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Affective Education: How to Teach Children on the Autism Spectrum About Emotions


Most children with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) lack emotional intelligence to one degree or another. Emotional intelligence is the ability to (a) identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups; (b) harness emotions to facilitate various cognitive activities (e.g., thinking and problem solving); (c) detect and decipher emotions in faces, pictures, voices, and cultural artifacts, including the ability to identify one's own emotions; (d) comprehend emotion language; and (e) appreciate complicated relationships among different emotions.

Emotional intelligence consists of four attributes:
  1. Social awareness: Understanding the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, picking up on emotional cues, feeling comfortable socially, and recognizing the power dynamics in a group.
  2. Self-management: Being able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, managing emotions in healthy ways, taking initiative, following through on commitments, and adapting to changing circumstances.
  3. Self-awareness: Recognizing one’s emotions and how they affect one’s thoughts and behavior, knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, and having self-confidence.
  4. Relationship management: Knowing how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.



Affective education is basically teaching children with Asperger’s and HFA why they have emotions, their use and misuse, and the identification of different levels of expression. Some of the skills obtained through this form of education include (but are not limited to) the ability to use humor and play to deal with challenges, resolve conflicts positively and with confidence, recognize and manage one’s emotions, quickly reduce stress, and connect with others through nonverbal communication.

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

When parents or teachers begin the process of teaching the Asperger’s or HFA child about emotions, it’s best to explore one emotion at a time as a theme for a project. A useful starting point is happiness or pleasure. A scrapbook can be created that illustrates the emotion. This can include pictures of people expressing the different degrees of happiness or pleasure – and can be extended to pictures of objects and situations that have a personal association with the feeling (e.g., a photograph of a rare lizard for a child with a special interest in reptiles).

Another important component to affective education includes helping the child to identify the relevant cues that indicate a particular level of emotion in facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and context. The face is described as an information center for emotions. The typical errors experienced by children on the autism spectrum include not identifying which cues are relevant or redundant, and misinterpreting cues. Parents and teachers can use a range of games and resources to “spot the message” and explain the multiple meanings (e.g., a furrowed brow can mean anger or bewilderment, or may be a sign of aging skin; a loud voice does not automatically mean that a person is angry, etc.).

Once the key elements that indicate a particular emotion have been identified, it is important to measure the degree of intensity. Parents and teachers can create an “emotion thermometer” and use a range of activities to define the level of expression (e.g., use a selection of pictures of faces, and place each picture at the appropriate point on the “thermometer.”

But, keep in mind that some children on the autism spectrum can use extreme statements such as “I am going to kill myself” to express a level of emotion that would be more moderately expressed by a “typical” child. Therefore, you may need to increase your Asperger’s or HFA child’s vocabulary of emotional expression to ensure precision and accuracy.

Affective education can also include activities to detect specific degrees of emotion in others and in oneself using internal physiological cues, cognitive cues, and behavior. Both the parent and child can create a list of the child’s physiological, cognitive, and behavioral cues that indicate his increase in emotional arousal. The degree of expression can be measured using the “emotion thermometer.” One of the aspects of affective education is to help the child perceive his “early warning signals” that indicate emotional arousal that may need cognitive control.

When a particular emotion and the levels of expression are understood, the next component of affective education is to use the same procedures for a contrasting emotion (e.g., after exploring happiness, the next topic explored would be sadness; feeling relaxed would be explored before a project on feeling anxious, etc.). The child is encouraged to understand that certain thoughts or emotions are “antidotes” to other feelings (e.g., some activities associated with feeling happy may be used to counteract feeling sad).

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

Other activities to be considered in affective education are the creation of a photograph album that includes pictures of the child and family members expressing particular emotions, or video recordings of the child expressing her feelings in real-life situations. This can be particularly valuable to demonstrate the child’s behavior when expressing anger.

Lastly, it’s important to incorporate the child’s special interest in this educational process. For example, one teacher worked with an Asperger’s student whose special interest was the weather, so the teacher suggested that the student’s emotions be expressed as a weather report. A poster was created with a picture of a calm sunny day on the right side (representing happiness) and a picture of a tornado on the left side (representing rage). Various other pictures of weather patterns were place in between these two extremes to illustrate other more moderate emotions often experienced by the student.


In a nutshell, through the use of affective education, children with Asperger’s and HFA can begin the process of developing emotional intelligence. In an ideal world, the child will develop the following skills in the end:
  • Taking responsibility for his own emotions and happiness
  • Showing respect by respecting other people's feelings
  • Paying attention to non-verbal communication (e.g., watch faces, listen to tone of voice, take note of body language)
  • Looking for the humor or life lesson in a negative situation
  • Listening twice as much as she speaks
  • Learning to relax when his emotions are running high
  • Getting up and moving when she is feeling down
  • Examining his feelings rather than the actions or motives of others
  • Developing constructive coping skills for specific moods
  • Being honest with himself or herself
  • Avoiding people who don't respect his feelings 
  • Acknowledging her negative feelings, looking for their source, and coming up with a way to solve the underlying problem

==> Click here for more information on teaching social skills and emotion management...



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


NOTE: Below is a list of common emotions that can be incorporated into an affective education program. Each program should be tailored to the child’s specific needs.

•    Affection
•    Anger
•    Angst
•    Anguish
•    Annoyance
•    Anxiety
•    Apathy
•    Arousal
•    Awe
•    Boredom
•    Confidence
•    Contempt
•    Contentment
•    Courage
•    Curiosity
•    Depression
•    Desire
•    Despair
•    Disappointment
•    Disgust
•    Distrust
•    Dread
•    Ecstasy
•    Embarrassment
•    Envy
•    Euphoria
•    Excitement
•    Fear
•    Frustration
•    Gratitude
•    Grief
•    Guilt
•    Happiness
•    Hatred
•    Hope
•    Horror
•    Hostility
•    Hurt
•    Hysteria
•    Indifference
•    Interest
•    Jealousy
•    Joy
•    Loathing
•    Loneliness
•    Love
•    Lust
•    Outrage
•    Panic
•    Passion
•    Pity
•    Pleasure
•    Pride
•    Rage
•    Regret
•    Relief
•    Remorse
•    Sadness
•    Satisfaction
•    Self-confidence
•    Shame
•    Shock
•    Shyness
•    Sorrow
•    Suffering
•    Surprise
•    Trust
•    Wonder
•    Worry
•    Zeal
•    Zest

Affective Education: Teaching Children on the Autism Spectrum About Emotions


Does your child have difficulty expressing troubling emotions using his or her words rather than acting-out? Does your child seem to lack an understanding about the emotions of other people? If so, here are some ways to educate your child on the subject:

The main goal of Affective Education is to teach children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s why they have emotions, their use and misuse, and the identification of different levels of expression. A basic principle is to explore one emotion at a time as a theme for a project.

The choice of which emotion to start with is decided by the parent (or teacher), but a useful starting point is happiness or pleasure. A scrapbook can be created that illustrates the emotion. This can include pictures of people expressing the different degrees of happiness, but can be extended to pictures of objects and situations that have a personal association with the feeling (e.g., a photograph of a rare lizard for a child with a special interest in reptiles).

The content of the scrapbook also can include sensations that may elicit the feeling of happiness or pleasure (e.g., aromas and textures), and/or can be used as a diary to include compliments, and records of achievement (e.g., certificates and memorabilia).
 
==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Affective Education includes the parent describing - and the child discovering - the relevant cues that indicate a particular level of emotional expression in facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and context. The face can be described as an “information center” for emotions.

The typical errors that children with HFA and Asperger’s make when trying to comprehend emotions include not identifying which cues are relevant or redundant, and misinterpreting cues. The parent can use a range of games to “spot the message” and explain the multiple meanings (e.g., a furrowed brow can mean anger or bewilderment, or may be a sign of aging skin; a loud voice does not automatically mean that an individual is angry).

Once the key elements that indicate a particular emotion have been identified, it’s important to use an “instrument” to measure the degree of intensity. The parent can construct a model “thermometer,” “gauge,” or volume control, and can use a range of activities to define the level of expression (e.g., the parent can create a selection of pictures of happy faces and place each picture at the appropriate point on the instrument).

Some kids on the spectrum can use extreme statements (e.g., “I am going to kill myself”) to express a level of emotion that would be more moderately expressed by a “non-autistic” child. During a program of Affective Education, the parent often has to increase the child’s vocabulary of emotional expression to ensure precision and accuracy.

Affective Education not only includes activities to detect specific degrees of emotion in others - but also in oneself. The child (and those who know him well) can create a list of his physical, cognitive, and behavioral cues that indicate his increase in emotional arousal. The degree of expression can be measured using one of the special instruments mentioned earlier (e.g., an emotion thermometer). One of the aspects of Affective Education is to help the child perceive his “early warning signals” that indicate emotional arousal that may need cognitive control.
 
==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

When a particular emotion and the levels of expression are understood, the next part of Affective Education can be to use the same procedures for a contrasting emotion. For example, after exploring happiness, the next emotion explored might be sadness. Feeling relaxed would be explored before a project on feeling anxious. In addition, the child should be encouraged to understand that certain thoughts or emotions are “antidotes” to other feelings (e.g., some strategies or activities associated with feeling happy may be used to counteract feeling sad).

Many children with HFA and Asperger’s have considerable difficulty translating their feelings into conversational words. The parent can create “comic strip conversations” that use figures with speech and thought bubbles (e.g., a cartoon of an angry boy who is thinking to himself, “I’m really upset right now”).

Other activities to be considered in Affective Education are the creation of a photograph album that includes pictures of the child and family members expressing particular emotions, or video recordings of the child expressing her feelings in real-life situations. This can be particularly valuable to demonstrate the child’s behavior when expressing anger.

Another activity called “Guess the Message” can include the presentation of specific cues to indicate doubt (e.g., a raised eyebrow), surprise (e.g., wide-opened mouth and eyes), disgust (e.g., crinkled nose with tongue sticking out), and so on.

Lastly, it’s important to incorporate the child’s special interest in the program (e.g., a child whose special interest is the weather and has suggested that his emotions are expressed as a weather report). 

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

Affective Education for Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum

A major part of emotional development in “typical” (i.e., non-autistic) kids and teens is how they recognize, label, and control the expression of their feelings in ways that generally are consistent with social norms (i.e., emotional control). Self-regulation of feelings includes recognition and description of feelings. Once a youngster can articulate an emotion, the articulation already has a somewhat regulatory effect.

Typical kids are able to use various strategies to self-regulate as they develop and mature. They begin learning at a young age to control certain negative feelings when in the presence of grown-ups, but not to control them as much around friends. By about age 4, they begin to learn how to alter how they express feelings to suit what they feel others expect them to express.



By about age 7 to 11 years, “typical” kids are better able to regulate their feelings and to use a variety of self-regulation skills. They have likely developed expectations concerning the outcome that expressing a particular feeling to others may produce – and have developed a set of behavioral skills to control how they express their feelings. By the teenage years, they adapt these skills to specific social relationships (e.g., they may express negative feelings more often to their mom than to their dad because they assume their dad will react negatively to displays of emotion). “Typical” teens also have heightened sensitivity to how others evaluate them.

Unfortunately, young people on the autism spectrum do not develop emotionally along the same lines and time-frame as “typical” children do. Children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA), after all, have a “developmental disorder” – their emotional age is younger than their chronological age. Thus, they must be taught emotion management and social skills. Affective education (i.e., teaching children about emotions) is an effective way to accomplish this goal.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's
 
Affective education is a crucial stage in a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and an essential component for children and teens with AS and HFA. The main goal is to learn why one has emotions, their use and misuse, and the identification of different levels of expression.

A basic principle is to explore one emotion at a time as a theme for a project. The choice of which emotion to start with is decided by the Cognitive Behavioral therapist, but a useful starting point is happiness or pleasure. A scrapbook can be created that illustrates the emotion. For younger kids, this can include pictures of people expressing the different degrees of happiness or pleasure, but can be extended to pictures of objects and situations that have a personal association with the feeling, (e.g., a photograph of a rare rock for a child with a special interest in rock collecting).

For older teens, the scrapbook can illustrate the pleasures in their life. The content also can include the sensations that may elicit the feeling (e.g., aromas, tastes, textures). The scrapbook can be used as a diary to include compliments, and records of achievement (e.g., certificates and memorabilia). At a later stage in therapy, the scrapbook can be used to change a particular mood, but it also can be used to illustrate different perceptions of a situation.

If therapy is conducted in a group, the scrapbooks can be compared and contrasted. Talking about dinosaurs may be an enjoyable experience for one group member, but perceived as terribly boring for another. Part of affective education is to explain that, although this topic may create a feeling of well-being in the one participant, his attempt to cheer up another person by talking about dinosaurs may not be a successful strategy (perhaps producing a response that he did not expect).

One of the interesting aspects noticed is that group members with AS and HFA tend to achieve enjoyment primarily from knowledge, interests, and solitary pursuits, and less from social experiences, in comparison with “typical” group members. They are often at their happiest when alone.

Affective education includes the clinician describing – and the AS or HFA child discovering – the prominent cues that indicate a particular level of emotional expression in facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and context. The face is described as an information center for emotions. The typical errors that young people on the autism spectrum make include not identifying which cues are relevant or redundant, and misinterpreting cues. The clinician uses a range of games and resources to “spot the message” and explain the multiple meanings (e.g., a furrowed brow can mean anger or bewilderment, or may be a sign of aging skin; a loud voice does not automatically mean that a person is angry).

Once the key elements that indicate a particular emotion have been identified, it is important to use an “instrument” to measure the degree of intensity. The clinician can construct a model “thermometer,” “gauge,” or volume control, and can use a range of activities to define the level of expression. For instance, the clinician can use a selection of pictures of happy faces and place each picture at the appropriate point on the instrument.

During the therapy, it is important to ensure that the AS or HFA child shares the same definition or interpretation of words and gestures and to clarify any semantic confusion. Clinical experience has indicated that some young people on the spectrum can use extreme statements (e.g., “I am going to kill myself”) to express a level of emotion that would be more moderately expressed by a “typical” child or teen. During a program of affective education, the clinician often has to increase the AS or HFA child's vocabulary of emotional expression to ensure precision and accuracy.




The education program includes activities to detect specific degrees of emotion in others – but also in oneself – using internal physiologic cues, cognitive cues, and behavior. Technology can be used to identify internal cues in the form of biofeedback instruments (e.g., auditory EMG and GSR machines). The AS or HFA child – and those who know him well – can create a list of physiologic, cognitive, and behavioral cues that indicate an increase in emotional arousal. The degree of expression can be measured using one of the special instruments used in the program (e.g., the emotion thermometer). One of the aspects of the therapy is to help the child perceive his “early warning signals” that indicate emotional arousal that may need cognitive control.

When a particular emotion and the levels of expression are understood, the next component of affective education is to use the same procedures for a contrasting emotion. For example, after exploring happiness, the next topic explored could be sadness; feeling relaxed could be explored before a project on feeling anxious. The child is encouraged to understand that certain thoughts or emotions are “antidotes” to other feelings (e.g., some activities associated with feeling happy may be used to counteract feeling sad).

Some young people with AS and HFA can have considerable difficulty translating their feelings into conversational words. There can be a greater eloquence, insight, and accuracy using other forms of expression. The clinician can use prose in the form of a “conversation” by typing questions and answers on a computer screen, or by using certain techniques (e.g., comic strip conversations that use figures with speech and thought bubbles). When designing activities to consolidate the new knowledge on emotions, one can use a diary, e-mail, art, or music as a means of emotional expression that provides a greater degree of insight for both the child and clinician.

Other activities to be considered in affective education are the creation of a photograph album that includes pictures of the child and family members expressing particular emotions, or video recordings of the child expressing her feelings in real-life situations. This can be particularly valuable to demonstrate her behavior when expressing anger.

Another activity entitled “Guess the message” can include the presentation of specific cues (e.g., a cough as a warning sign, a raised eyebrow to indicate doubt, etc.). It is also important to incorporate the AS or HFA child's special interest into the program (e.g., a child whose special interest is the weather can express his emotions as a weather report).

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

Emotional Flooding—

The opposite of emotional control is emotional flooding, which is characterized as overwhelming and intense feelings that can't be controlled. During an episode of emotional flooding, the autistic child's rational mind is disconnected, his nervous system is saturated, and his prefrontal cortex ceases to exercise its controlling function. Flooding may turn into panic and fear, fight or flight. It takes a long time to come down from this heightened state, and afterward, the "special needs" youngster is often completely drained to the point of exhaustion.

Here is a 7-step plan that parents can use to deal with emotional flooding in their AS or HFA child:

1. Create signals your AS or HFA youngster can use to let you know he is about to have an episode of emotional flooding. Signals can give these kids a tool to put some space in between the reaction and their response. One 11-year-old boy with AS came up with the word “burning” to use when he felt himself getting ready to spin out-of-control. He would shout “burning, burning, burning.” His sister knew this was the signal to back off, and his mom knew this was the signal to intervene. It worked for him by giving him a few seconds before his emotions took over.

2. When your child is flooding, don’t leave him alone – but don’t try to take away his uncomfortable emotions either. If you have an AS or HFA adolescent, give him some distance until he is ready to talk.  With a younger kid, wait and listen for a shift in the intensity, and then step-in to help soothe. Sometimes you can directly ask if your child needs help to feel better (e.g., “I notice you are really upset. Do you need some help to calm down?”). If your child is not ready, he will let you know. But if he is ready, you will get a nod yes, at which point you can make some moves to soothe. When an AS or HFA youngster is out-of-control emotionally, she needs your help to get her equilibrium back. You can’t problem solve until this has been accomplished. This is true even if the emotional flooding has occurred as a result of some disciplinary measure.

3. Understand the difference between emotional flooding and a child’s drama-driven display that is created to get something. If you have a youngster that you really feel uses emotional flooding strategically to get a particular response out of you, then back off until the intensity dies down, and then offer some assistance (but don’t give in to an unreasonable demand). If your youngster is using flooding manipulatively, and she is not successful in getting the results she is after, she will eventually stop. The goal here is to help your youngster learn to self soothe and problem solve.

4. Help your youngster move from (a) acting out intense emotions to (b) labeling and describing them verbally. Words help to diffuse and give a youngster some tools to begin regulating emotions. The better able your youngster is at describing in detail her emotional state or reactions, the better she can regulate them.

5. Never attempt to suppress negative emotions. No child can help the feelings he has. He can only learn how to best manage them. Getting rid of negative emotions prematurely just sends them underground, where they can gain intensity and explode later during an unrelated event.

6. Try to figure out what the trigger is for your child’s emotional flooding. Sometimes triggers are obvious (e.g., reactions to change of routine). But, sometimes out-of-control behavior is a reaction to something that isn’t so obvious in the current situation.  For example, an AS or HFA youngster who has been repeatedly rejected and/or teased by peers may be overly-sensitive to even the slightest hint of criticism from parents.

7. When emotional flooding has run its course and the child is calm, parents can attempt to address the problem in question. Encourage your child to talk, and then reflect back to him what you heard (i.e., provide feedback). In this stage of the game, it’s more important that your child feels understood than for you to correct his way of thinking. Let him play out the scenario, and then show you understand his point of view. After you have accomplished this, you can start helping him to come up with a solution to the problem that caused him to “flood” in the first place.

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


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… I needed this today. My so. Had an "emotional flooding" moment and let me know that kids walk away from him or ignore him completely when he tries to talk to them. How do i get services for social and cognitive behavior help at age 14?
•    Anonymous said… I wish we could have found people that actually knew how to do this. My daughter is now 22 and things have not gotten any easier. We put her in 3 different places when she was younger and none of them helped at least not long term.
•    Anonymous said… I would like to know if anyone here has a HFA adult age now that cusses them out constantly and nothing at all is ever their fault.
•    Anonymous said… My daughter is 18 and heading to college in the fall. I've always wanted her to be able to get this kind of help. I've tried in my own way, but it's hard. So nervous to let her go. Don't give up smile emoticon
•    Anonymous said… Once my son got to high school...he became more discerning of people's motives. After a while he could care less what anyone said or thought about him (negatively ). He had a few friends in Anime Club and pretty much ignored the bullies.
•    Anonymous said… So very true!! It breaks my heart every time our son THINKS a kid is either making fun of him, when he or she is not and it's just "typical kid banter". Or like recently, when a boy at his middle school was taking GREAT advantage of him because he knew how desperately our son wanted friends. He just didn't see the insincere behavior and thought it was what friendship is supposed to be. Just killed me when he figured it out after we talked to him about the "bad thing" that happened. frown emoticon But there is a bright spot to this. It can be taught and learned, understanding certain social cues and how to watch for them. He's getting there. It's just that, for so many others, this sort of thing is instinctive. For our kiddos, we have to help them, point things out, role play, help them learn it. Merry Christmas everyone!!!
•    Anonymous said… That's is all we all can do with a child with Aspergers is try in our own way. What worked yesterday may not work today so we just keep trying. smile emoticon
•    Anonymous said… This is exactly my son too
•    Anonymous said… You are not alone, my son is 11. Place after place he went and all they would do is CBT. Now we live where there is an Autism center and he's too old, their age cut off is 8.
•    Anonymous said…. It's hard when you just want to make everything ok. Milan is not on the spectrum but he struggles socially and it's so hard to watch or answer why his five year old brother has so many friends and party invites

Please post your comment below…

Helping Aspergers Students Deal with Anger: Advice for Teachers

Aspergers (high functioning autistic) kid’s anger presents challenges to educators committed to constructive, ethical, and effective youngster guidance. This post explores what we know about the components of Aspergers kid’s anger, factors contributing to understanding and managing anger, and the ways educators can guide kid’s expressions of anger.

Three Components of Anger—

Anger is believed to have three components (Lewis & Michalson, 1983):

The Emotional State of Anger. The first component is the emotion itself, defined as an affective or arousal state, or a feeling experienced when a goal is blocked or needs are frustrated. Fabes and Eisenberg (1992) describe several types of stress-producing anger provocations that young kids face daily in classroom interactions:
  • Conflict over possessions, which involves someone taking kid’s property or invading their space.
  • Issues of compliance, which often involve asking or insisting that kids do something that they do not want to do--for instance, wash their hands.
  • Physical assault, which involves one youngster doing something to another youngster, such as pushing or hitting.
  • Rejection, which involves a youngster being ignored or not allowed to play with peers.
  • Verbal conflict, for example, a tease or a taunt.

Expression of Anger—

The second component of anger is its expression. Some kids vent or express anger through facial expressions, crying, sulking, or talking, but do little to try to solve a problem or confront the provocateur. Others actively resist by physically or verbally defending their positions, self-esteem, or possessions in non-aggressive ways. Still other kids express anger with aggressive revenge by physically or verbally retaliating against the provocateur. Some kids express dislike by telling the offender that he or she cannot play or is not liked. Other kids express anger through avoidance or attempts to escape from or evade the provocateur. And some kids use adult seeking, looking for comfort or solutions from a teacher, or telling the teacher about an incident.

Educators can use youngster guidance strategies to help Aspergers students express angry feelings in socially constructive ways. Kids develop ideas about how to express emotions (Michalson & Lewis, 1985; Russel, 1989) primarily through social interaction in their families and later by watching television or movies, playing video games, and reading books (Honig & Wittmer, 1992). Some Aspergers students have learned a negative, aggressive approach to expressing anger (Cummings, 1987; Hennessy et al., 1994) and, when confronted with everyday anger conflicts, resort to using aggression in the classroom (Huesmann, 1988). A major challenge for early childhood educators is to encourage Aspergers students to acknowledge angry feelings and to help them learn to express anger in positive and effective ways.

An Understanding of Anger—

The third component of the anger experience is understanding - interpreting and evaluating - the emotion. Because the ability to regulate the expression of anger is linked to an understanding of the emotion (Zeman & Shipman, 1996), and because kid’s ability to reflect on their anger is somewhat limited, Aspergers students need guidance from educators and parents in understanding and managing their feelings of anger.

Understanding and Managing Anger—

The development of basic cognitive processes undergirds kid’s gradual development of the understanding of anger (Lewis & Saarni, 1985).

Self-Referential and Self-Regulatory Behaviors—Self-referential behaviors include viewing the self as separate from others and as an active, independent, causal agent. Self-regulation refers to controlling impulses, tolerating frustration, and postponing immediate gratification. Initial self-regulation in young kids provides a base for early childhood educators who can develop strategies to nurture kid’s emerging ability to regulate the expression of anger.

Memory—Memory improves substantially during early childhood (Perlmutter, 1986), enabling young kids to better remember aspects of anger-arousing interactions. Aspergers students who have developed unhelpful ideas of how to express anger (Miller & Sperry, 1987) may retrieve the early unhelpful strategy even after educators help them gain a more helpful perspective. This finding implies that educators may have to remind some Aspergers students, sometimes more than once or twice, about the less aggressive ways of expressing anger.

Language—Talking about emotions helps young Aspergers students understand their feelings (Brown & Dunn, 1996). The understanding of emotion in preschool kids is predicted by overall language ability (Denham, Zoller, & Couchoud, 1994). Educators can expect individual differences in the ability to identify and label angry feelings because kid’s families model a variety of approaches in talking about emotions.

Guiding Kid’s Expressions of Anger—

Educators can help Aspergers students deal with anger by guiding their understanding and management of this emotion. The practices described here can help Aspergers students understand and manage angry feelings in a direct and non-aggressive way.

Communicate with Moms and Dads—Some of the same strategies employed to talk with moms and dads about other areas of the curriculum can be used to enlist their assistance in helping Aspergers students learn to express emotions. For example, articles about learning to use words to label anger can be included in a newsletter to moms and dads.

Create a Safe Emotional Climate—A healthy early childhood setting permits kids to acknowledge all feelings, pleasant and unpleasant, and does not shame anger. Healthy classroom systems have clear, firm, and flexible boundaries.

Encourage Kids to Label Feelings of Anger—Educators and parents can help young Aspergers students produce a label for their anger by teaching them that they are having a feeling and that they can use a word to describe their angry feeling. A permanent record (a book or chart) can be made of lists of labels for anger (e.g., mad, irritated, annoyed), and the class can refer to it when discussing angry feelings.

Encourage Kids to Talk About Anger-Arousing Interactions—Preschool kids better understand anger and other emotions when adults explain emotions (Denham, Zoller, &Couchoud, 1994). When Aspergers students are embroiled in an anger-arousing interaction, educators can help by listening without judging, evaluating, or ordering them to feel differently.

Help Kids Develop Self-Regulatory Skills—Educators of infants and toddlers do a lot of self-regulation "work," realizing that the Aspergers students in their care have a very limited ability to regulate their own emotions. As Aspergers students get older, adults can gradually transfer control of the self to kids, so that they can develop self-regulatory skills.

Model Responsible Anger Management—Aspergers students have an impaired ability to understand emotion when adults show a lot of anger (Denham, Zoller, & Couchoud, 1994). Adults who are most effective in helping Aspergers students manage anger model responsible management by acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for their own angry feelings and by expressing anger in direct and non-aggressive ways.

Use Books and Stories about Anger to Help Kids Understand and Manage Anger—Well-presented stories about anger and other emotions validate kid’s feelings and give information about anger (Jalongo, 1986; Marion, 1995). It is important to preview all books about anger because some stories teach irresponsible anger management.

Aspergers students guided toward responsible anger management are more likely to understand and manage angry feelings directly and non aggressively and to avoid the stress often accompanying poor anger management (Eisenberg et al., 1991). Educators can take some of the bumps out of understanding and managing anger by adopting positive guidance strategies.


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

Rage-Control for Children on the Autism Spectrum

"Any tips for dealing with a high functioning autistic child who flips into a rage at the most inopportune times for no apparent reason whatsoever? This erratic behavior occurs at school as well."

Advice for Parents—

All of us exhibit some "signs" just as we begin to act-out our anger in the form of rage. Thus, it is possible to identify the rage signs in a child with Aspergers (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA). For example, you may detect a certain look in the eye, the tone of voice, or the tightness in the body. Parents need to help their youngster observe these signs right at the onset of rage. Once the child can identify the early signs, he or she can also learn to diffuse it by such methods as walking away or taking deep, vigorous breaths.

Teach your child to respond to your "signal" (e.g., your hand motion) to stay calm. Give that signal as soon as he or she starts "stewing" about something. If your child is too young for such self-control techniques, use distraction as soon as you notice him or her exhibiting a rage sign. A distraction, in order to be effective, has to be of interest to the youngster (e.g., suggest to your youngster, "Let's ride a bike" or, "Let's play a game").

It’s important to teach AS and HFA kids to talk about how they feel. Give them a language to express their feelings. For example, ask them how they feel. If they are too angry to talk or don't have the vocabulary to express their feelings, ask about the feelings relevant to the specific situation. For example, "Do you feel embarrassed?" "Humiliated?" "Let down?" or, "Is your pride hurt?" When your child expresses the feeling behind his or her rage, such as embarrassment or humiliation, suggest some other ways to look at the same event that might not be embarrassing or humiliating.
 
==> My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children on the Autism Spectrum

The thought, "It's not fair," is a big rage-arouser for many kids on the autism spectrum. If that is the case, ask them, "Do you feel you are being treated unfairly?" When your child answers the question, listen and don't rush to negate his or her feelings.

If the child refuses to be distracted or engaged in dialoguing about his or her rage and starts yelling, stomping or breaking an object, impose appropriate consequences. It's better to have these consequences in place to serve as a guideline. That means that you have discussed them with your child beforehand and have written them out for future reference. Armed with a list of consequences (which preferably consist of withdrawing privileges or charging the child a "penalty"), moms and dads should encourage their child to choose such alternatives as doing something else, walking away, or talking about the rage rather than acting it out.

How about your own rage in response to your child's rage? You can set an example of “rage control” for your youngster. No teaching technique is as effective as a parent "modeling" for the youngster with his or her own example.


One thing that makes many moms and dads angry is to see their own child challenging their authority and defying them. Sometimes, it may appear so, but that may not be the intention of the child. For example, he or she may be too unhappy to be told “no” because he or she wants it so badly. Of course, you shouldn't give in to the wishes of the child, but try to understand what might really be the intention behind the behavior.

Some AS and HFA kids get upset when they know they made a mistake. Instead of admitting their mistake, they act-out in rage to deflect the attention off them. If you realize that this may be the case, it's helpful to say to your child, "Everyone makes mistakes. I am okay with it. Don't feel so bad about it."

Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.

Advice for Teachers—

Kids on the spectrum, who in a rage lash out at others, should be often reminded of such consequences as going to the Principal's office, being detained and losing privileges at home. If the rage outbursts occur in relation to classmates and you didn't observe the whole interaction from the very beginning, it's better to impose a penalty on all parties involved.

Some AS and HFA kids get angry because they don't have appropriate peer-interaction skills. For example, some don't know how to join in a conversation or a game. They abruptly try to get in. When resisted or rejected by peers, they explode. Teaching appropriate social skills can go a long way to avoid such negative encounters. We can establish a culture that reduces rage and teaches tolerance. For example, we can set a personal example for these "special needs" kids that "big people" do apologize and it's graceful to loose and try again.

Rage is believed to have three components (Lewis & Michalson, 1983):

1. The Emotional State of Rage. The first component is the emotion itself, defined as an affective or arousal state, or a feeling experienced when a goal is blocked or needs are frustrated. Fabes and Eisenberg (1992) describe several types of provocations that young Aspergers kids face daily in classroom interactions:
  • Conflict over possessions, which involves someone taking the kid's property or invading their space.
  • Issues of compliance, which often involve asking or insisting that HFA kids do something that they do not want to do--for instance, wash their hands.
  • Physical assault, which involves one child doing something to another child, such as pushing or hitting.
  • Rejection, which involves a youngster being ignored or not allowed to play with peers.
  • Verbal conflict, for example, a tease or a taunt.

2. Expression of Rage. The second component of rage is its expression. Some HFA kids vent or express rage through crying, but do little to try to solve a problem or confront the provocateur. Others actively resist by physically or verbally defending their positions, self-esteem, or possessions in non-aggressive ways. Still others express rage with aggressive revenge by physically or verbally retaliating against the provocateur. Some HFA kids express dislike by telling the offender that he or she cannot play or is not liked. Others express rage through avoidance or attempts to escape from or evade the provocateur. And some use adult seeking, looking for comfort or solutions from a teacher, or telling the teacher about an incident.

Educators can use child guidance strategies to help AS and HFA kids express angry feelings in socially constructive ways. These young people develop ideas about how to express emotions (Michalson & Lewis, 1985; Russel, 1989) primarily through social interaction in their families and later by watching television or movies, playing video games, and reading books (Honig & Wittmer, 1992). Some kids on the spectrum have learned a negative, aggressive approach to expressing anger (Cummings, 1987; Hennessy et al., 1994) and, when confronted with everyday conflicts, resort to using aggression in the classroom (Huesmann, 1988). A major challenge for educators is to encourage AS and HFA kids to acknowledge angry feelings and to help them learn to express them in positive and effective ways before they escalate into rage.

3. An Understanding of Rage. The third component of the rage experience is understanding--interpreting and evaluating--the emotion. Because the ability to regulate the expression of rage is linked to an understanding of the emotion (Zeman & Shipman, 1996), and because the HFA kid's ability to reflect on their rage is somewhat limited, they need guidance from educators and moms and dads in understanding and managing their feelings.
 
Understanding and managing rage:

The development of basic cognitive processes undergirds AS and HFA kid's gradual development of the understanding of rage (Lewis & Saarni, 1985):

1. Memory. Memory improves substantially during early childhood (Perlmutter, 1986), enabling young HFA kids to better remember aspects of rage-arousing interactions. Children who have developed unhelpful ideas of how to express anger (Miller & Sperry, 1987) may retrieve the early unhelpful strategy even after educators help them gain a more helpful perspective. This finding implies that educators may have to remind some "special needs" kids, sometimes more than once or twice, about the less aggressive ways of expressing anger.

2. Language. Talking about emotions helps young kids on the spectrum understand their feelings  (Brown & Dunn, 1996). The understanding of emotion is predicted by overall language ability (Denham, Zoller, & Couchoud, 1994). Educators can expect individual differences in the ability to identify and label angry feelings, because AS and HFA kid's families model a variety of approaches in talking about emotions.

3. Self-Referential and Self-Regulatory Behaviors. Self-referential behaviors include viewing the self as separate from others and as an active, independent, causal agent. Self-regulation refers to controlling impulses, tolerating frustration, and postponing immediate gratification. Initial self-regulation in young HFA kids provides a base for early childhood educators who can develop strategies to nurture the  emerging ability to regulate the expression of rage.

Guiding the expressions of rage:


Educators can help kids on the autism spectrum deal with rage by guiding their understanding and management of this emotion. The ideas described below can help these young people understand and manage angry feelings in a direct and non-aggressive so they don’t escalate into rage outbursts:

1. Create a Safe Emotional Climate. A healthy environment permits these children to acknowledge all feelings, pleasant and unpleasant, and does not shame rage. Healthy classroom systems have clear, firm, and flexible boundaries.

2. Model Responsible Rage-management. HFA kids have an impaired ability to understand emotion when grown-ups have anger issues themselves (Denham, Zoller, & Couchoud, 1994). Grown-ups who are most effective in helping these young people model responsible rage-management by acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for their own angry feelings and by expressing them in direct and non-aggressive ways.

3. Help HFA kids Develop Self-Regulatory Skills. Educators do a lot of self-regulation "work," realizing that the these students in their classroom have a very limited ability to regulate their own emotions. As these kids get older, grown-ups can gradually transfer control of the self to the children, so that they can develop self-regulatory skills.

4. Encourage them to Label Feelings of Rage. Educators and moms and dads can help young kids on the spectrum to produce a label for their rage by teaching them that they are having a feeling and that they can use a word to describe it. A permanent record (a book or chart) can be made of lists of labels for anger (e.g., mad, irritated, annoyed), and the class can refer to it when discussing angry feelings.

5. Encourage them to Talk About Rage-Arousing Interactions. AS and HFA kids better understand rage and other emotions when grown-ups explain emotions (Denham, Zoller, &Couchoud, 1994). When these kids are embroiled in a rage-arousing interaction, educators can help by listening without judging, evaluating, or ordering them to feel differently.

6. Use Books and Stories about Rage to Help AS and HFA Children to Understand and Manage Rage. Well-presented stories about rage and other emotions validate the kid's feelings and give information about rage (Jalongo, 1986; Marion, 1995). It is important to preview all books about anger, because some stories teach irresponsible “rage-management.”

7. Communicate with other moms and dads. Some of the same strategies employed to talk with moms and dads about other areas of the curriculum can be used to enlist their assistance in helping these kids learn to express emotions. For example, articles about learning to use words to label rage can be included in a newsletter to moms and dads.

Children on the spectrum guided toward responsible rage-management are more likely to understand and manage angry feelings directly and non-aggressively and to avoid the stress often accompanying poor anger-control (Eisenberg et al., 1991). Educators can take some of the bumps out of understanding and managing rage by adopting positive guidance strategies.


==> My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children on the Autism Spectrum

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

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

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

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

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

TEACHING SOCIAL SKILLS TO KIDS WITH ASPERGERS

KEY CONCEPTS:

1. Aspergers kids and teens are often described by their parents as being bright but clueless.

2. Kids with Aspergers often score well within the normal range on standardized tests typically used by schools to evaluate students. These tests usually do not test for social skills.

3. It is often helpful for parents to think of themselves as coaches for their kids.

4. Children/teens with Aspergers can have wide ranges of strengths and weaknesses which can puzzle and frustrate parents and educators. For example, since he can program a computer, why can’t he write a book report?

5. Persons with social-cognitive deficits still desire successful social relationships and companionship. Do not assume that they don’t want to have friends.

6. Poor parenting or role modeling does not cause Aspergers.


INTERVENTIONS:

1. An activity notebook: These can be used to document all the activities in a given day. Then parents and youngster together can plan for minor changes in routines to help decrease time spent in repetitive stereotypes movements such as rubbing or twirling, or spending all one’s time on a single interest.

2. Discussions on specific topics such as how to greet others, how to wait your turn, how to ask for something, what to do when you don’t get your own way, and how to tell someone you like them. Use pictures, role model actual situations, or write in a journal.

3. Emotion Flash Cards or vocabulary cards: These are cards that describe in pictures various emotions.

4. How to give and receive compliments. What types of compliments are appropriate in a given situation?

5. How to help others. Teach the youngster or teen specific tools to use to understand situations in which it is or isn’t appropriate to help others.

6. How to understand and use skills such as using a friendly and respectful tone of voice, or waiting for pauses in conversation.

7. Learning to recognize early signs of stress and anxiety, to avoid going into the anxiety-anger cycle.

8. Roll-play various stressful and/or emotional situations.

9. Strategies to teach how to recognize and cope with one’s emotions. These include the use of an anger thermometer, lists of things that might make one horrified, bored, confused, overjoyed, or mad; or emotion scales which assign a number score to the intensity of a given emotion.

10. Teach commonsense rules for starting conversations. For example, one system is the PATHS method. This stands for Prepare ahead, Ask yourself what you are going to talk about, Time it right, say Hello, and watch for nonverbal Signals.

11. Teach how to notice and use nonverbal skills. For example, the SENSE method. This stands for Space (maintain the proper physical space between others), Eye Contact, Nodding (To show agreement or disagreement), Statements of Encouragement (such as uh-uh), and Expressions (face).

12. Teach the difference between public and private. Be very specific. Make lists or draw pictures of private activities and public activities. Make lists of examples of private places and public places.

13. Teach vocal cues. One such cue is proper use of tone of voice. Ask teen or youngster to try to guess what people are thinking based on inflection in speech patterns or tone of voice.

14. The “I Laugh” Approach: These are a series of specific exercises to teach communication skills and problem solving. “I Laugh” stands for: Initiating new activities, Listen effectively, Abstracting and inference, Understanding perspective, Gestalt, the big picture, and Humor.


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

Promoting Generalization of Social Skills: Help for Kids & Teens on the Spectrum

"What would be some ways to teach my teenage son [age 13] social skills? He really needs some friends but turns them off much of the time, so he's kind of a loner as it goes. What ideas have worked for others?"

Children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are likely to have difficulties with social skills. In fact, about 75% of these children exhibit social skills deficits. Also, about 29% of teens with AS and HFA required social skills training beyond high school.

The importance of developing social competence can’t be overestimated since it is associated with academic achievement, peer acceptance, and employment success. Regrettably, the lack of social competence during early childhood is the single best predictor of mental health problems later in adulthood. Even more shocking is that experiencing significant difficulties with social skills becomes more unbearable over time, underscoring the crucial need for early social skills training.

Parents and educators can successfully teach social skills to AS and HFA children. But, the true challenge lies in ensuring that these children get the necessary social skills “where and when they count.” Most parents and educators have been relatively unsuccessful in promoting “generalization” of newly acquired social skills to natural settings (i.e., teaching social skills in a way that enables the child to apply his or her knowledge to varied situations and environments). Thus, the need to adopt intervention strategies that promote social skills generalization is critical.



Here are some ways that parents, educators, and even therapists (i.e., “instructors”) can promote generalization of social skills across situations, settings, and other people:

1. Kids with AS and HFA often need direct instruction in recognizing and labeling the emotions of themselves and others. Parents and teachers need to verbally label feelings to provide these kids with the “language of emotions.” Often times, “instructors” fail to realize that AS and HFA kids confuse emotions. Helping them to use the appropriate language and place a label on a feeling makes that feeling less scary and underscores the fact that others experience similar emotions. Kids can learn to recognize and use “para-language” (i.e., information that communicates emotion with or without words), for example, attitudes, facial expressions, gestures, interpersonal space, posture, and speech patterns.

2. Parents and teachers can capitalize on "teachable moments," which promote social skills generalization. However, some “instructors” need to learn how to incidentally teach. “Incidental teaching” involves the spontaneous teaching of skills during “naturally occurring” situations and encouraging kids to use skills at appropriate times.

3. Parents and teachers should identify social skills that are of crucial importance at both home and school (e.g., accepting criticism, controlling anger, following directions, giving and receiving compliments, listening, sharing, taking turns during conversations, understanding others' feelings, etc.). After the parent and teacher identify the social skill together, they can identify situations in which to teach it (e.g., times to share might be when peers play together, when a neighborhood youngster comes to visit, or when the family plays a board game together).

4. Parents and teachers should think in terms of "zones of behavior” when setting boundaries with AS and HFA children. For example, a green zone can include desired behavior, a yellow zone can include behavior that is tolerated in order to give these kids learning opportunities or to indulge them during a particularly difficult or stressful time, and a red zone can include behavior that isn’t tolerated under any circumstances (e.g., the behavior is too dangerous to the youngster or others, is immoral, is unethical, is illegal, is socially unacceptable, etc.).


5. Recognize an emotion as a teaching opportunity. Recognizing uncomfortable emotions as opportunities for teaching and intimacy (rather than as reasons to criticize, reprimand, or punish the AS/HFA youngster for experiencing these feelings) is an important piece to social skills training.

6. Teach AS and HFA children social skills in settings where the skills will be used. If teaching skills in a natural setting isn’t possible, parents and teachers can use role-playing to reflect a variety of settings or teach these kids to self-monitor their use of skills across settings. “Instructors” can also recruit other adults who play a role in the child’s life to prompt, teach, and reinforce use of appropriate social skills.

7. Make use of “cognitive mediators.” One method that enables AS and HFA children to generalize social skills is the use of cognitive mediators (e.g., positive self-talk, self-monitoring, self-recording, and self-reinforcement).

8.  Teach skills that are valued in the natural setting. Selecting social skills valued by peers, educators, and moms and dads increases the odds that “skill use” will be reinforced. Real-life reinforcement is essential if social skills training efforts are to continue over time.

9. Some instructors (whether a parent, teacher, or therapist) “overly-control” the instructional presentation to help AS and HFA children acquire new social skills. In other words, they adopt standardized presentation procedures, present information in a prescribed order, and require mastery before moving on to the next skill. Although these methods promote “skill acquisition,” they usually work against “skill generalization.” Thus, social skills instructors can encourage AS and HFA children to generalize by employing a variety of models and role-playing actors, reinforcing social skills across settings and situations, teaching several skills several times a day, and using natural language.

10. The importance of reinforcing or praising AS and HFA kids for using appropriate social skills (or “attempting” to use them) cannot be stressed enough.




11. Use reinforcement sparingly. After social skills are acquired, parents and educators should adopt schedules of reinforcement similar to those in natural settings. Usually, reinforcement occurs less frequently in natural settings than in instructional settings, requiring that parents and educators gradually reduce the frequency and amount of reinforcement. In some cases, AS and HFA children may need to be taught to recruit reinforcement and to self-reinforce so that they will continue to use social skills in environments lacking in external reinforcement.

12. Validate emotions by listen empathetically. Validation of an emotion does not necessarily mean “approval.” However, sometimes it’s important to just listen rather than advise the AS/HFA youngster or to impose logic on the situation.

13. Teach AS and HFA children how to problem-solve. Parents and teachers can teach these kids to more effectively solve social problems. Here’s a useful problem-solving sequence:
  • Define the problem
  • Identify potential solutions
  • Consider the outcomes of each solution
  • Implement a solution
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the solution

Summary—

Although many parents and teachers have been successful in teaching social skills to AS and HFA children, they have been far less successful in making sure these skills are used when and where they count. If “generalization” of social skills is to occur, “instructors” must adopt techniques that actively promote use of social skills across settings, situations, and other people.



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

Comprehending Emotions in Others: Help for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"How can I help my 5-year-old AS child (high functioning) to have a better understanding of other people’s feelings? He often seems oblivious to some of the hurtful things he says and does, but I don’t think he does this intentionally."

Recognizing and understanding the feelings and thoughts of self and others is often an area of weakness for kids with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) – and is essential to successful social interactions.

“Neurotypicals” (i.e., children not on the autism spectrum) continually modify their behavior based on the non-verbal feedback they receive from others. For example, they may elaborate on a story if their friend is smiling, looking on intently, or showing other signs of genuine interest. Conversely, if the other person repeatedly looks at her school book, sighs, or looks otherwise disinterested, most neurotypical children notice this non-verbal cue and stop talking or cut the story short.



Kids with AS and HFA often have difficulty recognizing and understanding these non-verbal cues. Because of this, they are less able to modify their behavior to meet the emotional and cognitive needs of their peers.

When kids with AS and HFA appear rude, aloof or unresponsive, it doesn’t mean that they don’t experience any emotions, or that they don’t have empathy for others. However, they do tend to express their emotions differently than neurotypical kids do. Also, studies have shown that AS and HFA kids do not always recognize facial expressions, which is part of the difficulty in reading the emotional responses of others.

The most basic technique used to teach “feelings skills” involves showing the child pictures of people exhibiting various emotions. Pictures can range from showing basic emotions (e.g., happy, sad, angry, scared) to more complicated ones (e.g., embarrassed, ashamed, nervous). Begin by asking the youngster to point to an emotion (e.g., “point to happy”), then ask the youngster to identify what the character is feeling (e.g., “how is he feeling”).


Most AS and HFA kids will pick up the ability to identify emotions quite easily. When they do, it is time to move on to more advanced instructional techniques, such as teaching them to understand the meaning (or “why”) behind emotions. This requires the youngster to make inferences based on the context and cues provided in the picture (e.g., “based on the information in the picture, why is this little girl sad?”). The pictures should portray characters participating in various social situations and exhibiting various facial expressions or other nonverbal expressions of emotion. You can cut pictures out of magazines, or download and print them from the Internet. You can also use illustrations from kids’ books, which are usually rich in emotional content and contextual cues.

Once mastery is achieved on the pictures, you can move on to television programs or videos of social situations. Many of the programs that air on some of the kids’ channels are excellent resources for this teaching technique since they portray characters in social situations and display clear emotional expressions. You can use the same procedure as for the pictures, only this time the youngster is making inferences based on dynamic social cues. Simply ask the youngster to identify what the characters might be feeling – and why they may be feeling that way. If the scenario moves too quickly for the youngster, press pause, and ask the question with a still frame. 

Other ways to teach “feelings skills” include the following:

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA): ABA therapy uses positive reinforcement to encourage desired behavior. ABA can also be used to teach an AS or HFA youngster about emotions by generally providing examples of appropriate emotional behavior for her to model, and then rewarding her when she gives the correct emotional responses.

Online Games: Most AS and HFA kids enjoy playing computer games, and these games can be an effective learning tool for teaching about emotions. The Internet has many games and activities to help these kids learn about emotions in a way that engages them.

Play therapy: Play therapy strategies can help AS and HFA kids emotionally connect with their mom, dad and siblings. The simple act of “child-led” play to teach new ideas is quite effective for kids on the spectrum.

Social Stories: Social stories help teach social skills to AS and HFA kids through stories that provide examples of common social situations. The stories outline how to respond to the situation. Stories about feelings and appropriate emotional responses can help the youngster learn how to understand emotions in context.




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



COMMENTS:

  • Anonymous said... He is probably not thinking what he is saying is rude. My son is full of fun truths as he sees them. You have to help teach him what kinds of things are not "appropriate" to say, without making him feel he's done something bad because he probably really hasn't. It's just how he sees it. Just because something may be a fact doesn't make it ok to say to someone's face and that can be hard to manage. Danny has learned a lot but still hasn't gotten it all down yet, plus part of him lives the shock factor of it all.
  • Anonymous said... Just keep talking to him about it. That is what we do with our 8 year old. They do start to at least think about it but its not easy. We are thinking about getting a therapy dog. My son connects with animals and hope to be chosen to get a dog. On the bright side my son was able to form a friendship with a classmate and this year they have become best of friends. Unfortunately they maybe moving to Japan (Military family) in the fall. Secretly hoping orders fall through.

Please post your comment below...

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.

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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.

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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."

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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

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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.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content