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Highly-Anxious Asperger’s & High-Functioning Autistic Kids

"How can I help my little girl (with autism) to not be so chronically fearful. She's really developing the habit of finding most things quite worrisome?"

All kids experience anxiety. It is expected and normal at specific times in development. However, children with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) tend to suffer from anxiety more than “typical” children do. Estimates report that as many as 80% of children on the autism spectrum have anxiety disorders. Because these young people may also be quiet, compliant and eager to please, their difficulties may be missed by both parents and teachers.

Other factors that may contribute to heightened anxiety include the following:
  • Family history is frequently a factor. Both Asperger’s and anxiety disorders run in families. Kids who have a family history of anxiety, often going back several generations, are at increased risk for developing an anxiety disorder.
  • Kids with introverted temperaments may be more prone to anxiety. Introverted kids are more apt to internalize their distress rather than to act it out.
  • Kids who are experiencing high levels of family stress or conflict may exhibit signs of anxiety.
  • Kids with highly anxious moms and dads may exhibit high levels of anxiety themselves. The highly anxious parent who continually worries and frets about her “special needs” child or who is overly-protective can foster high levels of anxiety in her child.


There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:
  • Generalized anxiety disorder: Involves excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.
  • Panic disorder: Children with this disorder have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Symptoms include a feeling of "going crazy," a feeling of choking, a feeling of having a heart attack, chest pain, sweating, and unusually strong or irregular heartbeats.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. 
  • Specific phobias: An intense fear of a specific object or situation (e.g., snakes, heights, flying, etc.). The level of fear is usually out of proportion to the situation and may cause the child to avoid common, everyday situations.

The behavioral and emotional symptoms listed below may signal an anxiety disorder in your AS or HFA child (or the propensity for developing one):
  • avoidance of activities that require independence
  • avoidance of social situations 
  • avoidance of stressful situations (e.g., tests and exams, interactions with others, etc.)
  • avoidance, refusal or reluctance to participate in social activities that might result in social scrutiny
  • being overly clingy 
  • complains about physical concerns and problems (e.g., headaches, stomachaches, etc.)
  • constant thoughts and intense fears about the safety of parents 
  • constant worries or concerns about, school
  • constant worry about everyday activities (e.g., what's going to happen next)
  • extreme fear about a specific thing (e.g., dogs, insects, needles, etc.)
  • extreme worries about sleeping away from home 
  • extremely slow to complete tasks in order to ensure they are done correctly
  • fears of embarrassment or making mistakes 
  • fears of meeting or talking to people 
  • few friends outside the family 
  • highly dependent on a parent
  • highly sensitive to other people watching them
  • low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence 
  • many worries about things before they happen 
  • panic or tantrums at times of separation from parents 
  • physical symptoms (e.g., flushing) or an extremely quiet or shaky voice during social situations
  • refusing to go to school 
  • reluctant to engage in activities without a significant other
  • repetitive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or actions (compulsions) 
  • shows a high need for a great deal of reassurance
  • signs of perfectionism 
  • trouble sleeping or nightmares

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

Fortunately, much progress has been made in the treatment of children with anxiety disorders. Although the exact treatment approach depends on the type of disorder, one or a combination of the following therapies may be used for most anxiety disorders:
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: A therapeutic approach in which the child learns to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings.
  • Dietary and lifestyle changes
  • Medication: Drugs used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders include anxiety-reducing drugs and anti-depressants.
  • Psychotherapy: Counseling that addresses the emotional response to anxiety. Trained mental health professionals help children by talking through strategies for understanding and dealing with their disorder.
  • Relaxation therapy

How parents can help the highly-anxious Asperger’s or HFA child:


It’s nearly impossible to “cure” anxiety in AS and HFA kids. Some anxiety is genetic, and others are as a result of situations beyond the parent’s control. But parents can minimize the effect that anxiety has on their youngster’s development. Over time, moms and dads can help their child develop the coping strategies he or she needs to be able to handle day-to-day anxiety and stress. Here are some tips:

1. As a mother or father, it’s natural to want to be supportive of your “special needs” youngster. But you may be unintentionally reinforcing negative behaviors. For instance, if your youngster is anxious when you drop him off at school and he runs back to the car crying, it’s not a good idea to pick him up, hug him, cry too, and tell him ‘it will be okay’.  This just reinforces that leaving him is a scary thing to do.

2. AS and HFA children who suffer with anxiety issues are often described as "going from 0-to-60 in a split second," which often results in a meltdown.  In reality, however, the child’s emotions probably grew more gradually from calm to uneasy to anxious, but the parent (and the child) didn't notice the build-up. Teaching your child to identify this escalation is essential if he is to learn how to catch himself on the way up. A helpful tool to use is an emotional thermometer. When your youngster is calm, share the graphic with him, explaining how emotions often grow in intensity from calm to uneasy to anxious. Give him a copy of the thermometer and ask him to pay attention to where he is on it at different times of the day over the course of a few weeks, checking in with him as needed to discuss what he is noticing.

3. Breathing exercises that involve your youngster letting her belly expand as she inhales through her nose and deflate as she exhales through her mouth can help alleviate anxiety. The intake of oxygen and exhaling of carbon dioxide when she breathes deeply can lower her blood pressure and slow her heartbeat. When teaching this strategy to your child, tell her to pretend that she is blowing out candles on a cake or blowing up a make-believe balloon.

4. Calming music helps lower a youngster’s level of stress hormones, blood pressure and heart rate. When your youngster feels stressed, have him listen to soothing music (e.g., lullabies) using a pair of headphones. Create a playlist of spa-like music to play on an MP3 player.

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

5. Guided imagery teaches a youngster to calm her body and mind. This works best in a quiet, comfortable environment. Have your child close her eyes as you use a soothing voice to help her imagine that she’s in a relaxing situation (e.g., have her imagine that she’s filling bubbles with her negative emotions, which disappear into the air).

6. Kids pick up on social cues from their moms and dads. If the parent is an anxious person, her youngster is far more likely to be anxious as well. This is why it’s important that parents work on their own anxiety. They should try to minimize their fearful reactions to things when in front of their youngster – and try their best to relax and find composure in daily life.

7. Practice is key. Each day, at a time when your child is calm, ask him to role play what he looks like when he is fearful or anxious. Then ask him to practice self-soothing techniques. To make the practice most effective, have your child do the role-play in the area of the house he is most likely to go when he's actually upset (e.g., bedroom, beanbag chair, reading area, etc.). Then when he goes there in a moment of feeling uneasy, he'll be more able to use the correct technique in that space. Self-soothing training takes only a few minutes a day, but it's important that you focus on it daily with your child until you see him beginning to take hold of the strategies.

8. Social anxiety is easily the most common type of anxiety that affects kids on the autism spectrum. One of the main problems is that the AS or HFA youngster is unlikely to be adept at social skills. Parents should try to make sure that their youngster doesn’t have his fears reinforced. For example, you may be against violent video games or rap music, but the truth is that your youngster will want to converse with peers that will likely be talking about these subjects. The more your child knows about pop culture, the easier it will be for him to get into normal conversations, gain acceptance, and avoid having his social anxiety reinforced.

9. Teach your AS or HFA youngster to identify emotions by conducting a "body check." When you notice signs of anxiety first beginning, label it for your youngster and explain how you know (e.g., “Your voice is getting louder and your facial muscles are clenched, so I can see you're having some anxiety right now").  Over time, your youngster will learn to identify when he's anxious without your cues.

10. Think back to when you were a child. Most certainly, there were things that your parents did or said that helped calm you down. And most likely, there were those things that they did that raised your anxiety level. Vow to pass on the best – and leave the rest. In other words, some of the things that soothed you as a child may very well work with your child – so try them. Also, try to avoid doing the things that caused you be anxious as a child.

11. Try to find your child some very close friends. Studies have shown that having social support from close friends greatly reduces anxiety and improves confidence. As the AS or HFA youngster gets older, she will be able to leverage those friendships in such a way that she becomes less anxious in the process.

12. When your youngster feels anxious, oxygen-rich blood triggered by his fight-or-flight response often causes large muscle groups to feel tense. Practicing progressive muscle relaxation helps release the tension so he feels calmer. Guide your youngster by telling him to bring his shoulders up to his ears for five seconds – and then relax. Repeat the exercise five times.

SHARE WITH YOUR CHILD:



 Are you worried that your AS or HFA child may be exhibiting symptoms of anxiety? Observe his or her behavior and ask yourself the following questions:
  • When did you begin to notice some of the signs of anxiety in your child?
  • What factors or stressors do you think are contributing to the anxiety?
  • What effect does anxiety have on your youngster and those around him or her?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how severe do you think the problem is?
  • Is it hard to manage?
  • How long have these problems been of concern?
  • How long do the symptoms of anxiety last?
  • How frequently does your youngster exhibit symptoms of anxiety?
  • How does it interfere with your youngster’s life?

By getting answers to these questions – and by utilizing the ideas listed above – parents should be able to greatly reduce the level of anxiety that their “special needs” child experiences.

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

Help for Anxious Children on the Autism Spectrum

"How can I help my daughter with autism (high functioning) to deal with her anxiety in ways other than simply hiding in her room all evening and on weekends?"

Anxiety is a common problem in children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA). In fact, in some cases fear is their main emotion. One study revealed that 84.1% of kids on the autism spectrum met the full criteria of at least one anxiety disorder (i.e., phobia, panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, avoidant disorder, overanxious disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder).

This does not necessarily go away as the youngster grows up. Many teens and young adults with AS and HFA report intense feelings of anxiety that may reach a level where treatment is required. For some children, it is the treatment of their anxiety disorder that leads to a diagnosis of AS or HFA.



Children with AS and HFA are particularly prone to anxiety as a consequence of the social demands made on them. Any social contact can generate anxiety as to how to start, maintain and end a conversation or an activity. Also, changes to daily routine can exacerbate the anxiety, as can sensory sensitivities.

One way these children cope with their anxiety is to retreat into their special interest (e.g., video games, collecting baseball cards, tracking train schedules, etc.). Their level of preoccupation with the special interest can be used as a measure of their degree of anxiety. The more anxious the child, the more intense the interest. Anxiety can also increase their rigidity in thought processes and insistence on routines. In addition, the more anxious these children are, the more they experience other related symptoms. For example, anxiety often leads to depression and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

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

One of the best ways to treat anxiety in AS and HFA children is through the use of behavioral techniques. This may involve parents (and teachers) looking out for recognized symptoms (e.g., meltdowns, shutdowns, rocking, hand-flapping, etc.) as an indication that the youngster is anxious. These kids can be taught to recognize these symptoms themselves (although some might need prompting).

Specific events may also trigger anxiety (e.g., recess and other unstructured school activities, itchy clothing, routine changes, a stranger entering the room, etc.). When certain events (internal or external) are recognized as a sign of imminent anxiety, action can be taken (e.g., relaxation, distraction, physical activity, etc.).

The choice of relaxation method depends very much on the unique needs of the child. Many of the relaxation products available commercially can be adapted for use for children with AS and HFA. Some kids may respond to watching their favorite video, while others may prefer to listen to calming music. Also, many benefit from having access to a quiet room.

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

It’s best to practice whatever method of relaxation is chosen at frequent and regular intervals in order for it to be of any practical use when anxieties occur.

Drug treatment may be effective for anxiety. Many AS and HFA children have responded well to:
  • benzodiazepines
  • buspirone
  • clonazepam
  • propranolol
  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants 
  • St. Johns Wort

One mother of a child on the autism spectrum states, "My recently diagnosed 13 y.o. daughter with HFA experiences anxiety about some very necessary things, like drinking water (she saw her brother guzzle water and vomit and now associates water intake with vomiting), eating (if she starts to become anxious while eating a particular food, that food becomes a trigger in itself) and sleeping -- haven't quite figured out what frightens her about sleep, but it often results in her staying up until she just can't keep her eyes open any longer. Then of course, she's tired and can't focus and that contributes to her other anxieties in school and such. She's on an SSRI, and has been working with a CBT therapist for several years. I wish it were as simple as avoiding or modifying things that caused her anxiety but eating, drinking and sleeping are everyday necessities."

As with all drug treatments, it will take time to find the correct drug and dosage for any particular child – and must only be conducted through a qualified medical practitioner.

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

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

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

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




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

Causes of School-Related Anxiety in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

It's common for ASD level 1 (high functioning autistic) children of all ages to experience school anxiety and school-related stress.

This is often most apparent at the end of summer when school is about to start again, but it can occur year-round. Social, academic and scheduling factors play a major role, as do hidden environmental stressors.

Below are some of the anxiety-related factors that both moms and dads and teachers should consider when dealing with ASD children:

1. Many schools now have anti-bullying programs and policies. Though bullying does still happen at many schools, even those with these policies, help is generally more easily accessible than it was years ago. The bad news is that bullying has gone high-tech. Many children use the Internet, cell phones and other media devices to bully other children, and this type of bullying often gets very aggressive. 

One reason is that bullies can be anonymous and enlist other bullies to make their target miserable. Another reason is that they don't have to face their targets, so it's easier to shed any empathy that they may otherwise feel. There are ways to combat cyber-bullying, but many moms and dads aren't aware of them – and many bullied Aspies feel too overwhelmed to deal with the situation.


2. Most ASD children want to have friends but may not have the social skills to acquire them. Concerns about not having enough friends, not being in the same class as friends, not being able to keep up with friends in one particular area or another, interpersonal conflicts, and peer pressure are a few of the very common ways children on the autism spectrum can be stressed by their social lives (or lack of a social life) at school.

3. Children are being assigned a heavier homework load than in past years – and that extra work can add to a busy schedule and take a toll.

4. Due in part to the busyness of kids’ lives and the hectic schedules of most moms and dads, the sit-down family dinner has become the exception rather than the rule in many households. While there are other ways to connect as a family, many families find that they’re too busy to spend time together and have both the important discussions and the casual day recaps that can be so helpful for Aspies in dealing with the issues they face. Due to a lack of available family time, many moms and dads aren't as connected to their children, or knowledgeable about the issues they face.

5. Not having necessary supplies can be a very stressful experience for an autistic youngster. If the youngster doesn't have an adequate lunch, didn't bring his signed permission slip, or doesn't have a red shirt to wear on "Red Shirt Day," for example, he may experience significant stress.

6. You may already know that there are different styles of learning -- some learn better by listening, others retain information more efficiently if they see the information written out, and still others prefer learning by doing. If there's a mismatch in learning style and classroom, or if your youngster has a learning disability (especially an undiscovered one), this can obviously lead to a stressful academic experience.

7. Noisy classrooms and hallways, noise pollution from nearby airports, heavy traffic, and other sources have been shown to cause stress that impacts ASD kids’ performance in school.

8. Many Aspies aren't getting enough sleep to function well each day. As schedules get busier, even young children are finding themselves habitually sleep-deprived. This can affect health and cognitive functioning, both of which impact school performance. Operating under a sleep deficit doesn’t just mean sleepiness, it can also lead to poor cognitive functioning, lack of coordination, moodiness, and other negative effects.

9. In an effort to give their autistic children an edge, or to provide the best possible developmental experiences, some moms and dads are enrolling their children in too many extra-curricular activities. As these children become teens, school extracurricular activities become much more demanding.


10. With the overabundance of convenience food available these days and the time constraints many experience, the average Aspie's diet has more sugar and less nutritious content than is recommended. This can lead to mood swings, lack of energy, and other negative effects that impact stress levels.

11. Most Aspies experience some level of stress or anxiety in social situations they encounter in school. While some of these issues provide important opportunities for growth, they must be handled with care and can cause anxiety that must be dealt with.

12. A good experience with a caring teacher can cause a lasting impression on a youngster's life – but so can a bad experience! While most teachers do their best to provide “special needs kids” with a positive educational experience, some Aspies are better suited for certain teaching styles and classroom types than others. If there's a mismatch between student and teacher, the youngster can form lasting negative feelings about school or his own abilities.

13. Many of us experience test anxiety, regardless of whether or not we're prepared for exams. Unfortunately, some studies show that greater levels of test anxiety can actually hinder performance on exams. Reducing test anxiety can actually improve scores. Certain aspects of an ASD youngster's environment can also cause stress that can spill over and affect school performance.

14. There's a lot of pressure for children to learn more and more and at younger ages than in past generations. For example, while a few decades ago kindergarten was a time for learning letters, numbers, and basics, most kindergarteners today are expected to read. With test scores being heavily weighted and publicly known, schools and teachers are under great pressure to produce high test scores; that pressure can be passed on to children.

15. Just as it can be stressful to handle a heavy and challenging workload, some kids on the spectrum can experience stress from work that isn't difficult enough. They can respond by acting-out or tuning-out in class, which leads to poor performance, masks the root of the problem, and perpetuates the difficulties.

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

How to Deal with an Aspergers Child Who Also Suffers with Anxiety

Question

How do you deal with an Aspergers child who also suffers with anxiety?

Answer

For kids with Aspergers (high functioning autism), anxiety can be overwhelming. What causes this anxiety? Just about anything can cause anxiety. The stress of social situations when you have weak social skills, changes in your normal routine or in the order of things, depression due to the loneliness that can come with lacking social abilities, and frustration. Truthfully, frustration is the root of anxiety in kids with Aspergers.

In kids with Aspergers, anxiety builds as frustration builds. Something as simple as being forced to make eye contact and explain your reasons for choosing a certain book to read can cause frustration. Imagine trying to find the words you need and learning that some of those words are missing. Imagine having to look someone in the eye and feeling actual physical discomfort when doing so. Imagine eating in a noisy, crowded cafeteria when the sights, sounds, and smells are painfully overwhelming. Imagine having a deep desire to make and keep friends, but not having the social skills needed to accomplish this desire. Frustration is around every corner, and with that frustration comes anxiety.

Aspergers anxiety must be understood before it can be eliminated or at the very least, managed. Knowing the youngster’s anxiety triggers, or daily frustrations is a good place to start. Once you know the youngster’s frustrations, you can make a plan for these stressful Aspergers anxiety situations. 

There are several choices of treatments for parents to choose:

• Moms and dads can choose to teach coping skills at home. Search the Internet for published resources that can make the job easier and more effective.

• In some cases, medication is a necessary treatment. Anti-anxiety medications can make it easier for kids with Aspergers to deal with the depression and anxiety issues. Since medications are not for everyone, a trusted doctor‘s guidance is necessary.

• Counseling is a common treatment option for anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, as well as psychological counseling can help. Social skills training, sensory integration therapy, and language therapy can also help with the underlying causes of a youngster’s anxiety-inducing frustration.

Aspergers anxiety is a serious condition and should not be taken lightly. Finding the right combination of stress management and treatments will help your family deal with the frustration that leads to anxiety.

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

Stress-Management for Children with High-Functioning Autism

"I need some stress management techniques to use on my very anxious daughter with autism (high functioning). Thanks in advance."

Children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are prone to greater stress in their daily lives than their “typical” peers. Social interaction – especially with more than one peer in which the HFA child has to identify, translate, and respond to social and emotional cues and cope with unexpected noise levels – inevitably increases stress to a point where his or her coping mechanisms may collapse.

A “stress assessment” (based on the knowledge of HFA) will help parents and teachers determine what are the natural and distinctive stressors for the child. Subsequently, an effective stress-management program can be designed.



When there are concerns about an HFA youngster’s stress level, a stress assessment can be conducted in order to better understand why the stress is occurring and to determine the most effective interventions to address it.  

The assessment process involves:
  • observing the child’s behavior while he or she is experiencing stress
  • identifying the context in which the stress-related behavior occurs
  • documenting actions that precede and follow the behavior
  • triggers and payoffs for the behavior
  • parent response
  • child reactions to the parent response
  • frequency of the behavior

The goal here is to gain greater clarity about the child’s distinctive stressors and the function of the stress-related behavior so that effective interventions can be put in place to address his or her individual needs.


==> Parenting Methods for Reducing Stress in Your "Special Needs" Child [audio segment from lecture by Mark Hutten, M.A.] 
 

Components of a stress-management program may include the following:

1. At school, one option for the HFA youngster who becomes stressed on the playground during recess, for example, is to be able to withdraw to the school library, or for the child who is anxious about socializing during lunch break to be able to complete a crossword puzzle or go for a walk in the gym.

2. Help your HFA child understand his routine each day. He wants to know what is going to happen next. He needs to hear it every day – even if he did the same thing yesterday! You might hear your child ask the same questions over and over again. Try not to get frustrated with him if this happens. This is his way of trying to understand or asking you to give him more information. Also, talk to your child if he gets upset about a change. Ask him why he is upset. He needs help putting his feelings into words. Sometimes he just doesn’t like to stop what he is doing, or sometimes he might be worried about what will happen next.

3. “Cue-controlled relaxation” (i.e., a combination of deep breathing and repetition of the word "relax") is also a useful component of a stress-management plan. One technique is for the HFA child to have an object in his or her pocket that symbolizes – or has been conditioned to elicit feelings of – relaxation. For instance, one AS teen was an avid reader of fiction, his favorite book being The Secret Garden. He kept a key in his pocket to metaphorically open the door to the secret garden (an imaginary place where he felt peaceful and content). A few moments touching or looking at the key helped him to contemplate a scene described in the book and to relax and achieve a more positive state of mind. Parents can have a special picture in their wallet (e.g., a photograph of a beach scene) which reminds their child of the solitude and tranquility of such a place.

4. Let your child know if there is going to be a change in her routine. She feels worried inside when she doesn’t know what is going to happen or if she doesn’t know what she needs to do. It really helps when you tell your child about her day when she wakes up in the morning. Also, keep her updated as the day moves forward. Also, it really helps your child do what she needs to do when you can give her a five minute warning before a change happens. Even if she complains and doesn’t like what is going to happen, she can still get ready and do well with your help, if YOU stay calm.




5. Environmental modification can significantly reduce stress. This can include having a safe area for periods of solitude to relax, minimizing distractions and reducing noise levels.

6. If the parent or teacher recognizes that a particular event is a major cause of stress, then it would be wise to consider whether the source of stress could be avoided altogether (e.g., recommending the temporary suspension of homework).

7. Practice new things with your child before she has to do them with others. If she is going to do something new, it helps her get ready and feel good about trying if she can practice with you first. Even if the practice is not exactly the same as what is going to happen, just pretending about something new or simply reading a book about it can help. When the new thing happens, your child will remember about practicing with you and will know what to do.

8. Help your HFA child know what to do when he misses you. Being away from you is hard for him, even when he is doing something fun or is with someone he likes. Sometimes it helps if you tell your child what the two of you will do together when you come back.

9. Traditional relaxation techniques using activities to encourage muscle relaxation and breathing exercises can be taught to children with HFA as a “counter-conditioning procedure,” but parents and teachers must also consider the circumstances in which the child is particularly prone to stress. Counter-conditioning is the conditioning of an unwanted behavior or response to a stimulus (e.g., nervousness) into a wanted behavior or response (e.g., calmness) by the association of positive actions with the stimulus. For instance, when conditioning a child who has a “startle response” to loud noises, the parent would create a positive response by massaging or hugging the child when he or she reacts anxiously or nervously to a loud noise. Thus, this will associate the positive response with the loud noise.

10. Some stress is “good” stress, and some stress is “bad” stress. Not all stress is bad. Learning to do new things can be stressful for your child, but you can help her take a break if she needs to, or you can help her feel good about trying. 

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

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Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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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...

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

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A child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can have difficulty in school because, since he fits in so well, many adults may miss the fact that he has a diagnosis. When these children display symptoms of their disorder, they may be seen as defiant or disruptive.

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Dealing with Children on the Autism Spectrum Who Refuse to Go to School

Has your ASD (high functioning autistic) child given you some indication that he is nervous about starting back to school?  He may have even said, “I’m not going!!!

What youngster hasn't dreaded September, the end of summer and the return to school – but for many ASD students, the prospect of school produces a level of fear so intense that it is immobilizing, resulting in what's known as school-refusal behavior. Some children with autism spectrum disorder have been known to be absent for weeks or months. 

Some may cry or scream for hours every morning in an effort to resist leaving home. Others may hide out in the nurse's office. Some children who miss school are simply truant (i.e., they'd just rather be doing something else), but sometimes there are genuine reasons to fear school (e.g., bullying, teasing).

Anywhere from 5% to 28% of kids will exhibit some degree of school-refusal behavior at some point, including truancy. For children with anxiety-fueled school refusal, the fear is real and can take time to overcome. Families may struggle for months to help an autistic youngster get back into the classroom. Ignoring the problem or failing to deal with it completely can lead to more-serious problems later on. Individuals who experience school-refusal behavior and anxiety disorders in childhood may face serious ramifications in adulthood.

Psychologists say and studies show the following:
  • Alcohol, drug use: A study of kids ages 9 to 13 with an anxiety disorder showed that those who still had the disorder seven years after treatment drank alcohol more often and were more likely to use marijuana than those whose disorders had resolved.
  • Depression: Teens and young adults ages 14 to 24 that had social anxiety were almost three times as likely to develop depression later on than those without the anxiety disorder.
  • Different life choices: Psychologists say they've seen young people with persistent anxiety make fear-fueled choices that can have long term effects, such as selecting a less-rigorous college or a less challenging career.
  • Psychiatric treatment: A study of school-refusing kids showed that about 20 to 29 years later they received more psychiatric treatment than the general population.

School refusal affects the entire family. If a child doesn't go to school, it may be hard for a parent to keep her job. Children are at heightened risk when starting a new school, and especially when entering middle school. It is the perfect storm with the onset of puberty, a huge transition and a chaotic academic environment.

Well-meaning moms and dads can make things worse by allowing an anxious youngster to miss school. Such an accommodation sends the message that school is too scary for the youngster to handle and the fear is justified. Overprotective moms and dads rush in way too quickly to shield their Aspie from any experience that creates distress.

Untreated, a youngster on the spectrum with school-refusal behavior is likely to fall behind academically, which can then lead to more anxiety. And there may be longer-term consequences. A 1997 study followed 35 students (ages 7-12) treated for school refusal. Twenty years later they were found to have had more psychiatric treatment and to have lived with their parents more often than a comparison group.

Some ASD teens with unresolved anxiety may go on to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. A 2004 study followed 9- to 13-year-olds who were treated for an anxiety disorder. Seven years after treatment, those who still had the disorder drank alcohol more days per month and were more likely to use marijuana than those whose disorder had resolved.

Children with school-refusal behavior may have (a) separation anxiety (i.e., a fear of being away from their moms and dads), (b) a social phobia (i.e., an inordinate fear of being judged), or (c) a fear of being called-on in class or being teased. A specific phobia (e.g., riding the bus, walking past a dog, being out in a storm, etc.) may be present as well. Other kids are depressed, in some cases unable to get out of bed.

Because many children complain of headaches, stomachaches or other physical symptoms, it can be difficult to tell whether anxiety, or a physical illness, is to blame. (Note: Anxiety-fueled ailments tend to disappear magically on weekends.)

Autistic kids with school refusal may complain of physical symptoms shortly before it is time to leave for school or repeatedly ask to visit the school nurse. If the youngster is allowed to stay home, the symptoms quickly disappear, only to reappear the next morning. In some cases, the child  may refuse to leave the house. Common physical symptoms include headaches, stomachaches, nausea, or diarrhea. Tantrums, inflexibility, separation anxiety, avoidance, and defiance may show up, too.

Starting school, moving, and other stressful life events may trigger the onset of school refusal. Other reasons include the youngster’s fear that something will happen to a parent after he is in school, fear that she won’t do well in school, or fear of another student. Often a symptom of a deeper problem, anxiety-based school refusal affects 2 to 5 percent of school-age kids. It commonly takes place between the ages of five and six and between ten and eleven, and at times of transition, such as entering middle and high school. Kids who suffer from school refusal tend to have average or above-average intelligence. But they may develop serious educational or social problems if their fears and anxiety keep them away from school and friends for any length of time.

What Can Parents Do?

The most important thing a mother or father can do is obtain a comprehensive evaluation from a mental health professional. That evaluation will reveal the reasons behind the school refusal and can help determine what kind of treatment will be best. Your youngster’s pediatrician should be able to recommend a mental health professional in your area who works with kids on the spectrum.

The following tips will help you and your Aspie develop coping strategies for school anxieties and other stressful situations:
  • Arrange an informal meeting with your youngster’s teacher away from the classroom.
  • Emphasize the positive aspects of going to school: being with friends, learning a favorite subject, and playing at recess.
  • Encourage hobbies and interests. Fun is relaxation, and hobbies are good distractions that help build self-confidence.
  • Expose kids to school in small degrees, increasing exposure slowly over time. Eventually this will help them realize there is nothing to fear and that nothing bad will happen.
  • Help your Aspie establish a support system. A variety of people should be in your youngster’s life—other kids as well as family members or educators who are willing to talk with your youngster should the occasion arise.
  • Learn about your Aspie’s anxiety disorder and treatment options. For more information about school refusal and kid’s anxiety disorders, type "anxiety" and/or "school problems" in the search box at the top of this page.
  • Meet with the school guidance counselor for extra support and direction.
  • Talk with your Aspie about feelings and fears, which helps reduce them.
  • Try self-help methods with your Aspie. In addition to a therapist’s recommendations, a good self-help book will provide relaxation techniques. Be open to new ideas so that your youngster is, too.

Treatment—

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), in which clients learn to change negative thoughts and behavior, is the main treatment for school-refusal behavior and the anxiety disorders that often underlie it. The primary technique is exposure therapy, where children gradually face and master their fears.

CBT is very effective. Recent studies have shown that about half to 70% of children with anxiety disorders treated with CBT will have a significant improvement in function and decrease in their symptoms. Some specialized school-refusal clinics have success rates that are even higher.

Antidepressants such as Zoloft (sertraline) or Prozac (fluoxetine) are often prescribed for kids with anxiety disorders, although their use in kids is controversial.

Psychologists stress the importance of seeking treatment quickly—after as little as two weeks of missed school. The longer they've been out of school, the poorer the prognosis.

Holiday Stress-Reduction Tips for Parents of Children on the Autism Spectrum

Moms and dads of a youngster with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) know all too well that the challenges are daunting and often isolating as their child can have tantrums, meltdowns and intense needs. But they also know that their child is a vital, loving part of their lives. Once they get a diagnosis, parents have to be a case manager, an education specialist, an advocate – and they have to figure out the medical system. The level of stress is exhausting. Now, throw two weeks of holiday tension into the equation, and the stress can be just plain terrifying. As one parent stated, “You get that feeling like, 'I just want to die.' It's hard. There's anger and a lot of emotions you go through.”



Christmas-related stress-management is crucial to enjoying the season, without being over-burdened with daily stresses. Even parents with children on the autism spectrum can have a smooth holiday experience.

Reduce your stress level with the following stress-relief tips to keep you even-keeled and jolly throughout the holiday season:

1. Stress is often related to worrying about the future or fretting about the past. Find peace and joy in this holiday season by focusing on the present moment. Be here now! Enjoy the laughter, the happy conversation, the fun, the music, and the moments of love and friendship.

2. During the Christmas break, there may be pressures pulling you in all directions off your center. Make clear decisions about how you want to spend your time and resources. Consider what is most important to you. A little advance planning can help identify areas where you could cut back.

3. Eat a hearty, healthy snack before going to parties. With healthy snacks ahead of time, all you’ll be faced with when you arrive at the party is temptation – not hunger AND temptation! When you arrive, enjoy other pleasures (e.g., good company, beautiful decorations, happy kids jumping around, etc.).

4. To stay sane, delegate Christmas tasks to family members and friends. For example, it’s good that you ordered the fruitcake, but let someone else pick it up. Have your husband select the Christmas cards this year while you read a good book. Anybody can run to the post office – you don’t have to do it all yourself. Delegate first, and then follow-up for some peace-of-mind.

5. During the holiday season, it’s easy to get wrapped up in busy schedules and endless “to-do” lists, and then lose sight of what Christmas is all about. Take some time to evaluate what is really important to you and your family (e.g., carrying on certain traditions, simply spending time together, etc.). Focus on the things that really matter, and fight the urge to go above and beyond that level.

6. Buy a wall calendar when you make your budget and start listing the activities that you want to experience during Christmas (e.g., plays, church services, family meals, traditional gatherings - along with who is to attend, etc.). Post it on the refrigerator and make a rule: “It has to be on the calendar to happen.” In this way, everyone in the family can see what is planned and when it’s planned to happen, and won’t want to go on a Christmas Light Tour (for example) when they know they have to be at Aunt Suzie’s house for dinner!

7. Don’t plot and plan-out every hour of Christmas. Factor in some “down time” for the sake of your sanity. Remember to do it for the over-achievers in your family, too. During the hustle and bustle of Christmas, we all need to be saved from ourselves!

8. Double-booking multiple activities on the same day can result in frustrated AS and HFA children and lost opportunities – not to mention the occasional screaming match.

9. During Christmas break, eating and going to sleep at roughly the same time each day is good for AS and HFA kids. They feel more secure when their days follow a predictable order. It improves their moods, and helps to create a peaceful household.

10. Offset Christmas chaos by involving your kids in Christmas planning. Having a say in the planning can help your “special needs” children feel more in control during busy times. 

11. Ship gifts to your loved ones far in advance of Christmas unless you like waiting in lines at the post office, which is an unwanted hassle for everyone!

12. Throughout the holidays, it’s easy to eat way too much rich, fatty foods – and watch out how the wine flows when family and good friends come together. The best thing to do about the unavoidable overindulgence is to exercise regularly. A good cardio workout will do wonders for the toxins and extra calories from the Christmas experience.

13. Accomplishing the perfect Christmas can be a tough job. Get creative to minimize the workload (e.g., save time and money by encouraging your guests to bring a dish to your Christmas feast; make gift-giving easier and more fun with a white elephant; explore your catering options, etc.). There are many ways to keep the spirit of Christmas without over-extending yourself.

14. Consider having a family meeting to discuss what is available to spend on gifts, travel, etc., and make sure all family members are on the same page. This will avoid a lot of moaning and complaining later because someone’s expectations were dashed.

15. Wrap everything as soon as it’s purchased, then tuck it away until the tree is up and decorated.

16. It’s unreasonable to expect you to not partake of the deliciousness of Christmas dinner. But by implementing portion control, you’ll be in better shape in January than those who “pigged out” – and you’ll feel better about yourself, too.

17. Plan your shopping and avoid doing anything impulsively. Last-minute gifts can bust your budget and your sanity!

18. Learn to say "No" (the world won’t come to an end if you do).

19. Overspending for Christmas gifts not only stresses you out while you're doing it, but continues into the future when the credit card and bank statements arrive in January. Do not throw cash at merchants in an attempt to buy happiness! Budget-management is always a factor in stress-reduction.

20. Practice mindful eating. Mindful eating not only brings back pleasure, it brings back control. Because you are aware of every bite, and celebrating each one, you are more aware of how much you are consuming, and when to stop. You will feel good about stopping because you are satisfied – emotionally and physically.

21. Prioritize your "to do" list. Some things (e.g., buying gifts for your kids) will certainly be at the top the list. But items closer to the bottom of the list (e.g., shopping for holiday tablecloths) can simply wait until the after-Christmas sales. Get to the bottom of the list if you have time. If not, don’t worry about it. Your sanity and serenity are more important than new tablecloths.

22. Family tensions can escalate during Christmas, especially if you are living in close quarters for several days (and perhaps drinking too much). To help keep your temper in control at parties, sip your alcoholic drinks, don’t chug. After one glass of alcohol, try drinking glasses of sparkling water with lemon or lime. Also, drinking less alcohol means you’re less likely to overindulge in holiday junk food.

23. While we all want Christmas to run smoothly, occasionally there may be a few bumps in the road (e.g., cancelled flights, stores that have run out of inventory, the pecan pie burns in the oven, etc.). In these difficult moments, it’s easy to take out your stress on someone else. This is where it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. Approaching Christmas with a sense of compassion can change everything.

24. Take frequent breaks from the holiday activities (e.g., go for a walk, watch a seasonal flick, meditate, do some yoga, order takeout instead of cooking, etc.). Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s pleasurable and anxiety-free.

25. Other stress-reducers for parents include the following:
  • Finding a music therapist isn't the only way music can help as a stress-reducer. Creating playlists for various moods (e.g., a cathartic mix for when you want to process feelings, an upbeat mix for when you need more energy, etc.) can help you to relieve stress enjoyably and conveniently.
  • Enjoying a good game with a group of friends, or playing something relaxing online can take your mind off of your stressors, and can lead to a more relaxed state. 
  • Consuming caffeine too late in the day can affect sleep quality, which impacts stress levels. 
  • Breathing exercises provide convenient and simple stress relief in that they can be used anytime, anywhere, and they work quickly.
  • Aromatherapy has proven benefits for stress-reduction. It also helps you to become energized, more relaxed, and more present in the moment.
  • Developing time-management skills can allow you to minimize the stressors that you experience, and better manage the ones you can't avoid. When you are able to complete most of the items on your "to do" list without the stress of rushing or forgetting, your whole life feels easier.
  • Journaling can be used in several different ways, all of which can relieve stress. Because journaling is proven by research to bring several health benefits in addition to stress relief, this stress-reduction technique is highly recommended.
  • Practicing guided imagery is a fun and simple way to take a break from stress, clarify what you want, and build optimism. It's a relatively quick pathway to mental peace.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that allows you to relax all of the muscles in your body, group by group. Beginning sessions take several minutes, and allow you to feel physically and emotionally relaxed when done. 
  • While biofeedback requires some special equipment, this stress relief strategy can allow you to become more aware of - and consciously alter - the physiological changes that come with stress. By using your mind to relax your body, you can ease your mind to a greater degree as well, creating a positive feedback loop.
  • The physical act of laughing releases tension and brings positive physiological changes. Finding ways to work more laughter into your day can be an effective route to stress-reduction.
  • Sitting with a glass of green tea and planning for the day ahead, or reflecting on the day behind, can provide you with a nice break and a taste of peace. 
  • Sex can be a fantastic stress-reducer, because it incorporates several other stress relief ingredients (e.g., breathing, touch, social connection, etc.), and brings a rush of endorphins and other beneficial chemicals with orgasm. 
  • Self-hypnosis provides a simple and relaxing route to changing habits, relaxing your body, and altering your thought patterns.

How can you enjoy Christmas while at the same time keeping your AS or HFA child calm and behaving appropriately? Here are some important tips:
  1. AS and HFA kids are often immature. Never tell them to act their age. They have no concept of age-related behavior.
  2. Be sure your child knows what is expected of her during family get-togethers. Use simple language that she can understand.
  3. Encourage your child to enjoy herself and have fun during the holiday season. If this means she retreat to a quiet area where she can be alone, let her be. This is her way of coping and of enjoying the Christmas break. 
  4. Never pressure an AS and HFA child to play with other kids.
  5. Try to keep meals as quiet as possible. Do not allow toys at the table. Instead, ask each child to talk about his or her favorite toy. 
  6. Have a quiet breakfast on Christmas morning.
  7. Keep any physical changes to your home to the minimum. By all means decorate, put up cards and a tree, but just don't make a really big change to the environment. 
  8. Don’t put out any presents until the day they are to be opened, because your AS or HFA child will have a hard time keeping her hands off and may became anxious and potentially defiant.
  9. Your AS or HFA child will need to be given permission to leave the festivities, and you can rehearse this together with some simple role-play ahead of time. This is really important because it gives your child an exit strategy and allows her to get through the celebrations without going into meltdown. 
  10. Keep noise minimal. Do not play music for extended periods of time, or it will become nothing but noise to the AS and HFA child.
  11. Learn to identify your child’s stress-triggers, and avoid them when possible. 
  12. Keep visitors minimal. Family members and friends should keep visits short, and they should visit at separate times. Be sure everyone knows when they are expected, and how long they are expected to stay. 
  13. Allow only one person to open presents at a time. This will alleviate the crinkle of wrapping paper and nose from the excited voices of siblings.
  14. Teach your child stress-reducing techniques (e.g., deep breathing, counting to ten, etc.). Many AS and HFA kids find a stress-ball beneficial. 
  15. Limit choices to keep your child from being overwhelmed.
  16. Prepare your child for any changes by calmly telling her the day before what will be happening. Visual supports always work well, so use photos or simple pictures to explain what will be happening. 
  17. Reduce the time “talking” about the holiday season. Remember your AS or HFA child can’t easily control her emotions. To talk constantly about the event will simply lead to stress and anxiety. Also, it’s wise to enlist the help of others in your home and keep any conversations to a minimum when your AS or HFA child is within ear-shot. 
  18. Sing or whisper words to your child in order to get his attention and to help him stay focused.
  19. Try to incorporate some flexibility into your child’s routine. This allows her to realize and accept that things do change.
  20. Use social stories to prepare your AS or HFA youngster for the holiday experience.
  21. Warn your child well in advance of any changes to be made in the home environment (e.g., moving furniture, putting up a Christmas tree, etc.).

Following the simple tips above should lead to a much more positive Christmas experience for everyone, and will provide your AS or HFA child with the love, support, and confidence to participate fully in this special time of year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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

Tips for Reducing Stress Related to Parenting Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"My (high functioning autistic) child is one of the most wonderful blessings of my life – yet at times, stress may cause me to wonder if he is at the root of my most intense times of irritability and anxiety. I don't like thinking like this. Any tips on how I can reduce my stress while at the same time, care for my son's special needs.?"

Let’s be honest. Caring for a child on the autism spectrum can be tiring. On bad days, we as parents can feel trapped by the constant responsibility. The additional stress of caring for a child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's (AS) can, at times, make a parent feel angry, anxious, or just plain "stressed out." These tensions are a normal, inevitable part of the family, and parents need to learn ways to cope so that they don't feel overwhelmed by them.

To see if you are experiencing toxic amounts of parental stress, answer the following questions:
  1. Are you often irritable?
  2. Are you suffering from lack of sleep?
  3. Are you worried about your child’s future?
  4. Are you worried about your family’s finances?
  5. Do you avoid of social interaction outside the home as much as possible?
  6. Do you choose the self-serve lane at the supermarket and the ATM at the bank because doing things by yourself is just easier?
  7. Do you ever find yourself so rushed and distracted that it’s “just annoying” when a cashier or neighbor tries to make chitchat with you about the weather?
  8. Do you ever get so caught up in one subject (e.g., IEP worries or your frustration with your child’s school) that you catch yourself repeating the same complaints to anyone who will listen?
  9. Do you find yourself snapping at your child for interrupting you, then feeling guilty afterwards?
  10. Do you have a disregard for personal appearance and social niceties?
  11. Do you keep meaning to pick up the phone and call a friend, but find yourself too busy or distracted?
  12. Do you scan each room you enter for things that might trigger a meltdown in your youngster, (e.g., unusual smells or loud noises)? …and do you find yourself doing so even when he isn’t with you? …for that matter, after avoiding those things for so long, do you find that they now irritate you, too?
  13. Have the cute hairdos and perky outfits been replaced by ponytails and sweats?
  14. Have you ever had the thought, “I don’t like my child”?
  15. Have you found yourself getting annoyed when your spouse tunes you out or tries to change the subject?

If you answered “yes” to several of these questions, you too may be suffering from parental stress associated with parenting a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
 

Stress becomes a problem when you feel overwhelmed by the things that happen to you. You may feel "stressed out" when it seems there is too much to deal with all at once, and you are not sure how to handle it all. When you feel stressed, you usually have some physical symptoms. You can feel tired, get headaches, stomach upsets or backaches, clench your jaw or grind your teeth, develop skin rashes, have recurring colds or flu, have muscle spasms or nervous twitches, or have problems sleeping. Mental signs of stress include feeling pressured, having difficulty concentrating, being forgetful and having trouble making decisions. Emotional signs include feeling angry, frustrated, tense, anxious, or more aggressive than usual.

The stress of parenting a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder does not have to damage the bond you have with your child. In fact, if you take the necessary steps to reduce stress in your life, it can actually strengthen the closeness of your relationship with your youngster.

20 Tips for Reducing Stress Related to Parenting Children on the Spectrum

1. As a mother or father, it’s a necessity to take care of yourself so that you have the energy and motivation to be a good parent.

2. Avoid fatigue. Go to bed earlier and take short naps when you can.

3. Coping with the stress of parenting an HFA or AS child starts with understanding what makes you feel stressed, learning to recognize the symptoms of too much stress, and learning some new ways of handling life's problems. You may not always be able to tell exactly what is causing your emotional tension, but it is important to remind yourself that it is not your youngster's fault.

4. Develop good relationships. Family relationships are built over time with loving care and concern for other people's feelings. Talk over family problems in a warm, relaxed atmosphere. Focus on solutions rather than finding blame. If you are too busy or upset to listen well at a certain time, say so. Then agree on a better time, and make sure to do it. Laugh together, be appreciative of each other, and give compliments often. It may be very hard to schedule time to spend with your family, doing things that you all enjoy, but it is the best time you will ever invest. Moms and dads and kids need time to spend one-to-one. Whether yours is a one or two-parent family, each parent should try to find a little time to spend alone with each youngster. You could read a bedtime story, play a game, or go for a walk together.

5. Have a realistic attitude. Most moms and dads have high expectations of how things should be. We all want a perfect family, and we all worry about how our children will turn out. But, wanting “the ideal family” can get in the way of enjoying the one you have. 
 

6. If you don’t already belong to a group for parents of HFA and AS kids, you’re missing out on great social and emotional support. But, also remember that you had interests before you became a harried mom. Whether it’s decorating or reading murder mysteries, we all need some sort of pleasant diversion, and friendly folks to share it with. If you’re able to join a local support group and club, great! But if not, there is a plethora of online discussion groups about just about any interest you can imagine.

7. If you feel guilty about the idea of trying to plan time and activities apart from your youngster– don’t! How can we teach our "special needs" children that socialization is important, healthy, and worthwhile, if we hardly ever take time for it ourselves? So pick up the phone and plan time for some fun with a friend. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your youngster.

8. If you're feeling pressured, tense or drawn out at the end of a busy day, say so. Tell your kids calmly that you will be happy to give them some attention soon but first you need a short "quiet time" so that you can relax.

9. Keep in mind that your child experiences stress, too – at any age. So when you work on methods to reduce your own stress, try to incorporate stress relieving techniques that both you and your youngster can use to reduce stress. Of course, the stress relieving activities that you choose for you and your child to share will depend on your child’s age.

10. Learn some ways of unwinding to manage the tension. Simple daily stretching exercises help relieve muscle tension. Vigorous walking, aerobics or sports are excellent ways for some people to unwind and work off tension; others find deep-breathing exercises are a fast, easy and effective way to control physical and mental tension.

11. Look for community programs for moms and dads and kids. They offer activities that are fun, other moms and dads to talk with, and some even have babysitting.

12. Look for parenting courses in your community. 
 

13. Make a play date. The great thing about play dates for moms is that you don’t have to referee them – you just have to find time for them! Sit down with your calendar, get on the phone, and schedule time to spend with friends, at least every couple of weeks. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Go together for manicures or a trip to Target, followed by latt├ęs, while Dad watches the kids. But make sure you schedule in play dates with Dad occasionally, too. If you can’t find a sitter, trade off watching the kids with another couple who has a youngster on the spectrum – most, I’ve found, are happy to make such a deal.

14. Make quality time for yourself, and reserve time each week for your own activities.

15. Most of us live hectic lives, and working through lunch can easily become habit. Make a commitment to yourself that at least three days a week you’re going to operate as a social human being. Go over to the food court with your coworkers, or brown bag it and catch up on the gossip in the lunchroom. You need interaction with grown-ups who are interested in topics that you are interested in. So after the dishwasher is loaded, put everybody down to nap or stick in a DVD for 20 minutes, and pick up the phone and call your best friend or sister, and give yourself a dose a grown-up time.

16. Practice time management. Set aside time to spend with the kids, time for yourself, and time for your spouse and/or friends. Learn to say "no" to requests that interfere with these important times. Cut down on outside activities that cause the family to feel rushed.

17. Take a break from looking after the kids. Help keep stress from building up. Ask for help from friends or relatives to take care of the kids for a while. Exchange babysitting services with a neighbor, or hire a teenager, even for a short time once a week to get some time for yourself.

18. Take care of your health with a good diet and regular exercise. Moms and dads need a lot of energy to look after kids.

19. Talk to someone. Sharing your worries is a great stress reducer!

20. We all have reactions to life's events which are based on our own personal histories. For the most part, we never completely understand the deep-down causes of all our feelings. What we must realize is that our feelings of stress come from inside ourselves and that we can learn to keep our stress reactions under control.

If you are considering getting some additional support or information to help you cope with the stress of parenting, there are many different resources available, including books and video tapes on stress management, parenting courses and workshops, professional counseling and self-help groups.
 

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.

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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

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

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

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