Helping Aspergers Students Transition To High School

Young Aspergers (high functioning autistic) teens entering high school look forward to having more choices and making new and more friends; however, they also are concerned about being picked on and teased by older students, having harder work, making lower grades, and getting lost in a larger, unfamiliar school.

As Aspergers teens make the transition into high school, many experience a decline in grades and attendance. They view themselves more negatively and experience an increased need for friendships. By the end of the 10th grade as many as 6% drop out of school. For middle school students, including those who have been labeled "gifted" or "high-achieving," the transition into high school can be an especially unpleasant experience.

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How to Calm an Aspergers Child: 50 Tips for Parents

If you have an Aspergers (high functioning autistic) youngster who has an “anger-control” problem, use these tips to (a) prevent anger outbursts and (b) help calm him down once he has launched into a rage or meltdown:

1. Allow the Aspergers youngster to use his energy in a fun way through jumping, spinning, running, climbing, swinging or other physical activities. Allow him to play-wrestle with pillows or other soft objects since agitated kids seek sensations inherent to the contact from tackling, bumping and crashing.

2. Allow the youngster to perform some heavy chores such as vacuuming, moving objects or cleaning windows and cabinet doors. This helps him focus on completing a necessary task while using his energy in a constructive way. Heavy chores or intense exercises allow kids to experience sensory input to different muscles and joints.

3. Give the youngster a creative outlet through playing with watercolor paints, drawing or coloring or molding with clay or play dough.

4. If another youngster is upsetting the Aspergers child, find out why, then confront the other youngster and ask him or her to apologize. If you have any authority over the troublemaker, then give him/her a minor punishment (not watching TV that day, whatever).

5. Ask the Aspergers youngster to take several deep breaths and count to ten. This breathing and counting technique will help him to react not with impulsivity and anger, but in a calm way.

6. Before you can calm down your kid’s anxiety, you must first learn to calm down your own first. Lead by example, because you can’t put out a fire with another fire.

7. Aspergers kids pick up negative thoughts very quickly and will react and respond to them. So parents need to keep a positive mindset.

8. If your youngster doesn’t have the verbal skills to assert himself in a non-violent way, then teach him. Children love “pretend play” and you can use that to teach them how to react to the things that tend to trigger their rage. Role-play a situation that would normally have your youngster going into meltdown and work out how he can resolve it without his fists and feet flying.

9. Check your own stress levels, because Aspergers kids are often emotional barometers for their parents.

10. The repeated act of chewing and sucking provides agitated kids the necessary oral sensory input that helps them relax. This is why some kids will chew the inside of their mouth when they feel agitated. Replace this destructive habit by giving agitated kids food that requires repeated chewing, such as celery, carrots, lettuce and other crunchy vegetables. Kids can also chew gum or taffy to help them settle down. You can also give the youngster a smoothie to drink using a straw.

11. Aspergers kids have difficulty remaining calm in a hectic environment. Clearing the clutter and taking a "less is more" approach to decorating can reduce the sensory overload on Aspergers kids. The Aspergers youngster's bedroom especially should be free of clutter. Use plastic bins to organize and store all those precious little plastic treasures (that we adults commonly refer to as "junk") and small toys. Open the curtains to provide natural lighting. Keep posters and wall hangings to a minimum. Paint the youngster's bedroom in calming muted colors instead of bright primary colors.

12. Have the Aspergers youngster wear a weighted belt. These therapeutic weight devices are designed to help agitated kids feel grounded by their core and thus more secure as they become aware of their body in relation to their surroundings. Weighted belts help with the youngster's balance and motor skills. The deep pressure stimulates the youngster's sense of positioning to help her refocus and reorganize herself when she is in an agitated state.

13. Allow the agitated youngster to sit in a beanbag chair. The feeling of being hugged helps to relax her when she is too agitated to receive the hug of a parent.

14. Allow the youngster to play in a warm bath or dig in a sandbox. Agitated kids experience a calming effect from the variety of textures.

15. If your child is angry about a privilege being taken away, not getting to have dessert, having to turn off the television, having to go to bed, or simply is having a very bad day, don't be harsh. Be gentle and caring. Try to reason with the youngster. Ask what he/she wants, if they had their way. Do they demand to stay up another half-hour (or whatever)? Make a bargain that they may stay up for ten minutes, but that you would read them a story at bedtime (or whatever). Go halfway and give them a deal. If they still are being a pain, or if you simply can't let them stay up, tell them that they have to go to bed, and give them the reasons why.

16. If you’re in the habit of smacking your youngster in the heat of the moment, you need to express your own frustration more constructively. Smacking in anger teaches kids to strike out when they’re angry. Seeing that you don’t exercise self-control when you’re angry makes them think they don’t have to either.

17. If at all possible, find a space in the house to designate as a relaxation space. It does not have to be a large space but it does need to be away from high activity areas. This little corner (or even a portion of a walk-in closet) can have a beanbag chair and a few books, coloring books or other quiet time activities. Encourage your youngster to go to this space when they become angry or out of control, but never make this a place of punishment. This special spot in the house is a positive place where they can go to settle down, sort things out or just hang out when they need to be alone.

18. If the youngster is upset or angry about something related to one of his/her toys or possessions, ask to see the toy and try to fix it. In the worst-case-scenario, the toy will be permanently broken, and you may want to “put it away so you can fix it properly later”- and wait to see if the youngster forgets about it. If not, you can either buy that youngster a new thing or get it repaired.

19. Aspergers kids thrive in homes that provide routines, consistency and structure. These kids especially need structure and schedules to feel secure in their surroundings. For them, a more "military" approach to routines works better. Waking up, eating meals, doing homework and bed times should all occur at about the same time every day, with few surprises to upset the Aspergers youngster.

20. Give your youngster an alternative to a tantrum. If he is able to identify that he is losing control, or if you notice it yourself, you can suggest another activity. You can often help a youngster calm down with a little distraction.

21. Give your youngster a mini-massage. Touch is very important to some kids. Massaging their temples, giving a shoulder rub or lightly running your fingers through their hair may calm him quickly.

22. Help him work out what he’s feeling. After your youngster has calmed down from a tantrum, gently talk him through it. Ask him what was bothering him and why: “Did you think I wasn’t listening to you?” Like adults, young kids have a variety of feelings. They need to be taught how to label and manage those feelings, especially anger. In order to do this, your youngster needs an emotion vocabulary – and you can provide that by asking questions such as, “Were you angry?” … “Did you feel sad?” … “Were you frightened?”

23. Help your youngster to identify the warning signs leading up to a tantrum. Older kids can even make a list of these warning signs and post them in a visible location. If he is aware of what these signs are, he can then practice the breathing and counting technique.

24. Hold the highest vision for these kids and try not to label them as difficult or nonconformist.

25. Keep them away from caffeinated drinks and anything with added preservatives, coloring and sugar.


26. Sometimes Aspergers kids need it spelled out so they can see how their behavior relates back to Mom and Dad pulling them up all the time. Your youngster reacts aggressively when you try to enforce rules and limits – so he gets told off. Explain to him in simple terms the connection between those two events: “Jack, being told off makes you cranky. But if you keep hitting and biting, I’m going to keep telling you off. If you stop doing it then I won’t tell you off.”

27. Make sure the youngster is not hurt. Is physical pain upsetting him? If so, and he is hurt, take care of his wound, or bump on the head, etc. If the youngster is still upset, there may be some anger towards the person or thing that caused the injury.

28. Make the effort to really listen to them at least once a day or when you teach them. Many Aspergers kids react negatively to authority, so making time for them on their own will help to build their confidence.

29. Aspergers kids learn to manage their anger by watching the way you manage your own. It’s a sobering thought, but anger habits are learned. The irony is that an aggressive youngster can often be a major trigger for parents to explode, but try not to let your own anger build up. Deal with it as soon as possible, using a calm voice to express how you feel rather than yelling. It’ll have way more impact. And just as you expect your youngster to apologize for bad behavior, get into the habit of apologizing to him if you lose your temper inappropriately. If your youngster’s aggressive behavior is disrupting your home and putting family members or others at risk, and he reacts explosively to even the mildest discipline techniques, see your doctor. She may be able to refer you to a child psychologist or counselor who can teach you new ways of interacting with your youngster that will help you manage his anger more effectively.

30. Many Aspergers kids do not know HOW to calm down or even what “calm” feels like. Explain it to them and discuss it frequently.

31. Do not tolerate aggressive behavior at all, in any way, shape or form. As with every other aspect of parenting, consistency is paramount. The only way to stop your youngster from being aggressive is to make a House Rule that aggression is not acceptable.

32. Offer your child verbal alternatives to his rage: “Maybe you could have said this. Why don’t you try that next time?” If trouble is brewing, remind him by saying, “Use your words, Tom” – and be sure to praise him when he does, perhaps via a Reward Chart with a happy face for every day he doesn’t hit or by saying something like, “I’m so happy you didn’t lose your temper when Alex was playing with your toys.”

33. Put together a "Boredom Box" that provides creative outlets for your Aspergers youngster. Fill this box or plastic storage bin with paint sets, coloring books, crossword puzzles, modeling clay, jewelry making kits and other artistic areas of interest. Some Aspergers kids bore easily and their fast spinning minds need extra stimulation. In the absence of nothing better to do, Aspergers kids will lean on their own devises, and you don't want them doing that. Better that they draw than set the cat on fire.

34. Reassure Aspergers kids that you like them, even though you recognize they are 'highly spirited'.

35. Teach your youngster what calm behavior looks like by showing him you can be calm, too.

36. Remove the youngster from the stressful situation. Lead him to a quiet room or a secluded spot on the playground.

37. Eliminate clutter in the youngster's environment to help structure and focus his energies to prevent repeated outbursts. Do not speak in an agitated or overexcited voice to an agitated youngster since this aggravates the problem. Keep your voice calm while instructing her in concise sentences on what she can do to calm down. Dim the lights so the agitated youngster receives less sensory input from surroundings that she may feel are harsh and which may further distract her.

38. Take your youngster for a walk or send him around the block on his own if he is old enough. Not only does walking burn off toxic energy, the repetitive thump, thump, thump of feet hitting pavement brings the mind back into focus.

39. Taking a mini-vacation with guided imagery. Guided imagery is a powerful relaxation tool for Aspergers kids that pulls their focus to positive thoughts, all the while encouraging creativity in your youngster. You can check out books on this technique at your local library if you want further information on the subject.

40. Deep breathing is an easy technique young kids can use to defuse anger. Show your youngster what to do by placing your hand on your chest and getting him to do the same while taking in two deep breaths. The hand on the chest serves a handy visual cue that you can use to remind your youngster to take a step back from what’s bothering him: just do it if you see him start to get frustrated.

41. Aspergers kids often pay little mind to the effect their behavior might have on everyone else. If your youngster hits, bites or kicks, get down to his level and calmly ask him how he would feel if someone did that to him. Prompt him to give it some thought by saying things like, “If your sister kicked you like that it would hurt you and make you cry.”

42. Give them lots of opportunities to be creative as it helps to release emotional energy.

43. Try aromatherapy!

44. Try fish oil. It has a calming effect.

45. For the youngster who is old enough to write, journaling is an excellent way to untangle frazzled minds and get things off their chest. This technique allows Aspergers kids to spill their internal stresses outside themselves and onto paper. Develop a daily habit of having your youngster write a page or two, depending on their age, about anything that comes to mind. They can write "I hate school, the dog just drooled, the baby's crying is driving me crazy..." - whatever comes to mind. Eventually, they will get to the guts of what is going on inside them. Then rumple or tear the paper up and throw it away. These private internal thoughts are not for you or anyone else to read, ever. Please respect their privacy and let them know they can write anything down without fear of reprimand.

46. Turn it around, and learn from Aspergers kids the gifts of honesty, perseverance, patience and problem-solving.

47. Kids who see aggressive or violent behavior played out on the TV screen or in computer games tend to be more aggressive when they play. If your youngster is consistently aggressive, limit his exposure to it in the media. If he does see it on TV, explain that hitting isn’t a nice way to act and doesn‘t solve problems. Reinforce the message by choosing storybooks and TV shows that promote kindness.

48. Use calming music.

49. Sometimes it is best to leave a youngster to work through a tantrum by removing yourself from the situation. However, you should always ensure that your youngster is in a safe environment and not able to hurt himself.

50. Some parents find that reducing or eliminating certain foods from the diet goes a long way in calming the Aspergers youngster. If your youngster is a finicky eater, you will need to supplement the diet to make sure your he has the fuels needed for his body to function well. Starting the day out with a healthy breakfast balanced with proteins, fats and carbohydrates is important. Sugar cereals are quick and convenient but should not be used as a breakfast mainstay. Fruit juices are high in calories and sugar and not recommended. Instead of juice or sodas, get in the habit of offering plain old H2O. With plenty of bottled waters that offer fruit flavors and vitamin enhancements, getting your kids hydrated is easier now than ever before.

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


Adult Aspergers Children Still Living With Mom & Dad


I am not sure of a solid, step by step process that works consistently with Aspergers …especially those that are smart, college educated, manipulative. I'm the one on the edge of the nervous breakdown and at the end of the rope. My son is oblivious. He has a $52,000 a year job that he has held for 60 days. It is working with cars, which he loves, but he is bored. There is nothing I can say to convince him of the value of this position in this economy.

What suggestions do you have? Is it appropriate to ask him to move out? He basically comes home from work, plays 5 hours of video games, comes up for dinner, then returns to play video games until 10 p.m. Repeat the next day. I'm the one that's upset. He sees no problem.

Where do we find a mentor? Naturally, he will not listen to any family member. He will not join an outside activity. He always knows a better way. No trouble with the law. It's not a matter of intelligence. Sits at the table and cuts his cheese into precise triangles before he will eat it...all while his girlfriend watches...she will not be around long.

HELP! I'm the one that is going down fast!


Re: What suggestions do you have?

I think you should set up a "living agreement" if you haven't done so already [see below]. In the event he defaults on the agreement, he will need to move out.

Re: Is it appropriate to ask him to move out?

Absolutely! He's not going to be motivated to hold down a job if he can (a) lose his job, but (b) still have room and board.

Re: Where do we find a mentor?

I don't know where you live or what resources you have in your area.

Re: Setting up a living agreement... 

It’s never too late to sit down with the adult child and say, "We’re going to have to have a talk about our rules here and what parts fit you and what parts don’t fit you."

The agreement you develop with the adult child should allow for adult privileges. Specifically, if the adult child is working and being responsible, then your agreement with him should be very flexible. On his day off, he can sleep all day for all you care. But he can’t stay out all night without calling you because you’re going to worry, and it’s his responsibility to let you know he’s safe. If he doesn’t want to do that, then he should move into a more independent living situation. You don’t get complete freedom and the support of living at home at the same time.

Paying rent is a very good habit for an adult child to get into. I think there are two ways to look at the issue of when and if your adult child should pay rent in order to continue living at home. If the family needs the money and the adult child is working, he needs to contribute. It’s just that simple.

If you don’t need the money, charge him room-and-board anyway, and then put the money aside and save it up until you’ve saved enough for a security deposit on an apartment and the first month’s rent. Then when he’s ready to move out, you’ve already got his money. Hold onto that money. That way, he pays for himself, and he gets into the habit of paying rent and being responsible while money is being accumulated, so that both he and the family are prepared for his next step.

When you come up with the agreement on living arrangements, I think it has to be really clear that the adult child is here to contribute, not just take. So, moms & dads need to be clear about specific chores the older adult child will be responsible for. Moms & dads can offer their ideas, and the adult child can come up with his own ideas. Write it down and be clear about consequences if he doesn’t follow through, because everyone who lives in the house has to help out.

The decision on when to ask an older adult child to leave the home has more to do with a family’s morals and values. First of all, if he violates a cardinal rule, he should leave. If he’s insulting you, abusive with a family member or breaking things, he should leave. He should go stay with a friend.

If things are going well with the living arrangement, the adult child should be told to think about leaving once he has the means. Once the first and last month’s rent and a deposit are set aside and he has a car and he’s driving, he should be told to start looking for a place with a roommate.

Independence is a decision you can make as a family. If an adult child is doing well, living at home and meeting the family’s expectations, then there’s no problem. But someday he will want to be independent. The way you get there is to sit down and have the adult child set some goals. Where do you plan to live? When do you plan to move out? How much does the adult child need to pay for rent or room and board while living at home? You can measure progress toward the goal by the objectives. If the adult child has a goal to move out and he’s not meeting any of the objectives, it’s a joke.

If an adult child fears independence and responsibility, you can solve that problem by having a written agreement that shows the adult child how to live by your rules, and have ongoing discussions about the goal of independence and how to meet it.

==> Launching Adult Children With Aspergers: How To Promote Self-Reliance

Coping Skills for Aspergers and HFA Teens: 40 Tips for Parents

Teens with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism (HFA) have core neurologically-based deficits in social-emotional and communication skills. Without specialized help with these skills, even the brightest teenager may end up unable to make and keep friends or hold down a job. I have worked with numerous Aspergers and HFA teens that made really good grades in high school – but simply could not hold down a job (e.g., working in a fast food restaurant, grocery store, etc.).

One of the main reasons for this dilemma is that the teenager has trouble relating to other people on the job. He may say or do things that come across as socially awkward – or downright rude (e.g., ignoring co-workers when they say hello, talking about his own pursuits with no apparent interest in what the other person may have to say, making negative comments about other people's work/appearance/habits, etc.). To make matters worse, after being fired, the Aspergers employee often never understands the real reasons why he lost the job.

Aspergers and HFA teens generally have a lot of trouble understanding the unspoken rules that govern how they must act around other people in order to get along socially. They often end up with no close friends, and with slim chances of finding a girlfriend. This happens because of problems with social-emotional understanding. Aspergers teens can have a great deal of trouble understanding feelings (including their own), and as a result, they may appear to be detached and uncaring – or at the other extreme, out of control of their feelings. So a young man with Aspergers figures that since he told his girlfriend on their first date that he really likes being with her, he doesn't need to say it again. Or he has just won the school math contest, jumps up and down with happiness one minute, and then yells and sobs the next minute, because any kind of strong feelings – positive or negative – overwhelm him.

Aspergers teens also have a hard time reading other people's non-verbal cues (e.g., body language, facial expression, tone of voice, etc.), which make up about 70-80% of what we communicate (words only count for about 20%-30% of what we communicate). People need to read non-verbal cues in order to make accurate assessments about what other people are thinking, feeling, and intending. If one can't read non-verbal cues and doesn’t understand or predict other people's thoughts/feelings/intentions, he will repeatedly be “off the page” in interactions with others.

The Good News—

Aspergers teens typically have many talents that can make them highly valuable as friends, lovers, and employees:
  • many “Aspies” are superior in their loyalty, honesty, and logical thinking
  • many of our major advances in literature, the arts, computer technology, mathematics, and other sciences were achieved by “Aspies”
  • their ability to focus can lead to achievements that help the rest of us enjoy an enriched quality of life and a better understanding of the universe in which we live
  • their memories for facts can be mind-boggling
  • their sense of humor can be magnificent
  • they can have an extraordinary ability to focus on one isolated topic without getting distracted by other, unrelated input into their brains

So, how can you help your Aspergers or HFA teen to survive and THRIVE?

Here are 40 tips for parents:

1. A regular bed time at a reasonable hour is more important than ever, if you can put/keep it in place. Regular routines of all kinds—familiar foods, rituals, vacations—are reassuring when the adolescent’s body, biochemistry, and social scene are changing so fast.

2. Although some adolescents with Aspergers are more docile and youngster-like, be prepared to tolerate/ignore considerable distancing, surliness, or acting out, knowing that it won’t last forever. At the same time, set some firm limits, and keep a close eye on the youngster/adolescent’s welfare.

3. Be patient. Remember that kids and adolescents with Aspergers are relatively immature, socially and emotionally, compared to non-Aspergers kids of the same chronological age. Imagine sending a 10 year old off to high school (even if she has a chronological age of 14), or putting a 14 year old boy behind the wheel of car (even if he has a chronological age of 18)—or sending that 14 year old off to college or the army. We need to adjust our expectations for adolescents with Aspergers -- and make sure they still have appropriate supports.

4. Boys may need to spend increased amounts of time with their fathers, and/or other male role models, as they undertake to become men. If Dad has taken a back seat, let him know his son really needs his attention now. If you are a single mother, look especially hard for male mentors at your son’s school or in the wider community.

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

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

7. A simple, low key, consistent approach is more important than ever, as adolescents become taller and stronger—not that physical restraint was ever very useful with our children. Pick your battles. Set and enforce only your bottom line rules and expectations—matters of safety and respect. Write them down. Make sure both moms and dads/all involved adults agree on the rules. Give choices when possible, but not too many. Engage your adolescent in problem-solving; what does s/he think would work?

8. Encourage your adolescent to carry a wallet disclosure card to show if stopped by a police officer or other first responder. A lot of adolescents with Aspergers like to walk at night to unwind, and police may view their behavior as suspicious. You may want to introduce your adolescent to your local police community relations officer, and explain a little about Aspergers.

9. Establish verbal codes or gestures to convey that one or both parties need a time out: a chance to cool down before continuing a difficult discussion at a later time.

10. Even for a previously well-adjusted youngster, multiple stressors during the adolescent years may bring on anxiety and even depression. Stressors seem to include increased academic/abstract thinking and social demands at school, peer pressure, increased social awareness, and fears of the future. Highly anxious adolescents who do not get help may be at risk for hospitalizations, school failure, acting out (including alcohol and substance abuse), or even suicide attempts.

11. Forgive yourself for being an imperfect parent, and for not loving your youngster “enough.” Forgive yourself for sometimes losing your temper, yelling, or handling a tense situation awkwardly. Forgive yourself for getting your adolescent diagnosed “late”—there are still plenty of years in which to help your youngster. Forgive yourself for not arranging play dates, or sports, or tutoring, the way other moms and dads may be doing.

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

13. Have realistic, modest goals for what the adolescent or the family can accomplish in a give time period. You may need to postpone some plans for career goals, trips, culture or recreation.

14. If both moms and dads can largely agree about an adolescent’s diagnosis, treatment, and rules, it will save a lot of family wear and tear. To get your partner on the same page, attend Aspergers conferences or classes together. When you hear the same information, you can discuss it and decide what will work best for your adolescent and in your family. As you learn more about Aspergers, you may also come to better appreciate each other’s contributions to your youngster’s welfare. Attend team meetings at the school together, or alternate which parent attends. Seeing your youngster’s therapist together (possibly without the youngster), or seeing a couples or family therapist, may help you weather a tough time together.

15. If you can afford it, you may prefer to pay private school tuition rather than paying a lawyer to negotiate with a financially strapped or resistant school system. However, a private school may not be the best choice. Some families move to a community with a better high school.

16. If you have not talked to your adolescent about Aspergers, you or someone else should do so—to the extent that the adolescent is ready to hear it. It’s tricky for adolescents—they so much want to be “normal” and strong and successful. A diagnosis can seem threatening or even totally unacceptable. In truth, however, the adults with Aspergers who do best are those who know themselves well—both their own strengths, which point them toward finding their niche in the world, and their own blind spots: where they need to learn new skills or seek out specific kinds of help.

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

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

19. Impersonal, written communication is easier for the adolescent to absorb: lists of routines and rules, notes, charts, or calendars. E-mail may become a new option.

20. In so far as you can, keep your cool—they can’t handle our upset feelings. Walk away if you need to.

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

22. Children still need structure, down time, soothing activities, and preparation for transitions.

23. Children with Aspergers can be difficult to parent and to love even when they are young. Often, our children neither accept nor express love or other positive feelings in ways a non-Aspergers parent expects or finds most comfortable. Children’ behavior can be trying or embarrassing for us. Adding adolescence to the mix can make this dilemma even more painful.

24. Look for opportunities for a sheltered, successful overnight stay away from home with no parent. Examples: long weekend visits to relatives, a week or two of a carefully chosen sleep-away camp, taking a course on a college campus.

25. Look for volunteer activities or part time jobs at the high school or in the community. Be persistent in asking the school to provide help in the areas of career assessment, job readiness skills, and internships or volunteer opportunities. They probably have such services for intellectually challenged adolescents—but may not realize our children need that help, too. They may also not know how to adapt existing programs to meet our children’ needs.

26. Make sure thorough neuropsych re-evaluations are performed every three years. This information and documentation may be critical in securing appropriate services, alternative school placements, a good transition plan; choosing an appropriate college or other post secondary program; proving eligibility for services and benefits as an adult.

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

28. Residential schools may be worth considering for some. The right fit can build tremendous confidence for the adolescent, give the moms and dads a break, and prepare everyone for the independence of the post high school years.

29. Schedule regular monthly educational team meetings to monitor your adolescent’s progress, to ensure that the IEP is being faithfully carried out, and to modify it if necessary. Because adolescents can be so volatile or fragile, and because so many important things must be accomplished in four short years of high school, these meetings are critical. If an adolescent is doing very well, the team can agree to skip a month—but be sure to reconvene to plan the transition to the following year.

30. Seek out activity-based, practical social skills groups designed especially for adolescents. Participating in such a group, being accepted by group leaders and peers, is probably the most powerful way to allay an adolescent’s potential despair at not fitting in socially and not having any friends. The positive social experiences and new skills they learn will be assets for the rest of their lives.

31. Side by side conversations (walking, in the car) may be more comfortable for the adolescent than talking face to face.

32. Some adolescents adjust o.k. to middle/high school with appropriate supports and accommodations. Others, however, just cannot handle a large, impersonal high school. You may need to hire an advocate or lawyer to negotiate with your school system to pay for an alternative school placement, tuition, and transportation.

33. Special interests may change, but whatever the current one is, it remains an important font of motivation, pleasure, relaxation, and reassurance for the adolescent.

34. Teach laundry and other self-care/home care skills by small steps over time. Try to get the adolescent to take an elective such as cooking or personal finance at the high school.

35. Adolescents need to learn when to ask for help, from whom, and how. It’s very helpful to have someone such as a trusted guidance counselor whose door is always open, and who can coach the adolescent in problem solving.

36. Adolescents with Aspergers are less prepared than non-Aspergers adolescents for the new challenges of sexuality and romance. Some are oblivious; others want a girl or boy friend, but are clueless about how to form and maintain a relationship. Boys especially may be at risk for accusations of harassment, and girls especially at risk for becoming victims. Teach appropriate rules, or see that another adult does. Look for supervised activities in which boys and girls can socialize safely together, supervised by a staff person who know Aspergers and can coach appropriate social skills.

37. What kind of living situation, employment, and transportation fit your adolescent’s picture of his/her future at age 18 or 25? Once the goals are set, where can the adolescent learn the necessary skills? Consider academic courses, electives, extracurricular activities, and additional services within and outside the high school (e.g. community college, adaptive driving school).

38. With or without Aspergers, most adolescents become less willing to take a parent’s word or advice; so we need to hook them up with other trustworthy adults. If you want your adolescent to learn or try or do something, arrange for the suggestion or information to come from a trusted adult other than a parent. E.g.: Handpick your adolescent’s guidance counselor. Look for other good mentors: Uncle? Scout or youth group leader? Psychologist, social worker, peer mentor, “Big Brother,” social skills group leader? Weight room coach or martial arts teacher?

39. Adolescents continue to grow and develop. You may get some nice surprises along the way, as you see the adolescent take an unexpected giant step toward maturity. I think of it as their neurons maturing on the vine! Maybe it’s just that they figure some things out, and get used to the feel of their new body chemistry.

40. You want input and ownership from the adolescent as far as is possible, but moms and dads can and should have input. You may need to have team meetings when the adolescent is absent, so you can speak frankly about your concerns, without fear that the adolescent may feel you lack respect for or faith in her/him.

My Aspergers Teen: Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens

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