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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query HFA traits. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query HFA traits. Sort by date Show all posts

Is 'high functioning' autism simply a different way of perceiving and relating to people?

That remains to be seen, is the short answer here (and it's certainly an interesting idea). Some people do believe that High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is indeed nothing more than a “different way of thinking” (i.e., a variation of "normal"). This notion is quite believable due to the fact that everyone has some characteristics of the "disorder." All the traits that typify HFA - and Asperger's - can be found in varying degrees in the “typical” population.

For example, collecting objects (rocks, stamps, old glass bottles, etc.) are socially accepted hobbies; individuals differ in their levels of skill in social interaction and in their ability to read nonverbal social cues; people who are capable and independent as grown-ups have special interests that they pursue with marked enthusiasm; and, there is an equally wide distribution in motor skills.

As with any disorder identifiable only from a pattern of “abnormal” behavior (with each trait varying in degrees of severity), it is possible to find numerous individuals on the borderlines of Asperger’s and HFA whose diagnosis is particularly difficult. While the usual case can be recognized with ease by professionals with experience in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorders, in practice, the disorder blends into eccentric normality and into certain other clinical pictures. Until more is known about the underlying mechanism at play, it should be accepted that no precise cut-off points can be defined. 

As an experiment, take a moment to scan through the following traits associated with Asperger’s and HFA (count the number of traits that apply to you)...

Social traits of Asperger’s and HFA include:
  1. Abrupt and strong expression of likes and dislikes
  2. Apparent absence of relaxation, recreational, or “time out” activities
  3. Bizarre sense of humor (often stemming from a “private” internal thread of humor being inserted in public conversation without preparation or warming others up to the reason for the “punchline”)
  4. Bluntness in emotional expression
  5. Constant anxiety about performance and acceptance, despite recognition and commendation
  6. Difficulty in accepting criticism or correction
  7. Difficulty in distinguishing between acquaintance and friendship
  8. Difficulty in forming friendships and intimate relationships
  9. Difficulty in offering correction or criticism without appearing harsh, pedantic or insensitive
  10. Difficulty in perceiving and applying unwritten social rules or protocols
  11. Difficulty judging others’ personal space
  12. Difficulty with adopting a social mask to obscure real feelings, moods, reactions
  13. Difficulty with reciprocal displays of pleasantries and greetings
  14. Discomfort manipulating or “playing games” with others
  15. Excessive talk
  16. Failure to distinguish between private and public personal care habits (e.g., brushing, public attention to skin problems, nose picking, teeth picking, ear canal cleaning, clothing arrangement)
  17. Flash temper
  18. Flat affect
  19. Immature manners
  20. Known for single-mindedness
  21. Lack of trust in others
  22. Limited by intensely pursued interests
  23. Limited clothing preference (e.g., discomfort with formal attire or uniforms)
  24. Low or no conversational participation in group meetings or conferences
  25. Low to medium level of paranoia
  26. Low to no apparent sense of humor
  27. Often perceived as “being in their own world”
  28. Pouting frequently
  29. Preference for bland or bare environments in living arrangements
  30. Problems expressing empathy or comfort to/with others (e.g., sadness, condolence, congratulations)
  31. Rigid adherence to rules and social conventions where flexibility is desirable
  32. Ruminating (i.e., fixating on bad experiences with people or events for an inordinate length of time)
  33. Scrupulous honesty, often expressed in an apparently disarming or inappropriate manner or setting
  34. Serious all the time
  35. Shyness
  36. Social isolation and intense concern for privacy
  37. Tantrums
  38. Unmodulated reaction in being manipulated, patronized, or “handled” by others
  1. Anxiety
  2. Bad or unusual personal hygiene
  3. Balance difficulties
  4. Clumsiness
  5. Depression
  6. Difficulty expressing anger (i.e., either excessive or “bottled up”)
  7. Difficulty in judging distances, height, depth
  8. Difficulty in recognizing others’ faces (i.e., prosopagnosia)
  9. Difficulty with initiating or maintaining eye contact
  10. Elevated voice volume during periods of stress and frustration
  11. Flat or monotone vocal expression (i.e., limited range of inflection)
  12. Gross or fine motor coordination problems
  13. Low apparent sexual interest
  14. Nail-biting
  15. Self-injurious or disfiguring behaviors
  16. Sleep difficulties
  17. Stims (i.e., self-stimulatory behavior serving to reduce anxiety, stress, or to express pleasure)
  18. Strong food preferences and aversions
  19. Strong sensory sensitivities (e.g., touch and tactile sensations, sounds, lighting and colors, odors, taste
  20. Unusual and rigidly adhered to eating behaviors
  21. Unusual gait, stance, posture
  22. Verbosity

Cognitive traits of Asperger’s and HFA include:
  1. An apparent lack of “common sense”
  2. Compelling need to finish one task completely before starting another
  3. Concrete thinking
  4. Dependence on step-by-step learning procedures (note: disorientation occurs when a step is assumed, deleted, or otherwise overlooked in instruction)
  5. Difficulty in assessing cause and effect relationships (e.g., behaviors and consequences)
  6. Difficulty in assessing relative importance of details (an aspect of the trees/forest problem)
  7. Difficulty in drawing relationships between an activity or event and ideas
  8. Difficulty in estimating time to complete tasks
  9. Difficulty in expressing emotions
  10. Difficulty in generalizing
  11. Difficulty in imagining others’ thoughts in a similar or identical event or circumstance that are different from one’s own (“theory of mind” issues)
  12. Difficulty in interpreting meaning to others’ activities
  13. Difficulty in learning self-monitoring techniques
  14. Difficulty in understanding rules for games of social entertainment
  15. Difficulty with organizing and sequencing (i.e., planning and execution; successful performance of tasks in a logical order)
  16. Disinclination to produce expected results in an orthodox manner
  17. Distractibility due to focus on external or internal sensations, thoughts, and/or sensory input (e.g., appearing to be in a world of one’s own or day-dreaming)
  18. Exquisite attention to detail, principally visual, or details which can be visualized (“thinking in pictures”) or cognitive details (often those learned by rote)
  19. Extreme reaction to changes in routine, surroundings, people
  20. Generalized confusion during periods of stress
  21. Impulsiveness
  22. Insensitivity to the non-verbal cues of others (e.g., stance, posture, facial expressions)
  23. Interpreting words and phrases literally (e.g., problem with colloquialisms, clichés, neologism, turns of phrase, common humorous expressions)
  24. Literal interpretation of instructions (e.g., failure to read between the lines)
  25. Low understanding of the reciprocal rules of conversation (e.g., interrupting, dominating, minimum participation, difficult in shifting topics, problem with initiating or terminating conversation, subject perseveration)
  26. Mental shutdown response to conflicting demands and multi-tasking
  27. Missing or misconstruing others’ agendas, priorities, preferences
  28. Perseveration best characterized by the term “bulldog tenacity”
  29. Poor judgment of when a task is finished (often attributable to perfectionism or an apparent unwillingness to follow differential standards for quality)
  30. Preference for repetitive, often simple routines
  31. Preference for visually oriented instruction and training
  32. Psychometric testing shows great deviance between verbal and performance results
  33. Rage, tantrum, shutdown, self-isolating reactions appearing “out of nowhere”
  34. Relaxation techniques and developing recreational “release” interest may require formal instruction
  35. Resistance to or failure to respond to talk therapy
  36. Rigid adherence to rules and routines
  37. Stilted, pedantic conversational style (“the little professor” concept)
  38. Substantial hidden self-anger, anger towards others, and resentment
  39. Susceptibility to distraction
  1. Avoids socializing or small talk, on and off the job
  2. Deliberate withholding of peak performance due to belief that one’s best efforts may remain unrecognized, unrewarded, or appropriated by others
  3. Difficult in starting project
  4. Difficult with unstructured time
  5. Difficulty in accepting compliments, often responding with quizzical or self-deprecatory language
  6. Difficulty in handling relationships with authority figures
  7. Difficulty in negotiating either in conflict situations or as a self-advocate
  8. Difficulty with “teamwork”
  9. Difficulty with writing and reports
  10. Discomfort with competition
  11. Excessive questions
  12. Great concern about order and appearance of personal work area
  13. Intense pride in expertise or performance, often perceived by others as “flouting behavior”
  14. Low motivation to perform tasks of no immediate personal interest
  15. Low sensitivity to risks in the environment to self and/or others
  16. Often viewed as vulnerable or less able to resist harassment and badgering by others
  17. Out-of-scale reactions to losing
  18. Oversight or forgetting of tasks without formal reminders (e.g., lists or schedules)
  19. Perfectionism
  20. Punctual and conscientious
  21. Reliance on internal speech process to “talk” oneself through a task or procedure
  22. Reluctance to accept positions of authority or supervision
  23. Reluctance to ask for help or seek comfort
  24. Sarcasm, negativism, criticism
  25. Slow performance
  26. Stress, frustration and anger reaction to interruptions
  27. Strong desire to coach or mentor newcomers
  28. Tendency to “lose it” during sensory overload, multitask demands, or when contradictory and confusing priorities have been set
  29. Very low level of assertiveness

If you were honest with yourself, you found that many of the traits listed above directly apply to you. Does that mean you are technically located somewhere on the autism spectrum? Some will argue that the answer to that question is a profound “yes.” Also, many professionals are now noticing that the younger population (approximately ages 5 – 25) is becoming more “autistic-like” due to their significant obsession with digital devices (e.g., iPhones, iPads, computers, etc.).

These young people are literally (a) living in an altered reality (i.e., digital rather than real life experience), (b) spending inordinate amounts of time with their “special interest,” and (c) engaging in far fewer face-to-face social interactions – all of which are considered autistic traits. So, is autism on the rise, or are there simply more “normal” people engaging in “autistic-like” behavior (in the higher-functioning form)?

To complicate the matter of coming to an accurate diagnosis even further, there is the issue of “differential diagnosis.” For example, the lack of empathy, single-mindedness, odd communication, social isolation and over-sensitivity of individuals with Asperger’s and HFA are features that are also included in the definitions of Schizoid Personality Disorder (SPD).

To demonstrate this point, I had a client (19 year-old male) diagnosed with SPD who had no friends at college, he was odd and awkward in social interaction, always had difficulty with speech, never took part in rough games, was oversensitive, and very unhappy being away from home. He thought-out incredible digital inventions and, together with his younger brother, invented a detailed imaginary world. Sounds like Asperger’s – doesn’t it?

There is no question that HFA and Asperger’s can be viewed as a form of Schizoid Personality; however, the question is whether this grouping is of any value. The capacity to withdraw into an inner world of one's own special interests is available in a greater or lesser measure to everyone. This skill MUST be present in those who are highly creative (e.g., inventors, artists, scientists, etc.).

However, the difference between an individual with Asperger’s or HFA and the “typical” individual who has a complex inner world is that the latter DOES take part appropriately in two-way social interaction at times, while the former does NOT. Also, the “typical” individual, no matter how elaborate her inner world, is influenced by her social experiences, while the individual with Asperger’s or HFA seems cut-off from the effects of outside contacts.

Many “typical” grown-ups have excellent rote memories – and even retain eidetic imagery into adult life. Pedantic speech and a tendency to take things literally can also be found in “typical” individuals. Some individuals could be classified as having Asperger’s or HFA because they are at the extreme end of the normal continuum on all these traits. In other people, one particular characteristic may be so marked that it affects the whole of their functioning.

Even though Asperger’s and HFA do appear to merge into the normal continuum, there are many cases where the difficulties are so striking that the suggestion of a distinct disorder seems to be a more credible explanation than a “variant of normality.”

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

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Q & A on High-Functioning Autism: What Parents and Teachers Should Know

Why is this disorder referred to as “high functioning”?

High Functioning Autism (HFA), previously referred to as Asperger’s, is a term applied to children on the autism spectrum who are deemed to be functioning at a higher cognitive level (IQ>70) than other children on the spectrum.

Is there a difference between High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s?

The amount of overlap between HFA and Asperger’s is disputed. While some researchers agree that the two are distinct diagnoses, others argue that they are identical. On the other hand, the term HFA may be used by some researchers to refer to all autism spectrum disorders deemed to be cognitively higher functioning, including Asperger’s, especially in light of the removal of Asperger’s as a separate diagnostic from the DSM-5.

HFA is characterized by traits very similar to those of Asperger’s. The defining characteristic most widely recognized by professionals is a significant delay in the development of early speech and language skills before the age of 3. The diagnostic criteria of Asperger’s exclude a general language delay. Additional differences in traits between children with HFA and those with Asperger’s may include the following…

In contrast to those with Asperger’s, HFA children:

  • are less empathic
  • have a lower verbal intelligence quotient
  • have better visual/spatial skills (higher Performance IQ) 
  • have less deviating locomotion (i.e., clumsiness)
  • have more curiosity and interest for many different things
  • have more problems functioning independently

Also, the male to female ratio of 4:1 for HFA is much smaller than that of Asperger’s.

What are some of the other conditions that may coexist with HFA?

There are several comorbidities (i.e., the presence of one or more disorders in addition to the primary disorder) associated with HFA. Several of these comorbid symptoms are internalized within the child affected by HFA. Some of these include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). In particular, the link between HFA and OCD has been studied. When observing the connection between HFA and OCD, both have abnormalities associated with serotonin.

Several other comorbidities associated with HFA are external. These external symptoms include ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, and criminal behavior. While the association between HFA and criminal behavior is not completely discerned, several studies have shown that the traits associated with HFA may increase the possibility of engaging in criminal behavior. While more research is needed, recent studies on the correlation between HFA and criminal actions suggest that there is a need to understand the attributes of HFA that may lead to violent behavior. There have been several case studies that link the lack of empathy and social naïveté associated with HFA to criminal actions.

Do we know what causes High Functioning Autism?

Although little is known concerning the biological basis of HFA, there have been many studies revealing structural abnormalities in specific brain regions of children with HFA when compared to typically developing children. Regions identified in the social brain include the amygdala, superior temporal sulcus, fusiform gyrus area, and orbitofrontal cortex. Additional abnormalities have been observed in the caudate nucleus, believed to be involved in restrictive behaviors, as well as in a significant increase in amount of cortical grey matter and atypical connectivity between brain regions.

What are some of the telltale signs that a child has HFA?

The main signs of HFA include the following:
  • Insistence on routine: HFA children have an attachment to certain routines or rituals and demonstrate frustration when these can’t be accomplished.
  • Language problems: HFA kids have difficulty understanding how others use language. For example, they have trouble comprehending metaphors, figures of speech, irony, humor and sarcasm. Also, the language spoken by others is taken in its literal form.
  • Mind-blindness: HFA children have a lack of awareness of the emotions of others.
  • Social awkwardness: Unlike other forms of autism, most children with HFA have the desire to interact with others, but do not have the ability to do so appropriately. A significant sign of the presence of HFA is the attempt to interact with peers, but in offensive or abnormal ways. These young people lack the ability to learn from the interactions of others or change their behaviors based on social cues given by others.
  • In addition, HFA children have difficulty reading body language and other non-verbal information given off by others, and they may have inappropriate displays of emotion.

Why is HFA hard to diagnose in some children?

HFA is much harder to spot than regular forms of autism because the child can pass with limited problems due to his or her normal - or higher than normal - intelligence levels. However, there are certain things that can be looked for if the presence of this high functioning form of autism is suspected: Look for the child to have an intense passion about a couple specific topics, determine if he or she has the ability to engage in small talk, and watch for how he or she handles conflict – because if autism is present, the child will not handle conflict well.

How is a child diagnosed with this disorder?

A diagnosis is based on the physician's assessment of the youngster's symptoms in three areas:
  1. Interests in activities, objects, or specialized information (e.g., playing with only a part of a toy or being obsessed with a particular topic)
  2. Social interactions (e.g., lack of eye contact or an inability to understand another person's feelings)
  3. Verbal and non-verbal communication (e.g., not speaking or repeating a phrase over and over again)

The physician may gather information about these areas by:
  • Seeking a speech and language assessment
  • Requesting physical, neurological, developmental, or genetic testing
  • Observing the youngster's behavior
  • Interviewing moms and dads and others who have frequent contact with the youngster
  • Establishing the history of the youngster's development
  • Conducting psychological testing

In addition, the physician may request tests to rule out other causes of the behavior (e.g., hearing problems).

Cases of HFA are typically diagnosed by 35 months of age (much earlier than those of Asperger’s). This may be due to the early delay in speech and language. While there is no standard diagnostic measure for HFA, one of the most commonly used tools for early detection is the Social Communication Questionnaire. If the results of the test indicate an autism spectrum disorder, a comprehensive evaluation follows and leads to the diagnosis of HFA. Some traits used to diagnose a child on the autism spectrum include a lack of eye contact, pointing, and severe deficits in social interactions. The Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule are two evaluations utilized in the standard diagnosis process.

Do all children with HFA have similar social-interaction styles?

There are two classifications of different social interaction styles associated with HFA. The first social interaction type is a “passive” style. This aloof style is characterized by the lack of social initiations and could possibly be caused by social anxiety. The second is an “active-but-odd” social interaction style classified by ADHD symptoms, poor executive functioning, and psychosocial problems. The difficulty controlling impulses may cause the active-but-odd social behaviors present in some kids with HFA.

How is High-Functioning Autism Treated?

HFA can be treated with a variety of therapies. Behavioral training is the primary method used to help HFA children overcome problems with social interaction. Here are therapies that are often used:
  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): This is a method of rewarding appropriate social behavior and communication skills. This method is based on the theory that rewarding behavior encourages it to continue.
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): Treatment for HFA often involves addressing the individual symptoms. For example, to treat anxiety, the main treatment is cognitive behavior therapy. While this is the approved treatment for anxiety in general, it may not meet all the needs specifically associated with the symptoms of HFA, because there is little attention given to the parent's role in anxiety intervention and prevention. A revised version of cognitive behavior therapy has moms and dads and educators acting in a role as social coaches to help HFA kids and teens to cope with the issues they are facing. The involvement of the parent in the life of the youngster affected by anxiety associated with HFA is extremely valuable.
  • Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH): This is a structured way of teaching communication and coping skills. The system uses the youngster's strengths in memorization and visual skills.
  • Other treatments may be recommended based on the youngster's needs. These include: (a) speech and language therapy to help with communication and language development; (b) social skills therapy to work on language and social issues in the context of a typical group interaction; (c) physical or occupational therapy for assistance with motor skills; and (d) medications to treat obsessive behaviors, anxiety, inattention, hyperactivity, and depression.

Are there any techniques to help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with HFA?

While no single effective intervention exists for children with HFA, there are some proactive strategies (e.g., self-management) designed to maintain or change the child’s behavior to make living with HFA easier. Self-management techniques provide the child with the skills necessary to self-regulate his or her own behavior, leading to greater levels of independence. Improving self-management skills allows the child to be more self-reliant rather than having to rely on external sources for supervision or control. Self-monitoring is a framework, not a rigid structure, designed to encourage independence and self-control. A framework for self-monitoring may include:
  • Setting goals and keeping them
  • Identifying positive target behaviors 
  • Establishing alternative behaviors that are constructive
  • Establishing a self-recording sheet

The goal of self-monitoring is to have the child obtain the self-monitoring skills independently without prompting.

Online Parent Coaching: Help for Parents with Children on the Autism Spectrum

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Limiting "Special Interests" in Children with Aspergers and HFA

The Strengths of Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

The Misunderstood Aspergers Child

The Aspergers-ADHD Overlap

Explaining Aspergers To Your Neurotypical Children

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False Dilemma: A Thinking Error in Kids on the Spectrum

Dealing with Negative Emotions Associated with Parenting an Aspergers or HFA Child

Asperger's and Narcissism

Teaching Impulse-Control to Children on the Autism Spectrum

Anger-Control Techniques for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Advantages & Disadvantages of Being Labeled "Autistic"

Parents Who Have Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

What I Want My High-Functioning Autistic Child's Teacher To Know

Is your Aspergers child's "misbehavior" truly deliberate, willful, or manipulative?

"Isolation-Preference" in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

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

The Struggles That Many Teens on the Autism Spectrum Have to Endure

Meltdowns and Temperaments of Children with Asperger's and HFA

The Lonely Child on the Spectrum

Tips for Teachers: Understanding Your “Difficult” AS and HFA Students

"My daughter was diagnosed with high functioning autism recently. What critical details can I provide to her 5th grade teachers to help them understand her cognitive, emotional and social characteristics? (I am a teacher as well, 7th grade, different school). She apparently is not doing so well in the current situation."

Most children with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) are impaired socially. They often do not detect social clues and are frequently unaware when they irritate others. Since they miss these social clues, they miss the lesson associated with the experience. As a result, they tend to repeat the irritating behavior since they are unaware of its effects.

Many of the traits of AS and HFA are "masked" by average to above average IQ scores. This often results in the student being misunderstood by teachers. They assume the child is capable of more than is being produced. This lack of understanding may result in teachers treating the "special needs" student just like a "typical" student.

Another misunderstanding is the relationship between the classwork and social education. For instance, an AS or HFA youngster may find a social setting overwhelming and distracting. If kids are placed in a small group to work together on a project, this could become a social setting to the AS/HFA child. As a result, the child may be over-stimulated by the social aspect to the point where he or she can’t focus on the project itself.

The typical school environment is often very stressful for AS and HFA students, for example: (a) enduring “socialization hell” in the form of recess, lunch, gym, and the bus ride to and from school; (b) regular noises from alarms, bells, schoolmates, band practice, and crowded hallways; (c) periods of tightly structured time alternating with periods lacking any structure; (d) numerous daily transitions with a few surprises thrown in here and there; and (e) an overwhelming number of peers to contend with. Little wonder why AS and HFA students have the proverbial “meltdown” on occasion. All of these stressors should be taken into consideration when evaluating what types of teaching techniques to use with these youngsters.

Taking the above challenges into account (and there are many more than those listed), let’s now look at some specific techniques to employ with students on the high-functioning end of autism:

1. Although AS and HFA kids have difficulty figuring out most principles of social interaction, they are usually pretty good at understanding “cause-and-effect” principles. This suggests that, although these young people may be unaware of another person’s desires or emotions, they usually are aware of theirs. This can be useful in education if the teacher takes the time to figure out what is pleasing to the youngster. Once this pleasure has been discovered, the teacher can request the desired behavior and reinforce the behavior with the object or activity of desire.

2. AS and HFA children, like all others, change teachers each year. Additionally, there is the requirement of moving from elementary to middle school, and then on to high school. Thus, it’s important to have a "transition-planning meeting" scheduled prior to such transitions. This meeting allows the previous teacher to inform the incoming teacher on successful techniques, as well as provide general education on the traits of AS and HFA. The child should be orientated as well. Allowing the child extra time to become familiar with a new environment will prevent unnecessary stress during transitional periods.

3. AS and HFA students are visual learners. Thus, a visual schedule of the day's activities, a visual depiction of the type and length of the work expected, and instructions presented visually in addition to verbally can be very helpful. Visual instructions and schedules help these children to feel more secure and less stressed.

4. Because AS and HFA children have difficulty learning in a traditional manner, mild to severe depression can occur. These children have the capability to acquire information, but their performance is hindered. A depressed child will undoubtedly have some academic struggles. For AS and HFA children, depression is just one more barrier to education. Thus, teachers should be on the lookout for signs of depression in these “special needs” students and make a referral to the school counselor when needed.

5. Imagine nails scraping on a chalk board. It sends a chill down your spine – right?! To a youngster with AS or HFA, every day sounds can have a similar affect. Thus, it’s important for the teacher to take inventory to determine sounds difficult for the child to hear. Consider allowing him or her to listen to soft music with headsets during class times when there is a lot of distracting noise. Earplugs are another solution.

6. In middle and high school, passing periods are a desirable time of socializing for most “typical” children. For the AS or HFA child, passing periods are a social zoo. Thus, allowing the child to leave 5 minutes early in order to avoid the overwhelming social interaction is recommended. Without such an option, the child may spend most of the next class trying to recover from the distressing sensory overload experienced during the previous passing period.

7. Many students with AS and HFA are impulsive.  You may have a child who loves class participation, but has trouble sensing when he or she should stop talking and give someone else a chance.  Thus, work out a signal that only the two of you know (e.g., tapping your chin with your index finger, standing in front of that child's desk, etc.) that cue him or her that it's time to stop talking.   If you have an AS or HFA child who is especially eager to participate, you may want to routinely call on that child first so he or she isn't jumping out of the chair in an eagerness to contribute.

8. Minimizing the stress and worry AS and HFA children face is critical to education. Frequent changes in routines make it difficult for these kids to focus on the schoolwork due to preoccupation concerning what will come next in the day. Teachers should try to minimize transitions and insure the environment is predictable. When there are changes in the routine, these children should be prepped ahead of time in order to help them avoid excessive anxiety.

9. Oftentimes, “teacher frustration” can develop from a lack of understanding that an AS or HFA child is unable to generalize the skills that he or she learns. For instance, the teacher may give instructions on “how to address me as your teacher” (e.g., raising your hand first, saying “Mrs. Johnson” rather than “Hey teacher”). Typically, this skill would then be generalized to any adult in a position of authority. However, the child with AS or HFA is likely to only apply the skill to the teacher initially used as the target of respect in the learning process. The child will probably not apply this behavior to the principal, school counselor, school police officer, etc. Thus, teachers may need to repeat a particular “social skills lesson” several times so that all the possible scenarios are covered (i.e., addressing the teacher, addressing the principal, addressing the dean, and so on).

The inability to generalize can also pose a problem in classroom assignments. For example, giving instructions to open an arithmetic book to a certain page does not communicate to additionally begin solving the problems. Thus, teachers should verbally give all the steps necessary to complete an assignment rather than assuming the AS or HFA child will automatically know what to do next.

10. There is another critical aspect of learning that is not obvious to AS and HFA children. This aspect of learning includes the basic “how to’s” of living. These are things that “typical” children seem to just know. The social know-how that tells most kids what is inappropriate conversation material may be foreign to an AS or HFA child. Thus, teachers instructing children struggling in this area should make use of social stories and role-playing. Social stories and role-playing give examples of proper actions in given public settings.

Teachers need to understand what the disorder is – and how it hinders affected children. Without a clear understanding of this disorder, teachers will not understand the "special needs" child. Actions that are clearly a part of the disorder can be confused with behavioral issues and dealt with inappropriately. Also, teachers must educate themselves on effective teaching techniques for students on the spectrum. 

The basic principles that prove effective with “typical” children work for those with AS and HFA. Every “special needs” youngster needs to be evaluated, and have a plan established addressing areas of weakness – as well as acknowledging areas of strength. Perhaps most importantly, teachers should “believe in” the child and expect him or her to reach appropriate grade level requirements.

==> The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

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:

Does My Student Have High-Functioning Autism?

“I’m a teacher and I think one of my students may have high functioning autism. What things should I look for in determining whether or not this child may have the disorder? Also, is it too early to approach the parents about my concern?”

If you have a basic knowledge of the symptoms associated with high-functioning autism (HFA), and based on that knowledge, you suspect the disorder in one of your students, advise the parents of your concern now. It’s better to know than not to know, and the sooner treatment can begin - the better!

If the student in question is having a greater degree of language difficulties than other peers his/her age or has diminished communication skills, and also exhibits a restrictive pattern of thought and behavior, he/she may have HFA. One peculiar symptom of the disorder is the youngster’s obsessive interest in a single object or topic to the exclusion of any other. The youngster living with HFA wants to know all about this one topic.

Here are a few more traits to look for:
  • Although kids on the autism spectrum can manage themselves with their disorder, the personal relationships and social situations are challenging for them. 
  • These young people have some traits of Autism, especially weak social skills and a preference for sameness and routine. 
  • Kids with HFA typically develop a good to excellent vocabulary, although they usually lack the social instincts and practical skills needed when relating to others. 
  • They may not recognize verbal and non-verbal cues or understand social norms (e.g., taking turns talking or grasping the concept of personal space). 
  • They typically make efforts to establish friendships, but may have difficulty making friends because of their social awkwardness. 
  • Developmental delays in motor skills (e.g., catching a ball, climbing outdoor play equipment, pedaling a bike, etc.) may also appear in the youngster.

 ==> A comprehensive list of traits associated with HFA can be found here.

The main difference between Autism and HFA is that the youngster suffering from HFA retains his early language skills. It is classified as an Autism Spectrum Disorder, one of a distinct group of neurological conditions characterized by a greater or lesser degree of impairment in language and communication skills, as well as repetitive or restrictive patterns of thought and behavior. Unlike young people with Autism, HFA kids retain their early language skills. In Autistic kids, language is often absent, lost, limited, or very slow to develop. In HFA, however, language development often falls within normal limits.

Advise your student’s parents that many moms and dads find comfort and build acceptance with help from support groups, counseling, and a network of friends, family, and community. A diagnosis is best made with input from caregivers, doctors, and educators who know or who have observed the youngster. A diagnosis is based on a careful history of the youngster’s development, psychological and psychiatric assessments, communication tests, and the parents’ and clinicians’ shared observations. When making a diagnosis, the health professional will see if the boy or girl meets the criteria published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a publication of the American Psychiatric Association.

You can best serve this student by learning about HFA and providing a supportive classroom environment (see link below). Remember, the student, just like every other youngster, has his or her own strengths and weaknesses and needs as much support, patience, and understanding as you can give. Visual supports, including schedules and other written materials that serve as organizational aids, can be very helpful for students on the autism spectrum.

==> Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism


•    Anonymous said... I sure one of my son's teachers had mentioned it to me. He didn't get diagnosed until he was 11, and so missed out on early treatment and intervention. After he was diagnosed I had teachers, coaches and other parents say "I thought that might be it"...why oh why didn't they say anything? I had never even heard of it before.
•    Anonymous said... My daughter was recently diagnosed at 4. Her preschool teachers brought it to my attention. We dismissed it because we didn't see Autism. Then...when we read and did some research, it hit us like a ton of bricks that almost everything mentioned was her to a tee. Do it gently and explain to the parents that this is not a bad thing, and she/he will lead a normal life. Aspies just approach things differently. They see life differently.
•    Anonymous said... Teachers should approach this discussion with a positive attitude and lightly. As someone who was thrown this "he has autism" in kindergarten, I was angry and unconvinced. I didn't know really anything about Aspergers/high functioning autism, and I dismissed the discussion until second grade when a much more polite discussion was brought to me about my son's habits and issues. As a parent, I didn't know that a talking, caring, sensitive and smart child could be aspergers/autistic. The best thing I did to convince myself was to go over to school and observe my son at recess. I then did alot of research and started checking off symptoms...this combined is what convinced me.

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The Traits of High-Functioning Autism: Fact Sheet

Is there a detailed list of traits associated with high functioning autism that we can use as a gauge to see whether or not to have our child assessed?

A child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's often has many of the following traits:
  1. Has a different form of introspection and self-consciousness
  2. Has a fascination with a topic that is unusual in intensity or focus
  3. Takes longer to process social information due to using intelligence rather than intuition
  4. Needs assistance with some self-help and organizational skills
  5. Enjoys a very brief and low intensity expression of affection, and becomes confused or overwhelmed when greater levels of expression are experienced or expected
  6. Collects facts and figures about a specific topic
  7. Has a tendency to be considered disrespectful and rude by others
  8. Has a tendency to make a literal interpretation of what someone says
  9. Has an unusual profile of learning abilities
  10. Teachers often identify problems with organizational abilities, especially with homework assignments and essays
  11. Teachers soon recognize that the child has a distinctive learning style, being talented in understanding the logical and physical world, noticing details, and remembering and arranging facts in a systematic fashion
  12. Often has levels of anxiety, depression or anger that indicate a secondary mood disorder
  13. Can be easily distracted, especially in the classroom
  14. When problem solving, the child appears to have a one-track mind and a fear of failure
  15. Has a different, but not defective, way of thinking
  16. Is clumsy in terms of gait and coordination
  17. Has a delay in the development of the art of persuasion, compromise and conflict resolution
  18. Has delayed social maturity and social reasoning
  19. Has difficulty reading the messages in someone’s eyes
  20. Has difficulty making friends
  21. Is often teased by peers due to his/her “odd” mannerisms
  22. Has difficulty with the communication and control of emotions
  23. If the child with HFA is not successful socially at school, then academic success becomes more important as the primary motivation to attend school and for the development of self-esteem
  24. In adolescence, the interests can evolve to include electronics and computers, fantasy literature, science fiction, and a fascination with a particular person
  25. Much of the knowledge associated with the child's special interest is self-directed and self-taught
  26. Is vulnerable to feeling depressed, with about 1 in 3 HFA children having clinical depression
  27. Experiences physical and emotional exhaustion from socializing
  28. Has problems knowing when something may cause embarrassment to others
  29. Is remarkable honesty
  30. Has sensitivities to specific sounds, aromas, sights, tastes and touch 
  31. Can be immature in the development of the ability to catch, throw or kick a ball
  32. HFA girls often develop a special interest in fiction rather than facts 
  33. Often has academic abilities above his/her grade level
  34. Sometimes the special interest is a particular animal, and can be so intense that the child acts like the animal
  35. Has difficulties with handwriting
  36. Becomes hypervigilant, tense and distractible in sensory stimulating environments (e.g., in the classroom), unsure when the next painful sensory experience will occur
  37. The emotion management can be conceptualized as a problem with "energy management," specifically an excessive amount of emotional energy, and difficulty controlling and releasing the energy constructively
  38. Emotional maturity is usually at least three years behind that of his/her peers
  39. The special interest can be a source of enjoyment, knowledge, self-identity and self-esteem that can be constructively used by parents, teachers and therapists
  40. The most common sensory sensitivity is to very specific sounds
  41. There can be an under- or over- reaction to the experience of pain and discomfort
  42. The sense of balance, movement perception, and body orientation can be unusual
  43. May have a fixation on something neither human nor toy, or a fascination with a specific category of objects and the acquisition of as many examples as possible
  44. The child’s overriding priority may be to solve a problem rather than satisfy the social or emotional needs of others
  45. The child is usually renowned for being direct, speaking his/her mind and being determined and having a strong sense of social justice
  46. The child may actively seek and enjoy solitude, be a loyal friend, and have a distinct sense of humor
  47. The child usually has a strong desire to seek knowledge, truth and perfection with a different set of priorities than would be expected with "typical" children 
  48. The child values being creative rather than co-operative
  49. Can have difficulty with the management and expression of emotions
  50. May perceive errors that are not apparent to others, giving considerable attention to detail rather than noticing the “big picture”
  51. The child's special interest has several functions: to (a) create a sense of identity, (b) create an alternative world, (c) ensure greater predictability and certainty in life, (d) facilitate conversation and indicate intellectual ability, (e) help understand the physical world, (f) overcome anxiety, (g) provide pleasure, and (h) provide relaxation
  52. There seems to be two main categories of special interest: collections, and the acquisition of knowledge on a specific topic or concept
  53. Has a limited vocabulary to describe emotions, and a lack of subtlety and variety in emotional expression
  54. Tends to have a different perception of situations and sensory experiences
  55. May have problems expressing the degree of love and affection expected by others
  56. Unusual language abilities that include advanced vocabulary and syntax, but delayed conversation skills, unusual prosody, and a tendency to be pedantic
  57. Unusual or special interests can develop as early as age 2 to 3 years and may commence with a preoccupation with parts of objects (e.g., spinning the wheels of toy cars) or manipulating electrical switches
  58. HFA traits are more conspicuous in early childhood and gradually diminish during adolescence, but some traits remain throughout adulthood
  59. When one considers the attributes associated with the special interests, it is important to consider not only the benefits to the HFA child, but also the benefits to society
  60. The child’s coordination can be immature. and he/she may have a strange, sometimes idiosyncratic gait that lacks fluency and efficiency

If most of the traits above characterize your child, then an assessment by a qualified professional would be in order.

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

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Do you need some assistance in parenting your Aspergers or HFA child? Click here to use a counseling psychologist and ASD expert as your personal parent coach.

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

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…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

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...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD 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 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…

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.

Click here
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...

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