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

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Making Sense of High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

Think back to the days of grade school. Can you remember one or two peers (probably male) who were a bit different from the other children? Maybe they exhibited some of the following ‘strange’ behaviors:
  • They always stood too close to you
  • They constantly wiggled and rocked while sitting at their desks
  • They made odd, distracting noises
  • They never looked anyone in the eye
  • They never raised their hands
  • They never seemed to have any friends
  • They talked on and on about favorite subjects
  • They waved their hands and knew all the answers
  • They were noisier than the others
  • They were often teased, chased, shoved, tripped, called names and bullied

Do you remember anybody like that? These kids probably had Asperger's (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), but no one knew much about it then. To help make sense of the disorder, we will need to look at the deficits associated with it.

Here are the three core deficits:

1. Theory of mind deficit: an inability to recognize that other people have thoughts, feelings and intentions that are different to one's own, and an inability to intuitively guess what these might be.

WHAT IS A THEORY OF MIND?

A theory of mind is the cognitive or 'mind reading' process, or ability that we all individually have in order to make sense of the world we live in. Every individual's thoughts, knowledge, beliefs and desires make up his own unique theory of mind. From the age of around 4 years, kids understand that other people have thoughts, knowledge, beliefs and desires that will influence their behavior. However, children with HFA and AS appear to have some difficulties conceptualizing and appreciating the thoughts and feelings of others. It is this 'mind-blindness' that may impair Aspergers children to be able to relate to and understand the behaviors of others. Mind-blindness also means the child has difficulty in distinguishing whether someone's actions are intentional or accidental.

Theory of Mind establishes that children on the spectrum have difficulty considering the perspective of others, such as their emotions, motives and intents. By failing to account for other’s perspectives, children with the disorder tend to misinterpret their messages. They also tend to talk at length about their own topic of interest because of their difficulty monitoring and responding to the social cues/social needs of others. Many of the social skill deficits observed in children on the autism spectrum may have their genesis in the lack of ability to decipher subtle meaning from the environment. In other words, these children have a “global processing” deficit.

2. Weak central coherence: an inability to bring together various details from perception to make a meaningful whole.

WHAT IS THE CENTRAL COHERENCE THEORY?

Central coherence is the ability to focus on both details as well as wholes. Children with AS and HFA, however, appear to have a heightened focus on details rather than wholes, a cognitive style termed 'weak central coherence'. This is the reason why some of these "special needs" kids have hypersensitive sensory perceptions. This inability to understand ‘wholes’ resides in the frontal cortex of the brain, which in turn also explains theory of mind deficits. The inability to hold information in mind in order to use it later in other tasks is what causes the child to lack central coherence.

Central Coherence Theory speaks to the fact that most children on the autism spectrum are weak in their ability to conceptualize whole chunks of information; they demonstrate a preference for attending to details and relying on their rote memories to make sense of the ever-changing world around them. A lack of cognitive central coherence, or gestalt processing, can easily cause the child to miss the importance of the subtle cues that create meaning in a social context including the difficulty of intuitively understanding the main idea of a conversation or a passage in literature.

3. Executive dysfunction: impairment or deficits in the higher-order processes that enable us to plan, sequence, initiate, and sustain our behavior towards some goal, incorporating feedback and making adjustments along the way.

WHAT IS EXECUTIVE FUNCTION?

Executive function can be defined as the way in which people monitor and control their thoughts and actions. Executive function is actually a broad category that includes such processes like working memory, planning, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. Inhibitory control is one aspect of executive function that is particularly relevant to language development. Inhibitory control is the ability to restrain (or inhibit) potentially interfering responses and to self-regulate in certain situations. If we break down the skills or functions into sub-functions, we might say that executive functions tap into the following abilities or skills:

1. Goal
2. Plan
3. Sequence
4. Prioritize
5. Organize
6. Initiate
7. Inhibit
8. Pace
9. Shift
10. self-monitor
11. Emotional control
12. Completing

Executive Dysfunction acknowledges that children on the autistic spectrum are weak in their ability to orchestrate tasks towards a desired outcome. Executive functioning does not have one definition agreed on by researchers, however, it is generally considered to describe the set of skills an executive would need to stay on top of his/her job (e.g., planning, organizing, prioritizing, multi-tasking, etc.). Executive dysfunction may make it difficult to maintain a topic in a conversation as the AS or HFA child has difficulty maintaining a sense of order in his spoken messages often producing tangential responses. She may also have difficulty with the organization of written expression or independently planning to complete class assignments.

PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR PARENTS AND TEACHERS—

1. A child with the disorder often gets "stuck" and has difficulty moving from one activity to another. He may need to be coached through the transition, and if a typical day is loaded with lots of transitions, the child faces increased anxiety. Some possible strategies a teacher, paraprofessional, or parent can use includes: visual schedules, role-playing, or preparing the child by discussing upcoming activities.

2. These children are often distracted by something in the environment that they cannot control (e.g., the tic of a clock, a breeze from an open window, the smell of food from the cafeteria, the bright sunshine pouring through the windows). This sensory overload may overwhelm them, so focusing can be difficult and frustration can occur. Thus, making the environment less distracting (when possible) can be very helpful to the child.

3. These children are visual learners. Much of the information presented in classrooms is oral, and often children on the spectrum have difficulty with processing language. Often they cannot take in oral language quickly, and presenting information visually may be more helpful.

4. Assess the child's current skills and needs in order to be able to develop the most appropriate intervention plan.

5. Be aware of any possible distractions that will affect the child's performance (e.g., whether acoustic, visual, physical etc.).

6. Follow the activities in a consistent manner in order to limit any possible confusion or distress.

7. Keep instructions simple and clear.

8. Many children on the spectrum are "hands-on" learners.

9. Provide the child tasks that she finds easy and enjoyable, and then to gradually work on increasing the level of those tasks.

10. Remember that each child with the disorder is unique, and strategies that have worked with other children in the past may not work effectively with the AS or HFA child since he perceives the world in a unique way and sometimes reacts to the environment in unpredictable ways.

11. Remember the child on the autism spectrum may experience difficulty with communication, especially nonverbal communication. What appears to the teacher to be behavior illustrating a lack of attention on the part of the child may not be that at all. In fact, the AS or HFA child who is doodling or staring off may actually be trying to focus him or herself through the act of doodling or staring.

12. Remember to keep a structured timetable.

13. Sometimes children on the spectrum focus all their attention on a particular object or subject; therefore, they fail to focus on what information the instructor is presenting. All their energy is directed toward a particular subject or object. To overcome this problem, the parent or teacher can try to establish some connection between the object or subject of interest and the area of study.

14. Take time to evaluate the classroom in terms of sensory stimulation and how the environment affects the child with the disorder. Perhaps some modifications can be made, or the child can be taught some coping skills that are not disruptive to classmates (e.g., squeezing a squishy ball).

15. The AS or HFA child experiences difficulty with eye contact. Limited eye contact is a part of the disability. Don't demand the child to look you in the eye as you are talking to him.  


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________

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.

____________________

Aspergers Children and Problems in Social Interactions


Children with Aspergers (high functioning autism) may develop problems in their abilities to successfully engage in interpersonal relationships.

Social impact—

Aspergers may lead to problems in social interaction with peers. These problems can be severe or mild depending on the child. Kids with Aspergers are often the target of bullying at school due to their idiosyncratic behavior, precise language, unusual interests, and impaired ability to perceive and respond in socially expected ways to nonverbal cues, particularly in interpersonal conflict. Kids with Aspergers may be overly literal, and may have difficulty interpreting and responding to sarcasm, banter, or metaphorical speech. Difficulties with social interaction may also be manifest in a lack of play with other kids.

The above problems can even arise in the family; given an unfavorable family environment, the youngster may be subject to emotional abuse. A youngster or teenager with Aspergers is often puzzled by this mistreatment, unaware of what has been done incorrectly. Unlike other pervasive development disorders, most kids with Aspergers want to be social, but fail to socialize successfully, which can lead to later withdrawal and asocial behavior, especially in adolescence. At this stage of life especially, they risk being drawn into unsuitable and inappropriate friendships and social groups. People with Aspergers often interact better with those considerably older or younger than themselves, rather than those within their own age group.

Kids with Aspergers often display advanced abilities for their age in language, reading, mathematics, spatial skills, and/or music—sometimes into the "gifted" range—but this may be counterbalanced by considerable delays in other developmental areas. This combination of traits can lead to problems with teachers and other authority figures. A youngster with Aspergers might be regarded by teachers as a "problem child" or a "poor performer." The youngster’s extremely low tolerance for what they perceive to be ordinary and mediocre tasks, such as typical homework assignments, can easily become frustrating; a teacher may well consider the youngster arrogant, spiteful, and insubordinate. Lack of support and understanding, in combination with the youngster's anxieties, can result in problematic behavior (such as severe tantrums, violent and angry outbursts, and withdrawal).

Difficulties in relationships—

Two traits sometimes found in Aspergers children are mind-blindness - the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others – (see below) and alexithymia - the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in oneself or others – (see below) which reduce the ability to be empathetically attuned to others. Alexithymia in Aspergers functions as an independent variable relying on different neural networks than those implicated in theory of mind (see below). In fact, lack of Theory of Mind in Aspergers may be a result of a lack of information available to the mind due to the operation of the alexithymic deficit.

A second issue related to alexithymia involves the inability to identify and modulate strong emotions such as sadness or anger, which leaves the child prone to “sudden affective outbursts such as crying or rage.” The inability to express feelings using words may also predispose the child to use physical acts to articulate the mood and release the emotional energy.

Children with Aspergers report a feeling of being unwillingly detached from the world around them. They may have difficulty finding a life partner or getting married due to poor social skills. Children with Aspergers will need support if they desire to make connections on a personal level. The complexity and inconsistency of the social world can pose an extreme challenge for children with Aspergers. In the UK Asperger's is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act; those with Aspergers who get treated badly because of it may have some redress. The first case was Hewett v Motorola 2004 (sometimes referred to as Hewitt) and the second was Isles v Ealing Council.

The intense focus and tendency to work things out logically often grants people with Aspergers a high level of ability in their field of interest. When these special interests coincide with a materially or socially useful task, the person with Aspergers can lead a profitable career and a fulfilled life. The youngster obsessed with a specific area may succeed in employment related to that area. People with Aspergers have also served in the military. Although Aspergers is generally a disqualifier for military service, the individual can be qualified for enlistment if he or she has not required special accommodations or treatment for the past year. More research is needed on adults with Aspergers .

Mind-blindness can be described as an inability to develop an awareness of what is in the mind of another human. It is not necessarily caused by an inability to imagine an answer, but is often due to not being able to gather enough information to work out which of the many possible answers is correct. Mind-blindness is the opposite of empathy. Simon Baron-Cohen was the first person to use the term 'mind-blindness' to help understand some of the problems encountered by children with autism or Aspergers or other developmental disorders.

Alexithymia is defined by:
  1. a stimulus-bound, externally oriented cognitive style
  2. constricted imaginal processes, as evidenced by a paucity of fantasies
  3. difficulty describing feelings to other people
  4. difficulty identifying feelings and distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal

Theory of mind appears to be an innate potential ability in humans, but one requiring social and other experience over many years to bring to fruition. Different people may develop more, or less, effective theories of mind. Empathy is a related concept, meaning experientially recognizing and understanding the states of mind, including beliefs, desires and particularly emotions of others, often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes."


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

Mind-Blindness and Alexithymia in Kids on the Spectrum: What Parents Need to Know

Two traits often found in children and teens with Asperger's (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) 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 oneself or others), which reduce the ability to be empathetically attuned to others. Let's look at each of these in turn...

Mind-Blindness—

Mind-blindness is essentially the opposite of empathy and can be described as “an inability to develop an awareness of what is in the mind of another person.” Generally speaking, children with mind-blindness are delayed in developing a “theory of mind,” which normally allows developing children to “put themselves into someone else's shoes” (i.e., to imagine the thoughts and feelings of others). Thus, kids with AS and HFA often cannot conceptualize, understand, or predict emotional states in other people.

Alexithymia—

Alexithymia can be described as a state of deficiency in understanding, processing, or describing emotions, and is defined by:
  1. a stimulus-bound, externally oriented cognitive style
  2. constricted imaginal processes, as evidenced by a scarcity of fantasies
  3. difficulty describing feelings to other people
  4. difficulty identifying feelings and distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal

There may be two kinds of alexithymia:
  1. primary alexithymia: an enduring psychological trait that does not alter over time
  2. secondary alexithymia: is state-dependent and disappears after the evoking stressful situation has changed

Typical deficiencies that result from alexithymia may include:
  • a lack imagination, intuition, empathy, and drive-fulfillment fantasy, especially in relation to objects
  • a lack of understanding of the feelings of others
  • concrete, realistic, logical thinking, often to the exclusion of emotional responses to problems
  • confusion of physical sensations often associated with emotions
  • difficulty distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal
  • few dreams or fantasies due to restricted imagination
  • may treat themselves as robots
  • oriented toward things
  • problems identifying, describing, and working with one's own feelings
  • very logical and realistic dreams (e.g., going to the store or eating a meal)

Alexithymia creates interpersonal problems because these children and teens avoid emotionally close relationships, or if they do form relationships with others, they tend to position themselves as either dependent, dominant, or impersonal (such that the relationship remains superficial).

Alexithymia frequently co-occurs with other disorders, with a representative prevalence of:

• 34% in panic disorder
• 40% in post-traumatic stress disorder
• 45% in major depressive disorder
• 50% in substance abusers
• 56% in bulimia
• 63% in anorexia nervosa
• 85% in autism spectrum disorders

Alexithymia also occurs in people with traumatic brain injury.

A second issue related to alexithymia involves the inability to identify and modulate strong emotions (e.g., sadness or anger), which leaves the child prone to sudden affective outbursts such as crying or rage (i.e., meltdowns). The inability to express feelings using words may also predispose the child to use physical acts to articulate the mood and release the emotional energy.

Aspergers children and teens report a feeling of being unwillingly detached from the world around them. As adults, they may have difficulty finding a life partner or getting married due to poor social skills. The complexity and inconsistency of the social world can pose an extreme challenge for children and teens on the autism spectrum.

It is unclear what causes alexithymia, though several theories have been proposed. There is evidence both for a genetic basis (i.e., some people are predisposed to develop alexithymia), as well as for environmental causes. Although environmental, neurological, and genetic factors are each involved, the role of genetic and environmental factors for developing alexithymia is still unclear.

What Can Be Done?

AS and HFA children and teens can learn to compensate for mindblindness and alexithymia with the parent’s help and a lifetime of constant counseling by therapists who specialize in Aspergers. With good help, these young people can grow up to lead nearly normal lives.

Parents must understand that their "special needs" child must be taught to use logic to make sense of the world and the people in it, one personal situation at a time. Here are some “rules” that may help parents in assisting their youngster (teach these rules to your child):
  1. Every human behavior has a reason behind it, even if I don’t see it.
  2. Most people usually talk about the things they want, and openly say what they believe.
  3. Some people are so messed up that it is just not possible to figure them out. Know when to give up.
  4. When somebody’s behavior flies in the face of logic, concentrate on that person’s feelings.
  5. Women talk more than men and focus on feelings more.

A parent’s strategy should be to:
  • get their child obsessed with the need to make sense of the world and help him/her understand that the mysteries of human behavior disappear when one understands the appropriate states of mind behind them
  • help him/her realize that once the state of mind is understood, people’s future behavior can be anticipated

But, how does a parent do that when their child isn’t motivated to do so because they don’t realize there’s a need?

A parent must:

1. Constantly explain people’s states of mind to the child and what they mean until he learns to figure them out on his own. This means explaining the wants, needs, and beliefs that drive human behavior and the reasons behind all the unwritten rules that are part of human relationships.

2. Convince her child that he can and will make a success of life, as many other people with the disorder have. You must explain the states of mind of these people and why they do what they do – over and over.

3. Explain before punishing. If you punish a child for doing “behavior A,” all that he is going to learn is that if he does “behavior A” again, he is going to be punished again. He will not understand why he should not do “behavior A” in the first place.

4. Explain his challenges and that he is in a state of confusion without being aware of it.

5. Explain his own needs to him. It is only when he understands what he wants himself that he will have a basis for understanding that others also have wants, and that peoples’ wants are what makes them behave the way they do.

6. Explain how each person feels about the world and about his own life.

7. Explain that every person has a different set of values and that their behavior is driven by these values.

8. Explain that he should ask you questions about things he doesn’t understand.

9. Explain why you explain things to him.

10. Explain your own state of mind and emotions constantly.

11. Protect her child from the cruelty of bullies. Some people are not going to pass up the opportunity to treat him badly. You should explain that this is going to happen, and that he should not feel ashamed to go to you for support.

12. Teach the child to make sense of the world by himself (eventually).

It is this constant explaining by parents – and counseling by therapists – over years and years of living, repeated over and over again, that eventually will help the AS or HFA individual break through the bonds of mindblindness and alexithymia. You child WILL learn to handle life successfully, on his own. Don’t give up – keep trying and get others to help you.  


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________

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.

____________________

Inflexibility and Rigid Thinking in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"How can I break through the rigid thinking that prevents my child (high functioning) from making a connection between his misbehavior and negative consequences? Once he gets an idea in his head, no amount of evidence to the contrary will persuade him."

One big challenge for kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's is mind-blindness. Mind-blindness refers to the inability to understand and empathize with the needs, beliefs, and intentions that drive other people’s behavior. Without this ability, these young people can’t make sense of the world.

The world is constantly confusing them, and they go through life making mistakes because nothing makes sense. These children can’t connect their own needs, beliefs, and intentions to experiences and positive or negative consequences. Many kids on the autism spectrum are unaware that they even have this problem, even if they know they have the diagnosis.

In any event, HFA children can learn to compensate for mind-blindness with a lifetime of constant “counseling” by good parents, educators, and therapists. Some grown-ups with the disorder can read books and learn, but HFA kids need others to help them. With good help, they can grow up to lead nearly normal lives. 
 

Moms and dads must understand that their "special needs" kids must be taught to use logic to make sense of the world and the people in it, one personal situation at a time. Here are some “rules” that can help parents assist their youngster in making sense of things:
  1. Every human behavior has a reason behind it, even if I don’t see it.
  2. I will not give up my rigid thinking until I find the reason for a behavior or until I am satisfied that I do not have enough information to find it.
  3. When I find the reason, all the pieces will fall into place and not a single one will be left that doesn’t fit.
  4. After I find it, I will dig further to try to disprove it.
  5. If I find a single piece that doesn’t fit, then I still have a problem. I’ll go back to step 2 with the problem.
  6. I will force myself to accept what I have in front of me as the truth, even if I find it hard to believe
  7. Most people usually talk about the things they want, and openly say what they believe. Women tend to talk more than men and focus on feelings more.
  8. When somebody’s behavior flies in the face of logic, I will concentrate on his or her feelings.
  9. Some people are so messed up that it is just not possible to figure them out. I must know when to give up.
  10. I must be patient when trying to make sense of things, because my first assumption will probably be faulty.

Put the concepts above in words that your child will understand. Also, you can make up additional rules that may be more applicable to your specific situation.

A parent’s strategy should be to get their HFA children obsessed with the need to make sense of the world and help them understand that the mysteries of human behavior disappear when one understands the appropriate states of mind behind them. Also, to help them realize that once the state of mind is understood, people’s future behavior can be anticipated. But, how does a mother or father do that when their child isn’t motivated to do so because they don’t realize there’s a need?
 

Parents should do the following:
  1. Teach the child to make sense of the world by himself (eventually).
  2. Constantly explain people’s states of mind to him and what they mean until he learns to figure them out on his own. This means explaining the wants, needs, and beliefs that drive human behavior and the reasons behind all the unwritten rules that are part of human relationships.
  3. Give the child books to read. Explain his challenges and that he is in a state of confusion without being aware of it. Explain how each person feels about the world and about his own life. Explain that every person has a different set of values and that their behavior is driven by these values. Explain also your own state of mind and emotions constantly. Explain why you explain things to him. Explain that he should ask you questions about things he doesn’t understand. Do these things over and over and over.
  4. Explain his needs to him. It is only when he understands what he wants himself that he will have a basis for understanding that others also have wants, and that peoples’ wants are what makes them behave the way they do. If you explain something over and over, and he never ‘gets it’, the reason could be that there is more basic knowledge that he doesn’t have in order to understand.
  5. Protect your HFA kids from the cruelty of others. Some people are not going to pass up the opportunity to treat them badly. You should explain that this is going to happen, and that they should not feel ashamed to go to you for support. They are going to meet people that will try to convince them they are worthless. You must convince them that they can and will make a success of life, as many individuals on the spectrum have. Explain the states of mind of these people and why they do what they do – over and over.
  6. Explain before punishing. If you punish a child for doing behavior “A,” all that he is going to learn is that if he does behavior “A” again, he is going to be punished again. He will not understand why he should not do behavior “A” in the first place.

It is this constant explaining and counseling by parents, educators, and therapists over years and years of living, repeated over and over again, that eventually will help the child break through the bonds of mind-blindness and learn to handle life successfully – on his or her own. Don’t give up, and get others to help you.

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


What other parents have had to say on this matter:

•    Anonymous said... I have Aspergers and a son, who is now twelve, has Aspergers. My wife isn't diagnosed but I'm fairly sure that she has ODD. My mother in law lives with us and she has OCD to an extent I've only seen in television. It has taken me four years since I was diagnosed to work at getting to the point where I don't have meltdowns. The constant struggle over trying to be a parent to an Asperger's child, maintaining the household financials and maintenance, and learning to understand how the chemical and neurological aspects fit into almost all environments we are a part. It has taken me some time but I have worked at watching an listening to my son to understand where and when I have reached a barrier. With the filmographic memory that many people with Aspergers have, I can remember all the struggles with no one to help and always being yelled at to fit in. I am being patient and working with him to understand that this neurological difference is just that a difference. It has it days as I have neared meltdowns due to the stress because no one will believe that an adult with Asperger's can maintain a normal life by watching an mimicking normal behavior. I with his mother are working with him so that he understands he is doing a good job while imparting the importance of letting my wife and I know when he cannot understand even the smallest of details. It is a work in progress that I pray that I get better so my son has all of the understanding and resources he needs to succeed in life
•    Anonymous said... it definitely takes some getting used to! people have no idea what it's like to be a mum to an aspie! The thing to remember is that you dont control them any more than any parents control thier kids! In fact aspie kids often have better manners because once they learn a rule, it sticks and they dont do things like showing off and all that. I find that I'm my own biggest critic. I think that we have or should have the same expectations for behavior but have a completely different way of getting there. That's how I've always tried to view it. I just keep plugging away at teaching social thinking and how to interact with others. I guess I'm sort of old school about manners and decorum and that's been part of the game all along. I do however think no one can understand what a hard and sometimes seemingly insurmountable thing it is until they are in the same boat we are.
•    Anonymous said... My son is 17 and we still struggle with this. It has gotten a lot better but it is something to work on continuously
•    Anonymous said... My son old constantly hits and squeezes babies in an effort to either get them to cry or to stop crying. The other day he hit a five month old in the head with a really heavy ball to get it to stop crying, however that wasn't even the baby that was crying; the sound was coming from pretty far away. I've tried explaining a million times that all babies don't cry all the time, that they don't all say, "goo goo ga ga" specifically, etc. Once mine latches on to a "rule" he can't let it go. Anybody ever had this? What did you do?
•    Anonymous said... firstly, curtail any more baby exposure before someone gets badly hurt. ( if you can, not always easy). Then get embarked on the lifetime of teaching you have to face up to. There are no quick fixes. every minute of every day needs to be an example and a teaching experience. I would recoomend strongly to see a professional who provides social thinking and therapy of that nature. It's too much for just one mom!!! Dont give up, you'd be surprised what they can learn.
•    Anonymous said... This is my 10 year old, so difficult as those that don't understand Aspergers are quick to judge you as a bad parent, who is unable to control your child xx
•    Anonymous said... My daughter is 17 now ..still has her way of thinking but amazes me everyday.. was a very hard time for her growing up and me as a parent. . Now I m going threw the same with my 6 year old son... I see the long road ahead yet again but a beautiful light ... it's a rough n tough world out there already... all us parents can hope for is any child asd or not to be happy and take lil steps to be proud of who they are.... ahhh emotional mommy over here.. good luck to all!!
•    Anonymous said... There way or the highway! No change of mind! Hard work
•    Anonymous said... They really do have their own way of thinking
•    Anonymous said... We can video our son doing something to help show what he did and he still says he didn't do it because n his mind he was doing some thing else
•    Anonymous said... We try to see his differences as gifts as everyone should. Just because someone can't walk doesn't mean they can't contribute in society. Same with all children with these difference. Even if it's just teaching someone else tolerance and compassion 
•    Anonymous said... Yes.... This is my life. One day at a time.

Please post your comment below…

Attribution Retraining: Helping Kids on the Spectrum to "Check the Evidence" Before Reacting

CLICK TO ENLARGE

One common effect of misinterpretation for children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) is the development of distrust in others (perhaps even mild paranoia). This is largely due to impaired Theory of Mind skills in the cognitive profile of these young people.

A “theory of mind” is the ability that we all have in order to make sense of the world we live in. Every person’s thoughts, knowledge, beliefs and desires make up his or her own unique theory of mind. Kids on the autism spectrum have some difficulties conceptualizing and appreciating the thoughts and feelings of others. It’s this “mind-blindness” that makes it difficult for these young people to be able to relate to - and understand - the behaviors of others. By failing to account for other’s perspectives, kids on the autism spectrum tend to misinterpret their messages.

Mind-blindness also means the HFA or AS child has difficulty in distinguishing whether someone's actions are intentional or accidental. “Typical” (i.e., non-autistic) kids will know from the context, body language, and character of the other person involved that the intent was not to cause distress or injury. But, children on the autism spectrum often focus primarily on the act and the consequences (e.g., “He bumped into me and it hurt, so it was intentional”), whereas most typical children would consider the circumstances (e.g., “He was running, tripped, and accidentally fell into me”).

With HFA and AS children, there may need to be training in checking the evidence before over-reacting to the event and/or person in question. This training is called “attribution retraining.” The “mind-blind” youngster often blames others exclusively and tends not to consider his or her own contribution – or conversely, the youngster can excessively blame him/herself for events.

One aspect of HFA and AS is a tendency for some children to adopt an attitude of arrogance where the perceived focus-of-control is external. When the “special needs” child believes he was the victim of some form of injustice, the “perpetrator” may be held responsible and become the target for retribution or punishment.

Kids on the spectrum have considerable difficulty accepting that they themselves have contributed to the event. However, the opposite can occur when the child has extremely low self-esteem and feels personally responsible, which results in feelings of anxiety and guilt.

In addition, kids on the spectrum often have a strong sense of what is right and wrong – and may exhibit a striking reaction if others violate the social “laws.” The youngster may be notorious as the class “policeman,” dispensing justice but not realizing what is within his or her authority.

Attribution retraining involves establishing the reality of the situation, the various participants' contributions to an incident, and determining how the HFA or AS child can change his/her perception and response.

A part of social-skills training for your HFA or AS child will revolve around how he “attributes” his success, and will likely require some attribution retraining to take place.  This is when you retrain your child to think about his success as something he actively influences, not something of which he is a victim. 

There are 4 main factors to which we can attribute success or failure: effort, ability, luck, and task difficulty:
  • A child attributing “effort” may say, “I worked hard/was lazy, that’s why I did so good/didn’t accomplish my goal.”
  • A child attributing “ability” may say, “I’m so intelligent/stupid, this is why I succeeded/failed.”  
  • A child attributing “luck” may say, “I was/wasn’t wearing my lucky shirt today, which is why I won/lost the game.”  
  • A child attributing “task difficulty” may say, “The test was so easy/hard, that’s why I passed/failed.”

Children don’t have any control over luck or task difficulty, and ability is gained through gaining knowledge and skills. Thus, the only aspect that children can directly influence on a regular basis is their effort.  This is where attribution retraining takes place. 

When a child attributes her success or failure to something outside her effort, it’s the parents’ opportunity to redirect her (i.e., attribution retraining).  The child who adopts an effort-based belief gains an “internal locus of control” (i.e., believes she is in control of circumstances) and subsequently feels empowered.  The child comes to believe that she has enough ability that – with effort – she can be successful.


Highly Acclaimed Parenting Programs Offered by Online Parent Support, LLC:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________

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.

Why "Traditional Discipline" Doesn't Work for Many Kids on the Autism Spectrum

“Why is there a general consensus that children on the autism spectrum (specifically on the high end) should not receive ‘traditional’ discipline that works with most other children? What am I missing here?”

Traditional discipline may fail to produce the desired results for kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s, primarily because they are unable to appreciate the consequences of their actions. Consequently, punitive measures are apt to exacerbate the type of behavior the punishment is intended to reduce, while at the same time increasing the anxiety-level of the child.

This paradox is due to some of the traits of the disorder, specifically the following:
  1. Executive dysfunction: An impairment in the higher-order processes that enable us to plan, sequence, initiate, and sustain our behavior towards some goal, incorporating feedback and making adjustments along the way.
  2. Theory of mind deficits: This is an inability to recognize that other people have thoughts, feelings and intentions that are different to one's own, and an inability to intuitively guess what these may be.
  3. Weak central coherence: The inability to bring together various details from perception to make a meaningful whole.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these deficits:

1. Executive function can be defined as the way in which people monitor and control their thoughts and actions. It is actually a broad category that includes such processes as working memory, planning, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. “Inhibitory control” is one aspect of executive function, and is the ability to restrain (or inhibit) potentially interfering responses and to self-regulate in certain situations.

2. Theory of mind is the ability that we all have in order to make sense of the world we live in. Every person's thoughts, knowledge, beliefs and desires make up his or her own unique theory of mind. From the age of around 4 years, “typical” kids understand that other people have thoughts, knowledge, beliefs and desires that will influence their behavior. However, children with HFA and Asperger’s appear to have some difficulties conceptualizing and appreciating the thoughts and feelings of others (i.e., lack of empathy).

It is this “mind-blindness” that may impair these special needs kids to be able to relate to - and understand the behaviors of - others. Mind-blindness also means the child has difficulty in distinguishing whether someone's actions are intentional or accidental. By failing to account for other’s perspectives, children on the spectrum tend to misinterpret their messages. Many of the social-skills deficits observed in children with HFA and Asperger’s may have their genesis in the lack of ability to decipher subtle meaning from the environment.

3. Central coherence is the ability to focus on both details as well as wholes. However, children on the autism spectrum appear to have a heightened focus on details rather than wholes (a cognitive style termed “weak central coherence”). This is the reason why some kids with HFA and Asperger’s have hypersensitive sensory perceptions. The inability to hold information in mind in order to use it later in other tasks is what causes the child to lack central coherence. A lack of cognitive central coherence can easily cause the child to miss the importance of the subtle cues that create meaning in a social context.

How parents can help:

Consider maintaining a diary of your youngster's behavior in order to uncover patterns or triggers. Recurring “bad” behavior may be indicative of a youngster taking some satisfaction in receiving a “desired” response from parents, siblings, peers - and even teachers.

For example, a student on the autism spectrum may come to understand that hurting another student in class will result in his being removed from class (aside from the associated consequence to his peer). The solution may not be most effectively rooted in punishing the youngster for the behavior, or even attempting to explain the situation from the perspective of his injured peer, but by treating the root cause behind the motivation for the misbehavior. In this example, can the youngster be made more comfortable in class so that he will not want to leave it?

One of the means to achieve this may be to focus on the positive. Praise for good behavior, and reinforcement by way of something such as a Reward Book, can help. Positive verbal cues delivered in a calm tone are likely to elicit more beneficial responses than harsher verbal warnings (which may be effective on kids without an autism spectrum disorder).

When giving directions to stop a type of misbehavior, they should be couched as positives rather than negatives. For example, rather than telling the youngster to stop hitting his brother with the ruler, he should be directed to put the ruler down, and then receive verbal praise for following the parent’s request (e.g., “Thank you for doing as I asked. That’s you being respectful of others”).


Highly Acclaimed Parenting Programs Offered by Online Parent Support, LLC:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________

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.

Helping Your Asperger’s or HFA Teenager to Eliminate Thinking Errors

"How can I help my teen with autism (high functioning) to not be so negative? He tends to view everything EVERYTHING through the lens of defeat. His self esteem is a big fat ZERO... no confidence whatsoever!!!"

Many children and teens with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) experience “thinking errors,” largely due to a phenomenon called “mind-blindness.” Mind-blindness can be described as a cognitive disorder where the child is unable to attribute mental states (e.g., emotions, beliefs, desires, motives) to himself or others. This ability to develop a mental awareness of what is in the mind of another person is known as the “Theory of Mind.”

Generally speaking, the “Mind-blindness Theory” asserts that young people on the autism spectrum are delayed in developing a Theory of Mind, which normally allows developing kids to “put themselves into someone else's shoes” (i.e., empathy) and to imagine their thoughts and feelings.

Children and teens with AS and HFA often can’t conceptualize, understand, or predict emotional states in other people. When this happens, they tend to fill-in the blank with their own interpretation, which is usually inaccurate – and we call this a “thinking error.”

Thinking errors are irrational patterns of cognition that can cause your AS or HFA teen to feel bad and sometimes act in self-defeating ways. If she becomes more upset the more she thinks about a troubling circumstance, she may want to consider the possibility of thinking in a different way. And you, as the parent, can help with this.

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First, let’s look at the main thinking errors so you can get a glimpse into how your AS or HFA teen may be misinterpreting the world:

1. ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING – Thinking of things in absolute terms (e.g., “always”, “every”, “never”). For instance, if your teenager makes an ‘F’ on her book report, she views herself as a total failure.

2. CATASTROPHIZING – Focusing on the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or thinking that a situation is unbearable or impossible when it is really just uncomfortable.

3. DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE – Continually “shooting down” positive experiences for arbitrary, impromptu reasons. In this way, your teen can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by his everyday experiences (e.g., “The fact that I am an excellent artist doesn’t count because everything else about my life sucks!”).

4. EMOTIONAL REASONING – Your teen makes decisions and arguments based on how she “feels” rather than objective reality.

5. FORTUNE TELLING – Anticipating that things will turn out badly, your teen feels convinced that her prediction is an already established fact (e.g., “Because I ‘think’ that I will fail to make the cheerleading squad, I most certainly WILL fail!”).

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

6. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS – Assuming something negative where there is actually no evidence to support it (e.g., “Nobody wants to be my friend!”).

7. LABELLING – This involves “explaining by naming.” Rather than describing the specific behavior, your teen assigns a label to someone (or herself) that puts the other person (or herself) in absolute and unalterable negative terms (e.g., “My friend won’t talk to me; therefore, she is a jerk!”).

8. MAGNIFICATION – This involves exaggerating the negatives.

9. MENTAL FILTER – Focusing exclusively on certain (and usually negative or upsetting) aspects of something while ignoring the rest. For instance, your teen selectively hears the one tiny negative thing surrounded by all the BIG POSITIVE things (your teen’s teacher makes 9 positive comments about his science project, and only one negative comment – but your teen obsesses about the one negative comment).

10. MIND READING – This involves assuming the intentions of others. For example, your teen arbitrarily concludes that a peer is thinking negatively of him, but your teen doesn’t bother to check it out.

11. MINIMIZATION – This involves understating the positives.

12. OVERGENERALIZATION – Taking isolated cases and using them to make sweeping generalizations. For instance, you teen views a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat (e.g., “My teacher just yelled at me. She’s always yelling at me. She must not like me.”).

13. PERSONALIZATION – This occurs when your teen holds himself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under his control (e.g., “My parents are getting divorced. It must be because I’m a bad son!”).

14. SHOULDING – Your teen focuses on what he can’t control. For instance, he concentrates on what he thinks “should” or “ought to be” rather than the actual situation he is faced with.

Helping your AS or HFA teenager to identify negative self-talk is tricky because it's so automatic, she may not even be aware of what’s going on in her own mind. However, if your teen is feeling depressed, angry, anxious or upset, this is a signal that she needs to reflect on her thinking. A good way to test the accuracy of her perceptions is to ask herself some challenging questions. These questions will help your teen check out her self-talk and see whether her current interpretation is reasonable. It can also help her discover other ways of thinking about the situation.


Should Asperger's and HFA Teens Try To Be "Normal"? 




Helping your teen to recognize that his current way of thinking may be self-defeating (and preventing him from getting what he wants out of life) can sometimes motivate him to look at things from a different perspective.   

Here’s how:
  1. Alternative explanations: What else could the situation mean? If I were being positive, how would I perceive this situation? Are there other ways that I could look at this situation?
  2. Goal-directed thinking: What can I do that will help me solve the problem? Is thinking this way helping me feel good or achieve my goals? Is there something I can learn from this situation to help me in the future? Is there anything good about this situation? Is this situation as bad as I’m making it out to be?
  3. Perspective change: Will this matter in a year from now? What’s the worst thing that could happen? What’s the best thing that could happen? What’s most likely to happen?
  4. Reality testing: Am I jumping to negative conclusions? Are my thoughts based on facts, or my interpretation of the situation? How can I find out if my thoughts are true? What evidence supports my thinking?

Here’s how to help your teen apply different perspective-taking strategies as outlined above: Have him think of a situation in the last week when he found himself feeling rotten. He may have been upset, stressed, angry, depressed, embarrassed or guilty. Help him to apply some of the above strategies based on his particular situation.  

For example:
  • “I totally screwed-up that book report. I'm a loser and I'll never get good grades” …changes to, “I didn't do as well on that book report as I would have liked, but that doesn't mean I'm going to fail all my classes.”
  • “I tried on those jeans, and I looked so fat and ugly” …changes to, “I tried on those jeans, and they were too small.”
  • “Michael, the boy I have a crush on, said ‘hi’ to me and I made a total idiot of myself” …changes to, “Michael said ‘hi’ to me and I blushed and looked away. It's ok to be shy.”

Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique that consists of identifying – and then disputing – irrational or maladaptive thoughts. Reframing is a way of viewing and experiencing ideas, events, emotions and concepts to find more positive alternatives. The ability to reframe is a crucial skill for young people on the autism spectrum, especially in light of their mind-blindness issues. Parents can assist in teaching such skills.  

Here’s how:

1. Help your AS or HFA teen to accept that frustration is a normal part of life. Most young people on the autism spectrum get intolerant when they have to do things they don’t enjoy. They tell themselves that they “can’t stand” certain things instead of acknowledging that they simply don’t enjoy them. Thus, they easily become angry and frustrated. The reframe: “This is a hassle, and that’s O.K.! Life is full of hassles. I don’t enjoy it, but I can stand it.”

2. Help your teen to be specific. Over-generalizing is a lot like exaggeration. When your teen over-generalizes, she exaggerates the frequency of negative things in her life (e.g., mistakes, disapproval, failures, etc.). Typically, your teen may think to herself, “I always make mistakes,” or “Everyone thinks I’m dumb.” The reframe: “What are the facts? What are my interpretations? Am I over-generalizing?”

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

3. Help your teen to consider the whole picture. When he “filters,” first he hones-in on the negative aspects of his circumstances. Then he ignores or dismisses all the positive aspects. The reframe: “Is there a more balanced way to look at this situation? Am I looking at the negatives while ignoring the positives?”

4. Help your teen to understand that she shouldn’t just assume she knows what others are thinking. Your teen may be assuming that others are focused on her faults and weaknesses – but this is almost always incorrect! Her worst critic is probably herself. The reframe: “Just because I assume something, does that mean I’m right? What is the evidence? How do I know what other people are thinking?”

5. Help your teen to find all the causes. When he personalizes, he blames himself for anything that goes wrong – even when it’s not his fault or responsibility. The reframe: “What other explanations might there be for this situation? Am I really to blame? Is this all about me?”

6. Teach your teen to judge the situation – not the person. When she uses labels, she may call herself or other people names. Instead of being specific (e.g., “That was a silly thing to do”), your teen may make negative generalizations about herself or other people by saying things such as, “I’m fat and ugly,” or “He’s an asshole.” The reframe: “Just because there is something that I’m not happy with, does that mean that it’s totally no good? What are the facts and what are my interpretations?”

7. Help your teen to look for shades of gray. It’s important for him to avoid thinking about things in terms of extremes. Most things aren’t black-and-white, but somewhere in-between. Just because something isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that it’s a catastrophe. The reframe: “Am I taking an extreme view? How else can I think about the situation? Is it really so bad, or am I seeing things in black-and-white terms?”

8. Help your teen to put things in proper perspective. When things go wrong, he may have a tendency to exaggerate the consequences and imagine that the results will be catastrophic. The reframe: “Is there any way to fix the situation? Is there anything good about the situation? What’s most likely to happen? What’s the best that can happen? What’s the worst that can happen? Will this matter in a year from now?”

9. Encourage your teen to stick to the facts. Sometimes she may confuse her thoughts or feelings with reality. She may assume that her perceptions are correct. The reframe: “Am I thinking this way just because I’m feeling bad right now? Am I confusing my feelings with the facts? Just because I’m feeling this way, does that mean my perceptions are correct?”

10. Help your teen to stop making unfair comparisons. Another common thinking error that your teen may be using is to make unfair comparisons between certain people and himself. When he does this, he compares himself with others who have a specific advantage in some area. Making unfair comparisons can leave him feeling inadequate. The reframe: “Am I making fair comparisons? Am I comparing myself with people who have a particular advantage?”

Thinking errors are simply ways that your AS or HFA teen’s mind convinces him of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions (e.g., telling yourself things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep you feeling bad about yourself).

Thinking errors are at the core of what many therapists try and help a client learn to change in psychotherapy. By learning to correctly identify this kind of faulty cognition, the client can then answer the negative thinking back – and refute it. By refuting the negative thinking over and over again, it slowly diminishes overtime and is automatically replaced by more rational, balanced thinking. You, as the parent, can begin to take on the role of psychotherapist (in a manner of speaking) by utilizing the strategies listed above.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

Helping Children on the Autism Spectrum to Eliminate “Thinking Errors”

"Can you help me come up with some ideas on anger-control for my 6 y.o. son with autism (high functioning)? Unexpected moodiness and anxiety are major problems as well."

Philosophers have long known that your thoughts can be your own worst enemy. As Shakespeare once said, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Children and teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are especially vulnerable to such “thinking errors” due to a phenomenon called “mind-blindness."

Mind-Blindness can be described as a cognitive deficit in which the child is unable to attribute mental states to self and others. The ability to develop a mental awareness of what is in the mind of someone else is known as the “theory of mind,” which allows a person to attribute behavior and actions to various mental states (e.g., emotions and intentions). Generally speaking, mind-blindness leads to a lack of social insight and an inability to put yourself "into someone else's shoes,” to imagine their thoughts and feelings. Aspergers and HFA kids often can’t conceptualize, understand, or predict emotional states in other people. This, in turn, leads these children to “fill-in the blanks” with assumptions that are usually inaccurate (i.e., a thinking error).



Parents can help their child recognize when her own negative thoughts are pushing her into anger, depression or anxiety. Let’s look at some examples of popular thinking errors used by kids on the spectrum, and how parents can help these children view their situation more accurately (I’ve provided some examples, but you will want to use examples “specific” to your unique circumstances):

Over-generalization: The child extrapolates her future based on a single event. For example, the child figures that if she fails a Math test on the first try, she will never be any good at Math …or she says to herself, “My teacher yelled at me. She’s always yelling at me. She must not like me.” Over-generalizing is taking isolated cases and using them to make false assumptions about similar cases. You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

How to help your child beat this thinking error: If, for example, your child is heart-sick over a bad grade, explain that many students have made an “F” on a hard test, but have been able to get much better grades on subsequent tests on the same or similar subject. If you convince yourself you're going to fail, you'll have no motivation to study.

Minimizing and maximizing: The child inflates his errors and discounts his accomplishments. He focuses on the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or thinks that a situation is unbearable or impossible (e.g., “I can’t stand this”), when it is really just uncomfortable. For example, the child makes two mistakes on his spelling assignment, so he tells himself he has blown the whole assignment and doesn’t even turn-in the assignment to the teacher.

How to help your child beat this thinking error: Have your child ask himself, “What would happen if I did stand this (e.g., turn in the assignment with a couple of mistakes)?” … “How specifically is ‘turning in an assignment with a couple of mistakes’ so bad?” …  “Compared to what?”

Emotional reasoning: The child gets lost in his emotions. Because something "feels" bad, it must truly "be" bad. This thinking error is where you make decisions and arguments based on how you feel rather than objective reality. Aspergers and HFA children who allow themselves to get caught up in emotional reasoning can become completely blinded to the difference between feelings and facts.

How to help your child beat this thinking error: Help your child to make the connection between (a) feeling bad, and (b) personal choice. For example, “X makes me mad. How does what I do cause me to choose to feel mad?”




Fortune-telling: This thinking error is assuming something negative where there is actually no evidence to support it. The child arbitrarily concludes that someone is reacting negatively to her, and so she doesn’t bother to check it out. She predicts that things will turn out badly, no matter what she says or does. For example, her new boyfriend that she met at school last week does not call her on Saturday as promised, so she spends the weekend convinced he has broken up with her.

How to help your child beat this thinking error: Have your child ask herself, “How do I know that (e.g., that my new boyfriend has broken up with me)?” Help her check out “supporting facts” with an open mind: “How do you know it will turn out in that way?”  “What evidence do you have to support your belief?” “How did you arrive at that understanding?” “What other conclusion might this evidence support?” “How does this conclusion serve you?” “If you continue to think that way, what will happen?” Also, help your child to let go of her need for approval (e.g., “You can’t please everyone all the time”).

All or nothing thinking: Also called black and white thinking, this is where the child thinks of things in absolute terms (e.g., “always,” “every,” “never,” etc.) and has difficulty seeing any middle ground. For example, the child loses at a game of checkers, and as a result, views himself as a total failure. Then, to camouflage the feeling of being a “loser,” he gets mad at his opponent.

How to help your child beat this thinking error: Explain to your child that few aspects of human behavior are so absolute. Nothing is 100%. No one is all successful, or all failure. Have you child ask himself, “Has there ever been a time when it was NOT that way (e.g., that I didn't lose at a game)?” All or nothing thinking does not allow exceptions, so if even one exception can be found, then it’s no longer “all” or “nothing.”


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

The Most Difficult Trait that Children with Asperger’s and HFA Must Endure

Neurocognitive disorders affect cognitive abilities (e.g., learning, memory, perception, and problem solving). The DSM-5 defines six key domains of cognitive function: social cognition, perceptual-motor function, learning and memory, language, executive function, and complex attention.

Mind-blindness, the opposite of empathy, is a cognitive disorder in which the child with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is unable to predict the mental states of others (i.e., their thoughts, beliefs, emotions, desires, behaviors, intentions, and so on).

It’s not necessarily caused by an inability to imagine an answer, but is often due to an inability to gather enough information to decipher which of the many possible answers is correct. This is referred to as an empathetic cognitive deficit.

Empathy is usually divided into two major components: (1) cognitive empathy is the ability to understand another's perspective or mental state, and (2) affective empathy is the ability to respond with an appropriate emotion to another's mental states. Cognitive and affective empathy are also independent from one another (e.g., you may not be very good at understanding another person’s perspective, but you may be very good at empathizing with others). Children on the autism spectrum have deficits in both cognitive and affective empathy.



Cognitive empathy can be subdivided into three categories: (1) tactical or strategic empathy, which is the deliberate use of perspective-taking to achieve certain desired ends; (2) perspective-taking, which is the tendency to spontaneously adopt another person’s psychological perspectives; and (3) fantasy, which is the tendency to identify with fictional characters.

Affective empathy can be subdivided into two categories: (1) personal distress, which is possessing feelings of discomfort and anxiety in response to another's suffering; and (2) empathic concern, which is having compassion for others in response to their suffering.

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

Mind-blindness is a state where the ability to make automatic interpretations of events taking into consideration the mental states of people, their desires and beliefs has not been developed or lost in the AS or HFA child. Imagine living with a disorder in which you can’t perceive or interpret the behavior of others – the needs, desires, feelings, beliefs, goals, purposes, and reasons of other people are a total mystery for you. No wonder why a child on the autism spectrum often views the world as a very confusing and frightening place.

The social and cognitive impairments seen in AS and HFA children can be attributed to mind-blindness. The abnormal behavior of these young people includes a lack of reciprocity, difficulty empathizing with others, being totally withdrawn from social settings, not being able to make eye contact, and having no desire to interact with other people (i.e., social detachment).

Behavioral manifestations that can occur in children with AS and HFA due to mind-blindness include the following:
  • lack of empathy for others and their emotions
  • difficulty with inferential thinking and problem solving (e.g., completing a multi-step task that is novel)
  • impaired reading comprehension (e.g., difficulty understanding characters in stories, why they do or do not do something)
  • lack of awareness that they can say something that will hurt someone's feelings or that an apology would make the person feel better
  • lack of awareness that others have intentions or viewpoints different from their own
  • when engaging in off-topic conversation, they don’t realize the listener is having great difficulty following the conversation
  • lack of awareness that others have thoughts, beliefs, and desires that influence their behavior
  • preference for factual reading materials rather than fiction
  • tendency to view the world in black-and-white terms

Children without an Autism Spectrum Disorder (i.e., neurotypicals) naturally have the ability to make automatic interpretations of events taking into consideration the mental states of people, their desires and beliefs. This is called mentalizing. Neurotypical kids can explain and predict others' behavior in terms of their presumed thoughts and feelings.

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

For example, you may observe me in my woodshop bent over a tool chest pulling out and putting back tools. You would make sense of this behavior by mentalizing (i.e., automatically recognizing that I am looking for a particular tool that I believe is in one of the drawers of my tool chest). Without mentalizing, you may come up with an odd interpretation of what I was doing (e.g., perhaps sorting my tools by size, weight or color – or enjoying the sound of clanking tools, etc.).

Mind-blindness theory suggests that the milestones of the normal development of mentalizing are absent in kids on the spectrum. Specifically, they fail to understand make-believe play, fail to point at or show objects of interest (both signs of shared attention), and fail to follow another person's gaze.

To simplify, think of mind-blindness as a condition in which you can’t imagine what another person may be thinking of feeling. Possibly, the most difficult aspect of AS and HFA is this subtle but devastating deficit in human social insight.




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

==> 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

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.

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to read the full article...

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

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

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content