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Helping Children with Asperger’s & High-Functioning Autism to Socialize

"How can I help my son (high functioning), who is frequently rejected by his peer group, to learn how to make - and keep -friends? He wants and needs a few friends."

Kids with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) simply do not develop social skills as easily as their “typical” peers. They may earnestly seek friendships and then, having endured rebuffs (if not downright brutality), they retreat to the safety of their own company. Moms and dads need to take the long view of social problems and map out a plan to solve them as carefully and thoughtfully as they would academic or health problems.



There are times when a mother or father must reach out for help, and it is generally the mother who, faced with this task, is going to have to locate the available candidates in the neighborhood and select a youngster who would make an appropriate playmate for her AS or HFA child. (Note: Sex is not an issue here. When kids are young, boys and girls play equally well together.)

It is helpful if the mother of the AS or HFA child approaches the playmate’s parent and explains the situation. She is asking to “borrow” the playmate for a supervised visit in her home. Bribery is acceptable here. She can make it a special occasion (e.g., lunch or a cookie-making party). Snacks may be served first, and then the youngsters may have a short play period. The moment either youngster shows signs of boredom or agitation, the visit should be brought to an end. The first visit needs to end on a happy note if more are to follow.

As these “one-to-one” visits become more commonplace, the mom of the AS or HFA child can structure a simple activity that the kids can handle without her (e.g., blowing soap bubbles or playing with clay). If the activity goes well, the mom should fade into the woodwork for 10 to 20 minutes, staying within earshot so that she can step in if things start to deteriorate.





Eventually, if things continue to progress well, the AS or HFA youngster should be allowed to try a short visit to the playmate’s house. This also must be structured. The mom should accompany her youngster to the playmate’s home and make arrangements to pick up her child at a specified time, suggesting that she be contacted by phone if the visit needs to be terminated early. She should not drop-off the AS/HFA child and head for the Mall. There’s a possibility that the child may panic during his or her first big excursion and decide to go back home – “right now!”

Gradually, less structure is needed. Perhaps the mom will need only to walk her AS or HFA youngster to the corner and watch while her child travels the rest of the distance alone (assuming the playmate lives in the same neighborhood). Finally, the youngster may be allowed to go all by himself or herself, making a phone call to mom upon reaching the destination. Of course, social development will continue until such time that the youngster can come and go to his or her friend’s house as he or she chooses, without the tedious planning.

Eventually, there will come a time to enlarge the AS/HFA youngster’s group, and the experience repeats itself, with mom structuring initial group contacts and standing alert to terminate them if the play session begins to deteriorate. “Group play” holds a greater possibility for problems than one-to-one play. Kids tend to “gang up” and take sides. But this, too, can be circumvented if the mother or father is creative and innovative. Nothing is quite as effective as a quick and attractive change of subject (e.g., “Who wants to help me bake cupcakes?”).

All of the social skills training you have provided for your AS or HFA youngster will carry over into the school environment. And you can be sure that educators will be very grateful. Too often, the “special needs” youngster reaches the classroom totally untutored in social relationships, and the educator is expected to do the job.  Most educators will react favorably to a request for a conference on social needs. This is the time to explain what you have tried to do at home. You can discuss your youngster’s needs for a special friend. After becoming familiar with the personalities of the youngsters in the class, the educator can arrange to team your youngster with another student of similar disposition and interests in terms of seating, play-pairs, playground-pairs, and even walking to and from school.

Kids with AS and HFA need extra help in developing social skills. Their impulsivity and low-frustration tolerance often lead to poor relationships. They often fail to “tune-in” to the social cues and non-verbal signals in their environment, and thus fail to learn social skills through experience. Also, these kids have difficulty processing information from the social environment and have difficulty with self-expression. But with a little effort and the right tools, moms and dads can equip their “special needs” child with a good set of social skills that will follow him or her into adulthood.

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

==> 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


==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

List of Symptoms for High-Functioning Autism

"Is there a list of symptoms or traits associated with high functioning autism in children? We currently have suspicions that our 6 y.o. son may be on the autism spectrum and are wondering if we should take the next step and have him assessed."   

Below is a list of common traits among children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's. However, no child will exhibit all of these traits. Also, the degree (i.e., mild to severe) to which any particular trait is experienced will vary from child to child.

Emotions and Sensitivities:   
  1. An emotional incident can determine the mood for the day.
  2. Becomes overwhelmed with too much verbal direction.
  3. Calmed by external stimulation (e.g., soothing sound, brushing, rotating object, constant pressure).
  4. Desires comfort items (e.g., blankets, teddy, rock, string).
  5. Difficulty with loud or sudden sounds.
  6. Emotions can pass very suddenly or are drawn out for a long period of time.
  7. Inappropriate touching of self in public situations.
  8. Intolerance to certain food textures, colors or the way they are presented on the plate (e.g., one food can’t touch another).
  9. Laughs, cries or throws a tantrum for no apparent reason.
  10. May need to be left alone to release tension and frustration.    
  11. Resists change in the environment (e.g., people, places, objects).
  12. Sensitivity or lack of sensitivity to sounds, textures, tastes, smells or light.
  13. Tends to either tune out or break down when being reprimanded.
  14. Unusually high or low pain tolerance.

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook



School-Related Skills:   
  1. Difficulty transitioning from one activity to another in school.   
  2. Difficulty with fine motor activities (e.g., coloring, printing, using scissors, gluing).
  3. Difficulty with reading comprehension (e.g., can quote an answer, but unable to predict, summarize or find symbolism).
  4. Excellent rote memory in some areas.
  5. Exceptionally high skills in some areas and very low in others.
  6. Resistance or inability to follow directions.
  7. Short attention span for most lessons.

Health and Movement:     
  1. Allergies and food sensitivities.
  2. Apparent lack of concern for personal hygiene (e.g., hair, teeth, body odor).
  3. Appearance of hearing problems, but hearing has been checked and is fine.
  4. Constipation.
  5. Difficulty changing from one floor surface to another (e.g., carpet to wood, sidewalk to grass).
  6. Difficulty moving through a space (e.g., bumps into objects or people).
  7. Frequent gas, burping or throwing up.
  8. Incontinence of bowel and/or bladder.
  9. Irregular sleep patterns.
  10. Odd or unnatural posture (e.g., rigid or floppy).
  11. Seizure activity.
  12. Unusual gait.
  13. Walks on toes.
  14. Walks without swinging arms freely.




Social Skills:    
  1. Aversion to answering questions about themselves.
  2. Difficulty maintaining friendships.
  3. Difficulty reading facial expressions and body language.
  4. Difficulty understanding group interactions.
  5. Difficulty understanding jokes, figures of speech or sarcasm.
  6. Difficulty understanding the rules of conversation. 
  7. Does not generally share observations or experiences with others.
  8. Finds it easier to socialize with people that are older or younger, rather than peers of their own age.
  9. Gives spontaneous comments which seem to have no connection to the current conversation.
  10. Makes honest, but inappropriate observations.
  11. Minimal acknowledgement of others.    
  12. Overly trusting or unable to read the motives behinds peoples’ actions.
  13. Prefers to be alone, aloft or overly-friendly.
  14. Resistance to being held or touched.
  15. Responds to social interactions, but does not initiate them.
  16. Seems unable to understand another’s feelings.
  17. Talks excessively about one or two topics (e.g., dinosaurs, movies, etc.).
  18. Tends to get too close when speaking to someone (i.e., lack of personal space).
  19. Unaware of/disinterested in what is going on around them.
  20. Very little or no eye contact.

Behaviors:   
  1. Causes injury to self (e.g., biting, banging head).   
  2. Difficulty attending to some tasks.
  3. Difficulty sensing time (e.g., knowing how long 5 minutes is or 3 days or a month).
  4. Difficulty transferring skills from one area to another.
  5. Difficulty waiting for their turn (e.g., standing in line).
  6. Extreme fear for no apparent reason.
  7. Fascination with rotation. 
  8. Feels the need to fix or rearrange things.
  9. Fine motor skills are developmentally behind peers (e.g., hand writing, tying shoes, using scissors, etc.).
  10. Frustration is expressed in unusual ways.
  11. Gross motor skills are developmentally behind peers (e.g., riding a bike, skating, running).
  12. Inability to perceive potentially dangerous situations.
  13. Many and varied collections.
  14. Obsessions with objects, ideas or desires.
  15. Perfectionism in certain areas.
  16. Play is often repetitive.
  17. Quotes movies or video games.
  18. Ritualistic or compulsive behavior patterns (e.g., sniffing, licking, watching objects fall, flapping arms, spinning, rocking, humming, tapping, sucking, rubbing clothes).
  19. Transitioning from one activity to another is difficult.
  20. Unexpected movements (e.g., running out into the street).
  21. Unusual attachment to objects.
  22. Verbal outbursts.

Linguistic and Language Development:     
  1. Abnormal use of pitch, intonation, rhythm or stress while speaking
  2. Difficulty understanding directional terms (e.g., front, back, before, after).   
  3. Difficulty whispering.
  4. Makes verbal sounds while listening (i.e., echolalia).
  5. May have a very high vocabulary.
  6. Often uses short, incomplete sentences.
  7. Pronouns are often inappropriately used. 
  8. Repeats last words or phrases several times.
  9. Speech is abnormally loud or quiet.
  10. Speech started very early and then stopped for a period of time.
  11. Uses a person’s name excessively when speaking to them.

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

==> 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

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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.

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here for the full article...

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.

Click here to read the full article…

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."

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here
to read the full article...

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.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content