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Depression in Teens with Asperger’s & High-Functioning Autism

"How have some of you dealt with a depressed teenager? My son is 16 (high functioning) and a loner. His self-esteem is shot, and we're worried. Any advice is greatly appreciated!!!"

Adolescents suffer from depression more often than any number of grown-ups who live their entire lives with it. Moms and dads are generally dismissive of their child’s low moods, because they think that ALL teenagers are simply moody, hormonal, or tired and cranky. This dismissive attitude generally results in teenagers being even more depressed, because they think their mother or father doesn’t care. Take that in combination with adolescents with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger’s (AS) who have very little impulse control as it is, and you have a horrible combination.

Depression is a serious medical problem that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities. It affects how your teenage son or daughter thinks, feels and behaves, and it can cause emotional, functional and physical problems. Although mood disorders like depression can occur at any time in life, symptoms are significantly more pronounced in adolescents than grown-ups. To make matters worse, the HFA/AS teen’s depressive symptoms are usually more pronounced than that of a “typical” teen.

Issues such as peer pressure, peer rejection, bullying, academic expectations and changing bodies can bring a lot of ups and downs for HFA and AS adolescents. But for some of these young people, the lows are more than just temporary feelings — they're a symptom of depression. Adolescent depression isn't a weakness or something that can be overcome with willpower — it can have serious consequences and requires long-term treatment. For most HFA and AS adolescents, depression symptoms ease with treatment (e.g., medication and psychological counseling).



Adolescent depression signs and symptoms include changes in your HFA/AS adolescent's emotions and behavior, such as the examples below. Be alert for emotional and behavioral changes, such as:
  • Agitation or restlessness (e.g., pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still)
  • Changes in appetite (e.g., decreased appetite and weight loss, or increased cravings for food and weight gain)
  • Disruptive or risky behavior
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and the need for excessive reassurance
  • Feelings of sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, fixation on past failures or exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
  • Frequent complaints of unexplained body aches and headaches, which may include frequent visits to the school nurse
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Irritability, frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest in, or conflict with, family and friends
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Neglected appearance (e.g., mismatched clothes and unkempt hair)
  • Ongoing sense that life and the future are grim and bleak
  • Poor school performance or frequent absences from school
  • Self-harm (e.g., cutting, burning, or excessive piercing or tattooing)
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Tiredness and loss of energy
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Use of alcohol or drugs


It can be difficult to tell the difference between (a) ups and downs that are just part of being a young person and (b) full-blown depression. Talk with your teenage son or daughter. Try to determine whether your youngster seems capable of managing challenging feelings, or if life seems overwhelming. If depression symptoms continue or begin to interfere in your HFA/AS adolescent's life, talk to a physician or a mental health professional trained to work with these teens. Your adolescent's family physician is a good place to start. Your adolescent's school may recommend someone as well.

If you suspect your “special needs” son or daughter is depressed, make a physician's appointment as soon as you can. Depression symptoms likely won't get better on their own — and they may get worse or lead to other problems if untreated. Depressed adolescents may be at risk of suicide, even if signs and symptoms don't appear to be severe.  If you're an adolescent and you think you may be depressed — or you have a friend who may be depressed — don't wait to get help. Talk to a health care professional such as your physician or school nurse. Share your concerns with a mother or father, a close friend, your pastor, a teacher or someone else you trust.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and HFA Teens

If your teenage son or daughter is having suicidal thoughts, get help right away. Take all talk of suicide seriously. Here are some steps you can take:
  • Seek help from your physician, a mental health provider or other health care professional.
  • Reach out to family members, friends or spiritual leaders for support as you seek treatment for your HFA/AS adolescent.
  • Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor or encourage your HFA/AS adolescent to do so.

If you think your teenage son or daughter is in immediate danger of self-harm or attempting suicide, make sure someone stays with her or him. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or if you think you can do so safely, take your HFA/AS adolescent to the nearest hospital emergency department.

It's not known exactly what causes depression. A variety of factors may be involved. These include:
  • Learned patterns of negative thinking. Adolescent depression may be linked to learning to feel helpless — rather than learning to feel capable of finding solutions for life's challenges.
  • Inherited traits. Depression is more common in individuals whose biological (blood) relatives also have the condition.
  • Hormones. Changes in the body's balance of hormones may be involved in causing or triggering depression.
  • Early childhood trauma. Traumatic events during childhood (e.g., physical or emotional abuse, loss of a mother or father, etc.) may cause changes in the brain that make a teenager more susceptible to depression.
  • Biological chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression. When these chemicals are out of balance, it may lead to depression symptoms.

Many factors increase the risk of developing or triggering adolescent depression, including:
  • Abusing alcohol, nicotine or other drugs
  • Being a female (depression occurs more often in females than in males)
  • Being bullied or rejected by peers
  • Being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (becoming socially isolated or experiencing bullying may increase the risk of depression)
  • Having a chronic medical illness (e.g., cancer, diabetes or asthma)
  • Having been the victim or witness of violence (e.g., physical or sexual abuse)
  • Having certain personality traits (e.g., low self-esteem or being overly dependent, self-critical or pessimistic)
  • Having few friends or other personal relationships
  • Having issues that negatively impact self-esteem (e.g., obesity, peer problems, long-term bullying or academic problems)
  • Having other conditions (e.g., anxiety disorder, anorexia or bulimia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or learning disabilities)

Family history and issues with family or others may also increase your HFA/AS adolescent's risk of depression:
  • Having a dysfunctional family and conflict
  • Having a family member who committed suicide
  • Having a mother or father, grandparent or other biological (blood) relative with autism, depression, bipolar disorder or alcoholism
  • Having experienced recent stressful life events (e.g., parental divorce, parental military service or the death of a loved one)

Untreated depression can result in emotional, behavioral and health problems that affect every area of your HFA/AS adolescent's life. Complications related to adolescent depression can include:
  • Academic problems
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Family conflicts and relationship difficulties
  • Involvement with the juvenile justice system
  • Low self-esteem
  • Social isolation
  • Suicide

You may choose to start by contacting your HFA/AS adolescent's family physician. In some cases, you may be referred directly to a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

To the extent possible, involve your teenage son or daughter in preparing for the appointment. Then make a list of:
  • Questions that you and your HFA/AS adolescent want to ask the physician
  • Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes your HFA/AS adolescent has experienced
  • Any symptoms your adolescent has had, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason you scheduled the appointment
  • All medications, vitamins, herbal remedies or supplements that your HFA/AS adolescent is taking

Basic questions to ask the physician include:
  • Are there any possible side effects with the medications you're recommending?
  • Are there any printed materials that we can take home?
  • Are there any restrictions that my adolescent needs to follow?
  • How will we monitor progress and effectiveness of the treatment?
  • Is depression the most likely cause of my youngster's symptoms?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • My adolescent has these other health conditions. Could they be linked to depression?
  • Should my adolescent see a psychiatrist or other mental health provider?
  • What are other possible causes for my youngster's symptoms or condition?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • What kinds of tests will my youngster need?
  • What treatment is likely to work best?
  • What websites do you recommend?
  • Will making changes in diet, exercise or other areas help ease depression?

To make the most of the time allotted, make sure your HFA/AS son or daughter is ready to answer questions from the physician, for example:
  • Are you using any mood-altering substances, such as alcohol, marijuana or street drugs?
  • Do you ever have suicidal thoughts when you're feeling down?
  • Do you generally always feel down, or does your mood change?
  • Do you have a history of significant weight gain or loss?
  • Do you have any biological (blood) relatives — such as a mother or father or grandparent — with depression or another mood disorder?
  • Does your mood ever swing from feeling down to feeling extremely happy and full of energy?
  • How long have you felt depressed?
  • How much do you sleep at night? Does the amount change over time?
  • How severe are your symptoms? Do they interfere with school, relationships or other day-to-day activities?
  • What is your diet like?
  • What other mental or physical health conditions do you have?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • When did family members or friends first notice your symptoms of depression?

When adolescent depression is suspected, the physician will generally do these exams and tests:
  • Lab tests. For example, your HFA/AS adolescent's physician may do a blood test called a complete blood count, or test your teen’s thyroid to make sure it's functioning properly.
  • Physical exam. The physician may do a physical exam and ask in-depth questions about your HFA/AS adolescent's health to determine what may be causing depression. In some cases, depression may be linked to an underlying physical health problem.
  • Psychological evaluation. This evaluation will include a discussion with your son or daughter about thoughts, feelings and behavior, and may include a questionnaire. These will help pinpoint a diagnosis and check for related complications.


To be diagnosed with depression, your teenage son or daughter must meet the symptom criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association. This manual is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

Symptoms can be based on your HFA/AS adolescent's feelings or on the observations of someone else. For a diagnosis of major depression, the following symptoms must occur most of the day, nearly every day, during at least a two-week period, and be a change or worsening in the adolescent's usual attitude and behavior.

Your adolescent must have at least one of the following:
  • Diminished interest or feeling no pleasure in any or most activities
  • Depressed mood, such as feeling sad, empty or tearful (in adolescence, depressed mood can appear as constant irritability)

Your adolescent must also have four or more of the following:
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Insomnia or increased desire to sleep
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, making a suicide plan or a suicide attempt
  • Restlessness or slowed behavior that can be observed by others
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite (in adolescence, failure to gain weight as expected can be a sign of depression)
  • Trouble making decisions, thinking or concentrating

To be considered major depression:
  • Symptoms are not caused by grieving (e.g., temporary sadness after the loss of a loved one)
  • Symptoms are not due to the direct effects of something else (e.g., drug abuse, taking a medication or having a medical condition such as hypothyroidism)
  • Symptoms aren't due to a mixed episode, which is mania along with depression that sometimes occurs as a symptom of bipolar disorder
  • Symptoms must be severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities (e.g., school, social activities or relationships with others)

Other types of major depression include:
  • Psychotic depression. This is severe depression accompanied by psychotic symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations.
  • Dysthymia. Dysthymia is a less severe, but more long-term form of depression. While it's usually not disabling, dysthymia can prevent your teenage son or daughter from functioning normally in a daily routine and from living life to the fullest.
  • Atypical depression. In this type of depression, key signs and symptoms include increased hunger, weight gain, sleeping a lot, feeling that your arms and legs are heavy, and difficulty maintaining relationships.

 ==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and HFA Teens

There are several other conditions with symptoms that can include depression. It's important to get an accurate diagnosis so that your HFA/AS adolescent gets appropriate treatment. Your physician or mental health provider's evaluation will help determine if the symptoms of depression are caused by one of the following conditions:
  • Adjustment disorder. An adjustment disorder is a severe emotional reaction to a difficult event in your life. It's a type of stress-related mental illness that may affect feelings, thoughts and behavior.
  • Bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings that range from the highs of mania to the lows of depression. It's sometimes difficult to distinguish between bipolar disorder and depression, but it's important to get an accurate diagnosis because treatment for bipolar disorder is different from that for other types of depression.
  • Cyclothymia. Cyclothymia, or cyclothymic disorder, is a milder form of bipolar disorder.
  • Schizoaffective disorder. Schizoaffective disorder is a condition in which a person meets the criteria for both schizophrenia and a mood disorder such as depression.
  • Seasonal affective disorder. This type of depression is related to changes in seasons and diminished exposure to sunlight.

Many types of treatment are available. In some cases, a primary care physician can prescribe medications that relieve depression symptoms. However, many adolescents need to see a psychiatrist or psychologist or other mental health counselor. A combination of medications and psychotherapy is very effective for most HFA/AS adolescents with depression.

If your teenage son or daughter has severe depression or is in danger of self-harm, she or he may need a hospital stay or may need to participate in an outpatient treatment program until symptoms improve.

Antidepressants and increased suicide risk— Although antidepressants are generally safe when taken as directed, the FDA requires that all antidepressants carry "black box" warnings, the strictest warnings for prescriptions. In some cases, kids, teens and young people under the age of 25 may have an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior when taking antidepressants, especially in the first few weeks after starting or when the dose is changed. So, individuals in these age groups must be closely monitored by parents and health care providers.  If your son or daughter has suicidal thoughts while taking an antidepressant, immediately contact your physician or get emergency help.  For most HFA/AS adolescents, the benefits of taking an antidepressant generally outweigh any possible risks. In the long run, antidepressants are likely to reduce suicidal thinking or behavior.

Antidepressants and pregnancy— If your teenage daughter is pregnant or breast-feeding, some antidepressants may pose an increased health risk to her unborn or nursing youngster. If your daughter becomes pregnant, make certain she talks to her physician about antidepressant medications and managing depression during pregnancy.

Finding the right medication— Everyone's different, so finding the right medication or dose for your HFA/AS son or daughter may take some trial and error. This requires patience, as some medications need eight weeks or longer to take full effect and for side effects to ease as the body adjusts.  If your adolescent has bothersome side effects, she or he shouldn't stop taking an antidepressant without talking to the physician first. Some antidepressants can cause withdrawal symptoms unless the dose is slowly tapered off — quitting suddenly may cause a sudden worsening of depression. Encourage your adolescent not to give up. If antidepressant treatment doesn't seem to be working, your adolescent's physician may recommend a blood test called cytochrome P450 (CYP450) to check for specific genes that affect how the body processes antidepressants. This may help identify which antidepressant might be a good choice. However, these genetic tests have limitations and may not be widely available.

Hospitalization and other treatment programs— In some HFA and AS adolescents, depression is so severe that a hospital stay is needed, especially if your son or daughter is in danger of self-harm or hurting someone else. Getting psychiatric treatment at a hospital can help keep your adolescent calm and safe until symptoms are better managed. Day treatment programs also may help. These programs provide the support and counseling needed while your adolescent gets depression symptoms under control.

Managing medications— Carefully monitor your HFA/AS adolescent's use of medications. To work properly, antidepressants need to be taken consistently at the prescribed dose. Because overdose can be a risk for adolescents with depression, your adolescent's physician may prescribe only small supplies of pills at a time, or recommend that you dole out medication so that your son or daughter does not have a large amount of pills available at once.

Medications— Because studies on the effects of antidepressants in HFA and AS adolescents are limited, physicians rely mainly on adult research when prescribing medications. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two medications for adolescent depression — fluoxetine (Prozac) and escitalopram (Lexapro). However, as with grown-ups, other medications may be prescribed at the physician's discretion (off label), depending on your HFA/AS adolescent's needs. Talk with your adolescent's physician and pharmacist about possible side effects, weighing the benefits and risks. In some cases, side effects may go away as the body adjusts to the medication.

Psychotherapy— Psychotherapy is a general term for treating depression by talking about depression and related issues with a mental health provider. Psychotherapy may be done one-on-one, with family members, or in a group.  Through these regular sessions, your teenage son or daughter can:
  • explore relationships and experiences
  • find better ways to cope and solve problems
  • learn how to identify and make changes in unhealthy behaviors or thoughts
  • learn about the causes of depression
  • set realistic goals

Psychotherapy can help your son or daughter regain a sense of happiness and control, and help ease depression symptoms like hopelessness and anger. It may also help your HFA/AS adolescent adjust to a crisis or other current difficulty.




You are your adolescent's best advocate to help her or him succeed. Here are some steps you and your “special needs” child can take that may help:
  • Encourage communication with your HFA/AS adolescent. Talk to your son or daughter about the changes you're observing and emphasize your unconditional support. Create an environment where your youngster can share concerns while you listen.
  • Help the HFA/AS adolescent avoid alcohol and other drugs. Your son or daughter may feel like alcohol or drugs lessen depression symptoms, but in the long run they worsen symptoms and make depression harder to treat.
  • Learn about depression. Education can empower your teenage son or daughter and motivate her or him to stick to a treatment plan. It can also benefit you and other loved ones to learn about your adolescent's depression and understand that it's a treatable condition.
  • Make sure your HFA/AS adolescent adopts healthy habits. Even light physical activity can help reduce depression symptoms. Sleeping well is important for all adolescents, especially those with depression. If your teenage son or daughter is having trouble sleeping, ask the physician for advice.
  • Pay attention to warning signs. Work with your HFA/AS adolescent's physician or therapist to learn what might trigger depression symptoms. Make a plan so that you and your child know what to do if symptoms get worse. Ask family members or friends to help watch for warning signs.
  • Stick to the treatment plan. Make sure your HFA/AS son or daughter attends appointments, even if he or she doesn't feel like going. Even if your adolescent is feeling well, make sure he or she continues to take medications as prescribed. If your child stops taking medications, depression symptoms may come back. Quitting suddenly may cause withdrawal-like symptoms.

Avoid replacing conventional medical treatment or psychotherapy with alternative medicine. When it comes to depression, alternative treatments aren't a substitute for professional care. But some mind-body therapies may help.

Complementary and alternative medicine practitioners believe the mind and body must be in harmony to stay healthy. Examples of mind-body techniques that may be helpful for depression include:
  • Acupuncture
  • Guided imagery
  • Massage therapy
  • Meditation
  • Music or art therapy
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Spirituality
  • Yoga or tai chi

Relying solely on these therapies is generally not enough to treat depression. But they may be helpful when used in addition to medication and psychotherapy.

Showing interest and the desire to understand your HFA/AS adolescent's feelings lets her or him know you care. You may not understand why your adolescent feels hopeless or why she or he has a sense of loss or failure. Listen to your “special needs” child without judging and try to put yourself in his or her position. Help build your child’s self-esteem by recognizing small successes and offering praise about his or her competence.

Encourage your HFA/AS adolescent to:
  • Ask for help. Adolescents may be reluctant to seek support when life seems overwhelming. Encourage your son or daughter to talk to a family member or other trusted adult whenever needed.
  • Connect with other adolescents who struggle with depression. Talking with other adolescents facing similar challenges can help your son or daughter cope. So can learning skills to manage life's challenges. Local support groups for depression are available in many communities. And support groups for depression are offered online (but check them out to make sure they're credible and trustworthy sites).
  • Encourage your HFA/AS adolescent to keep a private journal. Journaling may help improve mood by allowing your child to express and work through pain, anger, fear or other emotions.
  • Have realistic expectations. Many adolescents judge themselves when they aren't able to live up to unrealistic standards (e.g., academically, in athletics, in appearance, etc.). Let your teenage son or daughter know that it's OK not to be perfect.
  • Make and keep healthy friendships. Positive relationships can help boost your HFA/AS adolescent's confidence and stay connected with others. Encourage her or him to avoid relationships with peers whose attitudes or behaviors could make depression worse.
  • Simplify life. Encourage your son or daughter to carefully choose obligations and commitments, and set reasonable goals. Let your child know that it's OK to do less when she or he feels down.
  • Stay active. Participation in sports, school activities or a job can help keep your teenage son or daughter focused on positive things, rather than negative feelings or behaviors.
  • Stay healthy. Do your part to make sure your child eats regular, healthy meals, gets regular exercise and gets plenty of sleep.
  • Structure time. Help your child plan activities by making lists or using a planner to stay organized.

There's no sure way to prevent depression. However, these strategies may help. Encourage your HFA/AS adolescent to:
  • Boost low self-esteem by recognizing small steps toward getting better.
  • Get treatment at the earliest sign of a problem to help prevent depression from worsening.
  • Maintain ongoing treatment, if recommended, even after symptoms let up, or have regular therapy sessions to help prevent a relapse of depression symptoms.
  • Reach out for friendship and social support, especially in times of crisis.
  • Take steps to control stress, for example, not committing to too many obligations at once.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and HFA Teens

The Challenges of Adolescence for Young People on the Autism Spectrum

The years from 12 to 18 are the most difficult time for teenagers with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS). These young people typically become more socially isolated during a period when they crave friendships and inclusion more than ever. In the cruel world of middle and high school, they often face rejection, isolation and bullying.

Meanwhile, school becomes more demanding in a period when they have to compete for college placements. In addition, issues of sexuality and a desire for independence from parents create even more problems.



In the teenage world where everyone feels insecure, adolescents that appear different are voted off the island. HFA and AS teenagers often have odd mannerisms. For example, one adolescent talks in a loud un-modulated voice, avoids eye contact, interrupts others, violates their physical space, and steers the conversation to his favorite odd topic. Another appears willful, selfish and aloof, mostly because he is unable to share his thoughts and feelings with others.

Isolated and alone, many HFA/AS teenagers are too anxious to initiate social contact. Many are stiff and rule-oriented, which is a deadly trait in any teenage popularity contest. Friendship and all its nuances of reciprocity can be exhausting, even though the teen wants it more than anything else.

HFA and AS adolescents are not privy to street knowledge of sex and dating behaviors that other adolescents pick up naturally. This leaves them naive and clueless about sex. Boys can become obsessed with Internet pornography and masturbation. They can be overly forward with a girl who is merely being kind, and then later face charges of stalking her. The HFA or AS female may have a fully developed body, but no understanding of flirtation and non-verbal sexual cues, making her susceptible to harassment and even date rape.

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

Many HFA/AS teenagers, with their average to above average IQs, can sail through grammar school, but hit academic problems in middle and high school. They now have to deal with four to six teachers, instead of just one. The likelihood that at least one teacher will be indifferent - or even hostile - toward making special accommodations is certain. The “special needs” student now has to face a series of classroom environments with different classmates, odors, distractions, noise levels, and sets of expectations.

These teens, with their distractibility and difficulty organizing materials, face similar academic problems as students with Attention Deficit Disorder. For example, a high school term paper or a science fair project becomes impossible to manage because no one has taught the “special needs” teen how to break it up into a series of small steps. Even though the academic stress on the adolescent can be overwhelming, school administrators may be reluctant to enroll him in special education at this late point in his educational career.

HFA and AS teenagers typically do not care about adolescent fads and clothing styles (concerns that obsess everyone else in their peer group). They may neglect their hygiene and wear the same haircut for years. Boys forget to shave. Girls don't comb their hair or follow fashion. Some remain stuck in a grammar school clothes and hobbies (e.g., unicorns and Legos) instead of moving into adolescent concerns like Facebook and dating. Boys on the autism spectrum often have no motor coordination. This leaves them out of high school sports, typically an essential area of male bonding and friendship.

The teenage years are more emotional for everyone. Yet the hormonal changes of adolescence, coupled with the problems associated with autism, can mean that the adolescent becomes emotionally overwhelmed. Childish tantrums reappear. Boys may act up by physically attacking a teacher or peer. They may experience “meltdowns” at home after another day filled with harassment, bullying, pressure to conform, and rejection. Suicide and drug addiction become real concerns, as the adolescent now has access to a car, drugs and alcohol. The teenage years can overwhelm not only the “special needs” adolescent, but also his or her parents.

Pain, loneliness and despair can lead to problems with drugs, sex and alcohol. In their overwhelming need to fit in and make friends, some HFA/AS teenagers fall into the wrong high school crowds. Adolescents who abuse substances will use the autistic teen’s naivety to get him to buy or carry drugs and liquor for their group. If cornered by a police officer, the autistic teen usually does not have the skills to answer the officer’s questions appropriately. For example, if the officer says, “Do you know how fast you were driving?” the teen may reply bluntly, “Yes,” and thus appears to be a smart-aleck.

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

Here are a few things that parents can do to help their HFA or AS teen through the tough teenage years:

Most of the jobs that a teenager would be able to get (e.g., movie usher, fast food worker, store clerk, grocery sacker, etc.) involve interaction with the public. This means they are not always a good fit for an adolescent with HFA or AS. However, some of these “special needs” teens can find work in their field of special interest, or in jobs that have little interpersonal interaction. Thus, parents should help their teen to find work that it is alignment with these special concerns.

When your HFA or AS child was little, you could arrange play dates for her. Now as an adolescent, you may have to teach her how to initiate contact with others. For example, you could teach her how to leave phone messages and arrange details of social contacts (e.g., transportation), and encourage her to join high school clubs (e.g., chess or drama). Also, many adolescents with HFA and AS are enjoying each other's company through Internet chat rooms, forums and message boards. On a side note, it isn’t necessary to tell your child’s peers that she has an autism spectrum disorder – let her do that herself if she wants to.

You absolutely have to teach your HFA or AS adolescent about sex. You will not be able to “talk around” the issue. Be specific and detailed about safe sex, and teach your adolescent to tell you about inappropriate touching by others. Your child may need remedial “sex education.” For example, a girl needs to understand she is too old to sit on laps or give hugs to strangers. A boy may have to learn to close toilet stall doors or masturbate only in private.

In the school setting, if the pressure on your child to conform is too great, or if she faces constant harassment and rejection, or if the principal and teaching staff do not cooperate with you as the parent, it may be time to find another school. The adolescent years are a time when many moms and dads decide it is in their child’s best interest to enter special education or a therapeutic boarding school. In a boarding school, professionals will guide your child academically and socially on a 24-hour basis. They do not allow boys to isolate themselves with video games – everyone has to participate in social activities. Also, counseling staff helps with college placements.

If you decide to work within a public school system, you may have to hire a lawyer to get needed services. Your HFA or AS child should have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and accommodations for the learning disabled. This may mean placement in small classes, using tutors, and providing special arrangements for gym and lunchtime. Your child should receive extra time for college-board examinations. Also, teach your child to find a “safe place” at school where he can share emotions with a trusted adult. The safe place may be the office of the school nurse, guidance counselor, or psychologist.

If your adolescent is college-bound, you have to prepare her for the experience. You can plan a trip to the campus, show her where to buy books, where the health services are, and so on. Also, teach her how to handle everyday problems (e.g., “Where do you buy deodorant?” … “What if you oversleep and miss a class?” … etc.).

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

As you prepare your adolescent for the workforce, keep in mind that people with HFA and AS often do not understand “office politics.” They have problems with the basics (e.g., handling criticism, controlling emotions, showing up on time, working with the public, etc.). This does not mean they can’t hold down a job. Once they master certain aspects of employment, HFA/AS teenagers are often able to work at high levels as accountants, research scientists, computer programmers, just to name a few.

Alcohol and drugs often react adversely with a child’s prescriptions (if he or she is on any), so you should teach your child about these dangers. Since most HFA/AS teenagers are very rule-oriented, try emphasizing that drugs and alcohol are illegal.

Most teenagers on the spectrum can learn to drive, but their process may take longer because of their poor motor coordination. Once they learn a set of rules, they are likely to follow them to the letter (a trait that helps in driving). However, they may have trouble dealing with unexpected situations on the road. Thus, have your child carry a cell phone and give him a printed card that explains autism. Then teach him to give the card to a police officer and phone you in a crisis.

Because of their sensitivity to textures, HFA/AS teenagers often wear the same clothes day in and day out. This is unacceptable in middle or high school. One idea that has worked for some moms and dads is to find an adolescent of the same age and sex as yours, and then enlist that person to help you choose clothes that will enable your child to blend in with other adolescents. Also, insist that your teen practices good hygiene every day.




In conclusion, parents of an adolescent with HFA or AS face many problems that other parents don’t. The autistic teen is emotionally more immature than his “typical” peers. He may be indifferent - or even hostile - to his parents’ concerns. Like all teenagers, the autistic teen is harder to control and less likely to listen to his mom or dad.

He may be tired of his parents “nagging” him to look people in their eyes, brush his teeth, wake up in time for school, and so on. Also, he may hate school with a passion because he is dealing with social ostracism or academic failure. However, by implementing some of the suggestions listed above, parents can help their “special needs” teen to weather the storm of adolescence, and prepare him or her for the challenges of adulthood.

==> 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

Teenage Son with ASD has Stopped Going to School

Question

We are desperately trying to motivate our teenager [with autism spectrum disorder] to graduate from high school. He is a senior who needs 20 more credits to graduate. He has stopped going to school. Any advice? HELP!!!

Answer 

Every teen with ASD is unique, but when you face a challenge like teenage dropouts, you are never alone. Countless individuals have faced the exact same situation and have survived and thrived. Teenage dropouts are all too common - and occur for a variety of reasons, including over-indulgent and over-protective parenting, mental illness, gangs, drugs, indifferent teachers, and just generally bad choices. 
 
Dropping out of school seems like a good option for teens on the spectrum who are bored in school and feel rejected by their peer group. But they often have a rude awakening once they drop out and have no place to turn.

How you can help:
  • Make the curriculum more interesting.
  • Offer advice on other teenage dropouts.

What to say:
  • Tell them how much you care about them.
  • "What’s your plan?”
  • "How can I help?”

What not to say:
  • "Yeah, that’s a good idea."
  • "Don't do it."
  • "Don’t worry."

In many states, once a teen turns sixteen years old, he or she can drop out of school. Some school systems are now reporting an alarming increase in the amount of drop outs that occur yearly. What can moms and dads and educators do to keep these teens in school? 

By the time a teen reaches the age of sixteen, half of the battle may already be lost. Moms and dads need to instill a love of learning when their kids are small. Moms and dads should begin reading to their kids when they are babies. As kids grow, moms and dads should encourage their kids to excel in school. High expectations should become evident even when kids are in preschool.

As kids move from elementary school into middle school, many kids are left behind academically. If a youngster falls behind in one subject, a parent should take action immediately. Both moms and dads and teachers should communicate in order to plan a successful course of action. A youngster may need extra tutoring, or if there are problems at home, counseling may be in order. 
 
If a parent questions their youngster’s ability, testing may need to be conducted to determine if that youngster has a learning disability. A learning disability, such as dyslexia, can inhibit a youngster’s progress in school, and this will leave the youngster feeling discouraged and inept, prompting even poorer academic performance.

It is also important to encourage your son with ASD to be involved in school related activities as much as possible. The more active your youngster becomes, the less time he’ll have to think about failure. Encourage him to go out for sports and academic teams, band or chorus, and drama. 
 
If he is not really the academic type, help him to find a niche that he really loves, such as welding, auto mechanics, carpentry, drafting, and graphic arts. The key to instilling a need and desire for success in your youngster is to help him find what he is successful at doing. 
 

Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances which can lead to a drop in a youngster’s grades. These circumstances may include a youngster’s illness, a recent move, problems at home, such as a divorce or death, or unexplained emotional problems. It is extremely important that these problems be addressed promptly. If left unattended, the problems could escalate, and when a teen reaches the age that he can legally withdraw from school, he may simply give up.

If you are struggling with a teen that seems apathetic to his academic career, you need to discern what the root problem might be. If the youngster is struggling with a particular subject or subjects, he may need extra tutoring. As a parent, you can encourage your youngster by spending time working with him in the evening. If you don’t feel knowledgeable enough to tutor your youngster, you can arrange for help from someone else.

Many schools now have afternoon tutoring available to help students who are falling behind. Some schools also have “last chance” programs. These programs are typically given at night or on the weekends. They offer students a chance to take a subject or subjects that they have failed, so that they might still be able to graduate on time.

As a parent, you should realize that there may be more serious causes behind your teen’s lack of ambition. Drug abuse is a real problem among teens in today’s society. If you feel that your youngster is exhibiting signs of drug abuse, you should have him tested immediately. If he tests positive, you will need to decide on a direct course of action. 
 
It is also important to remember that even if you succeed in helping your youngster get off drugs, he will still be inundated with temptation if he is hanging with his same crowd of friends. You and your youngster may need to make some serious decisions regarding his every day environment.

Finally, never give up on your son. There may be times when both he and you are discouraged about his academic success. Try to hide your discouragement as much as possible, and, instead, let him see that you believe in him and have high expectations that he will succeed.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… A senior who still has 20 credits to earn (half of the required number to graduate with a diploma, not a certificate) isn't interested in graduating high school. Home schooling won't change this. Alternate schooling won't change this. Only the Aspie's mindset will change this. If he cannot be motivated and he cannot motivate himself to buckle down to business and earn the outstanding credits, he will not graduate high school in the time allotted by the department or ministry of education in his state or province.
•    Anonymous said… Can't you look at things another way? What are his hopes and aspirations for his future. What work does he want to do? If it's something he needs exams and qualifications for (sorry, english so don't get your system) then point out that these boring credits he must earn are a step he must take to get there. If otherwise, investigate work experience and apprenticeships, things to look good on a CV and give hands on experience of employment. Ultimately we want our children supporting themselves independantly, and conventional routes may not always work, so find others. Good luck!
•    Anonymous said… Homeschool instead! Either with an online program through the school system or with something completely different of your/his choosing.
•    Anonymous said… I would love to homeschool my daughter but I am afraid she will use that online time for computer games or unrelated school things.
•    Anonymous said… No it's not. It's just a different way that they see the world. All they may hear is 'you're a failure' rather than 'you need to do xy and z to succeed' and that will just push them in a downward spiral.
•    Anonymous said… Same boat. My son is very close to high school exam and he does not have motivation to study. I am thinking of a new environment for him however Vietnam does not yet have homeschooling or online learning for high school. I dont know what to do. Pls advise! Thanks.
•    Anonymous said… Sometimes it's a matter of giving him the environment he needs. Does your state have online school? If he can do his studies in the comfort of his own home where you can easily review his progress , that might be a better way.
•    Anonymous said… That's justification for poor choices on the part of the Aspie.

Post your comment below…

Moodiness and Depression in Teens with Asperger's and HFA

“How should I handle my teenage son’s emotional instability? Specifically, how can I tell the difference between 'normal' moodiness that occurs in adolescence and depression? My son seems to have significantly more ‘downs’ than ‘ups’. He’s usually very grouchy and pretty much stays to himself. Is this typical for teens with level 1 autism? Should I be concerned? What can I do to help?”

Moodiness and depression are common among teens in general. And young people with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are at even greater risk for these comorbid conditions. Teens on the autism spectrum have a “developmental disorder,” which means that their emotional age is significantly younger than their chronological age.

For example, the teenager may be 16-years-old, but still have the social skills of a 9-year-old. This dilemma causes problems for the teen due to the fact that he or she experiences great difficulty in relating to same-age peers, which in turn may result in rejection from the peer group – and this contributes largely to the AS or HFA teen’s lack of self-esteem and depression.



In addition, cognitive control systems lag behind emotional development making it hard for AS and HFA teens to cope with their emotions. Furthermore, beyond the biological factors, a lot of other changes are occurring during adolescence (e.g., experiencing first loves and breakups, butting heads with parents, start of high school, etc.). No wonder some teens on the spectrum struggle through this time in their life.

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

Unfortunately, other complicating factors are at play during the teenage years:

Difficulty with transitions— Largely due to the uneasy transition toward adulthood, most teens on the spectrum experience an increase in anxiety. It is during this time that they are dangling between the dependency of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. It can feel intimidating to prepare to leave high school, head off to college, or into the job market. All these factors induce more mood swings and anxiety in AS and HFA teens.

Peer-rejection— Many teens on the spectrum are deliberately excluded from social relationships among their age group. As a result, they often choose to isolate themselves, which makes a bad problem worse. A teenager who feels rejected often spends too much time playing video games and on social networking sites, thus losing touch with peers even more. Teens who are ostracized by their peers also tend to underachieve academically.

Poor social skills— Most young people with AS and HFA experience social skills deficits. As a result, interactions with peers become very unpleasant. The more they “fail” in connecting with peers, the more they isolate. They want to “fit-in” and be accepted, but simply haven’t figured out the social politics needed to find and keep friends.

Low self-esteem— Peer-group rejection results in a decline in their self-image, a state of despair, behavioral difficulties, loneliness and seclusion.

So as a parent, how do you know when to wait out the moods – and when to worry? The truth is that it's difficult to know, because every teenager is different. Rapid physiological changes are occurring during adolescence. Therefore, a degree of vacillation between "ups" and "downs" can be expected. However, there is big difference between teenage mood swings and genuine depression. The major symptoms of depression may include:
  • changes in appetite
  • episodes of moping and crying
  • fatigue
  • loss of enthusiasm or interest in favorite activities
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • mood swings that seem out of proportion to the circumstances
  • negative self-concept
  • outbursts of anger 
  • painful thoughts that manifest themselves in relentless introspection
  • persistent anxiety
  • persistent sadness
  • poor school performance
  • sense of hopelessness
  • withdrawal and isolation

If an AS or HFA teenager is suffering from depression, parents can expect to see the following symptoms unfold in three successive stages:
  1. Inability to concentrate, withdrawal from friends, impulsive acts, and declining academic performance
  2. Acts of aggression, rapid mood swings, loss of friends, mild rebellion, and sudden changes in personality
  3. Overt rebellion, extreme fatigue, giving away prized possessions, expressions of hopelessness, and suicidal threats or gestures

Other common symptoms of depression in adolescents include: eating or sleeping too much, feeling extremely sensitive, feeling misunderstood, feeling negative and worthless, poor attendance at school, self-harm, and using recreational drugs or alcohol.

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

Symptoms caused by depression can vary from child to child. To discover the type of depression your AS or HFA teenager has, your physician may add one or more “specifiers.” A specifier simply means that your teen has depression with specific features, for example:
  • Seasonal pattern: depression related to changes in seasons and reduced exposure to sunlight
  • Mixed features: simultaneous depression and mania, which includes elevated self-esteem, talking too much, and increased energy
  • Melancholic features: severe depression with lack of response to something that used to bring pleasure and associated with early morning awakening, major changes in appetite, feelings of guilt, agitation or sluggishness, and worsened mood in the morning 
  • Catatonia: depression that includes motor activity that involves either uncontrollable and purposeless movement or fixed and inflexible posture
  • Atypical features: depression that includes the ability to temporarily be cheered by happy events, increased appetite, sensitivity to rejection, a heavy feeling in the arms or legs, and excessive need for sleep
  • Anxious distress: depression with unusual restlessness or worry about possible events or loss of control


Treatment—

1. Psychotherapy: Different types of psychotherapy can be effective for depression in AS and HFA teens (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy). Psychotherapy can help your teen:
  • regain a sense of satisfaction and control in his or her life
  • ease depression symptoms (e.g., hopelessness and anger)
  • learn to set realistic goals for his or her life
  • identify negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones
  • identify issues that contribute to his or her depression
  • change behaviors that make depression worse
  • find better ways to cope and solve problems
  • explore relationships and experiences
  • develop positive interactions with peers
  • develop the ability to tolerate and accept distress using healthier behaviors
  • adjust to a crisis or other current difficulty

2. Alternative Therapies: Therapies other than face-to-face office sessions are available and can be highly effective for teens on the autism spectrum (e.g., as a computer program, by online sessions, or using videos or workbooks). These can be guided by a therapist or be totally independent.

3. Social Skills Training: Teens on the autism spectrum experience depression largely due to their awkwardness in interpersonal relationships. Thus, social skills training is perhaps the best method for combating depression in these young people. A major goal of social skills training is teaching AS and HFA teens:
  • how to understand verbal and nonverbal behaviors involved in social interactions
  • how to make "small talk" in social settings
  • the importance of good eye contact during a conversation
  • how to "read" the many subtle cues contained in social interactions
  • how to tell when someone wants to change the topic of conversation or shift to another activity
  • how to interpret social signals so that they can determine how to act appropriately in the company of others in a variety of different situations

Social skills training assumes that when “special needs” teens improve their social skills and change selected behaviors, they will raise their self-esteem and increase the likelihood that others will respond favorably to them. The AS or HFA teen learns to change his or her social behavior patterns by practicing selected behaviors in individual or group therapy sessions.

4. Medication: Many types of antidepressants are available, including:
  • Atypical antidepressants (Wellbutrin XL, Wellbutrin SR, Aplenzin, Forfivo XL, Remeron, Trintellix)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (Parnate, Nardil, Marplan, Emsam)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, Pexeva, Zoloft, Viibryd)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (Cymbalta, Effexor XR, Pristiq, Khedezla, Fetzima)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (Tofranil, Pamelor, Surmontil, Norpramin, Vivactil)

Other medications can be added to an antidepressant to enhance antidepressant effects. Your physician may recommend combining two antidepressants or adding medications (e.g., mood stabilizers or antipsychotics). Anti-anxiety and stimulant medications can also be added for short-term use.

Other things that parents can do to combat moodiness and depression in their AS or HFA teenager include: encouraging physical activity; praising the youngster's skills; promoting participation in organized activities; reminding your youngster that you care by listening, showing interest in his or her problems, and respecting his or her feelings; and setting aside time each day to talk to your youngster (this step is crucial in preventing further isolation, withdrawal, and progressive depression).

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

Rebellious Aspergers Teenagers

"Why does my Aspergers teen reject everything I say? Why is he so argumentative and defiant?"

These are some of the many questions you, as a parent of a rebellious Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) teen, might be asking yourself right now.

The teenage years can be a very rough time for both the teen and the parent – especially when you consider the challenges that are part of the Aspergers condition.

Why do Aspergers teens rebel?

It's normal for any teenager to show a little bit of rebellion now and again. However, teenage rebellion that is constant, interferes with normal daily functioning, and is destructive calls for much more attention. Aspergers teens rebel for a variety of reasons:
  • Peer pressure - Some forms of rebellion can begin with pressure from peers to join in various destructive behaviors.
  • Independence - These years are a constant struggle between dependence and independence. Rebellious adolescents want to have total independence and prove to you that they can do things themselves. At the same time, they are overwhelmed and still desire parental protection.
  • Hormonal changes - As adolescents bodies are changing, hormone fluctuations can bring about all sorts of mood changes.
  • Discovering their identities - Adolescents are at a point in their lives when they are trying to figure out who they are as a person, their likes/dislikes and what they will be doing for the rest of their lives. They use this time to test and try out many identities until they find one they are most comfortable with.

In what forms do adolescents rebel?

How your Aspergers teen chooses to rebel depends on his own individual feelings and problems. Some forms may include:
  • Argumentative - quick to anger, overly defenseless
  • Change in appearance/interests - trying out new clothing styles, hairstyles, tastes in music
  • Rejection of rules/curfews
  • Running away from home
  • School problems - cutting classes, missing school, drop in grades
  • Spending more time with friends away from family members
  • Substance abuse - experimenting with alcohol and illicit drugs

How can you prevent teenage rebellion?

Preventing all forms of rebellion can be a difficult chore as some of this behavior is a normal process of growing up. Keeping the dangerous forms under control is necessary though in order to avoid further problems from developing. If your Aspergers teen is showing harmful rebellious behavior, further treatment with a mental health professional should be sought. Rebellion could be due to another underlying problem. 

As moms and dads, the following methods can be helpful in keeping rebellion at a minimum:
  1. Don't be too harsh with criticism - Adolescents like to experiment with their individuality to discover who they are. As long as it is not harmful, let them try out new things. Give your opinion, but don't criticize.
  2. Keep an open relationship with your teen - Let them know that they can always come to you with their problems, under any circumstances. If your rebellious teenager feels the need to be alone, give them some space to work out their problems by themselves first.
  3. Punishments should be fair - Set reasonable consequences for broken rules as unfair punishments can create further rebellion.
  4. Set up some reasonable house rules - If your rules are to strict, your rebellious adolescent might feel the need to break them. Give your adolescents some say in home of these rules and curfews so that they feel some ownership over them.
  5. Try not to argue with your rebellious adolescent - Yelling and arguing with your rebellious adolescent about your differences only sets a bad example of how to deal with problems. Try to approach the matter at hand in a calm fashion. If that cannot be done, give yourself some space for a while and talk about it at a later time once tempers diminish.

==> Help for Parents of Teens with Asperger's and HFA

Parenting Teenagers on the Autism Spectrum: Double Trouble?

Most experts do a great job of presenting the problems children with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autistic (HFA) face during their adolescent years, yet they offer few solutions. The years from twelve to seventeen may be the saddest and most difficult time for these young people. 

This is not true of every adolescent on the autism spectrum, though. Some do extremely well. Their indifference to what others think makes them indifferent to the intense peer pressure of adolescence. They can flourish within their specialty, and become accomplished musicians, historians, mathematicians, etc.

"Special needs" adolescents typically become more isolated socially during a period when they crave friendships and inclusion more than ever. In the cruel world of middle and high school, AS and HFA teens often face rejection, isolation and bullying. Meanwhile, school becomes more demanding in a period when they have to compete for college placements. Issues of sexuality and a desire for independence from moms and dads create even more problems.




Common issues to consider include:

Criminal Activity— Pain, loneliness and despair can lead to problems with drugs, sex and alcohol. In their overwhelming need to fit in and make friends, some AS and HFA teens fall into the wrong high school crowds. Adolescents who abuse substances will use the AS or HFA teen’s naivety to get him to buy or carry drugs and liquor for their group. If cornered by a police officer, a teenager on the autism spectrum usually does not have the skill to answer the officer’s questions appropriately. For example, if the officer says, “Do you know how fast you were driving?” a teenager on the spectrum may reply bluntly, “Yes,” and thus appears to be a smart-aleck.

Depression and Acting Out— The teenage years are more emotional for everyone. Yet the hormonal changes of adolescence coupled with the problems outlined above might mean that an AS or HFA adolescent becomes emotionally overwhelmed. Childish tantrums reappear. Boys often act up by physically attacking a teacher or peer. They may experience “melt down” at home after another day filled with harassment, bullying, pressure to conform, and rejection. Suicide and drug addiction become real concerns, as the adolescent now has access to cars, drugs and alcohol. The “saddest and most difficult time” can overwhelm not only the AS or HFA adolescent, but also his family.

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

Inability to “Be an Adolescent”— An AS or HFA teen typically does not care about adolescent fads and clothing styles - concerns that obsess everyone else in their peer group. These teens may neglect their hygiene and wear the same haircut for years. Boys forget to shave; girls don't comb their hair or follow fashion. Some remain stuck in a grammar school clothes and hobbies such as unicorns and Legos, instead of moving into adolescent concerns like Facebook and dating. Boys on the autism spectrum often have no motor coordination. This leaves them out of high school sports, typically an essential area of male bonding and friendship.

School Failures— Many AS and HFA teens with their average to above average IQs can sail through grammar school, and yet hit academic problems in middle and high school. They now have to deal with four to six teachers, instead of just one. The likelihood that at least one teacher will be indifferent or even hostile toward making special accommodations is certain. The AS or HFA student now has to face a series of classroom environments with different classmates, odors, distractions and noise levels, and sets of expectations. AS and HFA teens with their distractibility and difficulty organizing materials face similar academic problems as students with Attention Deficit Disorder. A high school term paper or a science fair project becomes impossible to manage because no one has taught the AS or HFA teen how to break it up into a series of small steps. Even though the academic stress on the adolescent can be overwhelming, school administrators may be reluctant to enroll him in special education at this late point in his educational career.

Sexual Issues— Adolescents on the spectrum are not privy to street knowledge of sex and dating behaviors that other adolescents pick up naturally. This leaves them naive and clueless about sex. Boys can become obsessed with Internet pornography and masturbation. They can be overly forward with a girl who is merely being kind, and then later face charges of stalking her. An AS or HFA adolescent may have a fully developed female body and no understanding of flirtation and non-verbal sexual cues, making her susceptible to harassment and even date rape.

Social Isolation— In the teenage world where everyone feels insecure, adolescents that appear different are voted off the island. AS and HFA teens often have odd mannerisms. One adolescent talks in a loud un-modulated voice, avoids eye contact, interrupts others, violates their physical space, and steers the conversation to her favorite odd topic. Another appears willful, selfish and aloof, mostly because he is unable to share his thoughts and feelings with others. Isolated and alone, many are too anxious to initiate social contact. Many \ adolescents on the spectrum are stiff and rule-oriented and act like little adults, which is a deadly trait in any teenage popularity contest. Friendship and all its nuances of reciprocity can be exhausting for an AS or HFA teenager, even though she wants it more than anything else. One girl ended a close friendship with this note: “Your expectations exhaust me. The phone calls, the girl talks, all your feelings...it's just too much for me. I can't take it anymore.”




How Moms and Dads Can Help Adolescents with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism—

Moms and dads of adolescents on the autism spectrum face many problems that others moms and dads do not. Time is running out for teaching their “special needs” teenager how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, “There's so little time, and so much left to do.” They face issues such as vocational training, teaching independent living, and providing lifetime financial support for their child, if necessary.

Meanwhile, their immature teen is often indifferent or even hostile to these concerns. Once an AS or HFA child enters the teen years, his mom and dad have to use reasoning and negotiation, instead of providing direction. Like all teenagers, he is harder to control and less likely to listen to his moms and dads. He may be tired of parents nagging him to look people in their eyes, brush his teeth, and wake up in time for school. He may hate school because he is dealing with social ostracism or academic failure there.

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

Here are some ways that moms and dads of adolescents with AS and HFA deal with common issues:

Appearance— Because of their sensitivity to textures, AS and HFA teens often wear the same clothes day in and day out. This is unacceptable in middle or high school. One idea that has worked for some moms and dads is to find an adolescent of the same age and sex as yours, and then enlist that person help you choose clothes that will enable your child to blend in with other adolescents. Insist that your adolescent practices good hygiene every day.

Driving— Most AS and HFA teens can learn to drive, but their process may take longer because of their poor motor coordination. Once they learn a set of rules, they are likely to follow them to the letter - a trait that helps in driving. However, they may have trouble dealing with unexpected situations on the road. Have your child carry a cell phone and give him a printed card that explains AS and HFA. Teach him to give the card to a police officer and phone you in a crisis.

Drugs and Alcohol— Alcoholic drinks or drugs often react adversely with your child’s prescriptions, so you have to teach your child about these dangers. Since most AS and HFA teens are very rule-oriented, try emphasizing that drugs and alcohol are illegal.

Life after High School— If your adolescent is college-bound, you have to prepare her for the experience. You can plan a trip to the campus, and show her where to buy books, where the health services are, and so forth. Teach her how to handle everyday problems such as “Where do you buy deodorant?” “What if you oversleep and miss a class?” As you prepare your adolescent for the workforce, keep in mind that people with AS and HFA often do not understand office politics. They have problems with the basics, such as handling criticism, controlling emotions, showing up on time, and working with the public. This does not mean they cannot hold down a job. Once they master certain aspects of employment, these young people are often able to work at high levels as accountants, research scientists, computer programmers, and so forth.

School— If the pressure on your child to conform is too great, if she faces constant harassment and rejection, if your principal and teaching staff do not cooperate with you, it may be time to find another school. The adolescent years are often when many moms and dads decide it is in their child’s best interest to enter special education or a therapeutic boarding school. In a boarding school, professionals guide your child academically and socially on a twenty-four-hour basis. They do not allow boys to isolate themselves with video games - everyone has to participate in social activities. A counseling staff helps with college placements. If you decide to work within a public-school system, you may have to hire a lawyer to get needed services. Your child should have an Individual Education Plan and accommodations for the learning disabled. This may mean placement in small classes, tutors, and special arrangements for gym and lunchtime. He should receive extra time for college board examinations. Teach your child to find a “safe place” at school where he can share emotions with a trusted professional. The safe place may be the offices of school nurse, guidance counselor, or psychologist.

Sex— You absolutely have to teach your “special needs” adolescent about sex. You will not be able to “talk around” the issue: you will have to be specific and detailed about safe sex, and teach your child to tell you about inappropriate touching by others. Your child may need remedial “sex education.” For example, a girl needs to understand she is too old to sit on laps or give hugs to strangers. A boy might have to learn to close toilet stall doors and masturbate only in private.

Social Life— When she was little, you could arrange play dates for her. Now you have to teach her how to initiate contact with others. Teach her how to leave phone messages and arrange details of social contacts such as transportation. Encourage her to join high school clubs like chess or drama. It is not necessary to tell her peers that she has a disorder - let her do that herself. Many adolescents on the autism spectrum are enjoying each other's company through Internet chat rooms, forums and message boards.

Summer and Part-Time Jobs— Most of these jobs - movie usher, fast food worker, store clerk, etc. - involve interaction with the public. This means they are not always a good fit for an adolescent with the disorder. Some AS and HFA teens can find work in their field of special interest, or in jobs that have little interpersonal interaction. Other adolescents have spent joyful summers at camps designed for adolescents like them.

How Parents Can Help Their Aspergers and HFA Teenagers: 25 Crucial Tips

Bottom line: Mothers and fathers of adolescents with Aspergers and high-functioning autism (HFA) face many problems that other parents don’t – and never will ...period!

Time is running out for teaching their Aspergers or HFA teen how to become an independent grown-up. As one mom stated, "There's so little time, and so much left to do." Parents with teens on the autism spectrum are getting ready to face issues like vocational training, teaching adult social skills and independent living, and providing lifetime financial support for their youngster (if needed). In the meantime, their childlike (and sometimes childish) teen is often indifferent – and even hostile – to the parent’s concerns for the future.

Once an Aspergers or HFA teen enters the teenage years, his mother/father has to use reasoning and negotiation, instead of providing direction. Like all teens, the teen on the spectrum is harder to control and less likely to listen to his parents. He may be tired of mom nagging him to “look people in the eyes,” brush his teeth, and wake up in time for school. He may hate school because he is dealing with social ostracism or academic failure there. So what is a parent to do? Can it get any more difficult for crying out loud!?
 

O.K. Take a deep breath and relax for a moment. Here are some ways that parents with Aspergers and HFA adolescents can deal effectively with some common, everyday issues:

1. Alcoholic drinks or drugs often react adversely with your youngster's prescriptions, so you have to teach your youngster about these dangers. Since most teens o the spectrum are very rule-oriented, try emphasizing that drugs and alcohol are illegal.

2. As you prepare your adolescent for the workforce, keep in mind that people with Aspergers and HA often do not understand office politics. They have problems with the basics, such as handling criticism, controlling emotions, showing up on time, and working with the public. This does not mean they cannot hold down a job. Once they master certain aspects of employment, Aspergers and HFA teens are often able to work at high levels as accountants, research scientists, computer programmers, and so forth.

3. Because of their sensitivity to textures, teens on the spectrum often wear the same clothes day in and day out. This is unacceptable in middle or high school. One idea that has worked for some moms and dads is to find an adolescent of the same age and sex as yours, and then enlist that person to help you choose clothes that will enable your youngster to blend in with other adolescents. Insist that your adolescent practice good hygiene every day.

4. Celebrate your teen’s humor, creativity, and passion.

5. Do you want to understand the Aspergers or HFA teen`s actions? Just ask yourself: What behavior would make sense if you only had 10 seconds to live?

6. Don’t argue or nag. Instead, either (a) decide that the issue is aggravating but not significant enough to warrant intervention, or (b) make an appointment with your teen to discuss the issue.

7. Forgive your teen and yourself nightly. You didn’t ask to live with the effects of the disorder any more your teen did.

8. If it is working, keep doing it. If not, do something else.

9. If the pressure on your youngster to conform is too great, if he faces constant harassment and rejection, and if your principal and teaching staff do not cooperate with you, then it may be time to find another school. The teenage years are often when many moms and dads decide it is in their youngster’s best interest to enter a special education setting. If you decide to work within a public school system, you may have to hire a lawyer to get needed services. Your youngster should have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and accommodations for the learning disabled. This may mean placement in small classes, tutors, and special arrangements for gym and lunchtime. He should receive extra time for tests and examinations. Teach your youngster to find a "safe place" at school where he can share emotions with a trusted staff member. The safe place may be the school nurse, guidance counselor, or psychologist.

10. If your adolescent is college-bound, you have to prepare him for the experience. You can plan a trip to the campus, and show him where to buy books, where the health services are, and so forth. Teach him how to handle everyday problems such as "Where do you buy deodorant?" and "What if you oversleep and miss a class?" 
 

11. Instead of punishing wrong behavior, set a reward for the correct behavior you would rather replace it with. Rewards should be immediate, frequent, powerful, clearly defined, and consistent.

12. Keep a sense of humor!!!

13. Know that teens on the spectrum are emotionally younger than their chronological age. So if your 15-year-old is still acting like a 10-year-old, things are going as expected.

14. Know that teenagers with the disorder have only 2 “time frames”: (a) Now and (b) Now. There is no future. There is only now. The past is non-negotiable.

15. Most Aspergers and HFA teens can learn to drive, but their process may take longer because of their poor motor coordination. Once they learn a set of rules, they are likely to follow them to the letter – a trait that helps in driving. However, these teens may have trouble dealing with unexpected situations on the road. Have your youngster carry a cell phone and give him a printed card that explains the disorder. Teach him to give the card to a police officer and phone you in a crisis.

16. Most summer and part-time jobs (e.g., movie usher, fast food worker, store clerk, etc.) involve interaction with the public. This means they are not always a good fit for an adolescent with Aspergers or HFA. Some teens on the spectrum can find work in their field of special interest, or in jobs that have little interpersonal interaction. Other adolescents have spent joyful summers at camps designed for adolescents like them.

17. Negotiate, negotiate, and negotiate. Moms and dads need to model negotiation, not inflexibility. Don’t worry about losing control. The mother and/or father always gets to decide when negotiation is over and which compromise is accepted.

18. Pick your fights carefully. Is the issue at hand worth chipping away at your relationship with your teen? Can your teen really control the offending behavior at this moment?

19. Plan ahead. Give warnings before transitions. Discuss in advance what is expected, and what the results might be. Have the teen repeat out loud the terms he just agreed to.

20. The teenage years are tough enough for every adolescent – but throw Aspergers or HFA in the mix, and you got a real challenge!

21. When your teenager was little, you could arrange play dates for him. Now you have to teach him how to initiate contact with others. Teach him how to leave phone messages and arrange details of social contacts such as transportation. Encourage him to join high school clubs like chess or drama. It is not necessary to tell his peers that he has a disorder – let him do that himself. Many adolescents with Aspergers and HFA are enjoying each other's company through Internet chat rooms, forums and message boards.

22. When tempers flare, allow everyone to cool off. Problem solving can only occur during times of composure. 
 

23. You absolutely have to teach your adolescent about sex. You will not be able to "talk around" the issue. You will have to be specific and detailed about safe sex, and teach your youngster to tell you about inappropriate touching by others. Your youngster may need remedial "sex education". For example, a girl needs to understand she is too old to sit on laps or give hugs to strangers. A boy might have to learn to close toilet stall doors (and masturbate only in private).

24. You do not have a standard teen. You can view the issue as a disability, or you can view it as wonderful uniqueness – or you can view it as both! The "disability” viewpoint will help because it eliminates blame, sets reasonable expectations thereby minimizing anger, and points the way for moms and dads and educators to see themselves as "therapists" – not victims. The “wonderful uniqueness” viewpoint will help because you really are in for a special – and often quite enjoyable – experience as a parent of a child on the autism spectrum.

25. You will make it through this – you have no choice. Always keep the following ideas in the back of your mind:
  • a teen with Aspergers or HFA is still a child with thoughts and feelings – you are the adult this youngster looks to for support and guidance
  • negative behaviors usually occur because the teen is spinning out of control, not because he is evil
  • the client in “Aspergers” is the whole family
  • the teenager who needs love and understanding the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways
  • this is hard work – and it is also hard work for your teen

Resist your impulse to strive and struggle to CHANGE your teenager …don’t strain to get desired results. Instead, enjoy the process of the work you are doing in raising him or her. The results you so desperately desire will come independently of your striving for them. Why? Because (a) you are doing a great job of parenting in spite of your opinion about your “parenting-skills” and (b) teens on the spectrum are late-bloomers. They “get it” eventually.

Take heart. Good luck. And don’t forget to take care of yourself!!!
 
More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:    
 
 

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

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

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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

Click here to read the full article…

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

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

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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

Click here
to read the full article...

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

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

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content