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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the main ones currently:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

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

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

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

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

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

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

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

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

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

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

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

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

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content