When Your Older Teen with ASD is Anxious About Getting Ready for College

"It is time for my son [with ASD] to apply to some colleges. I can tell he is stressed about the application process and doesn’t want to think about it. Do you have any resources about helping an ASD teenager to apply to a college or any related suggestions? Currently I feel he is struggling about how to write the essay and meet the requirements. I know he has enough time to deal with the applications, but I want him to get started early. It would be greatly appreciated if you can share some resources or provide some suggestions."

Below are some suggestions and strategies to help your son with ASD to "gear-up" for the college life:

Helping Teens on the Autism Spectrum to Transition to College

Helping Your Teen on the Spectrum to Prepare for Adulthood

Succeeding in College with High-Functioning Autism 

Tips for Young People on the Autism Spectrum Who Are Considering Attending College 

Aspergers Teens and College

Post High-School Education for Teens on the Autism Spectrum 
College Depression in Aspergers and HFA Students: What Parents Need To Know

Dealing with the Emotional Transition to College


Two girls, one finished her masters program the other is graduating this spring. They each chose different ways of going to college. The kid who finished her masters started in community college as she was not very social, and therefore felt that there would be less pressure socially in a small community college. Even though she graduated top in her HS class, she also felt there would be less pressure to get top grades in CC. She then went on to 4 yr with all the 'required' courses done and a 4.0 GPA. 

Also you are guaranteed to be accepted to CC, which makes applying a done deal. The other kid applied to Ivy league school and 'difficult to get in' public colleges, as well as CC (always have a shoe in college!). She is much more social and had the grades to apply to these schools. She had no problem with facing the rigors of college life, and achieving high grades at the same time. Applications are pretty much standard fare, they look at grades, extra curriculum stuff, SAT, all that, (CC does not require the same as 4 yr colleges). 

The biggest difference is the essay you write. There you need to play up your good points, reason why you want to go to the college your applying to, what your plans are for the future and how 'their' college is the best place for you to succeed with your ambitions and future. YES let them know you have ASD! Don't start with that, but make sure they know how hard you worked to get to this point (whatever is appropriate to him). Make sure you read the essay instructions, they are not always the same! Colleges have quotas, including disabilities, and he might get ahead of another applicant because they want to fill a spot. MOST importantly, he needs to be comfortable with his decision which places to apply to, always apply to more than one college, and local CC, and make sure he goes to visit any college he applies to in order to feel the vibes. 

Look for colleges that have the major he wants to get into, or thinks he wants, and don't apply to anywhere that is way beyond his reach academically, it will be disappointing, and a waste of time and money to apply. Colleges list their requirements, grades, sat, etc. so check those stats first. GOOD LUCK, and best wishes for his success wherever he chooses to go!


How Parents Can Alleviate Fearfulness in Their Child on the Spectrum

"My 9 y.o. son [high functioning autistic] is under a ton of stress right now [I think mostly because of the coronavirus scare]... but there are numerous other things he tends to worry about too. How can we as his parents reduce his excessive and unrealistic fears?!"

Many young people with ASD level 1, or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), will receive another diagnosis at some point in their development.   In one study, 70% of a sample of kids with an autism spectrum disorder (ages 10-14) had also been diagnosed with another disorder.  41% had been diagnosed with two or more additional disorders.  The most common types of additional diagnoses are those related to anxiety.

Kids with HFA have more severe symptoms of phobias, motor/vocal tics, obsessions/compulsions, and social phobia than “typical” kids do.  Fear and anxiety makes it very difficult for young people on the spectrum to do everything from making friends to going school. And to further complicate matters, they have a much harder time self-reporting their symptoms – many of which only occur internally (e.g., constant worrying). 

Unfortunately, children with HFA suffer with more than their fair share of fear and anxiety. A multitude of traits associated with autism spectrum disorders contribute to this, for example:
  • difficulty in accepting criticism or correction
  • difficulty in assessing cause-and effect-relationships (e.g., behaviors and consequences)
  • difficulty in expressing emotions
  • difficulty in generalizing
  • difficulty in handling relationships with authority figures
  • difficulty in interpreting meaning to others’ actions
  • difficulty in learning self-monitoring techniques
  • difficulty in negotiating either in conflict situations or as a self-advocate
  • difficulty in perceiving and applying unwritten social rules or protocols
  • difficulty with “teamwork”
  • difficulty with organizing and sequencing (i.e., planning and execution; successful performance of tasks in a logical order)
  • difficulty with unstructured time
  • discomfort with competition
  • extreme reaction to changes in routine, surroundings, people
  • generalized confusion during periods of stress
  • lack of trust in others
  • low to medium level of paranoia
  • low-frustration tolerance
  • mental shutdown response to conflicting demands and multi-tasking
  • mind-blindness
  • missing or misconstruing others’ agendas, priorities, preferences
  • out-of-scale reactions to losing
  • poor judgment of when a task is finished (often attributable to perfectionism)
  • reluctance to ask for help or seek comfort
  • rigid adherence to rules and social conventions where flexibility is desirable
  • ruminating (i.e., fixating on bad experiences with people or events for an inordinate length of time)
  • sensory sensitivities
  • sleep difficulties
  • social skills deficits
  • tendency to “lose it” during sensory overload, multitask demands, or when contradictory and confusing priorities have been set
  • very low level of assertiveness

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

Most parents find it very painful to watch their HFA youngster struggle day-to-day with excessive fear and anxiety, but it's especially difficult if they’re not sure whether their child is worrying “too much” and in need of assistance.

So, how do you know if your youngster’s fears are excessive and a cause for concern? Here are just a few of the signs that he or she is in a chronic state of worry or fear:
  • The child says negative things about himself such as, “I’m no good” …or “I hate myself” … or “I can’t do this.”
  • The child frequently complains of stomachaches, being nervous at school, being afraid to go to sleepovers or birthday parties, or has frequent headaches.
  • He has frequent “meltdowns” over seemingly small things that usually do not bother “typical” children.
  • The child often avoids the things that trigger her fear and anxiety (e.g., spends a great deal of time in the school nurse's office, refuses to participate in activities other kids enjoy, throws a tantrum before every appointment with the dentist or doctor, gets sick on Sunday nights due to worrying about going back to school on Monday morning, etc.).
  • She appears to be in need of constant reassurance from parents.

To manage the fearfulness in HFA kids, parents are encouraged to employ some of the following techniques:

1. Use social stories, games and puppets to help your youngster learn to relax and manage stress and fear.

2. Stay composed when your youngster becomes stressed-out about a situation or event.

3. Set a calm example. Parents can set the tone for how stress is handled in the home.

4. Recognize and praise small accomplishments in facing fears.

5. Prevent fear-producing events by “external control” (i.e., structuring the environment to make it predictable, consistent, and safe).

6. Plan for transitions (e.g., allow extra time in the morning if getting to school is difficult).

7. Never try to convince your youngster that his fear is unjustified. He’ll just become more convinced otherwise as he tries to prove to you that the fear is real. Instead, help him think about things realistically (e.g., if he is worried that he is going to fail an upcoming test at school, say something like, “If you fail this test, then you can just study harder for the next one …we all fail from time-to-time …that’s how we learn”).

8. Modify expectations during stressful periods.

9. Limit your youngster's exposure to distressing news or stories.

10. Increasing exposure to the fearful event is an effective strategy for overcoming fear.  For example, if your youngster is afraid of getting on a plane to travel to a vacation destination, start out by showing him pictures of planes, then visit the airport, then go talk to another child who has flown before and get that child’s feedback, then finally, have your child board the plane.  The important idea here is to take small steps and gradually expose your youngster to the feared situation, task, or object.

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

11. Help your youngster identify the source of the fearfulness.

12. Help your child to find a distraction when he is in a state of fear. Getting involved with some fun activity is key in keeping fear at bay.

13. Gradually shift “fear-control” to your HFA youngster by preparing her for fear-producing situations through discussing antecedents (i.e., whatever it is that precedes the fear-response), settings, triggers, and actions to take.

14. Don’t model “excessive caution.” For example, overly-cautious moms and dads are likely to say things like, “Be careful on the slide because you might fall and hurt yourself” without realizing that they are increasing their youngster’s apprehension. It’s better to say confidently, “I’m sure you’ll have fun on the slide. I’m right over here if you need me.”

15. Don’t dismiss your child’s feelings. Telling him “not to worry about _____” (fill in the blank) will only make him feel like he’s doing something wrong by feeling uneasy. Let him know that it’s okay to feel anxious about something, and encourage him to share his thoughts and emotions.

16. Don’t allow your youngster to avoid everything that causes her to be afraid. Fearfulness tends to peak at the beginning of a new or scary situation, then eases off. If you can help your youngster get through the initial stage of high stress, she’s likely to have a positive experience, which will make it easier the next time.

17. Develop, practice, and rehearse new behaviors prior to exposure to the fear-producing situation.

18. Create a “things that I’m afraid of” jar, and encourage your youngster to write the fear-inducing thought on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. Then, suggest to her that the fear is now in the jar and no longer needs to be in her head. In this way, you are helping your youngster put the anxiety outside of herself.

19. Create a “fearfulness hierarchy,” and put the events in order from easy to hard (write this down for the child to view). For example, at the top of the list may be “fear of going to gym class,” and at the bottom of the list may be “fear of eating _____ (a particular food item).”

20. Balance any changes by trying to maintain as much of the child’s regular routine as possible (e.g., stick to a regular bedtime and mealtimes).

21. Lastly, practicing breathing exercises can help your HFA child decrease the physical symptoms of fearfulness and stay calm. Coach your child on the following techniques:
  • Sit comfortably with the back straight and the shoulders relaxed. Put one hand on the chest and the other on the stomach.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose for 4 seconds. The hand on the stomach should rise, while the hand on the chest should move very little.
  • Hold the breath for 2 seconds.
  • Exhale slowly through the mouth for 6 seconds, pushing out as much air as possible. The hand on the stomach should move in when exhaling, but the other hand should move very little.
  • Continue to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Focus on keeping a slow and steady breathing pattern of 4-in, 2-hold, and 6-out.

Other techniques to reduce fearfulness include:
  • using positive thoughts/self-talk
  • the use of photographs, postcards or pictures of a pleasant or familiar scene (these need to be small enough to be carried around and should be laminated in order to protect them)
  • physical activities (e.g., using a swing or trampoline, going for a long walk with the dog, doing physical chores around the house, etc.)
  • massage
  • aromatherapy

Whatever method is chosen to reduce fearfulness, it is vital to identify the cause. This should be done by careful monitoring of the antecedents to an increase in fear and the source of the fear tackled. For example, many children with HFA have difficulty with noisy, crowded environments. Thus, the newly arrived middle school student who becomes agitated or aggressive in the hallway during passing periods may need an accommodation of leaving class a minute or two early to avoid the congestion and over-stimulation that provokes fearfulness and subsequent dysfunctional coping mechanisms.

Key issues to address when discussing this strategy are:
  • What can be done to eliminate the problem (i.e., the antecedent condition)?
  • What can be done to modify the fear-producing situation if it can’t be eliminated entirely?
  • Will the antecedent strategy need to be permanent, or is it a temporary "fix" which allows the child to increase skills needed to manage the fearfulness in the future?

The importance of using antecedent strategies should not be underestimated. Kids with HFA often have to manage a great amount of personal stress. Striking a balance of short and long term accommodations through manipulating antecedents to fearfulness and problem behavior is often crucial in setting the stage for later skill development.

In treating excessive fear in your child, observe his or her behavior and ask yourself the following questions:
  • How does fear interfere with my youngster’s life?
  • How frequently does my youngster exhibit symptoms of fearfulness?
  • How long do the symptoms of fearfulness last?
  • How long have these problems been of concern?
  • Is it hard to manage?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how severe is the problem?
  • What effect does fear have on my youngster and those around him or her?
  • What factors are contributing to the fearfulness?
  • When did I begin to notice some of the signs of fearfulness in my child?

By getting answers to these questions – and by utilizing the ideas listed above – parents should be able to greatly reduce the level of fearfulness that their HFA child experiences.

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

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD
We asked the following question to a few of our members:  What is the greatest source of stress and/or anxiety for your child on the autism spectrum? 

Here are a few of their answers:

•    Social interaction
•    Schoolwork. Routines. Hygiene.
•    School
•    Schedule changes-- unexpected events or demands
•    Homework and large crowds/groups.
•    We finally got the school to stop assigning homework
•    I'm on a mission. They are too delayed socially and need to work on Social homework.
•    School
•    School
•    Definitely school.
•    School. Boredom there, suppressing their interests, unstructured social interactions, staff that are not trained to work with differences....
•    Change in routine, homework, and sensory issues (food is hard for my son... the smells, textures, mixed anything).
•    Anything that is unknown. This could be school related, social situations, change in regular routine, even vacations or visit to a new, unknown place.
•    Other people not doing things "right".
•    The unknown. Education concepts, people, places, events etc. Sensory issues with food, showers, hair brushing, being touched. Separation anxiety from his primary caregivers & pet. Fear of the future by concern for what is going to happen. Catastrophizing.
•    This sounds exactly like my son. He worries about his future and how he will have enough money to take care of himself if anything terrible happens to me or his dad  😢 he's only 10 and it's heartbreaking that these kinds of worries enter the head of a child
•    our daughter is 10 as well and she worries if she will have to leave her home, what will happen to her stuff and who will take care of her if something happens to us.
•    School
•    Switching the wifi off...
•    At the minute it's everything to do with school
•    Kids acting loud, crazy, and/or unpredictably.
•    Large group of people.
•    My son stresses out about school, and doing assignments that involve presenting in front of a group. Also, he does not like to go to school most days because he gets bored.
•    My grandson (age 8) has had anxiety attacks over the following: 1) World War III, 2) A meteor hitting the Earth, and 3) The sun burning out. The every-day stuff doesn't bother him at all.
•    school and academic studies that aren't concrete
•    so many from which to choose! Loud chaotic classrooms.(confined space, no escape)
•    Crowds. But with me and her trainee therapy dog outside she went into a packed cafe for a menu today.
•    School, doctors or any kind of medicine
•    Homework and loneliness.
•    Social interaction or people dressed up in costumes (like mascots)
•    People being nasty in youtube social media, she gets soooooo upset that people say such terrible things
•    School and leaving the house
•    School
•    School.
•    That people are talking about her and laughing at her. Brushing her teeth, having to tackle cleaning her room (but then she is a 12 year old girl  :P ) Lunch time at school. Not being invited to parties  :(
•    something happening to his father, thunder, possibility of war, big crowds of people.
•    School
•    Going from one activity/place to another or letting other people touch his stuff.
•    The unknown. In all forms, no way for them to have control can send them spiraling into panic, rage, depression.
•    His popularity factor. He is 9.
•    School and leaving the house


How CBD Gummies Can Help With Autism

Parents who are raising children with autism have a special kind of patience. Symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are often pervasive, affecting every aspect of daily life, and emotional disorders begin to appear as children with ASD age. These painful differences are compounded by the social rejection that both child and parent experience as a result of being seen as “difficult.” Parents struggle to connect with their children who are sometimes described as being “somewhere else.” They understandably worry about their emotional well-being in addition to their safety, and solutions are few and far between.

Treating the symptoms of an autism spectrum disorder requires a cocktail of medications that can have detrimental long term effects including extreme weight-gain, and side effects including tremors, anxiety, blurred vision, fever, confusion, abnormal heart rhythm, and the list goes on. Many parents believe that the effects of the medications are worse than the effects of the disorder itself.

A growing body of evidence, however, shows that CBD oils and CBD gummies may provide a natural way to improve symptoms in children with autism. While CBD’s known side effects include drowsiness and diarrhea, they are not incredibly common and are usually mild when they appear at all. Symptoms related to autism and autism spectrum disorders that CBD may help include:
  • Seizures
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Social withdrawal
  • Cognitive challenges

Parents who have tried giving their children CBD oils have posted videos on YouTube and appeared on talk shows like The Today Show to share the amazing results they have seen in their children. They report that their kids are calmer, more stable, and more interested in interaction. Let’s take a look at the science behind why this is.

A Holistic Approach

The endocannabinoid (ECS) system is a network of neuroreceptors and neurotransmitters responsible for maintaining balance and homeostasis within the body and brain. Though researchers only recently discovered the ECS within the last few decades, it has always been a part of human evolution. Some scientists now believe that many disorders and diseases are a result of a poorly functioning ECS.

CBD products activate certain receptors within the ECS to promote better functioning and communication between all bodily systems. This is why CBD is so good for so many different problems. The endocannabinoid system originates in the nervous system and affects every other system in the body.

Research has shown that CBD products like CBD gummies and oils help reduce general systemic inflammation, anxiety, depression, and a host of other problems. CBD inhibits the growth of abnormal cells, has neuroprotective properties, and has been approved by the FDA in a drug used to treat certain kinds of epilepsy.

Different CBD Formulas

Legal CBD products are derived from industrial hemp, which contains a dozens of different cannabinoids. All of them have their own unique individual effects, and produce what is known as the “entourage effect” when combined. This refers to the concept that all of the cannabinoids put together have a special effect that cannot be replicated by taking just one or two.

CBD comes in a few different formulas, and you want to do your research on each type in order to make an informed decision about which one to try. CBD isolate is pure CBD with no other cannabinoids present. Full spectrum CBD contains all cannabinoids present in the hemp plant, including THC. There is not enough THC to cause intoxication, and THC is known to have powerful therapeutic properties—especially when combined with other cannabinoids to produce the “entourage effect.” Broad spectrum CBD includes all the cannabinoids present in the hemp plant, minus THC.

Finding What’s Right For Your Child

Unfortunately, it is a challenge to get the medical community to acknowledge the benefits of CBD, especially in children. They are concerned about potential risks, as long term effects and drug interactions are not yet fully understood. But research is catching up with the anecdotal evidence, and parents should peruse the growing body of evidence before they make any decisions about giving CBD to their children.

You will have some choices to make about the formula and the dosage, but it is a good idea to start with smaller doses a couple of times a day, wait a week or so at the chosen dose, then work your way up from there. You also want to be careful about ensuring the CBD you use comes from a reputable company and provides a certificate of analysis with all of its products to confirm potency and purity.

Final Thoughts

When searching for ways to treat the painful symptoms of an ASD, parents are often overwhelmed and frustrated with the options available. The side effects usually outweigh the benefit they have, and there is never a simple solution. CBD oils and CBD gummies may be that solution, and some parents will swear that it is. When you are deciding what is right for your child, do your research in order to make the most informed decision possible.

Talk to their doctor, and do not drop behavioral therapies just because CBD may help certain symptoms. Like most drugs that treat psychological problems, CBD is a support that enables better integration of behavior therapies, not a replacement for them.


Disciplinary Tips for Difficult Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Disciplining kids displaying difficult behavior associated with ASD or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) will often require an approach that is somewhat different as compared to “typical” kids. Finding the balance between (a) understanding the needs of a youngster on the autism spectrum and (b) discipline that is age appropriate and situationally necessary is achievable when a few effective strategies are applied. These strategies can be implemented both at home and school.

Traditional discipline may fail to produce the desired results for kids with HFA, primarily because these children are often unable to appreciate the consequences of their actions. Consequently, punitive measures may worsen the type of behavior that they are intended to reduce, while at the same time, creating anxiety in both the youngster and parent.

Behavioral Diary—

Parents and teachers should consider maintaining a diary of the youngster's behavior with the goal of discovering patterns or triggers. Recurring behavior may be indicative of the youngster taking some satisfaction in receiving a desired response from parents, teachers, and even classmates. For instance, the HFA youngster may come to understand that hurting one of his peers will result in his being removed from class. 
In this case, punishing the youngster for the behavior, or attempting to explain the situation from the perspective of the injured peer, may not provide a solution. Instead, it would be best to address the root cause behind the motivation for the misbehavior. A good question to find the answer to may be, “How can my student be made more comfortable in class so that he will not want to leave it?”

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

Positive versus Negative Discipline—

One of the ways to address problematic behaviors in autistic kids is to focus on the positive. Praise for good behavior, along with positive reinforcement (e.g., a Reward Book), often helps. Given the autistic youngster’s tendency toward low-frustration tolerance, a verbal cue delivered in a calm manner will elicit a more favorable response than a harsher one. Also, when giving instruction to stop a particular form of misbehavior, it should be expressed as a positive rather than a negative (e.g., rather than telling the youngster to stop hitting his sister with the ruler, the youngster should be directed to put the ruler down – in this way, he is being instructed to DO something positive rather than STOP something negative).

Obsessive or Fixated Behavior—

Almost all kids go through periods of development where they become engrossed in one subject matter or another. But, kids with HFA often display obsessive and repetitive characteristics, which can have significant implications for behavior. For instance, if the youngster becomes fixated on reading a particular story each night, she may become distraught if this routine is disrupted, or if the story is interrupted.

As mentioned earlier, the use of a behavioral diary can help in identifying fixations. Once a fixation is identified, it is important to set appropriate boundaries. Providing a structure within which the child can explore the obsession can help keep the obsession within reasonable limits, without the associated anxiety that may otherwise arise through such restrictions (e.g., telling the youngster she can watch her favorite cartoon for 30 minutes after dinner, and making time for that in her daily routine).

It’s acceptable to use the obsession to motivate and reward the youngster for good behavior. However, make sure that any reward associated with positive behavior is granted immediately in order to help her recognize the connection between the two.

A particularly helpful technique to develop social reciprocity is to have the youngster talk for 5 minutes about her favorite subject – but after she has listened to the parent talk about an unrelated topic. This helps the youngster to understand that not everyone shares her enthusiasm for her “special interest.”

Sibling Issues—

For brothers and sisters who are not on the spectrum, the preferential treatment received by an HFA sibling can give rise to feelings of confusion, frustration, and resentment. Oftentimes, siblings will fail to understand why the “special needs” child apparently seems free to behave as he pleases without much in the way of punishment.

Parents set the tone for sibling interactions and attitudes by example and by direct communications. In any family, kids should be treated fairly and valued as individuals, praised as well as disciplined, and each youngster should have special times with parents. Thus, moms and dads should periodically assess the home situation. Although important goals for a youngster with “special needs” are to develop feelings of self-worth and self-trust, to become as independent as possible, to develop trust in others, and to develop to the fullest of his or her abilities, these goals are also important to the “neurotypical” (i.e., non-autistic) siblings.

To every extent possible, parents should require their HFA child to do as much as possible for himself. Moms and dads should provide every opportunity for a normal family life by doing things together (e.g., cleaning the house or yard, going on family outings, etc.). Also, the youngster with the disorder should be allowed to participate as much as possible in family chores, and should have specific chores assigned (as do the other kids).

Sleep Difficulties—

HFA kids are well-known for experiencing sleep problems. They may be more likely to become anxious about sleeping, or may find they become anxious when waking during the night or early in the morning.

Parents can reduce the youngster's anxiety by making her bedroom a place of safety and comfort (e.g., remove or store items that may be prone to injure the youngster if she decides to wander at night). Also, include in a behavioral diary a record of the youngster's sleep patterns. Keep a list of the child’s routine (e.g., dinner, bath, story, bed, etc.) in order to provide structure. Include an image or symbol of her waking in the morning to help her understand exactly what will happen. In addition, social stories have proven to be a particularly successful method in decreasing a youngster's anxiety by providing clear instructions on how part of her day is likely to unfold.

At School—

Another autistic trait is that the affected youngster will often experience difficulty during parts of the school day that lack structure. Difficulties with social interaction and self-management during “free time” can result in anxiety. The use of a “buddy system” and the creation of a timetable for recess and lunch times can help provide some structure.

Teachers should explain the concept of free time to the HFA youngster, or consider providing a separate purpose or goal for the youngster during such time (e.g., reading a book, helping to set up paint and brushes for the afternoon tasks, etc.).

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

In Public—

Kids with HFA can become overwhelmed to the point of meltdown by even a short exposure to certain public places (e.g., a noisy crowded store). Some parents simply avoid taking their youngster out to such places.

Consider providing the youngster with an iPod, or have the radio on in the car to block out stress-inducing sounds and stimuli. Prepare a social story or list describing the details of a trip (e.g., to the store or doctor). Be sure to include on the list your return home. Also, consider giving the youngster a task to complete during the trip, or having him assist you in some chore (e.g., carrying groceries).

Overprotective Parenting—

Some moms and dads of “special needs” children can become overprotective. They may make frequent excuses for their youngster’s behavior, or they may not discipline where most others agree it to be warranted. When this occurs – regardless of the youngster’s disorder – the balance of authority shifts. The youngster gains more and more control while being protected in a sheltered environment with little or no discipline.

Parents who are overprotective, who do very little in the way of discipline, and who micromanage every aspect of their child’s life are teaching some very artificial life lessons that will significantly hinder their youngster in the real world. Knowing when, how, and how much to discipline the HFA youngster can be very challenging. Parents may be filled with worry for their youngster and her future. But, they still need to find balance in their role as a parent and disciplinarian. There is a fine line between being an effective parent and being perceived as coddling of the “special needs” youngster.

The youngster’s diagnosis is a label that describes just a small fraction of who that person is. He is many other things. His diagnosis does not exclusively define him. In valuing the youngster’s gifts and talents – along with understanding his diagnosis – parents must be cautious about going to extremes. Of course, they have every reason to be a strong advocate on behalf of their youngster and in protection of his rights. But, this does not exempt the child from being disciplined.

Even children with a “disorder” should be permitted to make long- and short-term mistakes (with support and guidance, however). This is a real challenge for parents who are naturally protective of their youngster. But, it is the only way she will be able to learn and prepare for greater independence in the future. Where possible, parents should look for small opportunities to deliberately allow their youngster to make mistakes for which they can set aside discipline-teaching time. It will be a learning process for both the child and parent. Disciplining the youngster should be a teaching and learning opportunity about making choices and decisions. But, when she makes mistakes, assure her that she is still loved and valued.

Praise and Rewards—

One of the best methods for correcting “bad” behavior is to focus on the child’s acceptable behavior and provide rewards so that he is encouraged to repeat the “good” behavior. To do that, parents must first establish some ground rules. The ground rules must state specifically what is considered acceptable behavior – and what is not. Parents should catch and reward their child when he is well-behaved and following the rules. A reward doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical or expensive reward. It can be genuine praise or a word of encouragement. Most importantly, the reward must be clear and specific. The youngster should be able to know exactly the behavior that earned the reward for (e.g., rather than saying "good job," say "thank you for cleaning up your room").

Inability to Generalize—

Most HFA kids are not able to generalize information. They are usually not able to apply what they learn in one learning context to another. For instance, the child may learn that hitting his friend at school is not acceptable, but he may not necessarily understand that he can’t hit his sister at home. Once the situation changes, it will be a totally a new learning experience for the child. Thus, parents must be consistent and provide many repetitions in disciplining him. A consistent environment and many repetitions will help the youngster to learn and remember the differences between right and wrong.

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

The Difference Between Discipline and Punishment—

Discipline is: 
  • "Time-outs" that are open-ended and governed by the child's readiness to gain self-control
  • Acknowledging or rewarding efforts and good behavior
  • Consistent, firm guidance
  • Directed at the child's behavior, never the child’s personality
  • Giving children positive alternatives
  • Listening and modeling
  • Logical consequences that are directly related to the misbehavior
  • Physically and verbally non-violent
  • Positive, respectful
  • Re-directing and selectively "ignoring" minor misbehavior
  • Reflection and verbal give-and-take communication
  • Teaching children to internalize self-discipline
  • Teaching empathy and healthy remorse by showing it
  • Understanding individual abilities, needs, circumstances and developmental stages
  • Using mistakes as learning opportunities
  • When children follow rules because they are discussed and agreed upon
  • When children must make restitution when their behavior negatively affects someone else

Punishment is: 
  • "Time-outs" that banish a child for a set amount of time governed by the parent
  • Being told only what NOT to do
  • Children are punished for hurting others, rather than shown how to make restitution
  • Consequences that are unrelated and illogical to the misbehavior
  • Constantly reprimanding children for minor infractions causing them to tune-out
  • Controlling, shaming
  • Criticizing the child, rather than the child's behavior
  • Forcing children to comply with illogical rules "just because you said so"
  • Inappropriate to the child’s developmental stage of life
  • Individual circumstances, abilities and needs not taken into consideration
  • Negative and disrespectful of the child
  • Physically and verbally violent or aggressive
  • Reacting to - rather than responding to - misbehavior
  • Sarcastic
  • Teaching children to be controlled by a source outside of themselves
  • Teaching children to behave only when they will get caught doing otherwise
  • When children follow rules because they are threatened or bribed

Discipline is guidance. When we guide children toward positive behavior and learning, we are promoting a healthy attitude. Positive guidance encourages a child to think before he acts. It also promotes self-control. Punishment, on the other hand, is a type of parental-control behavior. Basically there are 3 kinds of punishment: (1) penalizing the child with consequences that do not fit the crime (e.g., "Because you told a lie, you can't have your allowance"); (2) physical (e.g., slapping, spanking, switching, paddling, using a belt or hair brush, etc.); and (3) with words (e.g., shaming, ridiculing, cussing, etc.).

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

Punishment is usually used because it vents the parent’s frustration, it's quick and easy, parents don't know other methods, and it asserts adult power. Punishment does not promote self-discipline. It only stops misbehavior for that moment. Punishment may fulfill a short-term goal, but it actually interferes with the accomplishment of the long-term goals of self-control. The outcomes for children who are punished include ideas such as: 
  • “It is okay to hit people who are smaller than you are.”
  • “It is right to hit those you are closest to.”
  • “Those who love you the most are also those who hit you.”
  • “Violence is okay when other things don't work.”


From the moment parents hear the diagnosis, they know life will be more challenging for their “special needs” youngster than for her siblings. So, when they ask her to do something and it's not done, they may let it go. Or they may fear that what they like her to do, or not do, is impossible for her to achieve. But, if parents feel that their child doesn't deserve discipline, it's like telling her, "I don't believe you have what t takes." And if parents don't believe it, neither will the child.

Behavior management is not about punishing or demoralizing the youngster. Instead, it's a way to lovingly set boundaries and communicate expectations. Discipline is one of the most important ways that moms and dads can show their HFA child that they love and care about him.

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

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