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Asperger's Syndrome and Substance Abuse

Pain, loneliness and despair can lead to problems with drugs, sex and alcohol/drugs. In their overwhelming need to fit in and make friends, some Aspergers teens fall into the wrong high school crowds. Teens who abuse substances will use the "Aspie's" naivety to get him to buy or carry drugs and liquor for their group.

Growing from childhood into adulthood can be very difficult for those diagnosed with Aspergers, and the typical pressure of drinking can lead to substance abuse, especially since substance abuse can seem like a temporary “cure-all” or an escape method for coping with other issues. If the symptoms of Aspergers have never been successfully treated or acknowledged, this can make alcohol/drugs abuse an even more likelihood, just as there is an increased risk for substance abuse for anyone with untreated disorder such as depression.

Despite wanting to have friends and engage with others, the awkward attempts and social deficits of individuals with Aspergers often make them the outsider in their peer groups. “Aspies” are often bullied or made the butt of mean-spirited jokes. Older children, teens and adults may simply be ostracized. Their repeated, but often rebuked attempts at friendships, and their painful awareness of their differences from their peers, often lead individuals with Aspergers to develop anxiety and/or depression, which may lead to alcoholism and/or drug abuse as a way to cope.

Aspergers comes not only with its own characteristics, but also with a wide variety of comorbid conditions such as depression, anxiety, obsessive–compulsive disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), drug abuse, alcoholism, and relationship difficulties (including family/marital problems). It may predispose individuals to commit offences and can affect their mental capacity and level of responsibility as well as their ability to bear witness or to be tried. The syndrome can color psychiatric disorder, affecting both presentation and management, for children and adults across a wide range of functional ability.

It is important to understand that Aspergers does not cause substance abuse. Substance abuse can be caused by a number of circumstances, including social reasons, depression, and even genetics. However, those with Aspergers may be slightly more susceptible to substance abuse, just as those with depression or bipolar may also be. Alcohol/drugs is often seen as a way to self-medicate oneself or deal with problems. Perfectly “healthy” people are just at as much risk for substance abuse as someone with Aspergers may be.

Effects on Families and Relationships—

There is often a tremendous amount of stress on families (parents, grandparents, siblings) of children and teens with Aspergers, as well as spouses who are married to adults with Aspergers. Not everyone reacts similarly, nor do all families experience the full range of potential issues, but some of the issues to be aware of include the following:

• Having a romantic or intimate partner with Aspergers can affect the relationship in a number of ways, most notably in the areas of communication and emotional give-and-take. Incorrect assumptions made by the individual with Aspergers often lead to self-protective strategies of distancing oneself entirely and then not responding at all to one's partner. An emphasis by the non-affected partner on expressing feelings is likely to lead to frustration and dissatisfaction

• Parents may experience a range of concerns and emotions as they attempt to understand what caused the disorder. They may ask, "Was it my fault?" and inappropriately assign self-blame. They may feel guilt and grief over having an individual in their family they love who will suffer a lifelong disability. They may wonder and worry about what others will think, and feel personally inadequate. They may fret about how they will explain Aspergers to their family and friends, what can they do to help, and what financial resources will be necessary to help. And, they may worry about what will happen to this individual in the future, when the parents are no longer there to support him or her

• Siblings may often feel embarrassed around peers, frustrated by not having the type of relationship with their sibling that they wanted or expected, and/or angry that the child with Aspergers requires so much of the family's time and resources at their expense


Treatments are not cures, but there are a number of different interventions that have been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms associated with Aspergers. There are primarily three different environments for receiving services: schools, the physician's office, and various specialists' offices (including rehabilitation therapists, and mental health professionals).

School districts are required to provide a range of services from support in the mainstream classroom to special education classes, depending upon the needs of the individual.

A physician's treatment usually involves prescribing medication to address symptoms associated with Aspergers: attentional issues, obsessive-compulsive issues, anxiety and/or depression.

Rehabilitation therapy includes speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, vision therapists, and art or music therapists.

Asperger's Kids: Difficulty Labeling Emotions


Tips on teaching black-and-white kids labels for different emotions would be invaluable. With our nine-year-old, everyone is either happy, sad, frustrated or mad. His difficulty labeling emotions compounds problems because by not being able to adequately express what he’s feeling and be understood. This frustration usually ends with a day full of sitting on the couch with his head down, not talking to anyone because he’s so upset. How can I help him better express himself?


It can be very difficult for some children with Asperger’s Syndrome to understand their own emotions. They have a very hard time reading the emotions of others as well. This can be a very frustrating place for a child to be and helping him to learn how to identify these emotions can be very beneficial for your child.

Understand that it will be difficult for your child to learn how to identify emotions. He’ll first need to have a frame of reference. In her book, “What’s That Look on Your Face? All About Faces and Feelings,” Catherine S. Snodgrass has created a set of pictures of exaggerated facial expressions. These pictures are accompanied by poems that further reinforce the emotion shown in the face to help reinforce the connection in the child’s mind. This is a great way to begin to teach your child how to read and identify emotions.

You can also create activities for you and your child to participate in, depending on the age of your child and his desire to participate. You can photograph yourself and your child making faces that portray different emotions. You can have pictures of happy faces, sad faces, frustrated faces, and mad faces – all sorts of faces. Take a picture of you and take a picture of your child making the same face. You can take those photographs and turn them into flash cards so your child can practice identifying emotions.

Once he has a language and a frame of reference, then you can begin to help your child learn to identify how he is feeling. This can be a time consuming process, but a very important process. When you see your son is happy, have him stop what he’s doing and talk about what it feels like to be happy. He will begin to equate the feeling he’s having with the word. You can do this with many emotions, such as anger and frustration. Once your son begins to connect words with the emotions he is having, he’ll be able to correctly identify the emotions. This will help greatly when you are trying to help him modify some of his behaviors that may surround some of his emotions, especially around anger and frustration issues.

Be patient with your son and try to understand how frustrating and confusing this can be for him. If he begins to understand that you are trying to help him understand this confusing issue, he will be better able to open up to you.

Aspergers: Coping with the pressures of middle school...


I'm worried about how my 12-year-old son with Aspergers is going to cope with the pressures of middle school. That is a difficult age for any child and most people don't accept him as he is. My husband thinks we should focus on making him more acceptable to the majority, but I don't think he should have to change who he is. I haven't heard from anyone who has been through those middle & high school years and I am terrified!!


This is a common fear that parents of spectrum kids have. Middle school, as we all know, is cruel to everyone, and especially to those who are different. How do you let your kids be who they are while still protecting them so they don't emerge traumatized?

I feel what is most important is not to let your kids feel ashamed of who they are. If they've got a spark to them, they've got things they're interested in, don't kill it by making them conform. Most people lose that spark naturally when they get older; there's no reason to do it prematurely. Don't take away one of best things your Aspergers child has going for himself: his passion for living life, even if it's living life on his own terms. If he wants to fit in, he'll ask you how to fit. It'll come, but let it be when he's ready for it rather than force him into a cookie cutter existence.

Some Aspergers kids go through middle school so excited about their passions that they barely notice they're the odd ones out, or if they notice, they don't care (probably not a lot, but some). Others are unfortunately bullied quite a bit.

There are a few things you can do to try to either prevent this from happening or minimize the effects if it does. First, use his talents and passions to find him a niche in the school where he can succeed. The drama club is a natural place. Many quirky kids find refuge in drama clubs; and if he can succeed in school plays, then he has one place where he belongs and can be accorded respect. If there's a particular subject he's interested in, see if he can start a club and find other kids interested in the same thing. Or find if you can a group outside of school interested in that kind of thing. Buffer him so if he does encounter some rejection he will already belong to and have found success in enough other activities that it won't really matter so much. Perhaps you could encourage him to take interest in a particular teacher, especially in a subject he enjoys, so he could have an ally at the school. Teachers were always invaluable support people to me when I was in school.

If he does encounter problems, try to find ways around some of the biggest trouble spots. For example, he could eat lunch in a classroom instead of the lunchroom if the lunchroom is problematic. If bullying does occur, hopefully you can work with him and the school to minimize the amount of places that it occurs. Keep reminding him of how great he is, and let him cry to you if he needs to. But the most important thing you can do, it seems, is continue to let him be who he is because it's not worth losing yourself for a bunch of junior high kids, and give his outlets where he can succeed so he's not as bothered by the junior high kids. Also, if he's into it and they're available, a support group for Aspergers teens may be valuable.

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