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Helping Your Teenager with ASD to Eliminate Thinking Errors

"How can I help my teen with autism (high functioning) to not be so negative? He tends to view everything EVERYTHING through the lens of defeat. His self esteem is a big fat ZERO... no confidence whatsoever!!!"

Many children and teens with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) experience “thinking errors,” largely due to a phenomenon called “mind-blindness.” 
 
Mind-blindness can be described as a cognitive disorder where the child is unable to attribute mental states (e.g., emotions, beliefs, desires, motives) to himself or others. This ability to develop a mental awareness of what is in the mind of another person is known as the “Theory of Mind.”

Generally speaking, the “Mind-blindness Theory” asserts that young people on the autism spectrum are delayed in developing a Theory of Mind, which normally allows developing kids to “put themselves into someone else's shoes” (i.e., empathy) and to imagine their thoughts and feelings.

Children and teens with AS and HFA often can’t conceptualize, understand, or predict emotional states in other people. When this happens, they tend to fill-in the blank with their own interpretation, which is usually inaccurate – and we call this a “thinking error.”

Thinking errors are irrational patterns of cognition that can cause your AS or HFA teen to feel bad and sometimes act in self-defeating ways. If she becomes more upset the more she thinks about a troubling circumstance, she may want to consider the possibility of thinking in a different way. And you, as the parent, can help with this.

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First, let’s look at the main thinking errors so you can get a glimpse into how your AS or HFA teen may be misinterpreting the world:

1. ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING – Thinking of things in absolute terms (e.g., “always”, “every”, “never”). For instance, if your teenager makes an ‘F’ on her book report, she views herself as a total failure.

2. CATASTROPHIZING – Focusing on the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or thinking that a situation is unbearable or impossible when it is really just uncomfortable.

3. DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE – Continually “shooting down” positive experiences for arbitrary, impromptu reasons. In this way, your teen can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by his everyday experiences (e.g., “The fact that I am an excellent artist doesn’t count because everything else about my life sucks!”).

4. EMOTIONAL REASONING – Your teen makes decisions and arguments based on how she “feels” rather than objective reality.

5. FORTUNE TELLING – Anticipating that things will turn out badly, your teen feels convinced that her prediction is an already established fact (e.g., “Because I ‘think’ that I will fail to make the cheerleading squad, I most certainly WILL fail!”).

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

6. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS – Assuming something negative where there is actually no evidence to support it (e.g., “Nobody wants to be my friend!”).

7. LABELLING – This involves “explaining by naming.” Rather than describing the specific behavior, your teen assigns a label to someone (or herself) that puts the other person (or herself) in absolute and unalterable negative terms (e.g., “My friend won’t talk to me; therefore, she is a jerk!”).

8. MAGNIFICATION – This involves exaggerating the negatives.

9. MENTAL FILTER – Focusing exclusively on certain (and usually negative or upsetting) aspects of something while ignoring the rest. For instance, your teen selectively hears the one tiny negative thing surrounded by all the BIG POSITIVE things (your teen’s teacher makes 9 positive comments about his science project, and only one negative comment – but your teen obsesses about the one negative comment).

10. MIND READING – This involves assuming the intentions of others. For example, your teen arbitrarily concludes that a peer is thinking negatively of him, but your teen doesn’t bother to check it out.

11. MINIMIZATION – This involves understating the positives.

12. OVERGENERALIZATION – Taking isolated cases and using them to make sweeping generalizations. For instance, you teen views a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat (e.g., “My teacher just yelled at me. She’s always yelling at me. She must not like me.”).

13. PERSONALIZATION – This occurs when your teen holds himself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under his control (e.g., “My parents are getting divorced. It must be because I’m a bad son!”).

14. SHOULDING – Your teen focuses on what he can’t control. For instance, he concentrates on what he thinks “should” or “ought to be” rather than the actual situation he is faced with.

Helping your AS or HFA teenager to identify negative self-talk is tricky because it's so automatic, she may not even be aware of what’s going on in her own mind. However, if your teen is feeling depressed, angry, anxious or upset, this is a signal that she needs to reflect on her thinking. A good way to test the accuracy of her perceptions is to ask herself some challenging questions. These questions will help your teen check out her self-talk and see whether her current interpretation is reasonable. It can also help her discover other ways of thinking about the situation.


Should Asperger's and HFA Teens Try To Be "Normal"? 




Helping your teen to recognize that his current way of thinking may be self-defeating (and preventing him from getting what he wants out of life) can sometimes motivate him to look at things from a different perspective.   

Here’s how:
  1. Alternative explanations: What else could the situation mean? If I were being positive, how would I perceive this situation? Are there other ways that I could look at this situation?
  2. Goal-directed thinking: What can I do that will help me solve the problem? Is thinking this way helping me feel good or achieve my goals? Is there something I can learn from this situation to help me in the future? Is there anything good about this situation? Is this situation as bad as I’m making it out to be?
  3. Perspective change: Will this matter in a year from now? What’s the worst thing that could happen? What’s the best thing that could happen? What’s most likely to happen?
  4. Reality testing: Am I jumping to negative conclusions? Are my thoughts based on facts, or my interpretation of the situation? How can I find out if my thoughts are true? What evidence supports my thinking?

Here’s how to help your teen apply different perspective-taking strategies as outlined above: Have him think of a situation in the last week when he found himself feeling rotten. He may have been upset, stressed, angry, depressed, embarrassed or guilty. Help him to apply some of the above strategies based on his particular situation.  

For example:
  • “I totally screwed-up that book report. I'm a loser and I'll never get good grades” …changes to, “I didn't do as well on that book report as I would have liked, but that doesn't mean I'm going to fail all my classes.”
  • “I tried on those jeans, and I looked so fat and ugly” …changes to, “I tried on those jeans, and they were too small.”
  • “Michael, the boy I have a crush on, said ‘hi’ to me and I made a total idiot of myself” …changes to, “Michael said ‘hi’ to me and I blushed and looked away. It's ok to be shy.”

Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique that consists of identifying – and then disputing – irrational or maladaptive thoughts. Reframing is a way of viewing and experiencing ideas, events, emotions and concepts to find more positive alternatives. The ability to reframe is a crucial skill for young people on the autism spectrum, especially in light of their mind-blindness issues. Parents can assist in teaching such skills.  

Here’s how:

1. Help your AS or HFA teen to accept that frustration is a normal part of life. Most young people on the autism spectrum get intolerant when they have to do things they don’t enjoy. They tell themselves that they “can’t stand” certain things instead of acknowledging that they simply don’t enjoy them. Thus, they easily become angry and frustrated. The reframe: “This is a hassle, and that’s O.K.! Life is full of hassles. I don’t enjoy it, but I can stand it.”

2. Help your teen to be specific. Over-generalizing is a lot like exaggeration. When your teen over-generalizes, she exaggerates the frequency of negative things in her life (e.g., mistakes, disapproval, failures, etc.). Typically, your teen may think to herself, “I always make mistakes,” or “Everyone thinks I’m dumb.” The reframe: “What are the facts? What are my interpretations? Am I over-generalizing?”

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

3. Help your teen to consider the whole picture. When he “filters,” first he hones-in on the negative aspects of his circumstances. Then he ignores or dismisses all the positive aspects. The reframe: “Is there a more balanced way to look at this situation? Am I looking at the negatives while ignoring the positives?”

4. Help your teen to understand that she shouldn’t just assume she knows what others are thinking. Your teen may be assuming that others are focused on her faults and weaknesses – but this is almost always incorrect! Her worst critic is probably herself. The reframe: “Just because I assume something, does that mean I’m right? What is the evidence? How do I know what other people are thinking?”

5. Help your teen to find all the causes. When he personalizes, he blames himself for anything that goes wrong – even when it’s not his fault or responsibility. The reframe: “What other explanations might there be for this situation? Am I really to blame? Is this all about me?”

6. Teach your teen to judge the situation – not the person. When she uses labels, she may call herself or other people names. Instead of being specific (e.g., “That was a silly thing to do”), your teen may make negative generalizations about herself or other people by saying things such as, “I’m fat and ugly,” or “He’s an asshole.” The reframe: “Just because there is something that I’m not happy with, does that mean that it’s totally no good? What are the facts and what are my interpretations?”

7. Help your teen to look for shades of gray. It’s important for him to avoid thinking about things in terms of extremes. Most things aren’t black-and-white, but somewhere in-between. Just because something isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that it’s a catastrophe. The reframe: “Am I taking an extreme view? How else can I think about the situation? Is it really so bad, or am I seeing things in black-and-white terms?”

8. Help your teen to put things in proper perspective. When things go wrong, he may have a tendency to exaggerate the consequences and imagine that the results will be catastrophic. The reframe: “Is there any way to fix the situation? Is there anything good about the situation? What’s most likely to happen? What’s the best that can happen? What’s the worst that can happen? Will this matter in a year from now?”

9. Encourage your teen to stick to the facts. Sometimes she may confuse her thoughts or feelings with reality. She may assume that her perceptions are correct. The reframe: “Am I thinking this way just because I’m feeling bad right now? Am I confusing my feelings with the facts? Just because I’m feeling this way, does that mean my perceptions are correct?”

10. Help your teen to stop making unfair comparisons. Another common thinking error that your teen may be using is to make unfair comparisons between certain people and himself. When he does this, he compares himself with others who have a specific advantage in some area. Making unfair comparisons can leave him feeling inadequate. The reframe: “Am I making fair comparisons? Am I comparing myself with people who have a particular advantage?”

Thinking errors are simply ways that your AS or HFA teen’s mind convinces him of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions (e.g., telling yourself things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep you feeling bad about yourself).

Thinking errors are at the core of what many therapists try and help a client learn to change in psychotherapy. By learning to correctly identify this kind of faulty cognition, the client can then answer the negative thinking back – and refute it. By refuting the negative thinking over and over again, it slowly diminishes overtime and is automatically replaced by more rational, balanced thinking. You, as the parent, can begin to take on the role of psychotherapist (in a manner of speaking) by utilizing the strategies listed above.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

Helping Children on the Autism Spectrum to Eliminate “Thinking Errors”

"Can you help me come up with some ideas on anger-control for my 6 y.o. son with autism (high functioning)? Unexpected moodiness and anxiety are major problems as well."

Philosophers have long known that your thoughts can be your own worst enemy. As Shakespeare once said, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Children and teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are especially vulnerable to such “thinking errors” due to a phenomenon called “mind-blindness."

Mind-Blindness can be described as a cognitive deficit in which the child is unable to attribute mental states to self and others. The ability to develop a mental awareness of what is in the mind of someone else is known as the “theory of mind,” which allows a person to attribute behavior and actions to various mental states (e.g., emotions and intentions). Generally speaking, mind-blindness leads to a lack of social insight and an inability to put yourself "into someone else's shoes,” to imagine their thoughts and feelings. Aspergers and HFA kids often can’t conceptualize, understand, or predict emotional states in other people. This, in turn, leads these children to “fill-in the blanks” with assumptions that are usually inaccurate (i.e., a thinking error).



Parents can help their child recognize when her own negative thoughts are pushing her into anger, depression or anxiety. Let’s look at some examples of popular thinking errors used by kids on the spectrum, and how parents can help these children view their situation more accurately (I’ve provided some examples, but you will want to use examples “specific” to your unique circumstances):

Over-generalization: The child extrapolates her future based on a single event. For example, the child figures that if she fails a Math test on the first try, she will never be any good at Math …or she says to herself, “My teacher yelled at me. She’s always yelling at me. She must not like me.” Over-generalizing is taking isolated cases and using them to make false assumptions about similar cases. You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

How to help your child beat this thinking error: If, for example, your child is heart-sick over a bad grade, explain that many students have made an “F” on a hard test, but have been able to get much better grades on subsequent tests on the same or similar subject. If you convince yourself you're going to fail, you'll have no motivation to study.

Minimizing and maximizing: The child inflates his errors and discounts his accomplishments. He focuses on the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or thinks that a situation is unbearable or impossible (e.g., “I can’t stand this”), when it is really just uncomfortable. For example, the child makes two mistakes on his spelling assignment, so he tells himself he has blown the whole assignment and doesn’t even turn-in the assignment to the teacher.

How to help your child beat this thinking error: Have your child ask himself, “What would happen if I did stand this (e.g., turn in the assignment with a couple of mistakes)?” … “How specifically is ‘turning in an assignment with a couple of mistakes’ so bad?” …  “Compared to what?”

Emotional reasoning: The child gets lost in his emotions. Because something "feels" bad, it must truly "be" bad. This thinking error is where you make decisions and arguments based on how you feel rather than objective reality. Aspergers and HFA children who allow themselves to get caught up in emotional reasoning can become completely blinded to the difference between feelings and facts.

How to help your child beat this thinking error: Help your child to make the connection between (a) feeling bad, and (b) personal choice. For example, “X makes me mad. How does what I do cause me to choose to feel mad?”




Fortune-telling: This thinking error is assuming something negative where there is actually no evidence to support it. The child arbitrarily concludes that someone is reacting negatively to her, and so she doesn’t bother to check it out. She predicts that things will turn out badly, no matter what she says or does. For example, her new boyfriend that she met at school last week does not call her on Saturday as promised, so she spends the weekend convinced he has broken up with her.

How to help your child beat this thinking error: Have your child ask herself, “How do I know that (e.g., that my new boyfriend has broken up with me)?” Help her check out “supporting facts” with an open mind: “How do you know it will turn out in that way?”  “What evidence do you have to support your belief?” “How did you arrive at that understanding?” “What other conclusion might this evidence support?” “How does this conclusion serve you?” “If you continue to think that way, what will happen?” Also, help your child to let go of her need for approval (e.g., “You can’t please everyone all the time”).

All or nothing thinking: Also called black and white thinking, this is where the child thinks of things in absolute terms (e.g., “always,” “every,” “never,” etc.) and has difficulty seeing any middle ground. For example, the child loses at a game of checkers, and as a result, views himself as a total failure. Then, to camouflage the feeling of being a “loser,” he gets mad at his opponent.

How to help your child beat this thinking error: Explain to your child that few aspects of human behavior are so absolute. Nothing is 100%. No one is all successful, or all failure. Have you child ask himself, “Has there ever been a time when it was NOT that way (e.g., that I didn't lose at a game)?” All or nothing thinking does not allow exceptions, so if even one exception can be found, then it’s no longer “all” or “nothing.”


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

Repetitive Thoughts in Children on the Autism Spectrum

Question

What about being sensitive to the tone of voice of people, and then having the conversations looping or repeating in my son's (high functioning autistic) head? He said they loop through his head for hours, and he has to keep going over that portion of the conversation where the tone was too loud.

Answer

A potential source of sensory overload for a youngster with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's is voice – especially tone of voice. The child may analyze voice-tone first, and then decode the words used by the speaker later. Any voice inflection by the speaker that remotely conveys a negative attitude (e.g., sarcasm, irritation, criticism, etc.) may be detected by the child - and taken personally.

A negative tone can be hurtful to an HFA or AS youngster, particularly if he or she is not sure why the speaker is employing a particular inflection (e.g., “Is she upset with me?” … “Did I do something wrong?” … “Why does she sound mad?”…etc.). A loop effect can occur in the child’s thinking process (i.e., mulls over the comment made by the speaker long after the conversation has ended). Anxiety, agitation and fear increase as the child attempts to analyze the motives of the speaker.

What we’re really referring to here is the child’s obsessive way of thinking. One of the most bothersome traits of the disorder may be the tendency toward repetitive thoughts (i.e., ruminations). While the ability toward extreme focus can be a strong point for many of these kids, it’s a problem when they can’t shift away from thinking about things that are not of their choosing. Often, the youngster gets caught up in worries, dwells on past slights from others, ponders their own mistakes, or has problems letting go of past hurts.

How to Deal with Ruminations: Tips for Your Child—

1. Don't put yourself down because you are thinking this way. Old habits are hard to break. You might find yourself making notes more than you would like, but keep doing it. If you have to replace a thousand negative thoughts with positive, just do it. Pretty soon that will become habit instead.

2. Identify your triggers. Determine the best possible reaction to them and keep this in mind. In addition, it may be necessary to remove the trigger from your life, if it is affecting your well-being and sanity.

3. It may be necessary for you to receive counseling from a trained professional to determine if there are some deep rooted issues causing your obsessive thinking patterns.

4. Keep an open mind about taking medication for your condition. There are many options available to help you get back on track.

5. Make mental notes of things that are being done as they are done. Write it down if necessary. While standing in front of the oven, turn it off, say to yourself "Now I am turning this oven off, I see myself doing it, I see that it is now off, I'm OK."

6. Maybe negative thinking has become an obsession for you and maybe you have thought negatively for as long as you can remember. If you find yourself thinking negatively stop and ask yourself "Is this really true what I'm thinking?"

7. Once you find yourself obsessing over a given issue, stop yourself immediately and begin to observe your thought process. You may find it necessary to record your thoughts on paper. You could become surprised at how often you are slipping into a bad thought process.

8. Realization is an important step in gaining control over obsessive thinking. One must be able to identify and realize when the thought process is getting out of hand.

9. Remember that most obsessive thinking also involves doubting. That is why OCD is also called "the doubting disease". When needing to check things over and over again, realize that you are doubting yourself; when you feel the need to recheck, doubt has crept in. By beginning to stop and take mental notes of what you have already done, you can begin to convince yourself not to recheck. Remember, checking and rechecking is a known symptom of OCD.

10. Think about what you know to be true and compare that to your negative thought. Immediately replace the negative thought with something positive.

[Please share the suggestions above with your child.]

There are two primary courses of treatment for obsessive thinking:

The first line of defense is behavioral therapy. This involves gradual conditioning of the person to tolerate anxiety and abstain from compulsive behavior. This is believed to be the most effective treatment for treating obsessive thinking and anxiety.

Medication includes selective serotinin reuptake inhibitors, benzodiazepines, serotonergic antidepressants, trycyclic antidepressants and natural drug treatment like St. John's Wort and so on. In severe cases, electro-convulsive therapy has been found to work effectively on obsessive thinking.


Highly Acclaimed Parenting Programs Offered by Online Parent Support, LLC:

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

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

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

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

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

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Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.

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Teaching Students on the Autism Spectrum Using Visual Imagery

"What would be the most important teaching strategy to use with my students who are on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum?" 

The short answer is: capitalize on the child's natural visual-thinking skills...

Children with Aspergers (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often think differently than other children. They often have what is known as 'visual thinking'. While many of us think in words or abstractly, kids on the autism spectrum think in pictures and films playing in their head.

They have a difficult time seeing a generic representation of, say, a cat, and instead recall exact images of cats they have seen. Some researchers believe that the way AS and HFA people think is a good way of compensating for losses in 'language thinking'. This is what often makes these kids good at building things and seeing the end product of something before it is done.

Using this visual thinking to an advantage can help parents and teachers educate Aspergers students better. Teaching them through videos, pictures and other visual aids can help them learn while getting around the areas they have trouble with.

One AS student stated, “I think totally in pictures. It is like playing different DVDs in a DVD player in my imagination.” Many AS and HFA children and teens can manipulate the pictures in their imagination, which helps them to learn different things. To access spoken information, they can be taught to replay a “video image” of the person talking to them. In some cases, this represents a slower way of thinking, but it generally gets the job done.

Visual thinking often puts people with AS and HFA in jobs that involve architecture or design. Not only is their visual learning superior, but their learning memory is more intact than other ways of remembering things.

Many individuals on the spectrum can create elaborate visual images of things as complex as computer programs and musical pieces, and then can fill in the rest of their knowledge around that. The thinking is often non-sequential so that pieces of knowledge are filled in like jigsaw puzzle pieces in no particular order.

When parents and teachers catch on to this method of thinking, it becomes easier to see the strengths the "special needs" student has -- and it becomes easier to find ways of using the visual imagery to teach concepts.



 

==> Teaching Students with Aspergers and HFA

Concrete Thinking in Children with Asperger's and HFA

Numerous case reports suggest that children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) think concretely instead of abstractly. For example, when these children hear the word “dog,” they may have a vivid, detailed image of their first pet dog, then the second pet dog, and so on. Conversely, neurotypical children (those not on the spectrum) are more likely to have an image of a generic or conceptual dog without much detailed imagery.

Due to their concrete learning style, children on the autism spectrum tend to remember individual examples precisely without noticing common themes among examples. For instance, the child may store the details of specific animals he encounters together with labels (e.g., dogs, cats), but he may be poor at learning features that define dogs and cats (e.g., both dogs and cats are pets, furry, playful, etc.).

On the other hand, neurotypical children learn from specific examples, and then “generalize” those examples to other areas (e.g., throwing a rock is similar to throwing a baseball). Since generalizing is far more efficient than coding a large number of individual examples, the neurotypical learning style de-emphasizes coding details of individual examples unless there is a need to do so.



Language facilitates abstract thinking and communication. Even “concrete” words such as “fatigued” are really abstractions of many related examples. AS and HFA children’s poor ability of abstraction contributes to their social skills deficits and their preference of “thinking in pictures” to thinking in language.

How can parents help their AS and HFA children to think more abstractly?

Creative thinking and problem solving are necessary life skills for all children. The therapeutic benefits of creative outlets (e.g., drawing, writing, photography, storytelling, etc.) are well-documented in medical literature. To teach creative thinking to your concrete thinker, start with a very structured approach, and then gradually relax it as the child becomes comfortable.  Here’s how to get started:

1. Cook something with your child. Even when following a recipe very closely, there’s always some room for improvising in the kitchen.  Encourage your child to decide if a little more of this or that is needed, if the oven needs to be turned up or down, if the lasagna needs an extra 5 minutes to cook, and so on.

2. Repair something with your child. Whether it’s a flat tire on a bicycle or a cracked vase, there’s usually more than one way fix it.  Instead of using commands like “go find me a screw driver,” recruit your child’s help in ‘thinking things through’ (e.g., “I need something sticky to put these two pieces back together …got any ideas?” or “ I need to put this somewhere safe while the glue dries …any suggestions?”).  Allow your child to suggest or improvise each step of the process with you.

3. Help your child make a book. Creating a book on a favorite subject will give your son or daughter a sense of authority and expertise.  One Asperger’s child collected her doll pictures (cut from a coloring book all about antique dolls), stapled them together, glued a large photo of herself to the cover, and then gave copies of her book to her cousins.  This act of kindness opened up new conversations for her.


4. Teach your child how to paint. For example, introduce your concrete thinker to watercolors, and show him or her how to draw and paint landscapes. Start off by teaching your child about perspective. A good time to do this is when you are outside. Show your child that objects in the distance appear smaller than when they are close-up. To start out, you will need heavy weight water color paper (which you can get at any arts and craft store) and a small selection of brushes (e.g., one wide brush about 2 inches for filling in large details, and a couple fine point brushes for outlining shapes and filling in finer details).

5. Show your child how to take pictures. AS and HFA kids see the world through a special lens. There is a purity to their imagination that, at some point, most grown-ups lose. If you have never put a camera in the hands of your unique youngster, you will soon discover that what he or she views in life is very different than your perspective. Start with the basics. The most important concept in photography is universally known to be “Fill the Frame.” Emphasize that the “subject” must fill the frame to remove distractions (it’s ok to show examples of subjects quite literally filling the frame with very few other elements). Once your child practices and masters the idea of removing distractions, you can go on to explain that other elements can be in the picture to support the main subject.

6. Write poetry together. A sophisticated command of the English language is not a prerequisite for writing good poetry.  In fact, simple words often have a more lasting impact than complex ideas and metaphors.  The most important tool for writing poetry is probably the rhyming dictionary, which is a book that lists the words that rhyme with ‘end sounds’ of other words (e.g., if you want to find a rhyme for “cat,” you would look up “at” in a rhyming dictionary, because “at” is the ending sound of the word “cat” …the rhyming dictionary would then give you a list of words such as “bat,” “fat,” “sat,” and so on).

7. Tell stories to your child. Storytelling is an ancient tradition across all cultures, and it’s an important part of cognitive development.  Aside from the fact that a story does a better job than anything else of capturing the essence of value, people in general like to hear stories, especially when they are told well. Children like stories because, when they hear them, they have the chance to learn, to be enlightened and entertained. Stories, more than anything else, capture the essence of our lives. That is why we like to hear them.

8. Show that creativity is always an option. It may not occur to your concrete thinker that there might be more than one way to do something.  Thus, ask him or her for alternative solutions to everyday problems.  Since all children learn through play, play therapy is the ideal way to practice exploring multiple solutions to a challenge.

9. Demonstrate that you value creative expression and “thinking outside the box.” Valuing creative expression is more than visiting art fairs, museums and theaters.  It means being curious about the world and constantly asking questions (e.g., What is this made of? How does that work? Why is this moving like that?).  It also means looking for the answers in unusual places (e.g., through a telescope, in the mirror, under a rock, up in the attic, etc.).




10. Try drawing and /or sketching. Drawing and sketching help with attention, fine motor skills, visualization skills and anxiety reduction.  This is exactly the type of activity your AS or HFA youngster may try to avoid!  Here’s a good method to teach drawing:
  • Explain that drawing ability comes with practice and that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to a finished art piece.  Encourage the child to practice drawing his intended picture in the air with his finger first. This allows him to get an idea of how he will draw his picture. 
  • Teach the child by using a simple object that you can place in front of her. Visuals are super important for kids on the autism spectrum and their learning process. Find a simple object such as a cereal box, and point out the separate shapes your child will need to draw in order to make the full box. By breaking down the drawing process into steps, she will be able to pause from her work and return later. Also, she will learn to become more detail-oriented. 
  • Split up the drawing process into small portions (e.g., with a cereal box, point out the face of the box being a rectangle, the sides being smaller rectangles, etc.).
  • Continue to have your child draw the object chosen as many times as possible. Repetition is vital in learning to draw, just as it is in learning the alphabet or how to count.
  • Always encourage your child, and never point out a "mistake" in his drawing.
  • Never draw on your child’s papers. She will only improve her drawing ability through practice. AS and HFA children are easily discouraged. If they see your drawing and think it is better than theirs, they may shy away from their desire to improve.
  • For the child that can’t recognize shapes, still have him attempt to draw by breaking down the object into sections. This method will help him with shape recognition as well as improve his drawing ability.

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

Cognitive Restructuring: Help for Distorted Thinking in Teens on the Autism Spectrum


Cognitive Restructuring enables teens with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) to correct distorted conceptualizations and dysfunctional beliefs. The process involves challenging their current thinking with logical evidence and ensuring the rationalization and cognitive control of their emotions.

The first stage of Cognitive Restructuring is to establish the evidence for a particular belief. Teens with AS and HFA often make false assumptions of their circumstances and the intentions of others. They have a tendency to make a literal interpretation, and a casual comment may be taken out of context or may be taken to the extreme.



For instance, a 14-year-old male with AS was once told his “voice was breaking.” He became extremely anxious that his voice was becoming faulty and decided to consciously alter the pitch of his voice to repair it. The result was an artificial falsetto voice that was atypical of a male teenager. Another example of literal interpretation involves a 16-year-old female with AS who overheard a conversation at school that implied that “a girl must be slim to be popular.” She then achieved a dramatic weight loss in an attempt to be accepted by her classmates.

All teens are vulnerable to distorted conceptualizations, but teens with AS and HFA are less able to put things in perspective, seek clarification, and consider alternative explanations or responses. Parents and teachers can encourage these “special needs” teens to be more flexible in their thinking and to seek clarification, using questions or comments such as “Are you joking?” or “I'm confused about what you just said.” Such comments also can be used when misinterpreting someone's intentions such as, “Did you do that deliberately?” and to rescue the situation after they have made an inappropriate response with a comment such as, “I'm sorry I offended you,” or “Oh, what should I have done instead?”

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

To explain a new perspective or to correct errors or assumptions, “comic strip conversations” can help AS and HFA teens determine the thoughts, beliefs, knowledge, and intentions of the participants in a given situation. This technique involves drawing an event or sequence of events in storyboard form with stick figures to represent each participant, and speech and thought bubbles to represent their words and thoughts. The parent (or teacher) and the teen use an assortment of colored pens, with each color representing an emotion. As they write in the speech or thought bubbles, the teen's choice of color indicates his perception of the emotion conveyed or intended. This can clarify his interpretation of events and the rationale for his thoughts and response. This technique can help the teen identify and correct any misperception and determine how alternative responses might affect the participants' thoughts and feelings.

Paranoia—

One common effect of misinterpretation is the development of paranoia. Knowledge of impaired “Theory of Mind” skills in the cognitive profile of teens with AS and HFA suggests a simple explanation. The teen can have difficulty distinguishing between accidental or deliberate intent. “Typical” teens will know from the context, body language, and character of the peer involved that the intent was not to cause distress or injury. However, young people with AS and HFA can focus primarily on the act and the consequences (e.g., “He hit me and it hurt, so it was deliberate”), whereas “typical” teens would consider the circumstances (e.g., “He was running, tripped, and accidentally knocked my arm”). “Special needs” teens may need to be trained in checking the evidence before responding and developing more accurate “mind reading” skills.

Attribution Retraining—

Cognitive restructuring also includes a process known as “attribution retraining.” The AS or HFA teen may blame others exclusively and not consider her own contribution, or she can excessively blame herself for events. One aspect of AS and HFA is a tendency for some teens to adopt an attitude of arrogance or omnipotence where the perceived focus of control is external (“I have no control; rather, outside circumstances control me.”). Specific individuals are held responsible and become the target for retribution or punishment. These teens have considerable difficulty accepting that they themselves have contributed to the event.

The opposite can occur when the AS or HFA teen has extremely low self-esteem and feels personally responsible, which results in feelings of anxiety and guilt. There also can be a strong sense of what is right and wrong and conspicuous reaction if others violate the social “rules.” The young person may be notorious as the class “policeman,” dispensing justice – but not realizing what is within her authority. Attribution retraining involves establishing the reality of the situation, the various participants' contributions to an incident, and determining how the teen can change her perception and response.


Emotional Repair—

Cognitive restructuring also includes activities that are designed to improve the AS or HFA teen’s range of emotional repair mechanisms (i.e., an emotional toolbox to “fix the feeling”). These teens know that a toolbox usually includes a variety of tools to repair a machine, and discussion and activities can be used to identify different types of “tools” for specific problems associated with emotions.

One type of emotional repair tool can be represented by a hammer, which signifies physical “tools” (e.g., going for a walk or run, bouncing on a trampoline, crushing empty cans for recycling, etc.). The intention is to repair emotions constructively by a safe physical act that increases the heart rate. One AS teenager explained how a game of basketball “takes the fight out of me.” A paintbrush can be used to represent relaxation tools that lower the heart rate (e.g., drawing, reading, listening to calming music, etc.). A two-handle saw can be used to represent social activities or people who can help repair feelings. This can include communication with someone who is known to be empathic and able to oust negative feelings. This can be by spoken conversation or typed communication, enabling the teen to gain a new perspective on the problem and providing some practical advice.

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

Thinking Tools—

A picture of a manual can be used to represent “thinking tools” that are designed to improve cognitive processes. This includes phrases that encourage reflection before reaction. Scott, a 17-year-old teenager with AS, developed his “antidote to poisonous thoughts.” The procedure is to provide a comment that counteracts negative thoughts, for instance, “I can't cope” (negative or poisonous thought), “but I can do this with help” (positive thought or antidote). The teen also is taught that becoming emotional can inhibit his intellectual abilities in a particular situation that requires good problem-solving skills. When frustrated, the AS or HFA teen needs to become “calm” and less rigid in his thinking to solve the problem, especially if the solution requires social cognition.

Humor and imagination can be used as thinking tools. Young people with AS and HFA are not immune to the benefits of laughter. They can enjoy jokes typical of their developmental level, and can be remarkably creative with puns and jokes.

Parents and teachers can have a discussion of inappropriate tools (e.g., one would not use a hammer to fix a computer) to explain how some actions (e.g., violence, thoughts of suicide, etc.) are not appropriate emotional repair mechanisms. For instance, one AS teen would slap himself to stop negative thoughts and feelings. Another tool that could be inappropriate is to retreat into a fantasy world (e.g., imagining one is a superhero), or to plan retaliation. The occasional escape into fantasy literature and games can be an effective tool, but it is a concern when this becomes the exclusive coping mechanism. The border between fantasy and reality may be unclear, and the thinking may become delusional. Also of concern is when fantasies of retaliation to teasing and bullying are expressed in drawings, writing, and threats. Although this is a conventional means of emotional expression, there is a concern that the expression is misinterpreted as an intention to carry out the fantasy, or may be a precursor to retaliation using weapons.

Unusual tools should be discussed as well. For instance, one adolescent female with AS explained that, “Crying doesn't work for me, so I get angry.” So in this case, tears were rare as a response to her feeling sad, with a more common response to sadness being anger. As a result, her reactions to sadness were often misinterpreted by others. Another tool that seems to be unusual is that of being quick at resolving grief and serious tragedies. This characteristic can be of concern to the AS or HFA teen's parents, who expect the classic signs of prolonged and intense grieving. They may view their teen as uncaring, yet the rapid recovery is simply a feature of AS and HFA.

Social Tools—

Examples of social tools would be the (a) inclusion of talking to pets (sometimes in preference to talking to peers), and (b) positive effects on mood derived from helping someone. These techniques can be effective for teenagers with AS and HFA who also need to be needed and can improve their mood by being of practical assistance. The concept of a toolbox can be extremely helpful in enabling the teen not only to repair her own feelings, but also to repair the feelings of others. The teen can benefit from learning what tools to use to help her friends and family – and which tools others use – so that she can borrow tools to add to her own emotional repair kit.



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

Lying or Wishful Thinking: Which One Is Your Youngster Doing?

So, you have just caught your child lying to you! Now comes a consequence, right? But wait a minute! Was he really lying, or was it a trait of his or her disorder?

Children with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism (HFA) may puzzle their moms and dads by (a) the quantity and poor quality of their lying and (b) the fact that traditional disciplinary strategies don't seem to change the behavior. For these special needs kids, it may be helpful to think less in terms of “lying” and more in terms of "wishful thinking" (i.e., they often say what they would like to be true, rather than what is clearly and objectively true). This may happen for several reasons:

1. Some Aspergers and HFA children can't predict cause and effect. Your youngster throws a ball and breaks a window. His culpability in the act seems clear-cut to you. But a youngster who has trouble with cause-and-effect thinking may not be able to make the connection between throwing a ball and breaking a window. In his mind, if he didn't intend to do it, he didn't do it.

2. Some children on the autism spectrum don't distinguish between fantasy and reality. What is objective to you may be subjective to your youngster. If one truth is as good as another, your youngster may select the one that seems, in his mind, to best suit the occasion.



3. Some of these children don't know what's true. Kids who behave impulsively may not have a clear awareness of what they have done. Kids who have trouble with language processing may not have understood what was asked or expected. Kids with sensory differences may know only what they feel.

4. Some know that the truth may make you (the parent) angry, and they want to please you. If a youngster has done something wrong -- whether due to impulsivity, compulsive behavior, self-protective behavior, language processing problems, motor planning problems, or other causes related to disability -- he may try to make it right by telling you what he thinks will make you happy.

5. Some children are just trying to get in the conversation. Children with limited life experience or limited vocabulary may want to have something to say - but no true contribution to make. Coming up with a story, however fanciful or false, may seem like the only way to participate.

6. Many of these kids are stressed. If you know that your youngster can't think calmly and clearly when stress levels are high, don't be surprised if you see lots of crazy, stubborn lying in that situation.

7. Most Aspergers and HFA children are telling “their” truth. They often experience the world very, very differently than their mother or father, but that does not make their experience false. If your youngster stubbornly, desperately clings to a declaration that you feel is untrue -- water's too hot, work is too hard, an object can't be found -- ask yourself if it might be only untrue to you.

If your youngster has legitimate special needs that may lead him to tell “wishful thinking” instead of the truth, think carefully before giving consequences for lying. It's important for children to know that they should tell the truth, sure, but if the lying is not deliberate, stiff consequences will teach nothing. When your child engages in “lying behavior,” ask yourself if he is doing so with malice and intent. If not, try these techniques for putting more truth in “wishing”:
  1. Accept remorse as genuine.
  2. Be clear and even-tempered in your expectations.
  3. If the wishful thinking in question requires a response, give a brief, judgment-free time-out.
  4. Leave your youngster unsupervised as little as possible, so you always know the score.
  5. Make sure you have your youngster's attention when you ask a question.
  6. Make sure you tell more truth than fiction yourself.
  7. Respect your youngster's reality, and be open to compromise.
  8. Stay as unemotional as possible when getting to the truth of a situation.
  9. Take "I don't know" as an honest answer.
  10. Tell your youngster what you think happened instead of demanding an explanation.

How can I tell if my child is lying – or simply using wishful thinking?

If you pay careful attention to your youngster's behavior, it will help you tell if he or she is lying. Here’s how:

1. Look at the youngster's facial expression. Kids who are telling the truth have relaxed faces that usually show an emotion that matches what the youngster is saying. If a youngster is lying, however, his face may show anxiety caused by knowing that he is telling a lie.

2. Listen carefully to what the youngster is saying. Stories that are false may contain inconsistencies or elements that don't make sense. The story or parts of it may not sound believable. If you suspect a youngster is lying, ask the youngster to repeat what he just told you. Truthful stories told twice in a row will generally be the same, but stories that contain lies may change dramatically or contain accounts that cannot both be true.

3. Decide whether the youngster's story sounds rehearsed or spontaneous. Kids who are telling the truth will usually tell it "off the cuff"(i.e., the story will sound like a fresh recounting of an actual event). A lie, on the other hand, may sound stilted or rehearsed. Some kids may even repeat the exact same phrases when telling a rehearsed story the second time.

4. Watch your youngster's body language. A youngster who is lying is more likely to appear nervous, defensive or scared. Look for hunched shoulders, a stiff body or face, repeatedly touching the nose or mouth and avoiding eye contact. While some kids are anxious when speaking to grown-ups no matter what they say, kids who can speak comfortably to adults normally, but who are nervous when telling a particular story, may be lying.

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

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: Advice for Adults with Aspergers

If you are an older teen or adult with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, and are struggling to “make it” (i.e., cope) with real-world circumstances and social situations, then this may be the most important article you’ll ever read:

The ideal treatment for Aspergers coordinates therapies that address core symptoms of the disorder, including poor communication skills and obsessive or repetitive routines. While most therapists agree that the earlier the intervention, the better, there is no single best treatment package.

Aspergers treatment resembles that of other high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders except that it takes into account the linguistic capabilities, verbal strengths, and nonverbal vulnerabilities of children with Aspergers. A typical program generally includes:
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to improve stress management relating to anxiety or explosive emotions, and to cut back on obsessive interests and repetitive routines
  • Medication, for coexisting conditions such as major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder
  • Occupational or physical therapy to assist with poor sensory integration and motor coordination
  • Social communication intervention, which is specialized speech therapy to help with the pragmatics of the give and take of normal conversation
  • The training and support of moms and dads, particularly in behavioral techniques to use in the home
  • The training of social skills for more effective interpersonal interactions

Of the many studies on behavior-based early intervention programs, most are case studies of up to five participants, and typically examine a few problem behaviors such as self-injury, aggression, noncompliance, stereotypies, or spontaneous language; unintended side effects are largely ignored.

Despite the popularity of social skills training, its effectiveness is not firmly established. A randomized controlled study of a model for training mothers/fathers in problem behaviors in their kids with Aspergers showed that parents attending a one-day workshop or six individual lessons reported fewer behavioral problems, while parents receiving the individual lessons reported less intense behavioral problems in their Aspergers kids.

Vocational training is important to teach job interview etiquette and workplace behavior to older kids and adults with Aspergers , and organization software and personal data assistants can improve the work and life management of people with Aspergers.

For the sake of this article, we will look more deeply into cognitive-behavioral therapy:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common type of therapy. With CBT, you work with a psychotherapist in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions. By helping you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking, CBT allows you to view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.

CBT can be a very helpful tool in treating certain disorders (e.g., Aspergers, anxiety, depression, etc.). But not everyone who benefits from CBT has a mental health condition. It can be a very effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations.

CBT is used to treat a wide range of issues. It's often the preferred type of therapy because it can quickly help you identify and cope with specific concerns. It generally requires fewer sessions than other types of therapy and is done in a structured way that deals directly with specific challenges.

CBT is a useful tool to address emotional challenges. For example, it may help you:
  • Cope with a medical illness (e.g., chronic fatigue syndrome or cancer)
  • Cope with grief (e.g., loss of a loved one)
  • Identify ways to manage emotions (e.g., anger)
  • Learn techniques for coping with stressful life situations (e.g., problems at work)
  • Manage chronic physical symptoms (e.g., pain, insomnia or fatigue)
  • Manage symptoms of mental illness, either by itself or with other treatments such as medications
  • Overcome emotional trauma related to abuse or violence
  • Prevent a relapse of mental illness symptoms
  • Resolve relationship conflicts and learn better ways to communicate
  • Treat a mental illness when medications aren't a good option (e.g., during pregnancy)

Mental health conditions that may improve with CBT include:

• Anxiety disorders
• Autism spectrum disorders
• Bipolar disorders
• Depression
• Eating disorders
• Personality disorders
• Phobias
• Schizophrenia
• Sexual disorders
• Sleep disorders
• Substance abuse disorders

In some cases, CBT is most effective when it's combined with other treatments, such as antidepressants or other medications.

In general, there's little risk in CBT. Because it can explore painful feelings and experiences, however, you may feel emotionally uncomfortable at times. Because therapy sometimes involves emotional discussions, you may cry, get upset or feel angry during a session. You may also feel physically drained after a challenging session. Your psychotherapist is trained to help you cope with these feelings and emotions.

Some forms of therapy (e.g., exposure therapy) may require you to confront situations you'd rather avoid — such as airplanes if you have a fear of flying. This can lead to temporary stress or anxiety. But the coping skills you learn should help you later on to manage and conquer negative feelings and fears.

You might decide on your own that you want to try CBT. Or a doctor, relative, friend, employer or someone else may suggest therapy to you. Here's how to get started:

• Find a psychotherapist. You can find a psychotherapist on your own — looking through the phone book or on the Internet, for instance. Or you can get a referral from a doctor, health insurance plan, friend or other trusted source. Many employers offer counseling services or referrals through employee assistance programs (EAPs). Before selecting a psychotherapist, check his/her credentials. Your psychotherapist should be a licensed counselor, psychologist or other mental health provider experienced in CBT.

• Review your concerns. Before your first appointment, spend some time thinking about what issues you'd like to work on. While you also can sort this out with your psychotherapist, having some sense in advance may provide a starting point.

• Understand the costs. If you have health insurance, contact your health plan to be sure you understand what coverage it offers for therapy. Some health plans cover only a certain number of therapy sessions a year. Also, talk to your psychotherapist about fees and payment options.

It's likely that you'll go to a psychotherapist's office for CBT sessions. A psychotherapist may have an office in a medical clinic, an office building or a home office. Therapy can also take place in a hospital if you've been admitted for treatment. You'll probably meet weekly with your psychotherapist for one-on-one sessions that last 45 to 60 minutes. CBT may also be done in groups — either with family members or with individuals who have similar issues.

Your first session is usually a time for the psychotherapist to gather information about you and to determine what concerns you'd like to work on. The psychotherapist may ask you to fill out forms about your current and past physical and emotional health. This information helps the psychotherapist gain a deeper understanding of your situation. Your psychotherapist will also want to know whether you might benefit from other or additional treatment (e.g., medications). It might take a few sessions for your psychotherapist to fully understand your situation and concerns, and to determine the best approach or course of action.

The first session is also an opportunity for you to interview your psychotherapist to see if his or her approach and personality are going to work for you. Make sure you understand:

• His/her approach
• How many therapy sessions you may need
• The goals of your treatment
• The length of each session
• What type of therapy is appropriate for you

If you don't feel comfortable with the first psychotherapist you see, try someone else. Having a good "fit" with your psychotherapist can help you get the most benefit from CBT.

In general, conversations with your psychotherapist are confidential. However, in certain situations a psychotherapist may be required by law to report serious concerns to authorities — such as threatening to commit suicide, threatening to harm another person or admitting to abusing a child. Talk to your psychotherapist about any worries you might have regarding confidentiality.

For CBT, you and your psychotherapist will most likely sit facing each other during sessions. Your psychotherapist will encourage you to talk about your thoughts and feelings and what's troubling you. Don't worry if you find it hard to open up about your feelings. Your psychotherapist can help you gain more confidence and comfort.

CBT is generally focused on specific problems, using a goal-oriented approach. Each session may have a specific agenda to guide discussion. As you go through the CBT process, your psychotherapist may ask you to do "homework" — activities, reading or practices that build on what you learn during your regular therapy sessions. Along with homework, your psychotherapist will likely encourage you to apply what you're learning in your daily life.

Although there are different ways to do CBT, it typically includes these steps:

• Become aware of your thoughts, emotions and beliefs about these situations or conditions. Once you've identified the problems you want to work on, your psychotherapist will encourage you to share your thoughts about them. This may include observing what you tell yourself about an experience (i.e., your "self-talk"), your interpretation of the meaning of a situation, and your beliefs about yourself, other individuals and events. Your psychotherapist may suggest that you keep a journal of your thoughts.

• Challenge negative or inaccurate thinking. As you continue to examine your thought patterns, your psychotherapist may encourage you to test the validity of your thoughts and beliefs. This may include asking yourself whether your view of a situation is based on fact or based on an inaccurate perception of what's going on. This step can be difficult. You may have long-standing ways of thinking about your life and yourself. Many thought patterns are first developed in childhood. Thoughts and beliefs that you've held for a long time feel normal and correct, so it can be a challenge to recognize inaccuracies or negative tendencies in your thinking. With practice, helpful thinking and behavior patterns will become a habit, and won't take as much effort.

• Identify negative or inaccurate thinking. To help you recognize patterns of thinking and behavior that may be contributing to your problem, your psychotherapist may ask you to pay attention to your physical, emotional and behavioral responses in different situations.

• Identify troubling situations or conditions in your life. These may include such issues as a medical condition, divorce, grief, anger or symptoms of a specific mental illness. You and your psychotherapist may have to spend some time deciding what problems and goals you want to focus on.

Your psychotherapist's approach will depend on your particular situation and preferences. Your psychotherapist may combine CBT with another therapeutic approach — for example, interpersonal therapy, which focuses on your relationships with other individuals.

CBT is generally considered short-term therapy — about 10 to 20 sessions. You and your psychotherapist can discuss how many sessions may be right for you. Factors to consider include:
  • How long you have had your symptoms or have been dealing with your situation
  • How much stress you're experiencing
  • How much support you receive from family members and other individuals
  • How quickly you make progress
  • The severity of your symptoms
  • The type of disorder or situation

CBT may not cure your condition or make an unpleasant situation go away. But overall, it's an effective treatment. It can give you the power to cope with your situation in a healthy way and to feel better about yourself and your life.

CBT isn't effective for everyone. But you can take steps to get the most out of your therapy and help make it a success, including:

• Approach therapy as a partnership. Therapy is most effective when you're an active participant and share in decision making. Make sure you and your psychotherapist agree about the major issues and how to tackle them. Together, you can set goals and gauge progress over time.

• Be open and honest. Success with therapy depends on your willingness to share your thoughts, feelings and experiences, and on being open to new insights and ways of doing things. If you're reluctant to talk about certain things because of painful emotions, embarrassment or fears about your psychotherapist's reaction, let your psychotherapist know about your reservations.

• Do your homework between sessions. If your psychotherapist asks you to read, journal or do other activities outside of your regular therapy sessions, follow through. Doing these homework assignments is important because they help you apply what you've learned in the therapy sessions.

• Don't expect instant results. Working on emotional issues can be painful and often requires hard work. It's not uncommon to feel worse during the initial part of therapy as you begin to confront past and current conflicts. You may need several sessions before you begin to see improvement.

• If therapy isn't helping, talk to your psychotherapist. If you don't feel that you're benefiting from therapy after several sessions, talk to your psychotherapist about it. You and your psychotherapist may decide to make some changes or try a different approach.

• Stick to your treatment plan. If you feel down or lack motivation, it may be tempting to skip therapy sessions. Doing so can disrupt your progress. Attend all sessions and give some thought to what you want to discuss.

If you are struggling with life – now you know what you can do about it! Good Luck!!!

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Obsessions and the Autistic Mind: Help for People on the Autism Spectrum

Lecture by Mark Hutten, M.A. - Part 1 discusses obsessive thinking among individuals with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:



More about intrusive thoughts in the autistic mind:

Obsessive thinking is like a CD in a CD-player that’s stuck and keeps repeating the same lyrics. It’s replaying an argument with a friend in your mind. It’s retracing past mistakes. When people obsess, they over-think or ruminate about situations or life events (e.g., school, work, relationships).

Research has shown that obsessive thinking is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, binge-drinking and binge-eating. For some people, drinking or binge-eating becomes a way to cope with life and drown out their obsessive thinking.

When people obsess while they are in depressed mood, they remember more negative things that happened to them in the past, they interpret situations in their current lives more negatively, and they are more hopeless about the future. Obsessive thinking also becomes the fast track to feeling helpless. Specifically, it paralyzes your problem-solving skills.

You become so preoccupied with the problem that you’re unable to push past the cycle of negative thoughts. It can even turn people away. When people obsess for an extended time, their family members and friends become frustrated and may pull away their support.

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





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.

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Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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

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

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

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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

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

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

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content