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Aspergers Kids and School Issues

Before the landmark Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, school districts frequently did not allow handicapped kids to enroll. Today legislation such as the Education for All Handicapped Kids Act of 1975, amended in 1990 to become the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, protects the right of handicapped kids to a free and appropriate education in the public schools.

The "spirit" of laws that apply to handicapped kids is that each youngster should be educated as an individual. This is a good thing for kids with Aspergers (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) in particular – not that they are “handicapped,” but they do have special needs. They need individual treatment, because they can range from highly gifted children who excel in academics to students with a variety of learning disabilities and comorbidities like ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. The majority are usually between the two extremes.

From birth to age three years, federal laws require that handicapped kids receive early intervention services. These may be speech and language therapy, nutritional counseling, vision and medical services, parental counseling and so forth. Usually a teacher comes to the youngster's home and works with her one-on-one, although some kids receive services in public school classrooms or clinical settings. However, kids with AS and HFA often do not receive a diagnosis until after they enter school, so they tend to miss Early Intervention programs.

Once a youngster enters school, moms and dads can require a free evaluation and assessment by a multidisciplinary team. If the team determines the youngster does not require special education, moms and dads have the right to appeal the decision and get another free evaluation. The most common problem is that AS and HFA kids often appear too bright and verbal to need services. Their solitary lifestyle can mask their social deficiencies. For this reason, many moms and dads end up hiring lawyers to receive public school accommodations for their kids.

If the school determines that the youngster needs special education, moms and dads should find out what is available at that school and in that district. Services can be speech and language therapy, occupational and physical therapy, counseling, vocational education, and assistive technology like special computer software. Moms and dads have to consider if the youngster should be in a self-contained classroom or mainstreamed or in a combination of both. Moving the youngster to a different school or even school district with better facilities might be beneficial. Often it's a good idea to hire or have the school provide an expert in AS and HFA to help staff and parents decide what's best for the youngster.

A handicapped youngster can receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) or under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 is about getting access and removing barriers to education. For example, a youngster in a wheelchair may need a special door opener, but once she receives access to the classroom, she is treated like other children. Schools tend to encourage moms and dads to go for 504 accommodations rather than services under IDEA because it is less work for them. One of the few advantages in using 504 accommodations is that the youngster receives no "label." However, many more services become available under IDEA.

Under IDEA, parents and school staff meet together at the beginning of the school year and come up with an "Individualized Education Plan (IEP)." The plan must be written, and include an assessment of the youngster's current strengths and weaknesses. The IEP must contain measurable goals for the year and list specific special education aids and services. Moms and dads and staff meet periodically to make sure the goals are attained. There should be an IEP case manager who checks the youngster's work every day and develops new strategies. Most IEPs for AS and HFA kids have contingencies (e.g., allowing extra time for work, giving out shorter or alternate work assignments, providing the youngster with copies of other kids’ notes, allowing the youngster to take tests over or have extra time for them, allowing the youngster to take oral instead of written tests, etc.).

Some AS and HFA kids need those special contingencies. However, for the majority, the most important need is getting help with social interactions and reciprocity. AS and HFA kids can excel academically – but fail in life – because they do not have social skills. One such individual earned several advanced degrees, but could not procure a job because he do not interview well. He then took a lower level job that required hand-eye coordination, fail at that, and then went back and got another degree …and so the cycle went on.

For this reason, many moms and dads opt out of the public system and find a private school that is designed for kids with AS and HFA. Sometimes administrators at their public schools even recommend such a placement. In that case, the school district may pay for tuition at the private school. If a doctor recommends such a school, the tuition costs can be tax-deductible or covered by medical insurance. Many AS and HFA kids benefit from even a year or so at a residential school that provides intense, twenty-four hour training in social skills.

Many kids with AS and HFA are very bright, and may even excel academically in one or more subjects. However, they often need protection from other children who bully or take advantage of them. AS and HFA kids do not know which children to avoid. For example, if the special needs youngster makes a friend, that "friend" may make him do assignments for him, break rules, take the blame and otherwise put the youngster in jeopardy.

The AS or HFA youngster usually does not understand the "hidden rules" of school, but takes all rules at face value. He may memorize the rule (e.g., "don't use profanity at school"), but he doesn't know that most children swear from time to time, they just don't swear in front of adults. AS and HFA kids also do not understand "hidden social agendas." If the youngster participates on a high school debate team that meets in a coffee house, she comes prepared like a little professor to talk about the subject at hand. She does not understand that the other children are there to socialize as well as practice for the team.

For this reason, AS and HFA kids require individualized training in social and emotional competency. There are many promising new teaching techniques for these kids. On the elementary school level, some educators are using "social stories" with special cartoons to help kids recognize facial expressions. Acting classes also might help an AS and HFA youngster better understand emotional reactions.

Self-contained classrooms usually have a small number of kids with a variety of special needs. The teacher may have extra training in special education and receive help from one or more aides. Therefore, the big advantage of a self-contained classroom is extra individual attention. However, there are several disadvantages to self-contained classrooms. Kids with AS and HFA often gain more knowledge about social interactions and how the "typical" world operates in a mainstream classroom. Academics may be "watered down" in a self-contained classroom. Kids with AS and HFA do not do well with emotionally disturbed kids who are often streetwise and aggressive. If these two groups are together in a self-contained classroom, the combination of the perfect victim and perfect victimizer may result.

Sometimes a youngster may start out in a self-contained classroom and gradually transition to a mainstream one. This usually has to be done slowly, and takes an average of two months to two years. It may begin with just a half-hour at a time in the regular classroom for elementary school children, and perhaps an hour at a time in the youngster’s strongest subject on the high school level. Some experts recommend seating the AS and HFA youngster next to a successful peer who can help him with organization and provide class notes, if necessary.

In general, AS and HFA kids do better in classrooms that are predictable and structured with as few transitions as possible. Teaching with an emphasis on visual presentation plays to these kids’ strength of visual acuity. Educators should structure lessons in clear patterns that are easy to follow. During "unstructured" periods (e.g., lunch, physical education, recess, passing to classes, etc.), the special needs youngster may need individual accommodations.

Teachers should have some understanding of AS and HFA. The teacher may develop a special "cue" such as tapping the youngster's shoulder to help the youngster pay attention when his mind is wandering. The teacher should be strong in language skills, and use drama to help the youngster understand other people's emotions. The teacher should be a calm person in control of the classroom, which will decrease the special needs youngster’s anxiety. Changes and surprises will upset an AS/HFA youngster. Therefore, the teacher should help with transitions and let the youngster know in advance when, for example, he will have to recite in front of the class.

The teacher should also know to deal with "meltdowns" and "tantrums." There are three stages of a tantrum: rumbling, the tantrum itself, and recovery. It is best to intervene in the "rumbling" phase. During the actual tantrum, an AS or HFA youngster may scream, bite, hit, kick or destroy property. For this reason, the teacher should wear comfortable clothes and keep expensive or sentimental items out of reach. During "recovery," the youngster may be exhausted, deny the tantrum happened, or be remorseful. It is important that the teacher is a sensitive person so that if an AS or HFA youngster tantrums at school, then the child does not experience complete humiliation in front of his classmates.

Struggling with an AS or HFA student? Click here for highly effective teaching strategies specific to Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism. 


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... I am still trying to find services for when my daughter graduates in June- it is a heartbreaking nightmare. There is NOTHING for young adults...If anybody has information and/or ideas, please please let me know!!! xoxo
•    Anonymous said... I begged my son's school to test him in first grade. I had nine meetings with his principal, counselors, and teachers. They insisted nothing was wrong with him except he needed more discipline, because he is extremely intelligent, just below genius. Even after he ran away from school three times, they didn't think anything was wrong. It wasn't until CPS tried to take him from me (for his behavior problems, nothing I did) at age 11 that he was finally tested & diagnosed. It's such a shame those first five years of school were wasted because the school didn't want to perform a test.
•    Anonymous said... I e-mailed my sons school almost 2 weeks ago to ask for an evaluation (a counselor he is seeing said she thinks he has Aspergers) but I talked on the phone with the school today and they are saying they can't do an evaluation this close to the end of t...See More
•    Anonymous said... I have not found any Canadian University that has specific programming for young adults with AS....my daughter has finally worked up enough courage to go...away from home...and has been accepted...they want an evaluation that has been done in the last 5 years...which means I might have to spend more money getting one....in order to register with the special services dept at the U. I'm happy that she's finally going, because I believe she'll be okay, but I do worry....just getting her to this point has been a battle and a half, but I'm glad that we fought the good fight....hang in there, it is soooooo worth it!
•    Anonymous said... I highly recommend homeschooling as the optimal solution.
•    Anonymous said... Just went through all this with our school, and ended up hiring an advocate to help. Best $ I ever spent - I finally got them to listen and start evaluations. Turns out, while he can read well mechanically, his summarizing is poorly lacking. FINALLY getting services!
•    Anonymous said... Listening to all this, and my experiences are much the same with my two boys, officials refuse to diagnose, mis diagnose, no direct help just hurdles thrown up at most turns etc which makes us all feel like the pro's we see are incompetent, of hiding something.  Seems there's a hole here for a probono lawyer to make some money, might kick the pro's into doing their job correctly. What I must add though is we moved our kids from a school that didn't understand, who would leave problems brewing for weeks before dealing with them by which time there were so many problems my boy couldn't cope and the tension at school and home was continually exploding, we were all very un happy and near despair. To a new school, with the help of a family support worker whose been brilliant, to one where every teacher is aware and understands the problems with or without a professional diagnosis, and who work with us This has made a massive difference. They understand when my Jason is struggling and adjust immediately to help defuse a trigger long before and melt down, and as the tension at school has dropped, so the tension in the home has dropped, we feel a lot better, my boy feels much better that he can now cope is now doing much better at school and home, an improvement I never thought possible. So it may not be the diagnosis that's the issue, but getting people around sufferers, both we as parents and the schools we use, to understand and learn to treat the problems effectively and quickly. The big question is why are some schools so good, and other absolutely useless, but being involved with this site seems to be the biggest chance of helping all here.
•    Anonymous said... My daughter had a 504 from grade five on, with a diagnosis of selective mutism. We never had an issue with school. I took her in 11th grade to be diagnosed with aspergers. The school was very accommodating and immediately changed her 504 to an IEP. We didn't need any changes, but they did it to help us get services for when she is 18 (which she is now). As soon as we had the IEP, our DOR's program accepted her, so she can have help with school and job hunting.
•    Anonymous said... My son has Aspergers, when I brought up my concerns about his social issues, as well meltdowns and odd quirks, his pediatrician suggested I have him go through some testing at school, and told me to keep the term Aspergers Syndrome in the back of my mind. I went through quite the runaround with the school. They kept telling me he was too smart for there to be an issue, that all kids have meltdowns, most kids are late learning to tie shoes and ride bikes, that it was wrong to put a label on him, that there was some help they could give him without having to actually test him and "label" him. I ended up having to take him to an AS specialist psychologist and spend nearly $1500 on the evaluation. Glad I did it though because she said he has moderate to severe symptoms of autism spectrum disorder and diagnosed him with Aspergers. Once I had that official diagnosis the school couldn't deny it and (grudgingly) agreed to do more tests and put him on an IEP, which has almost completely changed his school life. It just sickens me the way the school handled this. Unfortunately, a lot of people in my small town don't know any better and just go along with what the schools tell them. Very upsetting.
•    Anonymous said... Our ASD specialist does not like giving a diagnosis under 6 years old. We were told at kindy our eldest was poss aspergers when he was 4, we had been asking for help from when he was 18 months old, we saw the same traits in our youngest and he was 2, and so started strategies that we had been given by kindy and the youngest has certainly been easier. At our first school because he was doing fine academically we were told by the RBLT they were unable to provide services and yet school were threatening suspension for behavior. Contacted our Minister of Education and he was given funding for a term. We changed schools and by the 2nd term we had 7 hours funding a week. We are in the process of changing schools again, and they have already organised a TA to help with transition, but he can have a TA as long as he needs it.
•    Anonymous said... There are several good books out there to guide you through the process of getting the services your child is entitled to under federal law. You don't HAVE to hire an attorney to do this, but it you DO have to know your rights. The law is on YOUR side here, and the most important thing you can do in communicating with anyone at your child's school is to do it in WRITING!!!!! The school MUST respond by law to requests in writing for evaluations within a very specific time frame. Do your research and don't be afraid to take them on. They will do everything they can to push your away, but you DON'T have to go! You are your child's best advocate.
•    Anonymous said... This is the reason why my daughter was not diagnosed as HFA until she was 19 years old! By that time she had dropped out of school and had severe social anxiety as well. Now we are trying to undo a lifetime of damage.
•    Anonymous said... This was exactly why it took 3 years to diagnose our son!
•    Anonymous said... Very timely article - thank you! @Laura - how would one even start the process of considering homeschooling? Is there a website you can recommend I take a look at? Are you doing the teaching or does your son have a special ed tutor?
•    Anonymous said... We had a similar issue with our school, we ended up paying almost $3000 for out testing and now my HFA son is attending an autism school worth it in the end, just starting the testing with our 2 year old now....
•    Anonymous said... We had a very similar story to the one above, however, the school in our case still didn't think he needed an IEP. After years of fighting, tearful meetings and disappointment, we were at the point of hiring a lawyer. That's when we discovered homeschooling & it completely changed our son's life.

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Advocating for Your Aspergers Kid

Friends and family of kids with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism often feel as if they are in the position that Helen Featherstone describes in her book, A Difference in the Family: Life with a Disabled Child. They are involved with kids who cannot fend for themselves: kids who need advocates to stand up for them. A youngster's call for help means that they can no longer be "ordinary people" without a choice to make. If they choose to advocate, it means taking on a job that will deeply affect their lives.

The task of advocacy takes many forms on the individual to community to societal levels. As one advocate wrote, advocacy can range from "asking a neighbor to turn down a radio to demanding a full-time specialist to help your youngster in school" to lobbying Washington for more effective services.

Advocacy in Everyday Life—

Advocacy on the everyday level is often about simply educating people about Aspergers, a disorder most people have never heard of. It is explaining the same things over and over every time a new person enters the youngster's life. Jonathan is not being willful, selfish and disobedient: these behaviors are a result of his disorder. Sarah wants to make friends with you, she just does not know how. Aspergers is developmental disorder part of the autism spectrum. Yes, Taylor is very bright and academically gifted, but he really does need special services at school.

Advocacy can be about always having playgroup at your house so that your youngster has friends. It can be setting up your home with attractive toys and playground equipment so that other kids will want to come over and play with your youngster.

Advocacy on the everyday level can be about not allowing other kids to bully your child, even if it means going to PTO meetings and setting up an anti-bullying program at your youngster's school. It can be a brother or sister standing up for a sibling with patient explanations when others make fun of him.

Diane Kennedy, mother of two boys with Attention Deficit Disorder and a third son with Aspergers, found that she had to become an advocate among medical professionals. "What began as a mission to obtain care for my sons," she writes, "turned into a quest to promote earlier and better diagnosis, treatment and understanding of individuals with autistic spectrum disorders and ADHD." She ended up doing her own medical research and presenting her conclusions to the medical community about the connection between ADHD and Aspergers.

Advocacy in Your Youngster's School—

Moms & dads of kids with Aspergers also find themselves in the role of their youngster's advocate in the public school systems. Since special education laws are designed to educate each handicapped youngster as an individual, moms & dads (as their youngster's representative) meet with school staff every year to develop an Individual Education Plan for the youngster. However, they must work through disability laws, not Aspergers laws. Moms & dads often know more about the syndrome than school staff; they certainly come to IEP meetings with superior knowledge about their individual youngster. Yet moms & dads often meet with resistance when they ask for services for their youngster.

Unless moms & dads have specific knowledge of federal, state and local laws and unless they understand what services are available in their district, they cannot be effective advocates. The school districts officials do not necessarily volunteer such help and information. Usually if moms & dads do not ask for services such as instruction during summer sessions, early childhood intervention, speech therapy, transportation and the like, their youngster will not receive them. Experts advise moms & dads/advocates to prepare for an IEP meeting by observing classes, exploring programs and options, sharing professional assessments of their youngster, and having knowledge of laws and services available. It is a good idea to bring spouses and get everything in writing.

This means that, as unfair as it seems, the burden of advocacy is on the moms & dads. A study done in 2000 by the National Council on Disability concluded that:

Federal efforts to enforce the law have been inconsistent, ineffective and lacking real teeth over several administrations. Enforcement is the burden of the moms & dads who too often must invoke formal complaint procedures and due process hearings including expensive and time-consuming litigation to obtain services their kids are entitled under the law.

Moms & dads of kids with Aspergers usually get their best help for the IEP process from other moms & dads of kids with similar problems. Moms & dads in the same district who have been through the process can explain how the district operates, who key personnel are, and how best to approach staff for services. By banding together, moms & dads can often create their own original solutions such as starting self-contained classrooms that draw kids from larger areas.

Advocacy Through Interest Groups—

Local chapters of groups such as the Autism Society can provide invaluable help to moms & dads. Some chapters have 24-hour hotlines so you can discuss any problem even as it occurs. Some offer free libraries and/or social programs for families and educational services such as lectures and classes. Some chapters offer unusual options such as sex education classes for kids within the autism spectrum.

On a national level, advocacy groups lobby legislatures for more favorable laws for kids under the autism spectrum. They operate websites that disseminate information on the latest academic studies, medical breakthroughs and new techniques for helping these kids. They raise money for research and public education.

Barbara Kirby and Patricia Bashe are advocates of kids with Aspergers. Not only have they written a guidebook for moms & dads and maintained a comprehensive website called OASIS at http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/, they also work through the Asperger Coalition for the United States and Homes for Independence. They sum it up as follows: "Advocating for your youngster means laying the groundwork for understanding and becoming your youngster's ambassador to the world."

The Parenting Aspergers Resource Guide: A Complete Resource Guide For Parents Who Have Children Diagnosed With Aspergers Syndrome

Denying the Diagnosis of Aspergers

Anosognosia means denying that you have a medically diagnosed condition and not following doctors' orders. Kids with Aspergers, diabetes, alcoholism and bi-polar disorder commonly react with anosognosia. Diabetic adolescents typically go through several hospitalizations and insulin crises before they accept the fact that they will have to spend the rest of their lives monitoring their blood sugars, injecting insulin and following a special diet. No one, especially teens, wants to accept the idea of a lifelong disorder that makes him or her different from peers. They often take three to five years to process a diagnosis such as diabetes or Aspergers.

Anosognosia is an "aggressive" reaction to diagnosis, but kids and teens can have other kinds of reactions classified as passive, negative, positive, internal, external or assertive. A passive reaction is: "My doctors and parents should take over my life because I have Aspergers." A negative reaction is about dwelling on the worst aspects of the condition. This is the opposite of a positive reaction, which is concentration on the positive aspects of the disorder: "Asperger's means I'm a genius!" People who react "externally" look for their condition in other people. Finally, people who react "assertively" embrace the diagnosis and take control of their problems.

Many kids go through a gamut of emotions such as anger, fear and denial. Very young kids may be frightened and believe that having Aspergers means they are sick and may die. Some feel isolated, as if they are the only ones with this problem. Still others are angry that they have been singled out to have a neurological disorder. Finally, many kids go through a period of anosognosia. Such Aspies believe that if they try hard enough and ignore their doctors, they can be just like everyone else.

However, if the youngster is over age eight years or so, the most common reaction to a diagnosis of Aspergers is relief. Usually both the youngster and his parents finally and gratefully understand that they are not to blame for the youngster's problems. Many kids are grateful that it's "just" Aspergers because they had come to believe that they were insane. A period of denying the diagnosis is usually just an initial reaction that goes away after the youngster and his parents have time to think things over.

If anosognosia occurs, it is much more common in parents of kids with Aspergers than in the kids themselves. This is one reason that most Aspies do not receive their diagnoses until after they enter school (i.e., moms and dads ignore the signs). The preschooler's average to high intelligence and good verbal skills can mask the problems of social interaction until she spends all day in a classroom with other kids.

In addition, when doctors or other professionals diagnose Aspergers, moms and dads often deliberately choose to skip medical treatment. If the youngster does not have glaring educational handicaps, then accepting services at school is not a clear-cut decision. Many moms and dads do not want their youngster to have a "label" and to become part of the population in special education classes.

Some experts believe that the way a family gets the news about their youngster's Aspergers determines whether they accept the diagnosis. Dr. Tony Attwood is one of the leading experts on this condition and has developed a method of explaining Aspergers to kids over age eight years. Believing that "the person will perceive the diagnosis based upon how the clinician explains it," Dr. Attwood advises doctors to be as positive as possible. They should start out by saying, "Congratulations! You have Aspergers!" and then. "You're not bad or mad, you just have a different way of looking at the world!" The next step is to point to famous people who had Aspergers and lived successful lives such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Jefferson.

Dr. Attwood advises doctors to divide a large sheet of paper or blackboard into two sections. One column would be a list of attributes of Aspergers, such as "an obsessive interest in one subject." The other column would be the positive aspect of that attribute, such as "advanced knowledge, ability to concentrate for long periods of time, attention to detail." Instead of mentioning social deficits, a doctor would point out that adults often prefer kids with Aspergers and that Aspies have often develop a unique sense of humor and make extremely loyal friends.

Luke Jackson, a thirteen-year-old author with Aspergers, believes adults should tell kids about their condition as soon as possible. "You (doctors) may think you are doing them a favor if you can't fit them neatly into your checklist of criteria and say they haven't got it," Luke writes. "It just muddles them up more and makes them and all around them think they are even more freakish." He and others believe that getting the diagnosis is only a positive experience because you can learn what worked for others, you can qualify for services at school, and you can get professional help from mental health clinicians.

Authors Patricia Bashe and Barbara Kirby are both parents of kids with Aspergers. They tell moms and dads that while receiving a diagnosis of Aspergers can be devastating, things will eventually get better. They write, "There may never be a time when you won't look back and say who your youngster might have been without Aspergers. However, when the shock wears off - and it will - you will realize that this is the same youngster you have nurtured and loved since birth."

The Parenting Aspergers Resource Guide: A Complete Resource Guide For Parents Who Have Children Diagnosed With Aspergers Syndrome


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... ‎"Labels" are scary to people, especially children. It can be devistating to a child to see their parents perspective of "my child's not 'normal'". The destructive behavior that can go with this is unimaginable and affects everyone in the home. Knowledge & support are what our children need and desire.
•    Anonymous said... ‎"So how does a parent explain it to the child? My son is 10 and was dx'd at 6. We homeschool so it hasn't been an issue. I think he is noticing now and my husband and I are at a loss on how to explain it.
•    Anonymous said... I truly believe that my adolescent cousin has Aspergers. It's very frustrating because I don't think he has been diagnosed. His parents do not seem to care what he does. He has all of the symptoms. Kids and adults do not want to be around him because of the way he acts and they don't seem to realize that he has a problem he can't control. He does not have any friends at school and that really hurts me because I love him so much. His parents love him very much and is told everyday that they love him. I really wish they would get him help.

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Choosing the Right Treats & Gifts for Aspergers Kids

Are you stuck trying to figure out what to give your youngster with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism for a birthday or holiday treat? Wondering whether, if you give your youngster more treats related to his or her passion, you are just encouraging traits that cause trouble for him or her in school? Relax!

Birthdays and holidays are not the time to try to fix other people. These celebrations are all about unconditional love - appreciating people for who they are now, regardless of the world's expectations. And as moms and dads, we all know how to do that, because no matter how difficult or problematic our kids appear to others, and no matter how exhausted we are at the end of the day, we still love our kids just the way they are. So take a deep breath and do something that may prove surprisingly rewarding - give them what they ask for, as long as it is age-appropriate, within your budget, and represents positive rather than negative values (e.g., don't give video games which glorify violence). And then go one step farther, even if it seems like a monumental task. Give them the treat of your time and understanding, because to your youngster, even a teen, that is the best treat of all.

In the case of a youngster with Aspergers, this can be a more challenging task than with other kids, because you will need to meet them on their own ground; in other words, you need to show them that you take a real interest in their special interest. "What?" says the overburdened mom or dad, "I don't have the time or energy to learn about dinosaurs, or architecture of Medieval Europe, or crocodiles, or computer technology (or whatever the passion may be)." But now is the time to make time, and to learn to speak your youngster's language, to demonstrate your love for him or her. When Monty Roberts (author of The Man Who Listens to Horses) talks about gaining the trust and affection of a horse, especially a difficult or untrained horse, he talks about observing the horse, learning his language, which he calls "Equus," and then speaking that language back to the horse through nonverbal communication that is meaningful for the horse. Our kids are more complex beings, but similar to the challenging horses that Monty Roberts worked with, they need extra support to build trust and affectionate bonds with others. Because they have a harder time reaching out to others socially, they need someone to reach out to them who can speak their language, and understand what is most exciting to them. A mom or dad is the very best person to fill that need.

This task is not as daunting as it may seem. Think about your youngster's passion for awhile, and you will find that you can find an interest of your own in some aspect of it. For instance, if you are an artist, you might paint landscapes for the dinosaurs, or pictures including medieval architecture. If you are interested in languages, then you can learn how computer languages are similar to and different from languages that we speak. Or perhaps you have a collection of stamps or coins or travel souvenirs; you could focus on collecting these items from countries where different types of crocodiles live (did you know that there are 23 different crocodilian species?). Well, you get the point.

But at a more serious and important level, you will be experiencing a twinge of happiness at the delight in your youngster's eyes when you open a present that is a book of medieval cathedrals, or crocodiles of the world, or whatever his or her passion may be, and you exclaim to your youngster, "Now I can learn more about what you know so much about!" Finding your own aspect of his interest to appreciate is important, because you must take the time to demonstrate a genuine interest in his or her subject; the bright youngster with Aspergers will see right through any pretence on your part. Then take the time to develop this interest alongside your youngster, sharing your aspect of this interest with him or her by making time for conversations, collecting materials relevant to the shared topic, proposing field trips, or even watching documentaries on the subject together. As you share your enthusiasm with your youngster, his or her interests may broaden to include yours; or yours may broaden to include his or hers! In either case, you will be having more and longer conversations with your youngster, and sharing a growing mutual interest. You might learn a lot, not only about the subject, but also about your youngster.

What aspects of the subject does your youngster find really fascinating? One youngster was fascinated with horses at an early age, but seemed averse to riding them. It turned out that he had a strong aesthetic sense of the beauty of horses in motion; he later became a gifted artist. His family supported and encouraged his development as an artist because they understood the true nature of his interests early on. An older teenager developed a passion for learning about trees, but in fact what he loved most was the peaceful solitude and lack of criticism he experienced when he was alone in the forest. Studying trees when he couldn't be in the forest was a way to reconnect to that powerful, peaceful experience. His family might have tried to create a more peaceful environment at home, or tried to criticize his social behavior less harshly if they had understood his interest better.

How should you discern the true nature of your youngster's passionate interests before you go shopping? Spend time, even just fifteen minutes a day for two or three days, relaxing with a cup of tea or coffee while you sit near your youngster and quietly observe how he or she spends the time pursuing these interests. What does he or she focus on? Remembering that kids with Aspergers are often oriented visually, be alert to visual images which seem to please your youngster. If your youngster likes cars, for instance, and uses the computer to access images, is it the mechanical design of the cars, or comparing their relative speeds in races, or the landscapes that the cars travel through in video games that are most exciting?

Sometimes the passionate focus seems to transfer inexplicably from one interest to another, but that might be the moment of insight for you - the moment when you can see what is similar between the two different topics. For example, a youngster successively interested in dinosaurs, crocodiles, sharks, and medieval knights might really be most interested in fierce defensive behavior and protective armor. A teenage girl interested in Queen Elizabeth the First, National Velvet and horseback riding, and women explorers and scientists might be seeking stories of female empowerment. Remember that you can always ask your youngster directly what he or she most wants. Kids with Aspergers like life to be predictable, even (or perhaps especially) during the celebration times such as holidays.

Then consider your own needs carefully. If time for solitary relaxation and creative self-expression are high on your list, perhaps you can connect with your youngster and his or her interest by taking time to use your art to create images related to his or her interest area. If you need to get out more, perhaps scheduling some field trips to explore your youngster's passionate interest in a topic, while allowing your youngster the choice of where to go, would create a happy time for both of you. Just planning the trips can be a source of conversation and contentment. Finding time to browse in a bookstore when family members have gift cards enabling each person to choose a favorite book or two is a favorite activity in our family. Take a few moments for yourself for silent relaxation, and after you've allowed the thoughts to settle, write down your needs, and prioritize them. What treat can you give yourself that is also a treat to your youngster?

Remember that the objective of giving these treats, and the real goal of birthday celebrations and the holidays, is to open the channels of unconditional love, and to share that love through communication in a spirit of celebration and new understanding.

The Parenting Aspergers Resource Guide: A Complete Resource Guide For Parents Who Have Children Diagnosed With Aspergers Syndrome

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

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

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

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

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Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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

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

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

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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

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

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

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content