Avoiding Negative Reinforcement: Tips for Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Negative reinforcement requires the youngster to work for the removal of an in-place, unpleasant consequence. The child's goal is to get rid of something that is unpleasant rather than to earn something that is desirable. In a negative reinforcement model, instead of working to earn a positive consequence, the youngster works to distance herself from an aversive consequence. 

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How to Handle Aggressiveness in Kids and Teens on the Autism Spectrum


My son will be 11 in September. There are so many issues, but the biggest concern now is the aggression associated with his meltdowns. The aggression is getting worse, both physical and verbal. He uses foul language, hits, kicks, spits and threatens to kill me. I am desperate for a solution of some kind. I don't know what I should do when these meltdowns occur. They start the minute I pick him up from school. He does not have this problem at school. Since school started back last week he has had a major meltdown every day. I know that school (he's at a new school this year) is a major stressor. He's completely uncooperative with homework and as I said above, the aggression associated w/ these tantrums is escalating. I am desperate for help.


Many High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) kids do not have the social skills or self-control to manage their behavior. These must be taught. When kids can’t find the words to deal with aggressive feelings or are not encouraged to express themselves, they become frustrated. At other times, kids cannot cope with growing levels of anger in themselves or in others. In both cases, kids need to learn acceptable ways to assert themselves and to learn coping skills.

For these young people to outgrow their aggressive ways, they need positive, consistent, nurturing discipline. They need to learn positive problem-solving techniques. Parents need to place kids in environments that offer a setting and support for learning positive social behavior rather than aggressive, hostile, antisocial acts.

Try some of these options:

1. Observe to get the facts. Keep a log to find the theme of what triggers the acts of aggression – then help the youngster steer clear of these activities.

2. Share your notes or journal with the teachers. Compare to see if similar behaviors are triggered at home and at school.

3. Take a look at the environment. Is some activity or room arrangement causing anxiety or frustration? Does the youngster feel crowded, or is he bored for too long? Does the youngster have enough personal space?

4. For school-age kids, write a plan of action for what the youngster will do when the negative behavior occurs.

5. Make a list of activities to do “instead” (play with Play-Doh, run around the house, vacuum, draw, take a bath, etc.). Use a picture graph if the youngster can’t read.

6. Recognize success. “Even though I could tell you were mad, that was a great way you controlled your anger!”

7. Teach the youngster deep breathing and visualization relaxation exercises.

8. During a calm time, talk with the youngster so he understands the consequences of actions. Bedtimes are often quiet times for talking.

9. Accept your youngster and understand his unique temperament. While his behavior will be challenging at times, remain patient and supportive.

10. Tell your youngster how you expect him to behave. You will need to keep telling the youngster. Be specific and positive. Rather than saying, “Don’t hit,” …say, “Hitting hurts. Please use your words.”

11. Be consistent so kids know what to expect.

12. Organize the home environment; set limits on what the youngster may use.

13. Limit access to aggressive toys (e.g., swords, guns).

14. Monitor television for aggressive shows.

15. Watch television with your youngster, and comment on the content.

16. Sing songs and tell stories about feelings and frustrations. Talk about what anger may feel like.

17. Allow some independence by providing a help-yourself shelf with blocks, art supplies, puzzles, or other things. Define where kids may use these materials. Provide enough materials so kids don’t have to wait to use them and become frustrated.

18. Allow transition time between activities; give a five-minute warning that the activity will change or it is “time to come in from play.”

19. Be a model for controlled behavior, and avoid angry outbursts and violence.

20. Monitor out-of-home activity. Know where they are and whom they are with.

21. Avoid extreme permissiveness, laxness, and tolerance OR too much structure and too many demands.

22. Figure out what the youngster needs—attention, security, control, or to feel valued. Try to fill the need so he won’t continue to act undesirably.

23. Use closeness for control. When you sense your youngster is about to lose control, quietly and gently move close. Often your calm presence is enough to settle your youngster.

24. Help kids talk to each other to solve problems. Ask open-ended questions to help them think about options to solve their own problems.

25. Give kids choices so they feel empowered. Offer two acceptable choices.

26. Redirect your youngster. If your youngster is pushing, hitting, or grabbing, move him in another direction and into another activity. Stay by his side until he is positively engaged.

27. If your youngster is misusing a toy or destroying it in an aggressive manner, remove it. Get out Play-Doh, arrange an interlude of water play, or direct your youngster to his sandbox. These tactile experiences often magically quiet aggression.

28. Remove your out-of-control youngster from the scene. Hold the youngster, go for a walk, or go to another room. Stay with him until all is calm.

29. Be your youngster’s control. If your youngster is hitting another, your words may not be enough to stop the aggression. You must move in and gently but firmly stop the behavior. You provide the control your youngster lacks. In time, your control transfers to your youngster. Say, “I’ll keep you from hitting your sister.”

30. Note improved behaviors: “I like the way you used words to solve that problem.”

31. Avoid difficult situations. If you know going to the park where there are lots of children sends your youngster into an aggressive tirade, avoid going. Find a less-stimulating setting where your child can achieve more social success.

32. Seek support yourself when you need a break.

33. Banish punching bags. If you have a youngster who is aggressive, realize that the effect of “hit the punching bag, not Jo,” has not proven effective for reducing aggressive attacks.

34. Prepare the youngster. Before your youngster meets new friends, tell him what behavior you expect. With young kids, remind them that people don’t like to be hit or pushed.

35. If all of your strategies have been used to no avail, seek counseling or assistance in developing a youngster/family plan to learn aggression management.



•    Anonymous said... I am going through the same my son is fourteen. X
•    Anonymous said... I find that all children are different, and with my son, teasing, mimicking or laughing would send him into a downright rage even worse than the initial one! We find that just gently diffusing it and saying "I'm sorry you are feeling that way", or "maybe you could just take a few quiet minutes to yourself to think of some better words to describe how you are feeling" works much better. It helps him boil down what he's thinking and realize that he hasn't affected me, just the results he was hoping for, and that he won't get what he needs/wants with violence and aggression. It doesn't always work the way I want, but it models good problem solving and the behavior that I want to see in him.
•    Anonymous said... I ignore the foul language and tell my 15 yr old daughter I've hard worse and talking like that is not going to get you what you want. Thank goodness she has not used the language outside of our home, that I know of. Same with the physical. I walk away and if need be I lock myself in my bathroom and take a breather myself. Know what you are going through and feel for you.
•    Anonymous said... I know you probably won't feel like it at the time but I've found that diffusing the situation with humour often works best for me. We usually end up laughing. I've also used to mimic his voice or action, not in a patronising way, more in a over acting dramatic way. Worth trying?
•    Anonymous said... I tell my son that I don't deserve to be treated/spoken to like that, or I tell him he's more intelligent than to do/say that, I find logic helps him to handle his anger at the moment, but he's having cbt so I'm sure that's helping him to recognise the triggers for himself x
•    Anonymous said... my son was put on Risperdon and it changed his whole personality. He used to be how you described and now it chills him out and he is such a happy, content and great part of our family. Last year he was nearly suspended from school and he used to throw things at home, kick things, hit his sister etc. He is on a mix of Risperidon, Fluoxitine and Concerta. We also were told to spend time together and rub his head, arms etc while reading stories or watching movies and to play classical music around the house. We have a totally different 10 year old.
•    Anonymous said... We had the same type of experiences, I found my son used words and actions to assert himself, he knew which words would get a reaction. He once told his teacher that he hoped her unborn child would die, he did this at age 13. He was feeling highy frustrated that she thought he was too dumb to learn. Today at age 20 he is a model citizen, holds 2 jobs, goes to a trade school and is a volunteer fireman...who knew? God gave us these children for a reason-because we are the only people who could/can raise them! Hang in there it will get better when he learns coping skills.

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Tips for Reducing Stress Related to Parenting Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"My (high functioning autistic) child is one of the most wonderful blessings of my life – yet at times, stress may cause me to wonder if he is at the root of my most intense times of irritability and anxiety. I don't like thinking like this. Any tips on how I can reduce my stress while at the same time, care for my son's special needs.?"

Let’s be honest. Caring for a child on the autism spectrum can be tiring. On bad days, we as parents can feel trapped by the constant responsibility. The additional stress of caring for a child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's (AS) can, at times, make a parent feel angry, anxious, or just plain "stressed out." These tensions are a normal, inevitable part of the family, and parents need to learn ways to cope so that they don't feel overwhelmed by them.

To see if you are experiencing toxic amounts of parental stress, answer the following questions:
  1. Are you often irritable?
  2. Are you suffering from lack of sleep?
  3. Are you worried about your child’s future?
  4. Are you worried about your family’s finances?
  5. Do you avoid of social interaction outside the home as much as possible?
  6. Do you choose the self-serve lane at the supermarket and the ATM at the bank because doing things by yourself is just easier?
  7. Do you ever find yourself so rushed and distracted that it’s “just annoying” when a cashier or neighbor tries to make chitchat with you about the weather?
  8. Do you ever get so caught up in one subject (e.g., IEP worries or your frustration with your child’s school) that you catch yourself repeating the same complaints to anyone who will listen?
  9. Do you find yourself snapping at your child for interrupting you, then feeling guilty afterwards?
  10. Do you have a disregard for personal appearance and social niceties?
  11. Do you keep meaning to pick up the phone and call a friend, but find yourself too busy or distracted?
  12. Do you scan each room you enter for things that might trigger a meltdown in your youngster, (e.g., unusual smells or loud noises)? …and do you find yourself doing so even when he isn’t with you? …for that matter, after avoiding those things for so long, do you find that they now irritate you, too?
  13. Have the cute hairdos and perky outfits been replaced by ponytails and sweats?
  14. Have you ever had the thought, “I don’t like my child”?
  15. Have you found yourself getting annoyed when your spouse tunes you out or tries to change the subject?

If you answered “yes” to several of these questions, you too may be suffering from parental stress associated with parenting a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Stress becomes a problem when you feel overwhelmed by the things that happen to you. You may feel "stressed out" when it seems there is too much to deal with all at once, and you are not sure how to handle it all. When you feel stressed, you usually have some physical symptoms. You can feel tired, get headaches, stomach upsets or backaches, clench your jaw or grind your teeth, develop skin rashes, have recurring colds or flu, have muscle spasms or nervous twitches, or have problems sleeping. Mental signs of stress include feeling pressured, having difficulty concentrating, being forgetful and having trouble making decisions. Emotional signs include feeling angry, frustrated, tense, anxious, or more aggressive than usual.

The stress of parenting a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder does not have to damage the bond you have with your child. In fact, if you take the necessary steps to reduce stress in your life, it can actually strengthen the closeness of your relationship with your youngster.

20 Tips for Reducing Stress Related to Parenting Children on the Spectrum

1. As a mother or father, it’s a necessity to take care of yourself so that you have the energy and motivation to be a good parent.

2. Avoid fatigue. Go to bed earlier and take short naps when you can.

3. Coping with the stress of parenting an HFA or AS child starts with understanding what makes you feel stressed, learning to recognize the symptoms of too much stress, and learning some new ways of handling life's problems. You may not always be able to tell exactly what is causing your emotional tension, but it is important to remind yourself that it is not your youngster's fault.

4. Develop good relationships. Family relationships are built over time with loving care and concern for other people's feelings. Talk over family problems in a warm, relaxed atmosphere. Focus on solutions rather than finding blame. If you are too busy or upset to listen well at a certain time, say so. Then agree on a better time, and make sure to do it. Laugh together, be appreciative of each other, and give compliments often. It may be very hard to schedule time to spend with your family, doing things that you all enjoy, but it is the best time you will ever invest. Moms and dads and kids need time to spend one-to-one. Whether yours is a one or two-parent family, each parent should try to find a little time to spend alone with each youngster. You could read a bedtime story, play a game, or go for a walk together.

5. Have a realistic attitude. Most moms and dads have high expectations of how things should be. We all want a perfect family, and we all worry about how our children will turn out. But, wanting “the ideal family” can get in the way of enjoying the one you have. 

6. If you don’t already belong to a group for parents of HFA and AS kids, you’re missing out on great social and emotional support. But, also remember that you had interests before you became a harried mom. Whether it’s decorating or reading murder mysteries, we all need some sort of pleasant diversion, and friendly folks to share it with. If you’re able to join a local support group and club, great! But if not, there is a plethora of online discussion groups about just about any interest you can imagine.

7. If you feel guilty about the idea of trying to plan time and activities apart from your youngster– don’t! How can we teach our "special needs" children that socialization is important, healthy, and worthwhile, if we hardly ever take time for it ourselves? So pick up the phone and plan time for some fun with a friend. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your youngster.

8. If you're feeling pressured, tense or drawn out at the end of a busy day, say so. Tell your kids calmly that you will be happy to give them some attention soon but first you need a short "quiet time" so that you can relax.

9. Keep in mind that your child experiences stress, too – at any age. So when you work on methods to reduce your own stress, try to incorporate stress relieving techniques that both you and your youngster can use to reduce stress. Of course, the stress relieving activities that you choose for you and your child to share will depend on your child’s age.

10. Learn some ways of unwinding to manage the tension. Simple daily stretching exercises help relieve muscle tension. Vigorous walking, aerobics or sports are excellent ways for some people to unwind and work off tension; others find deep-breathing exercises are a fast, easy and effective way to control physical and mental tension.

11. Look for community programs for moms and dads and kids. They offer activities that are fun, other moms and dads to talk with, and some even have babysitting.

12. Look for parenting courses in your community. 

13. Make a play date. The great thing about play dates for moms is that you don’t have to referee them – you just have to find time for them! Sit down with your calendar, get on the phone, and schedule time to spend with friends, at least every couple of weeks. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Go together for manicures or a trip to Target, followed by latt├ęs, while Dad watches the kids. But make sure you schedule in play dates with Dad occasionally, too. If you can’t find a sitter, trade off watching the kids with another couple who has a youngster on the spectrum – most, I’ve found, are happy to make such a deal.

14. Make quality time for yourself, and reserve time each week for your own activities.

15. Most of us live hectic lives, and working through lunch can easily become habit. Make a commitment to yourself that at least three days a week you’re going to operate as a social human being. Go over to the food court with your coworkers, or brown bag it and catch up on the gossip in the lunchroom. You need interaction with grown-ups who are interested in topics that you are interested in. So after the dishwasher is loaded, put everybody down to nap or stick in a DVD for 20 minutes, and pick up the phone and call your best friend or sister, and give yourself a dose a grown-up time.

16. Practice time management. Set aside time to spend with the kids, time for yourself, and time for your spouse and/or friends. Learn to say "no" to requests that interfere with these important times. Cut down on outside activities that cause the family to feel rushed.

17. Take a break from looking after the kids. Help keep stress from building up. Ask for help from friends or relatives to take care of the kids for a while. Exchange babysitting services with a neighbor, or hire a teenager, even for a short time once a week to get some time for yourself.

18. Take care of your health with a good diet and regular exercise. Moms and dads need a lot of energy to look after kids.

19. Talk to someone. Sharing your worries is a great stress reducer!

20. We all have reactions to life's events which are based on our own personal histories. For the most part, we never completely understand the deep-down causes of all our feelings. What we must realize is that our feelings of stress come from inside ourselves and that we can learn to keep our stress reactions under control.

If you are considering getting some additional support or information to help you cope with the stress of parenting, there are many different resources available, including books and video tapes on stress management, parenting courses and workshops, professional counseling and self-help groups.


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.
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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 on the autism spectrum:

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


Is ASD Level 1 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, 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 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 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 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 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 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 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...

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Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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

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Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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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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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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A child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can have difficulty in school because, since he fits in so well, many adults may miss the fact that he has a diagnosis. When these children display symptoms of their disorder, they may be seen as defiant or disruptive.

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How to Get the School to Meet Your Autistic 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 ASD level 1, 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.

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

Click here to read the full article…


Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...


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

Click here to read the full article…


Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…


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.

Click here
to read the full article...


Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...
A child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can have difficulty in school because, since he fits in so well, many adults may miss the fact that he has a diagnosis. When these children display symptoms of their disorder, they may be seen as defiant or disruptive.

Click here for the full article...


The 3 Interventions to Prevent Meltdowns in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"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.
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The three major interventions that are usually most effective in preventing a meltdown from manifesting in children with 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 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 autistic 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 ASD 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 ASD 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.
Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD


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!

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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:

Raising Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parents' Grief and Guilt

Some parents grieve for the loss of the youngster they   imagined  they had. Moms and dads have their own particular way of dealing with the...