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

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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

Should my Aspergers teenager get a job?

If you have the perfect situation and your Aspergers (high functioning autistic) teenager is excited about the opportunity, then go for it. You know your youngster better than anyone, and many Aspergers teenagers can do very well working for others. However, if you are uneasy about sending your teenager off to a job, then consider the possibility of starting a home business with him. You and your teenager can work together. You can help him learn about responsibility, customer service, sales, marketing and book keeping.

Here are some business ideas to consider:

1. Elderly care. Stop by once a day, to bring in their paper, take out their garbage, and check in.

2. Pet Sitting or Grooming. If your Aspergers teenager loves animals (and doesn’t have allergies), pet sitting can be the perfect way for your teenager to make money and build self-esteem in the process. The only critical thing here is that you have to make sure they are meeting their appointments. Depending on your teenager’s level of responsibility, you may be driving and, possibly going with them. An alternative, of course, is to bring the pet to your home, if that’s an option.

3. Pooper scooper. Yes, you read that right. Yards get messy. People are busy. It’s a perfect fit. It’s not the most pleasant work, but, it is work that you can do on your own schedule. It’s flexible and it pays well.

4. Yard work. Raking, weeding, spreading mulch. All of these things can pay quite well for an Aspergers teenager. In fact, your teenager could easily make more money per hour than many of his classmates who have regular hourly jobs.

These are just a few of the many ways you and your Aspergers teenager can build a business together. Please, if your teenager cannot function in a fast paced job like McDonalds or a Movie Theater, then don’t force it. There are ways to help your youngster to learn the skills needed to become an entrepreneur instead.

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

Motivating Teens with Asperger's Syndrome

Question

I need to put drive in my 15 yr old son with Aspergers. When I discipline him with taking things away ... nothing seems to work unless I TOTALLY get frustrated ... then he reacts. I would like him to CARE.

Answer

Most teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism struggle with social skills, communication, and a limited diet. The causes of these struggles (e.g., social, communication and behavioral problems, sensory issues, etc.) can create the desire for isolation and a lack of motivation. Teens with Aspergers easily drop into a lonely state of depression, making the original problems that much worse.

Behavior modification is the most popular area of concentration when treating teens with Aspergers. Social skills therapy and living skills therapy are widely available and do bring about effective progress in most cases. However, you are looking for something new to try.

Motivation is the key to improving your teenager’s circumstances. Actually, motivation is a factor anytime you are seeking to modify any teenager’s unwanted behaviors. Now motivation in itself is definitely an old concept, but using motivation in a new way will create the wanted result for your teenager.

Old Motivation—

As moms and dads, we often use set motivators to achieve the behavior we feel is appropriate. The concentration has been placed on the behavior, which sets a negative tone to the process of change. You can’t blame a teenager for reacting negatively to a negative tone.

• Rewards or bribery- “If you do ______ today, I’ll buy you a ______.” We’re guilty of this one, too. This probably creates more confusion and greed than motivation over time.

• Punishment- “If you don’t do ______, then you will get ______!” We all use this at one time or another and over the course of time, it has proven to be an ineffective motivator.

New Motivation—

Motivators should be positive. It feels good to see your teenager happily learning or cooperating in desired behaviors. Motivators that appeal to the individual teenager should be used for maximum results. Motivation is definitely personal. What motivates one teenager will not work for every teenager.

• Routines- Keeping your teenager’s routines constant will improve his outlook. He’ll know what to expect at any given time, lessening the stress he feels.

• Special Interests- Using your teenager’s special interests both at home and at school can generate positive responses in all situations. For example, your 13-year-old's  love of trains can be used to encourage eating at home. Train themed dinnerware or even themed foods may be used to entice the reluctant eater.

==> DISCIPLINE FOR DEFIANT ASPERGERS TEENS

Aspergers Teens and "Sex Education"

Question

How should I approach the topic of sexuality with my 13-year-old Aspergers son?

Answer

The subjects of puberty, relationships, and sexuality are major sources of anxiety for teens with Aspergers (high functioning autism). Sexuality is often a tough subject for moms and dads to negotiate, as well. They often take a neutral position with these topics, hoping their kids learn about relationships by example and that the heavier, difficult topics are taught in school health class. While this approach does not always end poorly, it is a recipe for disaster when Aspergers is involved.

Teaching your teenager with Aspergers sexuality and puberty information is crucial. This is not information you want him to learn from his classmates, or worse, by doing his own Internet searches. Mother/fathers of kids with Aspergers should start with the very basics of sexuality, and move on to dating and relationships, since the social ability of a person is so intertwined with their sexuality.

Here are several important points to consider when teaching your youngster with Aspergers sexuality, puberty, and relationship information:

1. Adolescents with Aspergers need sexual education. During puberty, adolescents with Aspergers will develop the desire for sexual interactions. It's important to be explicit about the changes in their body and their emerging feelings. Moms and dads may want to help adolescents feel positive about their changing bodies. However, subtle explanations about sexuality will not register or may be misinterpreted. To help the adolescent understand sexual boundaries, moms and dads or caregivers must give detailed instructions as to what's appropriate depending on the adolescent's age and social abilities. Books or videos that are age appropriate may help the person with Aspergers better understand sexual relationships and behavior.

2. Be frank and straightforward. Speak using easy to understand descriptions and correct terminology.

3. Intimacy can be a struggle. People with this disorder struggle with the back-and-forth nature of intimate relationships. Dating and courtship can be confusing, as they rely on so many subtle or hidden rules and meanings. A teen with Aspergers may find empathy a foreign emotion, causing the other partner to feel isolated and alone. With social skills training and behavior therapy, the skills necessary to achieve an intimate relationship are within reach.

4. Make sure the information you are sharing is age-appropriate. For example, you would be less detailed for a 9-year-old than you would for a 16-year-old.

5. Repetition is necessary when teaching kids with Aspergers. Short sessions repeated over time will work best on any subject.

6. Sensory issues may impact sexuality. Hypersensitivity or under responsiveness are common in adolescents with Aspergers. This can impact their sexual behavior, either reducing the desire to be close or causing them to be overly needy of sex. When it comes to sexual behavior, they may not understand boundaries or limits. Moms and dads may want to use appropriate visual aids to explain touching others inappropriately, keeping their bodies appropriately clothed and touching private parts in public.

7. Sexual relationships challenge adolescents with Aspergers. The subtle cues of dating and sexual relationships may be difficult for adolescents with Aspergers to navigate. The syndrome is commonly known by a lack of social awareness or skills, communication difficulties, obsession with a particular topic or subject and poor coordination. Their social skills may impact the type of sexual relationships they develop. There is very little research into sexual behavior and adolescents with Aspergers. However, most adolescents who suffer with the syndrome show interest in sex. Society's norms on sexuality will not be intuitive to the person with Aspergers. The subtle cues of dating and sexual relationships may be difficult to navigate.

8. Use visual aids, like books and videos to engage your teenager in the conversations.

* A word about Aspergers adults:  Adults with Aspergers may present the sexual behavior of adolescents. Since Aspergers is a developmental delay, adults may experience sexual behavior similar to adolescents. They may be delayed in their social skills, which would manifest in their sexual relationships. These adults need to be made aware through observation or research which sexual behavior is age appropriate. Obsessive behavior is a symptom of Aspergers and may carry over to sexual relations. Also, some medications used to treat symptoms of the syndrome may also impact sexual desire.

On the issue of sexuality, there are two extremes, and you often find Aspergers teens clustered at both. On the one hand, there are the shy, prudish teens who consider it a big deal to unbutton the top button on their shirt or to wear shorts. At the other end, there are teens that think nothing of nudity and aren’t concerned who sees them. Surprisingly, there are also a number of confusing teens who flip back and forth between the two extremes.

Both types of Aspergers teens create social issues with the "prudish" type often being subjected to bullying over their appearance. They also often have problems attending gym class. These Aspergers teens often face longer-term life and relationship issues because social rejection in the teen years can often have lasting consequences. All too often, these teens have major issues with dating and with meeting others. In this regard, some of worst problems stem from their conservative dress sense and the fact that they would never set foot in many of the places where social activities are conducted (e.g., dances).

Not surprisingly though, it's the more "relaxed" types of Aspergers teens who tend to get themselves into the worst trouble. There's no mistaking the problems that girls who are just a little too forthcoming when talking about sexual issues or who flirt inappropriately attract amongst the less controlled members of our society. Male issues tend to be more likely to involve the police, or violence.

Your Aspergers teen’s tendencies will generally start to become obvious from an early age (typically around 5 or 6 years). One parent states, “My children are sent outside fully clothed to play, but frequently when I look out of the window, I see the discarded piles of their clothes on the ground and find them happily jumping around stark-naked on the trampoline where all our neighbors can see them. No amount of correction seems to get the message through. Even worse, they seem to have an unhealthy fascination with their organs and with ‘potty talk’ when their friends have mostly outgrown this.” The big problem with this delay is that it brings the parent uncomfortably close to puberty (a time when such frolicking and talk ceases to be innocent and becomes altogether more dangerous).

Like all teens, Aspergers teens are curious about their bodies and those of others around them. It's fairly normal for some younger kids to show themselves to others ("You show me yours and I'll show you mine"). Unfortunately, this is where the sexual and social delays and fascination with the wrong subjects can cause big problems. It is not uncommon for an Aspergers youngster to remain focused on the "show and tell" stage for much longer than their friends.

The other issue affecting teens with Aspergers is obsession. Aspergers teens are well known for forming fixations on objects, concepts and even people. These obsessions need to be monitored carefully lest they get out of control. It's not at all uncommon for Aspergers teens to develop sex obsessions, even without a partner. Most of these obsessions are perfectly safe behind closed doors, but if they are even discussed openly, there could be social problems (Aspergers teens have a tendency to say just a bit too much).

It's much more critical that “sexuality” gets discussed with Aspergers teens (versus teens that do NOT have Aspergers), because Aspies have more naivety and greater scope for trouble.

What exactly should be discussed?

Here are some ideas to help you, the parent, get started and keep the discussion going:

• Clearly state your feelings about specific issues, such as oral sex and intercourse. Present the risks objectively, including emotional pain, sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy. Explain that oral sex isn't a risk-free alternative to intercourse.

• If you're uncomfortable, say so — but explain that it's important to keep talking. If you don't know how to answer your adolescent's questions, offer to find the answers or look them up together.

• Don't lecture your Aspergers teenager or rely on scare tactics to discourage sexual activity. Instead, listen carefully. Understand his/her pressures, challenges and concerns.

• Let your Aspergers teenager know that it's OK to talk with you about sex whenever he or she has questions or concerns. Reward questions by saying, "I'm glad you came to me."

• Your Aspergers teenager needs accurate information about sex — but it's just as important to talk about feelings, attitudes and values. Examine questions of ethics and responsibility in the context of your personal or religious beliefs.

• When a TV program or music video raises issues about responsible sexual behavior, use it as a springboard for discussion. Remember that everyday moments — such as riding in the car or putting away groceries — sometimes offer the best opportunities to talk.

Be ready for questions like these:

What if my boyfriend/girlfriend wants to have sex, but I don't? 

Explain that no one should have sex out of a sense of obligation or fear. Any form of forced sex is rape, whether the perpetrator is a stranger or someone your Aspergers teenager has been dating. Impress upon your teenager that “no” always means “no”. Emphasize that alcohol and drugs impair judgment and reduce inhibitions, leading to situations in which date rape is more likely to occur.

What if I think I'm homosexual or bisexual?

Some Aspergers teenagers wonder at some point whether they are gay or bisexual. Help your teenager understand that he or she is just beginning to explore sexual attraction. These feelings may change as time goes on. Above all, however, let your child know that you love him/her unconditionally. Praise your child for sharing his/her feelings.

How will I know I'm ready to have sex?

Various factors — peer pressure, curiosity and loneliness, to name a few — steer some Aspergers teens into early sexual activity. But there's no rush. Remind your child that it's OK to wait. Sex is a “grown-up” behavior. In the meantime, there are many other ways to express affection — intimate talks, long walks, holding hands, listening to music, dancing, kissing, touching and hugging.

If your Aspergers teenager becomes sexually active — whether you think he/she is ready or not — it may be more important than ever to keep the conversation going. State your feelings openly and honestly. Remind your teenager that you expect him/her to take sex and the associated responsibilities seriously.

Stress the importance of safe sex, and make sure your Aspergers teenager understands how to get and use contraception. You might talk about keeping a sexual relationship exclusive, not only as a matter of trust and respect, but also to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections. Also, set and enforce reasonable boundaries (e.g., curfews and rules about visits from friends of the opposite sex.

Your child’s doctor can help, too. A routine checkup can give your Aspergers teenager the opportunity to address sexual activity and other behaviors in a supportive, confidential atmosphere — as well as learn about contraception and safe sex. For females, the doc may also stress the importance of routine HPV vaccination to help prevent genital warts and cervical cancer.

With the parent’s support, your Aspergers teenager can emerge into a sexually responsible adult. Be honest and speak from the heart. If your teenager doesn't seem interested in what you have to say about sex, say it anyway. He/she is probably listening – if not to you, to someone else (who may or may not have good advice).

Do not hesitate to enlist professional help for your teenager with Aspergers. Sexuality can be a stressful, anxiety filled topic. Your teen’s doctor and/or psychologist can help you if you have difficulty. With the right resources and professional assistance, if necessary, you can successfully prepare your teenager with Aspergers for adult relationships.


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

The Struggles of Adolescence: Help for Young People on the Autism Spectrum

“My 18 y.o. with Asperger syndrome (high functioning) is on my last nerve. He has been on in-school detention all week. Now he’s getting into trouble there too and is about to receive an out-of-school suspension. He simply doesn’t care anymore, and honestly, I think he is trying to get kicked out of school. He comes home and goes straight to his room for the rest of the evening to play online gaming (he will come out occasionally to eat a snack, but won’t eat dinner with the rest of us). He’s rude and hateful to me and his younger brother. I am at my wits end. No idea where I went wrong with this child. He has no friends to speak of, seems depressed and moody all time, and has even said he wished he wasn’t alive. I really have doubts that he will make it in the adult world at this point. He has already said he will not go to college or trade school. And he has never had an interest in working a part-time job so far. Please help!”

First of all, there is much more going on here than simple rebellion or defiance. Your son’s misbehavior is a symptom of some underlying factor(s). For example, many teens spend the entire school day under duress from peer-rejection, teasing and bullying. So, when they return home, some will take their frustration out on a “soft target” (in your case, his younger brother perhaps) as a way to discharge negative emotions. Also, some teens on the autism spectrum would love nothing more than to get kicked out of school due to (a) the mismatch between their educator’s teaching style and their individual learning style (most autistic teens learn visually), or (b) an unfriendly classroom environment that bombards and overloads their senses (most autistic teens have sensory sensitivities, such as sensitivity to excess noise, crowded hallways, smells from the cafeteria, and so on). Thus, the root cause(s) of the “misbehavior” needs to be uncovered before behavioral change can happen.



Adolescence is the most difficult time for teenagers with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS). Young people on the spectrum typically become more isolated socially during a period when they crave friendships and acceptance more than ever. In the harsh 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. So, who wouldn’t be acting-out under these circumstances?

Most autistic teenagers struggle with social skills, communication, and a limited diet. The causes of these struggles (e.g., social, communication and behavioral problems, sensory issues, etc.) can create the desire for isolation. They can easily drop into a lonely state of depression and/or anxiety, making the original problems much worse. Thus, helping the teen to boost his self-esteem and level of confidence is paramount.

So what can parents do to help their “special needs” adolescent? Below are some crucial tips for helping HFA and AS teens survive - and thrive - during the rough teenage years:

1. With or without an autism spectrum disorder, most teenagers become less willing to take a parent’s word or advice. Therefore, try to hook your teen up with other trustworthy adults. If you want him to learn or try to do something outside of his comfort zone (e.g., something other than playing video games all day), then arrange for the suggestion or information to come from a trusted adult other than you. Look for other good mentors (e.g., an uncle, scout or youth group leader, peer mentor, “Big Brother,” social skills group leader, coach or martial arts teacher, etc.).

2. Teenagers on the autism spectrum need developmentally-appropriate structure, but it requires sensitivity on your part to figure out what is needed when. Watch your teen, not the calendar. Try to get inside his head. Also, be prepared to run out of patience. Create your own back-up plan for when this happens (e.g., YOU take a time-out).

3. View “misbehavior” as a signal of needs. Everything your teen does tells you something about what he needs.

4. There are going to be occasions when negative consequences become necessary (e.g., grounding, taking away privileges, etc.), but they should always be immediate, definite, and relevant. Teens with autism 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.

5. The “transition plan” (which needs to be part of your teen’s IEP) should address the skills that your teen needs to acquire while in high school, in order to be prepared for the kind of independent life he wants to lead after graduation. Many high schools are unfamiliar with transition planning. The more you know as a mom or dad, the more you will be able to ensure that a solid transition plan is written and carried out.

6. Although most teenagers with HFA/AS are more child-like than their “typical” peers, be prepared to tolerate and/or ignore considerable distancing, hostility, 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 anxiety level and depression.

7. List the behaviors that you 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 autistic teens with sensory processing issues, and they can be easily replaced with more appropriate ones.

8. Teach laundry and other self-care/home-care skills by small steps over time. Also, try to get your teenager to take an elective at school (e.g., cooking, personal finance, etc.).

9. Special interests may change, but whatever the current one is, it remains an important source of motivation, pleasure, relaxation, and reassurance for your teenager.

10. Some teenagers on the spectrum adjust to high school with appropriate supports and accommodations. However, others just can’t handle a large, impersonal academic setting that exists in high school. You may need to hire an advocate to negotiate with the school system to pay for an alternative school placement, tuition, and transportation.

11. Seek out social skills groups designed especially for teenagers with autism. Participating in such a group and being accepted by group leaders and peers is probably the most powerful way to alleviate your teenager’s potential despair at not fitting-in socially and not having any friends. The positive social experiences and new skills he learns will be assets for the rest of his life.

12. Schedule regular monthly educational team meetings to monitor your teenager’s progress, to ensure that the IEP is being faithfully carried out, and to modify it if necessary. Because teenagers on the spectrum 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. If your child is doing very well, the team can agree to skip a month, but be sure to reconvene to plan the transition to the following year.

13. Reading body language and understanding sweeping generalizations can be quite frustrating for autistic teens. Thus, they usually benefit from systematic social training in which they are given the chance to role play, study body cues and language, and practice interpreting new signals that may not have been evident in early childhood.

14. Not all teenagers on the spectrum are ready for a residential college experience right after high school. To decide, use the evidence of how your teen did at sleep-away camp or similar samplings of independence, and look carefully at executive function skills (e.g., organizational skills). As an alternative, community colleges offer a lot of flexibility (e.g., easy admission, low cost, remedial courses if necessary, the option of a light course load, the security of living at home, etc.). Some college disability offices are more successful than others at providing effective, individualized support. However, if your teenager is living at home, you may be able more easily to sense trouble, step in with help, or secure supports he needs to succeed.

15. Make sure thorough neuropsychological re-evaluations are performed every 3 years. This information and documentation may be critical in (a) securing appropriate services, (b) alternative school placements, (c) a good transition plan, (d) choosing an appropriate college or other post-secondary program, and (e) proving eligibility for services and benefits as a grown-up.

16. 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 learning disabled teenagers, but may not realize your high-functioning autistic teen needs that help, too. They may also not know how to adapt existing programs to meet his needs.

17. 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.).

18. Instill the essential habit of a daily shower and clean clothes. Peers, teachers, and future potential employers are very put-off by poor hygiene. If possible, put your teenager’s clothes on a well-organized shelf in the bathroom near the clothes hamper.

19. In adolescence, communication becomes complicated as teenagers invent words, signs, and body language to discreetly talk with a friend. For a youngster with HFA/AS who has been struggling just to understand common social cues, this change can be frustrating and incredibly difficult to understand. The best scenario is when language is "concrete and definite." Teenage conversations that use shortened terms or lingo are going to be very difficult for a young person on the spectrum.

20. Impersonal, written communication is easier for the HFA/AS teenager to absorb (e.g., lists of routines and rules, notes, charts, calendars, etc.).

21. If your teenager seems like a good candidate for college, take him to visit colleges during the spring vacation weeks of the junior year of high school, or during the summers before junior and senior year. Visits reveal a lot about what environment your teenager will prefer. Also, purchase a large college guide to browse.

22. If you have not yet made a will and set up a special needs trust, do it now. Ask your lawyer about powers of attorney or other documents you may need once your teenager is no longer a minor. Few moms and dads assume guardianship of a young adult 18 or older, but it may be necessary and appropriate in some situations.

23. If you have not talked to your teenager about his disorder, you or someone else should do so (to the extent that he is ready to hear it). It’s tricky for teenagers on the spectrum – they so much want to be “normal” and strong and successful. A diagnosis can seem threatening or even totally unacceptable. In truth, however, adults on the spectrum 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).

24. If both parents can agree about their HFA or AS teenager’s diagnosis, treatment, and rules, it will save a lot of family wear and tear. To get your spouse on the same page, attend autism conferences or classes together. When you hear the same information, you can discuss it and decide what will work best for your teenager and in your family. As you learn more about autism spectrum disorders, you may also come to better appreciate each other’s contributions to your youngster’s welfare. Attend team meetings at the school together, or alternate which parent attends. Also, seeing your teen’s therapist together (possibly without the youngster), or seeing a couples or family therapist may help you weather a tough time together.

25. Have realistic, modest goals for what your teenager or the family can accomplish in a given time period. You may need to postpone some plans for career goals, for example.

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

27. Multiple stressors during adolescence often bring on anxiety and even depression in teens on the spectrum. Stressors may include increased academic/abstract thinking and social demands at school, peer pressure, increased social awareness, and fears of the future. Anxious teenagers who do not get help may be at risk for school failure, acting-out, alcohol and drug abuse, and even suicide attempts.

28. Consider delaying graduation in order to ensure that transition services are actually provided under DOE. It may be hard to convince an academically gifted, college bound student to accept this route. However, it may be very helpful for autistic students who will need a lot of help with independent living skills and employment issues. Services need not be delivered within high school walls. Community college courses, adaptive driving lessons, and employment internships are just a few alternatives to consider.

29. Build and use any support networks you can (e.g., extended family, close friends, church/synagogue groups, an understanding school staff, etc.). If you don’t have a good network, consider individual or family therapy for a little support during a stormy, demanding life passage. When you have a demanding teenager, it’s good to be reminded once a week that your needs and feelings are valid and important, too!

30. Remember that teenagers with HFA/AS are relatively immature - both socially and emotionally - compared to “typical” teens of the same chronological age. Adjust your expectations for your teen, and make sure he has appropriate supports.

31. Teenagers with HFA/AS are less prepared than “typical” teens for the new challenges of sexuality and romance. Many teens on the spectrum want a girl or boy friend, but are clueless about how to form and maintain a relationship. Autistic males may be at risk for accusations of harassment, and autistic females may be at risk for becoming victims. Teach appropriate rules. Look for supervised activities in which boys and girls can socialize safely together, supervised by a staff person who can coach appropriate social skills.

32. For a teenager with HFA/AS, friendships can be a struggle. Your youngster may not understand social cues, and may not know how to be someone's friend. He may feel the typical feelings of a first crush, but be uncertain on how to act on it. Social training can help these young people to understand social cues, slang, and meet other teens who feel similarly about how to deal with new friends. In these social trainings, teenagers can be taught how to listen, and how listening and reacting appropriately can lead to stronger bonds. Also, you should try to explicitly explain what the act of flirting is (e.g., by pointing it out on a TV show or movie).

33. A regular bed time at a reasonable hour is more important than ever. Regular routines of all kinds (e.g., familiar foods, rituals, vacations, etc.) are reassuring when the autistic teenager’s body, biochemistry, and social scene are changing so fast. Keeping your teen’s routines constant will improve his outlook. He will know what to expect at any given time, lessening the stress he feels.

34. Using your teenager’s special interests - both at home and at school - can generate positive responses in many situations. For instance, a 14-year-old's love of trains can be used to encourage eating at home. Train-themed dinnerware - or even themed foods - can be used to entice the reluctant eater.

In conclusion, young people with HFA and AS bring their special flavor to adolescence. Some will not avoid interacting with others. They are eager to communicate (though often in a clumsy, in-your-face way). The level of their insight into their social skills deficits will then become the determining factor of their social success. If they are unaware of their shortcomings in gauging the social atmosphere and reading social cues, they may inadvertently come across as rude, insulting or boring. They may miss subtle criticism and sarcasm. As they develop better insight, they will become more motivated to learn, which had not come naturally and intuitively.

In the social development of HFA and AS teens who show some interest in peer interactions, social anxiety and resultant avoidance play an important role. Some of these young people get very nervous just with the thought of approaching others and may choose to avoid it at all costs. Their avoidance may appear as if they are not interested in others. It is important to differentiate this since anxiety can be treated much more easily than genuine lack of interest.

Regardless of the individual developmental route, most teens on the spectrum start realizing that they are not quite like others at some point during their adolescence. Once the teenager realizes that he has significant difficulties in conducting social relationships compared to his peers, he needs deal with this loss, just like dealing with any other loss. Understanding the thoughts, feelings and behavior of a teen on the spectrum is the necessary first step in helping him out and being there for him. 

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

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.

----------


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

College Depression in Older Teens and Young Adults with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism

"The emotional transition to college has really been a challenge for our young adult child with HFA. He has struggled with depression even more than in the past during high school. He is having a lot of trouble dealing with this new stage of life — how you we help?!"

College depression is a common problem among older teens and young adults with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA). In this post, we will look at why the transition to college makes these “special needs” individuals vulnerable to depression — and what moms and dads can do about it.

College depression isn't a clinical diagnosis, rather it is depression that begins during college. AS and HFA students face many challenges, pressures and anxieties that can cause them to feel overwhelmed. For example:
  • Due to their “quirky” or odd behavior, they may experience ostracism from the peer group, teasing, or bullying.
  • Money and intimate relationships may serve as major sources of stress.
  • They are adapting to a new schedule and workload.
  • They are adjusting to life with roommates.
  • They may be living on their own for the first time and feeling homesick.
  • They are trying to figure out how to “fit-in.”

Dealing with these changes during the transition from the teenage years to adulthood can trigger depression during college in these individuals. College depression has been linked to:
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Risky behaviors related to drug and alcohol abuse
  • Smoking
  • Impaired academic performance
  • Preferring to isolate rather than socialize
  • Returning home after a failed attempt to adjust to college life

Many “typical” college students occasionally feel sad or anxious, but these emotions usually pass within a few days or weeks. However, with students on the autism spectrum, feelings of sadness or anxiety may persist and interfere with normal activities. This is often due to the fact that their emotional age is much younger than their chronological age. Thus, they are emotionally and socially unprepared to “mix” with peers who are developmentally advanced by comparison.



Signs that an AS or HFA student may be experiencing depression during college include:
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Angry outbursts
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Distractibility and decreased concentration
  • Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy
  • Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Fixation on past failures
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
  • Indecisiveness
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Self-blame when things aren't going right
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Unexplained physical problems (e.g., back pain, headaches, stomachaches, etc.)

Symptoms of depression can be difficult to notice if your teenager is no longer living at home. Also, AS and HFA students may have difficulty seeking help for depression out of embarrassment or fear of not “fitting-in.”

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

What should parents do if they suspect that their older teen or young adult is experiencing college depression?

1. Helping your AS or HFA teenager become accustomed to the college campus before the start of the school year may prevent him from feeling overwhelmed later in the semester. Encourage him to visit the campus and talk to other classmates, peer counselors, and faculty about what to expect and where to turn for support.

2. Encourage your teenager to avoid making major decisions (e.g., changing majors, doing too many things at once, etc.). Instead, help her to break up large tasks into small ones.

3. Encourage your teenager to get to know people in her dorm and classes. Caring classmates can help her to feel more comfortable in a new environment.

4. If you suspect that your teenager is struggling with depression, talk to him about what's going on – and listen. Encourage him to talk about his feelings. Also, ask him to make an appointment with a therapist as soon as possible. Most colleges offer mental health services.

5. If your teenager has risk factors for - or a history of - depression, talk to her doctor about what kind of counseling options might best help her with the transition to college. Also, help her become familiar with campus counseling resources.




6. Remember, depression may not get better on its own. In fact, it often gets worse if it isn't treated. Feelings of depression can also increase the likelihood of substance abuse and the risk of suicide. So, parents must intervene! Untreated depression can lead to other mental and physical health issues in other areas of life.

7. Urge your teenager to get involved in activities that he enjoys, which can help to shift the focus away from his negative feelings. Physical activity can be particularly helpful as well.

Helping your AS or HFA teenager make the emotional transition to college can be a major undertaking. Know how to identify whether he or she is having trouble dealing with this new stage of life — and what you can do to help. Remember, getting treatment at the earliest sign of a problem can relieve symptoms, prevent depression from returning, and help “special needs” students succeed in college.

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

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

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

Fostering Self-Acceptance in Teens on the Autism Spectrum

Most teenagers with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) experience frequent social failure and rejection by peers. Because social encounters are seldom reinforcing (rewarding), these young people often avoid social interaction.

Over time, they may develop negative attitudes about themselves and others. The poor self-esteem that may result makes it difficult to continue attempts at social interaction. As a result, the cycle continues. Therefore, social skills interventions are greatly needed – especially in the form of fostering self-acceptance.



Self-acceptance refers to a global affirmation of self. When an AS or HFA teen is self-accepting, he is able to embrace ALL facets of himself – not just the positive parts. As such, self-acceptance is unconditional, free of any qualification. The teen can recognize his weaknesses and limitations, but this awareness in no way interferes with his ability to fully accept himself. Furthermore, behavior clearly reflects feelings of self-acceptance For example, a teenager with high self-acceptance will be able to:
  • tolerate frustration
  • take pride in her accomplishments
  • offer assistance to others
  • handle positive and negative emotions
  • attempt new tasks and challenges
  • assume responsibility
  • act independently
  • accept mistakes as a path to learning and growth

Conversely, a teen with low self-acceptance will:
  • put down her own talents and abilities
  • feel, or pretend to feel, emotionally indifferent
  • feel unloved and unwanted
  • blame others for her own shortcomings
  • be unable to tolerate a normal level of frustration
  • be easily influenced
  • avoid trying new things

Moms and dads – more than anyone else – can promote their AS or HFA teen’s self-acceptance. It isn’t a difficult thing to do. If fact, you probably do it without even realizing that your words and actions have great impact on how your teen feels about herself.

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

Here are 30 crucial strategies to use that will help your “special needs” teen develop self-acceptance:

1. As much as possible, let your teen settle his own disputes between siblings, friends, and classmates.

2. Be supportive during a conflict. If, for example, your AS or HFA teenager is in the middle of a conflict at school, listen to her side of the story without being judgmental (even if you think she is at fault).  For example, say something such as, “I can understand why you think you’re a better choice for class president, and I’m sorry that you feel you have to point out Courtney’s shortcomings rather than concentrate on what makes you the better candidate.” The conflict may seem trivial to you, but to your teen, it could be a major source of strife in her life.  By developing the habit of supporting your teenager through the good and the bad, you will be laying a strong foundation for open communication when bigger problems arise.  Knowing that she has a parent to lean on who loves and accepts her will help build your teen’s self-acceptance over time.

3. Encourage your teen to exercise! Being active and fit helps him feel good about himself. He will relieve stress, and be healthier, too!

4. Encourage your teen to try new things, and to give herself credit. Urge her to experiment with different activities to help her get in touch with her talents. Then tell her that she should take pride in her new skills. One Asperger’s teenager signed up for track and found out that he was pretty fast! The positive thoughts associated with this discovery became good opinions of himself, and added up to high self-acceptance.

5. Encourage your teenager to ask for what she wants assertively, pointing out that there is no guarantee that she will get it. Reinforce her for asking – and avoid anticipating her wants.

6. Encourage your teenager to behave toward himself the way he would like his friends to behave toward him.

7. Encourage your teenager to develop hobbies and interests which give her pleasure and which she can pursue independently.

8. Help your AS or HFA teenager develop “tease tolerance” by pointing out that some teasing can’t hurt. Help him learn to cope with teasing by ignoring it while using positive self-talk (e.g., “names can never hurt me” … “teasing has no power over me” … “if I can avoid reacting to this teasing, then I’m building emotional muscles”).

9. Help your teen learn to focus on her strengths by pointing out to her all the things she can do well.

10. Help your teen to aim for effort rather than perfection. Some AS and HFA teens – especially those with OCD – get held back by their own pressure to be perfect. They lose out because they don't try (“If I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t want to do it at all”).

11. Help your teen to edit those thoughts that make him feel inferior (e.g., "That guy is so much better at basketball. I should just stop playing.”). Does your teen often compare himself with others and come up feeling less accomplished or less talented? Teach him to notice his negative, self-destructive thoughts.

12. Help your teen to focus on what goes well for her. Is she so used to focusing on her problems that they are all she can see? Say to her, “The next time you catch yourself dwelling on problems or complaints about yourself, find something positive to counter it.” Also, have your teen write down three good things about herself each day, or three things that went well that day because of her effort.

13. Help your teen to notice the critical things he says to himself. A harsh inner voice just tears you down. If your teen is in the habit of thinking self-critically, help him to re-train himself by re-wording negative, unkind thoughts into more helpful feedback.

14. Help your teen to recognize what she can change – and what she can't. If she realizes that she is unhappy with something about herself that she CAN change (e.g., getting to a healthy weight), help her to start today. If it's something she CANNOT change (e.g., her height), help her to work on accepting it. Obsessing about her "flaws" will skew her opinion of herself and lower her self-acceptance.

15. Help your teen to set goals. Ask him to think about what he would like to accomplish. Then help him make a plan for how to do it. Encourage him to stick with the plan and keep track of the progress. Urge your teen to train his inner voice to remind him of what he is accomplishing (e.g., I've been following my workout plan every day for 30 minutes. I feel good that I have kept my promise to myself. I know I can keep it up.").

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

16. Help your teen to view mistakes as learning opportunities. Teach her to accept that she will make mistakes. We all do. It’s part of learning. If, for example, your teen has the thought, "I always screw things up," remind her that she doesn’t ALWAYS make mistakes, just in this specific situation. What can she do differently next time?

17. Help your teenager to think in terms of alternative options and possibilities rather than depending on only one option for satisfaction. Whenever your teen thinks there is only one thing which can satisfy her, she limits her potential for being satisfied! The more you help your teenager realize that there are many options in every situation, the more you increase her potential for satisfaction.

18. Include your teen in everyday family decisions, and implement some of her suggestions. For example, what does she think about the new chairs you’re considering for the dining room table? AS and HFA teens love nothing better than to be treated like competent adults, and they’re usually flattered anytime that you invite them into the adult world.

19. Laugh with your teenager – and encourage her to laugh at herself. A young person who takes herself too seriously is undoubtedly decreasing her enjoyment in life. A good sense of humor and the ability to make light of life are important ingredients for increasing self-acceptance and overall enjoyment.

20. Let your teen know that he creates – and is responsible for – any feeling he experiences. Similarly, he is not responsible for others’ feelings.

21. Let your teen know that you are still interested in what is going on in his life, even though he’s a “big boy” now. Teens like to be self-sufficient and want their parent to believe that they have everything under control. But that doesn’t mean that the parent doesn’t need to keep the lines of communication open and flowing. So, when the parent asks questions, he or she should try to formulate them so that they require more than a “yes” or “no” answer (e.g., instead of asking, “How is history class going?” … ask, “What are you currently studying in history?”).

22. Sometimes it’s necessary to constructively criticize your teen’s behavior and choices. However, when the criticism is directed to him as a person, it can easily deteriorate into ridicule or shame. Therefore, learn to use “I statements” rather than “You statements” when giving criticism (e.g., “I would like you to keep your clothes in your closet – not lying all over the bedroom floor” … rather than saying, “Why are you such a slob? Can’t you get more organized?”).

23. Teach your teen the importance of helping others. For example, he can help clean up the neighborhood, participate in a walkathon for a good cause, tutor a classmate who's having trouble, or volunteer his time in some other way. When your teen can see that what he does makes a difference, it builds his positive opinion of himself and makes him feel good. That's self-acceptance.

24. Teach your teen to accept compliments. When self-acceptance is low, it's easy for young people to overlook the good things others say about them. They don't believe it when someone says a nice thing. Instead, they may think something like, “Yeah, but I'm not all that great…” and then brush off the compliment. Instead, encourage your teen to accept a compliment, appreciate it, and take it seriously. Also, teach her to give sincere compliments to others.

25. Teach your teen to change his “demands” to “preferences.” Point out that there is no reason he must get everything he wants – and that he need not feel angry either. Encourage him to work against anger by setting a good example and by reinforcing him when he displays “appropriate irritation” rather than “anger.”

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

26. Teach your teen to remind himself that everyone excels at different things. Help her to focus on what she does well, and cheer on others for their success. Self-talk such as, "He's a great football player, but I'm a better chess player” helps your teen accept himself and make the best of the situation.

27. Teach your teen to take pride in her opinions and ideas. Tell her that she need not be afraid to voice them. If someone disagrees with her, it's not a reflection on her worth or her intelligence. That person just sees things differently.

28. Teens remember positive statements that their parent says to them. They store them up and “replay” these statements to themselves. Thus, practice giving your teen words of encouragement throughout each day.

29. Use what is called “descriptive praise” to let your teen know when he is doing something well. Develop the habit of looking for situations in which your teen is doing a good job or displaying a skill (e.g., “I really like the way you straightened up the garage. You put each thing in its place”).

30. What you think determines how you feel – and how you feel determines how you behave. Thus, it’s important to teach your teen to be positive about how she “talks to herself” (e.g., “I can get this problem if I just keep trying” … “It’s OK that I didn’t get an ‘A’ on the test today” … “I tried my best, I can’t win them all”).

The primary aspect of AS and HFA that characterizes it as autistic is the problem of human connectedness. The term most commonly used to describe this core weakness of human connection is “reciprocity.” This refers to the teenager’s ability to engage other people in a way that makes others feel connected or not. In social conversation with a teenager with AS and HFA, eye contact is often poor, fleeting, or absent. These “special needs” teenagers may not be able to read subtle gestures and facial changes or to interpret subtleties in language (e.g., irony or sarcasm). They do not read or respond as most people do to small changes in body posture or to gestures. They seem either distant, stiff, or in other ways unconnected.

AS and HFA teenagers not only seem disconnected, but in some cases uninterested in being in relationships with others. They may generally have very little interest in the feelings, experiences, other human qualities, or possibilities of others and, hence, lack demonstrated empathy. They do not seem to derive pleasure from engaging others, learning about them, talking with them, or sharing experiences. In the many cases where the symptoms are milder, the teen may wish to connect with others, but simply does not know how. She may have feelings for others, but can’t seem to mobilize the demonstration of those feelings.

The good news is that parents (and teachers) can assist in these challenges by helping their AS or HFA teen to develop a set of social skills. And as mentioned above, the most important skill to possess in this endeavor is called “self-acceptance.” With self-acceptance, the teen capitalizes on his strengths rather than trying to “fix” his weaknesses, yet he accepts his weaknesses for what they are.



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

Teaching Interpersonal Relationship Skills to Teens on the Spectrum

"My son (high functioning, 15 years old) has a hard time learning from past 'social mistakes' and usually reacts without thinking through to the likely outcomes as he interacts with his peers. Is there a way to help him be a bit more insightful, that is, be able to generalize from one situation to the next and identify cause-and-effect re: the things he says and does around friends and classmates?"

Having positive peer relationships is important for all adolescents. Unfortunately, many teens with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have a hard time making and keeping friends and being accepted within the larger peer group. The perceived “odd behavior” associated with AS and HFA can wreak havoc in an adolescent's attempts to connect with classmates in positive ways.

Not being accepted by others, feeling isolated, different, unlikeable and alone – this is probably the most painful aspect of having AS and HFA. These negative experiences carry long-lasting effects. Positive connections with others are so important. Though teens with AS and HFA desperately want to make friends and be liked by the group, they often just don't know how. The good news is that parents can help their adolescent develop social skills and competencies.



Here are some important tips on how parents can help their “special needs” teenager to develop much needed social skills:

1. Adolescents with AS and HFA tend to have a hard time learning from past experiences. They often react without thinking through consequences. One way to help these young people is to provide immediate and frequent feedback about inappropriate behavior or social miscues. Role-playing can be very helpful to teach, model, and practice positive social skills, as well as ways to respond to challenging situations like bullying.

2. An after-school or weekend job can let a teenager practice some social skills and gain self-confidence. Many AS/HFA teens feel they are doomed to social isolation until they, for example, land a job at McDonald’s. In this case, the teen just might begin talking to classmates who work at – or come into – the restaurant, and then get to know many of them outside of work.

3. As an adolescent reaches young adulthood, friendships are often more complicated, but it is equally important for you to continue to be involved and to facilitate positive peer interactions. The middle school and high school years can be brutal for an adolescent who struggles socially. Even if an adolescent remains unaccepted by the peer group at large, having at least one good friend during these years can often protect him or her from the most damaging effects of ostracism by the peer group.

4. AS and HFA teenagers need planned activities. Although you, as the parent, no longer plan and supervise your teenager as closely as you did back in the day, church organizations, scout groups, and other after-school or community activities can provide structure for the teenager who can’t find a crowd on his or her own. The grown-ups who run such groups are generally committed to involving all the teens. They’ll take the time to talk to a teenager standing on the edge of the group and encourage him or her to join in.

5. Clearly identify and give information to your adolescent about social rules and the behaviors you want to see. Practice these prosocial skills again and again and again. Shape positive behaviors with immediate rewards.

6. Communicate with the school, coaches, and neighborhood parents, so that you know what is going on with your adolescent and with whom your adolescent is spending time. An adolescent's peer group and the characteristics of this group have a strong influence on the young people within the group. A middle or high school age adolescent who has experienced social isolation and repeated rejection and simply wants to "belong" somewhere is often more vulnerable to moving into any peer group that will be accepting – even when that group is a negative influence.

7. Collaborate with your adolescent's school to make sure the classroom environment is as "AS/HFA-friendly" as possible so that your adolescent is better able to manage his or her symptoms. Work together with the school staff on effective behavior management approaches and social skills training.

8. Focus on one or two areas that are most difficult for your adolescent so that (a) the learning process doesn't become too overwhelming and (b) your adolescent is more likely to experience successes. Keep in mind that many teens with AS and HFA have difficulty with the basics like starting and maintaining a conversation or interacting with another individual in a reciprocal manner (e.g., listening, asking about the other person’s ideas or feelings, taking turns in the conversation, showing interest in his or her peer, etc.), negotiating and resolving conflicts as they arise, sharing, maintaining personal space, and even speaking in a normal tone of voice that isn't too monotone.

9. High schools are usually much larger than elementary and middle schools – and the school-wide social scene can be daunting to navigate for AS/HFA teens. Conversation and friendship come more easily among teenagers who have a shared interest. Encourage your teen to sign up for clubs or activities that will put him or her in touch with like-minded peers. An outing with the Spanish club may spark conversation with a peer in a different class.

10. If a teenager is seriously struggling on the social front, his or her "jump start" might be a formal group designed to teach social skills. Such groups are generally led by a psychologist or therapist, and may be sponsored by schools or community centers. The format may involve structured tasks or be an open forum for conversation, with feedback coming from both group leaders and peers.





11. Once an adolescent is labeled by his or her peer group in a negative way because of social skills deficits, it can be very hard to dispel this reputation. In fact, having a negative reputation is perhaps one of the largest obstacles your adolescent may have to overcome socially. Studies have found that the negative peer status of adolescents with AS and HFA is often already established by early-to-middle elementary school years, and this reputation can stick with the adolescent even as he or she begins to make positive changes in social skills. For this reason, it can be helpful for moms and dads to work with their adolescent's teachers, coaches, etc. to try to address these reputational effects.

12. Get involved in groups that foster positive peer relationships and social skills development (e.g., Boy Scouts, Indian Guides, Girl Scouts, Girls on the Run, sports teams, etc.). Make sure the group leaders or coaches are familiar with AS and HFA and can create a supportive and positive environment for learning prosocial skills.

13. Research finds that adolescents with AS and HFA tend to be extremely poor monitors of their own social behavior. They often do not have a clear understanding or awareness about social situations and the reactions they provoke in others. For example, they may feel that an interaction with a classmate went well – when it clearly did not. AS and HFA-related difficulties can result in weaknesses in this ability to accurately assess or "read" a social situation, self-evaluate, self-monitor, and adjust as necessary. These skills must be taught directly to your adolescent.

14. Some AS/HFA teenagers do best in smaller groups with some parental monitoring. Although moms and dads are generally viewed as "not cool" to most teenagers, your presence is acceptable in certain situations. A teenager that is reluctant to call a friend to "hang out" might be persuaded to invite a friend or two to a sporting event, if mom gets a few tickets.

15. Establish a positive working relationship with your adolescent's teacher. Share about your adolescent's areas of strength and interests, as well as areas of weaknesses – and strategies you have found to be most helpful in minimizing those weaknesses.

Cultivating friendships during adolescence can be an awesome task for the teenager with AS and HFA. Cliques are hard to break into, and delayed maturity is a roadblock to social success. While some AS/HFA adolescents win friends with their enthusiasm and off-beat humor, others find themselves ostracized, seen by their peers as over-bearing or immature. Parents can NOT structure their teen’s social life as they did through elementary and middle school, but by using the suggestions above, they CAN give the little push that can get their teen started on the path to effective interpersonal relationships.

Tips for teachers with AS/HFA students:

1. Adolescent students often look to their teachers when forming social preferences about their peers. A teacher's warmth, patience, acceptance, and gentle redirection can serve as a model for the peer group and have some effect on a “special needs” student’s social status.

2. Pairing the “special needs” student up with a compassionate "buddy" within the classroom can help facilitate social acceptance.

3. When a “special needs” student has experienced failures at school, it becomes even more important for the student’s teacher to consciously find ways to draw positive attention to him or her. One way to do this is to assign the student special tasks and responsibilities in the presence of the other students in the classroom. Make sure these are responsibilities in which your student can experience success and develop better feelings of self-worth and acceptance within the classroom. Doing this also provides opportunities for the peer group to view your “special needs” student in a positive light and may help to stop the group process of peer rejection.

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

Guiding Asperger’s and HFA Teens Through Adolescence To Adulthood

Parenting any adolescent has its challenges. When he or she has Asperger’s (AS) or High Functioning Autism (HFA), the challenges are even greater. While most young people on the autism spectrum attend regular school, have friends, and participate in the same activities as their peers, they possess certain traits - and face certain obstacles - that “typical” adolescents don’t. For example:
  • Adolescents on the autism spectrum might imitate what they have learned in books or movies, and their voices might sound flat or boring.
  • Many AS and HFA adolescents prefer to be alone and may not show an interest in making friends. 
  • Some are quiet and withdrawn. 
  • They often don’t understand the importance of eye contact – and may avoid it altogether. 
  • They have trouble understanding jokes or sarcasm.
  • Some AS and HFA adolescents don’t understand socially acceptable ways to express frustration, and may become aggressive or throw tantrums.
  • Most of these young people are socially awkward since they have difficulty processing social cues, (e.g., body language, sarcasm, humor, figurative language, emotional responses, and facial expressions). These nuances of social interaction may fall unnoticed to the adolescent.
  • Sometimes they seem insensitive or look unemotional, but often they just don't know how to express how they're feeling. It doesn't mean they don't have feelings – it’s just more difficult for them to show those feelings or understand the feelings of others.
  • Many of these adolescents have trouble coping with change, and may not react well to changes in routine.
  • Most report that they feel "sensory overload" (e.g., they have heightened senses that can make noises seem louder and more startling, and lights may seem brighter). 
  • Regarding sexuality, special issues that may need to be addressed for these adolescents include: communicating about inappropriate behavior, dealing with menstrual cycles, distinguishing between appropriate and inappropriate touching, maintaining physical boundaries with others, physical changes, and refraining from self-touch.
  • The hallmark of AS and HFA is “social development” issues. These adolescents have trouble interacting with others. The part of the brain that recognizes and displays human emotion has developed differently, and a smile or a frown does not hold the same emotional significance as it does for a “typical” teenager.
  • AS and HFA traits can include fixation on objects and ideas, or making repetitive motions or using repetitive speech.



Adolescents with AS and HFA need time to gradually learn and practice adult life-skills (e.g., finding a job, managing finances, doing laundry, preparing meals, driving a car, arranging medical appointments, etc.). They may not be ready for adult responsibilities at the same age as their “typical” peers. Thus, it’s very important that parents help their “special needs” teenagers learn to be comfortable with their own situation and abilities.

Below are some suggestions for how parents can guide their AS and HFA teenagers through adolescence – and prepare them for adulthood:

1. AS and HFA adolescents can learn appropriate behaviors, and many of them work hard to learn emotional interpretation and response. Also, they DO feel emotions (e.g., empathy); however, it’s learning to express these emotions in a way others understand that is difficult. The earlier the symptoms of AS and HFA are addressed, the more likely it’s that the adolescent will have better success in his or her social interactions.

2. Adolescents on the autism spectrum need to know both the mechanics and morals connected with sex. Books and classes have suggestions about how to handle the topic.

3. Assign age-appropriate chores. Your “special needs” teenager can begin with simple tasks (e.g., setting the table, taking out the garbage, etc.). Later, she can take on larger tasks (e.g., preparing a simple meal once a week for the family).

4. Base your support and expectations on your teen's abilities, level of emotional security, and history – not on her chronological age or what her peers are doing.

5. Celebrate and enjoy each milestone your teen reaches on the road to self-sufficiency. But at the same time, understand that you are going to have frustrations, and that this phase is going to bring a whole new set of stressors.

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

6. Check with your adolescent's school about any transition services the district may provide.

7. Don’t rescue your teenager by paying off her debts or by making excuses to her teacher for a failing grade. Let her feel the consequences, and the lessons will be long lasting.

8. Emphasize that your teen’s main responsibility at this stage in life is to get an education. It’s difficult to become a successful, self-supporting grown-up in contemporary society without at least a high school diploma. If marks and test results start to decline, be sure to show concern and take measures to reverse the trend as quickly and as forcefully as possible.

9. Enroll your teenager in a life-skills class, and also teach these skills at home.

10. Explain how you will help your adolescent move into adult life. AS and HFA adolescents need to know how long they can live at home and whether or not their mom and dad will help them with their first apartment rental, pay college tuition, keep them on the family health insurance, etc.


11. Explore substitutes or assistance for skills that are not manageable. As the parent, you are the best judge of when your adolescent is ready to partially or fully manage adult tasks.

12. Get your teen involved in peer-mentoring groups to learn life and job skills.

13. Group video instruction can help teens with AS and HFA learn important social skills. While the diagnosis rate for AS and HFA for 14- to 17-year-olds has more than doubled in the past five years, very few strategies have been found to help these teens develop the social skills they need to be successful. Studies have shown AS and HFA teens are more likely to pay attention when an innovative technology delivers the information. Video-based group instruction is important, given the often limited resources in schools that also face increasing numbers of students being diagnosed with AS and HFA.

14. Have your teenager meet with other AS and HFA adolescents with similar challenges. This can make her feel not so alone and ostracized.

15. Include your teenager in groups (e.g., support, therapy, social and sports groups).

16. Lead by example. Teens absorb attitudes, behaviors and habits from their parents. When they see the family wage-earners going to work daily, and both mom and dad cooperating to do cleaning, cooking and other household chores, they come to understand that everyone needs to contribute to the welfare of the family.

17. Make a list of the skills you believe your “special needs” teen will need in the outside world. Do this as you go through your day – working, shopping, paying bills, cooking and performing other normal tasks. Writing the list yourself will make you aware of behaviors that you can model and share with your adolescent. Show the list to his teachers, doctor, therapist and any other caregiver who helps him. Ask these people to review and add to the tasks, using their knowledge of your teen’s abilities and problems. Also, turn the everyday activities from your list into “teaching moments” (e.g., at the grocery store, you can ask your teen to find the least expensive canned peaches; wait at a bus stop and demonstrate how to pay the fare, find a seat and get off at the right stop; show your teen simple cooking and cleaning methods, etc.).

18. One of the greatest gifts you can give your AS or HFA adolescent is the ability to handle his emotions. Teaching him how to identify, reflect on, and deal with his feelings by the time he leaves home is one of the best ways to prepare him for adulthood. In fact, this emotional strength and ability will take your child much farther in life than intellectual ability or a specific ability (e.g., athletic or artistic ability).

19. Provide ongoing emotional and tangible support even after your young adult moves out of your home. Moms and dads who visit frequently, assist with household management, help to fill out tax forms, etc., help their adult children not feel too overwhelmed as they adjust to life away from parents.

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

20. Remember that under Federal law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), by the time a special education student reaches age 16, the school is to provide a plan that may include help obtaining further education, getting a job, or living independently. Moms and dads need to advocate for these services. Communicate respectfully, clearly, and often with your school's "transition coordinator" about your teen's transition plan.

21. See that your adolescent gets enough experience in normal social etiquette (e.g., talking to a store clerk, relating to friends at a party, asking for information, etc.).

22. Seek out social-skills classes sponsored by local schools, community centers, colleges or charitable foundations.

23. Teach and re-teach your adolescent adult life-skills (e.g., balancing a checkbook, paying off a credit card balance, cooking, laundry, car maintenance, making doctor appointments, etc.). Provide abundant opportunities for supervised practice.

24. The most important thing moms and dads can do is to “let go” of their “special needs” teen and let him experience success -- and failure -- on his own. No matter how complex the special need is, that teenager will be striving for a state of independence. He wants that, just like all teens want independence. As true as this may be, it can be challenging emotionally for moms and dads to transition from a protective, advocatory role and to permit new degrees of autonomy.

25. The next time you talk to your AS or HFA adolescent about a problem she is facing, help her to reason on how her choices reflect on her. Help her to see how her choices either enhance her reputation or tarnish it, which in turn will help or hurt her future prospects.

26. Very few young adults on the autism spectrum are ready for full "independent" living. They all need ongoing support and encouragement from parents as they learn to negotiate the adult world. “Launching” AS and HFA individuals from the “nest” brings some unique challenges. Initially, "interdependence" rather than "independence" is a more fitting goal for these young people as they begin to venture into the world.

27. When a problematic issue arises, try reversing roles. Ask your adolescent what advice she would give you if you were her child. Have her do research to come up with reasons to support – or challenge – her thinking. Discuss the matter again within a week.

28. When your adolescent shows that she is handling her social life, schoolwork, and part-time employment well, you can start to gradually loosen the apron strings and trust her with more responsibility. This may be the time to go on a short vacation and leave your adolescent home alone to look after herself and the house. Soon she'll be off to college or university (hopefully), and she needs to practice being on her own.

29. Write down one or two areas in which you could extend a little more freedom to your “special needs” teenager. Explain to her that you are extending this freedom on a trial basis. If she handles it responsibly, in time she can be granted more. If she does not do so, the freedoms she has been granted will be curtailed.

30. Your AS or HFA teen needs to be socialized. Give her plenty of opportunities to mix amicably with other people of all age groups. She should visit restaurants, movies, and malls and learn to behave appropriately in all circumstances. Grown-ups don’t live in isolation. They need to interact graciously with different types of people in a variety of milieus. As your teenager matures, she should improve her social skills so she can converse pleasantly with anyone in diverse situations.

As mentioned earlier, young people on the autism spectrum need extra time to learn and practice adult life-skills, because their “emotional age” is much younger than their “chronological age” …in other words, you may have a teenager who is 17-years-old chronologically, but emotionally more like 14-year-old. So, the earlier you begin helping out in this area – the better!

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

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

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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

Click here to read the full article…

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

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

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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

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to read the full article...

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

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

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content