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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query teen struggles. Sort by date Show all posts

High-Functioning Autistic Teens and Oppositional Defiance

“I have a 14-year-old son with high functioning autism who behaves in a way that mystifies me...I cannot do anything right, according to him. I had never heard of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and after reading the symptoms, I think that he should be seeing a doctor about possibly having this disorder. I have noticed symptoms like the ones mentioned in him since he was very young.  I have tried to talk to him about it and he has told me that he feels out of control at times with his temper, especially when it comes to people of authority. I have learned to not talk about anything he might turn on. I e-mail him across the house and have learned to speak to him in his language. Is it possible for a child to have both disorders? What action should parents take in these cases?”

Many parents have difficulty recognizing the difference between a strong-willed, emotional teen with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Aspergers’ (AS) and one with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Clearly, there's a range between the usual independence-seeking behavior of teens and out-of-control defiant behavior. It's normal to exhibit oppositional behaviors at certain stages of an adolescent’s development. However, your teen’s issue may be more serious if his behaviors:
  • Have lasted at least six months
  • Are persistent
  • Are clearly disruptive to the family or school environment

The following are behaviors associated with ODD:
  • Tantrums
  • Spiteful or vindictive behavior
  • Refusal to comply with adults’ requests or rules
  • Difficulty maintaining friendships
  • Deliberate annoyance of other people
  • Blaming others for mistakes or misbehavior
  • Argumentativeness with parents, teachers and other authority figures
  • Anger and resentment
  • Aggressiveness toward siblings and peers
  • Acting touchy and easily annoyed
  • Academic problems



Oppositional defiant behavior often occurs along with other behavioral or mental health problems, such as autism spectrum disorders, depression, ADHD, and anxiety. The symptoms of defiant behavior may be difficult to distinguish from those of other behavioral or mental health problems. It's important to diagnose and treat any co-occurring disorders, because they can create or worsen irritability and defiance if left untreated.

Stressful changes that disrupt an HFA or AS teen's sense of consistency increase the risk of disruptive behavior. However, though these changes may help explain disrespectful or oppositional behavior, they don't excuse it.

If your HFA or AS teen has signs and symptoms common to ODD, make an appointment with your physician. After an initial evaluation, the physician may refer you to a mental health professional who can help make a diagnosis and create the right treatment plan for your teen.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

Here's some information to help you prepare for an appointment:
  1. Write down your family's key personal information (e.g., factors that you suspect may have contributed to changes in your teen's behavior).
  2. Make a list of stressors that your teen or close family members have recently experienced.
  3. Write down the signs and symptoms your teen has been experiencing – and for how long.
  4. Take a trusted family member or friend with you to the appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed.
  5. Make a list of your teen's key medical information (e.g., any physical or mental health conditions that he has been diagnosed with).
  6. Write down the names of any medications your teen is taking (include any over-the-counter medications).
  7. Write down questions to ask the physician in advance so that you can make the most of your appointment.

Questions to ask the doctor if your HFA or AS teen is referred to a mental health provider include:
  1. What treatment approach do you recommend?
  2. What factors do you think might be contributing to my teenager’s issues?
  3. What else can I and my family do to help my teenager?
  4. Should he be screened for any other mental health problems?
  5. Should I tell his teachers about this diagnosis?
  6. Is this condition likely temporary or chronic?
  7. Is my teen at increased risk of any long-term complications from this condition?
  8. Do you recommend family therapy?
  9. Do you recommend any changes at home or school to encourage my teen’s recovery?
  10. What do you believe is causing his symptoms?
  11. Are there any other possible causes?

Being ready to answer the physician's questions may reserve time to go over any points you want to talk about in-depth. You should be prepared to answer the following questions from your physician:
  1. What are your teen's symptoms?
  2. When did you first notice these symptoms?
  3. How would you describe your teen's home and family life?
  4. How often over the last six months has your teen been touchy, easily annoyed or deliberately annoying to others?
  5. How often over the last six months has your teen been spiteful or vindictive, or blamed others for his own mistakes?
  6. How often over the last six months has your teen been angry or lost his temper?
  7. How often over the last six months has your teen argued with you or his teachers?
  8. How often has he refused to follow through with your rules or requests?
  9. How have you been handling your teen's disruptive behavior?
  10. How do you typically discipline your teen?
  11. Have your teen's teachers reported similar symptoms?
  12. Has your teen been diagnosed with any other medical conditions?
  13. Do any particular situations seem to trigger defiant behavior in your teen?

Treatment—

Treating oppositional defiant behavior (whether or not your teen has a formal diagnosis of ODD) involves several types of psychotherapy and parent-education training. The cornerstones of treatment for oppositional defiance usually include:

1. Social skills training: Your teen may benefit from therapy that will help him learn how to interact more positively and effectively with peers.

2. Parent training: A mental health provider with experience treating oppositional behavior may help you develop skills that will allow you to parent in a way that's more positive and less frustrating for you and your teen. In some cases, your teen may participate in this type of training with you, so that everyone in your family develops shared goals for how to handle problems. As part of parent training, you may learn how to:
  • Remain calm and unemotional in the face of opposition.
  • Recognize and praise your teen's good behaviors and positive characteristics.
  • Offer acceptable choices to your teen, giving him a certain amount of control.
  • Limit consequences to those that can be consistently reinforced and last for a limited amount of time.
  • Establish a schedule for the family that includes specific meals that will be eaten at home together, and specific activities one or both parents will do with the teen.
  • Avoid power struggles.
3. Individual and family therapy: Individual counseling for your teen may help him learn to manage anger and express his feelings more healthfully. Family counseling may help improve your communication and relationships, and help members of your family learn how to work together.

4. Cognitive problem solving training: This type of therapy is aimed at helping your teen identify and change through patterns that are leading to behavior problems. Research shows that an approach called collaborative problem solving — in which you and your teen work together to come up with solutions that work for both of you — is highly effective at improving oppositional-related problems.

Although some parent-management techniques may seem like common sense, learning to use them in the face of opposition isn't easy, especially if there are other stressors at home. Learning these skills will require consistent practice and patience. Most important in treatment is for you to show consistent, unconditional love and acceptance of your HFA or AS teen — even during difficult and disruptive situations. Don't be too hard on yourself. This process can be tough for even the most patient mom or dad.

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Parenting Strategies—

At home, you can begin chipping away at problem behaviors in your HFA or AS teen by practicing the following:
  • Develop a united front. Work with your partner/spouse to ensure consistent and appropriate discipline procedures.
  • Set up a routine. Develop a consistent daily schedule for your teen. Asking your teen to help develop that routine can be helpful.
  • Set limits and enforce consistent reasonable consequences.
  • Recognize and praise your teen's positive behaviors. Be as specific as possible (e.g., "I really liked the way you helped pick up your room tonight").
  • Pick your battles carefully. Avoid power struggles. Almost everything can turn into a power struggle — if you let it.
  • Model the behavior you want your teen to exhibit.
  • Build in time together. Develop a consistent weekly schedule that involves you and teen being together.
  • Assign your teen a household chore that's essential and that won't get done unless he does it. Initially, it's important to set your teen up for success with tasks that are relatively easy to achieve, then gradually blend in more important and challenging expectations.
  • Take care of yourself. Counseling can provide an outlet for your own mental health concerns that could interfere with the successful management of your teen's defiant behavior. If you're depressed or anxious, that could lead to disengagement from your teen, which can trigger or worsen oppositional behaviors. Let go of things that you or your teen did in the past. Start each day with a fresh outlook and a clean slate. Learn ways to calm yourself, and take time for yourself. Develop outside interests, get some exercise, and spend some time away from your teen to restore your energy.
  • Remind yourself that your teen’s defiance is most likely a temporary inconvenience rather than a permanent catastrophe.

At first, your teen is not likely to be cooperative or appreciate your changed response to his behavior. Setbacks and relapses are normal, so be prepared with a plan to manage those times. In fact, behavior often temporarily worsens when new limits and expectations are set. However, with persistence and consistency, the initial hard work will pay off with improved behavior.



==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and High-Functioning Autistic Teens


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Absolutely possible! My daughter has High Functioning Autism and ODD. We have found that by changing how we approach certain triggers, we can avoid the ODD eruptions. If she does blow up, we've also learned that it is not the time to push her or try to persuade her unless it is a safety issue. she can only have a learning experience once she has calmed down.
•    Anonymous said… Following. Yes please which meds have been given and which worked best in your situations
•    Anonymous said… I am exhausted! What meds have helped? I have a 17 year old with Aspergers and a suspected ODD diagnosis.
•    Anonymous said… I believe it to be under the umbrella... ocd and add/odd are subcharacteristics of HFA and Aspergers. My son was orignianlly diagnosed ODD/OCD/Major Depression (missing the BIGGER picture for a couple of years until finding a doctor who knew what Aspergers looked like). Once medicated (this took time to find right fit), years of counselling and finding something he enjoyed and was good at, much of the ODD symptomology extinguished. It's understandable how one would be oppositional when his/her life is so "out of control"- anger, fear, frustration all leads to a normal brain to want to gain control over his/her environment; couple that with the angst of teenage years for the neurotypical as well and you have a big mess. Most difficult years for me and mine were ages 11 to 16. Again, medication helped tremendously; in addition to, all of the other components to a comprehensive plan (counselling, family support). I point to the medication because if one is crawling out of his/her own skin...behavior modification will not work. My son is 31 today, still medicated and is successful and happy (gainfully employed, lives on his own, is delightful). It's a long hard road, but worth the pain.
•    Anonymous said… I do think it is unfortunate to label a particular behaviour as a disorder. We have had occasions over the years when my son has dug his heels in and refused to do as expected of him. He quite logically explains that he is unable to comply with our expectations at times when he doesn't feel in control of a situation and feels over-anxious. He is 19 now and recently started playing guitar. A family friend helps run a folk club and invited us to go along. I was amazed the first time that Oliver got up when invited and performed in front of everybody. He attended again on the next meeting and again performed. My friend had arranged to pick up us again a couple of weeks later and I was so looking forward to this but Oliver made it clear that he wan't going to go this time. I was disappointed but nothing would persuade him. AFTER the event when I was able to talk to Oliver calmly he explained that he just hadn't felt ready with his new song but would go again in the future when he felt better prepared. We have been a couple of times since. The real problem over the years was always my own frustration with his decisions when they interfered with my own plans but if I stayed objective and calm we could in due course talk things over together. I could help Oliver understand my disappointment when things didn't go as planned and Oliver would help me see how difficult it was for him to do things if he was over-tired, unprepared, stressed or just having a bad day.
•    Anonymous said… I have looked at PDA and although there are similarities with ODD and PDA, our son is definitely ODD and both of these diagnoses can operate in ASD. We have been on our journey for more than five years and with therapy, medication and great support we've made incredible accomplishments with our son. It is as many have said though...very exhausting.
•    Anonymous said… PDA strategies are ery different to strategies for ODD. Reducing demands and providing an anxiety free environment is ideal. Anxiety free isnt possible but a happier calm child has a better chance of learning strategies to deal with demands.
•    Anonymous said… I was that child...tho they did not have a label for it back then. I would recommend to be respectful and ackowledge his feelings but at the same time dont walk on egg shells. Use "i" statements like "i need u to..." and avoid labels like "youre" this and that etc. At the same time clear boundaries and expectations and a consistant reward and consequence system. Another huge thing is the consequence having something to do with the action and not being a punishment. I know this wouldve helped if my parents had known better. but i got a lot of name calling from my parents and was made fun of by kids at school as well as my parents. It cannot have been easy for them and they mustve gotten some relief out of letting off some steam. A psychiatrist even recommended that they slap me (yes a westwood, ma psychiatrist who is still practising). I would say that has been the most detrimental thing to my aspergers and ODD and would not recommend it.
•    Anonymous said… I've never heard of ODD but it sounds like my daughter might have this. Thanks for mentioning it.
•    Anonymous said… My aspie gas O.D.D. & believe, it's a challenge!!!!
•    Anonymous said… My daughter was dx with ODD 10 years ago and it never sat right with me, after researching PDA I believe she has that
•    Anonymous said… My son has Asperger's and O.D.D. We are also questioning P.D.A. but CAMHS aren't keen on giving it as a diagnosis. Worth reading about it though. My son is 15, not hit puberty yet and it's really hard going most of the time x
•    Anonymous said… My son has both its very difficult and trying  😣
•    Anonymous said… My son is 14 and is diagnosed ODD, Aspergers and Mixed Mood/Anxiety. His first diagnosis was ODD aged 9.
•    Anonymous said… My son is on seraquel, Prozac and trazadone ..he's 18 and doing much much better, hang in there!
•    Anonymous said… My son was diagnosed when he was 4 with ASD ADHD and odd its a real challenge to say the least..
•    Anonymous said… My sons defiance seems to come from anxiety. Wanting to gain/regain control because he frequently feels powerless or vulnerable. Not sure if he has ODD but giving him explanations about why things need to be done and helping him find ways to feel more in control and powerful sometimes has really helped. The more I push the more he pushes back. You have to bend and manoeuvre. Tiring and time consuming but works for us.
•    Anonymous said… Not only possible..very likely, Autism always pairs with another disorder from what I have been told through the many hospitals and psychiatrists we have seen, my son who is 18 now was diagnosed with both way back when, it's a long hard struggle and a lot of work, do the testing for diagnosing ..stay strong friend!
•    Anonymous said… ODD and Aspergers combined have been the most challenging diagnoses I have ever encountered! I am worn out as a parent. Meds have helped but it has been a tough journey.
•    Anonymous said… Our 11 year old is on the Spectrum as high functining (aka Aspergers) with multiple diagnoses, one being ODD. We have him in therapy and he's learning how to manage it. It is definitely exhausting, but very treatable. Hang in there...if you can find a support group for yourself...you'll find that helps.
•    Anonymous said… Our son was diagnosed at age12 with high function autism. He is now 15 and I strongly feel he also has ODD.
•    Anonymous said… Please research PDA. People with ASD with Demand avoidance behaviours usually have Pathological Demand Avoidance. If they dont have ASD then they probably have ODD. PDA is part of the Autism spectrum.
•    Anonymous said… Ugh, what do you do when this keeps on into adulthood?
•    Anonymous said… Vincent my 4 yr old seems to have ODD. I'm not sure if it is a symptom of Autism or a standing disorder in him. I was told, I needed to verify if he was indeed not Autistic because ODD can be a symptom of Autism. Not sure how I feel about my developmentally delayed child possibly being diagnosed as Autistic when I am not even sure if I believe he is, and know in my heart that he could be due to how he is AND his delays. I'd hate for him to be misdiagnosed whem he very well may just have ODD. So, If I were you I would research and speak to multiple professionals about weather or not this is a symptom of or an actual disorder for your individual child.
•    Anonymous said… We have tried several meds throughout the years (Clonodine, Intuniv, Prozac etc)! What worked the best for my child was Seroquel.
•    Anonymous said… Yes our son was diagnosed with Aspergers and ODD at 15, although he had these symptoms for years...The medicine Lamictal has really helped!

Post your comment below…

How To Discipline Rebellious Aspergers and HFA Teens

Disciplining a teenager with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is likely to bring out the best and the worst in a parent. Moms and dads try to help their “special needs” teenager make up for what's missing by increasing their love and attention, but he or she often triggers special frustrations in parents.

Most teens go through predictable stages of development in adolescence. You know about when to expect what behavior and how long it will last. Knowing you don't have to weather this “difficult behavior” indefinitely helps you cope. But with many teens on the autism spectrum, stages seem to go on forever, as do the frustrations in both the teenager and the parent.

Parenting an Aspergers or HFA son or daughter is a tough job. The ups and downs and joys and sorrows are magnified. You rejoice at each accomplishment, and you worry about each new challenge.

Here are some important tips for disciplining the special needs teen:


1. Aspergers and HFA teenagers need developmentally-appropriate structure, but it requires sensitivity on your part to figure out what is needed when. Watch the teen, not the calendar. Try to get inside his head.

2. Be prepared to run out of patience.

3. Be sure to change your standards. Before a child is even born, moms and dads imagine what his life will be like (e.g., piano lessons, baseball, graduating from college, marriage, etc.). Even with a “typical” teen, you have to reconcile these dreams with reality as he grows up. With a teen on the autism spectrum, this is a bigger task. You learn to live in the present. The milestones of your teen's life are less defined and the future less predictable (though he may surprise you). In the meantime, set your standards for your teen at an appropriate level.

4. Don't compare your “special needs” child to other “typical” children. Your Aspergers or HFA teen is special. Comparing her to others of the same age is not fair.

5. Don't focus on the disorder. Instead, practice positive parenting to the highest degree that you can without shortchanging other members of the family. Feeling loved and valued from positive parenting helps a teen cope with the lack of a particular skill.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

6. Visual aids may help your teenager see the reason for the consequence.  Make an “if/then chart” or a “discipline chart” that shows exactly what will happen if the teenager engages in a particular behavior.  Another visual aid that comes in handy is a “rewards chart.”  Equal importance should be placed on good behavior, including lots of praise and tangible rewards, to balance out the negativity.

7. View “misbehavior” as a signal of needs. Everything teenagers do tells you something about what they need. This principle is particularly true with Aspergers and HFA teenagers.

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8. There are occasions when negative consequences become necessary (e.g., grounding, taking away privileges, etc.), but they should always be immediate, definite, and relevant. Teens on the spectrum tend not to perceive cause and effect and are likely to have short memories, so prolonged consequences not only lose their impact, but also their effectiveness. Taking away the teen’s favorite activity for being rude to his mother or father, for example, is not relevant to the infraction. The focus for the teen, then, becomes the lost privilege and his anger at his mom or dad – not what he did to incur the consequence in the first place. A more appropriate consequence might be for the mother or father to respond, "I won't listen to that kind of talk," and walk away.

9. Teens with Aspergers and HFA thrive on structure and clear rules. Thus, posting a list of unacceptable behaviors and their consequences can be very helpful.

10. These young people tend to enjoy being isolated, because it is less stressful for them and they do not have to socialize with others. For these teens, being sent to their bedrooms for a time-out can actually be a positive experience unless modified slightly (e.g., being sent to the bedroom with no computer privileges).

11. Reset your anger buttons. Your "special needs" teen will do some things that exasperate you.

12. Remember that discipline literally means "teach" – not "punish." Negative punishments rarely change unwanted behavior permanently. They only stop the behavior in that particular time and setting. Positive consequences, on the other hand, have been shown to be far more effective in changing inappropriate behavior patterns. Aspergers and HFA teens respond well to praise, encouragement, and positive reinforcement. Complimenting the teenager for a responsible, cooperative, or compassionate act will tend to promote that behavior.

13. Moms and dads should list the behaviors that they feel are most deserving of attention. This is an important step because some behaviors may need intervention or therapy in order to be eliminated rather than simple disciplinary tactics. Odd self-soothing behaviors are common in young people with sensory processing issues, and they can be easily replaced with more appropriate ones.

14. Give your teen choices. Initially, you may have to guide your teen into making a choice, but just the ability to make a choice helps the teen feel important. Present the choices in the teen's language. The more you use this tip, the more you will learn about your teen's abilities and preferences.

15. Help your teen build a sense of responsibility. There is a natural tendency to want to rush in and do things for a “special needs” teen. For these teenagers, the principle of "show them how to fish rather than give them a fish" applies all the more. The sense of accomplishment that accompanies being given responsibility gives the teen a sense of value and raises his self-esteem.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

16. Know that “different” doesn't mean “lesser.” In a teenager's mind, being different means being substandard. This feeling may be more of a problem for “typical” teens than for Aspergers and HFA teens. Most teenagers measure their self-worth by how they believe others perceive them. Be sure your teen's siblings don't fall into this "different equals inferior" trap. This is why the term "special needs" is not only socially correct, but it's a positive term, not a value judgment. In reality, all teenagers could wear this label.

17. Know that “different” doesn't mean “unable.” While it is true you have to change your expectations of an Aspergers or HFA teen, you don't have to lower your standards of discipline. It's tempting to get lax and let your teenager get by with behaviors you wouldn't tolerate from your other kids. Your teen needs to know, early on, what behavior you expect. Many moms and dads wait too long to start behavior training. It's much harder to redirect a 130 pound young man than a 50 pound boy. Like all teenagers, the Aspergers or HFA teen must be taught to adjust to family routines, to obey, and to manage his behavior.

18. Moms and dads need to be in agreement when applying discipline to any teenager, but especially for teens on the spectrum. If one parent thinks grounding is the appropriate punishment, while the other feels that time-outs will be more effective, this will be confusing for the teenager.


The Struggles in Adolescence for Teens on the Autism Spectrum 




Disciplining a teenager with Aspergers or HFA is not an easy task, particularly in light of some of the characteristics commonly associated with the disorder (e.g., a short memory for misdeeds but not for the consequences, the inability to perceive cause and effect and to generalize from one situation to another, the tendency to blame others rather than assume responsibility for behavior, etc.). Nonetheless, with patience, humor, and a sense of perspective, moms and dads can become their teen's ally, even in their role of authority.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

The Most Devastating Aspect of Teenage Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism – AND How Parents Can Help

"My son, 17 y.o. with HFA, is no longer interested in trying to relate to his peers or do anything social. He says 'nobody' likes him. I would describe him as a recluse at this point. Is this something I should be concerned about, or just let him do his thing, which appears to me to be a very lonely way to live.?"

Peer-group rejection occurs when a person is deliberately excluded from social relationships among his or her age group. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is common for teens with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA).

Research dealing with the implications of peer-group rejection on later development suggest that AS and HFA teens experiencing continuous rejection often experience a decline in their self-image, a state of despair, behavioral difficulties, loneliness and seclusion – and in some cases, serious emotional disturbances.

AS and HFA teens who experience peer-group rejection often choose to isolate themselves, which makes a bad problem worse. Here are some of the common reasons for isolation:
  • A depressed adolescent loses interest in everyday activities and drops out of social groups at school. Depression is a Catch-22. It can cause isolation, but may also come from a lack of social interaction. For example, Michael (diagnosed with Asperger’s) was depressed when his attempts to fit-in with the boys in his class always backfired. They were sports-minded, but Jack was more artistic. He was mocked by his male peers for his “weird” artwork and eventually stopped trying to win their friendship. Over a period of weeks, he became depressed and began to isolate.
  • An adolescent who feels rejected may spend too much time on social networking sites and lose touch with peers. He or she may replace genuine social interaction with chat rooms and conversations with strangers. Adolescents who interact online lose out on genuine social interaction. For example, Craig (diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism) was a computer geek who spent hours chatting online. After months of this, his social skills were under-developed and his understanding of face-to-face interaction was damaged by hours upon hours of Internet use.
  • Moodiness and erratic behavior can drive an AS or HFA adolescent away from his peers.
  • Shyness can be a cause of social isolation.
  • Many young people on the autism spectrum have one particular “special interest,” and may engage in – and talk about – that interest to the exclusion of all other social activities and conversations. For example, Josh was diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 8. He had a particular interest in trains and train schedules, but his classmates found his incessant talk about them boring. They eventually left him out of social activities, which made him feel socially clumsy and unwanted – and resulted in isolation.
  • Some AS and HFA adolescents may be ostracized by their peers because they either excel academically or underachieve. Fitting-in is important to teens, but those who stand out are often pushed to the fringes of social groups.



Though most want to be accepted by their peers, AS and HFA teens tend to be very hurt and frustrated by their lack of social competency. Their inability to “connect" to others is made worse by the negative feedback that they receive from their painful social interactions (e.g., bullying, teasing, rejection, etc.). The worse they perform socially, the more negative feedback they get from their friends and classmates, so the worse they feel and perform. Due to this consistent negative social feedback, many of these “special needs” teens feel depressed, anxious and angry, which just compounds their social difficulties by further paralyzing them in social situations. In addition, although negative behaviors often lead to peer-group rejection, the reverse is also sometimes true (i.e., being ostracized can bring out the worst in AS and HFA teens, which leads to even more ridicule and rejection).

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

The AS or HFA teen can be rejected on an individual basis, or by an entire peer-group. In addition, rejection can be either “active” (e.g., bullying, teasing, ridiculing, etc.) or “passive” (e.g., being ignored, getting the silent treatment, etc.). Some level of rejection is an inevitable part of life for all teens. However, it can become a serious problem when it is prolonged or consistent, when the relationship is important, or when the teen is highly sensitive to being rejected. Furthermore, the experience of peer-group rejection often leads to a number of adverse psychological consequences (e.g., aggression, anxiety, depression, feelings of insecurity, heightened sensitivity to future rejection, school refusal, loneliness, low self-esteem, and even suicidal ideation).

Research reveals that most teens who are rejected by their peers display one or more of the following behavioral patterns:
  • high rates of aggressive or disruptive behavior
  • high rates of inattentive, immature, or impulsive behavior
  • high rates of social anxiety
  • increased preference for solitary activities (e.g., playing video games)
  • low rates of prosocial behavior (e.g., engaging in meaningful conversation, sharing, etc.)

One of the strongest effects of sustained peer-group rejection is “global impairment” (i.e., impairment across several domains, including behavior, emotions, social relationships, and involvement in activities). Studies suggest that long-term peer-group rejection is consistently associated with problems in (a) relationships (e.g., peers, siblings, and adults other than parents), (b) emotions (e.g., feeling unhappy or sad, not having fun, feeling nervous or afraid), (c) behavior at home, and (d) low involvement in activities (e.g., sports and hobbies).

Additional research on peer-group rejection reveals the following:
  • “Active rejection” (e.g., bullying, teasing, ridiculing, etc.) is more stable, more harmful, and more likely to persist after the teen transfers to another school.
  • An analysis of 15 school shootings between 1995 and 2001 found that peer-group rejection was present in all but two of the cases (87%). The documented rejection experiences included both acute and chronic rejection, and frequently took the form of ostracism and bullying. The researchers assert that although it is likely that the rejection experiences contributed to the school shootings, other factors were also present (e.g., depression, poor impulse control, etc.).
  • Peer-group rejection, once established, tends to be stable over time, and thus difficult for the AS or HFA teen to overcome. 
  • Rejected teens are likely to have lower self-esteem, and to be at greater risk for “internalizing” problems (e.g., depression).
  • Some rejected teens display “externalizing” behavior and show aggression (acting-out) rather than depression (acting-in). 
  • Teens with developmental disabilities are more likely to be rejected, and this rejection may lead to a negative developmental cycle that worsens with time (i.e., their emotional growth becomes stunted).
  • Rejected teens are more likely to be bullied.
  • Peer-group rejection is believed to be less damaging for teens with at least one close friend.

For the AS or HFA teen who has poor social skills or struggles to build friendships, the idea of interaction with peers is extremely unappealing. Many of these young people can’t think of anything they would hate more than being “forced” to be outgoing. Who can blame them? Nobody enjoys doing things they “suck” at.

The bottom line is this: AS and HFA teens have a “developmental disability,” which simply means that their emotional age is much younger than their chronological age. So, for example, your 16-year-old AS or HFA son is emotionally more like a 12-year-old – yet he is thrown in with a bunch of 16-year-old classmates. Thus, the odds are high that he has already had numerous uncomfortable peer-encounters at school. You can see why the critically important skill (i.e., the ability to engage in age-appropriate social interaction) needed in the teenage years may be the one thing that the AS or HFA teen associates with failure.

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

The Good News—

Here are several crucial steps that parents and teachers can take to help the AS or HFA teen to deal with rejection:

1. With or without an autism spectrum disorder, most teens become less willing to take a parent’s word or advice. Thus, parents need to hook-up their “special needs” teenagers with other trustworthy adults. If you want your teen to learn or try to do something, arrange for the suggestion or information to come from a trusted adult other than you, the parent. For example, handpick your teen’s guidance counselor, or look for other good mentors (e.g., uncle, scout or youth group leader, psychologist, social worker, peer mentor, “Big Brother,” social skills group leader, weight room coach, martial arts teacher, etc.).

2. Special interests may change, but whatever the current one is, it remains an important aspect of motivation, pleasure, relaxation, and reassurance for the “special needs” teen. So, as long as it isn't creating additional problems, allow your teen to engage in his special interest.

3. Side-by-side conversations (e.g., while walking or driving in the car) about the “issues of the day” may be more comfortable for your teen than talking face-to-face.



4. Seek out activity-based, practical social skills groups designed especially for AS and HFA teens. Participating in such a group, being accepted by group leaders and peers, is probably the most powerful way to allay a teen’s potential despair at not fitting-in socially and not having any friends.

5. Schedule regular monthly educational team meetings to monitor your teen’s progress, to ensure that the IEP is being faithfully carried out, and to modify it if necessary. Because AS and HFA teens can be so volatile or fragile, and because so many important things must be accomplished in 4 short years of high school, these meetings are crucial.

6. Remember that teens on the spectrum are relatively immature (socially and emotionally) compared to “typical” teens of the same chronological age. Imagine sending a 10-year-old girl off to high school (even if she is chronologically 15), or putting a 13-year-old boy behind the wheel of car (even if he has a chronological age of 18), or sending a 16-year-old off to college or the Navy. We need to adjust our expectations for teens on the autism spectrum – and make sure they still have appropriate supports.

7. Look for volunteer activities or part time jobs at the high school or in the community. Be persistent in asking the school to provide help in the areas of career assessment, job readiness skills, and internships or volunteer opportunities.

8. Look for opportunities for a sheltered, successful overnight stay away from home with no parent (e.g., long weekend visits to relatives, a week or two of a carefully chosen sleep-away camp, taking a course on a college campus, etc.).

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

9. If you have not talked to your teen about autism spectrum disorders, you or someone else should do so, to the extent that your teen is ready to hear it. It’s difficult for AS and HFA teens, because they so much want to be “normal” and successful. A diagnosis can seem threatening – or even totally unacceptable. In truth, however, the adults with AS and HFA who do best are those who know themselves well – both their own strengths, which point them toward finding their niche in the world, and their own blind spots where they need to learn new skills or seek out specific kinds of help.

10. Have realistic, modest goals for what your teen or the family can accomplish in a given time period. You may need to postpone some plans for career goals, trips, culture or recreation.

11. Go with the flow of your teen’s nature. Simplify schedules and routines, streamline possessions and furnishings. If, for example, your teen only likes plain T-shirts without collars or buttons, buy them. If she likes familiar foods or has a favorite restaurant, indulge her.

12. Even for a previously well-adjusted teen, multiple stressors during the teenage years may bring on anxiety and depression. Stressors include increased academic/abstract thinking and social demands at school, peer pressure, increased social awareness, and fears of the future. Highly anxious teens who do not get professional help may be at risk for school failure, acting-out, alcohol and substance abuse, and even suicide attempts. Seek the assistance of a child and adolescent psychiatrist who specializes in autism spectrum disorders.

13. Build and use any support networks you can (e.g., extended family, close friends, church/synagogue groups, empathetic school staff, etc.). If you don’t have a good network, consider individual or family therapy for some support during a stormy, demanding life passage.

14. Boys on the autism spectrum may need to spend increased amounts of time with their fathers, and/or other male role models as they undertake to become men. If dad has taken a back seat, let him know his son really needs his attention now. If you are a single mother, look especially hard for male mentors at your son’s school or in the wider community.

15. Although most teens with AS and HFA are more docile and child-like, be prepared to tolerate/ignore considerable distancing, surliness, or acting out, knowing that it won’t last forever. At the same time, set some firm limits, and keep a close eye on your teen’s welfare.

16. Teens with AS and HFA are less prepared than “typical” teens for the new challenges of sexuality and romance. Some are oblivious, while others want a girl or boy friend, but are clueless about how to form and maintain a relationship. Boys especially may be at risk for accusations of harassment, and girls especially at risk for becoming victims. Teach appropriate rules, or see that another adult does. Look for supervised activities in which boys and girls can socialize safely together, supervised by a staff person who knows about autism spectrum disorders and can coach appropriate social skills.

17. Teens on the spectrum need to learn when to ask for help, from whom, and how. It’s very helpful to have someone such as a trusted guidance counselor whose door is always open, and who can coach your teen in problem solving.

Adolescent culture is social by nature. Teens tend to move around in groups of people their own age. Thus, an adolescent who is isolated, either by chance or choice, is at a distinct disadvantage – and is often treated as an outcast. The effects of rejection and isolation on an AS or HFA adolescent can be long-lasting and create problems that moms and dads need to address. By using the steps listed above, parents can help their “special needs” teen (a) overcome the negative effects of peer-group rejection, (b) learn critical social skills, and (c) gain the self-confidence needed thrive as an adult.

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens


 COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... I have a twenty year old who was excluded and teased when he was 15. The wound still exist. In college he still does not want friends and only interacts with video game faceless friends. I gave him therapy, support and love. The heart never forgets this pain. I believe this bulling by the next door neighbor boy is something he got over at some level. His social life consist of video gaming. Gaming just feels easier and safer to socially interact with others. Without games he would be alone?
•    Anonymous said... I have a very lonely, sad 16 yr old
•    Anonymous said... I understand. My son is 15 and i put him in a charter school. He did a shadow tour and told me he wanted to ho there. The school has been very supportive and he's met a few friends. Of course, they had tp approach him.
•    Anonymous said... It's heartbreaking seeing my 14 year old son with no friends...even worse was the constant bullying
•    Anonymous said... The same with my 12 year old
•    Anonymous said... Try finding other small groups or hobby clubs of people with the same interest as your child, a place where they feel they can fit in and belong and have confidence because it is an area of expertise. Through the common shared interest, they can find a social outlet. Check into gaming stores, sometimes they have meetings for those interested in certain games: video games, card games, comic books, etc.
•    Anonymous said... very true
•    Anonymous said… Great advice, tina...gaming clubs, etc.
•    Anonymous said... I am leery of the gaming stores... When I was in NYC we paid a visit to the Nintendo store and what really concerned me was the zombie nature of several grown men around a large white table playing Nintendo games well into the night. I am all for being social, but these men were not being social with each other. It was very off putting and I strongly believe would aid in furthering my son's avoidance behavior. I honestly left concerned...
•    Anonymous said... My son is 17. He has never had what most would call a friend. He has had peers who supported him and allowed him to safely socialize with them which he prefers to act however he wants and talk about whatever he wants while his peers tolerate him but .. that isn't real and I don't know how to help. He graduates from high school this year and .. what happens next? He doesn't have the maturity to study/participate in college and his math deficit and desire to build machines, tanks, firetruscks, sirens, etc doesn't lend itself to any jobs so .. just kinda lost.
•    Anonymous said... This breaks my heart.
•    Anonymous said... we have a 16 year old with similar theme!
•    Anonymous said… My aspie 17 year old seems to be completely oblivious to how much he gets left out. He will follow people around, talking at them, and even continue talking after they turn around and ignore him. He goes to a private school with a higher number of ADHD and special needs kids, and we worship at a mega church. Both places have plenty of nice people who will listen (or pretend to listen) to his non-stop monologues about machinery. The church people especially try to befriend him, but he wants an audience for his monologues, not conversations, so they don't really know how to connect. They tell me what a neat kid he is, though. So, while he still ends up with no one who wants to invite him to hang out on weekends, he feels like he's incredibly popular and well liked since someone among the hundreds in the room will always be willing to hear his unending list of machinery factoids. It's when he's home that he's unhappy, because there is just so much we can handle hearing before we tell him to hush and try to teach him social skills. He gets angry and lashes out, simply because I tell him to try to listen to his siblings or participate in what the family is doing. So it's not being left out that bothers him - it's not being able to treat people as his audience and he's not treated like the star he knows himself to be that really ticks him off.
•    Anonymous said… Just to pick up on the gaming group comment. I can see how it would not be interactive. However, when my son was 13 - 15 he would go to CARD game tournaments (you don't have to take part in the actual tournament) It would lift my heart to see loads of like minded kids chatting and laughing in a way he never did with any other people. Sadly he grew out of the card game phase but I believe it taught him he will not always be lonely.

Post your comment below...

Helping Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic Teens To Cope With Life

 "I need some tips on how to deal with my HFA teenager. We're dealing with so many issues at the moment - depression, social isolation, backtalk, failing grades, and the list could go on and on here..."

Parenting adolescents brings many challenges – hormonal changes, self-identity, and the pressure of being socially acceptable, just to name a few. When you add Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism (HFA) to the equation, the element of difficulty increases significantly.

Parents can help their “special needs” adolescents, but this begins with becoming knowledgeable about what they face. Parents should learn as much about the disorder as possible and how they can support and help these young people face their challenges.

The “typical” teenager is really into his or her friends. The tools for developing social skills as an adolescent are shared experiences and conversation with peers. But, for the teenager who has poor social skills or struggles to communicate, the idea of conversation and interaction with peers is not appealing. For many teens with Asperger’s and HFA, they literally can’t think of anything they would enjoy less than “having” to be social. And who blames them? Nobody enjoys doing things they are not naturally good at.

Teens with Asperger’s and HFA are easily misunderstood. For example, one teenager might be unfiltered, blurting out the first thought that pops into his head, while another may struggle to form and express complete sentences. Both scenarios create tension for the teen with Asperger’s or HFA – as well as his peers, who may be attempting to interact. Typically developing teens sometimes react harshly in these awkward moments.

In general, adolescents don’t exactly have the market cornered on emotional maturity. They’re still developing. So, odds are high that a young person on the autism spectrum has already had a number of uncomfortable peer-encounters by the time he reaches adolescence (e.g., teasing, bullying, peer-rejection, etc.). You can see why the critically important skill (i.e., the ability to engage in age-appropriate social interaction) needed in adolescence may be the one thing that a teen with Asperger’s or HFA associates with failure.


Parenting Out-of-Control Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism 




 ==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and HFA Teens


15 crucial strategies that parents and teachers can employ in an effort to assist teens with Asperger's and HFA:

1. Adolescents with Asperger’s and HFA are challenged with self-esteem issues. Thus, it is important to help them feel important in matters that involve them. Get them to participate by giving them the choices available, as well as understanding of the consequences behind those choices.

2. Alternate preferred activities (e.g., computer games, TV viewing) and less-preferred activities (e.g., homework, chores). Teens on the spectrum are likely to put more intense – and more sustained – effort into challenging/non-preferred tasks when they know that they can take part in a fun or interesting activity at the end of it.

3. As the mother or father facing the often overwhelming task of parenting and disciplining an adolescent with Asperger’s or HFA, it may seem that you don’t have the time or patience for allowing her to have input into decisions that concern her. And it may even seem downright scary to consider allowing her to make her own decisions. Doing so would take more time and would definitely involve some risk. But, it becomes a significant issue when adolescents feel they are disregarded in matters that directly affect them. Adolescents with Asperger’s and HFA are no different in this regard. It’s a big deal when they are made to feel important despite their disorder. An important proactive step is letting the “special needs” adolescent know that, although her needs may be a challenge, there is nothing that can’t be overcome or managed more effectively.

4. Challenged by a particular developmental disorder or not, teens want to know they are loved, supported and have encouragement when needed. This is even more important for young people on the autism spectrum. When the disorder is allowed to overshadow the significance of a teenager, it hinders him or her greatly.

5. Check to be sure that you have your teen’s attention before giving directions. However, understand that young people on the spectrum may not always make eye contact, even when they are paying attention to you. Be on the lookout for other signs of attending (e.g., alert posture, orientation toward you, stopping other activities, verbalizations, etc.). Also, include essential information in your directions that will answer these four questions for your teen: When do I do the work? What is my payoff for doing the work? What exactly am I supposed to do? How much work is there to do in this task?

6. Create a plan to help your teen to generalize his learned social skills across settings and situations. Teens on the autism spectrum are likely to need explicit programming to generalize skills that they have learned in a particular setting to other settings or situations. Teach only a small number of “key” skills (e.g., how to start a conversation, how to ask for help) at one time so that you will have enough time to work with your child on generalizing each mastered skill. After he has mastered a skill in one setting, list other settings or situations in which you would like him to show the skill. Then create a training plan to help your teen to use the skill in these novel settings. If he has mastered the task of delivering appropriate social greetings at school, for example, you might take him to a church youth group, prompt him to greet his peers, and provide praise or rewards for his successful performance. This is an example of “hands-on” social skills training, which is greatly needed with these young people. Parents and teachers should “go the extra mile” like this.

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7. Create structured opportunities for your teen to participate in social interactions (e.g., allow him to invite a friend or two over for a movie or pizza party). Asperger’s and HFA teens are often excluded from social interactions with their typical peers at school, so parents can make up for this by providing social opportunities at home.

8. Help build your “special needs” teen’s self-esteem. List-making can be an effective method for accomplishing this goal. To begin, your adolescent can make a list of at least 5 things he admires or appreciates about himself. This list can include simple things (e.g., has a nice smile), or more significant things (e.g., earning good grades in school). Each day thereafter, he continues to make a new list. These lists can include his 5 greatest strengths, 5 greatest life achievements, 5 people who love and care about him, and his 5 favorite memories. Your adolescent can keep these lists in a special place and refer to them any time negative thoughts enter his mind.

9. Helping your Asperger’s of HFA adolescent will be challenging at times, because with mood swings, meltdowns and hyperactivity, it seems you have no control – but neither does she! However, take a moment to realize that you can help her by controlling yourself. You really do your teen a great service by maintaining control, and by not allowing difficult situations to overwhelm you. Stress is contagious, so don’t spread it to your teenager.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and HFA Teens

10. Minimizing the disorder is NOT the point. Helping your adolescent to understand that he can accomplish things in spite of his disorder IS the point. Not only does this encourage self-esteem, it also provides motivation and hope.

11. Offer meaningful choices that give your teen some autonomy and control. For example, you may encourage her to select a few chores, and then allow her to decide what chore she will work on first. Also, you could allow her to choose when and where she will do her homework. Make an effort to build choices into home activities whenever possible.

12. Post a clear and predictable daily schedule. Children and teens with Asperger’s and HFA crave structure and predictability. But know that young people on the spectrum can sometimes react more strongly than their “typical” peers when faced with any unexpected change in their daily schedule. Thus, be as consistent as possible with the schedule.

13. Provide your teenager with simple strategies to engage others in social interactions. Demonstrate and model these strategies. Then give her an opportunity to try them out, and give her feedback and encouragement (e.g., role play how to approach a group and ask to join a game or other activity).

14. Use verbal prompts (i.e., pre-correction) before your teen engages in a task to promote success. Phrase your prompt to reflect what you would like to see your teen do (e.g., “Michael, please do your homework before dinner”), rather than what you would like him to stop doing (“Michael, you need to stop playing video games and get busy with your homework, because we are going to eat dinner soon”).

15. When a problem arises and you must confront your teen, keep your tone of voice calm and relaxed in spite of how you may be feeling. This “gentle” approach can diffuse a lot of situations that may otherwise be lost to conflict and anger. While every situation may not be diffused, disciplining in a gentle fashion is something that should be practice diligently with children and teens who are prone to meltdowns and feelings of frustration or anxiety.

Your adolescent with Asperger's or HFA will want friends, but may feel shy or intimidated when approaching his peers. He probably feels "different" from others. Although most “typical” adolescents place emphasis on being and looking "cool," young people on the autism spectrum may find it frustrating and emotionally draining to try to “fit in.” They may be immature for their age, and they may be naive and too trusting, which can lead to teasing and bullying.

All of these difficulties can cause these adolescents to become withdrawn and socially isolated – and to have depression or anxiety. However, with a little assistance from parents and other caring adults, even an Asperger’s or HFA teen can thrive and live a productive, happy life.


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

40 Tips for Parenting Defiant Teens on the Autism Spectrum

Parenting teenagers is hard enough...right? But throw "Asperger Syndrome" (high-functioning autism) into the equation, and now you really got a mountain to climb. Do not despair!

Here you will find 40 ways to effectively parent, nurture, and discipline your defiant teen with an autism spectrum disorder:

1. Writing Assignments - Education sometimes alters unwanted “autism-related” behavior. Examples include:
  • learning about a particular culture, religion or disability in order to develop understanding or tolerance
  • researching the long-term effects of smoking or drug usage
  • talking with teen parents to learn what sacrifices they have made

Such an assignment should include considerable thinking, learning, and dialogue with moms and dads, rather than simply writing a certain number of words without much independent thought.

2. Tolerating Behavior - When establishing a relationship or dealing with multiple behaviors, it may be necessary to tolerate some behaviors temporarily. This is a purposeful, thought-out choice on the part of the mother/father based on:
  • age and developmental level of teen involved
  • current situation
  • priorities
  • relationship
  • specific treatment issues
  • values

This is not to be confused with passivity, avoiding conflict, letting the youngster "do whatever he wants," inconsistently enforcing expectations or other methods that don't work.



3. Temporarily Removing One or More Privileges - It is not meaningful or realistic to "remove all privileges." This generally leads to resentment towards the parent and a lack of understanding or personal responsibility. When this technique is chosen:
  • it must be made clear to the adolescent exactly which privilege(s) will be removed
  • why it is being removed
  • exactly how it will be handled
  • for what time period

If there is something they can do to get the privilege(s) reinstated sooner, that should also be clearly explained. Note: this requires more thought and explanation than simply saying, "You’re grounded."

4. Teaching Interactions - Effective parenting of teens with high-functioning autism (HFA) and Aspergers requires frequent interactions. Situations, both dramatic and mundane, present themselves continually. Moms and dads, who recognize the golden opportunities in routine living tasks, capitalize upon them by turning them into teaching interactions, build solid relationships, have fewer behavior problems, and receive daily rewards. Problems = teachable moments. Teaching interactions can take several forms such as:
  • teaching a concept (e.g., negotiation)
  • processing dynamics (e.g., "Have you noticed that when someone doesn't fulfill their responsibility, others become resentful?")
  • demonstrating a skill

The point is that on-duty moms and dads should always be interacting with their teens, and the nature of those interactions is teaching; rather than:
  • becoming friends with the teen
  • criticizing
  • doing things for the teen
  • judging
  • lecturing
  • punishing

5. A regular bed time at a reasonable hour is more important than ever, if you can put/keep it in place. Regular routines of all kinds—familiar foods, rituals, vacations—are reassuring when the adolescent’s body, biochemistry, and social scene are changing so fast.

6. Teaching Alternatives - A good way to teach the teenager personal responsibility is to spend time brainstorming together about all the possible responses, and predicting the reactions to each response. Instead of telling them what to do and what not to do (which can elicit dependency or oppositional responses), it is useful to spend time exploring different options. For example, instead of saying, "Don't say that to your father" …it is better to say something like, "That's one way you could handle it. How do you think he would respond to that?" … "Is that the response you want from him?" … "How else might you phrase that idea?" …etc. If they have trouble coming up with alternatives, you can help out by saying, "Do you want to know what some other people have tried?"

7. Establish verbal codes or gestures to convey that one or both parties need a time out: a chance to cool down before continuing a difficult discussion at a later time.

8. Substitution - It is never enough to tell teens what they can't do or what behaviors they must stop doing. We must always add what they CAN do instead. Some examples might be ideas such as, "You cannot hit your classmate when you are angry, but you can go for a brisk walk, write in your journal, talk about how you feel, etc." The goal is to replace or substitute an unacceptable behavior with one that is acceptable and still meets the same need. The message should always be, "Your needs and feelings are normal and okay and we are here to help you express them in ways that will allow you to be successful and responsible."

9. Go with the flow of your youngster’s nature. Simplify schedules and routines, streamline possessions and furnishings. If your adolescent only likes plain T shirts without collars or buttons, buy plain T shirts. If your kid likes familiar foods, or has a favorite restaurant, indulge her.

10. Shaping - Shaping behaviors is an approach that breaks skills down into steps and rewards small movements in the right direction. For example, if you are trying to teach the skill of greeting a visitor, you would ultimately want your teenager to go through the following series of behaviors:
  • stop what they are doing
  • stand up
  • look at the visitor
  • walk over to them
  • make eye contact
  • smile
  • say "hello"
  • extend your right hand to shake
  • say “my name is ___”

To ask for all of that from someone who has never done it before, or who is shy, is asking too much. So at first they would be rewarded if they momentarily stopped what they were doing when someone new cam in. After a few times they would need to stop what they were doing, stand up and look in the direction of the visitor in order to be praised, and so on. In other words new skills are not all or nothing but are a series of steps to be learned.

11. Sequencing - Desirable behaviors can be used as motivating for less desirable ones. For example, "You may watch one hour of approved TV as soon as your book report is satisfactorily completed" –or- "You may make that phone call as soon as you have finished cleaning up the kitchen." This type of statement helps the mother/father avoid power struggles because they did not say, "no." It puts the struggle and control back with the youngster, where it belongs. They can then choose whether or not they will watch TV today and when (within limits). A version of this can be re-stated calmly and compassionately as often as necessary while your teenager struggles with his choice.

12. Have realistic, modest goals for what the adolescent or the family can accomplish in a give time period. You may need to postpone some plans for career goals, trips, culture or recreation.

13. Some adolescents on the autism spectrum adjust o.k. to middle/high school with appropriate supports and accommodations, Others, however, just cannot handle a large, impersonal high school. You may need to hire an advocate or lawyer to negotiate with your school system to pay for an alternative school placement, tuition, and transportation.

14. Role Playing/Rehearsing - This technique can be used to practice for an upcoming situation that may be difficult, foreign or anxiety producing or to re-create a situation that already occurred to experience alternative responses. Examples should include role-playing a situation in which the teen was angry and became physically or emotionally abusive, or one in which they demanded or sulked instead of negotiating. The purpose of the role-play is to practice more acceptable styles of self-expression while still making their intended point. Practicing of this sort will make the desired responses more likely in future similar situations. Role playing can also be used to practice saying something that is difficult or anticipating a variety of responses in order to reduce anxiety.

15. If you can afford it, you may prefer to pay private school tuition rather than paying a lawyer to negotiate with a financially strapped or resistant school system. However, a private school may not be the best choice. Some families move to a community with a better high school. Residential schools may be worth considering for some. The right fit can build tremendous confidence for the adolescent, give the parents a break, and prepare everyone for the independence of the post high school years.

16. Role Modeling - Most of what kids learn from grown-ups comes from simply observing. All moms and dads are role models to their kids and need to be very conscious of their own behavior. Kids are astute observers of how we treat them, how we relate to each other and how we take care of ourselves.

17. Impersonal, written communication is easier for the adolescent to absorb (e.g., lists of routines and rules, notes, charts, or calendars). E-mail may become a new option.

18. Your Teen's Rights - Food, clothing, therapy, medical attention, education, spiritual activities are NEVER withheld as a consequence. Privileges (e.g., television, telephone, radio, some activities, free time, visiting with friends, hobbies, walking around the grounds, etc.) may be temporarily withheld as logical consequences and can be powerful incentives for some adolescents.

19. Teens on the spectrum need structure, down time, soothing activities, and preparation for transitions.

20. Rewarding/Reinforcing - Rewarding positive behavior is the best way to ensure its continuation. A common error in parenting is to spend so much time and energy dealing with crises and negative behaviors that kids who are being responsible can either get "lost" or are tempted to act less responsible to become part of the action. Rewards can take many forms from simple a comment: "I noticed that you..." or "I really appreciated it when you..." to special time and attention or more concrete things such as a special treat or privilege. For every negative interaction the teen experiences, it takes four positive interaction to overcome the effects. Moms and dads need to be very deliberate about maintaining at least a 4:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions every day with every teenager.

21. Look for volunteer activities or part time jobs at the high school or in the community. Be persistent in asking the school to provide help in the areas of career assessment, job readiness skills, and internships or volunteer opportunities. They probably have such services for intellectually challenged adolescents, but may not realize our teens need that help, too. They may also not know how to adapt existing programs to meet our teenagers' needs.

22. Requesting - When there is a good relationship between the mother/father and youngster, a simple request to do, or stop doing, something or a re-stating of the expectations is often enough. If over-used, however, it may become less effective, may be experienced by the HFA of Aspergers youngster as overly controlling, or can slow the process of responsible growth and decision-making skills. Example: "We don't use that type of language here, could you please find a different word?"

23. Make sure thorough neuropsychiatric re-evaluations are performed every three years. This information and documentation may be critical in securing appropriate services, alternative school placements, transition plans, choosing an appropriate college or other post secondary program, and proving eligibility for services and benefits as an adult.

24. Refocus - A defiant teen may be asked to spend time thinking about something (e.g., a recent run-away or self mutilation) and express their feelings and thoughts in some way. This could be writing, poetry, drawing, etc. Whatever format is used, it then needs to be processed with the adolescent. They can then be assisted in identifying early clues and practicing alternative responses. The purpose of this type of activity is to encourage thinking, self-awareness, communication, and planning for different choices in the future.

25. Schedule regular monthly educational team meetings to (a) monitor your adolescent’s progress and (b) ensure that the IEP is being faithfully carried out (and to modify it if necessary). Because adolescents can be so volatile or fragile, and because so many important things must be accomplished in four short years of high school, these meetings are critical.

26. Side by side conversations (e.g., walking, in the car) may be more comfortable for the adolescent than talking face to face.

27. Special interests may change, but whatever the current one is, it remains an important font of motivation, pleasure, relaxation, and reassurance for the adolescent.

28. Redirecting - Commonly used with younger defiant kids or those with short attention spans, this technique simply stops one behavior by substituting another or diverting the attention of the Aspergers teen or group to a different subject or activity.

29. Teach laundry and other self-care/home care skills by small steps over time. Try to get the adolescent to take an elective such as cooking or personal finance at the high school.

30. Pre-Teaching - It is easier to prevent negative behaviors than to deal with them after they occur. A very effective tool is to pre-teach behavior prior to an event or potentially vulnerable situation. This involves talking with the person or group in detail about what will be happening, why, and what their role and expected behaviors will be. Pre-teaching reduces anxiety, clarifies expectations, builds confidence, sets up success, and can add to the fun of anticipating an event.

31. Physical Proximity - Sometimes a defiant adolescent who is beginning to become anxious, irritable or overly active will be calmed down by eye contact, a special "look" or signal, moving next to them or a reassuring hand on the arm or shoulder. Along with physical proximity it is important to be calm and reassuring.

32. Observing and Commenting - A mother/father may choose to comment on a behavior in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way to bring it to the attention of the youngster. This may be new information for the teen to think about. What they choose to do with that feedback will provide further opportunities for discussion and teaching. For example, "I notice you tend to be critical of others when they are taking about a success" –or- "You seem to only break the rules when you are in a group" etc.

33. Tell your adolescent just what s/he needs to know – one message at a time – concisely.

34. Natural Consequences - Sometimes consequences occur through the natural course of events (e.g., a teen coming home late from school and missing a phone call from a friend). If the natural course of events makes an impact by teaching a lesson, moms and dads need not intervene further. They can be sympathetic to the teen's plight (this must be genuine however, and never patronizing or sarcastic).

35. Logical Consequences - Logical consequences may be necessary when no natural one occurs, or when the natural one is insufficient to make a change in future behavior. An example would be a defiant teen causing a disturbance at an event, not being allowed to attend the next one.

36. Ignoring Behavior - Moms and dads may consciously decide to ignore certain behaviors of their defiant adolescent at times in an effort to extinguish the behavior by not reacting to it. The behavior may be inconsequential, may be designed just to "get a reaction," or may be masking another, more important, issue which is what really needs attention. Ignoring a behavior should not stop communication or relationship building. It is a specific behavior that is being ignored, not the person. Examples might include using certain words, attempts to provoke or annoy moms and dads, making personal comment to or about moms and dads, saying "I won't" or "you can't make me," etc.

37. Encouraging/Coaching - Encouragement, praise, and coaching are all effective ways to make pro-social behaviors more likely and more frequent. The stronger the relationship between mother/father and a given youngster, the more powerful this method becomes.

38. Consequences - Consequences may be used to discourage unacceptable behavior of defiant adolescents. Usually this will occur after other techniques have been tried unsuccessfully. Discipline should not be confused with punishment; nor should they ever be given in anger. They should be applied consistently. That means that the behavior disciplined today, will again be disciplined next week. Also, behavior disciplined for one teen will not be allowed for others. This consistency lowers anxiety by making the environment predictable. Remember:
  • A mother/father who is angry with their son or daughter should calm down before deciding a consequence, and if applicable, should consult with the other parent before doing so.
  • Consequences are given to help teenagers establish boundaries.
  • Consequences are more effective when discussed matter-of-factly from a caring and controlled point of view.
  • Consequences should be clearly explained, related to the behavior, and completed as soon as possible.
  • Moms and dads should regularly discuss the effectiveness of consequences for the specific teen and should always support each other in the positive discipline process.

39. Active Listening - Some “autism-related” behaviors are bids for attention or expressions of frustration at not feeling understood. Moms and dads can reduce problem behaviors when each defiant youngster feels genuinely cared about, understood, and paid attention to. Active listening is hard work and takes energy and practice. It cannot be done when thinking about or attending to other things, or when distractions occur. Active listening need not last a long time, but attention must be focused completely on the teen and the message must be communicated back to them in the listeners own words in a way that lets them know they really were heard. Body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, respect for personal space, and choices of words are all important in communicating the desired message. It may take two or three attempts to really understand the message, and that is okay, as long as it is finally understood accurately and that is clearly demonstrated. A few brief exchanges of this sort for each youngster every day are necessary.

40. Patience – Your HFA/Aspergers teen has this thing called “mindblindness.” In other words, he may not understand some of the social norms that other children and teens learn automatically. Thus, be able to distinguish between “misbehavior” (which is intentional) and “autism-related” behavior (which is never intentional).

==> Disciplinary Techniques for Defiant Teens with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism

Is it true that you shouldn't push someone who has Aspergers to be more independent?

Question

My brother has Aspergers and dyspraxia. I can’t help but feeling that my Dad is halting his independence. My brother has traveled to London with my dad on average every month to spend the weekend with our mum since he was 6 my mum met them in London as the half way point and took him to her home on the Isle of Wight. Since my brother was fifteen he has traveled to the Isle of Wight from London alone (thanks to my mum encouraging his independence) this involves a coach and then getting onto a cat across to the island. He is now 20 and my dad still say's that he is not ready to travel to London alone (1 train, no changes, no underground) "London is a scary place" he said. I think my brother is capable of doing this alone easily. I asked my dad when was the last time he asked my brother if he thought he could do it alone and he replied the last time they went my brother said he preferred to have dad with him. My dad said he doesn't want to push him to do something that he's not comfortable with. I replied that sometimes everyone needs to be pushed a little, he replied "EVERYONE DOESN'T HAVE ASPERGERS". My brother was pushed slightly to do the second part of the journey alone and is fine with it. Is it true that you shouldn't push someone who has Aspergers to be more independent?


Answer

To your dad:

The balance between holding-on and letting-go is one of the most difficult things that moms and dads have to face with their Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) teens. At this time in your Aspie’s life, it may be appropriate to take more of a back seat in many instances.  While others may want you to back away, you can still keep the lines of communication open with your teen and help him do what it is he is trying to do.

For all adolescents, we are expected to be in their lives and out of their faces at the same time. Your Aspergers teen may have many good opportunities to reach out to peers if he is interested. If he doesn’t know how to, while it is now inappropriate for you to set up ‘play dates’ or constantly organize his social groups, you can offer occasional suggestions and coach your teen from the sidelines.

Keep in mind that some Aspergers adolescents do not want more interaction even though their moms and dads may feel it is important for them to have it. It is important to be sure that the social goals you set up for your teen include what he wants now and not just what you think he should have or be doing. He may never be the life of the party and may always be a little on the periphery, but for him this could be a comfortable place - and one that he is used to. It could provide social interaction and friendships, and yet offer a comfortable distance and not a lot of pressure. If he wants more, you can help him learn to move in and reach out for more at his own pace.

When to hold on, when to let go, when to push, and when to pull ...these are some of the themes that every parent struggles with (both with “typical” and “special” teens). The outcomes for kids and adolescents are best when moms and dads and professionals work as partners with mutual respect and shared decision-making power. Moms and dads, by virtue of their bond with their youngster, are true authorities in their own right, with information to contribute that no one else has access to. Professionals, on the other hand, through training and experience, can offer expertise and a broad perspective that moms and dads alone don’t have. Each has only partial knowledge, with complete expertise possible through team work (often with some trial and error however).

Letting go may sound too drastic, and perhaps so. Maybe a more realistic way to look at this dilemma is to just loosen your grip and see what happens. If your Aspergers teen seems to slip backwards, this may convince others that he needs more support than they thought. If he is somehow able to meet that challenge, you may be pleasantly surprised. There are inevitable and unavoidable road bumps and pot holes in this process. We cannot control that, but we can control how we respond to them.

Your Aspergers teen will need continuing support and guidance, some of it from experienced professionals to continue his social development. While this may pose a financial strain, the long term benefits usually outweigh the cost of not getting him this support.

It’s a long and winding road to launch an Aspergers teen out into the real world. It’s hard to know at any given moment what to accept and what to work on. A parent’s job never ends—it just changes. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for getting this far. Take good care of yourself as well.

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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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