!

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I am a mother of a 23 year old Aspie. I need to figure out how to help HIM understand priorities. He is graduating from online college this May so I have been here to keep him on track for four years. He is going away this fall to graduate school and I’m afraid he won’t be able to do it on his own. For example yesterday evening he had a new sword class that he was going to attend. (Swords- his hyper focus subject) But yesterday he had his huge senior thesis paper to finish which MUST take priority. I walked by him at his computer watching a sword instruction video because all he could think about was his upcoming new class. I am here to bail him out by making him cram his time today to finish the paper, but this fall, who will be there to see him do things like this?  What would happen if he did this at work?

Can you help me figure out how to help him navigate this fall?

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My husband and I have been listening and trying to implement your program.  My son is  a textbook case to your talks and I guess we are too.  We have had an awful 6 months.
Our son is 16 years old – very demanding and strong willed.  He hates school with a passion and that started a lot of his problems.  He does the bare minimum, and is currently failing 2 classes.

We have been through depression, suicidal talk, inpt stay, having to call police on him for being aggressive and currently we found out he has been smoking pot daily for the past 6 weeks, when we found a written business plan to start selling it.  We immediately took his car away from him and he was previously grounded for grades.  He sees a psychologist weekly, we see a psychologist, and he sees a psychiatrist. 
He has been telling huge lies to us almost for sport.    We have stopped reacting to them and try to maintain our poker face.  The school counselor called me bc he told her one of his best friends “died in his arms”  (not true)  He started off with the attitude that he was not giving it up and it should be legal, etc. He needed it for depression and anxiety.   He is now saying he will stop, but he wants his car back.  He got aggressive demanding his car back last night and ended up leaving and not coming home, we remained calm and unresponsive even as he shouted cuss words in our face.    He has texted saying that he wants to stay at a friends for a week or 2 and get his life together, but he really needs his car back.  I responded that I was very happy he was getting his life together, but when he chose to drive high, he chose the consequence of losing his car. He has not has his car for 2 weeks (The second week was spring break and we were on a family trip.)  He was last high that I know of 1 week ago.  He was clearly high when I picked him up from school last Friday.
We have told him we are going to drug test him as part of regaining his car and he added hand sanitizer to the sample trying to get a clean drug test so he can get his car back. We can not even discuss anything else because he goes straight to the car and demands it back.  We have an appointment this coming week at an adolescent substance abuse center in our area that will do a 3 hour intake with him and recommend treatment (provided we can get him there)

He has an appointment with his counselor Monday and we have told him we will discuss the steps to get his car back then with him present.  I’m hopeful it will not escalate to us having to call the police if we are there.

How do you suggest we handle the car?  How do we handle grades?

He is currently grounded until his grades are higher than a 70% and has no car because of the pot.  He has his phone which is allowing us to track him since he has not come home.  I asked for it, but he would not hand it over and left when grounded and hasn’t returned. 

My husband an I are at wits end.  It never stops..
We have found your program very helpful, and you seem to understand our kid.  He is good looking  kid and can be quite charming, and I think it takes a long time for  any counselor to understand the problems.  The main problem is that he does whatever he wants, regardless of the consequences. 

If you do any kind remote counseling, we would love to hire you.  We do not know what to do.

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Dear Mr. Hutton
I just saw your program advertised and have a question for you. We have been raising our 17-year-old niece for seven years and she has been the child from hell. She has lots of issues that she’s going to have to deal with and is in with a great counselor right now who is beginning to do that. I like many feel like we have tried everything. She has gotten better with authority which is amazing but is very mature yet immature in  so many ways. She is VERY strong willed and doesn’t learn from mistakes very often, is not a good communicator and doesn’t really want to be when we talk. She pretty  Much thinks everyone is annoying. She has set boundaries and goes along with them pretty well.
I read where you said they don’t need counseling that this will help. She talks all the time about leaving in eight months when she is 18. Is this something that can still help them when most of the problems come from her very troubled past and being triggered often. Would this be something that would still be useful since most of her reactions are from that? Our problem most of the time is not knowing what kind of consequences to enforce that go along with the  situation. Not getting to drive losing her phone? That’s about all she cares about. She doesn’t have many friends and of course she only picks ones that she can I identify with with her past. We use love and logic also.
I’d like to know if this would still help us at this point. Ty

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Good Afternoon. I read your blog on teaching about sex to our Aspie children. It was very good and I agree completely. I have a 24 year old that is very high functioning but still had issues getting him to understand that he had to keep his hands to himself and he just couldn't touch people. Also grateful for other understanding parents.

I am doing a radio show on WMNF here in Tampa, Florida and each show I try to take a facet of Autism that may help parents bridge the gap of communication, actions and understand so that we may try to understand our kids better. Possibly I was alone, but my son did things I did not understand for years, sometimes decades. I believe that had I have known more, or had more resources, I would not have made so many mistakes.

I would invite you to be on a future show with me. It can be done on the phone and remotely from your location. It is a 55 minute air and we would be taking phone calls from other parents looking for answers. I would be happy to promote your blog and credentials.

This is not an easy topic and I have heard horror stories from other parents. Due to confidentiality I am not at liberty to share them, however some have gone so far as an unknown pregnancy, delivery alone, fear and ultimately death. Reaching out to even 1 parent to help avoid this horrible situation is a moral imperative.

I have many topics that I am organizing with experts. If there is another topic that you feel is equally important, I would be more than happy to discuss it with you.

Why Your Child on the Autism Spectrum Prefers to Play Alone



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

Dealing with Disrespectful and Defiant Behavior in Teenagers on the Autism Spectrum

Many moms and dads have difficulty recognizing the difference between a deliberate, strong-willed teenager with High-Functioning Autism (or Asperger's) and one who is simply trying to cope with the traits of the disorder. Clearly, there's a range between the usual rebellious behavior of teens versus other (comorbid) mental health issues.

Here are several articles that may help parents to better understand their "special needs" teen:

Behavior Problems in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

High-Functioning Autistic Teens and Oppositional Defiance

How To Discipline Rebellious Aspergers and HFA Teens

Imposing Effective Consequences for Noncompliant Teens on the Autism Spectrum


40 Tips for Parenting Defiant Teens with Asperger Syndrome

Parenting Difficult Teenagers on the Autism Spectrum

Discipline for Defiant Aspergers & High-Functioning Autistic Teens

Junk Food Diet in Teens with Aspergers & High-Functioning Autism

"Any suggestions on what to do for a 13 year old teenager with Asperger's (high functioning) who is perfectly content to eat pizza rolls morning, noon and night - to the exclusion of most other foods? Very frustrating!"

When it comes to adolescents with Aspergers (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA), appropriate diet and nutrition is a critical issue. Even slight worsening of moods, or additional absent-mindedness due to low blood sugar from skipping a meal, may cause these adolescents to fall into difficulties in important social situations. Once they have created a "social storm" (e.g., a rift with a classmate, an argument with an educator), these adolescents often have more trouble than “typical” adolescents navigating the troubled waters and reaching a safe shore.

In the United States, we often have too much food, and paradoxically, much of it is not healthy or nutritious. Many AS and HFA adolescents complain about the food provided for them and may refuse to eat. Many don't eat well at prepared meals with their families, because they have a confusing array of other choices. They often do not view making daily decisions about what is - and is not - nutritious as their job. That’s where wise parents come in. Parents should guide their AS and HFA adolescents to eat wisely by providing nutritious food, and by limiting the supply of non-nutritious foods available.

At the same time, eating together is one of the most affirming and basic family-building activities possible. It also links us to other human beings in our own community and other communities. It’s one activity that we all have in common, no matter what culture we are from. Our first job as parents, therefore, is to return a sense of pleasure to family mealtimes, and to eating in general, if it isn't already there. Our second job is to plan for food that is appropriately nutritious, even planning some meals with our adolescents. Our third job is to prepare the food with a calm attitude and with thoughtful attention to the needs of our adolescents, whether it be for portable meals, late-night snacks, or a constant supply of pocket-sized nutritious energy-boosters.

Here are several ways to keep positive attitudes about food in your home:
  1. Try music and candlelight for a change. Ask your adolescent to choose some quiet music that he or she especially likes.
  2. Start each meal together, at the table, and wait for everyone to be there. It helps to share a moment of silent appreciation, a chosen quote, or a prayer if you are so inclined. Let all family members take turns choosing the opening.
  3. Offer only nutritious foods at mealtimes. Try to buy as many fresh foods as possible, and use color contrasts to make the meal appeal to the artist in your AS or HFA teen.
  4. Get family members to take turns helping to set the table creatively with attractive – even unusual – centerpieces or decorations. Some of these may even help generate conversation with ordinarily quiet, self-absorbed adolescents.
  5. Don’t make meal times a time to criticize or moralize. Try to open the conversation to everyone, and avoid topics that exclude some family members, or are boring for kids or teens. 
  6. Ask family members what their favorite dinners are, and either prepare those meals yourself, or allow them to prepare those meals once a week.

Planning and preparation:

Turning your kitchen into a generator of good nutrition and better eating habits may feel like a monumental task, but it is entirely manageable if broken down into tasks that only take an hour or less.
  1. Based on your family's list of favorite meals, and the cook's preferences, create a new grocery list featuring fresh foods and non-sugar foods for the main meals.
  2. Go through the refrigerator and the pantry shelves and gradually reduce and eliminate unhealthy foods. These include those foods whose primary ingredient is sugar (i.e., the first ingredient on the label), and foods with artificial ingredients, including preservatives and artificial coloring. Get rid of all soft drinks. Extra salty or fatty foods should also be limited (although these are more problematic for adults; adolescents can handle some salty, fatty foods because of their higher activity levels). Then don't buy unhealthy foods anymore. If anyone asks, you can tell them you can't afford them. Having to buy these foods themselves will immediately reduce your adolescents' (and other family members') need for them.
  3. Rotate cooking duties. Cooking is a practical skill and art form that all adolescents should master early in life. An adolescent with AS and HFA may especially appreciate feeling self-confident serving tasty food he or she has prepared to friends and family.
  4. Continue to provide some snack foods, portable foods, and quick meals. These in-between food sources are often the culprits in poor nutrition and diet. Thus, it is crucial to look closely at ingredients, and change the foods that are available whenever you determine that the current offerings are unhealthy. Make sure that you provide a continual supply of a variety of these meal alternatives, or your adolescent will resort to relying on vending machines and friends.
  5. See how many canned or already prepared foods you can replace with fresh foods. These foods are often a hidden source of unwanted sugars, preservatives, and other chemical additives that can actually damage your family's health. Try the local health food store for spaghetti sauce and other sauces and dressings free of chemistry experiments; farmer's markets often have homemade jams, hot sauces, pesto, flavored honey, herb vinegars and other specialties. Check the local bakeries for bread; often bakeries sell their day-old bread at a significant discount - and it is still a lot fresher than what you will find at the grocery store!
  6. Pay special attention to breakfast foods. You may have to woo your adolescent to the breakfast table, but it is worth the effort. Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day for regulating energy levels, brain power, and moods.
  7. Preparing food should be a happy, not a harried, activity. Have a rule in your house that the cook gets to choose the music or radio program while preparing meals, and others are in the kitchen at the same time only if they are contributing to a positive atmosphere.
  8. Whoever does the majority of the cooking in the family should consider what foods he or she enjoys the most, and should check out a few cookbooks featuring their favorite foods from the library. A happy and inspired cook makes good food. Inspiring food makes better mealtimes and better nutrition possible.

Examples of healthy snack foods:
  • apples and peanut butter
  • carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes
  • cheese and wholegrain crackers
  • granola or homemade granola bars
  • peanuts and raisins, or other fruit/nut mixes
  • quick breads and muffins made from scratch
  • whole yogurt with fresh fruit and honey
  • yogurt and fruit "smoothies" made in the blender

Easy recipes:

Portable foods need to be hard, or in a hard container, so that they are not squashed and unappetizing by the time your AS or HFA adolescent gets around to remembering to eat them. Apples and granola bars are a good start. Consider getting some beef, elk, venison or bison jerky from a place that makes their own jerky (more farmers and ranchers are starting to offer these products for sale). Also, find a favorite cookie recipe. Using whatever basic chocolate chip cookie recipe your family prefers, cut the sugar by one-quarter cup, and substitute one-half cup quick oats for one-half cup of the flour required. Add chopped nuts, and even coconut flakes, if you prefer. Use real butter rather than margarine. Making a variation of these cookies each week, and filling the cookie jar will provide a more nutritious treat than store-bought cookies.

Quick meals should be meals that adolescents can cook for themselves in the afternoon after school, or late at night when returning from an evening out, or if they are up late studying. Provide instruction in how to prepare basic pasta, and then make sure that a variety of interesting pasta shapes and sauces are readily available and that your adolescent knows how to find the necessary ingredients and pots and pans by him or herself. Egg-based meals are another example. Make sure that your adolescent knows how to prepare basic scrambled eggs, omelets, fried or poached eggs, hard-boiled eggs, and French toast. With just these two basic food sources in his or her cooking repertoire, your AS or HFA adolescent can create a dozen different healthy meals.

Rather than using direct praise for positive changes in your adolescent's eating habits (which may feel too intrusive or excessive for what he or she will rightly regard as a very basic part of life), ask your adolescent to cook for the family. Saying something like, “You prepare such good food these days; could I get you to cook for everyone once this week or next week?” will make your adolescent feel both self-confident, and needed. For an AS or HFA adolescent, these are the marks of growing into adulthood and family membership as the contributing adult that he or she wants to be, deep down.



COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... 9 year old only eats bean burritos, and top ramin.
•    Anonymous said... Can you and her cook some. Wholemeal bases. Goats cheese, different vegetables, etc etc. i do with my boy and he eats them cuz we made them do they must be better.
•    Anonymous said... cheese pizza, grilled cheese, chips-and cutting back on his amounts. Also pop tarts, waffles, beef sticks.
•    Anonymous said... Corny dogs and ketchup, peanut butter and jelly, and spagetti. I can't get my 7yr old aspie boy to eat anything else.
•    Anonymous said... Food allergy testing might reveal some surprises. Dairy and wheat are very common allergens and worsen some ADD/ Aspergers symptoms. Take it or leave it... if you test, only do the IGG blood test which picks up all the sensitivities.
•    Anonymous said... I have same issues with my 13 yr old son, left to his own devices, he forgets to even eat. Only time I get vegetables in him is at dinner, and that can sometimes be a struggle. He would live on sausage rolls and chicken savory bites if we let him. He will not try new foods, and only eats plain foods. I also find it frustrateing, but feel lucky that I can get veg into his main evening meal, but even that he will not eat with sauce or gravy, it all has to be plain.
•    Anonymous said... I really don't have that issue with my daughter.We just started out as a baby you eat what you get.And if I think issues will arise,I give a choice of two items.But she has a tendency to love the good stuff like steamed cabbage,Brussels sprouts and does not like alot of junk food.Would not eat Cheerios,cookies,and stuff like that as a baby.
•    Anonymous said... It's pretty standard now to remove gluten and dairy from anyone's diet who has autism. We took my son of it (now 11) 2 years ago and almost immediately his meltdowns reduced by 70%, his functioning increased shockingly and now he tries all sorts of foods. Gluten and dairy are addictive to those with autism and effects every area of their development.
•    Anonymous said... My daughter eats the same thing everyday for breakfast and lunch...I ask her doesn't she get tired of the same old thing and she says no..As long as she is eating and happy it's fine with me She is 11 and her lunch everyday is a peanut butter and banana sandwich,her favorite snack an apple.
•    Anonymous said... My guy seems to have a different 'preferred food' every week or 10 days or so. They rotate, but generally it's pizza or pasta or indian food or ethiopian food or salad with feta cheese and olives. Period. Nothing else. Which ever preferred food it is that day is all he'll eat all day, for days. And I never know when it's going to switch, or to what, so I often find I'm not prepared for the switch and melt down ensues. I don't have any answers. Luckily my guy isn't a huge processed food kind of guy. But I have learned that once I introduce a food it may, or may not, end up on his preferred foods list. So if I don't want him eating pizza pops all day for days on end, I need to never introduce pizza pops. Not once. That happened with us with frozen pizza. Always made my own until one day broke down and bought a frozen one because too tired to make one and now he 'prefers' frozen and expects frozen every day all day when it's his preferred food. I've had to try all sorts of tricks to try to get him to revert back to homemade pizza and we've had many meltdowns. Lesson learned. Never never never introduce a food I don't want him living off of.
•    Anonymous said... My son is 10 and also eats micro pizza or pasta with pesto for virtually every meal. I just try to make sure he is eating fruit etc for snacks so that he is getting some nutrition.
•    Anonymous said... my son is 21 with aspergers and thats all he eats
•    Anonymous said... My son is the same way, he has a limited amount of foods he eats and when he is stuck on one thing right now pizza bagels he wants them morning noon and night! Then he will get tired after a while and move to something else like Mac and cheese etc etc
•    Anonymous said... my son only eats a few items of food worries me but he wont try anything else
•    Anonymous said... Oh I can so relate! My son is 10 and between cereal and frozen chicken patties and the occasional ravioli he will not try anything new. No fruit no veggies. He will throw up if he doesn't want it. Only kid I know who won't even eat French fries.
•    Anonymous said... Oh my, I just wrote a blog post about this very thing! LOL - not the pizza rolls, but a preteen with ASD & eating issues
•    Anonymous said... sorry to laugh , but my son just got home and asked me for pizza rolls..
•    Anonymous said... We have rules with food in our home. You eat what we're all having for our meals. I let the kids vote on the menu every week and that makes things easier. I have two aspies and an aspie husband. It works very well for our family. My oldest is 12 and she's a proud aspie. She's usually the one begging for cabbage, brussel sprouts, steamed carrots, etc.

•    Anonymous said... It's simple, you stop buying them and explain why. Eventually they will accept something else, going hungry for a few days won't kill most kids.
•    Anonymous said... My 10yo dd strongly refuses new foods but we have a house rule "everyone must, a least, try one bite of everything served each meal." Usually she says she likes it but most of the time will not voluntarily eat it again.
•    Anonymous said... My kid can go hungry for a LOOOOONG time. Its never "simple" like denying them what they will eat (as opposed to what they should).
•    Anonymous said... My son is 19 and he eats the same foods over and over. He does however try new things as long as they do not contain the foods he despises like "cheese and creamy substances". I find it odd that he will eat pizza with cheese....
•    Anonymous said... Sometimes it can be a sensory thing. Once we got meds for one of the kids, his appetite changed.
•    Anonymous said... Vitiams help to supplement nutrition that the child is not getting. It is not the answer but will help. Goodluck.
•    Anonymous said... What if you don't buy pizza rolls?


*   Anonymous said... Don't give up, but do give in and adapt when you need to. It's best to make it a secret give in! When you realize it's a losing battle, fight the same cause for the rest of the day and change strategy the next day so they don't see that they directly effected your decisions. Keep encouraging better eating, try to have very short little grocery shopping trips with just that child where they pick the food, get the pizza rolls "if" they can pick something healthy to try too. Make it fun and buy the milk and bread alone later. That's all the power you have. Withholding food is a terrible idea, my son will not eat until he gets the opportunity to eat what he likes. In my experience these kids don't "get hungry" like most people. If you are blessed with a oppositional child you can use that to your advantage. I have recently had great success with telling my oppositional 12 year old the truth about the fact that these companies make these foods to taste good to trick us into paying high prices for cheap junk. Then get a few similar recipes to try at home, and at least you know what's in them. Finger foods are the only thing my guy eats, using utensils and saucey stuff is a sensory no-no and only endured when absolutely necessary = for poutine! And, if it's anything like my experience, it's a phase and soon pizza rolls will be the last thing your kid wants. It's hard to not feel like a bad mom when our kids don't eat a well balanced diet. You will see there are these high achieving parents out there that want us to think they have it all together but they don't or they were just lucky that their kid's a good eater. I know I am really making a difference for my son and he will be my greatest accomplishment. My neuro typical daughter could be raised by dogs and adapt well, I will get very little credit for the awesome woman she will be.

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Asperger's Traits That Get Misinterpreted As "Inappropriate" Behavior



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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Oppositional Defiant Behavior in Children on the Autism Spectrum

"My 8 y.o. has been diagnosed with autism (high functioning) recently, and before that was diagnosed with ODD. When we have behavior problems with him, it's hard to know if the particular 'misbehavior' is driven by autism or by ODD. How do we tell the difference, and how do we approach the multitude of behavior issues we are having with him?"

It may be tough at times to recognize the difference between a strong-willed or emotional autistic youngster and one with oppositional defiant behavior. Clearly, there's a range between the usual independence-seeking behavior of kids and defiant behavior. It's normal to exhibit oppositional behaviors at certain stages of development. However, your youngster's issue may be more serious if his behaviors:
  • Are clearly disruptive to the family and home or school environment
  • Are persistent
  • Have lasted at least six months

The following are behaviors associated with oppositional defiance:
  • Academic problems
  • Acting touchy and easily annoyed
  • Aggressiveness toward peers
  • Anger and resentment
  • Argumentativeness with grown-ups
  • Blaming others for mistakes or misbehavior
  • Deliberate annoyance of other people
  • Difficulty maintaining friendships
  • Refusal to comply with adult requests or rules
  • Spiteful or vindictive behavior
  • Temper tantrums

Oppositional defiant behavior often occurs along with other behavioral or mental health problems such as:
  • Anxiety
  • Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Depression

The symptoms of defiant behavior may be difficult to distinguish from those of other behavioral or mental health problems. It's important to diagnose and treat any co-occurring disorders, because they can create or worsen irritability and defiance if left untreated.

Stressful changes that disrupt an Aspergers or HFA youngster's sense of consistency increase the risk of disruptive behavior. However, though these changes may help explain disrespectful or oppositional behavior, they don't excuse it.

Many kids with oppositional defiant behavior have other treatable conditions, such as:
  • Learning and communication disorders
  • Developmental disorders
  • Depression
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Anxiety

If these conditions are left untreated, managing defiant behavior can be very difficult for moms and dads – and frustrating for the affected youngster. Young people on the autism spectrum with oppositional defiant behavior may have trouble in school with teachers and other authority figures and may struggle to make and keep friends.

If your Aspergers or HFA youngster has signs and symptoms common to oppositional defiant behavior, make an appointment with your youngster's physician. After an initial evaluation, your physician may refer you to a mental health professional, who can help make a diagnosis and create the right treatment plan for your youngster.

Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and what to expect from your physician:

• Make a list of your youngster's key medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions with which your youngster has been diagnosed. Also write down the names of any medications, including over-the-counter medications, your youngster is taking.

• Take a trusted family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.

• Write down questions to ask your physician in advance so that you can make the most of your appointment.

• Write down the signs and symptoms your youngster has been experiencing, and for how long.

• Write down your family's key personal information, including factors that you suspect may have contributed to changes in your youngster's behavior. Make a list of stressors that your youngster or close family members have recently experienced and share it with the physician.

Questions to ask the physician at your youngster's initial appointment include:
  • Are there any other possible causes?
  • How will you determine the diagnosis?
  • Should my son/daughter see a mental health provider?
  • What do you believe is causing my son/daughter's symptoms?

Questions to ask if your youngster is referred to a mental health provider include:
  • Do you recommend any changes at home or school to encourage my son/daughter's recovery?
  • Do you recommend family therapy?
  • Does my son/daughter have oppositional defiant behavior?
  • Is my son/daughter at increased risk of any long-term complications from this condition?
  • Is this condition likely temporary or chronic?
  • Should I tell my son/daughter's teachers about this diagnosis?
  • Should my son/daughter be screened for any other mental health problems?
  • What else can I and my family do to help my son/daughter?
  • What factors do you think might be contributing to my son/daughter's problem?
  • What treatment approach do you recommend?

What to expect from your physician:

Being ready to answer your physician's questions may reserve time to go over any points you want to talk about in-depth. You should be prepared to answer the following questions from your physician:
  • Do any particular situations seem to trigger negative or defiant behavior in your youngster?
  • Has your youngster been diagnosed with any other medical conditions, including mental health conditions?
  • Have your youngster's teachers or other caregivers reported similar symptoms in your youngster?
  • How do you typically discipline your youngster?
  • How have you been handling your youngster's disruptive behavior?
  • How often over the last six months has your youngster argued with grown-ups or defied or refused grown-ups' requests?
  • How often over the last six months has your youngster been angry or lost his or her temper?
  • How often over the last six months has your youngster been spiteful or vindictive, or blamed others for his or her own mistakes?
  • How often over the last six months has your youngster been touchy, easily annoyed or deliberately annoying to others?
  • How would you describe your youngster's home and family life?
  • What are your youngster's symptoms?
  • When did you first notice these symptoms?

Treating oppositional defiant behavior generally involves several types of psychotherapy and training for your youngster — as well as for you and your co-parent. If your youngster has co-existing conditions, medications may help significantly improve symptoms.

The cornerstones of treatment for oppositional defiance usually include:

• Cognitive problem solving training. This type of therapy is aimed at helping your youngster identify and change through patterns that are leading to behavior problems. Research shows that an approach called collaborative problem solving — in which you and your youngster work together to come up with solutions that work for both of you — is highly effective at improving oppositional-related problems.

• Individual and family therapy. Individual counseling for your youngster may help him or her learn to manage anger and express his or her feelings more healthfully. Family counseling may help improve your communication and relationships, and help members of your family learn how to work together.

• Parent training. A mental health provider with experience treating oppositional behavior may help you develop skills that will allow you to parent in a way that's more positive and less frustrating for you and your youngster. In some cases, your youngster may participate in this type of training with you, so that everyone in your family develops shared goals for how to handle problems.

• Parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT). During PCIT, therapists coach moms and dads while they interact with their kids. In one approach, the therapist sits behind a one-way mirror and, using an "ear bug" audio device, guides moms and dads through strategies that reinforce their kid's positive behavior. Research has shown that as a result of PCIT, moms and dads learn more-effective parenting techniques, the behavior problems of kids decrease, and the quality of the parent-youngster relationship improves.

• Social skills training. Your youngster also might benefit from therapy that will help him or her learn how to interact more positively and effectively with peers.

As part of parent training, you may learn how to:
  • Avoid power struggles.
  • Establish a schedule for the family that includes specific meals that will be eaten at home together, and specific activities one or both moms and dads will do with the youngster.
  • Give effective timeouts.
  • Limit consequences to those that can be consistently reinforced and if possible, last for a limited amount of time.
  • Offer acceptable choices to your youngster, giving him or her a certain amount of control.
  • Recognize and praise your youngster's good behaviors and positive characteristics.
  • Remain calm and unemotional in the face of opposition.

Although some parent management techniques may seem like common sense, learning to use them in the face of opposition isn't easy, especially if there are other stressors at home. Learning these skills will require consistent practice and patience. Most important in treatment is for you to show consistent, unconditional love and acceptance of your Aspergers or HFA youngster — even during difficult and disruptive situations. Don't be too hard on yourself. This process can be tough for even the most patient moms and dads.

At home, you can begin chipping away at problem behaviors by practicing the following:

• Assign your youngster a household chore that's essential and that won't get done unless the youngster does it. Initially, it's important to set your youngster up for success with tasks that are relatively easy to achieve and gradually blend in more important and challenging expectations.

• Build in time together. Develop a consistent weekly schedule that involves moms and dads and youngster being together.

• Model the behavior you want your youngster to have.

• Pick your battles. Avoid power struggles. Almost everything can turn into a power struggle — if you let it.

• Recognize and praise your youngster's positive behaviors. Be as specific as possible, such as, "I really liked the way you helped pick up your toys tonight."

• Set limits and enforce consistent reasonable consequences.

• Set up a routine. Develop a consistent daily schedule for your youngster. Asking your youngster to help develop that routine may be beneficial.

• Work with your partner or others in your household to ensure consistent and appropriate discipline procedures.

At first, your youngster is not likely to be cooperative or to appreciate your changed response to his or her behavior. Expect that you'll have setbacks and relapses, and be prepared with a plan to manage those times. In fact, behavior often temporarily worsens when new limits and expectations are set. However, with perseverance and consistency, the initial hard work often pays off with improved behavior and relationships.

For yourself, counseling can provide an outlet for your own mental health concerns that could interfere with the successful treatment of your youngster's symptoms. If you're depressed or anxious, that could lead to disengagement from your youngster — and that can trigger or worsen oppositional behaviors. Here are some tips:
  • Be forgiving. Let go of things that you or your youngster did in the past. Start each day with a fresh outlook and a clean slate.
  • Learn ways to calm yourself. Keeping your own cool models the behavior you want from your youngster.
  • Take time for yourself. Develop outside interests, get some exercise and spend some time away from your youngster to restore your energy.

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