Best and Worst Jobs for Aspergers Adults

Approximately 80% of grown-ups with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism (HFA) do not have full-time jobs – not because they can’t do the work, but because they often have difficulty being socially acceptable while they get the work done.

Bad Jobs for Individuals with Aspergers—
  • Air traffic controller -- Information overload
  • Airline ticket agent -- Deal with mad individuals when flights are cancelled
  • Cashier -- making change quickly puts too much demand on short-term working memory
  • Casino dealer -- Too many things to keep track of
  • Futures market trader -- Totally impossible
  • Receptionist and telephone operator -- Would have problems when the switch board got busy
  • Short order cook -- Have to keep track of many orders and cook many different things at the same time
  • Taking oral dictation -- Difficult due to auditory processing problems
  • Taxi dispatcher -- Too many things to keep track of
  • Waitress -- Especially difficult if have to keep track of many different tables

Good Jobs for Visual Thinkers—
  • Animal trainer or veterinary technician -- Dog obedience trainer, behavior problem consultant
  • Automobile mechanic -- Can visualize how the entire car works
  • Building maintenance -- Fixes broken pipes, windows and other things in an apartment complex, hotel or office building
  • Building trades -- These jobs make good use of visual skills but some individuals will not be able to do them well due to motor and coordination problems.
  • Commercial art -- Advertising and magazine layout can be done as freelance work
  • Computer animation -- Visual thinkers would be very good at this field, but there is more competition in this field than in business or industrial computer programming. 
  • Computer programming -- Jobs available especially in industrial automation, software design, business computers, communications and network systems
  • Computer-troubleshooter and repair -- Can visualize problems in computers and networks
  • Drafting -- Engineering drawings and computer aided drafting. This job can offer many opportunities. Drafting is an excellent portal of entry for many interesting technical jobs.
  • Equipment designing -- Many industries, often a person starts as a draftsman and then moves into designing factory equipment
  • Factory maintenance -- Repairs and fixes factory equipment
  • Handcrafts of many different types such as wood carving, jewelry making, ceramics, etc.
  • Laboratory technician -- Who modifies and builds specialized lab equipment
  • Photography -- Still and video, TV cameraman can be done as freelance work
  • Small appliance and lawnmower repair -- Can make a nice local business
  • Video game designer -- Jobs are scarce and the field is overcrowded.
  • Web page design -- Find a good niche market can be done as freelance work


Good Jobs for Non-Visual Thinkers—
  • Accounting -- Get very good in a specialized field such as income taxes
  • Bank Teller -- Very accurate money counting, much less demand on short-term working memory than a busy cashier who mostly makes change quickly
  • Clerk and filing jobs -- knows where every file is
  • Computer programming -- Less visual types can be done as freelance work
  • Copy editor -- Corrects manuscripts. Many individuals freelance for larger publishers
  • Engineering -- Electrical, electronic and chemical engineering
  • Inventory control -- Keeps track of merchandise stocked in a store
  • Journalist -- Very accurate facts, can be done as freelance
  • Laboratory technician -- Running laboratory equipment
  • Library science -- reference librarian. Help individuals find information in the library or on the Internet.
  • Physicist or mathematician -- There are very few jobs in these fields. Only the very brilliant can get and keep jobs.
  • Statistician -- Work in many different fields such as research, census bureau, industrial quality control, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, etc.
  • Taxi driver -- Knows where every street is
  • Telemarketing -- Get to repeat the same thing over and over, selling on the telephone. Noisy environment may be a problem. In telephone sales, you avoid many social problems.
  • Tuning pianos and other musical instruments, can be done as freelance work

Jobs for Nonverbal Individuals with Aspergers—
  • Copy shop -- Running photocopies. Printing jobs should be lined up by somebody else.
  • Data entry -- If the person has fine motor problems, this would be a bad job
  • Factory assembly work -- Especially if the environment is quiet
  • Fast food restaurant -- Cleaning and cooking jobs with little demand on short-term memory
  • Janitor jobs -- Cleaning floors, toilets, windows and offices
  • Lawn and garden work -- Mowing lawns and landscaping work
  • Plant care -- Water plants in a large office building
  • Recycling plant -- Sorting jobs
  • Re-shelving library books -- Can memorize the entire numbering system and shelf locations
  • Restocking shelves -- In many types of stores
  • Warehouse -- Loading trucks, stacking boxes

Many adults with Aspergers and HFA have a hard time finding jobs now. What will the jobless rate be for that group when — if current statistics are correct — the 1 in 50 children who have Aspergers try to become employed? As it is now, lots of adults with Aspergers are looking for full-time jobs, but their gifts are not recognized.



==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said...  As a spouse of an aspie for 24 years, working together I a business, it becomes terribly demoralising when you are ways wrong and told why. The comment in here about that was liberating to me to realise that it is a trait, not me just being useless.
•    Anonymous said... I believe my father is an undiagnosed Asperger, he dominates conversation, is always right and inflexible, he goes on and on about himself and his current interests..my mom and he have been married 60 years..God bless her soul..but I also will try to keep in mind that he cannot help it..and I shall just listen respectfully..too late for him to get any sort of social therapy.
•    Anonymous said... I was taught to hide the outward behaviors of this disorder. In my mother's defense, they WOULD take kids, put helmets on em on a state home, back then. Thankfully, there's a bit more understanding now. I still struggle with shame and guilt. And it's pretty automatic to mask behaviors. *shrug it's a Spectrum. We are a wide range of supra-normal behaviors
•    Anonymous said... I wish I would've known about my Asperger Syndrome prior to going to college. I would've done something much different.
•    Anonymous said... I'm a teacher. And a bloody good one. And I have Asperger Syndrome. Remember it's a spectrum. Think of teaching as the effective transition of information to achieve the maximum effect (progress).
•    Anonymous said... im studying to be a teacher!!! oh gward...
•    Anonymous said... there are no best and worst jobs. autistics are individuals with a very wide variety of talents, skills and interests. the best job for any one person is not the best job for another. likewise with worst jobs. if anything, the best thing for an autistic to do is to not follow typical expectations and standards and do what works best for him or her.

Post your comment below…


Preventing Meltdowns in Students with Aspergers and HFA: Strategies for Teachers

In this post, we will look at strategies to prevent autism-related emotional outbursts in the classroom… 

Children diagnosed with Aspergers (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) require assistance from educators if they battle with behavior issues in school. Listed here are numerous useful techniques that each teacher ought to know.

AS and HFA may co-exist with other conditions including Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depressive disorders, and anxiety. But mainly, the disorder has an effect on a youngster’s ability to socialize. These children have a problem recognizing facial expressions, sarcasm, and teasing, and fight to adjust to unanticipated changes in routine. Their passions are usually very narrow, which can limit their capacity to connect with others.

As a result of these challenges, kids on the autism spectrum frequently experience rage, anxiety, depression, and irritation. There are many successful interventions that may be used in the school room to help improve the youngster’s learning experience. These can assist the student in feeling more comfortable and decrease anxiety, paving the way for academic achievement.

1. Create a Plan for Emotional Outbursts— Offer a quiet location for the student that has repeated meltdowns. This may be a trip to the bathroom with a classroom aide, or a visit to the school counselor. A written plan for coping during these times of high anxiety is crucial for an AS or HFA student’s success. Assisting kids on the spectrum inside the school room is an additional challenge for today’s overburdened educators. Nevertheless, with insightful monitoring, parental and professional assistance, and inventive techniques, a love of school and learning is usually fostered in kids with AS and HFA.

2. Make Classroom Rules Clear— Children with AS and HFA thrive on rules, but will frequently disregard them when they're vague or not meaningful. Educators should detail the most crucial school room guidelines and why they exist. An itemized list plainly shown, or a handout of the classroom policies can be quite beneficial.

3. Managing Felt Emotions— Another area by which these kids need practical assistance is in controlling felt emotions. Usually, felt feelings are way too big for the situation. One individual with AS states, “An example in my life is when I discover the grocery store is out of a specific item; I get a visceral reaction very similar to the horror I felt when first hearing about the 9/11 tragedy. I know cognitively the two events have no comparison and, yet, my visceral reaction is present and I need to consciously bring my too big feelings down to something more workable in the immediate situation.”

Managing felt emotions does not come automatically, but can be learned over time with systematic instruction and visual supports.

4. Minimize Surprises in the Classroom— Children on the autism spectrum require organized settings to achieve success. They don't like surprises. Things such as unexpected seating changes or unanticipated adjustments to the routine might lead to anxiousness as well as meltdowns. Educators need to provide sufficient warnings when there is to be a change of plans.

For instance, sending a note home to the moms and dads if a seating change is imminent would be beneficial. A back up plan can be presented to the class in anticipation of schedule changes. When the Friday schedule that usually includes watching an educational film in the afternoon changes if time is short, the teacher should inform the children ahead of time that they will work on free reading or journaling instead, as an example.

5. Promote Supportive Friendships— If it seems suitable, educate the class about the disorder. Create empathy by making children conscious of inappropriate words and bullying behaviors. Emphasize the youngster’s talents in classroom lessons to enable him to discover buddies with common interests. When the student on the spectrum appears to be struggling with relationships, group him during classroom activities with the ones that are more kind and understanding. At recess or lunch time, try assigning a classroom pal that will be loyal and guide the youngster through those more chaotic times.

6. Provide Sensory Support— Many kids with AS and HFA also encounter sensory processing issues. Sensitivity to light, sound, touch, taste, and smells can irritate the youngster, making him more likely to act out or withdraw. Consult the moms and dads to determine what these sensitivities are. Minimizing classroom mayhem, noises, and clutter will be a good start.

If at all possible, get the help of an occupational therapist and try to work sensory breaks into the youngster’s school day. Chores such as returning a load of books to the library or even doing a few jumping jacks in the hallway can go a long way in helping the youngster realign and get back to learning.

7. Sensory Diet— Regrettably, medical science doesn't permit us to take a blood sample to measure sensory dysregulation. However, we can figure out and employ a sensory diet to prevent dysregulation, and just like insulin prevents serious consequences for a diabetic, a sensory diet prevents serious troubles for the child on the spectrum. As one adult with AS states, “I spend time every day on sensory integration activities in order to be able to function well in my everyday life.”

A sensory diet employed proactively goes a long way in preventing the first stage of explosive behavior from ever occurring.

8. Visual Supports— An additional critical area of assistance to put in place proactively is visual supports. As one individual with AS states, “I can tell you the saying ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is the monumental truth. Although each person with the disorder has a unique experience, processing written and spoken words is not considered by most of us to be our ‘first language.’ For me, the meaning I get from spoken words can drop out entirely when I am under stress, my sensory system is dysregulated or my felt emotions are too big.”

Visual supports can be anything that shows rather than tells. Visual schedules are very commonly used successfully with many kids on the spectrum. Having a clear way to show beginnings and endings to the activities portrayed on the visual schedule supports smooth changes, therefore keeping a meltdown away. For maximum effectiveness, visual supports need to be in place proactively rather than waiting until behavior unravels to pull them out.


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

____________________

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.



Comments:

Anonymous said... I feel your pain my daughter deals with being yelled at for crying nd melting down. I will be giving these out to all who deal with her!
Anonymous said... I printed this for my son's teacher. He often yells at him and compares him to the other kids. We have a meeting with him today to discuss my son's attitude...
Anonymous said...I have experienced meltdowns myself, being and individual with AS. I remember some feelings that I had experienced in 6th grade. Whenever my teacher was angry at me, even just the slightest hint that would express any kind of unhappiness because of me, I would feel as though I had just ‘become frozen’, and begin to cry. It became clear to me that she absolutely did not appreciate my behavior, and would draw all attention to me. To this day, I feel like this was not the correct procedure for a meltdown, and that every teacher should know and understand the facts and statements listed in the article above. (Ok, maybe I am currently only in middle school, but I feel that I have made my point.)
Anonymous said...Is there any way he can go to school and see what this sports Day is goiing to be about before Thursday? Or at least talk tothe teacher and have him/her give you allt he details they possibly can that you can relay to your 9 yr old? I know that knowing ahead of time some of the expectations and what is going to go on helps my son sometimes.
Anonymous said...Sports day is on Thursday and already my 9 year old Aspergers son is getting really worked up about. I am dreading it as I know it will end in tears and a meltdown again. Any tips on how to handle it or how to tell the school to handle it.
Anonymous said...Will the school not just let him join in if he wants to or give him a job like helping at the starting lines or making sure he cheers for his classmates. Thats what my son school does - if he wants he takes part if not he gets jobs to do that make him feel important.


Post your comment below...

Aspergers and HFA Teens: Learning to Drive a Car

Question

I have Aspergers, and I still do not understand how to drive. I attempted taking coaching once, but it was a catastrophe. I never got out of the parking area. I also have OCD, so that adds to why I do not drive. My OCD is why I've got the FEAR of driving (anxiety about harming someone, anxiety about doing something wrong, anxiety about destroying property, and so on), and my Aspergers is the reason why I do not possess the actual ABILITY to drive. I have numerous visual-spatial deficits that many people with Aspergers have, so driving is just not well-suited for me. I've normally had difficulty understanding my right from my left, so steering was a headache. I also have difficulty judging depth and speed, so when I practiced parking, I didn't know if I was where I was supposed to be. Additionally, driving demands the ability to recognize other drivers' actions and to focus on multiple sensory experiences at the same time, two more things that I fail at. I understand a lot of people with Aspergers may become excellent drivers … I'm simply not one of them. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer

Driving is quite a strange skill to master. How quickly you pick up driving often has very little to do with your intellect in other things. Some real dummies are still able to drive in as few as five lessons, whereas some really intelligent people can need as many as fifty lessons.

Many people with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) experience sheer hell learning to drive. Probably the most difficult thing for them appears to be planning in advance and thinking ahead.

Look for a sensitive instructor. Some approved driving instructors may be opinionated and impatient – which will certainly add to your stress-level.

Do not compare yourself with other people. Others may be exaggerating about how few lessons they needed and could be lying when they say they passed first time.

Slow progress is still progress.

Most people on the autism spectrum can become a driver, however their process might take longer because of their poor motor control. After they learn a couple of guidelines, they will probably follow them to the letter (a trait that helps in driving). However, they may have trouble dealing with unexpected situations on the road.

When taking formal driving sessions, you will probably find it overloading, if not overwhelming, to receive verbal instructions. You will learn best in your own time, your own pace and in your own manner, not someone else's, especially NT's.

I think it could be more suitable if the driving instructor is informed about your disorder beforehand and learns how to communicate with you (tell him what communication method works best for you). The instructor should be more patient with you than with NT's when you are reversing, signaling, or performing maneuvers to pass on the highway, for example.

Aspergers and HFA doesn't limit a person's ability to drive in every case. The ability to drive safely must be judged on an individual basis. People on the spectrum should follow some basic guidelines though:

1. Assemble a group of professionals such as the parents, a school psychologist, a driver’s education instructor and others to discuss whether or not you capable of driving a car. Assess your visual/motor tasks, how easily you get distracted, and overall motor skills.

2. Apply for a driving license at the normal legal age, but be sure to put down Aspergers on the application at the DMV. It's against the law not to declare this on the application, but it won't disqualify you for getting a license.

3. Take driving lessons with a driver’s education instructor, but double the amount of physical driving practice to really get used to reacting to normal driving situations. Also, bring information that can help the instructor adapt strategies to help understand you better. Take frequent breaks during this time, ask that the information be broken down into small sections, and ask the instructor to use physical cues to help with estimating speed and distance.

4. Continue to practice with someone familiar to make it more comfortable . Simulate situations in an empty parking lot that require avoidance steering, emergency breaking and distractions like loud music, water on the windshield and pedestrians until you are comfortable.

5. Drive along familiar routes as often as possible. New routes and not knowing where you are going can be distracting and upsetting.

6. Remain calm when other drivers break the rules of the road and be ready for when they do. People with Aspergers tend to follow the rules of the road and the signs concretely – sometimes to a fault. Anticipate the actions of other cars by observing their behavior – again, the most important thing is to pay attention to other cars.



Tips for Parents of Aspergers and HFA Teens—

Follow some of the "keys" to getting your adolescent on the right track:

1. After about 10 lessons on rarely visited roads, you're ready to let your adolescent enter Stage 1. Let your adolescent drive you from your home to a location very near by like the corner service station or even the nearby school, taking the side streets and back roads.

2. After about 5 to 10 lessons in an empty parking area, begin Stage 2 -- taking your adolescent to a new subdivision when there is not a lot of construction work going on. Often times you can find many nearly empty subdivisions. In this setting your adolescent learns to drive near houses, on regular streets with just an occasional car passing by.

3. After your adolescent has his or her learner's permit, start Stage 3 of your hands-on driver's education program. Take your adolescent to a vacant parking area. We used the library parking lot after hours but an empty shopping mall on a Weekend morning might also work. Practice parallel parking during this stage to liven things up!

4. Either make a scheduled appointment on-line or show up at the Department of Motor Vehicles to take the learner's permit written test. In some states your adolescent will have two opportunities to take the written test in one day if they fail the first time. Schedule your appointment for early enough in the day.

5. Motivate your adolescent to maintain a's and b's on his report card because that means a reduced auto insurance rate. Also, motivate your adolescent to maintain a learner's permit for a full two years before getting the regular license. The car insurance folks view this as "experience" driving and will give the adolescent a lower rate oftentimes based on how many years of driving experience.

6. In certain states your adolescent needs to complete a Drug and Alcohol test. The drug and alcohol four hour test may be taken on-line and must be completed to get a driver's permit.

7. Stage 4 is about allowing your adolescent drive on the highway. Select a segment of the highway that is not as high in traffic (don't do this during rush hour). Only have your adolescent drive from one exit to the next, and know ahead of time where you want him or her to turn off.

8. Stage 5 involves allowing your adolescent drive to a fun location. It is important for your adolescent to learn how to not only drive, but to know more about how you get to the places he likes to go. Let him practice taking you to the supermarket, a popular restaurant, school or other popular spot.

9. The final Stage 6 is allowing your adolescent to help you drive on a road trip. Explain exactly how to utilize a road map, how to plan a long trip. Check the laws of different states before venturing out on your road trip. Not all states allow an adolescent to drive using a learner's permit when crossing into their state.

10. Your adolescent should preferably take a driver's education class. It does not have to be in a school setting. Many states now offer on-line driver's education classes.


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

==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's and HFA Children

==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's and HFA Teens

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and HFA: How to Promote Self-Reliance



COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… I have Aspergers and learned to drive in my late teens, had a break while at university and went back to it in my final year. I had an awful instructor, but the big difference was practicing. My Dad made me drive the car to my university flat in the city from our town every Sunday evening. Long drive, about 20k, light traffic, interesting, complicated route, it got my confidence back after the bad instructor and made driving a lot more natural. Then after passing I was doing doctoral research and living at a lab very far from home so driving up there and back at the weekends and relying on myself to get to shops for groceries really helped stop me avoiding it.
•    Anonymous said… im a driving instructer with an aspie boy. ive tqught several aspie kids. persever..... it will just take alot more practice but can DEFINATLY be done.
•    Anonymous said… My son is old enough to learn now, but he isn't keen. I cant tell if the reason is teenage boy laziness or Aspergers. It would really help the family out if he did learn, but after reading your post I might stop trying to push him.
•    Anonymous said… Practice on a easy Video game eg. Buggys, motor bikes on open dirt areas. This will give you plenty of safe fun while learning about driving. My asp son is excellent now after a year of XBox.
•    Anonymous said… Practice... as much as possible...in safe areas.
•    Anonymous said… So my main bits of advice are, practice, and make sure you get an instructor who you can actually work with...
•    Anonymous said… There is allegedly an IPad driving simulator for Aspergers as well as at least one professional coach and driving simulator at Cherry Hill Y.A.L.E. in New Jersey. They gave a seminar about it in February. Give yourself more time.
• Anonymous said... Great advise! My son who is 17 and alrady has his permit is practicing how to drive. Yesterday he bumped into another parked car as he was pulling out. He doesn't measure distance of spaces well. Will take some of this into account and will also advise his instructor who will begin lesssons this weekend. Hope he can make it! :)
• Anonymous said... I'm a pretty good driver, I have excellent reflexes but horrible road rage and horrible judgement of distance (I can't tell how much time I have to turn before a car is upon me). I say just take his time, if he can't judge distance like me, then it's always best to wait. He'll be fine. I'm still wondering on the road rage.
• Anonymous said... my aspergers husband is an excellant driver and as hios passion in life is buse and coaches,he is now a full time coach driver,he has never had an accident in 40 years of driving and never gets road rage/meltdown while at work or driving his coach,however if any one comes near OUR car,he does have real road rage?only seen it 3 times in 40 years but very scarey,our 2 daughters both aspergers,both drive
• Anonymous said... Thanks so very much for a very 'timely' and important articles, as my 17 year old nephew with Aspergers, is now looking forward to getting his drivers license since he will be attending college next year.
• Anonymous said... When it comes to a cheap driving school, the usual questions should apply. Things such as availability of the instructors are relevant information you should seek. Attending night driving classes in addition to those in the day can prove helpful, so be sure to ask if they are offered. Additionally, it pays to find out what the school's policy is when it comes to teaching in adverse weather; some schools will cancel and some will carry on. This is important as you don't just drive when the weather is fine!  
* Anonymous said... There are affordable options, but it's your responsibility to determine if the cheap fees charged by a driving instructor don't also indicate low quality instruction. You should never mistake temporary savings for future gain as that cheap driving lesson may cost you more time and money than you anticipated if you have to repeat the exam.

Post your comment below…

How to Approach Children with Aspergers: Advice for Parents, Teachers and Peers

How should people without Aspergers approach/treat people with Aspergers?

Advice for Parents and Teachers—

Aspergers (high functioning autism) describes individuals who show difficulties in interpersonal communication. They've problems in recognizing and using social cues, and thus tend to be awkward or inappropriate in social relationships. Consequently, they frequently come across as rude or obnoxious or insensitive.

They also are apt to have unusual hobbies and behaviors. Generally they may have strong interests about particular subjects that border on being compulsive. One picture of Asperser type tendencies may be the peculiarly British hobby of train spotting. This involves standing for long periods of time in train stations, taking notes of the serial numbers of passing trains, with the aim of "spotting" every train available. You can even find books published listing rows and rows of train numbers!

Asperser kids also have very firm ideas of right and wrong, and will not hesitate in arguing the toss with a teacher. They're typically not able to take into account shades of gray and may see all issues in black or white terms.

Now, none of those behaviors, by themselves, are so odd or bizarre!

The issue is that culture does not really know what to do with individuals like this. Equally culture is extremely inconvenient for short people (can't get to the desk) and tall people (must duck through doorways), so culture just isn't suitable for eccentric individuals who have an extremely different perspective of the world.

Especially schools, who like all kids to comply with their view of what kids should behave like. And thus these kids often rub people up the wrong way, and end up getting discouraged, irritated, and in trouble.

Previously, these kids were either tolerated as being strange or "loners", or else they wound up in significant conflict with authorities.

Nowadays they may be "diagnosed" with Aspergers.

What exactly does a diagnosis mean?

Once again, unlike in medicine where there's something clearly something wrong (like a germ causing disease), there's nothing "wrong" in Aspergers. At least, nothing that can't; be recognized with any blood tests, x-rays, etc.

A diagnosis of Aspergers is made purely on the basis of the descriptions of behaviors as provided by family, caregivers, educators, etc.

It is usually considered for you to be part of the Autistic Spectrum, which means as you go along the scale to more and more social difficulties, it gradually blends in with Autism. If you like, Aspergers is like a mild version of Autism.

So does it help, having a diagnosis of Aspergers?

That is the key question!

And the answer can be yes or no:

YES if, as a result, moms and dads and educators make the effort to learn about what it means and how best to adapt their behavior, and expectations, so as to best help the youngster to succeed.

No if, as a result, they are simply discriminated against as having "something wrong with them" or if people the think there will be some kind of treatment or cure for it.

Because, the reality is that the diagnosis truly should not make any difference at all to what individuals do - IF THEY ARE PROPERLY CLUED IN TO KIDS'S BEHAVIORS. (But they rarely are).

Why do I say that? Because assisting an Aspergers youngster calls for precisely the same principles as managing ANY youngster you get to know your youngster's individual character and learning style, you get to know what motivates or does not motivate him, and you adjust your techniques and expectations to that. If you do that correctly, you will come up with the right techniques for a youngster whether or not they have the diagnosis.

But the reality is that few moms and dads or educators are like that.

For them it may be beneficial to have a diagnosis so they can then think in a different way about how to help the youngster. They can, for instance, find some books about it, and read about strategies that do and don't work with such kids.

Because "treatment" of Aspergers consists 100% of modifying YOUR behavior and expectations so as to create an environment in which the youngster can flourish.

There is no medicine that will "treat" Aspergers (although some medications can sometimes be of some help with aspects of their behavior - see a psychiatrist about that.)

So, given what most educators are like, the reality is that these kids will most likely do best in an environment in which the educators have had previous experience of Asperser kids. These are the educators that can best adapt themselves to help the kids to succeed.

Also, the reality in this day and age, is that you may be able to get more resources and more funding if your youngster has a diagnosis than if they don't.

So, how do we put this all together? These, I believe, are the main points:

If an individual suggests that your youngster might "have" Aspergers, don't address it as some kind of insult or that your youngster is defective in some way.

Instead, go and get some books and read up about it. If, as you do so, the books seem to be describing your youngster, then you might learn some useful ideas on how better to help him. Share these ideas with the educators.

If, despite doing all that, your youngster still has difficulties in fitting in with "normal" expectations, then DO something about it. Don't just wait for the problems to go away, as they probably won't.

Doing something may include one or both of the following:

1. Getting an official evaluation to get the "label". Having the label may open doors to more funding etc. But don't fall into the trap of thinking that "having" the diagnosis means anything different than not having it. Either way, you youngster is still your youngster, and will respond to the right management. Just use the label as a tool to get the right school and the right support.

2. Changing schools to one that has more experience with kids like yours. That might mean special school. Do not put up with a school that is continually labeling your youngster as a troublemaker. The school is the single biggest determinant of how well these kids do as they grow up. Put them in a critical, punitive environment, and they will have major problems later on. Put them in a caring, understanding, flexible environment and the can do very, very well indeed.

3. Lastly, whether or not you have the official diagnosis, if you think your youngster might have Asperser type difficulties, read the books! Learn as much as you can about how they think and what they respond to. And then work hard to provide them the greatest possible environment that you can. It can be hard work, but it WILL pay off in the long run.

By the way, the principles of behavior management as explained in my e-book apply to kids with Aspergers just as they do to any youngster. By comprehending first the principles, and secondly the way Asperser kids think, you will be able to come up with some effective ways of handling their behaviors that will make a real difference to how they turn out in the long run.

And how do they turn out? Well, they will always be a bit "strange" or "different", just as tall kids will be tall adults. But with the proper assistance and reassurance they CAN find their own niche and live prosperous lives, even in contemporary society!


Advice for Peers—

1. Approach them slowly, and casually. If you see them in one spot every day, say around noon, start bringing your lunch to that spot, and sit next to them. Don't talk to them the first time …let them get used to your presence first.

2. Ask them about the people they are closest to in their lives and what makes these people special.

3. Ask them about their favorite activities, hobbies and sports and who they usually engage in these activities with.

4. Be observant. If someone you know displays signs of Aspergers, such as reclusiveness, being quiet, exhibits habitual behavior, is highly skilled or talented in a specific area or won't look at you in the eyes, understand that the person may be struggling with a neurobiological disorder.

5. Communicate clearly and openly. People with Aspergers are often unable to understand nonverbal communication. Giving them hints or thinking that they should read your body language won't work. Keep in mind that persons with Aspergers often interpret things very literally, so only say what you mean.

6. Consider approaching him and let him know you care and want to be there for him. Be ready to carry the conversation, as communication is an area where Aspergers sufferers have particular difficulty. Be patient. It may take a while before he develops trust in you.

7. Continue participating in activities and conversation with the person for the amount of time that is tolerable for them. This will continue to establish a bond and build trust.

8. Engage in a few activities that your new friend has suggested or seems to want to do.

9. Engage in a few brief conversations or interactions with the person.

10. Extend the types and longevity of activities based on the other person's comfort level.

11. Find someone who displays characteristics of Aspergers. You can't exactly do any of the other steps if you don't.

12. If they are acting strangely, tell them (if it dangers them or others). It's important to let them know. Don't say it meanly either, just say: "Most people don't do that"; or, "That's usually considered inappropriate"; or just "Please don't do that". If it's no harm to anyone, then leave them alone. It could be a comfort to them.

13. Introduce them to your other friends, and try to keep everyone getting along. They may act differently in the presence of your friends, or their friends. They may simply not get along. Don't try to force them to get along with your friends. They will probably be most outgoing when encountered one on one.

14. Keep in mind that Aspergers sufferers have a normal IQ intelligence. Although depression may be a symptom, it's often due to their lack of communication and social skills. Generally, they end up secluded since people are unable to relate to them.

15. Lay your emotions bare to them. Tell them how you feel, even when you think it's patently obvious, and ask them to do the same. They'll love you for it.

16. Offer up a compliment or ask for advice to soften things up once you've had a few initial interactions.

17. Read articles and books about Aspergers, preferably those written by people with the condition.

18. Realize that persons with Aspergers often hear sounds and see lights that no one else hears or sees. This is part of their neurological disorder.

19. Remember that above all, persons with Aspergers have the same feelings and emotions as everyone else and want the same things in life that every human being wants: to be respected, to be treated with dignity and to be happy.

20. Research Aspergers to develop a sound understanding of what the condition entails and how those close to this type of person is able to relate to them.

21. Start a small conversation. People with Aspergers are not very good at conversations, so you will probably need to lead them. You know, start by introducing yourself and asking their name …then ask them about themselves. For now you just want to get them talking, what about isn't really important yet.

22. Try to find some common ground, some activity that both of you enjoy. Agree to get together some time and do it. Show up for the get-together on time.


The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

How should I explain Aspergers Syndrome to my 12-year-old son who was recently diagnosed with the disorder?

Question

How should I explain Aspergers Syndrome to my 12-year-old son who was recently diagnosed with  the disorder?

Answer

More than likely, there is little need to explain Aspergers (high functioning autism) to your child. If you read accounts by others with Aspergers, they usually say that they knew they were different long before they knew they had an official diagnosis. Most report being relieved to learn about their diagnosis because it explained so much about the differences.

Some moms and dads choose to explain Aspergers as soon as the diagnosis is received, keeping the kid involved from the start. Even though the youngster may not be able to comprehend the full definition, there is that feeling of being different. Other parents choose to explain Aspergers much later, after the kid has grown and is able to understand exactly what it means. Either way is acceptable, depending on how you wish to do things in your home.

When it comes time to explain Aspergers to a child with the disorder, be mindful that he may become overwhelmed or even angry when he learns that his differences have a name, and that name is part of the Autism spectrum.

Here are a few suggestions to help you explain the diagnosis:
  • Explain Aspergers as a difference in manner of thinking versus a true disability. While it is true that some people with Aspergers qualify for government disability services, there are so many positives within the diagnosis on which you can choose to focus.
  • Be prepared to list the characteristics of Aspergers. Some of these characteristics are definitely strengths. Aspergers is definitely not all negative!
  • Autism is a spectrum disorder and Aspergers is on the higher end of ability. Most children will know someone at school who has classic Autism and may become distraught over the idea that they share that condition. Make special note of the specific differences.

After you explain Aspergers to your child, you should be prepared for any questions and concerns he may have. Encourage him to talk to you about his feelings. Books, websites, and other publications are available to help you through this process.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

The Warning Signs of Aspergers

Moms and dads should ask their youngster’s doctor for referral to a developmental pediatrician for assessment if there are concerns with any of the following...

Communication Red Flags:
  • Loss of any language or social skills at any age
  • No babbling by 11 months of age
  • No response when name is called, causing concern about hearing
  • No simple gestures by 12 months (e.g., waving bye-bye)
  • No single words by 16 months
  • No two-word phrases by 24 months (noun + verb – e.g., “baby sleeping”)

Behavioral Red Flags:
  • Compulsions or rituals (has to perform activities in a special way or certain sequence; is prone to tantrums if rituals are interrupted)
  • Lacks interest in toys, or plays with them in an unusual way (e.g., lining up, spinning, opening/closing parts rather than using the toy as a whole)
  • Odd or repetitive ways of moving fingers or hand
  • Oversensitive to certain textures, sounds or lights
  • Preoccupations with unusual interests, such as light switches, doors, fans, wheels
  • Unusual fears

Social Red Flags:
  • Avoids or ignores other children when they approach
  • Does not play peek-a-boo
  • Doesn’t make attempts to get parent’s attention; doesn’t follow/look when someone is pointing at something
  • Doesn’t point to show things he/she is interested in
  • Doesn’t respond to parent’s attempts to play, even if relaxed
  • More interested in looking at objects than at people’s faces
  • Prefers to play alone
  • Rarely makes eye contact when interacting with people
  • Rarely smiles socially
  • Seems to be “in his/her own world”

Are you wondering whether or not your pre-school aged youngster has Aspergers (high-functioning autism)? Take this simple little quiz:
  1. Are they attracted to shows like Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy?
  2. Are they fascinated with numbers and letters?
  3. Do they lack the ability to play "with" other children interactively?
  4. Do they like to line objects up in rows?
  5. Do they like to watch the same movie over and over again?
  6. Do they seem unafraid of things that they should be afraid of?
  7. Do they shun away from being touched or arch their back when held?
  8. Do they spin objects around and around?
  9. Do they walk up or down stairs always leading with the same foot?
  10. Is it hard for them to make eye contact or they simply don't?
  11. Is their speech repetitive, like an echo?

If you notice some or multiple signs in your child, write them down. Your concerns and observations are of great value for your pediatrician or professionals who are trying to diagnose your child.

Is it ADHD or Aspergers?

1. Discuss your concerns with your youngster's teacher. Kids who have ADHD and Aspergers often act very differently at school than they do at home due to over stimulation. Your youngster's teacher can offer important information that can lead to a proper diagnosis.

2. Notice if the youngster can stay focused under certain circumstances. Kids with Aspergers can sit still for long periods of time if they are interested in something. For example, they can still to watch a movie they are interested in or stay focused on a computer activity they enjoy. Kids who have ADHD will have trouble focusing on an activity even if they are interested in it.

3. Observe your youngster's behavior. Is your youngster's erratic behavior an everyday thing or is it in response to a traumatic event? All kids are hyper sometimes but a divorce or the death of a family member can cause kids to act out. Generally, if the behavior lasts for more than six months, it may be due to a disorder.

4. See how the youngster responds to medications and other behavior modification treatments. There are a number of medications to treat kids who are hyper active. But generally, you can find a medication to help calm a youngster who has ADHD. Kids who have Aspergers will not be calmed by medications such as Ritalin and Adderall. This is a big red flag since nearly every youngster who is diagnosed with Aspergers is initially diagnosed with ADHD.

5. Understand the differences between ADHD and Aspergers. Kids who have Aspergers typically engage in repetitive behavior, have a hard time dealing with change and are so inner-focused that they may appear to be self absorbed. Kids who have ADHD have a hard time focusing and sitting still but tend to be more aware of their surroundings than kids with Aspergers.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Girls with Aspergers and HFA

More often identified in males than females, Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are characterized by compulsive pursuits, awkward communication skills, and problems with social cues.

The signs and symptoms of the disorder in females are often exhibited in a more subtle manner, which leads to missed or incorrect professional diagnoses, a lack of access to special education services and provisions in education, along with an increased potential for interpersonal and psychological difficulties in the adult years.

A number of unique differences exist regarding the ways that young ladies versus males with Aspergers behave:

  • Females that have Aspergers and HFA aren't usually aggressive once they get irritated; instead, they tend to be withdrawn and may very easily "fly under the radar" in classrooms and other interpersonal situations. 
  • Females with the disorder can communicate their feelings in a more calm way than their male counterparts. 
  • Aspergers and HFA females tend to be safeguarded and nurtured by their neurotypical friends, who assist them to deal with challenging interpersonal situations. Acceptance from friends can occasionally cover up the problems these girls have so they aren't recognized by educators and moms and dads. Consequently, grown-ups are not as likely to suggest psychological and social evaluations.

There are specific personality characteristics and warning signs that moms and dads, educators, and specialists can search for when they believe that a young female may have Aspergers or HFA:

  • Females with the disorder often exhibit compulsive traits regarding animals, dolls, and other female-oriented pursuits. While neurotypical females will play with dolls by pretending that they're interacting socially, Aspergers and HFA females might collect dolls and never use them to interact socially with other females. 
  • Their passion for certain subject matter can result in them lagging behind their friends in terms of maturation and age-appropriate conduct (e.g., a pre-teen on the autism spectrum may be captivated by stuffed animals or cartoons long after other females their age have outgrown this stuff.
  • Females that have Aspergers and HFA may be incorrectly assumed to possess a character disorder simply because they imitate typical kids - but use phrases inappropriately. 
  • They are usually bored with kids their age and possess problems empathizing with their friends' concerns/problems. 

While their behaviors tend to be less aggressive than males on the spectrum, grown-ups who pay close attention to females with social and psychological delays can make sure that correct diagnosis and therapy will take place. The younger a female is when she starts to receive the appropriate speech, occupational, and psychological services, the greater likelihood she'll have a completely independent and functional adult life.

Females with Aspergers and HFA have the same difficulties with sensory processing and social navigation as males. In addition, they have telltale intense focus on a particular subject of interest.

Symptoms include:

Routine—
o Appears anxious when there are changes in routine
o Intense focus on a particular subject
o Practices rituals that appear to have no function
o Resists change

Physical—
o Difficulty coordinating movements
o Odd posturing
o Repetitive movements (stims)

Sensory processing—
o Dislikes textures in foods, clothes or objects
o No response or extreme response to noises
o Resists activities that involve movement (slides, escalators…)
o Seeks out sensory experiences (spinning, rocking…)
o Strong aversion to certain smells

Social difficulties—
o "Scripts" daily conversations
o Appears excessively shy
o Appears uncomfortable during conversation
o Avoids interacting with others
o Hesitant to make the first move
o Tends to "blend" into the crowd
o Tends to mimic rather than providing natural responses

It's not uncommon for females with Aspergers and HFA to go undiagnosed well into adulthood. Like heart disease, autism spectrum disorders are 10 times more prevalent in boys, so doctors often don't think to look for it in girls. But some experts have begun to suspect that unlike heart disease, the disorder manifests differently - and less obviously in females - which is also causing them to slip through the diagnostic cracks.

This gender gap may have implications for the health and well-being of females on the spectrum, and some specialists predict that as we diagnose more females, the profile of the disorder as a whole will change. Unlike males, females with ASpergers and HFA seem to have less motor impairment, a broader range of obsessive interests, and a stronger desire to connect with others despite their social impairment.


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



Comments:

Anonymous said... Dear Dr. Mark, I am speaking at a retreat Aug 4 on the female perspective of AS. I am co-founder of Asperfemme, a support group for self- and officially-diagnosed women with ASD in Ottawa, Canada. I was 48 when I was diagnosed, three years after my two-decade long married ended, and have splinter skills in music (absolute pitch) and language (hyperlexia) which I have parlayed into self-employment as a private music teacher (after several failed careers.) We older women are struggling with financial needs, broken or troubled relationships, sometimes children on the spectrum, on top of the regular aging stuff. I would be interested if any of your research and writing deals with this largely unexplored group (a subgroup of "the spectrum within the spectrum" as Dr. Kevin Stoddart of Toronto's Redpath Centre calls Asperger's). I do find we women are less rigid about routines, and have fewer self-soothing behaviors (stims) than the men. We also tend to get sad and anxious rather than angry, a fact my marriage counselor could not deal with. I was introduced to you in the article "Children with High-Functioning Autism: 'Gifted' or Hyperlexic" on the My Aspergers Child web site (excellent by the way.) My precocious reading skill was considered cute, and not a sign in 1963 that anything was wrong. I think my parents were relieved that I amused myself with books, because I was quiet and no trouble while they dealt with my two rambunctious younger brothers born 11 months apart. I ended up in a Gifted class for 4 years (Grades 5 to 8) and had few friends, being chosen only for the spelling team. I flew entirely under the radar with my good academic record--a child seen and not heard. Looking back I also had selective mutism, excellent mimicry, apraxia and poor executive function. I firmly believe the piano saved my life, as it gave me an outlet and later a means to communicate. Public performance was very hard, but I learned to develop 'show' and private persona.

CoolMama said... I'm glad to see someone writing about girls/women on the spectrum. Like ADHD, women tend to present differently than boys/men do with regard to "symptoms" or characteristics. For myself, when I got into middle school (junior high back then), I learned about acting. For me, being involved in theater classes allowed me to become someone else, someone who wasn't "weird", who wasn't bullied or teased. I learned about personas, roles, and finally felt like I'd found a group where being a misfit was accepted and even embraced. Some might think being on stage as completely opposite to the social awkwardness inherent to ASD/Asperger's--I disagree. When you act, you aren't yourself, so you have the freedom and confidence to overcome your weaknesses. Plus, most interactions are scripted (I didn't do so well at improv, for example). You memorize your lines, and you learn techniques for portraying emotion. It's pretend play at the highest level. Not only was it a life-saver for me in school, it helped me once I tried to get a professional job. Interviews are all about presenting an image, and presenting an image is about projecting a persona, or playing a role. Other ASD individuals may have difficulty with "feeling like a fraud", and I totally get that--but I chose to look at it as being on stage. The "role" I created was just the best parts of me, the parts I wanted to stand out and be noticed. Theater isn't the solution for every person with ASD...but it is something to consider.

Raising Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parents' Grief and Guilt

Some parents grieve for the loss of the youngster they   imagined  they had. Moms and dads have their own particular way of dealing with the...