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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Feeling Like a “Bad” Parent of a Child on the Autism Spectrum

“My son Noah age 10 has been diagnosed with autism (high functioning). He has always been difficult at home, and now I am getting repeated bad reports from his online teacher. Honestly, I feel like I’ve failed my son. I feel like I'm losing my mind at times just trying to make his life easier. Add my other kids too, and it is just pure chaos or eggshells to try to keep Noah from an episode. I’ve tried everything I know to do to help, but my son still remains a mystery at times. All I know to do is keep trying and try to be patient, calm, and strong. I would be curious to know if there are any other parents that feel like they ‘should have’ done a better job. Is it normal to feel like a ‘bad’ parent in this case?”



Discovering a youngster’s special needs is often a puzzling and agonizing process for parents. It’s no surprise that your son with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) – also referred to as Asperger’s (AS) – often mystifies you. As with all children on the autism spectrum, your son has many skills – and deficits. Also, you may have great difficulty understanding how much of his behavior is the nature of the disorder versus how much is simple defiance.

Due to the fact that parenting “special needs” children can so confusing at times, it’s easy for parents to fall into the trap of feeling inadequate and discouraged (e.g., “My child has so many unresolved problems, therefore, I must be a bad parent”). Most parents raising “typical” children do not realize how difficult it is to be a mother or father of a child on the spectrum… until they become one of those parents.

Since the symptoms of an autistic child who is “high-functioning” can be so subtle, multiple and difficult to pinpoint, it’s hard for a mother or father to know whether things are normal or not. For example: What are the indications of a child being off course in his or her ability to listen and follow directions? What is the difference between the youngster who is a little clumsy and one who is having significant motor skills problems? What is the difference between a healthy, very active child versus a hyperactive one with HFA? Are my expectations for my child unreasonable? It will take some time for the parent to recognize and articulate concerns about such a child.

Even after a diagnosis, the parent may face a multitude of feelings before she can grasp effectively with the glaring truth that her youngster has a developmental disorder. The parent may even move through a grief cycle that Kubler-Ross described: (a) denying there is a problem, as well as rationalizing why it’s not a problem; (b) dealing with the fear, anger and guilt of having a youngster who experiences many problems; (c) blaming others for the difficult situation; (d) bargaining (e.g., thinking that changing neighborhoods, schools, or physicians will make the situation better); (e) grieving for “what might have been”; and (f) finally coming to acceptance regarding the youngster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as trying to figure out an effective plan of action.

One of the biggest challenges caretakers may face is the big gap between what their youngster can do – and what he can’t do. Oftentimes, the HFA or AS child is very smart, can reason well, knows a great deal about his favorite subject, yet can’t read or write. Your child’s teacher – and even you, the parent – may be telling the child to “try harder.” But in many cases, the “special needs” child is trying his heart out. These kids often tend to work 10 times harder than their peers, but are still called lazy, spoiled, or “a brat” by some people (e.g., extended family members who have no clue how difficult the challenge is).

Another piece of the puzzle for the parent lies in how difficult it can be to differentiate between a youngster who “can’t” do something versus a youngster who “won’t “do something. For example: “How much parental control should I exert?”  … “How far should I ‘push’ my child?” … “How much should I reduce my expectations?” In this uncertainty, the parent may even ask herself “what is wrong with me?” –  instead of asking “what trials and tribulations is my youngster having to face?” Shifting this focus can be beneficial for both the parent and child.

The HFA or AS youngster may seem to be having behavior problems when, in fact, she is simply struggling to accomplish a task. She may experience a meltdown or a shutdown when a task is too demanding. When the child says she hates something, it’s very difficult for the parent to know if she is being defiant – or simply finds the task to difficult or impossible to complete. For example, if the child hates math or reading, these are likely areas of difficulty. If she loves dance, music, or art – but hates drama – it could be that she has a speech or language problem. On the other hand, what she likes and wants to do usually serve as an indicator of her strengths.




While a formal diagnosis can help, the task of sorting-out these problems on a day-to-day basis is quite a challenge. On a planning level, uncertainty can occur because the child’s teacher, doctor, psychologist or social worker may disagree not only on the diagnosis – but on the optimal treatment strategies or programs for the “special needs” youngster.

This can be aggravating and stress-provoking for the mom or dad who has to pull all the information together and decide what to do – right or wrong. In addition, at home and elsewhere, the parent has to anticipate problems and sense when her child is frustrated, tired, or about to explode. The parent has to trust her gut as to how long her youngster can last at a party, be pleasant with visitors, or sit in a restaurant.

Moms and dads of kids on the spectrum are continually trying to figure out what’s working, what’s not working, what causes the youngster’s aggravation, and what brings the youngster enjoyment. The parent must (a) think carefully; (b) support the youngster’s development; (c) reflect on activities of each day; (d) problem-solve to recognize her youngster’s strengths, interests, and areas of difficulty; (e) come up with plans for managing the youngster’s behavior; and (f) analyze everything! All of this takes time and energy that can be draining at times.

Parenting strategies that include structure without rigidity, nurturing the youngster’s strengths and interests, constant approval of positive behavior, and clear/concise instructions will go a long way in overcoming the obstacles associated with parenting a child on the autism spectrum.

It will take time for both the parent and child to embrace the idea that “being different” does not mean “being inferior” – and in fact, can be a good thing. The parent needs to be nurtured and praised too in order to help her nurture and praise her HFA or AS youngster. You may find that you have used almost every resource you have to help your youngster succeed, but still worry that you are not doing a “good enough” job. But you are! You’re doing the best you know how given the circumstances. 


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… Hang in there. A good school to support you really helps. Every child is wired differently. I have had people yell at me and even was escorted from a mall. I love my son with all my heart. I forgive those people. There is hope. My son is 17 now and he has learned some coping skills. We don’t get out much but that’s ok. He gets out sometimes. God is our strength and our hope. I will pray for you.
•    Anonymous said… he is now at a small private school specifically for kids who just don't do well in the public school system. In Florida, there is a scholarship called the McKay Scholarship for kids which basically gives you the money that the public school system would have used on your child and lets you use that money for private school, so it is free.
•    Anonymous said… I can totally relate to this parent. My son is seven with aspergers. The last two terms has been so bad that the school even calls us to say he need not attend today or call us to come and fetch him. We also have a baby that's also demanding and trust me some days you feel like your only options are to either climb in your car and drife away from the mad house or collapse into a shivering bundle on the floor in a fetal position. As he gets older it feels like the meltdowns and struggles become worse. Where we had 2 bad days in a week or two now we have 2 or 3 good days in a week. We both feel on a daily basis that we are failing our son but you must just pull yourself together and try again the next day. Feeling like a bad parent comes naturally to any parent even ones with children without conditions. Dont beat yourself up.
•    Anonymous said… I do know how you feel. My son is ten and has been diagnosed with ODD and ADHD but was first thought to have Aspergers which I still as his mom, ( living in East tx. There are maybe ten or less specialist, 3 take this disability insurance) think he has the violent form of absorbers I've often read about! Maybe it's ODD/absorbers combined?!! Patience, lots of it and do NOT forget the struggles of the siblings. It's very hard on them too. Mine cry often and have separate therapy bc We want to help but our hands are tied! Demand the school adjust or you sue!! Many lawyers are dying to take a discrimination case!! Bc they have to have a program to fit your child's needs. Mine made one and low and behold filled it with 5 other kids a similar issues, poor kids!! Stay strong and always know you aren't alone. My son gets restrained before school quite often n complete strangers come up to me n hug me. Others do care !
•    Anonymous said… I felt that way all the time throughout my son's elementary school years. However, since starting middle school and removing him from public school (which I realized was causing a lot of his problems) he has made soooo much progress. It definitely get easier as they get older and can explain how they feel and what bothers them, etc. I think when my son was younger not only did I not understand a lot of his behavior, he didn't even understand what he was feeling and doing half the time. He's got a much better grip on things now, and we have a great understanding between us now. So, there is hope! Those first few years of school were the absolute hardest for us. Just be there for him and listen to him.  ❤️
•    Anonymous said… I just exhaled, thank you all. I try to ignore this nagging feeling odor doing right by my son. He is fourteen and I have been homeschooling him for two years. I couldn't take the morning meltdowns every day and withdrew him from public school. The meltdowns are better but now I never get a break and miss those few hours at home alone when he was in school. Then I wonder how effective I am at homeschooling and whether I'm doing the right thing. Sometimes I get mad at him and wish he could just be normal then I get mad at myself for even thinking this.
•    Anonymous said… I think we all have moments where we worry that we are failing our child or should be doing something differently. I think that is normal to be honest. There are emotional days (for us and him), but also days of fun and laughter and silliness. You have to take the good with the bad I guess? Hugs to all of you going through this. Sometimes it feels so lonely
•    Anonymous said… I wish I could talk to this person directly. I am going thru the same thing.
•    Anonymous said… I'm at a loss and don't know what to do anymore. My son disobeys me and now tells me things that hurt so much. How did it become this bad?? Am I such a shitty parent that he now tells me he hopes I die?? Ugh..  😭 😭 😭
•    Anonymous said… I'm so grateful to hear others struggle this way too. It is exhausting and hard for the whole family. Watching our child have meltdowns, and watching what it does to our other children, I've started to feel hopeless and like a failure.
•    Anonymous said… My daughter got diagnosed at age 3, she has great support at school and also at home, it takes time to get the right help but there is hope, also a lot prayer helps.
•    Anonymous said… My son didn’t get diagnosed until he was 17 even though I got him referred to CAHMS 4 times the forth time he was so poorly that they believed there was a problem don’t beat yourself up you try everyday and that’s all that matters My sons now 20 and he has very little help and support from professionals it’s just me my son is having fun enjoying his interests that’s fine with me whatever makes him happy
•    Anonymous said… Regularly beat myself up for 'bad' parenting and then beat myself up for being so hard on myself.... all you can do is make the best decisions at that time...sometimes it blows up in your face....take a breath, read some more, get some help, celebrate the positives and hang in there
•    Anonymous said… Trust me, you are NOT a failure. I don't wish others to experience hard times but it is nice to know I am not alone in this struggle. There are good days and not so good days. And times when the older children accuse us of always giving in to Austin because he's a brat. I try to explain how he sees things different, experiences differently and responds differently. Keep your head up, you are not alone.
•    Anonymous said… Very normal to feel this way & don't give up. We do the best we can with the tools were given. There will be days we are at our best & days we are not & it's ok, part of the journey. Parenting a child with Aspergers takes a special kind of love & it sounds as though you have it. Most important thing I can share is self care. The healthier we are as parents the better our children will be. Build a support network & allow yourself to ask for breaks/help , it's the best gift you can give yourself & your family.
•    Anonymous said… wow, that is amazing. We have an incredible school near us, that people from all over the world come to. It is for higher functioning special needs, but it's incredibley expensive ($40K a year!). I keep thinking if he needs it eventually for high school, it is an option (with scholarships, because who can afford that much!).
•    Anonymous said… You are not a bad parent! You only know what you know at the time. Now you know he's on the autism spectrum and you take that information and learn how to parent an autistic child. Stay strong but everyone needs to break down once in awhile and take care of herself first so that you have enough to give to your children. You are not a bad parent and your son is not a bad child you are both just incredibly overwhelmed.

Post your comment below…

Single-Parenting Children With Aspergers/High-Functioning Autism

One of the most difficult roles a mother or father will ever assume is that of the single parent. It doesn't matter how you arrived at that point – divorced, widowed, or single by choice – it is a daily challenge. When a mother or father is a single parent and there is a youngster with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) to care for, the challenges can make life feel like a true test of endurance, but it can be done. It does take more effort and organization, however.

Although raising children always has challenges, single parenting a child with Aspergers or HFA can be extremely stressful – as well as rewarding. Finding solutions to most of the problems is the first step toward keeping the parent from feeling overwhelmed. Almost every problem has a solution. The real trick to success as a single parent is not losing yourself in the parenting process. There are some issues that every single parent needs to be aware. Working on the solutions before they become problems can greatly reduce parental stress.

Tips for single parents with Aspergers and HFA children:

1. Arm yourself with information. Read everything you can about your youngster’s disorder. Most libraries have a parenting section with books on raising kids with special needs. The Internet also offers a broad spectrum of information on nearly every type of disorder. Websites, chat rooms, and the like are tremendous sources of information about conditions, treatments, and medications that are up-to-the-minute. Also, many of the websites that focus on childhood disorders will mail information to parents for free or for a very nominal charge. Be sure to consult your youngster’s doctor regarding the information you find. Being informed is the best offense in managing the daily and long-term challenges of parenting a youngster with Aspergers. Know what you need and pursue it.

2. Avoid being competitive with your ex. It won’t get you anywhere. You may not be able to compete with taking the children to Disney World. But children don’t necessarily love the one who gives the bigger presents more.

3. Be your youngster’s best advocate. No one can - or will ever - care more about a youngster and his/her well-being than the parent(s). As such, it is squarely on the parents’ shoulders to fight for the best information, treatment, doctors, and options that exist. Familiarize yourself with the law. Every parent has to be his/her own researcher.

4. Consider a pet. If you don’t have one, think of getting one. It takes the focus away and puts it on something else. Animals spread love around.

5. Control your reactions. Your Aspergers youngster may push your buttons, but giving big reactions to bad behavior may send the wrong message. Showing that you can control your feelings and avoid meltdowns yourself models appropriate behavior for your Aspie, and leaves you feeling better, too.

6. Don’t block your feelings. Recognize that ALL your feelings are normal. Be sad. Be mad. It’s only natural.

7. Don’t play the blame game. Your youngster’s disorder is not your fault, nor is your spouse to blame. It does no good to look for someone to focus your anger on. Pointing your finger at your spouse or his medical or family history is not productive and can be extremely hurtful. You will need to lean on one another for support, and blame can only damage your relationship.

8. Everyone needs a social life, and a single parent of a youngster with Aspergers is no exception. In addition to caring for your son or daughter, you may be working full time, meeting the needs of your other kids, and taking care of the home, which leaves you little free time. You may have other obligations, too (e.g., school, church, community activities, etc.). Fatigue takes on a new meaning, and having social interaction outside the home is so far on the back-burner it is hard to remember what it was like to “have a life.” Nonetheless, it is important to carve-out some time in your schedule for fun social activities (e.g., hiking, biking, dancing, card games, movies, eating out, etc.). The key is having fun interaction with other adults. Grown-ups who do not spend time with their “buddies” begin to resent their schedule, their lives, and possibly their kids. It is normal to feel that way, and the best way to avoid the problem is to schedule time to socialize.

9. Find some kind of support group. If you can’t find it in your community, you can find one online. You have to make a concerted effort to start to build your new family based on reciprocity and support. It can also help to start building self-esteem. You realize you are not the only one.

10. Focus on personal growth. So much of being a parent takes an emotional and physical toll on you that you have to get out and do something for yourself on an ongoing basis. Try an activity that you never did or go back to something you gave up in your marriage (e.g., rediscovered the love of hiking, or learn how to play a musical instrument). Put yourself out there. Try anything creative.

11. Focus on stress management. When harried and stressed, single parents often find themselves less able to connect with their kids or focus at work, which may lead to acting-out behavior by the children, time-consuming mistakes at work, and other things that increase stress for the parent and his/her family. Therefore, taking a proactive stance on stress management is quite important. Having several quick stress relievers on hand (e.g., breathing exercises, reframing techniques, having different/positive ways of looking at a stressful situation, etc.), as well as long-term stress management strategies in place (e.g., regular exercise, meditation, a hobby, a supportive social circle, etc.) can relieve significant stress for single parents.

12. Hopefully you have been able to create a good working relationship with your ex for the benefit of your youngster. If not, and the sparks fly very time you see each other, it would be wise to consult a counselor. Even if the relationship with your ex has no chance in the world of being civil, there needs to be a peaceful environment for the youngster.

13. Kids with Aspergers may seem to be unaware of the environment around them, but they usually are much more in tune with the emotions of others than it appears. If the moms and dads are arguing or fighting, the youngster is apt to act-out with defiant behaviors. The grown-ups in the situation, by keeping their own tempers, can prevent this. Remember that although your relationship may be over, the relationship both of you have with your youngster is not.

14. Know that you are not alone. Having an Aspergers or HFA youngster can feel very isolating. It’s easy to stay home and think that you are the only one dealing with that situation. Seek out support groups. Form your own groups, if none exist.

15. Learn to enjoy your own company. It may have never occurred to you when you were married that you could actually enjoy your own company. You can do that. Don’t date too soon. You can fall in love too quickly. You can’t be a great parent unless you are a great person.

16. Minimize the tough times. Holidays are hard when you don’t have your special needs child because he or she is visiting the other parent, so make a plan. Know you will feel bad – and know it will end.

17. Move your bedroom to a different room in your house. Make the old one a study or kid’s play room. Redecorate to reflect your individual tastes and make the house more of your home.

18. One major advantage that married couples have is companionship. There’s nothing like being with a spouse who knows and understands the daily problems you encounter. Having someone you can vent your frustrations to keeps one mentally healthy. It is human nature to want to share. If you don't have anyone in your life that you can share your feelings with on a daily basis, work at developing friendships that are true give-and-take relationships. A local support group that includes single parents might be helpful. Some support groups have a network of parents who are on “phone duty” that you can call at any time when you need to talk or vent your emotions.

19. Sometimes, ex in-laws can become a problem for you. A direct approach to the grandparents may not be welcome. If you find yourself in this situation, begin by bringing the matter to the attention of your ex, who may be willing to intervene on your behalf. If your ex refuses to support you in this matter, limit your interaction with the grandparents as much as possible. While they have every right to see their grandchild, you can and should limit your own time with them for your own sanity.

20. You can never take a day off from being a parent, and you may not be able to take a day off from work whenever you like, but there are things you can give yourself a day off from. Next time you're feeling particularly stressed, messed up, tired out or done in, declare a day off from:
  • Being behavior cop
  • Being SuperMom or SuperDad
  • Caring what other people think
  • Doing research
  • Fighting battles
  • Filling out forms
  • Handling details
  • Holding it in
  • Knowing it all
  • Making appointments
  • Making phone calls
  • Multitasking
  • Planning ahead
  • Saying the right thing
  • Serving as case manager
  • Solving problems
  • Working out
  • Worrying

Special Offer for Single Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Thanks for the reminders. So easy to forget to take time for yourself with everything going on and being the only parent holding things together.
•    Anonymous said… I wouldn't wish single parenthood on my worst enemy because it is so hard. However, I think it's far more important to be the most positive, most enthusiastic cheerleader and champion for my son to help him be the best that he can be. No role model is better in my mind than a bad role model. It's difficult enough being a parent, but having a child on the spectrum is an added challenge. I can't be a basket case because of being the mom my son needs and trying to juggle a relationship that doesn't support or promote my abilities as a mother for my children.
•    Anonymous said… I know what you mean. A child with asbergers requires so much attention because they aren't able to socialize Knowing that a parent is always there for them makes them feel more secure. I'm the same. I've been divorced for 12 years and haven't had a relationship since. Because I've made my son feel so secure growing up at 21 he is thriving in his 3rd year of universtiy away from home. He has his twin sister nearby for companionship, he speaks to me on the phone for an hour each day and he comes home every five to six weeks for a week. He hasn't made any friends at university because he's just not able to but he knows we are always there for him. It's extremely important for kids/adults with asbergers to know you've got their back 100%.
•    Anonymous said… I am the single parent to two children on the spectrum. I find being a single parent far easier than when I was married. I am utterly focused on the boys. There is no, and there will be no, relationship to try and juggle alongside. I'm mum. I'm not wife. Everything is about the boys. Our relationship is so much stronger and it's the three of us. I much prefer single parenthood.

Post your comment below…

The Damage Done: Over-Indulging the Aspergers Child

Question

Our son is a 34-year-old with Asperger's who is living in supported housing. He went into his first apartment 2 years ago. It was very difficult as he was so angry and upset and even took revenge on us by smashing a television. He has had a lot to deal with. He has Crohn's Disease although it is in remission, with two operations at 17 and 19. He is defiant at times, super communicative, although of course it’s very much like verbal diarrhea. We haven't been too effective with parenting him, I think because of feeling sorry for him. This is coming back to bite us.

He sees a psychiatrist through the community mental health services (about once a month) and also a caseworker more frequently. About a month ago, he hit his psychiatrist (glancing blow on the shoulder), however the doctor has now charged him with assault. We are at our wits end. His MD says because it's a first offense, he will not go to jail but probably get a warning, maybe probation. His psychiatrist, a young fellow, told us a couple of years ago that he really doesn't know much about Asperger's as our son is his only AS client.

We know we have to change our communication with him, but my husband is feeling very sorry for him and not drawing a line in the sand very much. Our son is rude often, and often escalates into anger. Other times he is loving and almost normal. Can you offer any immediate suggestion?

Answer

Parents with an Aspergers (high-functioning autism) child often have trouble knowing how much to help out their “suffering” child at certain times in his life. But, is it really bad to “cushion” him or to “feel sorry” for him? Unfortunately, the answer is a profound YES!

Let me be very clear about this: If the Aspergers child hasn’t had to work for most of his materials things and privileges over the years …and if parents have “stepped-in” time and time again to over-protect and over-assist the child …it WILL cause serious problems for that child later in life. Parents are not doing their Aspergers child any favors by over-indulging and over-assisting, in fact, quite the opposite – THEY ARE HURTING THEIR CHILD!

We’re talking about over-indulgent parenting here. Over-indulged children have too much stuff, too much assistance, and soft structure (i.e., lax rules, few chores, aimless). As a result, this child grows up with very little “self-reliance” (a critical skill to have to “make it” in the real world as an adult).

Over-indulgent parents often view themselves as loving their child unconditionally by permitting most requests and offering their child free reign with few restrictions. They also believe that being good parents entails supplying the child with most of his wishes – and assisting at the first sign that the child is struggling.

Being “taken care of” all of your life has grave consequences. Children who are over-indulged have great goals, but because they are so accustomed to being catered to, they do not have the skills or drive for achieving their ambitions. Impulsivity, refusing to take responsibility, abusing drugs, continuing to live at home as an adult-child, spoiled behavior, and so on, all stem from needing control – but having no ability to appropriately exercise it.

The “easier life” makes for children who feel “privileged” and who actually miss out on some important social skills (e.g., how to make friends, work with others, achieve self-sufficiency, etc.). Doing well in college, finding and keeping a job, and raising a family takes individual hard work, but if the child is used to not having to work for his money or interact with people in order to do well, his lack of determination will be the catalyst for his downfall.

Over-indulged children don’t know the difference between “needs and wants.” Ultimately, knowing what you “want” versus what you actually “need” is something that comes with maturity, but when a child is so privileged that he gets most of what he wants, it’s hard to know the difference. In general, children that are used to being the center of attention and not having to work for their share at life are disadvantaged as adults.

Parents are supposed to set a good example and give their child a strong background in the “real world” so that he can succeed on his own someday. If children don’t learn early on that making a living doesn’t come easy, their lives won’t be as fulfilled because they’ll have a strong sense “entitlement” (e.g., “You owe me …I shouldn’t have to work for anything”).

Directives for Over-Indulgent Parents—
  1. Allow your child to experience the negative consequences and painful emotions of poor choices.
  2. Differentiate between your child’s wants and his needs.
  3. Discipline rather than nag.
  4. Discipline without later reducing or negating the discipline.
  5. If you have tried to correct your parent’s mistakes by attempting to be a “better” parent, know that (a) you turned out all right, and (b) you may be erring on the other end of the extreme.
  6. Keep an eye out for your child’s guilt-trips.
  7. Know that your child does not always have to be happy in order to have high self-esteem.
  8. Know when to be your child’s parent and when to be his buddy.
  9. Learn to say, and stick with, “no”.
  10. Make sure you and your child’s other parent are united and bonded on most issues.
  11. Pay attention to your feelings of guilt about how you have parented, and know it is a sign that you are – once again – beating up on yourself.
  12. Think in terms of “everyone has a responsibility to the solution” rather than attributing blame.
  13. When you catch yourself feeling sorry for your child, know it is a sign that you are – once again – taking on too much responsibility.
  14. When your child needs to be comforted/cheered-up, do so with active listening, empathy, paraphrasing, validation, hugs, etc. rather than giving him things (e.g., unearned privileges, food, gifts, fun activities).
  15. Your child is a priority, but allow your marriage to come first (it’s the foundation for the entire family).

In Summary—

Overindulgent parenting (i.e., parenting from parents who fail to enforce age-appropriate limits) is associated with children who:
  • are ill-tempered
  • are manipulative
  • are overly dependent on parents
  • are self-centered
  • are verbally/physically aggressive
  • have less concern for others
  • lack assertive skills
  • lack motivation

The methods of indulgence are:
  • over-nurturing
  • soft structure
  • too much freedom
  • too much stuff

The reasons parents over-indulge their children:
  • correct their own parent’s mistakes/repair their own childhood issues
  • don’t have much money (so give too much freedom)
  • feel guilty
  • feel sorry for the kid
  • parent fears confrontation/lacks assertiveness
  • response to a major life event
  • the parent was overindulged as a child

…as a result, they parent their child based on what THEY want for him rather than on what he actually needs …or they parent their child the way THEY wanted to be parented by their parents.

The results of overindulgence:
  • child believes the rules do not apply to him
  • child depends on the parent to give him what he wants, but at the same time, resents being dependent …and this resentment comes out as anger and ungratefulness and a strong desire for more and more and more
  • child does not get along well with authority figures
  • child feels entitled to privileges but not responsible for his actions
  • child has adjusted so completely to (a) being catered and/or (b) not having to be responsible for anything that he cannot function on his own
  • the child is in charge rather than the parent (tail is wagging the dog)

Parents who overindulge have trouble:
  • believing the fact that they are overindulging their child
  • defining the difference between nurturing behavior and overindulgence
  • enforcing discipline and setting limits
  • knowing when to be the child’s “buddy” and when to be his parent
  • saying -- and sticking with -- “no”

Launching Adult Children With Aspergers: How To Promote Self-Reliance

Raising Kids on the Spectrum: Dealing with Parental Stress

Of course, not all moms and dads with Aspergers or high functioning autistic (HFA) kids are under stress, but many are. As one mother states, “You learn to live with a significant amount of stress and you throw yourself into your everyday job as a parent when you have a youngster with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you work outside the home, you work even harder - and you don't think much about taking care of yourself.

Some moms and dads worry that they could have done something to prevent their youngster's problems. They also agonize over whether they could do more now. Some stress is to be expected. As long as you're sleeping and eating well, enjoying much of your day-to-day life, and finding support where you need it, your stress is probably not too overwhelming.



Are you too stressed? Ask yourself these questions:
  • Are symptoms of stress impeding your functioning?
  • Are you finding it hard to get through the day's activities?
  • Are you having a hard time eating, sleeping, or getting up in the morning?

If you're exhausted and overwhelmed on a regular basis, you're more susceptible to physical and mental disorders. You may need time and help to recharge your batteries and find coping mechanisms. And it's important to take action now for the future. After all, when you're the mother or father of a "special needs" youngster, you're in it for the long term.

An experienced professional can help give you concrete ideas for finding time and space for yourself. He/she can also work with you to develop specific coping strategies. Changes in attitude can make a big difference, and there are many ways to work on your own feelings. It may also be helpful to have an appropriate time and place to let out pent-up frustration that's so often a part of coping with a youngster with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It's important to find a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker who has specific experience in working with families affected by autism spectrum disorder. To find such a person, get in touch with local support groups and ask for advice. Check out online databases. Ask your family doctor for suggestions, too. Some states offer a service called "mobile therapy." This program brings therapists into your home to work with you and your whole family.

The main thing parents with an Aspergers or HFA youngster need to know is that they are not alone. There is help out there! Even if you are a single mom raising kids alone, there is help. It's up to the parent, however, to realize that it's not a sign of failure as a parent to need and accept help in caring for your child.

Discipline for a child on the autism spectrum is often very different than the way you would discipline a neurotypical child. So a parent is often left feeling helpless and not knowing what to do, and feeling they have nowhere to turn in getting a break from parenting. In fact, a lot of moms and dads actually feel guilty for even wanting a break, let alone taking one. The idea of a few hours away from their youngster makes them feel as though they are failing him or her as a parent. For some reason, some parents feel that to parent their youngster, that means being around them and caring for them 24/7 without any outside help.

Moms and dads need to take a break! Hire a competent babysitter, even a nurse if needed, get family to help, ask a friend for help! The point is this: get out of the house alone or with your spouse for a few hours and enjoy yourself. You can’t change any of the issues your youngster may have, but you can get a break. You can get out a few hours a week alone to unwind and you can get help to allow you to get that much needed break.

There are no easy answers on how to raise a son or daughter on the spectrum. Every child is different, as is every parent in their parenting methods. But the stress level is invariably there. Handling the stress is necessary in order to provide good care not only for your youngster, but for yourself and the rest of the family as well.

Many parents go through a difficult time when their youngster is first diagnosed. But after a year or two, most do learn to cope, enjoy their youngster's achievements and their own lives, and have fun.

These "special needs" children are special indeed – and we love our children very much. But we as moms and dads need to be able to unwind and relieve the stress so that we are better able to parent. Never feel guilty for needing to ask for help!

Bottom line: If you're not the person you normally are, then that's a reason to get help, or at least consider that possibility.

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

How To Parent An Aspergers Child: From Childhood To Adulthood

What works for your Aspergers (high functioning autistic) child at the age of 3 may not work for him/her at the age of 13. Here are some important tips for parenting children on the spectrum  across the lifespan:

Childhood—

After your youngster is diagnosed with Aspergers, you may feel unprepared or unable to provide him/her with the necessary care and education. Know that there are many treatment options, social services and programs, and other resources that can help.

Some tips that can help you and your Aspergers youngster are:

• Contact your local health department or autism advocacy groups to learn about the special programs available in your state and local community.

• Keep a record of conversations, meetings with health care providers and educators, and other sources of information. This will help you remember the different treatment options and decide which would help your youngster most.

• Keep a record of the doctors' reports and your youngster's evaluation. This information may help your youngster qualify for special programs.

• Talk with your youngster's doctor, school system, or autism support groups to find an autism expert in your area who can help you develop an intervention plan and find other local resources.


Adolescence—

The adolescent years can be a time of stress and confusion for any growing youngster, including adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder. During adolescence, teens become more aware of other people and their relationships with them. While most adolescents are concerned with acne, popularity, grades, and dates, adolescents with Aspergers may become painfully aware that they are different from their peers. For some, this awareness may encourage them to learn new behaviors and try to improve their social skills. For others, hurt feelings and problems connecting with others may lead to depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders.

One way that some Aspergers adolescents express the tension and confusion that can occur during adolescence is through increased aggressive behavior. Teens with Aspergers will also need support to help them understand the physical changes and sexual maturation they experience during adolescence.

If your adolescent seems to have trouble coping, talk with his or her doctor about possible co-occurring mental disorders and what you can do. Behavioral therapies and medications often help.

Transition to Adulthood—

The public schools' responsibility for providing services ends when a youngster with Aspergers reaches the age of 22. At that time, some families may struggle to find jobs to match their adult child’s needs. If your family cannot continue caring for an adult child at home, you may need to look for other living arrangements.

Long before your youngster finishes school, you should search for the best programs and facilities for young adults with Aspergers. If you know other moms and dads of Aspergers adults, ask them about the services available in your community. Local support and advocacy groups may be able to help you find programs and services that your youngster is eligible to receive as a grown-up.

Another important part of this transition is teaching young people with Aspergers to self-advocate (i.e., take on more responsibility for their education, employment, health care, living arrangements, etc.). Grown-ups with Aspergers must self-advocate for their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act at work, in higher education, in the community, and elsewhere.

There are many options for grown-ups living with Aspergers. Helping your adult child choose the right one will largely depend on what is available in your state and local community, as well as your youngster's skills and symptoms.

Below are some examples of living arrangements you may want to consider:

Independent living. Most grown-ups with Aspergers are able to live on their own. Others can live in their own home or apartment if they get help dealing with major issues (e.g., managing personal finances, obtaining necessary health care, interacting with government or social service agencies, etc.). Family members, professional agencies, or other types of providers can offer this assistance.

Living at home. Government funds are available for families who choose to have their adult child with Aspergers live at home. These programs include Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Medicaid waivers. Information about these programs and others is available from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Make an appointment with your local SSA office to find out which programs would be right for your adult youngster.

Long-term care facilities. This alternative is available for those with Aspergers who need intensive, constant supervision.

Other home alternatives. Some families open their homes to provide long-term care to grown-ups with disabilities who are not related to them. If the home teaches self-care and housekeeping skills and arranges leisure activities, it is called a "skill-development" home.

Supervised group living. People with disabilities often live in group homes or apartments staffed by professionals who help with basic needs. These needs often include meal preparation, housekeeping, and personal care. People who are more independent may be able to live in a home or apartment where staff only visits a few times a week. Such residents generally prepare their own meals, go to work, and conduct other daily activities on their own.

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

Helping Children on the Autism Spectrum Through Divorce


Your very sensitive youngster with Aspergers (AS) or high functioning autism (HFA) will probably sense marital discord long before you do – even if you believe you've been very secretive about it. He may internalize what is occurring around him and assume personal responsibility for it. It is a very disturbing time for child with special needs, and the internal personalization of the situation cannot be contained indefinitely.

In the AS or HFA youngster, this can manifest itself in:
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Increase in “acting out” or other “attention-seeking” behaviors
  • Increased difficulty in school
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Rashes and other skin irritations
  • Regular symptoms of physical illness

Maintaining peace wherever possible and providing reassurances as the divorce unfolds are important considerations for helping AS children through divorce.

Here are 20 crucial tips for helping your child with the transition from a traditional two-parent family to a single-parent family:

1. All kids will require constant reassurances during a time in which uncertainty about the future reigns. This will be especially true of the youngster with AS or HFA, and as you've probably learned, verbal reassurances are not enough.

2. Ask your child about friends of his whose parents are divorced. This is a good way to learn of his fears and assumptions about divorced parents, and gives you the opportunity to clear-up any misconceptions and remind him that other kids have gone through what he is now going through.

3. Kids on the autism spectrum tend to have many questions, feelings, assumptions and concerns about divorce. Many moms and dads find it difficult to just sit quietly and listen to their kids talk without trying to interrupt with a "fix-it" statement. Your AS child needs to feel heard with quiet patience and undivided attention.

4. Be clear in communicating that the divorce is not your youngster's fault and demystify any new environmental changes.

5. Confine negativity and blame about each other to private therapy sessions or conversations with friends outside the home.

6. Encourage your youngster to write, draw, cartoon storyboard, or use the computer to communicate his feelings and understanding of the situation. “Social stories” about divorce are very helpful as well. Review and fine-tune this information with him regularly and be prepared to follow his lead in opening-up discussion at times you hadn't anticipated it.

7. If you and your spouse are civil with one another, meeting together with your youngster will be an optimal demonstration of solidarity and goodwill. Explain the circumstances as you would to any of your kids. Don't be surprised if your youngster with AS or HFA punctuates your discussion with his own recollections of marital conflicts that stretch back in time — some of which you may have forgotten or of which you failed to realize the full impact.

8. If you, the parent, are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or stuck, then get help. Therapy can provide a safe, supportive environment in which you can gain insight, learn problem solving skills and find solutions to dealing with the anger and pain of separation and divorce.

9. It is important to stress and review all the things that will stay the same during this transition in addition to walking through the future changes, and to do so often throughout the process.

10. It is natural for any youngster to feel emotional upheaval in wondering whom to “side” with, especially if one parent “plays” the youngster against the other. Your youngster with AS or HFA is likely to feel emotionally torn – even if you are seeking to escape a harmful or abusive situation.


11. Keep visible conflict, heated discussions, and legal talk away from your child.

12. Know that certain sights, sounds, and smells can trigger thoughts that will lead to your youngster's need to verbalize his feelings.

13. Know that most kids are naturally inclined to believe that they are somehow the cause of a divorce. This may be intensified in your youngster with AS or HFA and will be reinforced if he witnessed or overheard conflicts in which he was at the center of an argument.

14. Let your child know that it is normal for him to want his parents to get back together again. Kids can feel ashamed about this very normal wish. You can explain to your youngster that once divorced, it is very unlikely that parents ever get back together, but their wish for reconciliation is very normal.

15. Many kids on the autism spectrum hide their feelings of sadness, grief, anger or confusion because they are afraid expressing these feelings will upset their parents. They need to know all their feelings are acceptable.

16. Minimize the disruptions your child’s daily routines.

17. Read together and talk about a child’s book on divorce. This will help you explain important facts to your youngster and help him formulate questions he might otherwise not have words for.

18. Reassure your youngster regarding personal safety. Many kids are concerned that, if their parents get a divorce, there will not be enough food or shelter or clothing for them. Kids living with single mothers may also need reassurance that she has a plan to protect them in case of fire, "burglars" or "ghosts".

19. Your youngster may well have to decide where - and with whom - he'd like to live. This can snowball and lead to other social upheavals concerning a new home, new neighborhood, new family members, and a new school. It may also mean leaving behind friends, family, pets, and very familiar environments. Be sensitive to these changes, because children on the spectrum don’t do well with change in general.

20. Your "special needs" youngster will require pictures, words, and stories to help make sense of it all and to foster some measure of safety and comfort.

*** Additional Considerations ***

Breaking the News—

As soon as you're certain of your divorce plans, talk to your child about your decision to live apart. Although there's no easy way to break the news, if possible have both mom and dad present for this conversation. It's important to try to leave feelings of anger, guilt, or blame out of it. Practice how you're going to manage telling your child so you don't become upset or angry during the talk.

Tell your child that sometimes grown-ups change the way they love each other or can't agree on things and so they have to live apart. But remind them that children and parents are tied together for life, by birth or adoption. Family members often don't agree on things, but that is part of the circle of life — parents and children don't stop loving each other or get divorced from each other.

Give your children enough information to prepare them for the upcoming changes in their lives. Try to answer their questions as truthfully as possible. Remember that children don't need to know all the reasons behind a divorce (especially if it involves blaming the other parent). It's enough for them just to understand what will change in their daily routine, and — just as important — what will not.

With younger children, it's best to keep it simple. You might say something like: "Mom and dad are going to live in different houses so they don't fight so much, but we both love you very much."

Older children and teenagers may be more in tune with what moms and dads have been going through, and may have more questions based on what they've overheard and picked up on from conversations and fights. 

Handling the Child’s Reactions—

Tell children who are upset about the news that you recognize and care about their feelings and reassure them that all of their upset feelings are perfectly OK and understandable. You might say: "I know this is very upsetting for you. Can we try to think of something that would make you feel better?" or "We both love you and are sorry that we have to live apart."

Not all children react right away. Let yours know that is OK too, and there will be other times to talk when they're ready. Some children try to please their moms and dads by acting as if everything is fine, or try to avoid any difficult feelings by denying that they feel any anger or sadness at the news. Sometimes stress comes out in other ways — at school, or with friends, or in changes to their appetite, behavior or sleep patterns.

Whether your children express fear, worry, or relief about your separation and divorce, they'll want to know how their own day-to-day lives might change. Be prepared to answer these and other questions:
  • Can I still do my favorite activities?
  • Can I still go to camp this summer?
  • Where will each parent live?
  • Where will I go to school?
  • Where will we spend holidays such as Thanksgiving?
  • Who will I live with?
  • Will I have to go to a different school?
  • Will I move?
  • Will I still get to see my friends?

Being honest is not always easy when you don't have all the answers, or when children are feeling scared or guilty about what's going on. It's always the right thing to do to tell them what they need to know at that moment.

The Importance of Consistency—

Consistency and routine can go a long way toward providing comfort and familiarity that can help your family during this major life change. When possible, minimize unpredictable schedules, transitions, or abrupt separations.

Especially during a divorce, children will benefit from one-on-one time with each parent. No matter how inconvenient, try to accommodate your ex-partner as you figure out visitation schedules.

It's natural that you'll be concerned about how a youngster is coping with this change. The best thing that you can do is trust your instincts and rely on what you know about your children.
  • Do emotions seem to be getting in the way of everyday routines (e.g., school and social life)?
  • Do they seem to be acting differently than usual?
  • Is a youngster doing things like regressing to younger behaviors (e.g., thumb-sucking or bedwetting)? 

Behavioral changes are important to watch out for. For example, any new or changing signs of:
  • anxiety
  • difficulties with appetite
  • difficulties with friends
  • difficulties with sleep
  • moodiness
  • sadness
  • school problems

All of these can be signs of a problem.

Older children and teenagers may be vulnerable to risky behaviors (e.g., alcohol abuse, drug abuse, skipping school, defiant acts, etc.). Regardless of whether such troubles are related to the divorce, they are serious problems that affect a teenager's well-being and indicate the need for outside help.

Adjusting to a New Living Situation—

Because divorce can be such a big change, adjustments in living arrangements should be handled gradually. Several types of living situations should be considered:
  • joint custody in which both legal and physical custody are shared
  • joint custody where one parent has "tie breaking" authority in certain medical or educational domains
  • one parent may have sole custody

Which one is right for your children? That's a tough question and often the one that couples spend most time disagreeing on. Although some children can thrive spending half their time with each parent, others seem to need the stability of having one "home" and visiting with the other parent. Some moms and dads choose to both remain in the same home — but this only works in the rarest of circumstances and in general should be avoided.

Whatever arrangement you choose, your youngster's needs should come first. Avoid getting involved in a tug of war as a way to "win." When deciding how to handle holidays, birthdays, and vacations, stay focused on what's best for the children. It's important for moms and dads to resolve these issues themselves and not ask the children to choose.

During the preteen years, when children become more involved with activities apart from their moms and dads, they may need different schedules to accommodate their changing priorities. Ideally, children benefit most from consistent support from both moms and dads, but they may resist equal time-sharing if it interrupts school or their social lives. Be prepared for their thoughts on time-sharing, and try to be flexible.

Your youngster may refuse to share time with you and your ex-spouse equally and may try to take sides. If this occurs, as hard as it is, try not to take it personally. Maintain the visitation schedule and emphasize the importance of the involvement of both moms and dads.

Children sometimes propose spending an entire summer, semester, or school year with the non-custodial parent. But this may not reflect that they want to move. Listen to and explore these options if they're brought up. This kind of arrangement can work well in "friendly" divorces, but is not typical of higher-conflict situations.

Changes of any kind are hard — know that you and your children can and will adjust to this one. Finding your inner strength and getting help to learn new coping skills are hard work, but can make a big difference to helping your family get through this difficult time.


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.

Caring For Your Aspergers Child Throughout The Lifespan

"I’m feeling very weighed down right now because my son was just diagnosed with Asperger’s, and I’m a single mom with two other children. What can I do to help my son now – and as he grows older?"

After a youngster is diagnosed with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, the parent may feel unprepared or unable to provide the youngster with the necessary care and education. Know that there are many treatment options, social services and programs, and other resources that can help.



Some tips that can help you and your son are:
  • Contact your local health department or autism advocacy groups to learn about the special programs available in your state and local community.
  • Keep a record of conversations, meetings with health care providers and educators, and other sources of information. This will help you remember the different treatment options and decide which would help your youngster most.
  • Keep a record of the doctors' reports and your youngster's evaluation. This information may help your youngster qualify for special programs.
  • Talk with your youngster's doctor, school system, or autism support groups to find an autism expert in your area who can help you develop an intervention plan and find other local resources.

Understanding Adolescents with Aspergers—

The adolescent years can be a time of stress and confusion for any growing youngster, including adolescents with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism.

During the adolescent years, young people become more aware of others and their relationships with them. While most adolescents are concerned with acne, popularity, grades, and dates, adolescents with Aspergers may become painfully aware that they are different from their friends. For some, this awareness may encourage them to learn new behaviors and try to improve their social skills. For others, hurt feelings and problems connecting with others may lead to depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders.

One way that some adolescents with Aspergers may express the tension and confusion that can occur during adolescence is through increased autistic or aggressive behavior. Teenagers with Aspergers will also need support to help them understand the physical changes and sexual maturation they experience during adolescence.

If your adolescent seems to have trouble coping, talk with his doctor about possible co-occurring mental disorders and what you can do. Behavioral therapies and medications often help.

Preparing for Transition to Adulthood—

The public schools' responsibility for providing services ends when a youngster with Aspergers reaches the age of 22. At that time, some families may struggle to find jobs to match their adult son’s or daughter’s needs. If your family cannot continue caring for an adult child at home, you may need to look for other living arrangements.

Long before your youngster finishes school, you should search for the best programs and facilities for young people with Aspergers. If you know other moms and dads of adults with Aspergers, ask them about the services available in your community. Local support and advocacy groups may be able to help you find programs and services that your youngster is eligible to receive as an adult.

Another important part of this transition is teaching young people with Aspergers to self-advocate (i.e., that they start to take on more responsibility for their education, employment, health care, and living arrangements). Grown-ups with Aspergers must self-advocate for their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act at work, in higher education, in the community, and elsewhere.

Living Arrangements for Aspergers Adults—

There are many options for grown-ups living with Aspergers. Helping your son or daughter choose the right one will largely depend on what is available in your state and local community, as well as his/her skills and symptoms. Below are some examples of living arrangements you may want to consider:

1. Some individuals with special needs may choose to live in group homes or apartments staffed by professionals who help with basic needs. These needs often include meal preparation, housekeeping, and personal care. Individuals who are more independent may be able to live in a home or apartment where staff only visits a few times a week. Such residents generally prepare their own meals, go to work, and conduct other daily activities on their own.

2. Some families open their homes to provide long-term care to grown-ups with special needs who are not related to them. If the home teaches self-care and housekeeping skills and arranges leisure activities, it is called a "skill-development" home.

3. Long-term care facilities are available for those with low-functioning Autism who need intensive, constant supervision.

4. Government funds are available for families who choose to have their son or daughter with Aspergers live at home. These programs include Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Medicaid waivers. Information about these programs and others is available from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Make an appointment with your local SSA office to find out which programs would be right for your “Aspie.”

5. Most grown-ups with Aspergers are able to live on their own. Others can live in their own home or apartment if they get help dealing with major issues (e.g., managing personal finances, obtaining necessary health care, interacting with government or social service agencies, etc.). Family members, professional agencies, or other types of providers can offer this assistance.

Aspergers and Sibling Issues

In this post, we will be referring to the sibling with Aspergers as the “Aspie” – and the sibling without Aspergers as the “neurotypical”...

The discovery that a child has Aspergers (or high-functioning autism) has a profound effect on a family. Kids suddenly must adjust to a brother or sister who, because of their disorder, may require a large portion of family time, attention, money, and psychological support. Yet it is an important concern to any family that the neurotypical sibling adjusts to the Aspie, because the neurotypical child's reactions to the Aspie can affect the overall adjustment and development of self-esteem in both kids.

In any family, each sibling, and each relationship that siblings have, is unique, important, and special. Brothers and sisters influence each other and play important roles in each other's lives. Indeed, sibling relationships make up a youngster's first social network and are the basis for his or her interactions with people outside the family. Brothers and sisters are playmates first; as they mature, they take on new roles with each other. They may, over the years, be many things to each other -- teacher, friend, companion, follower, protector, enemy, competitor, confidant, role model. When this relationship is affected by Aspergers, the long-term benefits of the relationship may be altered (e.g., the Aspie may have limited opportunities to interact with other kids outside the family; thus, social interaction between siblings often takes on increasing importance).

Each youngster's personality and temperament play an important role in their response toward a sibling, including one with Aspergers. Although both positive and negative feelings exist in all sibling relationships, for school-age kids and young adolescents, these relationships tend to be more positive than negative in their feeling tone. Furthermore, kids with an Aspergers sibling appear to have more positive and fewer negative behavioral interactions than do those with a non-Aspergers sibling. These positive aspects include higher levels of empathy and altruism, increased tolerance for differences, increased sense of maturity and responsibility, and pride in the sibling's accomplishments.

Living with a brother or sister, including one with Aspergers, can be rewarding, confusing, instructive, and stressful. Siblings of an Aspie express a range of emotions and responses to that sibling, similar in most ways to the range of emotions experienced toward siblings who have no disability. Kids react toward an Aspie with feelings of love, empathy, pride, guilt, anger, and support; the predominance and prevalence of these reactions have great impact on the levels of stress and coping ability of the Aspie. The positive or negative nature of the relationships between siblings and among family members may be influenced by factors such as these:
  • age differences between kids in the family
  • family's child-rearing practices
  • family's lifestyle
  • family's resources
  • kind and quality of the support services available in the community
  • kinds of coping mechanisms and interaction patterns that exist within the family
  • number of kids in the family
  • other stress-producing conditions that exist in the family
  • severity of the disorder

Each youngster's reaction to having a sibling with Aspergers will vary depending on his or her age and developmental level. The responses and feelings of the neurotypical sibling toward the Aspie are not likely to be static, but rather tend to change over time as the sibling adapts to having a brother or sister with Aspergers and copes with day-to-day realities. Preschool-aged siblings, for example, may feel confused, afraid, anxious, and angry about a brother or sister with Aspergers. All kids are different; the intensity of a youngster's concerns, needs, and experiences will vary from sibling to sibling, as will a youngster's reaction to -- and interpretation of -- events. The younger the child the more difficult it may be for him or her to understand the situation and to interpret events realistically. Neurotypical siblings may resent the time their parents give to the Aspergers sibling and perceive it as rejection. They may wonder what is wrong with them that their parents love their Aspergers sister or brother more.

During the early years, the neurotypical sibling may mimic the physical or behavioral actions of the youngster with Aspergers, or the neurotypical sibling may regress in behavioral development. Later on, he or she may be prone to extremes of behavior such as "acting out" or becoming the "perfect" child.

Elementary school-aged kids may feel embarrassed or ashamed as they recognize differences between their Aspergers sibling and someone else's “normal” brother or sister. They may worry about "catching" or developing the disorder, and they may feel guilt because they themselves do not have the disorder. They may also feel protective and supportive of their Aspergers sibling, and this may trigger conflicts with peers.

Young adults may have future-oriented concerns. They may wonder what will become of their brother or sister with Aspergers. They may also be concerned about how the people they socialize with, date, and later marry will accept the brother or sister with Aspergers. Additional issues faced by young adults may include genetic counseling when planning their own families, and coping with anxiety about future responsibilities for the brother or sister with Aspergers.

Family Stress Factors—

The discovery that a youngster has Aspergers can produce stress among family members. Stress can also be caused by a number of ongoing factors, or by special circumstances. Siblings need an explanation for the tensions within the family and the cause of the tensions.

Some families are stressed by the amount of financial resources required to meet the needs of the youngster who has Aspergers. Some moms and dads may expect neurotypical siblings to accept the brother or sister with Aspergers as "normal." This expectation can lead to internalized feelings of anxiety and jealousy which the neurotypical sibling may be reluctant to voice. The parents, in turn, may fail to recognize the youngster's unhappiness and may deny that a problem exists.

Neurotypical siblings may feel obligated to compensate for the youngster with Aspergers, to make up for that youngster's limitations. They may be acting as a surrogate parent, assuming more responsibility than would be usual in the care of a neurotypical sibling. On the other hand, siblings may help the family by providing their parents with assistance and support, which they otherwise might not have, in the care of the youngster with Aspergers. The neurotypical youngster may experience jealousy because he or she may be required to do family chores, whereas, the sibling with Aspergers is not required to do them -- despite the fact that the Aspie may be unable to do them, or would have great difficulty doing them. The neurotypical sibling may resent having to integrate the Aspie into the neighborhood peer group, and may experience or perceive peer rejection because of having a sibling with Aspergers. Finally, the neurotypical sibling may feel embarrassment because of the Aspie’s characteristics or inappropriate behavior. Essentially, moms and dads, other adult family members, and professionals should realize that neurotypical siblings need special understanding, attention, support and recognition of their unique contributions to the family system.

Siblings with Aspergers, on the other hand, also experience stress as family members. These common stresses include:
  • anger resulting from an inability to do things as easily and quickly as their nondisabled brothers and sisters
  • frustration at not being able to make themselves understood
  • irritation over constant reminders about everything
  • low self-esteem
  • unhappiness at being left to play alone
  • withdrawal because of lack of social skills

Through it all, with understanding and support, there are usually many positive interactions and normal sibling give-and-take situations from which each learns and matures.

When moms and dads have a double standard for Aspergers and neurotypical kids, conflicts can arise. Even though the youngster with Aspergers, in fact, may need and receive more parental attention, the amount given may be perceived as unfair by neurotypical siblings. Some moms and dads, on the other hand, may tend to overindulge the “normal” sibling in an effort to compensate for a brother or sister with Aspergers. The normal rivalry between all siblings may cause the neurotypical sibling to perceive incorrectly that the parents favor or love best the sibling with Aspergers. Sara expressed the resentment she feels when her brother is dealt with lightly in comparison to her punishments:

"Normal kids can get pushed aside when their brothers or sisters has Aspergers. Jacob seems to get help naturally --it's like attention to his needs is "built into the system." I'm the bad one, but he can do no wrong. He makes all the messes, but I get into trouble if I don't empty the dishwasher."

Unlike their parents, siblings may have no knowledge of life without a brother or sister with Aspergers. Siblings generally are poorly informed about this disorder. Yet siblings' needs for information may be as great - or greater - than those of parents, because of their identification with their brother or sister with Aspergers. It is important to bear in mind that they have limited life experiences to assist them in putting the disorder into perspective. Moms and dads should respect the neurotypical siblings' need to be recognized as an individual who has concerns and questions as well as his or her right to know about the disorder. Neurotypical siblings may require information throughout their lives in a manner and form appropriate to their maturity.

For many siblings, anxiety-producing feelings often are not expressed in day-to-day family interactions and discussions, and are shared even less at school. These internalized feelings complicate sibling relationships, for kids need to vent their emotions. Kids should be given an explanation for their sibling's problems so that they will not make incorrect assumptions.

Moms and dads and professionals need to be aware that there may be a gap between the neurotypical sibling's knowledge and actions. A neurotypical sibling may be able to rationally explain a brother's or sister's disorder to inquiring friends or neighbors, but may still exhibit temper tantrums over the same sibling's actions in the home.

Most importantly, the need for information and understanding does not have to be addressed solely by the moms and dads. A youngster's disorder is a concern which should be shared by parents, helping professionals, and society. For example, some progressive clinics and hospitals have designed programs that include siblings from the beginning. These programs offer Family Support Groups which bring entire families together as a means of sharing information and mutual support.

It is important for teachers to be sensitive to neurotypical siblings' feelings and needs. Teachers can do much to promote positive sibling interactions as well as acceptance of Aspergers in all kids. During the school years, especially the early years, teachers can help to promote sibling awareness and interaction by providing opportunities for siblings to learn about Aspergers (e.g., conducting a "sibling day" or a “sibling workshop” can be an excellent way of introducing siblings to Aspergers). On this day, activities can include sharing positive experiences about having a sibling with Aspergers. Siblings without the disorder might be interested in seeing and/or participating in some of the unique activities in which their Aspergers brother or sister participates in.

Information puts fears into perspective. In most instances, simply knowing the facts about Aspergers takes away the sting of embarrassment, as well as uncertainty and fear. While embarrassment can and does occur in many situations over the years, knowledge can help one cope.

Ask parent groups, social workers, therapists, doctors, teachers, or counselors about the availability of support groups and other sibling resources in your area.

Planning For the Future—

Planning for the future raises many important issues for the family of a youngster with Aspergers. The most challenging of these dilemmas is the care of the adult sibling who has the disorder. Even though neurotypical adult siblings have lives (and often families) of their own, they face unusual, additional responsibilities because of their unique relationship with their brother or sister with Aspergers.

The amount of responsibility that adult neurotypical siblings assume for their adult sibling with Aspergers varies with individuals and with circumstances. It is dictated by a consideration of family and job responsibilities, personal choice, and available community support.

Perhaps the most challenging issue a family faces is, on the one hand, encouraging and fostering the independence and self-determination of the person with Aspergers and, on the other hand, facing the reality that, at some level, assistance may be necessary.

When planning for the future of the sibling with Aspergers, you should consider such things as mobility, social and communication skills, education, and the individual's own ideas about where to live and work. Even after careful planning and the appointment of a guardian or co-guardians, plans should be made for emergencies. A file should be kept in a safe place, known to all family members. The following ideas should be addressed when making future plans and the information should be included in this accessible file:

1. Neurotypical siblings should know where to access the needed educational, vocational, and medical records of the Aspergers sibling, and be ready to anticipate his or her changing future needs.

2. Know your state's laws regarding guardianship and independence. Do not assume that you as parents will automatically remain your youngster's guardian when he or she reaches the age of majority in your state. Establish whether the sibling with Aspergers requires no, partial, or full guardianship. This information should be in writing, and, if possible, make contingency plans in case the first-choice guardian is unable to assume that role. Be aware of the consequences in your state of not having a guardian appointed.

3. Families should gain an understanding of the legal and eligibility requirements of programs available to the family member with Aspergers. Investigate resources through government programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Vocational Rehabilitation, Independent Living Centers, employment services, parent and disability groups.

4. Families should discover the types of community resources available. The range of services and resources varies considerably according to place of residence. Keep abreast of any changes in the availability of these services. Consider the sibling's need for long-term care, as well as for employment and companionship.

5. Families should consider the future health of the sibling with Aspergers with respect to needed services and care. Moms and dads should document where he or she can receive medical care and the financial resources and arrangements necessary for this care.

6. Develop financial plans for future care. If the family is considering establishing a trust for the family member with Aspergers, it should consider the incomes of the kids in the family, including the sibling with Aspergers. Make a will only with an attorney experienced in devising wills for those who have an heir with this disorder. Inheritances must be treated with caution. It is especially important to investigate the continued eligibility for certain social services if assets from an estate, pension, or life insurance are left to the youngster with Aspergers.

7. Be aware that, as families grow and develop, the members within it change. Living with and caring for a youngster with Aspergers is different from living with and caring for an adult with Aspergers. Family members should continually ask themselves the following questions:
  • Are my career plans compatible with my responsibilities for my brother or sister with Aspergers?
  • How will the responsibility be shared with other family members?
  • How will these needs change?
  • Is the involvement financially, emotionally and psychologically realistic for me?
  • What are the needs of the sibling with Aspergers?
  • What can be expected from local support groups in the community?
  • What is and will be my level of involvement?
  • Will my future spouse accept my brother or sister?

The care of a sibling with Aspergers is, in large part, a family affair and a responsibility that should be shared as evenly as possible. By planning effectively for the future, parents can help ease the responsibility and the feelings of stress that uncertainty about the future can bring.

Suggestions to Moms and Dads—

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

To every extent possible, moms and dads should require their kids with Aspergers to do as much as possible for themselves. Families should provide every opportunity for a normal family life by doing things together, such as cleaning the house or yard; or going on family outings to the movies, the playground, museums, or restaurants. Always, the youngster with the disorder should be allowed to participate as much as possible in family chores, and should have specific chores assigned as do the other kids.

Care-giving responsibilities for the youngster with Aspergers should be shared by all family members. It is especially important that the burden for care-giving does not fall onto the shoulders of an older sibling. If there is an older sister, there is a tendency in some families to give her the primary responsibility, or an excessive amount of it. Today, however, more communities are providing resources to ease the family's care-giving burdens. Examples include recreation activities, respite care, and parent support groups.

Here are several strategies suggested by neurotypical siblings themselves for mothers/fathers to consider in their interactions with their “normal” kids. These siblings suggest that moms and dads should:
  • Welcome other kids and friends into the home
  • Use respite care and other supportive services
  • Use professionals when indicated to help siblings
  • Teach siblings to interact
  • Schedule special time with the neurotypical sibling
  • Require the Aspergers youngster to do as much for himself or herself as possible
  • Recognize that they are the most important, most powerful teachers of their kids
  • Recognize special stress times for siblings and plan to minimize negative effects
  • Recognize each youngster's unique qualities and family contribution
  • Provide opportunities for a normal family life and normal family activities
  • Praise all siblings
  • Listen to siblings
  • Limit the care-giving responsibilities of siblings
  • Let siblings settle their own differences
  • Join sibling-related organizations
  • Involve all siblings in family events and decisions
  • Be open and honest
  • Accept the disorder

Kids with special needs may often need more help and require more attention and planning from their parents and others in order to achieve their maximum independence. Brothers and sisters can give parents some of the extra help and support they need; the special relationship of brothers and sisters is often lifelong. This special and unique bond among siblings can foster and encourage the positive growth of the entire family.


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

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