HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Single-Parenting Children With Aspergers/High-Functioning Autism

One of the most difficult roles a mother or father will ever assume is that of the single parent. It doesn't matter how you arrived at that point – divorced, widowed, or single by choice – it is a daily challenge. When a mother or father is a single parent and there is a youngster with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) to care for, the challenges can make life feel like a true test of endurance, but it can be done. It does take more effort and organization, however.

Although raising children always has challenges, single parenting a child with Aspergers or HFA can be extremely stressful – as well as rewarding. Finding solutions to most of the problems is the first step toward keeping the parent from feeling overwhelmed. Almost every problem has a solution. The real trick to success as a single parent is not losing yourself in the parenting process. There are some issues that every single parent needs to be aware. Working on the solutions before they become problems can greatly reduce parental stress.

Tips for single parents with Aspergers and HFA children:

1. Arm yourself with information. Read everything you can about your youngster’s disorder. Most libraries have a parenting section with books on raising kids with special needs. The Internet also offers a broad spectrum of information on nearly every type of disorder. Websites, chat rooms, and the like are tremendous sources of information about conditions, treatments, and medications that are up-to-the-minute. Also, many of the websites that focus on childhood disorders will mail information to parents for free or for a very nominal charge. Be sure to consult your youngster’s doctor regarding the information you find. Being informed is the best offense in managing the daily and long-term challenges of parenting a youngster with Aspergers. Know what you need and pursue it.

2. Avoid being competitive with your ex. It won’t get you anywhere. You may not be able to compete with taking the children to Disney World. But children don’t necessarily love the one who gives the bigger presents more.

3. Be your youngster’s best advocate. No one can - or will ever - care more about a youngster and his/her well-being than the parent(s). As such, it is squarely on the parents’ shoulders to fight for the best information, treatment, doctors, and options that exist. Familiarize yourself with the law. Every parent has to be his/her own researcher.

4. Consider a pet. If you don’t have one, think of getting one. It takes the focus away and puts it on something else. Animals spread love around.

5. Control your reactions. Your Aspergers youngster may push your buttons, but giving big reactions to bad behavior may send the wrong message. Showing that you can control your feelings and avoid meltdowns yourself models appropriate behavior for your Aspie, and leaves you feeling better, too.

6. Don’t block your feelings. Recognize that ALL your feelings are normal. Be sad. Be mad. It’s only natural.

7. Don’t play the blame game. Your youngster’s disorder is not your fault, nor is your spouse to blame. It does no good to look for someone to focus your anger on. Pointing your finger at your spouse or his medical or family history is not productive and can be extremely hurtful. You will need to lean on one another for support, and blame can only damage your relationship.

8. Everyone needs a social life, and a single parent of a youngster with Aspergers is no exception. In addition to caring for your son or daughter, you may be working full time, meeting the needs of your other kids, and taking care of the home, which leaves you little free time. You may have other obligations, too (e.g., school, church, community activities, etc.). Fatigue takes on a new meaning, and having social interaction outside the home is so far on the back-burner it is hard to remember what it was like to “have a life.” Nonetheless, it is important to carve-out some time in your schedule for fun social activities (e.g., hiking, biking, dancing, card games, movies, eating out, etc.). The key is having fun interaction with other adults. Grown-ups who do not spend time with their “buddies” begin to resent their schedule, their lives, and possibly their kids. It is normal to feel that way, and the best way to avoid the problem is to schedule time to socialize.

9. Find some kind of support group. If you can’t find it in your community, you can find one online. You have to make a concerted effort to start to build your new family based on reciprocity and support. It can also help to start building self-esteem. You realize you are not the only one.

10. Focus on personal growth. So much of being a parent takes an emotional and physical toll on you that you have to get out and do something for yourself on an ongoing basis. Try an activity that you never did or go back to something you gave up in your marriage (e.g., rediscovered the love of hiking, or learn how to play a musical instrument). Put yourself out there. Try anything creative.

11. Focus on stress management. When harried and stressed, single parents often find themselves less able to connect with their kids or focus at work, which may lead to acting-out behavior by the children, time-consuming mistakes at work, and other things that increase stress for the parent and his/her family. Therefore, taking a proactive stance on stress management is quite important. Having several quick stress relievers on hand (e.g., breathing exercises, reframing techniques, having different/positive ways of looking at a stressful situation, etc.), as well as long-term stress management strategies in place (e.g., regular exercise, meditation, a hobby, a supportive social circle, etc.) can relieve significant stress for single parents.

12. Hopefully you have been able to create a good working relationship with your ex for the benefit of your youngster. If not, and the sparks fly very time you see each other, it would be wise to consult a counselor. Even if the relationship with your ex has no chance in the world of being civil, there needs to be a peaceful environment for the youngster.

13. Kids with Aspergers may seem to be unaware of the environment around them, but they usually are much more in tune with the emotions of others than it appears. If the moms and dads are arguing or fighting, the youngster is apt to act-out with defiant behaviors. The grown-ups in the situation, by keeping their own tempers, can prevent this. Remember that although your relationship may be over, the relationship both of you have with your youngster is not.

14. Know that you are not alone. Having an Aspergers or HFA youngster can feel very isolating. It’s easy to stay home and think that you are the only one dealing with that situation. Seek out support groups. Form your own groups, if none exist.

15. Learn to enjoy your own company. It may have never occurred to you when you were married that you could actually enjoy your own company. You can do that. Don’t date too soon. You can fall in love too quickly. You can’t be a great parent unless you are a great person.

16. Minimize the tough times. Holidays are hard when you don’t have your special needs child because he or she is visiting the other parent, so make a plan. Know you will feel bad – and know it will end.

17. Move your bedroom to a different room in your house. Make the old one a study or kid’s play room. Redecorate to reflect your individual tastes and make the house more of your home.

18. One major advantage that married couples have is companionship. There’s nothing like being with a spouse who knows and understands the daily problems you encounter. Having someone you can vent your frustrations to keeps one mentally healthy. It is human nature to want to share. If you don't have anyone in your life that you can share your feelings with on a daily basis, work at developing friendships that are true give-and-take relationships. A local support group that includes single parents might be helpful. Some support groups have a network of parents who are on “phone duty” that you can call at any time when you need to talk or vent your emotions.

19. Sometimes, ex in-laws can become a problem for you. A direct approach to the grandparents may not be welcome. If you find yourself in this situation, begin by bringing the matter to the attention of your ex, who may be willing to intervene on your behalf. If your ex refuses to support you in this matter, limit your interaction with the grandparents as much as possible. While they have every right to see their grandchild, you can and should limit your own time with them for your own sanity.

20. You can never take a day off from being a parent, and you may not be able to take a day off from work whenever you like, but there are things you can give yourself a day off from. Next time you're feeling particularly stressed, messed up, tired out or done in, declare a day off from:
  • Being behavior cop
  • Being SuperMom or SuperDad
  • Caring what other people think
  • Doing research
  • Fighting battles
  • Filling out forms
  • Handling details
  • Holding it in
  • Knowing it all
  • Making appointments
  • Making phone calls
  • Multitasking
  • Planning ahead
  • Saying the right thing
  • Serving as case manager
  • Solving problems
  • Working out
  • Worrying

Special Offer for Single Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Thanks for the reminders. So easy to forget to take time for yourself with everything going on and being the only parent holding things together.
•    Anonymous said… I wouldn't wish single parenthood on my worst enemy because it is so hard. However, I think it's far more important to be the most positive, most enthusiastic cheerleader and champion for my son to help him be the best that he can be. No role model is better in my mind than a bad role model. It's difficult enough being a parent, but having a child on the spectrum is an added challenge. I can't be a basket case because of being the mom my son needs and trying to juggle a relationship that doesn't support or promote my abilities as a mother for my children.
•    Anonymous said… I know what you mean. A child with asbergers requires so much attention because they aren't able to socialize Knowing that a parent is always there for them makes them feel more secure. I'm the same. I've been divorced for 12 years and haven't had a relationship since. Because I've made my son feel so secure growing up at 21 he is thriving in his 3rd year of universtiy away from home. He has his twin sister nearby for companionship, he speaks to me on the phone for an hour each day and he comes home every five to six weeks for a week. He hasn't made any friends at university because he's just not able to but he knows we are always there for him. It's extremely important for kids/adults with asbergers to know you've got their back 100%.
•    Anonymous said… I am the single parent to two children on the spectrum. I find being a single parent far easier than when I was married. I am utterly focused on the boys. There is no, and there will be no, relationship to try and juggle alongside. I'm mum. I'm not wife. Everything is about the boys. Our relationship is so much stronger and it's the three of us. I much prefer single parenthood.

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Preparing Your Aspergers Child for Transition to Middle-School

Parents who have children that will attend middle-school for the first time in the fall of this year need to initiate preparations pronto!

Another school year is quickly drawing to a close, and for some students, this is their last year of elementary school. This is not necessarily good news for children with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism (HFA). Why?



First, THE most difficult transition for most students (Aspergers or not) is that of going on to middle-school. This is largely due to the fact that, for the first time in the student’s life, he/she will have several teachers AND a much larger school population to contend with. Gone are the days where the child enjoyed having only one familiar teacher and only one relatively small classroom.

Second, children with Aspergers and HFA have difficulty with transitions in general – especially one this dramatic.

In general, a child’s intrinsic motivation toward school (i.e., the desire to do schoolwork for its own sake rather than for an external reward) has been found to decrease with age. Intrinsic motivation especially drops during transitions between schools (e.g., from elementary school to middle-school). In other words, children may get a great deal of pleasure from doing science projects in the 5th grade but feel like they are doing a project "just to do it" in the 7th or 8th grade.

After entering middle-school, children tend to get lower grades than they did in elementary school. This drop does not seem to occur because of any cognitive or intellectual changes. In fact, children perform just as well on standardized tests after entering middle-school as they did before. It also does not seem that grading becomes more difficult after the transition to middle-school. Therefore, a child’s lower grades seem to reflect an actual change in how he is performing during middle-school as compared to elementary school; he appears to place academics at a lower importance than he did earlier in his life.

Also, children perceive themselves to be less academically competent in middle-school than they did in elementary school. Over the course of just one year, many "Aspies" begin to lose belief in their own academic abilities, and a sense of low self-esteem kicks-in. This finding is important because children who think that they can do well in school are more likely to actually perform well. Oddly enough, the strongest children seem to experience the biggest drop in belief about their abilities over the middle-school transition.

Research has shown that Aspies are less interested in school, perform more poorly in their classes, and see themselves as less academically capable during middle-school than during elementary school. Figuring out why these negative changes occur is not easy and is the subject of ongoing research. There are probably many developmental reasons for the changes (e.g., shifting interests, the beginning of distracting bodily changes, bullying, sensory sensitivities, a larger building to navigate, more peers to try to relate to, being ostracized from "the peer-group" if you can't "fit-in" or be "cool," etc.). In addition, there seem to be increasing demands from educators and moms and dads for Aspies to get good grades rather than to simply enjoy the learning process. But exactly how much each factor affects children remains unclear.

Many of the factors that affect Aspergers and HFA children during the middle-school transition are beyond the parent’s control. Still, the parent can play a role in keeping the Aspie engaged in school. For one, parents can continue to emphasize the importance of "love of learning" during the middle-school years. Parents do this naturally during elementary school when grades are less prominent and important, thus they should keep up a similar attitude after the transition.

Second, parents can encourage their youngster to realistically assess her academic abilities. As mentioned earlier, strong children tend to stop believing in themselves most of all after the transition. Parents’ supportive words can help children remember that they are competent.

Lastly, simply keep these findings in mind. Recognize that the middle-school transition is difficult and that your Aspie may show signs of less school engagement after the transition. Try to be understanding of the challenging changes he/she is facing, and know that with some time and support, his/her passion for learning will hopefully reignite.

To help your Aspergers youngster adjust, begin discussing the types of changes he can expect long before that first day of class. Take your time and be there to answer any questions your youngster might have. 

Here are a few tips parents can take to prepare their youngster for the challenges and benefits of middle-school:

1. Many Aspies may worry about finding their classes, opening their lockers, or dressing for gym class. Address the youngster's fears one by one, and point out that everyone in her class is new to the school and the school rules. Also, point out that many of her fears will be addressed at an open house or school orientation. In the meantime, spend a little time showing your Aspie how to use a locker combination and offer tips on getting to her classes on time.

2. There are a number of books on the market that can prepare your youngster for the adjustments of middle-school. Some are very specific, written exclusively for Aspie boys or Aspie girls. It's not a bad idea to make an investment in one of these resources. They may even help you better understand some of the challenges your youngster will face, and that can help you help your Aspie. A good eBook on the market is Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management.

3. You may want to begin giving your Aspie a little independence once she starts middle-school. For many families, it's during the middle-school years when kids may be left home alone for the first time. This milestone should be approached carefully and with much consideration and preparation. Take time to transition your Aspie from constant supervision - to home alone, and check-up on her periodically to make sure she's using her time alone wisely.

4. Homework during the middle-school years tends to increase, and moms and dads can often find themselves unable to help with specific subjects. But they can still do quite a lot to help their kids tackle homework assignments and complete class projects (e.g., setting up an environment that helps your middle-schooler concentrate on homework in order to complete it quickly; keeping a family calendar in order to track special assignments and projects and keep your middle-schooler organized, etc.).

5. Many changes take place during the pre-teen years, and your youngster probably has questions or concerns about all of them. Discuss some of the changes your Aspie will likely encounter, and role-play how to deal with some of the more difficult challenges. For example, your Aspie will likely encounter new school-rules when she begins middle-school. What should she do if she breaks one of them accidentally? How should she respond?

6. Touring your youngster's new school is a wonderful way to answer any questions your Aspie might have about middle-school and ease any anxieties. A tour will show her where she can find all the places she'll have to go in the course of the day (e.g., gym, cafeteria, locker, etc.), and that will give her a sense of confidence on her first day.

7. Bullying tends to peak in the 7th and 8th grade and diminish slightly every year after. Unfortunately, most Aspies will encounter bullying at some point during middle-school. The best way to protect your youngster is to sit down and discuss behaviors common in middle-school (e.g., bullying, experimenting with tobacco, etc.). Aspies who are being bullied may try to hide the fact from family members or educators, so be sure you know the signs of bullying in order to take quick action.

8. The idea of moving up to middle-school can be scary for some kids. But it's important that children understand that middle-school offers many benefits and opportunities. Talk to your child about all the organizations and clubs she'll be able to join, as well as the independence that comes with being older and more mature. Point out all the opportunities your youngster's school offers, and encourage her to become involved right away, when everyone in her class is just as new to the school as she is.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Place-Blindness in Individuals with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Some children and teens – and even adults – with High-Functioning Autism and Aspergers frequently become lost because they can't remember previously seen places. An estimated 33% of people with Aspergers suffer from “place-blindness” (also called topographic agnosia), which causes them to become lost easily. This can happen even in areas they know very well if a familiar landmark has changed.

Place-blindness is a form of “visual agnosia” in which the individual can’t rely on visual cues to guide him directionally. However, he may still have an excellent capacity to describe the visual layout of the same place or location. People with place-blindness may have the ability to read maps, but often become lost in familiar environments.

A person with place-blindness could live in a neighborhood for years and not recognize local houses if he sees them out of context (e.g., a photo featuring the house on its own). When out on a hike, the place-blind child or teen may remember certain landmarks (e.g., a bridge, waterfalls, fallen tree, etc.), but otherwise be unable to find his way around the woods even on a route he has traveled many times.

Place-blindness can be extremely maddening. Even some adults with Aspergers may frequently take wrong turns and arrive late for appointments and social engagements, which cause them to appear inconsiderate or forgetful. In addition, they don’t have the option of changing their usual routes or trying new shortcuts without the risk of getting lost. Place-blind people tend to rely on specific landmarks (e.g., a billboard, telephone booth, a tall tree, etc.), but they may become lost even on a familiar route that has been traveled many times.

Place-blindness may occur in conjunction with “face-blindness” (also called prosopagnosia), but many Aspies with place-blindness have very good face recognition skills, thus, having one condition doesn’t necessarily mean that the person will have the other. Both conditions run in families, suggesting a genetic component. While many place-blind individuals have a poor directional sense or impaired map reading ability, some are strong in these skills and have only impaired place or landmark recognition.



Coping techniques for place-blindness:

1. Alternate cues may be particularly useful to a person with place-blindness. Alternate cues may include color cues or tactile markers to symbolize a new room or to remember an area by.

2. Check out any new areas that you will be traveling to beforehand to see if there is a nearby cafe or other place you can wait if you don’t get lost and end up arriving early.

3. If you have strong map-reading skills, bring a map everywhere you go.

4. If you will need to travel a new route in the near future and it is very important to arrive on time, do a dry run beforehand and commit as many landmarks to memory as possible to lower the risk of getting lost.

5. Leave early for appointments whenever possible so that time for getting lost is factored in.

6. Make a point of actively memorizing landmarks that are unlikely to change or be removed.

7. Memorize route directions (north, south, east, and west) and numbers of blocks, and carry a compass to assist with navigation.

8. Naming landmarks out loud or thinking about their features verbally may help in committing them to memory.

9. Use a global positioning system (GPS) device to obtain directions.

10. Using verbal descriptions of routes to and from a particular destination may be helpful as well.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

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

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

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

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

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Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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

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

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

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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

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

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

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